Look For The Good…

From time to time we like to hand over the keys to the kingdom to the big man, the top dog, the brains and beauty behind this here blog. The man that had an idea, an idea to ensure that all topics are covered, no matter how much they make us cringe. He didn’t want A Mind of Its Own to be just another travel blog or a blog that focused on the same topic week in week out. In fact the idea as outlined and detailed in previous posts was to spark interest and get people talking. No topic is safe or off limits and we’ll always try to give you an unbiased view, with both sides of the story portrayed so you can make your own decisions about things. When we do hand over the keys to the big man however you can be sure that he’ll give you a piece of this mind, body and soul about a topic that is close to his heart. So without further ado we’ll hand over the mic and crack into this week’s A Mind of It’s Own.

Have you ever looked into the mirror and told yourself this will get better, this too shall pass, you are not your depression and anxiety. These feelings do not define who you are! If, like me, you have experienced anxiety and depression on a daily basis, you will know that the empty husk of a human that is staring back at you often feels like a stranger. For many this is a constant battle faced day in, day out. I’d love to sit here and type out a blog about sunshine and rainbows but the fact of the matter is that we all have good days and bad days. The truth is that some people just have better days than most. It doesn’t mean their lives are better than yours or mine, they just may have never had to cope with the internal battle with themselves, the thoughts, feelings and often the numbness that comes along with battling mental health issues.

I cried this morning (The morning this was written, probably two weeks or so before you get to read this), for the first time in ages I shed a tear about what I thought at the time was nothing. I got angry at myself for crying, for allowing myself this moment of weakness after being strong for so long. I stood in front of the mirror preparing for another day on this beautiful earth, just like I do most days. Routine has become key to keep me from spiralling into that dark pit of negativity that crops up from time to time. There was no reason for the tears other than I was feeling overwhelmed. It was an overload of thoughts and feelings that caused me to shed a tear or two. Or perhaps it was the song playing in the background and the memories of a former friend and happier times. Perhaps it was a combination of it all but for now it’ll remain unexplored until I next see my psychologist.

Yes my psychologist. Why do I see a psychologist well that’s plain and simple, I needed help and still need help. I am a person who feels deeply but isn’t great at managing my feelings when I’m overloaded by them. I’d like to think I am empathetic to everyone but perhaps I am not. Perhaps I feel more than most people but one thing I know I do is take on everyone else’s problems. I often ponder why it is that I take on others pain, problems and play Bob the builder trying to fix things. Although unlike Bob the builder I often can’t fix things in other people’s lives and realise later on that they needed to do it themselves. Despite the fact I like knowing my friends and family are ok and everything is going smoothly. The truth is, it’s more likely that I take on the problems of others so that I don’t have to fix the things in my life that aren’t going well or are getting me down.

From here my thoughts flick to other people once again. Having been cooped up and having to work from home I’ve begun to wonder what effects COVID has had on others who like me suffer from anxiety and depression. Or perhaps not even those who battle mental health issues daily but rather those less fortunate than me who have sadly been affected by the changes brought about by COVID, those who have lost their jobs and in some cases their sense of being. It’s no secret that mental health in Australia and around the world is a major concern during uncertain times. That little bit I said about routine above, well I am not alone in needing routine to keep me grounded and level. A lot of people who suffer from anxiety and depression function so much better when they have a constant routine. We struggle when things throw our routine out of whack, and COVID has done just that. It has limited our interaction with others, taken away jobs, our day to day routines and morphed it into something often unrecognisable.

The indescribable feelings, thoughts and pressure heaped on those who have lost jobs, lost the ability to provide for their families and in some cases lost who they are altogether has led to an increase in suicides across the country. It’s a sad point to get to when you feel that you have no other options other than to take your own life. It’s an escape from it all and people will have their own opinions on suicide and those who have attempted to take their life or who have taken their life. I can honestly say I’ve never been suicidal. Frankly I’m too much of a pussy to take my own life but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had thoughts. Irrational thoughts about what it would be like to drive my car off a cliff or crash into another car. Would the airbags deploy? Would I survive, would the car flip? A visual play by play running through my head beginning, middle and end. But I always come back to the same point and that is the pain it would bring my family. The rock in my life, the one constant I’ll always have. The people who have always been there for me, no matter what. I just couldn’t ever put them through that.

But for some people the pain is way too much, they need to escape, to stop the hurt, to stop the voice inside their head. They feel alone and often like they have no other choice. Despite having friends and family who care about them they may feel that no one will care and feel that it will stop the pain. To most of us it’s incomprehensible to take your own life as we can rationalise the pain it would cause others. To those who have attempted to or have taken their own lives well the truth is we don’t know how they are feeling or what they are thinking. Perhaps they’ve seen things no one should ever have to see in their life. Maybe they’ve experienced great trauma whether it be pain in the way of physical and they want it to stop or emotional pain like that suffered by those who are bullied. The sad and confronting truth is that people commit suicide as they feel they are left with no other options than to end it all. Once it’s done, they won’t have to suffer anymore. These are just examples and each and every one of the beautiful souls who felt they had no other option had their own reasons and their own story.

As I began writing this blog I started looking into the statistics and wanted to dive a little deeper into the psyche of those who feel they have no other option than to take their own life. It was at this point I began getting a little frustrated. I saw an instagram post only days before I started writing this about the number of suicides in Australia since the beginning of COVID, the issue I had was that I couldn’t find any data backing up the statistics listed in the post I saw. Firstly, the statistics differ from website to website and a lot of them including the Australian Dept of Health website haven’t been updated since January 2014 and are still utilising data from 2010-2011. It goes to show that mental health and the tracking of the statistics surrounding it, including suicide, isn’t a priority of this government or previous ones. COVID has seen a spike in Suicides with the number sitting at around 1000 according to the statistics I could get which is 78 more people a day since March 1 than the numbers of people who have died from COVID. Again, the validity of these figures differs due to the way they are reported and not having one governing body that takes care of them or records them.

Although come to think of it we do have a government department that is tasked with keeping statistics and records on everything else, so I am pretty sure the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) could be tasked with keeping up to date statistics on all mental health related issues. The last two reports they conducted into Suicide where in 2010 and a report in trends from 1993 to 2003. It has recently been shown that we are still years away from real time suicide data. Professor Pat McGorry one of the nation’s prominent mental health advocates, said it was difficult to try to reduce the death rate, because suicide statistics come with a lag time of up to two years. He said this in a piece written in May this year by ABC Australia journalist Stephanie Dalzell, he also warned that we could see a spike in deaths by suicide due to economic and social impacts directly resulting from the corona virus pandemic.

While the Australian government has begun throwing money at what has been a highly dysfunctional mental health system that for years has required reforms and changes it comes off the back of the coronavirus pandemic which has led to many people including myself asking why it takes a pandemic for our government to finally look at changing the way mental health is viewed, assessed, funded and discussed. There is still a stigma surrounding mental health with many of our older generation still under the guise that it’s weak to speak. So without accurate data how can one believe the statistical models that are thrown to the public year after year? This was something that was on my mind as I dove deeper and deeper into my research. All the project figures show an increase, a jump, a rise and or a spike as the economy takes a hit and unemployment rises. There are now over 2.9 Million people who have received or are currently receiving Job Keeper payments from the Government. What is this going to mean for suicide rates and increases in mental health issues?

The sad truth is things are only going to get worse before they get better with our economy and social impacts of coronavirus. As Melbourne enters lock down for the second time for another 6 weeks with tighter restrictions and curfews, we can only begin to wonder how this will affect people. With some of Australia experiencing a second wave it’s only a matter of time before the entire country is impacted as this highly contagious virus jumps person to person. As the government throws money at the problems they can see immediately and support the short term, it isn’t addressing the long term problems or the big ticket items outlined in the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan. This plan details 10 priorities, three enablers, seven principles and 75 actions. The only action to come out of this response plan so far is getting the states and territories to agree. There has been no implementation timetable or scale of investment agreed and zero urgency to make the key structural decisions or finance the key priorities.

Trying to put myself in the shoes of someone who has lost their job and has a family to support is hard. Whilst I have empathy, until you actually go through something like this yourself you will never be able to truly know what it’s like to, as they say, walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. That hasn’t stopped me from wondering what tips a person from struggling but surviving to seeing no alternative than to take their own life. How they give up the battle after having fought for so long. What they went through to get them to that point and who was around them to help them out.. When I began writing this it was after what I’d deem as a bad morning for me, but this was just 1 morning, I can’t imagine what people go through who have to fight constantly and might not have access to support and help that I do.

In the research conducted into this topic I read several stories written by families, friends and even those who have committed suicide or attempted to commit suicide. In each of the stories I read there is a constant battle against depression, anxiety and other mental health issues and the will to live. In each case there was a strong correlation between self-harm and suicide. They were all normal people like you and me. They talked of a detachment from life, lack of feelings and often loneliness from the outside world and yet it was also a protection from things and people that could do them harm. They are exhausted from years of battling with themselves and through desperation seek out other relief whether it be alcohol, drugs, self-mutilation or something else it’s all together in an attempt to feel something or nothing at all. At some point though it all got too much and they just wanted to end the pain and suffering.

While the stories tell us of the pain, my analytical self wants and needs to understand what’s happening in the brain. What part of the brain is or isn’t firing, what’s happening with the receptors, is there an imbalance of chemicals? All these questions filter through my mind as fingers clack across the keyboard searching for the science behind why people take their own lives. Are there any commonalities happening in the brains of those who have suicidal thoughts? Sadly research is lacking into the science behind suicide but I did manage to find a study conducted by Canadian researchers that hinted to an abnormal distribution of receptors specifically for the chemical known as GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid). What’s GABA you ask? It’s the chemical messenger widely distributed throughout the brain. It’s main purpose is to bind to receptors and reduce the activity of those neurons.

The research conducted at the Robarts Research Institute at the University of Western Ontario by Michael Poulter and his colleagues found that one of the thousands of types of receptors for GABA was underrepresented in the frontopolar cortex of those with major depressive disorder who had committed suicide. The frontopolar cortex is involved in higher-order thinking, such as decision making. Whilst scientists don’t currently know how this abnormality leads to the type of major depression that makes someone suicidal, they do have theories around it due to the location in the brain. The premise is that any disruptions to that particular system within the brain would be predicted to have an important outcome.

The report went on to say that the GABA receptor problem was not the result of abnormal or mutated genes. The change rather was Epigenetic meaning some environmental influence affected how often the relevant genes were expressed, made into proteins. They also discovered that the brains of suicide victims often had receptors for GABA which had a molecule attached that would keep that gene hidden from cells’ protein-building machinery—in this case, preventing the cells from manufacturing GABA-A receptors. As I continued to read through the report the science started to make more and more sense but like most things it can change in the flick of a switch or a simple study. The more researchers look into the neurobiology behind suicide the more that will come to light.

There is still plenty of research to be done into suicide and its prevention as scientist try to identify potential biomarkers that may be early indicators, predictions of mental health issues or predisposition to mental health issues down the track. Year on year, the funding into research seems to climb but we still aren’t getting real time analytics or year by year figures. The data may be there, we (the public) just aren’t seeing it or being exposed to it. Could the figures really be that bad? We know suicide rates in the male population is four times higher than women, yet attempts is three times higher in women. Around the world each year on average 800,000 people commit suicide. A further breakdown of the available data would allow us to identify social impacts and pressures, especially those in minorities or disadvantaged groups.

As I read story after story of those who lived and found the courage to tell their tale in an attempt to help others, I began finding myself frustrated with the politics of it all. The government year on year is investing in mental health but it has become a multimillion dollar industry to the lobbyists and politicians. Whilst they continue to fund projects and make reforms on the surface are they actually listening to those who have been there before? Implementing and supporting on the ground projects? The internal politics and competing interests amongst academics, clinicians and researchers is almost just as bad as the politicians making the promises and seemingly throwing money at the problems. The big questions on everyone’s mind is ‘Are the suicide prevention programs actually working?’ Are the studies asking the right questions and when will we start to see data recorded in a way that it is able to be analysed and used to build real models and predictions?

As I close yet another A Mind of Its Own blog I am reminded that a simple conversation can save a life. So don’t be afraid to ask people, whether it be family, friends, coworkers or a complete stranger if they are ok? A simple conversation goes a lot further than you may think. Until the next instalment of Australia’s most underrated blog that’s actually factual unlike our funny friends over at Betoota who make us all laugh with their quirky, punchy yet often true headlines. I’ll leave you with some links below in case you or someone you know needs a little help or just needs to talk to someone. There is help out there and a lot of the not for profits go above and beyond to support the community. Remember it’s ok not to be ok but it certainly isn’t weak to speak. Peace Out and take care of yourselves.

The Big Bopper…

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/

https://www.openminds.org.au/

https://www.lifeline.org.au/

https://www.ruok.org.au/

Voodoo People…

Another week and another plump piece right out of the brains in the A Mind of Its Own laboratory. The team has been working hard to ensure there is enough in the tank so that you receive something each week going forward after our brief hiatus, due to a certain podcast that we are trying to make viral. With so many projects up in the air it’s a little hard to come up with new and exciting ideas for you all but nevertheless we seem to have come up with a couple lately that we have found to be quite interesting whilst doing some deep dive research. Like the band The Prodigy who came to fame with their punky, dark, often weird and interesting electronica hits like Breathe, Fire starter and the title of this week’s blog Voodoo People. Why did we pick Voodoo people? Well because Voodoo people believe in the content of this week’s blog. They are happy to stick a doll crafted in your likeness with pins just so you feel some pain.

Firstly, this was one of those blogs that just happened to write itself, with a little help from the research team who trolled Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica and our favourite search engine to find you the truth… Google. Have you ever had one of those headaches that just lingers on the edge of becoming a full blown migraine? Of course you have, you read our blog each week and it does tend to take on a mind of its own, so we can understand that you’ve probably had a migraine induced by reading this fine piece of modern literature. The man sitting in the corner office overlooking a wall of solid plasterboard has had a couple of migraines as of late and the editor, better known to you lovely folks as LMC, suggested he get a piercing to help with the migraines. Our thoughts however were that perhaps he should have looked after his body a bit better when he was younger.

From there it was a call out to the research team to find out everything they could about these piercings that help with migraines and the history behind them. Yes ladies and gentlemen you can actually get a piercing that is said to help lessen the effects and reduce the number of migraines and headaches suffered. When it first started to take hold in modern society we believed it was more of a fashion statement rather than having a medicinal purpose and to be honest you don’t actually see a lot of blokes with this particular piercing but then again we read the statistics on migraines and well it would seem to be that it’s the fairer sex that tends to suffer more with them. As always, the more we researched ‘Daith and Rook Piercings’ the more it got the writers thinking about other non-traditional medicines or remedies that people have used throughout history and continue to use today.

But before we head further down the path let’s learn a little more about daith and rook piercings. These two piercings are done on the inner cartilage of the ear and are said to act in an acupuncture manner on pressure points. Traditional Chinese medicine explains acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force known as chi or qi (Chee), it is believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. By inserting needles into specific points along these meridians, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance. In contrast, many Western practitioners view the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. Some believe that this stimulation boosts your body’s natural painkillers. According to LiveScience acupuncture works like a starter motor in a car. Without the starter motor you have no way of getting a spark to the engine in which to ignite your fuel. You pierce the skin creating a tiny wound that tells the brain to send out chemicals to relieve pain and/or begin the healing process.

With people becoming more and more conscious about what they put in their bodies or people finding western medicine is failing them more often people are turning to non-traditional medicines and remedies. As children for those of us who grew up with grandparents and great grandparents who spent their lives working the land, they had a remedy for everything. Some of them were a little left field and a little disgusting if you ask the writers, and it seems there is a group of new pundits who want to champion some of these so called remedies and medicine. According to some experts, whom we are questioning the validity of their expertise, your own pee, yes urine is said to be a good cure for certain things if applied topically. One of these so-called experts is Martha Christy, nutritionist and author, champions the natural cure, outlining the healing powers of urotherapy and its antibacterial and antifungal properties in her book Your Own Perfect Medicine.

Her book goes on to say that a swig or two in the morning could also boost your immune system. We don’t know about you but we certainly don’t want to be drinking our own urine each and every morning just to boost our immune system when there are much more palatable ways to do so. From this we once again continued down the path of wondering what strange and unusual remedies are out there in the world. The good news ladies and gentlemen is there is no shortage of remedies, homemade cures and voodoo to get you through the darkest of ailments and frustrations that besieges your body on a regular basis. From the flu to increasing your breast size there is a non-traditional cure for everything. Some of them gave us a good laugh while others made us cringe in somewhat pain at the thought of the lack of science behind some of these remedies, wives’ tales and voodoo spells all with the intention of healing you.

There are the ones you hear from your grandparents like peeing on blue bottle stings at the beach to stop the stinging. The science tells us this isn’t the case and will most likely make the pain worse due to your urine either being too acidic or too alkaline which stimulates the release of more stinging cells. So next time you are at the beach and get stung don’t get someone to pee on it unless of that’s a little fetish you find yourself interested in, then go right ahead. Instead rest and ice are the best treatment as recommended in most first aid guides available from your local bookstore. So where did the origin of these so-called cures come from? Was it through experimentation or was it myth and legend passed on from generation to generation?

A lot of these home remedies to cure common ailments date back generations but are more easily traced once we began recording history. From the early 1300s home remedies were recorded and passed on. Examples such as onion in socks which were used when it was thought that Bubonic plague was passed on via bad air and not germs. Science has since then disproven that theory and shows that most plagues and flus are passed on via germs. The more research we conducted into these home remedies the more unbelievable and strange ones we came across. There are some that provide natural healing properties and some that are just gimmicks, used to suck people in to believing they were slowly getting better with the assistance of these ‘remedies’.

Below are examples of some of the stranger remedies we came across in our quest to understand the voodoo medicine that people believe in, these home remedies are believed to have worked for centuries and are passed from one generation to the next.

Marshmallows for a Sore Throat

Sick of medicinal throat lozenges or plain old lemon, honey and ginger tea? Apparently a youthful round of marshmallows is the tastier way to soothe a hoarse throat. While the sap from the marshmallow plant originally used to make the lollies has been praised for its anti-inflammatory properties, people continue to believe that the gelatine-based sweets we see in stores today still offer relief. Sounds like a sneaky excuse to have a fire and roast some marshmallows to us.

Bread & Milk for Boils

Moistening bread with milk or water and slapping it on your skin seems like something only an infant could teach us to do right? But seriously, there are full-grown educated people treating their boils this way today. What’s a boil? Ever had an infected hair follicle, well yeah that’s a boil. Poultices (that is, any soft, moist substance used for healing) come from the word for “porridge,” which is likely where the idea to transform day-old bread into a skin remedy originated, sounds absolutely tasty doesn’t it?

Hard-Boiled Egg for a Black Eye

Got into a fight or copped an errant elbow from the other half in bed while you sleep? It’s no longer a problem or need for well-placed infomercial products. Asian tradition states that you should slip an old silver coin into a freshly peeled hard boiled egg whilst it’s still warm, wrap it in a thin cloth and then rub it into the bruise until the coin “absorbs” the purple hue. No intelligence exists on the financial value of the smelly violet coin after the procedure, or how long your face will smell like a bad 90’s perm but hey the alternative is you rock that bad boy with pride like a battle wound. We know which route we would take.

Wet Spinach behind the Ears for Nosebleeds

Regular sufferers of nosebleeds have likely been advised to up their intake of vitamin K-rich foods like spinach, this is due to the nutrient’s role in blood coagulation. A fair bit of research went into working out why Popeye ate so much of the green stuff that we’ve only recently all started to enjoy. But some families figure, why bother eating it when you can just hang it like a dangling pair of slimy spinach bangles or earrings behind your ear? Well, we all had plenty of opportunities as kids to hide our greens in unforeseen places, but it’s probably time we stopped pretending this could magically work at reducing and treating nosebleeds.

Put Fresh Basil in Your Bottom for Constipation

From spinach to other garden greens. Basil has long been regarded as a natural laxative and home remedy for constipation, but most modern holistic websites just tell you to chew and eat the stuff like a normal person. Some homemakers, on the other hand, swear you need to insert the fresh leaves up through the back door like shelving a pill and let it sit there until something comes out. It’s essentially a homemade enema. We can’t imagine how this awkward trick would work or who thought to test it out, but on the bright side, your bowel movements might smell like pesto!

Papaya Juice and Milk for Bigger Breasts

Looking to perk up the girls? Forget the Wonderbra and just pour yourself a glass of fresh papaya juice and milk instead. For decades, women have sworn by this natural boob job, there are multiple blogs solely devoted to this technique! The theory largely supported by science is that the milk supplies a hit of protein, while the papaya’s unique enzymes help digest and absorb that protein which in turn helps to bulk up those pectoral muscles. All that sugar sounds like any other classic weight-gain cocktail to us, so you may get bigger boobs, but don’t be surprised if they come with a matching belly and love handles.

Liquorice for Calluses

A snack and a remedy all in one while you work out! Athletes, Gym junkies and roid ragers rejoice! You can apparently run off those calories and then keep yourself from eating them by rubbing your favourite liquorice candy onto your callused feet or hands. The theory goes that liquorice supposedly contains an estrogenic-like substance that can soften tough skin, especially when mixed with a little oil or jelly.

Onion in Sock for a Cold or Flu

Tradition says that when a baby runs a fever, just slip a slice of onion into their socks and let the onion “absorb” the ailment through their little feet. This old wives’ tale stems from the early 1900s when families claimed they survived influenza by placing cut onions around their homes. While there is no doubt that onions have powerful health and nutritional properties when consumed, feet don’t have mouths and are putrid enough as it is. Put your onions in your sandwich or salad, not in your socks.

Gizzard Tea for Diarrhoea

Well, doesn’t this sound appetising? Apparently next time you have the shits, you just cut the lining out of a standard chicken gizzard, for those asking, it’s the thick muscular walled part of a bird’s stomach, and then let it dry out. After it’s dry, you can pop it into a pot of boiling water and drink the tea until your diarrhoea disappears. Honestly, just the thought of gizzard tea makes us want to rush to the bathroom and vacate our bowels, so it may just have the opposite effect.

Chocolate Coated Garlic to Boost Memory

According to Google, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s daily routine to improve her memory included eating three chocolate-covered garlic cloves, assumedly it was due to the brain-supporting antioxidants that are found in both foods.

Grated Onions and Ouzo for Sprain

The Greeks know how to work a little booze into everything they do. After a nasty fall, the standard suggestion is to mix Ouzo and grated onion into a paste and bandage it onto the swollen area to sit overnight. The next morning — Opa! The swelling should have disappeared!

Coffee Potty to Induce Labour

Impatient for the little bundle of joy to arrive and take away the sleep you currently enjoy so much? Mums have been abuzz about this natural induction method for years. Just pour a fresh pot of Joe into a bowl, pop it into the toilet and squat over it like you’re going to relieve yourself. Apparently, you may end up relieving yourself of something a lot bigger than your daily business but who doesn’t love a good cuppa first thing?

In the interests of full disclosure we aren’t sure that any of these will actually work but we’ll certainly try a few of them over the next couple of months and let you all know how we go. There is a good chance this voodoo medicine better known as wives’ tales won’t actually make any sense whatsoever or fix your ailments but hey why not give it a go. People are doing much weirder things these days anyways so what’s doing something a little different in an attempt to save a trip to the doctor or the chemist. Anyway that’s enough from us for now, we’ve once again managed to take up your time with what is interesting and yet pointless. So until the next one enjoy your spinach behind the ears, your gizzard tea or whatever home remedies have been passed down in your family. Whatever floats your boat right, peace out hombres…

It’s the End of the World as we Know It…

You know we like to keep our fans happy, so at the request of our good friend the Legal Beagle or as he’s better known to his friends Captain Google. This week’s blog is an homage to his request for our guidance through what is proving to be a turbulent time in our lives and in the lives of many of those around us. The uncertainty of not knowing is always a “Head Fuck” for lack of better words and the fact most of Australia is still scrambling for rolls of toilet paper is enough to get anyone in a flap, let alone the people that may actually need it the most. As the country begins to go into lock down, the uncertainty for so many becomes more and more overwhelming and with this we all need a little extra guidance. Many of us will experience hardship throughout this time with the effects of the virus reaching far into our economy and ripping the guts out of many of our industries.

The sad truth is that people are going to die, people are going to lose their jobs, friends and family will be affected. Those are the unavoidable facts of this matter. We are in a time of uncertainty, something that has never been experienced by any of us. There have been depressions, famines and even pandemics in the past but few of us were around to experience any of them. Unless of course you are nearing your centenary, then you may have experienced some of them. As the saying goes “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. You can thank the former president of the United States affectionately known as FDR, Franklin D. Roosevelt, for that little gem but given our current situation, it is oh so very fitting. We fear what we do not know or understand and given this is a novel virus, meaning that we have not seen it before, it’s no wonder most people are in a state of fear.

Whilst taking your time to read through, keep in mind that there are those within our communities that will need a lot more help than most of us. We aren’t just talking about those who are most at risk of contracting the virus, we are talking about those who need a little extra community minded help from time to time. Yes we are talking about the elderly and disabled. These are the people who all you able bodied, panic stricken peanuts are stopping from being able to get the essentials they need to survive. As you panic buy enough toilet paper and supplies to last for the next 8 years. The 400 rolls of toilet paper , the 80 bottles of hand sanitizers, the 100 boxes of panadol and the months and months worth of food you’re stockpiling in every available space in your house and your brand new freezer, consider those within our communities who aren’t able to afford that luxury. Even the supermarkets have started to come to the table and offer concession card holders their own shopping hours.

Unfortunately just like the recent outbreak of COVID-19, panic is also contagious. You only need to head to your local shopping centre to see how contagious panic currently is. That panic is translating into obscene buying habits. This is where we come in, the team at A Mind of Its Own have decided to help you all out. We want to ensure that there is enough supplies to go around and that we flatten the curve of panic buying. It’s a tough ask for a little blog, but what we lack in size we certainly make up for in our ability to write a good piece, in which we hope to spread a message that gets through some of your thick skulls. It’s a little self serving but very community minded, we would all like to stop having to use sandpaper to wipe our butts and stop having to pour the good vodka over our hands in place of sanitiser, all because people have gone against what the governing bodies are advising and bought more than 14 days of supplies. We wrote the other day about the virus (Wasn’t Expecting That…) and in this follow up piece we’ll give you some recommendations for surviving the virus. Something of a ‘A Mind of Its Own preppers guide to surviving in isolation’.

To start with you need to know where to get local information regarding the virus, know how to stay up to date with the latest developments, and you need to know the signs and the symptoms. For those of you that have decided to bury your head in the sand and try and last this out without understanding or knowing what it is, we’ve listed them for you. For everyone else as you might have read or heard, if you are living in the real world that is, people don’t start to see symptoms until 2-14 days after exposure. The virus is transferred through droplets, so coughing, sneezing will transfer the virus if you have it or anyone around you has it and they do anything that allows transfer of droplets. The warning signs are there if you pay attention, so if you start to see any of the following symptoms you should immediately seek medical help and get yourself tested. So ladies and gents if you have a cough, fever, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or sore throat and you have been overseas in the past 14 days, in contact with a confirmed or suspected case of corona, please go see a doctor, the hospital or get yourself tested at one of your local testing centres. If you don’t have any of those symptoms please don’t waste the valuable time or resources of our medical professionals, the healthcare system is already short staffed and you thinking, you have something you probably don’t isn’t going to help.

The next part of preparing for COVID-19 is to ensure the safety of those at high risk, yes those at risk we told you to keep at the forefront of your mind earlier, the elderly and those with underlying diseases or health issues, particularly those with breathing related issues or autoimmune diseases. These are the people most at risk, whether they are young or old they need to be able to be at home and to be practicing social distancing. Guidelines in Australia stipulate that you should have at least a metre and half between you and anyone else in a four square metre radius, that you should also stay home when possible and avoid as much contact between you and others. Stay home for everyone else’s sake, the best way to fight this is to curb the spread of the virus. Listen to the advice of the medical professionals, they went through years of schooling and training to give you the advice and recommendation that they have.

Both the CDC (the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) and the WHO (World Health Organisation) recommend 14 days’ worth of supplies. Both these organisations have the best Epidemiologists in the world working for them to help set these guidelines. So why on god’s green earth are people stocking up on toilet paper? We aren’t talking a couple of weeks’ worth, we are talking months and in some cases years’ worth of toilet paper and other supplies. No one needs that much toilet paper in one hit unless you suffer from chronic diarrhoea and if that’s the case you should be stocking up on Gastrostop and may as well wear adult diapers, oh and seek some medical advice. So 14 days of supplies people, 14 days, that’s all you need, 14 days on top of your usual shopping. If you are a family of four you might go through a max of 3 rolls a week, so a 24 pack of TP will get you through your 14 days where you may or may not be able to leave your house. You also need to ensure that you consider over the counter medications and prescription meds you may need an additional supply of. The best thing to do is create a plan. List out what you need and how much you are going to need to last an additional fourteen days. That’s 14 days on top of your regular shopping people…

That doesn’t mean you need months and months’ worth of meat, frozen meals, pasta, sauces and other hygienic products ladies and gentleman. A walk around your local Coles, Woolies or Aldi will show you just how silly some of us have become in the recent weeks with all of this Coronavirus panic buying. Even pet food has made its way into the trolleys of terrified customers who feel they need stock up in case the shops all magically close down and stocks dry up. It’s not the first time we’ve experienced panic buying and hoarding, back in 2009 during the H1N1 Influenza outbreak we saw countries hoarding vaccines and people panic buying. There is a psychology behind it all, people do it as a sort of ‘retail therapy’ in an attempt to take back some control in a world where they feel out of control, but that doesn’t excuse it.

The hoarding of toilet paper is a lot safer than what our American friends across the ditch are doing, they’re stocking up on guns and ammo. We do not need to do that, thankfully there are laws restricting such actions in Australia, there is not a Zombie apocalypse coming ladies and gentleman… Oh and whilst we are handing out advice we don’t recommend you watch the Walking Dead whilst you’re at home in isolation or any shows or movies about pandemics or viruses for that matter. , It is not good for your mind. Whilst we punch on in the supermarkets over rolls of toilet paper the Americans are rioting and looting in fear, with all of these guns they’ve been stockpiling of late, this makes the situation in some towns scarier than others. So in some ways we are a lot better off, as we are only having to beat the toilet paper and sanitizer hoarders to the supermarkets before they get there and pile their trolleys to the roof but these actions are not the community minded actions we need. Thank the heavens the supermarkets have put in place item restrictions..

Once you’ve managed to store away your 14 days’ worth of additional items, you are going to want to establish a plan to communicate with loved ones and the outside world because you need to be participating in social distancing. Thankfully with the internet, smartphones and the ability to communicate face to face through video chat, we are able to do that and more. You’ll need to adapt to the cancellation of social events because let’s face it in times like these, as much as we are social creatures, we need to be isolating ourselves as much as possible from others. Now that doesn’t mean we can’t still communicate whether it be over the phone, text message, video chat, email or the good old fashioned hand written letter. If you’re looking for ideas there are a plethora of them floating around the internet. For families with small children you need to prepare what you are going to do about childcare needs should they shut down as well as schooling now that most states are advising keeping kids at home if you’re able?

That our friends, leads us to the next conundrum that people are facing, the singles are all looking for their apocalypse buddy and madly swiping right on every Tom, Dick and Harriett. Those in relationships are wondering how they’ll get to spend quality time with their partner and most of all be intimate with them or how to avoid being intimate with them. Remember no glove, no love and try not to sweat on each other, we aren’t scientists but we are pretty sure that it could be transferred through dripping sweat on each other or we made it up to ensure the hospitals aren’t packed to the brim with Corona babies in 9 months’ time. Married couples are wondering how they’ll avoid each other and those with children are wondering how they are going to cope with them being around twenty four seven, three sixty five when childcare and schools shutdown and how they can ensure they don’t end up with another one. Many parents are questioning their ability to teach their own children the basics, just a friendly reminder we no longer have the three R’s. We actually call them what they are these days, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.

There are plenty of articles online surrounding the best things to binge watch and do to keep you occupied throughout this period. Everything from home gym setups to how to date in an apocalypse, oh wait the second one is our next blog for all those wondering how social distancing and dating is going to work. There are plenty of things to do and you can even take up a hobby, if you haven’t already, build a model, do some wood work, paint something, draw or write something or those things your wife or partner have been asking you to do around the house for months now and you keep making up excuses for… Well you could potentially do those.

So to reiterate the best thing you can do is have a plan, plan out what you need, when you’ll need it, who you’ll need to contact and if we’ve learnt anything from all the survival books we’ve read, always have a go bag ready in case you need to leave. Keep 1.5 meters between you and everyone else at all times and for everyone’s sake stay at home. If you need to go outside do it in the safety of your own backyard. If you need to leave your house, get what you need and get back home as soon as you can. 14 days’ worth of supplies people in case you have to go into total isolation that is all you need additionally. The supermarkets are still open and you can still get what you need, so long as people are sensible about what they take. Keep in mind those more vulnerable members of our community whilst you’re out and about activating your Coronavirus isolation plan. We don’t need to hoard things ladies and gentleman, particularly not the dunny roll.

A little like the title of this blog which we stole from an REM song, at present it might seem like the end of the world as you know it but no one is certainly feeling fine. Things are changing and they are going to change, it’s time to accept that, we are going to have a lot of ups and downs but we need to come together and do the right thing for each other over the next couple of months. Check in with your friends and family, check in with your neighbours and your work colleagues. We’ll get through this and there’ll be plenty of stories both good and bad that will come out of it. We’ll keep you all updated over the weeks as we continue to go through the pandemic. Lastly but not least we’d like to both thank and welcome our newest member of the team. We aren’t sure she is open to being officially named so for now we’ll call her Little Miss Competitive. Not only is she good at correcting the team’s poor spelling and grammar but she’s good at adding on and subtracting the parts that don’t make any sense. So to LMC welcome to the team! Until the next blog you keep yourselves and your family safe, do the right thing and stay at home. Hasta Manana amigos.

Wasn’t Expecting That…

A couple of months ago during the height of the bush fire season we wrote about the apocalypse, we didn’t go into detail or discuss the four horsemen but we did discuss what apocalyptic event could potentially wipe us out, which then turned into a little preppers guide to the end of the world. Little did we know that the specific blog would be read by family and friends and the following events would ensue and thus the great people of this country would react the way they have causing pain and heartache for thousands of their fellow countrymen. Well ladies and gentlemen we (not this fine blog) but the nation of Australia have officially lost the plot. We’ve officially gone off the deep end and look it’s a little troubling if we are honest. As we dive into this week’s blog and change tracks like a runaway train we’ll hit you with yet another double punch as we had already started another piece to provide you with when we decided that we needed to weigh in on matters at home.

Let us take you on a little journey to discover the facts and figures around why Australian’s are currently duking it out in the middle of their local Coles and Woolworths. Why panic is beginning to grip the world, why conspiracy theorists are having a field day and why if you own shares you are losing money hand over fist at a rapid rate. In order to do that we’ve decided to look at a chronological order of events. We’ll give you the who, what, where, when and how in the hopes of giving you a little more information and dispelling some of the myths. It might even calm people down hopefully but we’ll see what happens. We may have the opposite effect on the masses and we’ll have riots in the streets inspired by the words from those idiots over at the A Mind of Its Own Blog. So without further distraction or segways we’ll crack the egg of this week’s topic and let the issues of CoVID-19 simmer in your minds while we tap away at our freshly sanitized keyboards in our air conditioned offices where people can easily spread disease.

CoVID-19 or the Coronavirus as it’s better know came to light in late December 2019 when the little, we say little but when there are roughly 11.8 million inhabitants it’s far from little, city of Wuhan in the Hubei province of China, reported a pneumonia that was sickening dozens of people. It wasn’t till the 31st of December that the World Health Organisation (WHO) finally caught wind of this. According to reports Novel Coronavirus (nCov) was identified in early December with the first case diagnosed on the 12th of December. Eleven days later the first death from what would become known as CoVID-19 was recorded. Now depending who you listen to and what articles you read the time lines are little skewed, the number of deaths is inaccurate and the virus was released by the US to kill off Chinese and Iranian’s. Fast forward to the 21st of January and other countries are now reporting their first cases of the Novel Coronavirus. The US, Japan, South Korea and Thailand all recording their first cases. All the people diagnosed had been to Wuhan and all of them had visited a live animal market according to all reports.

By the 23rd of January the Chinese government had decided to impose travel restriction into and out of Wuhan. This could well have been 23 days too late, in an attempt to restrict the spread of the virus they shutdown flights, trains, buses, ferries and ringed the city with checkpoints. By the 30th of January the WHO had declared a global health emergency for just the 6th time in history a designation reserved for extraordinary events that threaten to spread internationally. If you weren’t watching the news on the 5th of February the cruise ship the Diamond Princess was quarantined off the coast of Yokohama, Japan while crew and passengers under went screenings for CoVID19. 700 cases would be later confirmed making it the largest outbreak outside of China. February 11th saw the WHO renaming the novel coronavirus to CoVID-19 with the Co standing for Coronavirus, Vi for Virus and the D for disease. The 19 tacked on at the end is the year in which it was identified. Health officials purposely avoided naming COVID-19 after a geographical location, animal or group of people, so as not to stigmatise people or places.

Yet people are avoiding anyone of Asian descent as they are ignorant, somewhat racist and most of all ill informed. There was even a case in Chinatown, Sydney where a man suffered a heart attack and no one wanted to help him for fear of catching CoVID-19. Our first case was diagnosed on the 25th of January with three other cases being diagnosed by the 27th across two separate states. On the 28th January Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy makes a fatal mistake in telling the nation there is no need to wear masks as there has been no human to human transmission in Australia. By the start of March there were 27 confirmed cases across the country the number would rise quickly as the first cases of human to human transmission were confirmed. To date there have been 91 confirmed cases, only 3 deaths reported in elderly. But what is CoVID-19?

To break it down for you all, CoVID-19 is the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Like our two headed Tasmanian friends from down south it’s a little strange. Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that are common among animals. In rare cases they are what the smart white coat wearing ladies and gentlemen call Zoonotic, meaning they can be transferred from animals to humans. But how do they transfer you ask? There are 5 main ways in which Zoonotic diseases can transfer from an animal to human.

Direct contact: Coming into contact with the saliva, blood, urine, mucous, feces, or other body fluids of an infected animal. Examples include petting or touching animals, and bites or scratches.

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Indirect contact: Coming into contact with areas where animals live and roam, or objects or surfaces that have been contaminated with germs. Examples include aquarium tank water, pet habitats, chicken coops, barns, plants, and soil, as well as pet food and water dishes.

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Vector-borne: Being bitten by a tick, or an insect like a mosquito or a flea.

Foodborne: Each year, 1 in 6 people get sick from eating contaminated food. Eating or drinking something unsafe, such as unpasteurized (raw) milk, under cooked meat or eggs, or raw fruits and vegetables that are contaminated with feces from an infected animal. Contaminated food can cause illness in people and animals, including pets.

Waterborne: Drinking or coming in contact with water that has been contaminated with feces from an infected animal.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a betacoronavirus, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. All three of these viruses have their origins in bats. The sequences from global patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir. The science is a little hard to explain and we’ve had to do a lot of research in order to understand what it is but to paint you a tiny picture they are called Coronaviruses due to the fringe they have which is reminiscent of a crown or of a solar corona. The name “coronavirus” is derived from Latin ‘corona’, meaning crown or halo, which refers to the characteristic appearance of the virus particles (virions), they have a fringe reminiscent of a crown or of a solar corona when viewed under two-dimensional transmission electron microscopy, due to the surface covering in club-shaped protein spikes. From what we could translate into our tiny non-scientific brains it’s these protein spikes that attach to cells in the host body and begin replication of the virus. We also found out that the common cold is also a coronavirus, don’t believe us Google it!

So there’s a virus and a disease but what’s the difference? A virus can’t survive without a living host and the disease occurs when cells in your body are damaged as a result of an infection. So the virus in this case is SARS-CoV-2 and damage it causes to your cells resulting in disease has been named COVID-19. Coronaviruses cause colds with major symptoms, such as fever and sore throat from swollen adenoids, primarily in the winter and early spring seasons. Coronaviruses can cause pneumonia – either direct viral pneumonia or a secondary bacterial pneumonia – and may cause bronchitis – either direct viral bronchitis or a secondary bacterial bronchitis. If you aren’t up to date with your doomsday virus and what will kill you the symptoms you need to look out for are fever, cough, shortness of breath and in some cases diarrhea.

How could you get it you ask? Well it is most likely transmitted from human to human via respiratory droplets from either a cough or sneeze, the impact or blast zone is usually around 6 foot, it is also possible that indirect contact via contaminated surfaces is another possible cause of infection as viral RNA has been found in peoples stool samples who are infected. What does that mean for us? Well the usual cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing and wash your hands after using the bathroom or spraying your DNA over them through your mouth or nose. The stats state that at least 60% of the world’s population will be infected with SARS-CoV-2 and mortality rate is something like 3% so there is a good chance if you get it, you will survive. If you are older you are more at risk of the symptoms being more than just mild. Those under 20 seem to be the safest group, representing the smallest percentage of those who have been infected globally.

Ok so you know the who, what, where, how and when now but the burning question for us is why are we having to use rough as guts paper towel to wipe our derrieres because Australia has gone into panic mode and is stocking up on toilet paper? We kid you not, supermarkets can’t get the stuff on the shelves quick enough and the people stocking up like the worlds about to end can’t explain why? We’d kill for just one roll of 4 ply, that quilted goodness against one’s rectum feels so much better than the paper cut razor blade of death paper towel we’ve been using for the past week. Like the potato famine of 1845 to 1849 the supermarket shelves are bare of the number one bathroom product, bogroll, dunny wipes, loo roll call it what you like it’s in short supply or non existent and to make matters worse people are even buying all the paper towel, sanitary wipes, tissues anything they can get their hands on to wipe their bums they are buying in bulk. It’s got to the point we have people throwing fisty cuffs in the isles just to get some dunny roll. We even checked out several supermarkets to see for ourselves, standing in the isle we couldn’t help but laugh at just how far the prepping some people had gone with the threat of SARS-CoV-2 and contracting COVID-19.

