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In which I present a small sample of what is wrong with the world and why I’m... actually... pretty ok with that. And why I'm not ok with being ok. Got that? Good.

I was happy that ‘contentment’ came out of the hat as our topic for this round. But now I have to write about it. And to write about contentment actually seems really, really odd.

Really odd.

Because I spend my life complaining. Really, I do. I’m a keyboard warrior*. I spend a large portion of my life signed in to Facebook (if not active, as those of you who’ve tried to chat to me know) and sniffing down corners of the internet in which people are being wrong. Up with this I will not put. The rest of my life is about evenly divided between dissecting the actions of the politicians I work around, and being curmudgeonly to my friends and relations. I spend a lot of time in a state of permanent dissatisfaction. Discontentment. And I try to inspire the same state in others too. Because I think there’s a lot to be discontent about.

Gender politics, for one, makes me mad. I googled “Christian Feminism blog” yesterday. I did it because when certain friends – male, Christian friends, I’m sorry to say – hear with astonishment that I consider myself feminist (definition here, I dare you to claim you're not), their reactions range from amused incredulity to outright disbelief. “How can you be feminist”, I was asked, “when you advocate social justice? Feminism’s all about the individual,” and “feminism isn’t relevant anymore” (let me direct you, smarty-pants, to these reasons why it IS relevant anymore).
So I went googling to figure out if there are any other smartypants, hopping mad leftie-feminist-Christians out there in the blogosphere. Turns out there are (and the second link is a leftie and smart lady). Turns out there are also bloggers like this one who ‘unmask’ and ‘expose’ the pervasive evil influences of feminism and ‘misandry’ in the church (pardon my French, but wtf). And there’s this one who seems much more gender-positive, but reduces ‘Christian Feminism’ to a man-hating lezbot type of feminism and therefore bad. Considering the levels of institutionalised misogyny still prevalent inside and outside the church, this kind of ‘what are you complaining about you harpies’ argument makes me weep frustrated tears.

Oh, and for an antidote to the “women can’t be leaders in the church” claptrap, see this list of reasons men should not be ordained. It makes me smile.

And now for the leftie bit. Right now, 1 in 5 New Zealand children live in poverty. There is no ‘objective’ measure of poverty in this country, which is how certain politicians get away with not doing anything about it – but I myself like to give the statistics and reports of agencies working with the most poverty-stricken in New Zealand some credence. One in five. One in FIVE. ONE IN FIVE, DO I HAVE TO YELL!!!???!?!  One in five is a freaking lot. Certain of these are demonised, discriminated against by welfare policies, and left to rot (read: get sick in childhood, do badly in school, remain illiterate, become unable to remain in paid employment, limp along on paltry benefits and perpetuate cycles of violence and misery) in suburbs as far away as possible from the people who make the rules, because they are, for example, born to mothers already on the benefit. Or born to mothers who have no reliable support or are (horror of horrors) unwed. Or because they live away from home. But that’s okay, because that’s a result of their choices.


I am totally willing to acknowledge that there are capable, educated people who abuse the welfare system for extra cash they don’t need. There are also crooked, malingering politicians. We’re not scrapping our fairly-good system of representative democracy because some people (cough John Banks) abuse it, so how ‘bout we not impose ridiculous, scare-mongeringly stereotypical, prejudicial punitive measures on the most vulnerable in the country just because some people mess it up?

If a high percentage of women of a certain age have been on the DBP*** for over five years, that means there are seriously needy families out there – not that there is a huge underclass made up of conniving bludgers. Get it right.

So as you can see, there are a lot of things out there I’m angry about. There are a lot of things you’re angry about too, I bet (there should be). They might not be the same things I’m angry about. Probably not. So what effect do all the stupid things wrong with the world have on my contentment levels?

Some of the time, as you may have picked up, it makes me rage. However, shockingly, I don’t actually go about my day in a haze of anger and trailed by a small black cloud and seething aura of clenched-teeth swear-words. I’m more likely to be found tripping along**** humming something light and airy to myself and chatting about hair products or Outrageous reruns while bumping into lamp-posts. I am content, even though there’s all this bad stuff happening in the world – and this is only in New Zealand. Hey, this is only within my pretty limited politics-and-girls-oriented gambit.

