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.
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.
NO IT ISN’T.
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.
- Current Location:Val's.
- Current Mood: awake