Fastest growing atheist demographic: the Disillusioned | cc @pzmyers @richarddawkins

PZ Myers is disillusioned. Put away the “Surprised” Crayola; he’s not the first and he’s not the only one.

It’s interesting how (what I consider to be) the initial phase of New Atheism in the mid-noughts proudly considered itself somewhat radical, game-changey and fighting the establishment, only to turn around in recent years and itself become the establishment, as resistant to introspection and self-reflection and the admission of error or misjudgement as the hierarchy of any religious target they would’ve railed against, scarlet “A” banner flapping proudly in the breeze as they charged. Specific subject matter to one side, the behaviour of the self-described global thought leaders has, in the face of years of complaints of sexist behaviour and attitudes, rape threats and general misogyny, attempts at driving women bloggers into silence and many real allegations of assault and rape, been just the same as any Old Boys’ Club’s inner circle (and their concentric circles of wannabes) who are faced with inconvenient questions or impertinent highlighting of problematic behaviour or attitudes: deny, defend, deflect, denigrate, double down.

The old new atheists always revelled in their impropriety and impertinent interrogations of religion – they seem to very much resent receiving similarly irreverent treatment from the new new atheists. Their outrage, disdain and denial almost precisely mirrors the reactions they got from establishment religion in the middle years of last decade. Dawkins et al were accused of stridency and shrillness quite a lot back in the day and rightly scoffed, as the allegations were baseless hyperbole. Today? Not so much. If anyone ever wanted to see Dawkins finally earn that “strident” badge, just read his twitter feed when women are up for discussion. If invoking hallmarks of tyranny – e.g. when he employed “verbal jackboots” and the “FreeThought Police” – in response to being criticised on blogs isn’t strident and shrill, I’m waiting to see what is.

The fact is that the atheist movement – such as it is – that these (mostly) men founded (or at least accelerated) is changing. All movements do: feminism, LGBT rights, civil rights, indigenous rights and now non-religious rights have gone and all go through periods of intense forward motion followed by periods of reflection after their successes (even if they’re just in raising awareness) and discussions of “where should we go now?” Right now, atheism is expanding both its demographics and its agendas. Where once it was dominated by academic white guys who were all about church & state and proper science classes in schools, many of the atheists inspired by those people to examine their own beliefs are wanting to talk about – and apply their skepticism and secular reasoning to realising – other things like gender equality and ethnic inclusiveness. One byproduct of both this and the atheist habit for proud irreverence is that the words and attitudes of atheism’s purported leaders are now being questioned as deeply as they themselves would question those of the religious. Sadly, in many cases, those words have been found wanting, the attitudes they reveal as calcified as in any rank-closing bishop and the responses to criticism as reactionary as any wrathful believer – or insecure believer in belief.

In many of the cases of defensiveness on the part of visible atheists like Harris and Dawkins, the subject of the criticism isn’t responding to the content of the criticism, but to the mere fact of the criticism. The subject, incredulous, cannot possibly imagine why anyone would take issue with what they said, because (to their mind and to the bulk of their experience) they are right, what they are saying is common knowledge, utterly inoffensive, well-informed and could not possibly be disagreed with by any educated person of the right mindset. Accordingly, anyone who does disagree or criticise is obviously of the wrong mindset. Once categorised as Wrong, such people can then be summarily dismissed without the need to respond meaningfully to any specific criticism. If the Wrong reiterate or expand their criticism or issue followups, for example criticising the non-responses and summary dismissals, the subject can then invoke all sorts of tyrannical or oppressive or purely monetary motives (“doing it for the clicks!”), as if a single blogger or even a moderately popular blog network has any sort of censorial power over someone like the Richard Dawkins, a best-selling author and in-demand public speaker with (in the atheist world at least) unparallelled influence and access to resources, or any comparable ability to attract revenue just by publishing a post (if anyone’s wondering, this one’s on the house, just like every other one).

