Political Correctness: It’s getting ridiculous already, and the London 2012 Olympic games are another perfect example. The latest trivial outrage comes in light of a tweet posted by Greek triple-jump champion Voula Papachristou who commented on her personal Twitter account that “with so many Africans in Greece, at least the West Nile mosquitos will be eating food from their own home.” Kind of a stupid comment if you ask me, simply because it’s just not that LMFAO. But whatever. I think the point is clear that she was trying to make a funny. Unfortunately the Olympic Committee didn’t get the joke. Instead they saw it as blatant racism and have announced that Papachristou will not be travelling to London and will not be competing in the Olympic games because her statement was “contrary to the values and ideas of the Olympic movement.” For real???
And it’s not just Papachristou. Living in Melbourne I’ve heard nothing but news of complaints from the Australian Olympic team, many members of which have been up in arms about the questionable political correctness of this year’s games. For starters, Australian Olympic shooter Russell Mark is furious that he will not be allowed to room with his wife, fellow shooter Lauryn Mark and feels he is being discriminated against.
“The stupid part of this, which I have argued to them, is that there are tons of gay couples on the Olympic team who will be rooming together, so we are being discriminated against because we are heterosexual… I am very frustrated because in sport there are a lot of same sex couples and its OK to be partners with someone of the same sex but if you are heterosexual you are penalised,” said Mark. Boo fucking hoo.
Oh, and then there’s Aussie track athlete John Steffensen who threatened to boycott the games after accusing Athletics Australia of racism because he was not selected to indvidually run the 400 metres. Steffensen is of Aboriginal descent and claims he’s been “racially vilified by this federation, being discriminated against on many teams … you know it would help if I was a different color.” (Cue sad violin music).
Last but most certainly not the weakest, enter the sexism complaints. Beach volleyball pro Natalie Cook has threatened to boycott the 2012 games if a woman is not chosen to carry the Australian flag in the opening ceremony in London.
“It’s a no-brainer. If it’s a male who carries the flag I will sit in protest,” Said Cook.
There was also outcry at the fact that the Australian women’s basketball team flew economy class to London while the men’s basketball team flew business class. Basketball Australia acting chief executive Scott Derwin responded by explaining that both teams had an equal budget and chose how to spend it. The women chose to fly economy and saved their money for other things. No one associated with Basketball Australia seems to care about this apparent discrimination, but of course the public is outraged yet again.
I could go on and on, but to talk about this anymore would just give it more merit than it deserves. The point is that this is all just petty bullshit. There are wars being fought, shooting rampages being carried out by a gun-crazy nation, people starving, dying and drowning in debt and this is what’s making news? Can’t we find anything better to to fill the headlines? I say it’s high time we dry our eyes and get over it already. The Olympics aren’t about discrimination. It doesn’t matter whether the athletes are black, white, male, female, gay or straight. What matters is whether they’re black, blue, red, green or yellow, and most importantly whether they’re worth their weight in gold.
The idea of travelling to cleanse the soul may have gained momentum with the masses when Eat, Pray, Love hit bookshelves and cinemas worldwide, but travel as a form of therapy has always been one of the best reasons to hit the road. Here’s why:
1. You can reinvent yourself a million times over
When we’re stuck in the rut of daily life, it’s easy to lose ourselves in the humdrum of the same ol’. The alarm goes off, you shower, eat breakfast, go to work, come home from work, eat dinner, watch TV, brush your teeth, go to bed, alarm goes off, repeat. Boring! It’s no wonder so many of us have fallen into bad health, depression and the feeling that there’s something missing from our lives. Getting out and about in the world can be really refreshing. Not only does it break up the monotony of the everyday, it forces you to see how other people and cultures live, and you may just see a reflection of yourself. More often than not, the lifestyle we get stuck in is not conducive to who we are as a person. We do what we need to do to get by. We conform to social norms. We suppress that nagging voice inside each of us that urges us to quit our jobs and leave everything behind to pursue our true calling, whatever that may be. Essentially, we smother our true selves in order to maintain the status quo, because let’s face it, it’s easier that way. Abandoning security and disrupting the routine can be scary, but for those who are brave enough to conquer this fear, the rewards can be plentiful. Each journey teaches you things about yourself you either forgot or never knew. You might learn that you are more independent than you thought, you might come across a style or a way of life that suits you better than your current one, or maybe you’ll pick up a trade, art, skill or language that can open up new doors to becoming the person you really want to be. Whatever your destiny, if you’re not fulfilling it at home, maybe it’s time to broaden your horizons. So get out there whenever you have the opportunity and come back as a whole new you.
