Monday, July 14, 2008

Ten things I know now that I didn't ten years ago

Something or other jogged my memory tonight of a postcard a friend of mine sent me some 15-odd years ago when I was a Uni student.

It was an HIV/AIDS education postcard asking what was the leading cause of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS infections (in the world), with three (that I can remember) multiple choice answers to select from:

a) unprotected homos-xual s-x (sorry, don't want this blog to get blocked by any nanny-net filters)

b) unprotected hetros-xual s-x
c) intravenous drug-users sharing needles

After a little hesitation, I picked 'b', mainly because I thought it was a trick question designed to challenge my inner-homophobe, but also because I was sure I had learned somewhere that rates of HIV/AIDS infections
were skyrocketing throughout all population groups in Asia and Africa, and that AIDS couldn't really be called the 'gay disease' anymore as it was known in the 80s. Remember, this 1992 or 1993 and such things were just filtering through into the awareness of Australians.

Of course, the answer 'b' was correct, but little did I realise the extent of the infection rates amongst the wider hetros-xual population (I don't remember the stats from the back of the postcard, but it was high). If I were asked this question today, I wouldn't hesitate with the same answer, as the devastation that AIDS has wrought throughout Africa has become
so prevalent and has so entered our consciousness. If anything, I'm sure today's younger generation may think that AIDS is the 'African diseases', rather than the 'gay disease'.

But (and here is the point of this rather long introduction to the main purpose of this post) the key thing is this little memory, in that strange Proustian way, got me reflecting on the things that I know now that I didn't know 10 years ago, and wondering if I could list 10 of them.

If anything, this is as much a reflection of what I was ignorant of – or naive about – 10 years ago, as what I have learned in the intervening years, so bear with me if my naiveté is slipping. Here is what I came up with (and by no means is this exhaustive. I just wanted to see if I could list 10 things that stand out for me):

Ten things I know now that I didn't know 10 years ago
  1. That the woman I was starting to date (10 years ago this month) - rather nonchalantly, but was somewhat smitten with – is the woman I still love and am spending my life with and raising children with.

  2. That the earth's climate is drastically warming because of our greenhouse gas emissions, and this is leading to dangerous climate change and throwing our ecology out of balance.

  3. That I don't want to be an anthropologist specialising in Southeast Asia's emerging working class, or a sociologist researching forms of working class resistance to capitalist control of work in Australia (despite 10 years ago having started a postgraduate research degree in the former and switching to the later).

  4. That having children could be so bloody exhilirating, frustrating, difficult, rewarding and life-changing. Oh, and that your children will yell – loudly and repeatedly – for you from another room the way you did to your parents.

  5. That Pauline Hanson and her brand of racism has become just a blip on the political landscape, and that her xenophobia and racism was so insidiously appropriated and institutionalised by John Howard's (now former) government.

  6. That a geeky, spectacles-wearing, Chinese-speaking, former bureaucrat and diplomat can become Prime Minister of Australia.

  7. That the Greens could become a successful (minor) political party that cares about social justice, rather than remaining a fringe, narrow-interest political lobby group/small, state-based party, and that the Democrats go down the gurgler.

  8. That the internet has become so much more than a bunch of really boring, static web pages whose information is limited, out of date or somewhat suspect, or a collection of email-list discussion groups, or hand-crafted 'Home' pages with 'under construction' animated GIFs.

  9. That I can be a writer and enjoy it, and break down some of my big hang-ups about writing and procrastination – albeit just. (Though I'm not getting paid for writing my own stuff, mind you.)

  10. That water, rather than oil, could be shaping up as the key resource over which so much struggle, death and destruction could emerge – if we don't do something about how our industrialised and industrialising economies are destabilising the earth's climate and undermining our water security.
As I reflect further on this, I realise I can come up with many more than 10, and then I would struggle to pick my top ten (though some are clearly and obviously there). So I'm stopping while the going is good. Perhaps there'll be a part two. For a while, I also toyed with the idea of listing 10 things that I don't know now that I knew 10 years ago, but that started to do my head in so I gave up.

I am curious, what do you know now that you didn't know ten years ago? Drop me a comment, or write your own blog post (if you do the later, drop me a comment, please, to share a link to the post).

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At July 15, 2008 8:36 am, Blogger Tim said...

Good post, Mark. I may follow it up over at my place but frankly the depths of my ignorance ten years ago could fill fifty such lists.

At July 15, 2008 10:51 am, Blogger unique_stephen said...

10 years ago - 27:

- diagnosed with arthritis but it hadn't slowed me down yet.

- living in Bondi surfing and climbing every day

- working as an environmental scientist cleaning up groundwater contaminated by heavy industry

- drawing deeply on the seemingly unlimited resource of scandinavian backpackers staying in Bondi

Life sure has changed

At July 18, 2008 9:18 am, Blogger djfoobarmatt said...

I've been half considering learning sociology / anthropology. What did you find to be the big turn-offs?

I shared many of your list items. I can add:

- I didn't know what a stupid decision it was to spend our house deposit on a trip to America because that was right at the beginning of the housing boom.

- I didn't know how many options I had and how I could have taken much bigger career risks. Being unemployed for a few months would have meant nothing compared to now!

- I couldn't have predicted the rich variety of people who have come and gone in that time and how much I would change in regards to my values, politics and religious beliefs through the friendships I've had.

At July 18, 2008 12:06 pm, Blogger Mark Lawrence said...

Hi djfoobarmatt, thanks for your comment.

"What did you find to be the big turn-offs?"

Not having a scholarship to pay my way to do the fieldwork overseas for any length of time, and pretty much having to work to pay the bills rather than study/do research.

I think it was also a slow realisation that I had selected a stream of research specialisation that not many others were particularly interested in. And I found my commitment to the topic/field somewhat changing...

That's the downside to pursuing a postgraduate research topic inherited from ones undergraduate study and political interests, rather than current personal interests and contemporary research trends.

But then again, that was ten years ago. Almost a lifetime. I've had two children and two and a half jobs since...

At July 23, 2008 11:02 pm, Blogger parlance said...

One of the things I didn't know was that it was very limiting to be afraid to walk out of the job I was in.

Another was that the twenty-first century wouldn't feel much different from the twentieth.


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