The transition was relatively rapid, too: one minute everyone’s apparently (I’ll get to that) on the same page and looking in the same direction, the next – as soon as women identify problematic behaviour and request that we guys not do that then start talking about harassment policies – there’s an instant rift dug by people who for some reason viciously resent being told that some behaviour makes others uncomfortable. Then a few visible “leaders” say some thoughtless or petulant things, one blogger wonders if atheism can be about a little more than debunking myths and is vilified at length for the mere suggestion, a blogger or ‘tuber or two reveal themselves to be unapologetic misogynists, a parallel atheist community is born for the sole purpose of harassing and obsessively monitoring two blog networks and before you know it, women are being threatened with rape and death. With rape and death. And others are laughing at it. Including other women.

And now for the “apparently”: as various discussions progress it turns out that no, we weren’t all on the same page and sexist and creepy behaviour didn’t just spring into existence ex nihilo in a lift early one morning; it’s been a problem nobody (especially insulated white chaps like me) really had any idea about for years – except those directly involved and in some cases, disappointingly, at the executive level of some atheist/skeptic organisations, where active decisions were made to do nothing to support employees who’d been victimised or harassed. It also turned out that there had been for years (like there is in other conference circuits) a grapevine, a back-channel utilised by women attendees and speakers to stay informed about infamous creeps and sexual predators.

And with every revelation and accusation, the rift got wider and deeper, the apologetics got louder and more (dare I say) strident, the responses got more toxic and hateful and the leadership seemingly became focused on prioritising the preservation of their positions at the cost of making what movement there was more welcoming to people who didn’t resemble them physically. Not only that, but the misogynist ragers, the hateful stalkers, the doc-droppers and the entrenched old boys then had the unmitigated gall to accuse those advocating for a more welcoming and diverse community of being “divisive”. As if, somehow, women and feminists pointing out sexist attitudes and harassment so as to raise awareness and start a discussion about solutions was something unexpected, a gross heresy, an unforgiveable sin, all part of a plot to – well, God only knows what. It has never been adequately explained how atheism as a cause might be irreparably harmed by making better and more meaningful efforts to welcome the other half of the population to atheism.

And now that many women, feminists, non-male people and now many non-white people are throwing up their hands and saying “fuck it, you want your “movement” to be pure, to be free of questions that make you uncomfortable, fine – you can have it,” I fully expect the apologists and the old boys themselves to further blame us (feminists, women, non-males, non-whites, inclusivists in general, those social justice warriors everyone seems so concerned about) for being even more divisive.

Finally, I find it highly ironic that the leadership/s that brought us the scarlet letter “A” logo, a repurposing or “taking back” of the old tactic of publicly humiliating women who dared step out of the social boundaries prescribed by the men who essentially owned them, would be so solidly behind enabling and defending a sexist status quo, and in some cases being openly hostile to all women who challenge them, whether they’re accusing accuse “leaders” of assault or inappropriate sexual behaviour or of simply saying things that are mildly (but no less thoughtlessly) sexist. In light of the last three years of harassment, obsessive monitoring, threats, both mild casual sexism and unapologetic misogyny, all with nary a disapproving look from the leaders over the tops of their spectacles, followed by wagon-circling and dismissive responses to allegations of assault and rape (some going back years), that scarlet letter is more appropriate than ever.

Simply, the message in “movement” atheism at this moment appears to be: Speak, woman, and be vilified.

School Chaplains: why can’t you lot just stick to the pulpit #auspol

It appears the Abbott government still wants to exclude secular workers from the School Chaplaincy program, despite widespread opposition and two High Court challenges.

Religious people have numerous avenues available if they wish to seek spiritual guidance for themselves or their children; this constant push by some of them to have exclusive access to other peoples’ children while in school is distasteful and extremely presumptuous (and possibly even un-Constitutional – while Section 116 has historically not been applied to state funding of religious schools, implementing exclusively religious programs such as this in state schools might be a different basket of loaves and fishes. While the Abbott regime might be able to use the general term “religious” to escape being accused of favouring of one faith over another, the very term “chaplain” has an exclusively Christian origin and I doubt very strongly that we’ll see a great many imams, rabbis or whatever those used-god salesmen-for-Xenu call themselves counselling state school students).  

