Greetings From Europe – Growth Versus Maintenance


As I get older I have an increasing yearning for Europe.  This, no doubt, was planted within me by my Maltese parents. Nonetheless, once here I am eternally grateful that they had the courage to immigrate to Australia.  And yet…….

As a tourist it’s possible to skim the surface and just enjoy all the beauty: the buildings, the music, the natural scenery, the food, the art galleries and museums. But after a time my curious observer eye turns to watching the quality of relationships and everyday life.

Malta seems to have lost its slap dash approach to life.  There is a desperateness for sales that I can’t remember being there before, and then joy when a purchase if made.  Paris, of course,  is still beautiful but everyone seems a little shabbier than I expected. And a not uncommon sight was families making their home under a shop awning.  Salzburg has a tent city outside the police station full of refugees.  In all these countries (I haven’t got to Italy yet) the impact of both refugees and the global economic downturn has had a huge impact.

In comparison our economic and refugee problems are trivial.  I feel deeply ashamed of our solutions to these problems, and more shamed by the questions posed by Europeans as they try to understand our harsh stand. Many to whom I have spoken have been to Australia and our sink or swim policies – literally in the case of  refugees – don’t resonate with an Australia they remember.

How did we become so mean spirited?

Whether we’re dealing with mothers, refugees, education, health or welfare it feels like we have variations of the same solution – give nobody nothing!

Whilst lying in the sun I’ve been pondering this and Humberto Maturana’s ideas about cultural change have been floating in and out. Especially his statement – that for cultural change to occur you need a change in emotioning.


Is our new age religion of economic rationalism responsible for this mean spirited emotioning shift? The belief that more for less, under the guise of growth, is the answer of all of life’s problems.  The belief that we can consume our way to heaven, is very seductive.

On the plane on the way over I started reading Don Watson’s ‘The Bush’ which I bought as a gift for my sister.  As I read I became fascinated with what I think is going to be his central philosophy. I’m only a quarter of the way through, but I think he might be hypothesizing that we haven’t had an emotioning shift at all.  That harsh heartlessness is the core of who Australians are.  Consequently economic rationalism is a perfect cultural emotioning match. Grab what you can regardless of the destruction and heartache caused along the way.

This ripples across all aspects of our lives and would certainly explain the distress of those of us employed in health and welfare. No wonder pleading for resources for the troubled falls on deaf ears.


With this in mind maybe Gough Whitlam was the anomaly. He tried to change the cultural emotioning of Australia and failed.  Those of us who are more matristically orientated grieve for those humane times. Everything he had put into place has gradually been eroded away.

I’ll just stick with refugee management as a symbol of cultural emotioning. Despite Europe’s problems in many areas, from my limited research, an Australian style solution would not be popular.

In Europe The Madonna is ever present – a tribute to love and the value of mothering or nurturing. Maybe they understand the potential impact of gains made at the expense of another in a way Australians, with our geographical isolation, don’t.

The matristic emotioning of gratefulness for what the world gives seems to sit more easily in Europe than the patriarchal pride of getting what you can preferably for nothing that underpins the Australian psyche.   And yet… I love our quality of life.  A double bind, I think!

Note - no fences
Note – no fences



Back to Technology

Who cares cares about technology?
Who cares cares about technology?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the last month, along with help from your comments and what is buzzing around in my own head. This is a work in progress, but I’ve started to believe that our conversations around the impact of technology on our lives is around the wrong way. I’m thinking this because the focus of these conversations tends to be on the technology and the newest whatever; not on the quality of relationships.

So, I think the challenge for us all is to become much more mindful about the place we want technology to have in our lives.  Rather than worry about whom is doing what, thinking more about the quality of interactions with our various devices. Does this relationship with – facebook for example – enhance or detract from my quality of life.  This is a question that could become an everyday event.  Each member of the family could ask both themselves and each other. A bit like asking “what’s for dinner”.

Surprisingly, I find adolescents remarkably honest when asked do they feel better or worse when they are in relationship with their favourite app? Their response is often a variation of I enjoy it in the beginning, but then I can’t turn it off and so I become obessed and anxious for fear I’ll miss out on something.  There it is again, good old fashioned fear controlling us again. Even on our own in the safety of our bedrooms.

Back to core values. What are the family values and beliefs around external input. This could be friends (real ones), T.V., extended family or any other phenomenon that comes into everyday family life.  What ever a family believes is right for them becomes the guide as to how to deliver technology management strategies.  If this is hard to work out, ask the kids, they can usually clearly articulate the core values of their parents.  Once these are clear, they define the parameters on how, and where, to set the boundary around usage.

Don’t forget we all have our bad days when we’ll succumb to the never ending whinging.  I believe it’s the setting of the boundary that’s important – the kids need to know where it is – even though it might be a bit rubbery.

Because technology is continually changing the adults will always be running behind the kids.  There’s nothing new in this, I remember my parents horror when I bought my first pair of jeans. So, rather than focusing on what the latest thing is and trying to control it, I think it would be helpful if we save our energy for setting that boundary. Helpful questions for doing this might be, is this particular program/game or whatever …. providing an experience that feels okay or not? Is it consistent with our family values?  The core values are the guide as to when to intervene whether, for ourselves or our loved ones.

Just a little aside I’ve overlooked and will talk about in the future, this all works very well when the parents agree, and the core values around input from the external world are shared. But if the parents don’t agree…… that’s for another time.