Trayvon Martin & Shaima Alawadi: hat crime becomes hate crime

And privilege gets privacy.


People interested in social justice will have no doubt noticed two stories in the world media recently, both coming from the US: the Florida shooting of young African American, Trayvon Martin, and the savage beating of a muslim woman in California, Shaima Alawadi, that caused her death.

In the case of Trayvon Martyn, a neighbourhood-watch-style security patroller shot him dead, saying he thought was some kind of dangerous gang figure because he was wearing his hoodie with the hood up at the time. The police had refused to charge the shooter, even though just before the incident they had previously ordered him to not follow Trayvon. The issue became a runaway social media meme and sparked protests across the nation, including demonstrations in the Senate and in cities around the country, at which everyone wore hoodies to show solidarity and to mock the absurdity of judging a person dangerous and shooting him based on his clothes in combination with his race. Make no mistake, this national protest was organic, organised and sincere. It was called the Million Hoodie March.

In a very different part of the country, Shaima Alawadi, a 30-something mother of five, was beaten to death in her own home, with the perpetrators leaving a note to confirm the reason was her culture. A friend of the family told journalists the note said: “Go back to your own country. You are a terrorist”. Shaim wore a hijab, like the women in the photo to the left. She was found by her 17-year-old daughter. There is a Facebook group called “One Million Hijabs for Shaima Alawadi” (with 8,600 members and counting) – members wear a headscarf and post a picture to the group to draw attention to hate crimes. There are many photos of women from other cultures and religions wearing the hijab in protest.

One really interesting feature that the two victims have in common was their wearing of a garment designed to cover their heads and partly obscure their faces. Neither was wearing a pair of cut-off pantyhose, balaclava or motorcycle helmet, which are the traditionally alarming headgear that bank clerks fear (nor burka, not that it should matter). Should someone wish to speak to Trayvon’s or Shaima’s face, all they had to do was to stand face-to-face with them, as in any respectful, everyday exchange between human beings.

It speaks volumes that we automatically think a hood or a veil is hiding a threat rather than  being a garment of privacy. When muslim women who wear a hijab or a burka say they are being modest, I sense that many people equate that to being prudish and think of it as hiding something vaguely insincere. Modesty in the mainstream white Christian culture is the same thing as ‘humility’. But for many people (including many white Christians, I am sure), modesty means ‘good secret’ or ‘privateness’.

Secondly, it also looks as though we as a society think some types of people are entitled to privacy and some types of people are not. This may mirror our beliefs about whom is entitled to be protected by law enforcement agencies – the middle-class army does not just distinguish between classes, but based all kinds of other features such as race and gender, which is the fuel behind the Million Hoodie March and the Million Hijab campaign. Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon Martin, thought he was entitled to follow Trayvon and snoop into where he was going, and that the racist neighbours of Shaima Alawadi thought it was okay to leave the nasty, racist notes at her home.

It’s not just the presumption of who gets to be the victim and perpetrator of violence, and who gets arrested and charged, it’s also what rights we believe others have to keep their own faces kind of private.

Crowdsourcing, scale and sustainability

Crowdsourcing.When I look back on all the proposals I’ve done myself or helped other people with, all the bootstrap enterprise ideas and new product innovations upon which a whole franchise could be created, I just wish this kind of system was around ten years ago. But even if it had been, I don’t think we had a base of young entrepreneurs (and their mini-investors) who would be flexible and laid back enough to use it.

There were so many small businesses – some which would scale and some which would not – that could have been conceived and grown on the back of crowd sourcing. For example, my idea for a website that only sells old-fashioned things that you can no longer buy in shops, such as woollen dressing gowns, designer handkerchiefs, attractive clock radios and teasmades. There are thousands of business ideas out there that could be started on the back of some crowdsourcing, a few credit cards and a good knowledge of the wonderful world of elance.com.

The AV Jennings/ Ikea principle

And yes, 99% of these would not scale. However… I want to activate what I call my ‘AV Jennings/Ikea’ principle here: you can rubbish the brands all you like for being unoriginal, for being non-master-built, for being of their times and for appealing to the mass market and the very muffled vagaries of its taste, but AV Jennings gave people who previously had very little available to them homes with decent doors, windows and storage, with bathrooms and kitchens that could be cleaned; Ikea gave people the option of cheerful furniture that looks smart whereas once they would have had to contend with grandma’s cast-offs.

In the same way, there are many businesses which are not glamorous, not particularly sustainable and not scalable at all that would nonetheless provide an income for two or three families and a sense of pride and dignity and investment in their own lives that a crappy job at K Mart just cannot provide. For example, the doughnut and coffee stall at Chirnside Park shopping centre, with its three competitive advantages: consistent and rational undercutting of the Big Donut Franchise, its location in the foodcourt, and the unfailing friendliness of its staff couldn’t be anywhere on any Tom McGaskill radar, but the two young guys who run it are not sitting at home all day playing World of Warcraft and eating cheese toasties and our community gets some genuine competition in the coffee-and-doughnuts market.