Apart from the blatant discrimination involved in barring secular counselors from consideration, kids with serious problems (or even mild ones) don’t need Divinity lessons, they need trained professionals. Religious exceptionalism of this sort is highly likely to expose vulnerable children to inappropriate proselytising and unhelpful advice – when compared to the likelihood of a properly trained secular counselor attempting to proselytise their philosophy, it’s practically a stone-carved certainty.

If a counselor is appropriately qualified and experienced they should be hired; their religious status, just like their age, marital status and orientation, should be irrelevant to their practice. It’s not legal for the Commonwealth to refuse employment in any other area of operation on religious grounds; how such a proscription wouldn’t apply to state school counselors escapes me. This appears to be yet another example of a government operating by ideology and working off a checklist, with pragmatism, fairness and perhaps even legality being secondary concerns.

Evangelising students in school is not only preying on an audience that’s legally compelled to be there, it’s also based on the offensive and arrogant presumption that the evangelists have the right (God-given, of course) to undermine whatever religious traditions those kids’ families may already observe in their own homes or places of worship or whatever non-religious philosophies they may subscribe to.

Not only that, but those churches that evangelise more often than not subscribe to fringe conservative and flat-out fundamentalist interpretations of Scripture which have absolutely no place in our public schools, where there frequently is a plurality of ethnicity and culture.

I’m sure we can all imagine the outcry from decent Christian folk if Islamists or JW’s or Mormons were given privileged access to state school students (even if ostensibly to use their powers for good and explicitly not for the purposes of conversion attempts); it’s much better for all concerned (chiefly the kids who’ll need professional advice and support) if preachers (or preachers-by-other-names) stay in the pulpit.

It Came From The 80s – The Flamer’s Bible!

Anyone who’s been anywhere near the atheoskeptoblogosphere in the last two years might well have noticed an undercurrent (or over-current) of hate-speech, flaming, obsessive trolling, twit-stalking and general petulant shit-slinging – especially if the target is a feminist blogger. But it’s nothing new – online communication has been around for ages; as such, the anonymity inherent in it has always provided cover for keyboard warriors to dispatch rhetorical missiles and toxic word-sludge across the globe, the nation or just the building – all with no social consequences.

Without further ado, from some time in 1987, I present a selection of tips for being an Internet Tough Guy:

The twelve commandments of flaming

  •     Make things up about your opponent: It’s important to make your lies sound true. Preface your argument with the word “clearly.” “Clearly, Fred Flooney is a liar, and a dirtball to boot.”

 

This might be familiar. How about: “She’s a misandrist! She’s a Feminazi! She hates men! It was only an invitation to coffee at 4am! She’s frigid!”

  •     Cross-post your flames: Everyone on the net is just waiting for the next literary masterpiece to leave your terminal. From rec.arts.wobegon to alt.gourmand, they’re all holding their breaths until your next flame. Therefore, post everywhere.

 

This one’s never been so important to the career troll: you can’t expect every one of your hate-chorus to just be reading your blog, so to increase your back-pats & pingbacks & likes you need to facebook, tweet, instafreakingram, blog, re-blog and link to everything in whatever dark, mouldy corner of the ‘net where there are no standards of behaviour when it comes to Approved Enemies.

  •     Conspiracies abound: If everyone’s against you, the reason can’t possibly be that you’re a fuckhead. There’s obviously a conspiracy against you, and you will be doing the entire net a favor by exposing it.

 

This is now known as the Galileo Gambit: They made fun of Galileo, and he was right.
They make fun of me, therefore I am right. However, the counter to this comes from Robert Park: It is not enough to wear the mantle of Galileo: that you be persecuted by an unkind establishment. You must also be right.

  •     Use foreign phrases: French is good, but Latin is the lingua franca of flaming. You should use the words “ad hominem” at least three times per article. Other favorite Latin phrases are “ad nauseum,” “vini, vidi, vici,” and “fetuccini alfredo.”