2. You learn to count your blessings
While travel can help you find what’s missing from your life, it’s just as good at helping you to realize what you already have. There’s nothing like some time spent travelling around less fortunate parts of the world to show us how good we’ve got it back home. Not only are creature comforts sometimes scarce on the road, in some places it’s a privilege just to afford a hot shower or even running water. Not to mention when you travel to places where food is a luxury, you can’t help but feel blessed to live where you do. For us privileged westerners, it is too easy to overlook all of the good we have because we’re too focused on having more. We want more things, more money, more popularity…it is never enough just to be content with what we already have. The media tells us so, and we all know how that story goes. So the next time you find yourself complaining because you can’t afford that 5 star hotel in the Bahamas, maybe swap your lavish holiday for some volunteer work in Haiti. You’ll soon learn that what you were able to afford was a much richer experience than a luxury vacation could ever provide.
3. You learn to smile just because
Just as travelling teaches us to be grateful for what we have, it also shows us that what we have is worth smiling about. We are constantly bombarded with messages telling us we need more material things, more expensive things and more things we don’t actually need to make us happy. In turn we are constantly working to afford all of these things, only to find ourselves still hungry for more stuff that never seems to deliver the happiness that it promises. I hate to be theone to break the news, but if you didn’t already know, happiness doesn’t come from a box or a bag; it doesn’t come in plastic or with a price tag. Happiness is not something we have to earn or buy, it is a state of mind, and there’s no better way to tap into this state of mind than to get off of your designer couch and step into a land where nobody has a dime to their name, and everybody’s smiling. Contrary to what we’ve been taught about the connection between happiness and monetary wealth, some of the poorest places are also some of the cheeriest. The reason for this is two-fold: Groups of people who a) live in collective poverty and b) live in a place that is not yet saturated with commercialism tend to be more joyful overall because they focus on achieving a type of happiness that is actually attainable. Instead of trying to find happiness in a department store, they find it in spending time with their loved ones, feasting and celebrating, dancing and playing music, practicing faith and enjoying good health. They know that any one of these priceless blessings is reason enough to smile. Getting away from the material world and meeting people like this can be just the affirmation you need to remind you that it’s okay to smile. Just because you have a Blackberry and you want an iPhone doesn’t mean your life will not be complete until you have one. Think of what you’d be willing to lose in a fire if losing every material thing you own meant saving your entire family. Put your reasons for happiness in perspective and smile like the locals.
4. It is a humbling experience
There’s nothing like standing next to a mountain or under a blanket of stars to remind us how insignificant we really are. Without enough of this stimulation though, it’s very easy to find yourself at the centre of your own universe and to forget that there are much grander things in life than you, one tiny human being. It doesn’t help that so many of us live in big cities where buildings block the mountain view and street lights mask the night sky. When the farthest you can see is the corner store, your world becomes smaller, and proportionately your place in it becomes much bigger and more important. But in the grand scheme of our universe, you are but a minute spec, and it helps to be reminded of this. When we are caught up in the rat race, it’s normal to feel like the weight of the world rests on our backs. We have deadlines to make, commitments to fulfill, mouths to feed and bills to pay, and if we don’t keep up with everything all the time then the world is bound to come to a grinding halt and everything will be our fault. The feeling can be very stressful, and sometimes all we need is some time to escape and put ourselves in perspective. Instead of hitting the pub for a weekend of binge drinking to calm your nerves next time you have a stressful week, get out of the city and escape to some place full of natural beauty. Spend some time camping in the wilderness listening to the sounds of life all around you. Take a mini break to a mountain town to gaze in awe at some of Earth’s oldest and grandest creations. Or hit a secluded beach where you can lay beneath the stars and listen to the sound of waves crashing upon the shore. Surrounding ourselves with some of the simplest natural wonders can remind us that the little things that seem so important in our small worlds are nothing but trivial matters on the larger stage of the universe.
5. It can restore your faith
With all of the wars, bloodshed, poverty, hunger, abuse, oppression and depression in this world, it’s no wonder cynicism is so rampant in our lives. It often feels like this world is going to hell in a sweatshop-made handbag, and it’s easy to lose faith in our purpose here. At times, we find ourselves losing hope that things will ever get better, and why embrace life when the future’s so bleak, right? Well, maybe ask a monk in Nepal or a shaman in Peru. They might tell you that we must have faith not only in good times, but in hard times too. In fact, faith is what keeps entire communities alive sometimes, when they have nothing else to cling to. Faith is the last hope in the darkest hour, and without it, we wouldn’t be where we are today. If you find yourself losing faith in the world, or in your “raison d’être,” take a trip somewhere where faith is the foundation of life. Plan a trip to Southeast Asia and spend some time meditating in a Buddhist temple. Put India on your list and travel to Varanasi where the River Ganges is believed to be so sacred that people bathe in it as well as cremate their deceased among its banks. Head to Istanbul and listen to the sounds of midnight chanting in the holy mosques. Embrace the spirit of a higher power, or just marvel in the resilience and devotion of those who rely on their unwavering belief that where there is a dark tunnel, there must always be a light at the end.
So the next time you find yourself at the end of your rope or just simply in need of some perspective, do yourself some good and take some time out to travel. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to send your shrink a postcard!
Seriously. I know it’s a tough economy and consequently a tough job market out there, but it always baffles (and angers) me when I browse through various job sites only to find employers posting ads like this:
Ditch-digger wanted. Must have completed a Bachelor’s Degree in digging sciences within the last six months. Must also have a minimum of three to five years experience working in the field. Must be available to work a minimum of 40 hours a week and must be flexible as weekend and evening work is often required. Remuneration: Unpaid to start, but opportunity for paid advancement after one year of service. Benefits: None. If interested, please submit a resume along with a cover letter explaining why you are the best person for the job. A minimum of three employer references is required.
This may seem like it’s a stretch, and maybe it is, but only slightly. As a multi-skilled, professional 25-year-old with a degree, a strong work history, a substantial list of references and a wealth of worldly experience, I am always so disappointed to read job posts like this. Employers these days seem to always want something for nothing, and needless to say, it’s less than encouraging to youth trying to break into any given industry.
It seems that it is nearly impossible to get your foot in the door nowadays as you need to have a minimum of at least a year or more of experience to get into most entry-level jobs out there, as well as be willing to work for minimal pay and devote your life to your employer. This poses the obvious question: How do you gain experience in a given industry or position if you need experience just to get an entry-level job?
I was perusing job postings on Craigslist last night as I will be returning home from Australia soon and am interested to know what type of job opportunities might be available upon my return. It’s looking pretty bleak. After all, I only have six months of experience working as an administrative assistant, which disqualifies me for most office jobs. I completed my degree in journalism all the way back in 2010, which makes anything I learned pretty much obsolete at this point. And let’s not forget, my recent experience consists of working as a travel consultant, which seems to mean that due to my experience, this is the only job I will ever be eligible for ever again.
I came across a job posting advertising a position for a “Gap Year Recruiter.” It sparked my interest, so I decided to check into the job description and requirements. Basically, it was for an organization that is in the business of recruiting high school-aged students to apply for various overseas volunteer positions offered by said organization. It called for job applicants who could “spread the word” of the organization by arranging presentations at schools throughout the Vancouver Lower Mainland. It consisted of part-time work between September and March and required applicants to be organized, “people oriented” “self starter[s]” with a “belief in volunteering,” a “knowledge base with the school system,” and highly developed presentation, communication and computer skills. Compensation was “to be agreed” which is usually a sign that the pay is so shit that they don’t want to post it as no potential employees would even apply. Nevertheless, it sounded like the perfect job for me, so I applied.
I attached my resume and wrote a cover letter preaching my burning desire to work for the company, and explaining why I am the perfect candidate. I talked about my education background, my experience volunteering overseas (basically doing exactly what they are recruiting these kids for), as well as my plan to pursue teaching as a career upon my return to Canada along with my wealth of connections in the Greater Vancouver education system, including half-a-dozen family members who work or have worked in the school system. I thought my application was pretty solid considering the requirements listed consisted of skills I possessed when I was in elementary school. But alas, it was not enough.