So I’m content. Big deal.

Contentment is, on one hand, ok. It’s a way of being, well, content, without letting all the injustices of life (ranging from broken hair-straighteners to damp homes for disadvantaged kids) get to you constantly. It’s the only way to deal and not become overwhelmed by the injustice that goes on every day, all around, and which we can, individually, do very little to stop. So; I’m content. I don’t think about the world’s problems all the time. I take refuge in a short attention span and enjoy my refuge there. And why not? Being discontent constantly does no good. It does a lot of harm. I know people who’ve gone through their lives being overwhelmed by how terrible things are and their powerlessness. It leads them nowhere pretty. It’s called depression. It doesn’t save the world. Contentment is a much better thing to feel about your life, the world, everything. Contented people, who have a calm base to their own perceptions, are in a much better position to help themselves and others. It’s not complacency.

But it’s not enough, is it? Contentment, fine, all very good, but as I see it, it’s a neutral. It’s when things are ok ENOUGH for you to be reasonably fine in your life. Nothing is actively bad but... nothing is great. There aren’t wild excesses of misery... or of happiness. I may be content with my lemonade iceblock, or my high school education, but what would be GREAT and make me REALLY HAPPY is a Kapiti creamy raspberry and a Masters’ degree. I don’t think I’m automatically entitled to a lifetime of overwhelming happiness. But neither do I think we should forget and be content with contentment. Adventure is out there – with extremes of happiness and misery thrown in. Let’s be content, and aim higher.


*Keyboard Warrior TM (not mine). Also, I hereby pre-emptively justify myself: I am not only a keyboard warrior. I’m no Xena but in addition to banging away on QWERTY, I do also sign petitions, march and give money and time to various good causes. I don’t just talk about them**. Not all the time.

**Further disclaimer. The things I care about tend to be controversial. There are a lot of opposing views around. Holding heated debates around issues like “should people who can’t afford it themselves be given help money to survive” (answer: um, yes) is actually pretty important. Changing the hearts and minds of the world, one Facebook comment thread at a time.

*** DPB figures don’t show what Paula Bennet thinks they show. I don’t have either them or her interpretation to hand, having been out of parliament for a couple of weeks, but it basically goes “thieving promiscuous whores, get off my tax-payer dollar” and is pretty simplistic and, uh, wrong.

****Ok, tromping along. Even in my down-time, I still love my stomp-the-patriarchy boots. They’re the best. And they keep my feet dry.

PS: Speaking of Christianity, gender roles, and the like, I am currently embroiled in a conversation about Flirting and its purpose, place, and execution and it’s making me curious. Breakout post, ahoy!

PPS: Possibly the most indicative and depressing thing I came across googling for facts about sexism and sexual abuse in New Zealand is the Women’s Refuge website. Right at the top it has a large, easy-to-find button called “hide my visit” that clears all traces of the site from your browser history. So your abusive partner/father/whoever can’t find out you looked at it. Fucking. Brilliant.



( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Polly Dacre
Jun. 10th, 2012 09:43 pm (UTC)
a comment
So when I was at highschool I decided I didn't care about saving the whales. At all. If there are no whales left I don't really mind.

Caring about things is exhausting and I was so tired from all the other things I was advocating for and just didn't have time. You remind me of this...I hope you're not too exhausted.

You also remind me of the Lorax :)

Love your spark :) (in a completely sincere and non patronising way)

Jun. 12th, 2012 12:59 pm (UTC)
Re: a comment
Polly, you're a sweet thing. Also in a totally sincere and non-patronising way.