Like all crises there are those who are keen to make a quick buck off the misfortunes of others. The fact that we have countries closing their borders and restricting travel and supermarket shelves are left bare of pasta sauce, pasta and toilet paper shows an evident fear in the Australian populace. Check out eBay or Facebook marketplace and people are selling packs of toilet tissue for well above the recommended retail price. The memes that have been generated are both hilarious and disturbing at the same time. There are even cases in which people are stocking up with 14 days worth of food and supplies in case they need to quarantine themselves or hide out for fear of catching the world’s latest Coronavirus.

Viruses mind you which have been around for centuries and will continue to be around for centuries to come. There is some psychology behind why people have chosen toilet paper to stock up on opposed to any other item. It’s an everyday necessity in the modern, western world and therefore the fear of being without it or missing out runs high within the community. Don’t forget in some countries they are still squatting over holes in the floor and hoping for a clean break without having the luxury of toilet paper and here we are punching on in the isles over it. Is it that people have not researched what COVID-19 is, enough to understand or is it just a knock on effect to our already fragile minds after the worst bush fire season to date. There is no doubt some psychologists, looking at the causation and effects of this and the science community, are working double time to understand the virus and whether or not a vaccine can be developed.

For now though we just need to take a couple of deep breaths and chill out when doing the grocery shopping, there is no reason to punch on with your fellow Aussies over bog roll, after all the old saying sharing is caring rings true and last time we checked toilet paper will not protect you from catching a virus despite wrapping yourself to look like an ancient Egyptian mummy. So maybe you don’t need the 3 packets of 24 rolls that are taking up your entire trolley or the whole box of hand sanitizer. Like you do every flu season, wash your hands after using the bathroom or coughing and sneezing, if you are feeling sick stay at home and if pain persists please see your doctor. Chances are you’ve had a coronavirus in the past and just not known about it. That’ll just about do it from us here, we’ve given you an overview of the virus and yes it’s a close relative of the SARS virus and MERS virus, go google them we don’t have time to explain what they are if you haven’t heard of them.

Until next week don’t hog the bog roll, be kind to your neighbours, cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze and most of all just be a good human being. From all the crew here at A Mind Of Its Own, look after yourselves and avoid public areas where large groups tend to congregate if you are that worried about catching the coronavirus and for all our slow mind friends no you can’t catch it from drinking the beer, the poor company have suffered enough over the past couple of months with American idiots Googling if they’ll contract it after a hard night on the Coronas. With that said it’s time to sign off for another week… Take it easy!

I Slept With Somone In Fallout Boy…

Firstly no one has slept with anyone from Fallout Boy here at A Mind of Its Own that we are aware of, yeah we might joke around that we identify as a helicopter or glow stick from time to time but the writers here are very much heterosexual and more often than not a lads, lad. Sorry if that bursts anyone’s bubble but as they say the truth shall set you free. After what’s been a big couple of weeks at our other jobs, you know, the one that pays for us to be able to continue this side project with passion and gusto we’ve finally managed to spend some time behind the keyboard pumping out some blogs that actually interest us. Safe to say politics bores the absolute crap out of us!. Give us controversy and madness, we are all for it and apparently so are our readers who seem to have similar minds like ours that spend a fair bit of time in the gutter.

A Mind of Its Own has always been an outlet, a way in which we can be open and honest about things that we often struggle with in day to day life. It’s given a voice to mental health issues particularly anxiety and depression, it’s also allowed the writers to be reflective and often take lessons out of what has been written or what they themselves are writing. We are truthful in what we write and will always give both sides of the coin as we toss it in the air and throw caution to the wind. Over time though we have learnt that people often don’t really want the truth when it comes down to it. As the famous line voiced by Jack Nicholson from A Few Good Men goes “You can’t handle the truth”. Human’s often struggle to hear what is often true or to often speak the truth for that matter and why? Well there are various reasons in which you will soon learn as you read on.

Be honest with yourself for a minute, we’ve all done it at some point throughout our lives, heck some people even make careers out of it (Politicians, conman etc). Lying is something that we do as human beings, we are the only species capable of deceiving each other with what is often something so simple and so small and more importantly, not needed at all. But we’ve all done it, whether you’ve lied to your boss to get time off work or your parents about going to a party or most importantly yourself about why you lie, everyone has lied it’s part of what makes us human. Honesty may be the best policy, but scheming and dishonesty are part of what makes us human. Throughout history there are 100’s if not 1000’s of examples of people who have lied about who they are, what they do, what happened, how it happened, why it happened etc.

So for some home truths to start with, we decided to write this week’s A Mind of Its Own on Lying, as well to be honest it all just fell into place with things that were going on around us. The boss-man had been lying to himself about why he was feeling the way he did, he’d been lying to everyone that would ask him if he was OK, but most of all he’d mislead and he’d not been honest with someone that he cares about. That’s the thing about lying, dishonesty and keeping things to yourself, we all do it for various reasons, whether it be to present a false image in order to hide our inadequacies or to protect the feelings of others or in some cases just as a poor excuse when confronted with something we were supposed to do.

Not all lies are harmful, In fact sometimes lying is the best approach for protecting privacy, ourselves and others from malice. Some deception such as boasting and lies in the name of tact and politeness can be classified as less than serious. But bald-faced lies (whether they involve leaving out the truth or putting in something false), are harmful, as the corrode trust and intimacy, which lets be honest once again, in a lot of peoples eyes this is the glue of society that keeps us all together.

Lying, as it turns out, is something that most people are very adept at. Most people lie with ease, some in big ways and some small. We lie to strangers, we lie to coworkers, friends and to our loved ones and family. Our capacity for dishonesty is as fundamental as our need to trust others. Ironic that this then makes us terrible at detecting lies. Being deceitful is woven into our very fabric, so much so that it would be truthful to say that to lie is human. One of the strangest, yet truthful sentences you will read on A Mind of Its Own. The commonality of lying was first documented over two decades ago by Bella DePaulo a social psychologist at the University of California in a study in which they asked 147 adults to jot down for a week every instance they tried to mislead someone. This research showed that on average subjects lied one to two times a day without even realising it.

It’s been speculated that lying as a behavior arose not long after the emergence of language. The ability to manipulate others without having to use physical force would have likely conferred an advantage in the competition for resources, a mate and could be akin to the evolution of deceptive strategies in the animal kingdom such as camouflage. Sissela Bok an ethicist at Harvard University was quoted saying “It’s much easier to lie in order to get somebody’s money or wealth than hit them over the head or rob a bank”. Here’s where it all gets interesting and as you all know we love a topic when there is a heap of research involved. As lying became more and more recognised as a deeply ingrained human trait, social science researchers began working to illuminate the nature and roots of the behavior.

How and when do we learn to lie? What are the psychological and neurobiological underpinnings of dishonesty? Where do most people draw the line? The research is beginning to suggest that we’re prone to believing some lies even when they are unambiguously contradicted by clear evidence. This suggests that our proclivity for deceiving others and our vulnerability to being deceived are especially consequential in the age of social media. Our ability as a society to separate truth from lies is under unprecedented threat. Just like learning to walk and talk, lying is something of a developmental milestone. Parents may find it troubling that little Tommy or Tessa has begun to lie. It is more they see it as a loss of innocence in their child. However the emergence of this behavior in toddlers is a reassuring sign that their cognitive growth is on track according to Psychologist Kang Lee of the University of Toronto who has conducted several studies on the psychology of lying in children.

Sadly for all those parents out there the research also suggests that we only get better at lying with age. In fact the Studies Doctor Lee and his colleagues conducted with children around lying suggested that the older the child the better the deception or lie became. Why, you ask? Well remember that little thing called empathy? The increase in the sophistication of the lie comes with the development of a child’s ability to put him or herself in someone else’s shoes. Known as Theory of Mind, this is the facility we acquire for understanding the beliefs, intentions and knowledge of others. A fundamental of lying is the brain’s executive function, the required abilities required for planning, attention and self control.

In studies conducted by Dan Ariely at Duke University, they paid subjects a dollar amount for each math question they got right, the participants were told to shred their sheets before reporting their answers. Little did they know their answer sheets didn’t actually get shredded. What fascinated Ariely the most was not that people lie but rather why they didn’t lie a lot more. Even when the value was increased for each right answer most people didn’t increase their level of cheating. Something stops us from lying all the way, the reason Ariely believes is that we want to see ourselves as honest, because to some degree we have internalised honesty as a value taught to us by society. Which is why unless you are a sociopath most of us place limits on how much we are willing to lie. Ariely and others in the field have shown that this is determined by social norms arrived at through unspoken consensus, a little like taking home a few pencils from the office supply cabinet it OK as long as the bosses don’t find out but your colleagues are ok.

There appears to be no agreement among psychologists and psychiatrists about the relationship between mental health and lying. However there are certain disorders that exhibit specific lying behaviors. Individuals diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder tend to tell manipulative lies, while narcissists may tell falsehoods to boost their image. The Sociopathic disorders tend to have the strongest link and as pointed out exhibit specific lying behaviors. Unless you are a pathological liar, which could be an underlying indicator of a mental health issue as there is motivation behind the lie in the first place, however more research needs to be conducted.

Over the last two decades researchers have studied the brain in order to see if there was anything unique about the brains of individuals who lie more than others. Using three different controls groups broken down into repeated liars, those who met the criteria for antisocial personality disorder but not frequent liars and those who were neither antisocial or had a lying habit. The research showed that the liars had at least 20 percent more neural fibers by volume in their prefrontal cortices thus suggesting that habitual liars have greater connectivity within their brains.That then poses the question as to whether this predisposes them to lying because they can think up lies more readily or is it the result of repeated lying?

Another joint study conducted by Psychologists Nobuhito Abe of Kyoto University and Joshua Greene of Harvard University scanned the brains of subjects using functional magnetic resonance imaging machines (fMRI) found that those acting dishonestly showed greater activation in the nucleus accumbens (a structure in the basal fore-brain) that plays a key role in reward processing. As it turns out the more excited your reward system gets the more likely you are to cheat. Or in other words, greed may increase one’s predisposition to lying. Tali Sharot a neuroscientist at the University of London found that the amygdala’s response to lies got weaker with each lie, even as the lies got bigger.

Tim Levine, a psychologist from the University of Alabama outlines in his ‘truth default theory’ that much of the knowledge we use to navigate the world comes from what others have told us. We implicitly trust others in when it comes to human communication and without that trust we would be paralysed as individuals and cease to have social relationships. He even went on to explain there is little harm caused when we occasionally get duped. We are hardwired to be trusting which makes us intrinsically gullible we’ll use Frank Abagnale Jr, a security consultant whose cons as a young man went on to inspire the 2002 movie Catch me if You Can. He explains that scams work because people believe what they want to believe and aren’t searching for a lie.

It’s called the Liar’s Advantage according to Robert Feldman, a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts. “People are not expecting lies, people are not reaching for lies and a lot of the time, people want to hear what they are hearing. According to Feildman we put up little resistance to the deceptions that please us and comfort us whether it be false praise or the promise of impossibly high investment returns. Researchers have also shown that we are especially prone to accepting lies that affirm our worldviews. Alternative facts have thrived on the internet and social media because of this vulnerability in humans. Debunking false truths or fake news does not demolish their power because we assess the evidence presented to us through a framework of preexisting beliefs and prejudices.

A recent study out of the University of Western Australia by doctoral candidate in cognitive psychology, Briony Swire-Thompson documents the ineffectiveness of evidence-based information in refuting incorrect beliefs. Studying our closest friend across the seas (The Americans) they gave them two statements to choose from. The statements both false saw that people chose with bias, for example one of the statements was about Trump in which Trump supporters immediately believed it. When presented with the evidence that it was incorrect they readjusted their view but only for a short period of time. Within a week they were back to believing the original statement. Other studies have shown that evidence undermining lies may in fact strengthen belief if them. So you run the risk of watching them grow and become hulks in front of you if you try to counteract their inaccuracies.

When it comes to lying it looks like the deck is stacked against us people, yeah we can attempt to justify them by telling ourselves it was just a ‘white lie’ or a little ‘fib’ to ease our guilt or cross our fingers behind our backs as if it somehow suspends the rules and we can judge ourselves on the right side of communicative fair play, but at the end of the day we lie because of behavioral conditioning as well as cognitive evolutionary biology. Lying can bail us out of awkward situations, spare the feelings of others. Preserve or strengthen alliances, Enhance social standing, keep us out of trouble and even save our lives. Lying is unfortunately tied into our self esteem, it’s all down to the shifting sands of the self and trying to look good both to ourselves and others.

Men lie no more than women, but they tend to lie to make themselves look better, while it is said that women are more likely to lie to make the other person feel better. Extroverts lie more than introverts according to research. Lying tends to be short term focused, when we decide to deceive someone whether to save our self image or self worth we aren’t thinking long term but if the person finds out it can have long term consequences. We need to become more aware of the extent in which we tend to lie and focus on the fact that honesty yields more genuine relationships and trust.

So if we look at what we now know about lying, we are faced with yet another seemingly adult decision in our lives, to admit we are liars or to just continue through life justifying that everyone lies and evolutionary? The problem with lying and science has now backed this up is that, the more you do it, the easier it gets and the more likely you are to do it again. “We are our own judges about our own honesty” It is both behavioral and evolutionary, we do do it for various reasons both good and bad, everyone has lied at least once if not more in their lives and we as humans have become very adept at it. To lie or not to lie that is the question but like all things in life it’s a decision that only you can make in that moment but remember the truth always finds a way to the surface.

So until the next blog all we can do is apologise to those we may have wronged, lied to and deceived throughout our lives from our hearts to yours we are sincerely sorry. Weird apologising to people at the end of blog about lying but as we said we like to reflect on our writing at the end and take something from it. From this blog we took a lot that we didn’t expect to. We don’t condone lying but we now understand a little better why people do it and from the looks of things most people don’t lie to be malicious, in fact most lies told are to protect others. The truth however shall set you free as they say and so with that in mind we say honesty is the best policy and be true to yourself, love yourself. Until next time take it easy…

Architects…

We are by no means proponents of political propaganda or slander pieces but living in the nation’s capital and sitting just down the road from the largest child care centre that also possess the biggest flag in the country (Parliament House), it’s hard not to have an opinion or question some of the decisions made by the men and women running our fine land. When the guy leading the charge is known to the public more affectionately as “Scotty from Marketing” than the Prime Minister we start to question whether the country is in good hands or are we just a bunch of cynical arseholes? Either way “Scotty from Marketing” has a lot to answer for particularly when it comes to decisions around the future of our country.

With the state of the nation up in the air after the worst bush fire season closely followed by storms that have been ravaging major cities, it’s easy to sit and question what our government and it’s elected members are doing. That’s right ladies and gentlemen we put these people in charge so at the end of the day it’s our fault if they aren’t doing what we want and or need them to. That being said though there were a lot of promises made at election time and the team here at A Mind of Its Own want to see how many, if any of these election promises have been kept, we’ll also take a look at some of “Scotties” strange and uneducated opinions that being the head of marketing allows him to push onto the rest of the country. As always these opinions are our own and in no way reflect the feelings or voices of others unless expressly quoted.

Where does one start in the realm of Australian politics, well for us it’s heading on over to Google for a search of the world wide web, as the keyboards clattered away and the Google search engine in the basement of 1600 Amphitheater Parkway in Mountain View, California spooled up in anticipation of spitting out thousands of results regarding Scotty from Marketing’s election promises we pondered whether we should get into politics. It’s a little like meteorology isn’t it? You can get the things wrong most days and still keep your job unless you do something that is completely inappropriate or your political enemies dig up the buried bodies of your past and use them against you as either blackmail or to force you out of office. Heck if the Oompa Loompa can stay in office we should be able to last a term or two in the school yard of Australian politics.

Thankfully for us Australia’s media outlets love to document the rise and fall of our political system and Google returned plenty of results on Scotty and Liberal marketeers promises to the Australian public in the 2019 election. Whether you are labor or liberal don’t get it twisted they are the same as the criminals these days and in a world where the majority of people are in it for themselves. The “me” mentality rather than the “we” mentality is evident in all facets of life and in particular the me mentality in politics is always there. What can I do or say to ensure I get the votes I need to further my ambitions rather than what’s best for the constituents in my area. So when it comes to promises from the election they seem to be similar across the board from all the parties and focus on key areas. Some to help their money making mates get even richer and others to help and support the public.

What exactly did Scotty from Marketing promise us though you ask? Well the top of his priority of promises was of course some tax breaks. The phased in tax cuts are set to cost the Australian taxpayers up to $158 billion over 10 years, well the Treasury coffers but where do they get their money from? Whilst the tax cuts are good for low income earners it seems it’s the rich who continue to prosper with the tax breaks coming down for those earning up to $200k from 37% to 30%. Then there is the “helping hand tax offset” in which Australians will get a gift with their tax returns. Australians earning around $37,000 only get $255 while those in the next tax bracket get $1080. After that it scales down but if you earn over $126,000 you get nada. Business wins again with those turning over upto $50M now able to write off assets up to $25,000, previously any business turning over $10M were excluded and you could only write of $20,000.

The next promise on Scotty from Marketings list is climate change. Hang on isn’t this the same bloke who took a lump of coal into parliament and presented it to his fellow members like they were primary school kids stating “This is coal. Don’t be afraid! Don’t be scared! Won’t hurt you,” He neglected to mention that the coal had been shellacked to prevent his hands from getting dirty. The then treasurer of Australia now prime minister has a long history of supporting the fossil fuel industry so his promises are a little surprising. Oh wait there is one supporting Adani don’t worry it almost slipped through the gate but we managed to catch it by the black soot prints it left on the floor that were easy enough to follow.

Committing a dismal $3.5 billion over 15 years to the central emissions reduction policy, apparently they’ll focus on farmers reducing their carbon dioxide emissions through planting trees or improving their energy efficiency. I mean cause they produce the most emissions right? Not the concrete jungles we call cities? Makes perfect sense, pick on the struggling, poor farmers for their emission production which probably registers compared to the emissions we create driving around town in our gas guzzlers and creating waste, landfill and whatever else we are currently doing to fuck up the earth for future generations. There is some of that $3.5 Billion set aside to expand the Snowy Hydro scheme, which is apparently going to be utilised as a giant battery to back up energy produced by other renewables.

Then there’s the contradictory strategy of developing emissions free hydrogen which could replace the energy generated by fossil fuels. Great Idea but at the same time the technology needs to be further developed and we are still backing coal mines and coal powered power stations. Scotty from Marketing has once again backed fossil fuels and in particular the Adani mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin. Scotty has also floated the idea of using taxpayer money to upgrade a NSW coal-fired power station and pledged to fund a feasibility study into a new “high-efficiency, low-emission” coal plant in Queensland. After all, coal is gold in the eyes of Scotty from Marketing and his cronies. Last but not least we have the emission reduction targets as outlined in the Paris agreement, we are aiming at reducing our emissions by 26% based on 2005 levels by 2030.

From environment, over to promises in the health sector and of course the government is making more and more promises that will never be kept but they have match the labor’s promise to lift the Medicare rebate freeze. What does that mean for Joe Blogs? Well it means that payments from Medicare to medical practitioners will increase to reflect what they are saying are rising costs associated with care. What are these rising costs you ask? So did we, and the answer was Primary Care, the federal budget contained a $1 billion funding boost including $448.5 million for General Practitioners to better treat patients with chronic diseases and investments in mental health. The government will also add 30 new Headspace centres to it’s network. They are going to build new residential eating disorder treatment facilities across the nation and put in place new measures to prevent Indigenous youth suicide.

Cancer, one of Australia’s most notorious killers and it’s patients will also benefit with investments on infrastructure which include a comprehensive Children’s Cancer Center in Sydney as well as a centre of excellence for immunotherapy and CAR-T therapy. Yeah lots of googling going on over here as we research CAR-T therapy. Seems that health could do with a little more of a cash injection particularly into the research and treatment side but hey we aren’t in charge of the budget or the election promises made by Scotty from Marketing and his team of Marketeers. On to education, at least we no longer have the three R’s, Reading, riting (writing) and rithmatic (arithmetic) because whoever came up with that could have done with a decent education.

Splashing more cash and of course on the private school system particularly the Catholic schools and reportedly having nothing to do with his religious beliefs Scotty from Marketing has promised another $4.6 billion that’s on top of the $23.5 billion over 10 years to all schools as part of Gonski 2.0 that former prime minister Turnbull signed up to. They’ve also promised to fund up to 80,000 apprenticeships which is part of a $525 million package. There is also a portion of the budget for a scholarship program to get students to study in regional areas of $94 million. That being said in 2017 they introduced a two year cap on university funding for regional areas. Early childhood sees no outlined long term measures beyond the reforms introduced in 2018 but children have access to 15 hours a week of preschool in the year before they go to school. $453 million has been alloted to fun four year old kindergarten for another year. So education again takes a backseat to infrastructure because what do we need? More roads you know!

Last but not least in the promise department is good old infrastructure, the thing that makes the nation function according to Scotty from Marketing. So $9.3 billion has been promised to build a 1700km inland rail line from Melbourne to Brisbane for freight. The controversial East West Link in Melbourne is back on the books despite the previous two proposals being turned down. Scotty’s chipping in $4 billion of your hard earned tax payer dollars to get it done. Western Sydney is getting $7.1 billion for road and transport connection links. Back to Melbourne and another $1.75 billion to connect the M80 ring road with the upgraded Eastern Freeway. Could Melbourne see the first bullet train? $2 billion has been put aside for a fast rail link between Melbourne and Geelong, the only catch is the Victorian government needs to match the $2 billion. The government has also spent $20 million on studies for three other potential high speed rail links, proposal for the 3 links, Shepparton to Melbourne, Sydney to Newcastle and Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast are due mid year and add to studies already conducted and proposed for other routes such as Gold Coast to Brisbane, Sydney to Wollongong etc.

The M1 will continue to get upgraded to Raymond Terrace with $1.6 billion promised for the extension. $500 million is in the kitty for the notorious Princes Highway between Nowra and Batemans Bay and last but not least the Newell Highway that connects Queensland, NSW and Victoria is set to get $400 million for upgrades. All in all that’s close to $30 billion for Infrastructure with most of it being spent in Victoria so it looks like the Mexican’s are getting some new gear.

As we read through both left and right wing media regarding how on track the Morrison government was at ‘making good’ on it’s promises one thing was becoming quite evident was that you are only as good as your word and a lot of Scotty’s above promises might just take longer to come to fruition if they come off at all. The promise of a Surplus is slowly dying as Corona Virus continues to screw with not only the global economy but our local and national economy. Those tax cuts are still making their way to where exactly we don’t know, will we see them before the new financial year?, who knows but by the looks of it, Scotty from Marketing is looking tired and needs to release the hounds of marketing in his ministers to do their jobs and help push through a lot of those election promises if this government has any chance of survival.

The money that has been promised to Infrastructure has seen some of those promises begin but will they be finished that’s a different question. Climate change is a big topic at the moment particularly after the bush fires that ravaged a lot of the nation. One thing we know for sure is that things are going to get worse and worse with each summer that passes. For more than a decade, the climate debate in Australia has been either a wonkish seminar about carbon pricing, emissions trading, clean energy targets, renewable energy targets, national energy guarantees, safeguard mechanisms, abatement targets, carryover credits, and the like – concepts that are vitally important but carry absolutely no practical meaning for most people – or it has been a slasher movie replete with surround-sound alarmism, hyperbole, intrigue, betrayals and bouts of regicide

From his love of coal to the big guy in the sky they say you shouldn’t underestimate Scotty from Marketing and that even his predecessors have gone through slumps but come on Scotty, rule number one in anything you do is to under promise and over deliver big guy, all those cute little propeller hats aren’t going to save you from the wrath of the Australian media and it’s public. Either shit or get off the pot mate as they say, actions speak louder than words. We’ll be watching closely as we head into the end of financial year as to whether those promises are on track to be delivered, if they aren’t we’ll no doubt have yet another new Prime Minister within the next year and once again take our place as on the global mantle as the laughing stock of politics. The country that is never happy with it’s leaders, at the end of the day we elected them so if we aren’t happy it’s our fault for either voting for them or not voting at all.

In all honesty writing this blog bored the hell out of us, even had some of us wishing for the Coronavirus just so we could quarantine ourselves and have something decent to write about as we watched people in hazmat suits come in and out of our airlocked room to complete tests and ensure we our survival. Speaking of survival it seems to have kicked off a lot “Prepping” in Australia which we’ve found both concerning and funny at the same time. So until next week we recommend no hand shaking, fist pumps, thumb wars and definitely no pashing of strangers unless you want to contract Coronavirus from a stranger. Maybe a questionnaire might be the way to go. Ensure that you ask where they have traveled to in the last 2 Months and if it’s Wuhan run for the hills like mad. OK peace out…

Heels Over Head…

In an attempt to get some normalcy back into this here blog we are attempting to do the double and if we are lucky potentially the triple this week, we know our adoring fans have missed having something to read each week and our mental health has missed having the writing escape each week that allows us to research each and every topic we write about. That includes bin chickens and bush turkeys folks, two of Australia’s best birds and almost becoming more iconic than the galah or the cockatoo. Unlike most of the blogs we write though, this week’s doesn’t have a lot of science and or research behind it but has more gone with a gut feel, views and those old arseholes, opinions. So without further adieu we’ll crack on into another addition of A Mind of Its Own.

A couple of weeks ago we wrote about online dating and the ins and outs, the pitfalls and the disappointment it can often bring or how it just makes a lot of people feel rather shallow and self conscious. Just like a lot of social media these days. In a follow up to that piece we decided to look at something that has always baffled us, something that just seems to be the norm, something that society has yet to really challenge and those that have, would no doubt have been labelled or even worse put down and ridiculed for their views and opinions. But it does tie in with not only dating but most facets of life, particularly where things have been spelled out for centuries. Maybe not so much in black and white but in that shale grey colour that interior designers tend to love so much these days.

No matter where you look there are rules that govern our lives, some of them are written and passed through parliament becoming a law or legislation, others are more suggestions or have become the social normal throughout the centuries, they aren’t written down but more passed on as things that just are and should be done. It’s these so called social normalities or “unwritten rules” that we want to take a look at and try to get an understanding of the how, what, where and why behind them. How did they become something that everyone did, what happened for that to even become an unwritten rule? Where did it happen? And why did it happen? That’s a lot happening in one sentence. We’ll focus on dating as that’s where most of these unwritten rules seem to exist but we’ll throw in some other examples as we go that just pop up in everyday life.

This all came about as we discussed dating with people after the posting of “I’ll Be Your Man”. Through sharing their personal experiences and leaning on the Boss man here for his unedited thoughts on the world of online dating we were able to get an understanding that there are perceived certain rules in which men and women need to abide by in the dating world. We say rules but some people will say guidelines, either way they are there and they often govern how people interact with each other in the dating world. An example of this is the first date and how long you should wait before you contact someone after. Is it 24 or 48 hours and why should you have to wait to wait at all, to tell someone you had a good time with them and would like to see them again? Because someone made it a social normality that a lot of people have followed throughout the years?

Correct that’s exactly why, someone with an opinion and soapbox to spruke it from suggested that it could be perceived as needy or too keen if you interact too soon after meeting someone in which you may want to pursue something more than just a friendship with. Overtime it just became dating advice and slowly an unwritten rule that you gave it time before contacting them and making a second date. If you didn’t contact them it was understood you weren’t at all interested and that has now taken on the term ‘ghosting’. So we know ghosting isn’t a new thing that men and women do, someone just put a label on it and gave the millennials something to grasp on tightly to while they rock themselves to sleep in the corner because Ted or Tamara just disappeared without an explanation. Our Human need for closure and want to understand everything that comes into play there.

Forgetting all the rules for a minute and standing on the edge of the philosophical lake with the rule book in hand ready to fling it to the depths of the water. What if you did meet someone who you wanted to break all the rules for?. What if that person ticked a lot of your boxes? You know the rules we are talking about, the unwritten ones, ladies and gents, we don’t condone the breaking of statutory rules that govern society to keep us safe unless they are archaic and need to be torn down like a derelict building poisoning the skyline. There is a freedom discussed and whispered in circles that men and women talk about. Freedom that allows us to make decisions and not be governed by unwritten rules. That allows you as an individual to throw the social normalities into the lake and never have to worry about them ever again.

The rules that say you shouldn’t talk about certain topics when you getting to know someone, the rules that say if your marriage falls apart you shouldn’t date until you are divorced, the rule that says sex before marriage is a sin. The rules that say you should follow those rules and not jump in feet first. But ladies and gentleman you wouldn’t go and buy a cow from the market without trying the milk before taking it home would you? It’s the exact same with sex and a lot of things in life. That’s probably not one of the best analogies we’ve ever used but you get the point. Life is full of unwritten rules in which we’ve allowed ourselves to be governed by because they have become the societal norm over centuries. If evolution has taught us anything it’s that we should be breaking the mold and bucking the trend is good for us. It took a world war for women to be allowed to vote and work in traditionally male dominated roles. Yes it’s still going on today but we are evolving (ever so slowly).

In a world full of rules there is something liberating about not following them, something internally inspiring about following your heart, head and gut. Some might even say there is something enlightening about going your own way and doing your own thing when it comes to breaking the social normalities. If we aren’t challenging things what are we doing? Are we just becoming more sheep in the proverbial flock ready to follow around a Shepard? Surely not, as intelligent beings we have the ability to choose, to make decisions and to stick to our convictions and values. As the kids say you do you. We aren’t saying that you shouldn’t follow all the unwritten rules as some of them are just part of being a decent human, what we are saying is that you have the ability to pick and choose. When it comes to dating as people that like to wear our hearts on our sleeves all we can say is follow your heart.

There is the age old story of the Hare and the Tortoise to take into account though, you know the saying ‘slow and steady wins the race’ but there are also the internal factors and feelings that you can’t often be explained and or ignored. Yeah take things slow but the one thing that will always be a saving grace is communicating. And lessons learnt tell us that communicating everything as well as setting expectations early is paramount. Even if it is ugly, bad or makes you feel a little ashamed and less of a person. Don’t show up just because you feel that it’s expected, the path to authenticity is paved with good intentions that often find us in pitfalls doing what we feel we should rather than being truly authentic with people we care about. That’s not just dating that’s through all facets of life.

So what are some of those other unwritten rules that we should follow? We’ll there are the little subtle ones like keeping left on an escalator or chewing with your mouth closed, because no one really wants to hear or see you chewing. Or not being on your phone whilst being served at a checkout and making people wait in the line behind you to finish your call or always letting people out of a door before you enter, particularly lifts, buses and trains. There are some weird ones that are more for personal comfort more than anything else like leave one urinal in between you and the next person where possible. There are also the consideration rules like giving up your seat on the bus or train to the elderly or a pregnant woman. Or replacing the toilet paper if you are at the end of the roll. It’s courteous and just a decent thing to do, it’s all part of taking that empathetic path.

Maybe that’s just the answer, maybe the whole solution to unwritten rules, that are societal norms is to just be empathetic in your approach to life, put yourself in the other people’s shoes and think about how it would make you feel before acting. Flick the rule book out the window and just approach life with an empathetic attitude. When dating if you want to call someone after the first date place some empathy in your thought process and sometimes you just need to take a blind leap of faith and know that no matter what the outcome you are going to be OK. Everything we do in life has a lesson there for us. A teaching in which we learn a little about ourselves and the world around us and if you aren’t learning or are opposed to learning you might need to check yourself on the way out the door. And do everyone a favour don’t let it hit you in the arse on the way out.

Some would argue that more and more we are breaking those unwritten rules as society becomes more self involved and selfish on an individual level. In some regards this is true and we’ve argued before that the youth of today lack respect. But in all fairness it’s not just the youth we all get caught up in our own little worlds and with social media and everything in the palm of our hands it’s easy to overlook little things and other people. In the eyes of this here blog it is just that, a lack of respect for those who have been there before them, to wear in the path through the jungle that can often be this world. Lack of respect does not necessarily mean challenging the rules or even breaking them, it’s a naivety in which our youth have that they are entitled to everything. Technology is partly to blame and society can take the rest of the fall as we’ve allowed them too much freedom and with freedom comes choice. Too many choices results in a lack of commitment hence the vicious cycle that is often online dating.

What have we learnt? Other than hindsight is a beautiful thing that we can learn from? Well, as always, communication is key, be open, be honest and most of all be authentic. If that’s not you as a person then don’t try and be someone you are not. Life is too short to wear a mask to the majority and show the real you only to those in your inner circle. In terms of the rules to quote Josh Brolin’s character Matt Gravers in Sicario “Fuck it All”, rules are there to guide us but some of them need to be challenged and often broken or rewritten. We are big proponents of following your mind, body and soul. Yeah we might sound a little hippy saying that but intuition is something we should all take a little more notice of and follow. If it fucks you, learn from it but most of the time it’ll steer you on the right path and put you where you need to be, doing what you need to be doing at that point in time.

Just because the rule isn’t written down doesn’t mean it’s not a rule, there are many of them and to reiterate what we previously said some of them are just polite and some of them just help to make us decent human beings. Some of them are old fashioned and need to be torn down like the Berlin wall, some need to be challenged like America, would a despotic dictator and some of them we can just keep as they make sense. Like all things in life everything is interpretive and can be taken and interpreted differently by everyone. Maybe take that empathetic approach as we suggested or just continue to accept them as the social normal. Whatever you decide all we can urge is that you follow what you want, there are enough sheep in the world already without adding more to the flock.

Until next week we’ll leave you with some wisdom and words for the wise. If you find yourself in a situation that socially dictates you follow some archaic rule whispered centuries ago think about it before you follow it. If it doesn’t sit with your values then don’t follow it, plain and simple. Unless it’s an actual law then follow it, unless you feel you look good in an orange jumpsuit. Then go for it we say, but don’t start complaining when your new cellmate Trent starts spooning you without consent. From the team we wish you all a happy corporate card day or valentines day for those that like to celebrate it. We like to celebrate love every day here at a mind of its own, not just on days we are told to by large corporations looking to fill their pockets. So until the next one all the best cobbers…

Four Feet in the Forest…

Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the office not a creature was stirring, not even old Al, The cheques were mailed by reception with care, In hopes that a few of us wouldn’t return in the new year, The dogs were nestled and chewing a bone, while visions of chickens danced in their domes. And Maxo on Spotify and I in my hat, we just settled down for a couple weeks nap, when out in the car park there arose such a clatter, we sprang from our desks to see what was the matter.

Away to the window like kids on the bus, tore open the blinds and threw up the latch, the smoke from the fires, stung at the eyes. When what to our wonder should appear but a bloody fat guy, it was the same bloody dick that had nicked the car and told us not to bother, he didn’t have insurance not even AMMI to call. We knew in that moment it was the same prick who bloody ruined christmas when we were just six. More rabid than foxes we were in a rage and he whistled, and shouted and called us filthy names.

“Now, Dickhead! Now, Dropkick! Now Prick and Wanker! On, Cockhead, On CuiN The NT! On, Douchebag! On, Bastard! It’s not a bloody Porsche! Or even a Nissan! Now go away, Go away Go the F#ck away all! As far as I’m concerned it’s a stupid car and when I meet and obstacle we crash through and fly. So up to the houseos and pissheads of course with a sleigh full of sex toys and the fat prick of course. And then in a twinkle he jumped on our roof, dancing and flashing his little man Proof. Poor little Mitsi our car of 2 years down on the bonnet he came with a bound.

Dressed like a pauper, fur head to foot, his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and chicken poop. A bundle of bottles clunked on his back, he looked like a dealer who smoked too much crack. His eyes all bloodshot, his dimples all scarred! His cheeks were all hollow his nose was all marred! His cranky little mouth was turned into a scowl and the beard on his chin all crusty with spew. The half smoked ciggy held tight in his teeth and the smoke it encircled him like seagulls at the beach. A broad sunken face and little beer belly, his breath wrecked of whiskey when he started yelling. And we laughed despite ourselves when he started to share.

A creepy wink of his eye and a twist of his head, soon gave us anxiety and a lot of dread, he spoke a few words but nothing made sense and he filled all the spaces and called us all jerks before tapping his nose and picking a winner, he gave us a nod and sat to eat his dinner. He munched on some beans, cold fresh from the can and washed it old down with a warm bottle of Hahn. And then just like nothing he marched on his way with a little whistle but we heard him exclaim , ere he walked out of sight.

Happy Christmas to all, make sure you have boozy night! Merry Christmas from all our drunk bogan friends across the land. A Christmas classic just copped some of the A Mind of Its Own Brand…

Welcome to the A Mind of Its Own, Christmas survival Spectacular!!! Now normally we aren’t that big on Christmas it’s generally a time of year when we like to crawl into our hobbit hole for a couple of weeks to take some time off and recharge the batteries but there is something in the air this year, well something aside from smoke that’s choking the east coast. Ladies and Gentleman, having kids around at Christmas is great and this year there are plenty of them to share in the excitement with. Children make Christmas and stop us from over indulging on the eggnog or Christmas sherry as well as helping us to run off mum’s Christmas ham. We literally had to stop writing for several minutes in order to stop making everything rhyme but now that we are back we’ll get into the festive spirit and give you the ultimate, go to guide for surviving the Christmas and New Year period in Australia this 2019.

In reality what we are giving you is nothing but common sense. In saying that a lot of us need to be told what’s good for us or what we should be doing from time to time. So as our Christmas present to you all we decided to put together the following tips to help you through the festive period and ensure you all there with us in the new year reading our little blog. We’d make you read it anyway whether you liked it or not. Plus what other blog do you get to learn about racing vibrators, bumper stickers, bin chickens, masturbation, the Dunbar number and self help books. We are only weeks away from doing our annual year in review and this year has been a big one for the team at A Mind of Its Own. So getting back on track…

First things first, before we get started, Air Conditioning is a must across this wide brown land you’ll need that cool breeze to keep you refreshed over the period otherwise you’ll start looking like, a dried up squashed toad on the side of the road in Queensland. Secondly a source of water to lounge around in is always a good thing to have available. Whether it be the dam, neighbors pool or the dogs clam shell. If you have to borrow the dogs shell pool it can be quite uncomfortable especially when man’s best friend tries to get in with you and your tinnies to cool down a little. Thirdly drink only cans, they float better than bottles and stay cooler longer. They are also easier to recycle than bottles. We think, some research may need to be conducted into whether that is or isn’t the actual case.

Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way we’ll get down to the nitty gritty of surviving Christmas and new years. As many of you will know and have experienced, the festive season can often be a little difficult to navigate for those who suffer anxiety and depression. There are expectations both internally and externally that need to be navigated throughout the period but hopefully with our little survivor pack below those of us that often struggle a little, will be able to manage and cope a bit better. Remember there is nothing wrong in putting your hand up and saying you aren’t OK and this time of year is often a little harder on people for a lot of reasons.

  1. You can choose your Friends, but you can’t choose your Family…

We all know Christmas is a time for family and catching up with friends but there are times when it can all become a little too much. The best way to navigate this is to be open and honest, while you set expectations with everyone and often yourself. Whilst that is often easier said than done there are little ways you can you can manage those thoughts and feelings as they come creeping up on you. Set the expectation early that you may need to disappear or take some time out for yourself whether it be 5,10,15, 20 or more minutes. Take yourself out of the environment and get some fresh air into the lungs. It might be hard to open up to friends and family, but they will appreciate it if you do and it could avoid a lot of the “what’s wrong?” questions. Christmas can often be a time of conflict between families as priorities and preferences can often upset people when they feel like you aren’t giving them the time they need. Unfortunately this is always going to happen but just remember to put you and your family first. Those that are upset will get over it, eventually. Communication is key as always.

  1. Money, Money, Monneeeyyyy…

Finances this time of year can often be a little strained but here’s a red hot tip and again it flows on from point 1. Just be open and honest, you don’t need to go out for drinks or dinner to catch up with people. There are plenty of things you can do without breaking your bank. You can go for a walk, buy a bottle of wine and hangout instead of going to the pub, have a coffee. The choices are literally limitless and can be minimal or cost effective. As for presents well there is always a secret Santa, where you buy one present of a certain value for someone in the family. Whilst it is a time of giving if you can’t afford to give, don’t! Stay within your limits. Again just be open and honest and in most cases people will actually respect you for it, as they may be thinking the exact same thing. Make sure you budget and stick to your budget, try to forecast a surplus, that little savings nest egg will come in handy later in the month or potentially in the new year.

  1. I’m an Exerciser…

With this time of year being one of the busiest and everyone rushing to get things done and closed out before they go on leave, we often stretch ourselves a little thin. Burning the candle at both ends while often involving a lot of fun and seeing friends and family it can become detrimental to your health. Both mentally and physically. If you have a regular routine make the time to stick to it, as close to it as possible. We know it’s often hard when you have family and friends around at this time of year however you need to make time for yourself. The time for you to do the things you enjoy is always good for your mental health and for those around you over the busy period. Things like yoga, gym, meditation and the like are always good and you need to keep doing them if they are a regular occurrence in your life. Worst case get out for a walk or run but if you are generally an active person make sure you stay active. Just because things become a little busier doesn’t mean you should cut out the things that make you happy and keep you sane.

