Thursday, April 26, 2007

the case of the tall ugly bus driver

SW is enjoying being back in Oz, despite the notable prevalence of rules and regulations (which are actually enforced) compared to the Philippines. For example, being forbidden to take a glass of bubbly 2 metres outside the Melbourne Aquarium, when M, my former boss, and went outside so M could have a smoke. On balance, I think the rules and regulations probably have a net positive effect. But many, many seem petty and blindly administered regardless of context. Each of these may not equal anything more than the tiniest, inconsequential infringement of civil liberty, but they have a cumulative effect -- to some extent on freedom, but, I think, the more serious issue is that they drain society of its humanity.

NB: the below includes generalisations; there are always exceptions etc etc.

I do love returning to a less hierarchical society, though. After 3.5 years in the Philippines, I notice things in Oz that I previously took for granted. Last thursday, conference attendees were bussed from the conference venue to the Victorian governer's residence for a la-di-da farewell drinks/nibbles shindig. We had to leave bags on the buses, but I needed to leave early to meet friends. I asked the driver if I'd be able to get back on to retrieve my bag. He said he'd be somewhere nearby, just ask for the "tall ugly bloke." I told him I could be described the same way (I was joking of course -- tall, indeed; ugly, ha!). It was superficial banter, we both had a friendly chuckle and I headed into the drinks. What struck me though was that: 1) I, as a "professional" (the quote marks indicate the wank I'd like to be attached to that word), didn't see him as somehow lower in social status (this isn't what struck me -- I hope that I'd never think that way); and 2) he didn't in anyway think himslef lower in status. In the Phils, as a foreigner (and therefore assumed to be rich beyond the dreams of avarice), I would automatically be granted some sort of superior status to a bus driver, by both society in general and probably by the driver himself. That's not to say a Phil bus driver would think me a superior person, only that I was ranked higher up the social pole. This would manifest itself in me being referred to as "sir", and it's unlikely that conversation could take place between us unless I started it.

I really do prefer the (more or less) egalitarian model.

Friday, April 13, 2007

ozward bound

Crazy times, too busy to procrastinate and therefore too busy to post here. Recent happenings in brief:

Wonderful Easter break here with D, S&J, and D. S performed above and beyond the call of duty in the kitchen but I maintain my mango daiquiris were our lifeblood.

C back from Spain/Ghana/Switzerland and is convalescing after evil arseholes in Ghana performed a drive-by theft of her computer bag while she traversed the 50 metres between buildings at her conference site, dragging her several metres along the gravel road in the process. She's fine now, save for some seriously impressive scabs on her feet, which will prevent both dancing and the playing of footsies for a while yet. Yet still she insists on cooking for D and I. I protest, but feebly. I am a weak, pusillanimous man.

Off to Melbourne tomorrow for the World Conference of Science Journalists. Not that I'm a journalist's fart, but the conference looks good and it's shaping up as very enjoyable trip, what with accommodation at the magnanimous W's in Fitzroy and ending on the high note of the L+N wedding in Tilba.

Dinner is calling.