And yeah caring gets irritating. I just snapped at someone asking me to care (to be fair, he was asking me cause he's trying to prove I shouldn't care) cause I don't want to deal right now. Hopefully no whales or powelliphanta (spelling?!) die as a result of my refusal to engage. I'll look after your share of the Whales, how bout it? :P
I really have to read the Lorax.
Jun. 11th, 2012 01:26 am (UTC)
Man, you're wise. I tend toward the depression because of worrying and raging and hating the way things can be. I don't speak people. I speak dog. It makes it hard to be an advocate for anyone. It makes you piss people off (on the other hand, dogs love me. And most children.) I wish I had your wisdom and...grounded-ness? (It's totally a word, trust me.)
I (you may have noticed) tend to take up causes on Facebook. Gets me in trouble all the time. My sister-in-law oh so delicately asked me if I were gay, because of my support of gay civil rights. I lost a friend over it, too. *sigh* Diplomat, I am not.
Jun. 12th, 2012 01:02 pm (UTC)
I'm not wise, I'm full of scatter-gun passion and hot air and occasional action :) I'm just kind of groping toward a middle path. Too many people have gotten totally beaten down by caring. Don't do it Kristin! Walk your dogs and talk to your dogs and be happy :)
Bahaha your sister-in-law. On the other hand, massive kudos for taking up a cause that doesn't directly benefit you. That's quite rare.
Jun. 12th, 2012 11:18 pm (UTC)
Perhaps if I did more, I'd be more satisfied, instead of just bitching about things, the way I do.

You really are wise; that's wise advice you're giving me. Kinda what my psychiatrist said too.


And you're sweet, too.
Jun. 14th, 2012 07:57 pm (UTC)
Tiegirl, I admire you, because you aren't afraid to say what you believe. You're not afraid that it will cause conflict; you take steps (even if it's just commenting on FB, don't downplay that, it's something) to at least raise stupid people's awareness. Lots of us think it, but can't face the messiness of saying it.
Jun. 17th, 2012 12:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Checkers. I think you give me too much credit, but thanks anyway!
Jun. 11th, 2012 03:34 am (UTC)
oo nga
Thanks for posting this :D. I think its interesting how many different takes many people can have on the same word... you say "feminist" or even qualify it with "christian feminist" (which I would call myself) and people have all kinds of preconceived notions of what that means and who you are because you choose that label.
It is hard. Its hard to live in a world where so much is wrong, live in relative comfort, and try and figure out what to do. I've been thinking about this alot since spending 16 months with people in the Philippines, many of whom had little more than what they needed to survive day to day. I helped them a little. I want to do more. Still figuring out what 'more' means though.
Jun. 12th, 2012 01:08 pm (UTC)
Re: oo nga
Thanks Rosie! What's lovely is that other people are declaring their interests simiilar to mine.
The pre-conceived labels are one of the things that propelled the 'Christian Feminist' identification - or at least cemented it. How DARE people limit my feminism so. This blog post http://christianfeminism.wordpress.com/2009/04/26/labels-the-f-word-and-splitting-hairs/ articulates it well. Feminism, Leftie-ism and some of Christianity: it's about not leaving anyone in the dust.

Your experiences in the Philippines must have opened your eyes. I hope you get to figure out what 'more' is - or some form of 'more' - soon! And helping - even a little - is a Very Good Thing.
Jun. 11th, 2012 10:34 am (UTC)
A different definition of contentment here - hurrah diversity! :)

I love that you care about things.
Jun. 12th, 2012 01:13 pm (UTC)
I wrote the whole post down to the last paragraph and then decided my idea of contentment had changed entirely. Que sera...
Jun. 11th, 2012 08:45 pm (UTC)
Further education
A Master's degree would make you really happy? Huh.
Jun. 12th, 2012 01:14 pm (UTC)
Further education. Lack of availability thereof.
We always want what we can't have. Sigh.
Daniel Sherson
Jun. 12th, 2012 12:21 pm (UTC)
I agree with everything.

But as I commented on Polly's blog, I don't ever do anything because I'm too distracted by being selfishly discontented with my own self.

Step a) be content with self.
step b) be content with God.
step c) live life and love God and his people, and don't worry too much about what everyone else is doing or not.

I'm smelling a followup blog post on contentment.
Jun. 12th, 2012 01:17 pm (UTC)
I have to admit I'm pretty flabbergasted that anyone else agrees with EVERYTHING I just said. Thank you.
I'm usually pretty content with self, in the knowledge I'm not that great a person. :P Not good enough, but just 'enough' to help out other not good enoug people. I hope. Wait... that's, really, what you just said. Sherson, I agree with everything you just said.
Follow-up? Yes please!
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )