Cow-power or Man-power?

We were out moving some heifers last week … trying to give them access to the little feed we have left. I had 60-odd of them grouped under a tree a few metres away from the gate I wanted them to go through.

I moved around as usual on the bike, beeping the horn, trying to encourage them to move off. They just kept looking at me and milling around.

Chris came up a few minutes later on the bike. They responded immediately and took off through the gate … before he had even come right up on them!

What is that? Man-power or some sort of special Cow-power? I don’t know, but I wish I had it.

It actually fascinates me. Is it his expectation that they will move when he arrives? Is it his belief in himself as a competent musterer? How does all that work?

I don’t know, but I wish someone would tell me how I could get it … well I have a bit, but I want more.


Viral Advertising

Gone Viral

I had cause to strike up a conversation last week with my son and his wife about viral advertising.

Viral advertising is brand and product advertising cleverly disguised as entertainment. If successful, it is propagated (at no cost to the creator) via social media platforms by often unsuspecting individuals, that is, by people who don’t realise that by sharing the content, they have effectively become the advertising medium.

Below is an example by Coca Cola (and yes, it pains me to share it, even to demonstrate my point … aaaarrgh!). It’s a 2 minute video.

In our conversation, I expressed my reaction when someone sends me such a link. I might look at it but once I realise it’s viral advertising, I stop and delete it. I very rarely, almost NEVER pass it on or share it.

They were really surprised as they felt it quite natural to share something funny or clever regardless that it was promoting a brand. They felt they might even want to support and promote a brand they liked. I listened openly as I always do, trying to understand and appreciate the changing values of the younger generation.

But I had cause for reflection. My concern is around the attempted invisibility of the advertising, the cloaking of consumerism as entertainment. The clever fairly seamless distribution, engaging willful actions of a public largely unaware of the impact of their actions. It makes me feel uneasy.

Is it really that harmful? Where is it leading us? Does it empower corporations to infiltrate our everyday life in ways we never imagined before? Or is it simply a mechanism to affirm the brand commitments we already hold for goods and services we want to avail ourselves of anyway?

Love to hear what you think?

Change is in the Wind

The Lodge
The Lodge

Have you ever thought much about the generational gap? Does it really exist in this information age with new emerging technologies?

This Christmas just gone, Chris and I had the extreme pleasure of flying across the globe to spend a week with our four children, their partners and our grandchildren in the Arctic Circle in northern Finland. We stayed together in a “lodge”. We planned the event over three years and were thrilled to have such a special, treasured opportunity.

It was the first time we had all been together in the one dwelling with our children as adults, the eldest 32 and the youngest 24, with their partners. There was much to think about when I came home, most of it warm family memories. But I was also moved to contemplate my role in life as grandmother, anew.

Uncle Danny
Uncle Danny

I’m 56 now, a well-adjusted empty-nester. I pride myself on staying abreast of change and remaining relevant to the younger generation. I accept changing cultural values as inevitable, embrace them even. I perceive my children as being not much different from me, though I’ve been aware at times that they may not share this same sense of equality. It seemed easy to delude myself … because deluding myself I was.

Being with the family for such an intensive period was actually a little confronting. For the first part, both Chris and I were a little shocked at the change in our social status within our “tribe”. Chris really put his finger on it when we got home. They don’tneed us anymore. Wow. That’s good, but also confronting.

Warm Family memories
Warm Family memories

But further reflection on the week had the impact of unveiling my delusion that the generational gap didn’t really exist for me. It is as wide and broad as it has always been and I’ve been extremely naive to think that it wasn’t. Of course the kids were never under any such delusions.

The best example I can think to demonstrate the point is … it’s all in the ‘wind’. Wind is a topic my generation is most likely to avoid and yet it’s a topic our children don’t avoid, but accept openly. Actually they haven’t even grown out of finding it hilariously funny! Of course I’m talking about … farting!

I’ve witnessed this change and thought I’d accepted it openly as I watched the younger generation’s open honesty about their bodily functions. They give due warning when unpleasant smells are involved, display a willingness to take ownership for the most part, when accusations are raised. It all seems so much healthier than our ‘pretend it didn’t happen’ approach which borders on complete denial. ‘Fart’ was a very rude word, even taboo, when I grew up. Even now, though its usage is pervasive, the word still grates.

After living with our children for a week, I came away realising that while I accept these changing cultural practices and am no doubt more relaxed than my parents, I don’t really partake in them. I continue to stoically remain in the tradition in which I was raised. The children, sensing our different perspective, never really share with us the same way they share with each other. It’s an instinct, I guess. (Wasn’t I the same? … der!)

New Year's Eve Antics
New Year’s Eve Antics

So there you have it … the generational gap. It’s alive and kicking and always will be. I’m sure my kids were never in any doubt, more fool me.
The experience made me think about how we must so imbibe the value systems of our time as we grow up that they become part of our fibre. (No wonder the social science research centres identify unique names for each generation.) Of course I acknowledge that it must be possible to change but … it’s darned hard, harder than I realised. Perhaps it’s not worth the effort for such a relatively trivial topic … or is it? I wonder if I had the courage to pull down some old boundaries, where it might lead? Do I want to? Should I?

No, I’ve elected to remain comfortably settled in my Baby Boomber status. I will never breach the generational gap … and that’s okay. It’s the natural order of things. But, I still can’t help wondering how far the next generation might take this freedom of expression? I hope I at least get a peak, as it will be very interesting to see indeed.

Life goes on and though changing cultural values emerge with each generation, the fact that the older generation struggle to adapt, shall never change.
In the meantime, I shall remain as open and communicative a Baby Boomer as possible.


Max comes to visit
Max comes to visit

We have just experienced the interesting opportunity over the last three weeks, of hosting a young 16-year-old lad from Germany. Max, the nephew of a very good friend of mine, wanted to have a farm experience during his summer holidays. We planned it several months in advance.

Apart from enjoying having someone to look after for a little while (the tragic empty-nester syndrome) having Max in the house, whose first language is not English, has given me an opportunity to see my language and culture in a new light. Max’s English (currently B but he hopes to turn it into an A next year) is very good but of course we use many colloquialisms, not taught in the classroom, and we are totally unaware that we use them.

Max on the Bobcat
Max on the Bobcat

For example, we were out working on a fence. Max was busy putting on droppers, a task he had just learned how to do. I asked him “Are you getting the hang of it?” He didn’t answer. I reflected on my choice of words (as I’ve had to do often over the last few weeks). Why the hell do we use the word “hang” in that context? Weird. But there are lots of examples just like that. For example, we use “ridiculous” and “hilarious” in not quite the same way those words were originally intended. He had to adjust to “Hi” and “Righto”.
Another example is “Good on you!” What does that mean exactly? Funny when you stop to think about it.

Max building
Max building

All this has reinforced an appreciation of a definition of language I read some time ago while studying my Master of Arts. “Language is an agreement within a social group as to the meaning of a word” [Umberto Eco]. We take our language for granted in Australia, particularly, I think because we rarely hear any other languages day to day, especially in the bush. I realise this is maybe changing in the city.

Max also made me look at my own prejudice towards Aboriginals … a prejudice I would have denied vehemently that I held. But prejudices can be so deeply ingrained in our culture that it’s “normal”, and we don’t “see” them. It came about while watching a news program and a young aboriginal woman was exhorting other young aboriginal women to follow her example in joining the armed forces. I made a derogatory comment about her use of the English language when I heard her say “Other womens should get out there and have a go”. Max challenged me by pointing out that English is not her first language. My quick retort was, “Yes, but she was born in Australia.” I didn’t think much about it at the time, but my mind kept coming back to it. My self-reflection forced me to confront the intolerant and prejudicial nature of my retort which didn’t take into account the known disadvantages she likely encountered in her education (and life) … interesting how a visitor from another culture can make you confront attitudes.

So while we are looking forward to returning to our normal routine, Max shall be missed and he will leave me pondering the use of language, culture and world perspectives. We have certainly had some very interesting conversations!