Monday, 30 October 2017

Good People, Good Men and #metoo [trigger warning likely necessary]

To start, #metoo, but while that experience, and the reaction to my talking publicly about it earlier this year have made me feel I have to write this and put it out there, I'm not writing here about that experience.

This is about how I think I, and men especially, have to respond to the sea of #metoo disclosures from our friends, colleagues, family and acquaintances.  If your response to the words "men especially" above is to point out that women can be perpetrators too, don't worry, you are right, this is not disputed, and I have personal experience confirming that to be the case, but I hope that you will acknowledge that the statistics do mean that "men especially" is not disproportionate.

In summary:*I* (a good person in my head) need to recognise that *I* have very possibly been responsible for some of the #metoo hashtags that I have seen.  And anybody reading this needs to run that thought through their heads in the first person.

We have to resist the temptation to say how awful Harvey Weinstein was, how awful all those other bad apples are, to think something has to be done about them, and to recognise that if people in our lives are saying that they have been the victims of harassment, assault, intimidation, rape or sexual abuse, it may be that we, who think of ourselves as good men, have been the perpetrators.

We need to recognise that what we think of as our youthful idiocy, our saucy "banter"*, our chatting up, our seduction routine, our assertion of our carnal desires, may not be thought of that way by somebody that is statistically likely to be physically smaller than us, physically weaker than us, and in a position of markedly less social and economic power than us.

We need not to instil a hierarchy of bad that puts what we personally have done into a box labelled "soft" or "minor" but what is done by others into "hard" or "serious"

Cognitive dissonance is a thing - we have an idea of the world and how we relate to it, an image of the best of ourselves that we don't always live up to, but when faced with something like #metoo, it is too easy to assume that because we think of ourselves as good people, it must have been the bad men, the other that are responsible, rather than us ourselves.  The thought process is, effectively, "Good men do good things. Bad men do bad things. I am not a bad man, I am a good man, therefore everything I have done is good, or not really bad. I feel sorry for all of the women I know that have said #metoo, that everybody in their life was not, like me, a good man.  If only they were."

But here's the thing - the bad men, the other - they think the same thing.  Harvey Weinstein likely doesn't think of himself as a rapist or a serial sex pest, but a massive number of women clearly believe him to be so on the basis of their direct experience of their interactions with him.

#metoo will ultimately be meaningless if good men don't actively try to scrutinise what they have done and how it may have been felt by others, don't own the fact that they have almost certainly done at least one bad thing, and work to get their friends, their brothers, their sons to recognise what is wrong, and not to do it.

Not having been reported to the police does not mean that you have not done something bad.

Not having faced a grievance or disciplinary at work does not mean that your colleague is happy being touched gently, or massaged, or finds your sexual "banter"* hilarious or flirty.

Somebody that you in your darkest and most private of thoughts know that you were probably "a bit close to the line with one drunken night" still talking to you does not mean that you did not cross that line in their perception.

We have to recognise that never having felt negative consequences of our actions does not constitute proof that everything we have done has been fine - We have to consider our own actions, hold them up to the highest standard, recognise where we have not lived up to that standard and own that.  We need then to incorporate that critical reflection upon our past into our decision making processes in the future.

We need to stop excusing our failings prior to acknowledging them.  And this is where things have to get dark. 

I've thought a lot before writing the below, whether to  put my name to it or not when publishing it, and what the consequences could be for me of doing so. This is selfish thinking, of which we are all guilty, but ultimately I think it best to own what I have to say publicly. 

The paragraph below is not an easy thing to write, let alone publish to be potentially read by someone that may not know me, that will offer me no benefit of the doubt, and that do not have any of the context around the events that I refer to that enables me to at all live with myself.  I present it like this, without context, in the hope that some people out there, especially men, may read it, be willing to reflect on the extent to which it is true of them, and may look to change their behaviour as a result.

I have done things in the past that I deeply regret, that I recognise could well have hurt others, and that could potentially have legitimately led to criminal charges being pressed against me, because my interpretation of what was appropriate or welcome was mine alone, and directed by my belief that *I*, as a good person, could not be doing something actually wrong.  The fact that I have felt no negative consequences of what I have done does not mean that what I have done was OK, and I am sorry to anybody that I have hurt, that has never felt confident to tell me I hurt them.  

If anybody reading this does feel that I have wronged them and wants to tell me now, wants to discuss it, wants a direct apology, I will believe them, I will discuss it, and I will apologise directly, publicly or privately as they wish, whether it has been something that I have thought of in writing this or had previously not even realised, because if I am to learn to be a better person, I have to own the impact of my actions on others.  

I hope that my future behaviour, which I control and must take responsibility for, is such that the statement above need not be made for future events.  I don't assume, though, that having thought this through and written it out will automatically make it the case that I will live up to the standard I want to hold myself to - that cosy complacency is the foundation for a society in which #metoo means nothing.



*I fucking hate that word, which I think is far too often used to describe what is better characterised as hate speech with a wink and a smile.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

A big long stream of consciousness Musing on authenticity on the Left

Meh.  I'm not normal, and I'm ok with it.

I'm not religious, so I omit the reference to the Lord, but  the words attributed to St Francis are very important in dealing with trouble:

“Lord, grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change,
he courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Last night I took some flack in a rather perverse way - I'd had a thought, which in discussion was reflected in the minds of others, that it would be good to try and set up a local calendar that would help people plan meetings in advance not to unnecessarily clash with things others are organising.

I set one up on Google, and chose the bland, inoffensive catch all title "Progressive Dundee" to try and cover the very broad movement in an inclusive way, set up a tinyurl link to the calendar and an inbox that folk can send event details to, and then set out contacting folk to make them aware of the idea.

I sent facebook messages to a bunch of different organisations that I considered to broadly be on the same side, and got a message back from one of them indicating that as far as they were concerned, I wasn't on the same side as them.

It was written in phonetic Dundonian, and amongst a general message of disdain for self styled progressive lefties, took the piss out of my having said that this came about as a result of a "chat".

I don't write, or speak, in a particularly strong dialect - there are words that I use that reflect different parts of my lived experience in the Borders and Dundee - I happily and naturally use "oxters" for "armpits", and a busy pub to me is "Hoachin'".  "Aye" is frequently yes, "Eh" not so frequently, and generally is more of a conscious choice than a natural language thing.

There are words I love that I don't naturally use - "Kye" is so beautiful a sound compared to "cows" or "coos", but both of those would flow naturally depending on who I'm talking to, while "Kye" I never learned as part of my daily life, it was discovered somewhat later on.

To an extent, I probably talk in a more formal way in Dundee than I do with the folk I went to school with, because the language we shared there was subtly different, the accent likewise, and I try to make it as easy as possible for those I'm speaking to to understand me - as such, I have developed a bit of a generic accent - clearly Scottish to most, but with few strong influences on it, such that folk South of the border can generally follow what I'm saying too.

Anyway, what I interpret the pelters last night to have at their heart is some notion that I am not working class, or not working class enough.

A conversation with my former manager about my ADHD diagnosis came to mind around this - with every positive intention, he suggested in hopes that it would lift my spirits (which weren't actually down) that my ADHD probably wasn't really that severe, and other people must have it worse.

A lot of people probably do suffer from an imbalance in their brain chemistry more drastic than mine - there's no easy quantification of this, but I know my own symptoms have had a massive effect on my life till now - I was able to put it into context for him by suggesting that my situation may not be entirely down to brain chemistry, but that I have been fortunate in having had a very supportive upbringing, with parental intervention to force me to do homework and teachers in a not-horrendously-overstretched school that could and did shout at me to stop pissing about and do what I was supposed to when I needed that (I did.  A lot).

When left to my own devices at University (an opportunity that a lot of my ADHD peer group without the above support will not have had) I sank academically, but still had social opportunities denied to others as a result.

In retrospect, while I would never wish the loss of the friends I made there, I feel shame for the way in which I was able, with a little state support and support from my parents, to arse about doing the bear minimum and mostly drinking too much.  I feel guilt that I had, and wasted an opportunity that others from less advantaged backgrounds did not have.

 Likewise, I have loving and understanding friends and family who support and love me when my occasional depressive moods rob me of energy and confidence.  Others don't have that support or the confidence to seek it out.  This is terrible, and my knowledge of how my own situation is better pains me, more so as the ADHD diagnosis and treatment has really helped lift my mood and sense of self worth - I understand myself better, and can forgive my past failings in a way that my depression would never let me before.

On another front, I've struggled with debt in the past, but never actually missed a payment or had to rely on pay day usury, and I am in a job that will give me a pension in retirement.  So many cannot say that.

Add to that that I am a massive straight(ish) white man with a big loud voice, without visible disability and with a memorable name, and that adds up to a fair whack of privilege compared to some.  I try to own it, and I try not to push myself forward much, knowing that that privilege may make it harder for others to compete if I do.

I'm not everybody else, I'm not normal, but I'm OK with that.

Am I authentically enough a member of the working class?  It all depends on what definition you apply.  I would say that I am, primarily on occupational and financial grounds, but recognise that I am socially a privileged member of that class subject to a lot less discrimination than many.  I don't play the prolier than thou card as a result.

The reason for the quote at the top is this:  Every day I have the energy, I do what I can to change things for the better.  A lot of this may be tinkering around the edges of a broken system, and there might be a better world possible in the aftermath of an all out class war than could ever be achieved through my tinkerings, but I see and hear people asking for my help, and I do my best to change things with them to make things better.

There are things I can change, be it policy at work through negotiations, be it personal case support for Members, or be it a gap in communication on the Dundee Left.  I change them where I can.

There are some things I can't change, and one of them is an anonymous individual that thinks I'm a posh arsehole in need of taking down a peg or two.  I know the difference, and I'm OK with that too.

I'll keep fighting to try and help address the disadvantages that others face, and if some of the people that I think I'm on the same side with view me as an enemy, that won't change my opinion of what is right or wrong, and I'll support their fight against something that is wrong nonetheless.

I'll just think they are personally a bit of an arse, and won't invite them to my birthday party.*


*I haven't had any real birthday party since I turned 28 and stopped being "Young", so please don't read this and feel left out of exciting party fun.  The above was me being facetious.




Thursday, 2 July 2015

So aye, another ADHD update

Aye, so my sleep pattern is still *ahem* interesting, to say the least.  For those with an interest in such things, I came off the original ADHD medication, atomoxetine, due to a variety of side effects being a bit too much, and have now started another, Concerta, which is a delayed release, long lasting form of methylphenidate - ritalin in old money.

The atomoxetene side effects I experienced were not untenable, but inconvenient - Cold fingers, nose and feet (Reynaud's); dehydration; slightly reduced bladder awareness (I'd be fine, and then suddenly it would dawn on me that I really needed to pee) and some relating to *ahem* reproductive function that if you are curious about I will happily discuss, but not publicly on the internet.

None of them were really severe or stopped me doing anything I wanted to, although the Reynaud's did make playing the guitar more difficult.

Moving from a non-stimulant to a stimulant treatment has been interesting - probably most of interest to casual readers is that I haven't felt discernibly high at all, although I probably do feel a bit more alert in general.

Today is my first day on the full dose of the Methylphenidate (3x18mg), having stepped up the dosage over the past fortnight.  Week one, in which I only took one tablet a day, was definitely a regression in terms of ADHD symptoms - I was far antsier than I would have been on the Atomoxetine, and that probably showed to anyone who was watching me - we had a meeting of our Group Executive Committee and I was probably closer to old Hamish in terms of concentration gaps and fidgeting than I have been for a long time.

That was unfortunate, given that my fully medicated self had been hugely productive - I had six papers with my name on them on the agenda and another one that I had contributed to significantly was taken, and to be honest I wasn't on form - for those not used to Trade Union bureaucracy, reports are produced on paper and at the end of each decision paper, recommendations set out the course of action to follow, which can be amended, agreed or rejected by the Committee.  I was definitely struggling to remember what I had written in a way that I would not have a week before, but people were kind nonetheless.

Week two saw me taking two 18mg pills in the morning, and there was a definite increase in efficacy - still antsier than on the atomoxetine, but more focused when work was required, and I am broadly on top of everything I need to do right at this moment, which is no bad thing.

I am going to try and keep a note of my sleep over the next wee while - last night I was probably asleep for half eight, and up before 4, which isn't usual for me (this may be an understatement), while yesterday I was dozily awake from quarter past seven and on duty before 9.

Anyway, it seems quite good, and none of the possible side effects are definitely showing up yet - the sleep thing may or may not be one!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Aye, another ADHD update

I've been taking Atomoxetine for a week and a half now, stepping up to a full dose on Monday past. and I think there are some changes that I can see, although it will take a while longer before it becomes fully effective.  I'm just going to bullet point it for brevity - on a late start today, but I do need to go to work.


  • I'm less fidgety - checking my phone less obsessively
  • I'm probably sitting stiller - I haven't caught myself bouncing my leg as much
  • I'm definitely waking up a bit better, although my sleep pattern is not in any way regular, and losing an hour at the weekend I dread...
  • There may be a point in the day where it is becoming less effective, and it wearing off may not be good - my brain had a major moment of being fried at about 4pm yesterday.
  • I'm still having a bit more reflux than I was
  • I need to drink a lot of water
That about sums it up.  I think I am thinking more about what I am writing and saying, which is probably a good thing as long as it leads to an improvement in quality more than a reduction in quantity.

Anyway, that'll do for now.  Love, light and peace to all,

Hx

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Aye, so an update

Some five and a half months after my Doctor referred me on for ADHD assessment, today I finally saw a Psychiatrist.  In between times, I saw someone in the adult psychology team for a kind of triage.

The psychiatrist wasn't absolutely committing to a definitive diagnosis, but said that he thinks it is likely on the basis of everything he could see that I have ADHD to some extent.  Thus, tomorrow, assuming I can get through on the phone in time, I will be making an appointment with my GP to commence a course of Atomoxetine.

After so long, it is a bit odd to get that diagnosis - couched in "likely", but I'll take that answer, and will give it a go.

It feels a little anti-climatic for now, especially as according to the internet, Atomoxetine takes weeks to have an impact, and I'd been expecting to be started on stimulants (which I believe to be a lot cheaper) that kick in very quickly.

It will be interesting, and anybody out there that bothers to read this and has regular interactions with me, please do let me know if you notice any changes in me over the next wee while - positive or negative.

Anyway, love, light and peace to all, and to all a good night!

Hx

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Immediate musings post #ric2014

It was jolly good.  Some general thoughts in brief:

Attendees

There were an awful lot of people who aren't just the usual suspects.  This gives me hope that we really are keeping a lot of folk who were activated by the referendum active.  The age profile in particular was wonderful to see.

Participation

The top table format isn't perfect for most things, but this was effectively a mega rally with a far better attempt than most left summits at ensuring a diverse range of voices were given space, both in the main bits and the workshops.

Labour

I'm not a Labour party member, and am unlikely ever to be one, with little faith in the party as a whole, but strong sympathies with a few inside.

With the exceptions of that few, I think Labour positioned itself poorly on the referendum, that those I like and/or love within the party have compromised too much, that they hate the SNP far more than is rational, and frequently put party interests ahead of what is right.  (this last criticism I apply to most parties).

That disclaimer aside, I worry that hatred of Labour is more important for some who were on my side in the referendum and who were there today than the world we want to see - that crushing labour is more of an objective than resisting rampant capitalism (of which I acknowledge Labour are a part), and that it distracts a lot of folk who might be open to our political message from that message.

Future

I'm not overly excited by Westminster 2015 from a Scottish perspective - it strikes me that having said Scottish politics is more about Holyrood than Westminster, focusing too much on Westminster is a mistake - creating the conditions for a fairer Scotland in a fairer world will not be achieved there, and I advocate a targeted push in the local authority elections, to demonstrate what can happen when people with ideas rather than managerial ambition are elected.


Aye, that's about it for now.  There was some very good chat on the road home on how to mount a campaign for the Dundee City Council elections, which I may write a bit about at some point.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Aye, so there is this...

I think I probably have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity* Disorder).

A week ago, I didn't have any thoughts on the matter.  I had a lot of symptoms, but of what, I didn't know.

The primary manifestation, of which I have been acutely conscious over the past few years, has been that my concentration regularly lapses.  This had been a source of significant worry, and led me to my GP, who in the first instance suggested a course of Prozac.

That had the initial benefit of me waking up far more alert in the morning, but had no significant effect upon my mood, or, more significantly, my short term memory and concentration - A locum went with my GP's backup plan of a referral to a psychologist, but, maybe because the locum didn't really know me, the referral was met with a letter suggesting that for someone in my age group, counselling would be the sensible route.

The counselling, at Insight in Dundee, was a fascinating experience, but while it may have made me more familiar with the concept of thought errors (automatic thoughts that we are all guilty of at times, contributing to exacerbation of stress), it didn't help my concentration, really.  It may have helped my overall mood a bit, but I always felt that my low moods were more likely to follow concentration dips than vice versa, and so after a twelve week run with the very nice counsellor, we shook hands and parted ways.