I received a prompt response from the organization director advising me that while I have an “interesting background,” sadly they are looking for someone with more depth within the local education system. Thanks for your interest, yadda yadda.
I would love to know what “more depth” means. Perhaps they’re looking for educated teachers -who are also having a hard time breaking into their chosen industry- to settle for working a part-time job with no apparent job security that is seemingly suited for an 18-year-old intern.
I may sound biased as clearly this is a position I was after for myself, but after many conversations with peers who possess qualifications ranging from no experience to years of experience, and after a quick Google search on the topic of “expectations for entry-level job applicants,” it is clear that I am not the only one who has come up against this type of job discrimination. Now, don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe that employers have the right to discriminate all they want in pursuit of finding the perfect person for the job, but it seems that the level of experience required for some of the most basic entry-level jobs is completely unreasonable and quite possibly discriminates against many candidates who, if given the chance, could be the perfect fit for the job on offer.
A recently published story on Yahoo News concluded the following about today’s tough job market: “The growing consensus—which won’t surprise frustrated job seekers—is that fickle companies in a surplus labor market are demanding perfect candidates without paying market wages or investing in training. Worse, some discriminate against the unemployed, figuring if they’re not taken, they must be tainted goods.”If this is true, it seems there is no hope for job seekers who a) don’t have enough experience, b) aren’t perfect for the job and c) aren’t already employed, thus defeating the whole purpose of seeking employment.
Likewise, Peter Cappelli, Professor of Management at The Wharton School for business at the Univerity of Pennsylvania and author of “Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It” published an article in the Wall Street Journal last October titled “Why Companies Aren’t Getting the Employees They Need” illustrating the superfluous cycle of needing to have a job in order to get a job in the current market.
“With an abundance of workers to choose from, employers are demanding more of job candidates than ever before. They want prospective workers to be able to fill a role right away, without any training or ramp-up time,” wrote Cappelli. “In other words, to get a job, you have to have that job already. It’s a Catch-22 situation for workers—and it’s hurting companies and the economy.”
On the other hand, many employers as well as career advice websites such as www.careerealism.com claim that unrealistic expectations are the job-seekers’ problem. In his article “8 Sobering Reasons for Youth Unemployment,” John Heckers, President of Heckers Development Group, LTD, a Denver-based corporate consulting firm, lists a myriad of reasons why entry-level job seekers cannot land gainful employment. Among them he cites unrealistic salary and duty expectations, the “B.S. from colleges and training schools” who are “over-inflating the worth of their training so they can charge their obscene and exorbitant tuition” and an attitude of entitlement on behalf of young job-seekers. Okay, this is just as true in many cases. The only thing that irks me more than employers with unreasonable expectations is job-seekers with an over-inflated ego who are unwilling to start at the bottom and work their way up. Beggars can’t be choosers, after all.
The real problem is that there is a surplus of job vacancies needing to be filled, along with a seemingly infinite number of overqualified job-seekers who are willing to lower their expectations, but somehow work is still hard to come by. Staffing company ManpowerGroup reported that 52% of U.S. employers surveyed in 2011 reported difficulty in filling job vacancies because of “talent shortages.” But as Cappelli writes, “some of the complaints about skill shortages boil down to the fact that employers can’t get candidates to accept jobs at the wages offered. That’s an affordability problem, not a skill shortage. A real shortage means not being able to find appropriate candidates at market-clearing wages. We wouldn’t say there is a shortage of diamonds when they are incredibly expensive; we can buy all we want at the prevailing prices.”
There’s no doubt we’re in a tough economy, and I understand that obtaining employment in the current job market is a right, not a privilege, but surely there is a middle ground that will work for both sides. Maybe all we need is a dose of humility laced with reality: Nobody can have everything they want. Compromise is crucial to making a relationship work, and the employer-employee relationship is no different. It’s not neuroscience. Compromise is a life-skill that is usually taught to us at a kindergarten level. It’s just a shame that this “life-skill” appears to be a rule that was made to be broken in the employment industry.
Something to think about…