  1. Social Media Bleedia…

Limiting the amount of time you spend on social media could have a direct impact on how good you feel this festive season, yes we know we live in a connected world but let’s be honest, generally people only post the good times in there lives. There are studies that point to the fact that looking at other peoples lives via “The Socials” we often get the feeling of missing out and in some cases start to question our own lives. Yes FOMO is a real thing ladies and gentlemen. The holidays, the gender reveals, the babies, family times, the body image and catch ups with good friends. It can and often does have an impact on people’s mental health looking at all of the images and posts of people who seem to be happy and have no issues in their lives. They do but as humans we can now hide behind the mask of social media. From time to time we can often get paid to have our every movement and soft core porn grace the screens and devices of people around the world. It’s yet another thing in our lives that allows us to not have to deal with our own issues.

  1. The Thirst…

Whilst we all love a couple of tinnies or glasses of vino over the festive period we are advocates of everything in moderation. No matter what your choice of poison, drink responsibly. That includes mum’s glazed ham that smells so delicious out in the kitchen. Or the kilo of prawns sitting in the fridge waiting for you to peel. Eat with your belly not with your eyes, over indulgence throughout the festive period whether it be food or alcohol can often lead to heightening of our mental health issues and just poor health in general. Everything in moderation as they say and just because it’s there in front of you doesn’t mean you have to have it. As you all know, alcohol is a depressant and when you are already feeling a little under the weather due to the time of year, adding fuel to the fire isn’t always the best idea, particularly when you have to deal with everything. So whilst we aren’t saying don’t have a good time we are saying maybe have a couple less this year and see if it helps improve things.

  1. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly…

They say to focus on the positives but when your brain is playing tricks on you and spinning at a million miles an hour trying to process and question everything it’s often hard to do. You hear of people talking about gratitude and ensuring you know what you are grateful for in your life. It’s especially important during the festive period to try and focus on the good in your life. The people you want to spend time with, the people you want to waste your time on. As you know time is precious and we should be spending it on the people we want to waste our time and energy on along with doing the things that make us happy. Again if there is something you want to do, make sure you do it, or communicate that you want to do it. Throughout the period the more you talk the more you will achieve and the more you will be at peace within yourself.

So the moral of our survival edition is basically this or the Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF) during this festive period, communication will solve a lot of your issues and as selfish as it sounds you need to look after you first and foremost. That’s the crux of it ladies and gentlemen. By doing this you could actually be helping those around you and you’ll find you’ll enjoy the period a lot more. You’ll be less anxious, less stressed and will be able to combat those mental health issues that tend to flare for a lot of people this time of year. Whilst we all have to compromise from time to time the more we talk about it the easier things are on everyone. Lastly a reminder that it’s OK to ask for help or to say that you are not OK. It’s generally at this time of year that people need help or are struggling a little and that conversation and asking them if they are OK can go a long, long way.

And so we leave you for another week and this time we can wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!! This isn’t the last you’ll hear from us for the year, we still have a year in review to write for you and there is always a Christmas party story or something political that could no doubt rear its head within the next couple of weeks. After all we are waiting got Trumpasaurus Rex to be impeached. But for now it’s a good night or day depending where you are and as we said a Merry Christmas to you all! Felice Navidad…

You’ve Got The Touch…

Who would have thought that a sentence containing the following four words would lead to this week’s blog – “Is that a euphemism?” and the man you can thank for the distasteful topic is none other than the man affectionately known to his mates as Captain Google, because yes Google tells him everything and also runs his family for him. We often hear him responding to his wife with “Ok Google”. Yeah technology has taken over his life and well we are surprised he didn’t have to Google a topic for this week. It’s an interesting one that will fill our search engine with images we can never unsee. We also hope our parents aren’t reading this weeks blog. Mum and Dad if you are reading stop now please for your sake… Yeah ok disclaimer time…

Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to the disclaimer, that’s right the disclaimer, this Australian meat pie institution known as parental discretion will cleanse any sense of innuendo or sarcasm from this blog that might actually make you think and will also insult your intelligence at the same time. So protect your family. This blog contains explicit depictions of things which are real. These things are commonly known as life. SO if it sounds sarcastic, don’t take it seriously. If it sounds dangerous, Do not try it at home or at all. And if it offends you, just don’t read it. With the disclaimer now lodged we’ll get started with this weeks A Mind of Its Own and get you all thinking and conversing around the water cooler. Oh and seriously if you are easily offended or not squeamish when it comes to taboo topics stop reading now…

We’ve all done it or at least tried it once and anyone that tells you they haven’t or don’t do it needs a good punch in the junk to get things started. We don’t condone violence but we also don’t appreciate lying about something that is completely natural and yet is still frowned upon and seen in some eyes as immoral. Yes we are talking about masturbating, about flicking the bean or hand to gland combat, call it what you want there are a lot of names for it, some of which had us in stitches for several hours as we tapped out this topic. A topic which is still seen as taboo across many cultures and religions. But why? We live in a world where we literally have everything in the palm of our hands, yeah pun intended there but you know how much we love to reference the internet and mobile devices. Well it (the internet) has given us all the information and porn we need to understand masturbation and all that it entails as well as getting the arousal levels to skyrocket.

Solo sex, Self Partnering (Emma Watson this is what self partnering is champion, rubbing yourself raw, not dating yourself however you do that you weirdo) or whatever you like to call it, is a topic that is rarely discussed in a group settings. We get though its awkward and usually something you do with the lights off in the darkest of rooms so no one can see. But how many times have you been out to dinner with friends or at a BBQ sitting around talking and gone through every single topic including sex, it’s positions and other weird stuff? Chances are you’ve been involved in one of these conversations and if you haven’t been it’ll happen at some point in your life, you aren’t really missing out. It’s only recently that we’ve sat back and thought why don’t people discuss masturbation? They are happy to discuss sexual positions and ensuring their sex life isn’t plain old vanilla but you never hear about their self love or solo sex. Is it embarrassing to discuss with your friends that you touch yourself or is it still seen as wrong to be touching yourself in order to gains some sexual release? We know that doing it in public is an actual criminal act if you are caught and we don’t condone it ladies and gentlemen, save that shit for at home.

Perhaps religion is somewhat to blame for the worlds views on masturbation? Throughout time religious groups have condemned masturbation. Why you ask? Well, aside from it being an affront to god almighty who in our eyes is a bit of a voyeur sitting up there watching all of us get our rocks off. It is seen as a lack of self control and the gateway to promiscuity. Cause touching yourself is an automatic button to go and shag anything with two legs and a heartbeat (facepalm). Some religious doctrine goes as far as stating that masturbation constitutes a moral disorder. Looks like we are going to hell and taking a lot of wankers with us. So while masturbation for both men and women might be frowned upon by religion it exists and if god or gods didn’t want us to masturbate they wouldn’t have invented it right? He, she or they wouldn’t have provided us with sexual organs that make us feel good when stimulated. We get that we use them to procreate however they could have made it feel like nothing or worse be painful but instead they made it pleasurable and desirable to want to touch yourself and others.

Self pleasure has been frowned upon by society though for just as long as religious views. It has long been a school of thought that your partner was to provide you all the pleasure that is often derived from masturbating. In the 1950’s research conducted by Alfred Kinsey found that 92 percent of males reported choking the chicken while roughly 62 percent of women admitted to strumming the clitar. “It is common to meet women who do not masturbate but a rarity to meet a male who doesn’t” claims sex therapist Matty Silver. Apparently this is easy to explain through the introduction of puberty. When males hit 12 or 13 we start getting erections (like masturbating we found so much slang for an erection or getting wood) Imagine if your last name was Wood and you called your sons Max or Jack Wood the amount of boner jokes those kids would cop is unquantifiable. Females however do not get boners and before magazines like Dolly and Cosmopolitans a lot of young girls may never have heard the words masturbation or orgasm. So apparently it’s not easy for women to learn to masturbate and have orgasms. It also becomes harder when they believe that it is the job of their partner.

While there are plenty of people out there that believe there is no need for masturbation whether you are in a relationship or flying solo. Without self stimulation how do you discover your body and become aware of what you like? The more you know about yourself and your body the easier it is to communicate those wants and desires to your partner allowing for more pleasurable, enjoyable experiences together. It’s probably the one time we feel safe talking about masturbation when we are getting someone else to stimulate us but why does it have to be that way. Like sex it is a natural thing, we won’t say beautiful but in some people’s eyes it may be. The team here however do not see it as a beautiful thing but more a necessary and pleasurable thing that is good for people. Yep we are condoning masturbation, in the privacy of your own homes though people!

On top of the pleasure, there are actual benefits to the body which have been highlighted throughout history. Look at Hysteria as an example, it was often treated by sending women to the doctors who would get them off as cure to hysteria. It also led to the invention of the vibrator to relieve doctors whose fingers were frequently cramping from treating female patients with Hysteria. Afterwards it would become a popular household appliance to help women get off on their own. Although taboo it would still happen. Apparently Victorian era women weren’t supposed to be able to feel sexual desire, so hysteria became a disease completely removed from sex. If a woman desired her clitoris to be stimulated, she was clearly sick with hysteria or so the theory went. The cure of course was to stimulate the clitoris until she no longer wanted to be stimulated.

There is some good news it turns out although our recommendations popping up on Google have taken an interesting and scary turn after researching masturbation, there are health benefits to making the bald man cry or doing the three knuckle shuffle if you are female. Benefits include but are not limited to:

  1. Sexual Arousal and orgasm… Apparently they produce Oxytocin.
  2. Oxytocin is the body’s most potent, natural pain modifier, not just for labor and delivery, but also for many types of chronic pain. Get touching we say!
  3. If it releases Oxytocin that means masturbating is good for reducing headaches, muscle aches, pains and insomnia.
  4. It relaxes and relieves tension. Had a stressful day at work whack one out.
  5. It may help fight off depression. During sex and masturbation endorphins are released which can improve your mood.
  6. If you are on your own and your tinder game isn’t strong it gives you the sexual release you need.
  7. Ahh apparently it can improve your immune system and contribute to your overall health. There will be more research conducted into this we promise.
  8. Research has shown men that flog the log regularly, we call them wankers are at less risk of developing prostate cancer (But still get checked fellas!)
  9. Instead of having to take a pill to stop your fella from going early, masturbation helps in combating premature ejaculation. Through training yourself to last longer solo, you’ll last longer with your partner supposedly.
  10. For the ladies, masturbation allows you to explore your body better, you’ll end up knowing exactly what you like when you are have sex with a partner. This will benefit you both.
  11. Sex and masturbation increase the flow of testosterone in the body, which helps in the transportation of the hormone DHEA, which is important for the immune system. The extra testosterone also strengthens bones and muscles.

Ok we’ll leave it at 11 key points just to be weirdos, but that’s just highlighting some of the health benefits. It has got us looking at the office policy for self pleasure. Could it be considered as part of ‘Self Care’? We are kidding, its highly inappropriate but it did get you all thinking about it for a couple of seconds didn’t it. With Google throwing up more and more suggestions for us we did come across a couple of articles about items that can help you out with your masturbation. From smart cock rings that claim to track the exercise of your man bits as well as detect chlamydia and syphilis to kGoal smart kegeling to strengthen a woman’s pelvic floor there’s a smart device for all your masturbatory needs. They are all mobile app enabled with a multitude of settings that’ll help you explore your sexual bits like never before.

For those who live in smart homes there are even devices that connect to your Google, Alexa and various other smart home devices. “Ok Google, whack me off” may just start to become a phrase uttered around homes across the globe. There are even hands free devices for men now, women have had them for awhile but now men can bring new meaning to “Look Ma, no hands” as they cop up to 180 strokes per minute from there dishwasher safe pocket vagina. It was only a matter of time before the sex industry came a knocking on the door of Silicon Valley to help them out with the latest and greatest. From robots to vibrators there isn’t a toy that can’t be tech integrated. Even the old spanking paddle has got an upgrade and some built in sensors to measure pain levels and responses based on your voice to ensure you get the right amount of force each every time for your basic S&M needs.

It’s safe to say that this week’s blog has been interesting, we’ve covered off a topic that is still taboo to talk about in social circles, depending on your friendship group. We’ve learnt that masturbating is actually good for you and that you can now basically get any sex toy in a waterproof, usb chargeable, smart device enabled model. Whether you touch yourself or not it’s not a topic that should be shamed, masturbation is completely natural and ok we’ll say it can be a beautiful thing as you explore your body and get to know yourself and what works for you. The gods will always be perves but it’s not a gateway to promiscuity or hell it’s about knowing yourself and what gets you off. Maybe if more people were open and honest about what works for them, there would be less infidelity and less divorce but at the end of the day it comes down to communicating what you want, when you want and sometimes how you want. There is nothing wrong with being a wanker ladies and gents hahahaha

So without further adieu we’ll bid you a fond farewell for another week on what has been yet another first here at A Mind of Its Own. We hope we haven’t offended too many people. After all is just masturbation. And I touch myself is a great song. We are sorry though to any parents reading this and having to deal with crusty socks or towels just remember you do it or did it and everything is washable. If it’s not washable, burn it or bury it deep within the earth. Let’s change the conversation and rid the world of another stigma, it’s ok to masturbate and it’s ok to talk about it. Just so you are all aware someone is already on the bandwagon and May is masturbation month with the 28th of May being international Masturbation day. Well that will just about do it from the sickos here at A Mind of Its Own. Go forth and be healthy, self love is often the best love. Go on now go and rub one out…

We Don’t Go In There…

A big shout out to the man affectionately known to his close friends as Bezos Junior, BJs or the Library Monitor for his suggestion for this weeks blog, ok well it wasn’t really a suggestion it was an article he forwarded to one of the team that sparked this weeks deep dive into the mysteries of the land down under and blew into a global scandal that was bigger the latest Kardashian Cheating affair. Speaking of mysteries does anyone know where to find decent ribs in the nation’s capital? There doesn’t seem to be a cinders chance in snow of finding some good ribs. Burgers yes, ribs, no and the cave men that write this blog need meat pronto. Anyway before we start dribbling too much rubbish we’ll get into this weeks A Mind Of Its Own…

The Moon Landing, Elvis, Area 51, JFK, Flat Earth, the CIA and even Australia, yes Australia the proud land in which A Mind of Its Own was born and raised is a geographic conspiracy theory and yet here we sit in the nation’s capital typing out the latest installment for you in a country that supposedly doesn’t exist according to theorists around the globe. Does that mean we aren’t alive and are an artificial intelligence gathering and growing datasets day by day or are we alive and we are all just plugged into the matrix? Did we swallow the blue pill or the red pill? So many questions and so many answers, most of which could be and are no doubt wrong but hey who are we to say what’s right and wrong, what’s real and what’s not? It’s a conundrum in itself ladies and gentleman.

Conspiracy theories, cover ups, scandals, myths and legends have existed for centuries, the rise of the internet (probably some conspiracy itself) however has led to the expansion of these ideas and the freedom for people with half a brain or no brain to post whatever they like, whenever they like. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, opinions are like arseholes everyone has one. The internet however has given everyone with access, a soapbox on which to stand, allowing them to voice their thoughts and ideas to the world. It’s also allowed us to question the sanity of world leaders, self diagnose diseases and communicate with people we’ve never met before. As we read an article sent to us by the aforementioned Knox school for the rich kids Library Monitor, it got us thinking about all the crackpot ideas people had come up with over the years and why. The cover ups and scandals, the conspiracies, the myths and legends.

Where would one start? Well for the team we thought it was best to start in our own backyard and do a little digging to see what skeletons could be uncovered. What better place to start than the nation’s capital right, if there were any bodies buried, the answers would surely be here. After all, the people that are covering up things work here and flock here like seagulls to a chip when parliament is sitting. From the city with the giant penis (owl) statue, the lake that has it’s own fountain, the place made famous by its rules that contradict the rest of the nation, we bring you, weed, porn, fireworks and prostitution scandals. Wait someone has just pointed out that’s a typical week in parliament. We bring you Australia’s greatest hidden truths aka the Australian Conspiracy and cover up files. This is clearly the first edition and will need further additions to live up to that title. It’s a little like the Tim talks podcasts that never got off the ground.

In this edition of A Mind of Its Own we are going into the bowels of Parliament House to lift the lid on one of Australia’s greatest mysteries. As it turns out we weren’t really involved at all but it was an interesting topic to research. From our own version of Area 51 to the Bass Strait triangle, the occult design of Canberra, the city we currently live in and the disappearance of a beloved prime minister we aren’t short of a conspiracy or two. Nor are we short of a cover up or scandal as we said earlier, it’s a typical week in parliament when someone is being ousted for using taxpayer dollars to fund a holiday or watch poor young woman twirl around a pole. But there was one cover up that resonated and started getting us thinking. We’ll start with that. The Sandline Affair, what was it and how were we involved as a nation? Read on friends and you’ll soon be delighted with what could be the plot for a multimillion dollar action film starring a lot of white african actors of people like us doing really bad accents.

Sitting just north of mainland Australia is the sovereign nation of Papua New Guinea, many Australian’s know it well due to the Kokoda Track campaign fought in World War two against the Japanese. But for over a decade the island nation fought a civil war between the government and the traditional land owners of Bougainville Island. Like most wars it was fought over land and resources. In this case it was more the resources and destruction of land, when a massive copper deposit was found in the 1960’s. Enter Australian mining giant Rio Tinto or Conzinc Riotinto Australia (CRA) as they were known back then who established a mine on the island. At the time of its establishment the Panguna open cut mine was the largest in the world. CRA registered various traditional landowners but excluded women despite the fact they are seen as traditional custodians of the land in the matrilineal system. That was error number one right there and one that wouldn’t stand in today’s society. It wasn’t until 1972 that production started under the management of Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL). The PNG government at that point in time was a 20% shareholder. Starting to get a picture of where this is headed? Yeah you might be right…

The PNG Independence constitution at the time stated that land ownership was to just below the surface meaning that mineral rights belonged to the state. You can see where the traditional land owners might start to take issue with this given that at the time the mining operations provided 45% of Papua New Guinea’s national export revenue. The Bouganvillians had a very different concept of land seeing it as their lifeblood in political, emotional and social terms. Enter resentment, with substantial payouts going to certain landowner groups and not others you can see why it raised its ugly head. Now there are some of you saying to yourselves, when are they going to get to the good bit? Where’s the action promised earlier in the blog? Hold your horses it’s coming and Australia well we have a bit of a dark part to play in this true story.

With resentment often comes anger and when you aren’t being paid the royalties you were promised and your rivers are being polluted by the tailings for the mine and a belief that the land would never be returned to its natural state it’s only natural that you would become resentful. Heck we’ve been resentful over far less trivial things this year and the only thing that was polluted was our pride. By the late 80’s tensions had spilled over and one disgruntled landowner had had enough. Francis Ona who would later become one of the leaders of Bougainville Republican Army or BRA for short, led sabotage attacks on the mine and by 1989 his band of rebels had forced the mine into shutdown. It was the beginning of what would be a long and bloody civil war. From 1989 to 1998 atrocities were committed in the conflict known by the locals as the “Crisis” there has been no truth telling process or transitional justice. You want the numbers during the civil war it was estimated that over 20,000 people lost their lives. Various accounts of the conflict include reports of massacres, extra judicial killings, torture, mass rapes and disappearances just to name a few.

In mid 1994 Sir Julius Chan became the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, we are still questioning how the man who resorted to military intervention ever became knighted is beyond our understanding, maybe he just liked being called Sir. He started off with the right intentions and tried to resolve the conflict through diplomatic means however he failed to bring the Bougainville leaders Francis Ona, Sam Kauona and Joseph Kabui to the table for peace talks. Enter the Private Military Companies (PMC), by early 1996 the peace talks had faltered, the ceasefire was no longer in effect and Australia was hosting meetings between the PNG government and PMC companies, namely Plaza 107 limited (Which would later incorporate Sandline International), part of the well known Executive Outcomes network. Also present in the meeting were representatives from Branch Energy. Now depending who you believe they are a subsidiary of Plaza 107 Limited. As the picture started to build and the more we dug we realised that as a nation we could have stepped in a lot sooner than we did to help create peace for our neighbours to the north. Instead we let them use sunny Cairns to host meetings between their new Private Military Contractor mates and heads of defence.

Over the next year there would be several more meetings between the now newly minted private military company, Sandline International under the direction of Tim Spicer, Prime Minister Chan and the PNG Defence minister. Yeah Cairns played host to several of them and the city that Juan Anotonio Samaranch so famously called out all those years ago to host the 2000 Olympic games also hosted a meeting or two. By Early January 2007 a proposal had been tabled and contracts changed hands. The proposal would detail how to end the entire conflict and reopen the mine but there would be one small hiccup that would rock the proverbial boat and put a stop to use of Mercenaries alongside Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) personnel. There were plans to use Russian attack helicopters supplied by Sandline International to straffe the island and destroy the Bougainville (BRA) leadership. Ok destroy is an understatement they wanted to wipe them off the face of the earth. But the plan outlined the death of men, women and children, anyone within rebel held parts of the island would be wiped out.

Sandline International under the contract signed by the Papua New Guinea Government, would provide Special Forces Training, and basically an army of highly trained soldiers as well as equipment, tactics and planning to aid the PNGDF to retake Bougainville, the contract would include the following: 42 Mercenaries (including 2 doctors) (Mainly British, South African and Australian) all former special forces soldiers subcontracted from Executive Outcomes, 2 Mi-17 Transport Helicopters, 2 Mi-24 Attack Helicopters, 100 AK-47 Assault rifles, 20 Makarov Pistols, 10 Rocket Propelled Grenade launchers plus 1000 rockets, 10 PKM Machine guns with 125,000 rounds, 800 grenades, mortar rounds, clips, ammunition for rifles totaling 750,000 rounds, crews and maintenance for the helicopters, uniforms including boots and webbing, night vision goggles and various other piece of military equipment all for the low price tag of US $36,000,000 back in 1997 or todays price tag of $57,590,803.74 (For those of you doing the conversion rates at home that’s $83,690,955.99 AUD).

Half of the fee was to be paid upfront and the other half on completion of their assignment (Rid Bougainville of it’s rebellious leadership and reopen the mine), this is of course after Sandline International had already been paid $250,000 US to outline in detail Project Contravene and what it would involve to Prime Minister Chan and his Deputy months earlier before the contract was signed. The outline contained very little to no analysis of what was actually happening on the ground and rather focussed on assumptions of interference from foreign interests (Australia and New Zealand) to keep the PNG economy from flourishing by refusing to offer aid and supporting the Bougainville Republican Army (BRA) by letting them have an office in an Australian City, again the city is Sydney (Said in a spanish accent, thanks Juan). The same country who was hosting meetings between a Private Military Company and the PNG Government. Yeah that was some good sales pitch by Sandline International playing on all the things that were of concern to the current government leading into an election.

The Sandline mercenaries were tasked to “get the criminals,” by which the mercenaries assumed the rebel leaders on Bougainville. Sandline’s plan was to use helicopters to support and ferry an operational force of contract soldiers to do battle where they would defeat the BRA and force a negotiated settlement. In addition to armed force, the tactics used by the Sandline involved manipulating the media and using psychological warfare on the people of central and south Bougainville. This instigated fear in Bougainville and PNG as a whole. The Sandline deal met opposition from Port Moresby Governor Bill Skate, who described it as “a crazy plan” because it reflected a failure on the part of the PNG government to address the crisis and issues of landowner grievance and environmental damage.

By February 1997 Sandline Mercenaries were landing in PNG in preparation while Australia’s Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer (You all remember him right?) lands at the same airport during the unloading of the Antonov aircraft carrying weapons but doesn’t question the military buildup until he is told of the use of Mercenaries to aid in retaking Bougainville. Prime Minister “Caterpillar Brows” Howard gives Chen a call only to be told that Australia needs butt out and mind it’s own business. Ok so by now you are asking yourselves what was Australia’s involvement in all of this and was there any mystery at all? Or are the team just digging through the rubbish (Segway here) for a blog piece? Well our involvement was limited right up until the time the Weekend Australian published a cover story by Mary-Louise O’Callaghan on the engagement of mercenaries to ‘blast’ Bougainville rebel leadership and the presence of some Sandline personnel in PNG (Wewak to be specific).

Sparkling international support and debate along with the leaking of several documents led to 10 days of civil unrest around PNG that almost resulted in an all out civil war. Between the rioting in the capital and the calls for Chen and his government to resign, the Sandline Mercenaries were rounded up and put on a plane under the surveillance and security of PNGDF personnel and sent home, all except for Tim Spicer who was arrested and would provide evidence in a Royal Commission over the use of Sandline and the signing of contracts by the National Emergency Council (NEC). Australia’s involvement comes in March of 2007 where we as a nation agree at the request of the PNG Government for an aircraft carrying weapons supplied under the Sandline contract to land and for the weapons to be stored by the Australian Defence Force.

Remember those Attack helicopters? Yeah they sat at RAAF Tindal just deteriorating for 20 years before the Department of Defence ordered them to be disposed of. Loaded up in a couple of shipping containers they were shipped off to the Darwin tip and buried in the hazardous waste section in the hopes of never being seen again. At the time that Australia took custody of the helicopters and weapons there was an ongoing dispute between Sandline International and the PNG Government. The dispute lasted for over a decade and left us (Australia) with little choice but to hold onto the helicopters? Here’s where the mystery kicks in!

What happened to the 100 assault rifles, 20 makarov pistols, RPGs and all the ammunition that was on the plane along with the helicopters that had been forced to land in the top end when Australia took custody of the weaponry. We know the final chapter of the Russian made helicopters now continuing to rot in a Darwin dump due to the use of asbestos in their construct but what happened to all the weapons? Where did they end up? We know the PNG defense forces doesn’t use AK-47s and they certainly don’t use PKMs so where did the long laundry list of equipment sent over specifically for the Mercenary force disappear to? We know if made it to Australia in the back of a large Antonov cargo plane. From their it’s a mystery and one that we feel we’ll continue to dig into over the next couple of weeks. A few news stories hinted at the possible use of Russian military rifles in gang wars and crimes throughout the nation. Could these be the Sandline weapons?

The entire duration of the “Crisis” was filled with one scandal after another, the Sandline Affair itself was layer upon layer of scandal between the government of PNG and Sandline. The way the contract was approved, the way they were paid and the use of the contractors are scandals in themeselves. The fact that after all this time former Prime Minister Chen is still backing his play to use a government funded PMC to resolve the conflict is a scandal. The man clearly not once thought of the landowners and their frustrations. The mine had kicked this all off and the government had done the wrong thing whether it be through greed or through some stupid government policy. The situation was something that could have been handled so much better had man not followed his usual instincts.

With enough controversy surrounding the company and links to Executive Outcomes, Sandline International would fold overtime but not before being linked to a couple more international scandals. The people of Bougainville head to the poles this month to vote on their independence as part of an agreement that was made more than 20 years ago during the peace process to end the bloody 10 years conflict on Bougainville. The Sandline Affair marked a period of uncertainty and instability in the history of PNG with the government wanting to use military action instead of hearing and actioning the issues from the landowners on Bougainville. We’ll provide you an update on the vote and any issues that may arise causing yet another crisis with Australia’s closest northern neighbour.

From the team here we wish you a happy weekend and look forward to reading through the suggestions for next week’s blog. Thank you once again to the man we know as the Library Monitor for this week’s blog idea and the endless sleepless nights of research that we actually enjoyed. We could have written so much more on The Sandline Affair, it was truly an international scandal that could have resulted in an all out civil war across PNG. Thankfully a journalist and PNGDF general decided to blow the whistle. Pressure from the international community was enough to force a change in government and bring about a peaceful resolution, there were still over 10 years of fighting and 20,000 people lost their lives and we have missing weapons that were at last count in our custody…

So until next week we bid you a fond farewell and look forward to gracing your screens with more mind numbing blogs on things that tend to come out of nowhere at us. If you are interested in hearing more or going into more depth around the Sandline Affair please contact us and we’ll provide you with useful links and documentation providing a more indepth look at PNG and the history of the Bougainville crisis, Sandline Affair and Project Contravene. Adios amigos…