Sustainability

Growth has been the basic measurement of success for so long in business that it has been taken for granted. Even in businesses and industries where growth is no longer possible, the business world focusses of growth of market share. The idea of sustainability is that it is the driving force behind growth, as an enterprise that is not sustainable cannot last long enough to grow, and the longer it lasts, the logic goes the more it grows. In this view, ‘loser’ businesses are the ones that hit a certain size and then plateau, or even go backward for a while until settling into their ‘ideal’ size.

However, sustainability is also not necessarily the key to a successful business – it depends what you want in the first place. A business based on selling Sydney 2000 Olympics souvenirs would certainly not be sustainable but nobody would argue against its ability to make cash. The entire property development industry really depends upon project-based earnings rather than ongoing cashflow, yet few if these projects are designed to make money indefinitely.

Money for cash business

Crowdsourcing is not inherently suited to the long-term investment projects that attract venture capital. I don’t know what proportion of crowdsourcing investors are professional or angel investors, but I assume (and this would bear some research) that 80% of it is someone having a bit of a crack at it, using their money as they would on the futures market or at the races. Having a bit of fun and having a story to tell at the pub, or having the power to invest in something they really believe in. (My father, a very conservative banker, bought Compass Airlines shares when it listed solely because he believed in  the competition it represented).

If most of the investors are having a crack, then they are not really in the market for a long-term, staged relationship with the company, and are therefore not necessarily interested in its prospects for sustainability or scalability. A few expertly marketed ventures might be able to establish relationships with their investors that make them long-term, but this would not be because they are locked in, it would be down to an inherent stickiness that the company had created. This far and away from the typical strategies and requirements of venture capitalists.

For Haverin Books? Crowdsourcing is going to be perfect. So watch this space,

My Be(a)stie is a feminist bitch

My be(a)stie is a feminist bitch

That is not a rude thing to say. She is, in fact a bitch. And, being 90% blue cattle dog, she is also a blue. And being unaffected by competition or domination from other (male) dogs, she is a free and happy female. This makes her a bluestocking, even though stockings and socks are more likely to be buried in the garden by her than worn with pride.

I have always sat on the fence with regard to those books that start out with the premise, ‘Everything I learned in life I learned from my dog/cat/ferret’, but as I was walking alongside her this afternoon, chillin’ out and watching her sniff, I realised what a great example of young womanhood she is.

Qualities as a feminist

1. She farts freely and unapologetically.
2. She doesn’t care what she looks like
3. She is a career girl – every now and then she gives a good ‘Woof’ at someone walking past our house, then comes back to the back door, wagging her (stumpy) tail as if to say, “Just reporting – a small fluffy thing walked past so I told it to stay away, and I did a really good job”. Part of the career girl thing, I admit, was chosen for her, but I can assure you I was liberating her rather than oppressing her when we got her spayed.
4. She’s up for anything, regardless of how ridiculous it might look. This includes jumping high to catch balls, throwing herself in stinky creeks, eating raw (quite manky) casserole meat, licking herself freely and frequently in the privates.
5. She stands tall and proud in public, even if another dog walks past yapping, snarling the dog equivalent of “your mother was a whore”.
6. She asks for what she wants, using her paws, her nose, her shoulders, her voice, her besotted brown eyes. And she often gets it.

Qualities as a best friend

1. Total loyalty, including lying in whatever room I am in, at all times if at all possible. Some people might say that was not so much loyalty as stalking, and I often felt that way with my previous dog, Robbie, who was a staffy, but not with Gracie.
2. Sympathetic companion – when I’m sad, she follows me more closely, offering her company. When I’m happy, she follows me more closely, asking for a game. Rest of the time, just follows me around regardless of what kind of boring day I’m having.
3. Forgives me all the time for forgetting to take her for walks etc.

Trolling… some further work by other people

Still fascinated by the spread and ubiquitousness of vitriolic trolling, I found these two articles today on the BBC News site, by Richard Bacon – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17399027#TWEET107116 – and Tom de Castella and Virginia Brown – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14898564 .

My friend and past colleague, Jack Yan, also pointed me to the existence of the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penny_Arcade_(webcomic)#John_Gabriel.27s_.22Greater_Internet_Fuckwad_Theory.22.

However, I have not yet got to the bottom of this trolling mystery. Why is it such an attractive idea? Are we human beings seriously and naturally attracted to destruction? Or, in the act of destroying someone else, do we actually create identity? (Yes, we do…) But what then happens to that identity? Does it become permanent?