 

Accusations of ad hominem abound on the internet – usually as soon as someone gets insulted for acting like a douche. However, a true ad hominem is dimissive of an argument based on who’s making the argument, i.e. “You’re a douche therefore your argument is wrong.” Much of the time you hear an a.h. invoked, it is done so in response to a simple insult, e.g. “You’re a douche and your argument is wrong.” To avoid confusion, please be sure to dismiss someone’s argument on its own lack of merit and then call them a douche.

  •     Accuse your opponent of censorship. It is your right as an American citizen to post whatever the hell you want to the net (as guaranteed by the 37th Amendment, I think). Anyone who tries to limit your cross-posting or move a flame war to email is either a communist, a fascist, or both.

 

FREEZE PEACH! “Because the country I live in has granted me the right to say anything I want (of course there aren’t caveats – I can walk onto the White House lawn and threaten to stab Barry O because FREEZE PEACH is absolute!), it therefore follows that I get to follow you around the internet and regurgi-hate on every single one of your online properties. The fact that you own your twitter account, facebook, youtube account or blog doesn’t give you the right to decided who gets to talk to you! StasiNazi #bullies baawww!”

Um, yeah it does. A website/media account, as far as you’re concerned, is someone’s property as much as their doorstep or the counter of their store – if you don’t like when they shut the door in your face, try modifying (or at least paying attention to) what comes out of your face.

Go and read the rest – you’ve probably seen all of them in the last week.

Want to know what I think?

Yes, of course you do. That’s why you’re on the internet, cruising the interblargosphere. You’re looking for things to read that you might not necessarily agree with but which spark your interest because you’re always on the lookout for a new take or new point of view on something. It might even be something you already have a definite opinion on, but you read on because you like reading things that make you think regardless of whether you agree with them. You’re all about soaking up as many differing viewpoints as you can, but you’ve no interest in entering a comment-battle so if you do object, you do so in silence (possible but unlikely). You may be looking for things to read that you already know you agree with and very little else (more likely). You may even be looking for things to read that not only contradict you but flat-out piss you off in order to inspire you to write a post for the blog you’ve been neglecting (if you have a blog, that’s almost a given).