The concentration problems have stayed with me, but a summer of things happening (one manifestation of ADHD would appear to be over-committing) meant that worry for myself went on the back burner as I threw myself into a variety of Union campaigns, the Yes campaign, organising a reunion of my old theatre company and a Christening.

So it was only this week past that I finally woke up in time to request an appointment with my GP to say that the problems were still there.

The appointment, which was twenty minutes late starting, ran on for about twenty-five minutes - I really like my GP, and talking to him is never a bad thing, but I do feel guilty for those who were waiting for their appointments, already delayed.

It was actually quite late on that he suggested ADHD as a possibility, although he made clear that I would need to be referred to a specialist for a diagnosis - I said that I would be keen to explore anything that might help, and he is referring me.

I came out of the appointment a little surprised, went into the office and had a wee chat with my manager to bring him up to speed - when I got home, after finishing my work for the day, I spent the evening reading up on adult ADHD, and did a couple of (not Facebook) online self assessments, which indicated that I am likely to have moderate to severe ADHD.

Amongst those things about me that I have always just thought were me being me, but which may rather coincide with ADHD symptoms are the following:


  • A tendency to fidget terribly, bouncing my legs;
  • Eating too much;
  • Drinking too much;
  • Talking too much (this one potentially cost me a really awesome job - the feedback was that I over-answered every question in my shotgun style and they had to struggle to pick out the key points);
  • Impulsive spending;
  • Impulsiveness in general;
  • Impulsive romantic behaviour (OK, the psychology site said sexual, and that is true, but I'm blogging for a general, if small, audience, possibly including my family and probably including women who have been on the receiving end of this);
  • A tendency to put off boring work till the very last minute;
  • The aforementioned gaps in concentration/tendency to daydream;
  • Starting too many projects in a blaze of activity, then losing steam;
  • Depression following successes;
  • Difficulty following instructions;
  • Accumulation of "stuff";
  • Insomnia (this is terrible for me);
  • Difficulty waking up (even worse than the not being able to get to sleep);
  • Addiction (so tempted to make a heroin joke here, but nah, just the cigs);
  • Short term memory problems, and;
  • Hyperfocus on things that engage me, not always positively.


This last one, for example, explains why I will read some books in one sitting, and some over six months or longer.  It also explains the six months of my life in 2003 that I wisely invested in Tony Hawks' Pro Skater 2...

Basically, none of this excuses any of my more, erm, esoteric behaviour, but it may go some way towards explaining some of it.

It will probably take a while for an assessment to be arranged, and in the meantime, for the short term, I am going to have to think long and hard (something that apparently ADHD makes you try and avoid often) about what to do in the short term, until hopefully I get a positive diagnosis and treatment starts.

I've forced myself to be relatively decent at coping with waiting, and have moderated a lot of my more explosive tendencies, but I am really hopeful that if I do get the diagnosis and treatment, I may end up on a more even keel.

Part of me resents that this wasn't picked up earlier - the way my GP put it was that if you're bright enough to, despite any impairments caused by ADHD, get through school without terrible difficulty, then you're unlikely to be picked up - self taught coping strategies can actually hinder your diagnosis.

When I think back to my "academic" period, I can't help but wonder if I might have done a lot better had I been diagnosed and on an effective course of treatment then, but life has actually been pretty wonderfully kind to me since, and if I'd done really well and got a far better paid job, while the money might be nice, I wouldn't have met all the wonderful people that I am proud to call friends that I have met along the way.

Basically, what I am getting at is that I am probably going to need to make some changes in my life in the short term, and I hope you will all be with me while I do so.

If any of the above list, which is in my own words, seems a little too familiar (and hopefully nobody will be so awful as to say "well we all have problems getting out of bed in the morning" and think that proves anything other than that they are a bad person) then please do look into it for yourself, and maybe think about seeing your own GP.  There is an awful lot to read online...

*Anybody thinking "But Hamish is a lazy so-and-so" here, the hyperactivity is my racing brain, not my rather adipose body.  Actually, there is a suggested link between undiagnosed ADHD and obesity.  And anyway, if you watch my legs when sitting still you will see them bouncing ridiculously after a while, no matter where I am.  This annoys people in the cinema.  And other places.