Richard Bacon says there is research that suggests perhaps 50% of the trolling is by people who know the target. I wonder how reliable that research is.

The Uniqueness of Trolls

The Uniqueness of Trolls

A friend recently pointed me in the direction of the physically exhausting (because it is so funny) blog of David Thorne, http://www.27bslash6.com/.

This was a timely gift, as I have recently been musing about comment trolls, and ‘hate communications’ generally, particularly since it has become a public issue that some high-profile women bloggers get overloaded with hate emails or comments, even to the point of being physically threatened. It is common wisdom that responding to trolls just makes them worse, so these women bloggers were making a brave protest by publicising what was happening to them – see, for example, Google and ilk can’t shirk responsibility for ranters.

I had been also been musing about it because it was related to my work – setting up some communications systems and content for a gender research organisation. Feminists work there, and write stuff. In other words, whatever I am setting up is bound to be trollbait. How do I set things up so my clients do not become overwhelmed by it and give up on communicating all the wonderful things they do? How do I help them to choose to be active, ‘organic’ communicators, instead of relying on the occasional media release and static uploads to their website?

What is it about the internet that brings out the worst in people?

In the case of trolling, do people develop whole world views based on interacting with others online? ie, their identity as writers and thinkers is born in the crucible of rampant criticism and verbal warfare? Nothing but the once-democratic ideal of debate has shaped their views; their person and their persona is wholly shaped by the ideal of the successful attack and the destruction of a vibrant conversation somewhere?

Is there a book in that? And, if there is, is there a book in how the non-trolls respond?

Haverin Books – the Experiment

This is the intro to Haverin Books. Haverin Books is the business I want to start and build, rather than the other business I used to own, which sort of started itself and I ran after it. The other blog, Haverin Observations, is more about the content, whereas this blog is about the form.

I want Haverin Books to cause good for me and for other people in my community. I want it to be part of a community, not just an office in which people work 9-5 and hope for the best, who occasionally get together for somebody’s birthday.

I want it to be a social enterprise, but I need to support a family and play catch-up with my superannuation, so it’s not a ‘pure play’. What is a ‘pure play’ these days anyway?

So this blog is about the journey towards finding the right market to match up broadly with the kinds of things I can make, and the appopriate design of the business itself to make sure it is sustainable and does in fact fulfill its goals of supporting me and bringing good to its community.

I don’t even know whether it should scale.

Next post will be about all the things Tom McKaskill taught us at Swinburne in the Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation program. That bootcamp subject known as Opportunity Evaulation, but which really should have been called Opportunity Strengthening/Maximisation.

There were a whole bunch of rules we learned, that we were taught to think, breathe and live. I didn’t agree with all of them, although I could see that they ‘worked’. So I’m going to test them out against the ideas that come up in this blog.

For example, we were obessessed with ‘scalable’. For a pitch to pass the sniff test, it had to be genuinely scalable. Why? Some of my female classmates, in particular, said that. Why does it have to be scalable to be a great business worth spending time on? And what is scalable anyway? What if the business model is not so much franchise as ‘copy’? What if you give away the franchises? What is they’re not even really franchises?

I am also going to float some ideas about product, and what’s sustainable. And about regional Australia, as I love people and businesses that make stuff – and not just the obvious tosser stuff like marinated olives or handmade cider.

Well, this is the start.

Jenny MacKinnon

There is a review in The Age today about Bruce Springsteen’s new album, Wrecking Ball. I am not a Bruce Springsteen fan in the sense that I buy his music and listen to it over and over. But if I hear it played on the radio I give it my attention and I have a sense that I trust him as an artist to reflect the world authentically and to give me some insight.

I have sometimes been so disappointed when reading literary or music reviews that talk about the person’s art as though it has no context in the world except for within its genre.

My heart beats for art that means something, even if sometimes the art is difficult to access, or if I find out after some thought that I don’t agree with it. Even then, I feel as though my world has been made a little bit larger or my experiences have been validated in some way. 

Being courageous and writing well (reflecting and illuminating what is real as well as what might be) is so important to me that it doesn’t really matter to me that it’s not my style of music – what matters is people being authentic, courageous and speaking up.

I used to think that respect was something that the respected person benefited from, but the feeling of respect colours me as well; it’s as though in some way the speaker passes on a bit of their courage, and out of that comes clarity and peace, like a present for me, a box of no-calory chocolates. It’s the same feeling I get when a politician stands up to his or her own party out of principle – for example, Malcolm Turnbull – or when I see or read a story about someone who could have taken the easy way out and not made a sound, like Adrian Salter in the report on Four Corners on Monday (and of course I respect Quentin McDermott and Morag Ramsay, the journalists who told the story). I respect Springsteen, I respect Malcolm Turnbull and I respect Adrian Salter in the full sense of the world, and it feels great.