I’ll admit I’m one who trawls for material to inspire my personal outrage, vicious condemnation and inordinately long & verbose sentences, but it’s not a new addition to my activity budget. Long before the internet I was fond of writing essays, treatises, critiques, manifestos, poems (gah!) or comic strips about things which annoyed or intrigued me, or into which I’d put an inordinate amount of idle thought. They were many & varied: a convoluted comparison between the dangers of running red lights at a pedestrian crossing on my BMX with doing the same in a car; a detailed essay on the specific mechanisms of “clown evil” and the macro-karmic reasons for their hideousness; my pseudo-Freudian theories on why some men spend inordinate lengths of time reading in the toilet, delaying every other resident not currently using a colostomy bag and glorying in their own pungent stench; a series of unnecessarily graphic limericks featuring my best friend, a busty wench and zombies. Before 1994 and my first experience with electronic mail I’d fax (yes, fax), post or hand these missives to my friends and see what reactions I’d get. They ranged from “meh” to humouring me, the occasional laugh, occasional indignant defensiveness and – more often than not – sideways looks and quiet voicings of concern for my mental stability (especially when my letters were illustrated). I didn’t know it then, but with my unsolicited opinionated ranting, arguments for or against things noone was actually discussing in the real world and blatant & ridiculous attention-seeking behaviour, I was in Gilbert & Sullivan’s parlance the very model of a modern major pain the arse. In today’s terms: a blogger.
So, no, it’s not a new thing for me and certainly not a new phenomenon for humanity either, this public sharing of opinion with people who don’t care. Celebrated Protestant Original Gangster, Martin Luther, is famous for publicly posting his disagreements with Catholic dogma (except for the parts dealing with hating the shit out of the Jews, he was sweet with that). I shall distill his arguments thusly: “OMFG ppl teh p0pe is GHEY, Jezuz dont wan’t U 2 b @church!1! Jus spk 2 Him IRL! WWJD LOL ^_^”. Understandably, the Vatican was well shat with such blatant protest-trolling and, once the Pope had written wrote “FIRST!” and been flamed for being a n00b, the ensuing comment thread took off and still rages today (putting some of PZ Myers’ threads-that-will-not-die to shame).
Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park (or “Hyde Park London England”, as an American TV show might say) is another great example: any munter with a half-baked opinion can stand up and voicecast it to the passing masses, as long as he’s prepared to be transported to Australia should he criticise the Queen’s hats or to be pelted, just for a lark, with empty Newcastle Brown Ale bottles or full Foster’s Lager cans (usually by expat Aussies working in London bars who know well enough to not drink that swill except in dire emergencies, such as being far, far away from a pub – fortunately not a likely occurrence in England, hence the reason for the strong Aussie presence in that small, drunken nation).
Of course, as we know, the interweb “changed everything” (much the same as those Biggest Loser surprises would, if they didn’t happen so often and so regularly that noone has any chance to get used to how things are meant to be normally before more surprises yet again crop up and “change the game forever”, yet again). Now, thanks to the anonymity of the wuhwuhwuh, you don’t have to run the risk of getting pelted with sub-par alcohol containers or rendered extraordinarily to a Delfin estate in Melbourne’s outer-outer-outer suburbs for saying something wrong, stupid, treasonous or contrary to Buffy mythology. You just get pelted with textual abuse by people who are generally as anonymously smug and full of shit and semi-literate as you are. Unless of course they actually agree with you, in which case they link to your post at their own blog because they don’t have any profundities of their own to share that day (woohooooo trackbacks! WIN!) or because they can’t be arsed linking to the latest xkcd comic because their favourite blog (and four dozen of their Facebook friends) already did that.
So what it is about us humans that makes us want to ejaculate our opinions onto all & sundry, like so many stars of adult films, regardless of any possibility that neither all or sundry will even give the tiniest smidgen of one thin damn? Are we all just attention whores who think we’re completely absolutely freaking right most of the time and crave either adulation or arguments? What possible evolutionary benefit could this opinion-spewing possibly bestow? The answers, of course, are: “because STFU, that’s why”, “yes” and “who cares?”
It certainly goes back a long way, long before papyrus, long before Mayan relief sculpture, long before writing your name in the snow. Aboriginal cave paintings in Australia, for example, have been dated at tens of thousands of years old. In other parts of the world, much older. They are quite often depictions of ancient theology; daily life; everyday objects; legends; favourite foods or even current events (wife from tribe A married man from tribe B; tribe B leader died; new wife cooked mullet for the wake; mullet was the deceased’s totem animal and off-limits; tribe B got mad at wife and punished her; wife’s tribe, A, got even madder as the law said they should be doing the punishing; tribe A punished the living shit out of tribe B and nobody won the Great Mullet Wars except the mullet, who didn’t get eaten for a couple of months). It seems that as soon as our ancestors gained some sort of self-awareness, they developed in parallel a need to share with everyone the insights that awareness gave them, regardless of whether anyone asked them to. Fair enough. Got something to say? Say it! Hell, noone asks a dog to bark, right? But there he goes, “woof woof, and furthermore: woof.” Until another dog pipes up and says “Barkin: ur doin it rong!”, his neighbours chime in and there goes a good night’s sleep. Damn dogosphere.
So, what about the actual benefits of doing such a thing? Would it have been a mark of stature that you were able to draw on a wall and share knowledge? I suppose, with the transition from a nomadic & subsistence lifestyle to a more sedentary and reflective one with less time required for food-gathering and more time for making stuff up, individuals with intelligence who were able to impart knowledge and offer explanations were prized and respected. I think this gels with and goes some way to explain the honour bestowed on elders in many cultures – they’ve been around long enough to know what to do, what to eat, how to get it, where to go when it’s cold, how to avoid being eaten, exactly what to say in a letter to the Herald Sun complaining about cyclists, etc., so they’ve earned an elevated position. They’ve earned the right to teach us about the world and tell us stories that explain the unknown. They’ve earned the right to tell you to get off their lawn because they fought the bloody Japanese so you could have a bloody lawn to run around on and get kicked off of, so go and finish mowing the lawn before you get your ears boxed.
Perhaps that’s it – we crave the respect of elderhood. We bloggers, we unbidden nailers of opinion to the doors of the internet, we sharers of wisdom of dubious value – we think we’re the elders of this online tribe. We think people should look upon the walls of the enormous foetid cave that is the internet, squint through the clouds of barely-legal teens and cheap Mexican non-prescription V1agr4 and see our stories, our favourite foods, our explanations, our silhouetted handprints, our Star Trek/Robocop crossover erotic fan-fiction. We want people to see for themselves the proof that we existed; the proof that we were individuals with unique qualities, unique thoughts, unique insights, unique reactions to “2 Girls 1 Cup” (link – language warning); proof that we were here and made an impact on someone else’s life or mind, even if it were only once or just long enough to make them write “lol u dumbass” in the comments thread and never return. We know things and think things and invent things that cry out to be shared because someone out there may find them useful, interesting or, hopefully, disagreeable in the extreme, sparking off a healthy exchange of insults and links to Wikipedia, World Net Daily and Slashdot articles. We may seem a little self-centred, even a little narcissistic in wishing for internet immortality in this way but really, it’s very natural & very human. It’s as natural as a hairy Cro-Magnon smearing his handprint on the wall of his dining cave with a mixture of blood, faeces & clay as if to say ” … um, so, that’s my wall”. Natural as laying your eggs into the brain of your host organism and flying away, leaving your offspring to burrow through its cherished memories. Natural as those bonobo chimps who have sex with each other, all day and all night, all riiiiiight…
What I’m trying to say is: blog on, my brethren! Embrace your nature! Share your knowledge! Share your Illuminati breakthroughs! Share your link farms! Bombard your readers with your favourite lolcats! May the walls drip with our wisdom! One of us will eventually be so right about something that noone will dare question us again.
——-

[this post originally posted at Dangerous Intersection many moons ago]

How to use a call centre in three easy steps

A slight deviation from my normal content. Be advised this is going to be a thinly-disguised bitch on the topic of call centres, but not the usual kind, i.e. a blogwhine/standup routine/sitcom dialogue regarding often subcontinentally located call centres with incompetent, apathetic or incoherent staff who have no idea what to do if a caller gets them off-script. No, this is a whine about people who call call centres and have no goddam idea what they’re doing and some suggestions about how to make everybody’s lives easier. Because it’s the interblarg and people have either very short attention spans or very short windows of opportunity to read time-wasting shit like this before they have to frantically start bosspamming again, I shall make a list in no particular order.

1. Be realistic.

The person who answers your call is most likely not intimate with every aspect of the company they work for!

There’s a reason there are so many people working in so many call centres: usually, such jobs are entry level, relatively easy and often require no prior experience. Because of that, they’re great for a first-time worker, someone returning to work after a long absence, part-time/casual workers or someone whose real job is playing keyboards and they’re just waiting for the right person to hear their demo. Expecting the first person you talk to to be able to give you deep insight into the company’s every operation or address your every query in detail is somewhat unrealistic. Of course, you have every right to expect the operator to be helpful! Just don’t expect that the first person you speak to can answer your every question. Don’t start with a huge spiel/complaint/query/suggestion and then get huffy when they’re flustered and have no idea how to respond to you and want to refer your call on. A good first step to avoid this kind of frustration is to ask if the operator if they’re the right person to ask about your specific issue – you don’t go to the doctor’s office and ask their receptionist about your itchy genitals, do you? You do? Well, perhaps you should be on some kind of government watch-list … ok, moving on!

2. Don’t hold the operator personally for the company’s mistake (perceived or otherwise).

So, the bank/phone company/charity/whatever has screwed up in a massive way. You’ve been overcharged/double-charged/charged for the wrong thing/charged for something you didn’t get and you’re shat. You want blood. Fair enough! Noone likes being shafted so you have every right to be on a Spartan-style warpath. But give the operator a break: it’s very unlikely that they’re personally responsible for whatever mistake has given you the royal shits. Also, you’re more than likely not the only customer who’s experienced a mistake at the hands of the company. Abusing the operator isn’t going to earn you any respect and won’t inspire them to help you. The worse you treat them, the more likely they’re just going to fob you off, handball the call to someone else who won’t give a shit, or kick your call upstairs to a manager who they know is on holidays so you get their voicemail. On the other hand, if you’re at least calm about it (noone said you had to be all peaches n’ cream), they’ll sympathise with you (and possibly empathise – we all have to deal with large companies who inevitably screw shit up) and will be more than happy to assist you or at least steer you in the direction of someone they know will help.

3. Get organised!

You might not be pressed for time, but you can almost guarantee your operator is – and so are the other callers waiting to speak to them.

So, you’re calling to have a query answered or a complaint addressed, just looking for some vague, general information. Is it too much to ask that you have a pen handy? Or your last correspondence from the company so the operator can find your record quickly? Your operator might not be timed like some outbound callers are but they’ll still have things to do, even if it’s just answering other calls. Not to mention the fact that the other callers sitting in the queue listening to shitty hold music have better things to do than sit in phone queues listening to shitty hold music while operators wait for yet other callers to get organised. Sure, it might only take thirty seconds to grab a pen or your last statement/letter … so why not sort that out before you even dial? If not for the hapless operator, do it for all the other people like you who want answers.

Sure, you might have had some bad experiences with call centre operators. They might have been apathetic, unhelpful or even downright rude in some cases. If that’s the case then sure, maybe they should be working elsewhere. But it’s pure common sense to realise that that’s no reason to hold the next operator or the entire company responsible.

And maybe, just maybe, you just caught the nicest person in the world on the worst day of their life. This person might have just got off the phone from talking to the rudest, most offensive person they’d ever spoken to in their whole lives and not had any time to process their annoyance and take a break before talking to you. Hell, if nothing else, treat that person on the other end of the line with decency and respect because they’re another human being! If you’re so glad to be released from the queue or to have navigated through the menu maze and finally talk to a human, act like it and treat them as such.

So, in closing: you’ve got a question? Great! I want to answer it but if I can’t, please understand when I try to find someone who can – and please make sure you have something to record the answer ahead of time. If not for me, for the others waiting in the damn phone queue and being told that their call is important by a recorded message every two minutes. You’ve got a legitimate whinge and you want the company to pay up? Fine – just make sure you’re whinging to the right person. But hey, don’t hold me responsible – if I was in any position of responsibility do you really think I’d be front-line in a bloody call centre and not upstairs somewhere, sitting on my nice chair and thanking Dionysius that I don’t work front-line in a bloody call centre?

How the hell do you start this blog thing anyway?

So, first post on a brand new blog. How do you start off a blog anyway? A nice little intro including how old I am, where I live, what I like to do on weekends, a few “lols” and a spiel on how I’m into bands that haven’t sold out yet? Well, first, this aint effing myspace and that last bit would be a lie anyway – it’s my life’s mission to sell the fuck out ASAP (yes, I’m in a band – more on that later, maybe) and retire to a nice place in the country with exposed beams, a jam room (“jam” is a musical term, kids, meaning “to rehearse, write or play music in one’s house accompanied by beer”) and a huge yard for my eventual legion of dogs while I’m still young enough to enjoy Playstation marathons, a massive plasma screen, Dolby 7.1 and bucket bongs.

How about a rant against Bush? Yawn. I think we all know what a borderline-retarded born-again daddy’s boy Republican puppet Georgie is. I mean, how’s his form lately? “I gave up golf in solidarity with the families of all those soldiers I had killed in this war I sold to y’all like snake oil”. Thanks mate, ‘preciate it. You keep up with that mountain-biking and fishing and Stetson-wearing down on your hobby-ranch in Texas though – a bloke’s gotta keep in shape! Hey, has anyone else noticed George is the only Bush family member with a twangy Texas accent? Aw shoot – I promised no George-based rants! My mistake, very sorry, probably won’t happen again. Look, the last thing the interblurg needs is another blog based around tearing down the evil neo-con Republican power structure. Firstly, I’m Australian, so while I do care about what happens in the US (because it effects what happens here in a direct fashion, i.e. we tend to follow the states into just about every retarded fucking military adventure they go on) I can’t really have any say in or effect on US politics (shit, neither can the three or four Americans who actually vote). Secondly, the Republicans are doing fine dismantling themselves, along with the US economy and every diplomatic gain ever made in that country since WW2.

Well, how about a list? Everyone on the world wide wank loves a good list (including me)! Lists are awesome for reading at work: they’re basically a long article broken into many small articles. Great for reading a bit at a time, awesome for those like me with a criminally short attention span. They’re like a sushi roll cut into those lovely little bite-size slices: you can throw one down, atl+tab into some work for five minutes (or however long the boss is hovering around), grab another and continue munching at your leisure. Well, the trouble with a list is this: they’re great to read, but to actually put one together yourself you have to do some research – it’s sort of like work! You have to put in some effort to find “The 7 Finest Moments In Tele-mall Shopping” or “Twelve Reasons We’re All Quite Literally Doomed And Why You Should Ask Yourself What The Hell You Are Doing Reading Stupid Lists When You Should Be Bee-lining For Your Bunker”. You need to find (or make up) a bunch of shit, get some photos or video together, write it, proofread it (well, not everyone does that bit, but I do – in proper goddam non-US English too), make sure all the hyperlinks work & make sure it makes sense. Then, inevitably, come the retarded comments (provided people actually read your blog to begin with): “First LOL”; “OMG how culd u 4get [insert apparently stupidly-overlooked list item here]”; “STFU”; “oh hai dis funny list check out http//wwwblacksonblondescom” and other such joys. No, there shall be no list today! I shall not pander to people like me who need little blocks of text to read! There shall be entire, on-topic paragraphs and they shall contain only intentionally hilarious spelling or grammatical errors.

What about something simple: just a great big whine about whatever’s got my back up this morning? It’s usually something (I can be irritable in the antemeridian and I have large, numerous personal issues, let’s be honest – but more on that later): irate callers, whiny/gossipy/loud/feral co-workers, something a Pope/bishop/fundy halfwit said on some topic of which he has no actual practical knowledge (such as sex – with adult women), some booker at a venue taking forever to return a call and then trying to screw me over, some guy I’m having a SIWOTI moment with on a forum simply refusing to recognise my supreme rightitude, or maybe just the fact that the officially designated office radio station (which is normally a pretty inoffensive hits & memories station) loves to torture me by playing bloody Nickelback! Or Dexy’s Midnight Runners (whose song Come On Eileen which, while having obvious & hilarious double-entendre potential, is the most irritatingly pointed-stick-in-my-arse song ever in the history of the everything)!

Or, perhaps I won’t whinge at all for the first post. I know, I know, airing one’s grievances anonymously, vigorously and laden with profanity (“motherfucker!” woo! ha!) is a decade-old www tradition and a vicarious thrill for billions of people, but perhaps the people might like a post which deals with stuff that makes the writer happy for a change! I mean, I’m inspired and uplifted by many things: good wine, a great sunset, a brilliant guitar solo, tasty jazz, my mother’s cooking, a laugh with my wife that’s so big it actually hurts and we both want to stop but can’t, my dog doing ridiculous things, blasting out a song I wrote with my friends to a pub full of people.

Yeah, I know. Fucking GAY, right? Let’s get on with the RANTING! Fuck this HAPPY SHIT, right?!

Actually, that’s not a bad introductory post, now that I read it back. It gives a little insight into my character, my writing style, my philosopical/religious/political bent. There’s a bit of swearing so you’ll think I’m hella cool and know that I’m not to be trifled with (grr, look out). There’s even a bit of self-effacing humour (or is it self-deprecating? I’m so stupid I don’t know the difference! See? I did it again!) so you’ll know I’m not a complete wanker.

But then again, I just started a blog …

I’ll keep you posted.