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Interesting Links for 15-01-2014

Original post on Dreamwidth - there are comment count unavailable comments there.

Wow, Edinburgh residents will just love that. :)

Certainly will! People shouldn't be doing more than 20mph in residential areas!

Cambridge is heading that way; there has been a lot of noise :( but I think we'll get it eventually, on most roads anyway.

I've always thought of any city, Edinburgh seems to be the only one even vaguely interested in pursuing a rational transport strategy.

It's just a shame they dropped the ball so incredibly badly on the tram thing, I think they've lost all credibility forever because of that.

People say things like "lost all credibility forever", and then five years later everyone's forgotten it ever happened.

For a start, the councillors who were in power at the time have now largely been replaced by new ones, the administrators, likewise.

And also, in Dublin they had similar problems, where launch was delayed by over a year, bits of it were descoped, etc. And now it's so successful that they're building more of it.

If the tram is a failure, then the blame will linger for a long while. But if it's successful then everyone will change their mind, claim to have supported it for years, and demand it connect to the bits it was supposed to in the first place.

Personally, I'll be surprised if they aren't building it down to Leith within three years - they've already done the prep-work for that, so it should be a lot cheaper than doing that from scratch.

It always struck me that Leith was the bit that really needed it. Certainly I frequently walked down princes st. got to the end, and thought Leith? Nah, too much hassle.

Would have been brilliant for the businesses down there to have a hop-on hop-off tram.

Exactly - it was supposed to connect Leith to the Gyle, which is one of the busiest bus routes in the city (the 22). Which would spur housebuilding in Leith, make it faster to get to Ocean Terminal, and generally be a good thing.

As soon as they can scrape together the cash they should be doing that. But they'll need the first stretch to be popular first, so I'm crossing my fingers that it will be.

*cough* I *will* have supported it for years :) Possibly the only Edinburgher who does...

And me!

Although I wouldn't have supported a "connect the airport to the center of town and then stop" line. Taking it to Leith was the minimum that made sense. So hopefully they'll get that done soon.

I agree, though in the apparent absence of money it'll have to do for now.

We just have to all ride it LOTS when it's running so they see it's popular and extend it!

I think there is a difference between the current tram offer being successful and it not being successful in that if it is successful what we’ve learnt is that Edinburgh council are no better, perhaps a bit worse, at doing large, bespoke infrastructure projects than anyone else. A sound scheme has cost more and taken longer than we thought. These things happen.

If it doesn’t attract passangers what we’ve learned is that, fundamentally, Edinburgh council have a problem with business cases.

That latter problem strikes me as one I’d be more worried about in the long term and one that affects Edinburgh council’s long term credibility.

Well, the original business case was for a line from Leith to The Airport. We don't have one of those, and unlikely to for a few years, so it's tricky to tell if the business case for that was reasonable.

I think the facts matter less here than the perception.

If no one gets on the tram then it will have been proven to the satisfaction of the Edinburgh citizenry that Edinburgh council can't be trusted to make business decisions.

True. If nobody uses it then the people will blame the council, even if it's an entirely different council to the one that made the original decision.

Three years seems a little optimistic to me but then I’ve spent the morning looking at various medium term forecasts for the UK economy and public sector finances – everything but just jumping off a cliff and ending it all right now looks optimistic when you do that to yourself.

If the trams are a roaring success I can see the council starting to talk about line extensions three years after opening but I think it might be a little later than that.

I think the election cycles kick in as part of the timing of even having the discussions. If I were writing a party manifesto for the 2016 Holyrood elections or the 2017 local elections I’m not sure I’d want to mention trams, even if I was in favour of them and they had been very successful.

So, I think the combination of public finances and political shyness about the issue might push out a second round for a few more years.

Which I think is a shame because a link from Leith to the Gyle is the right thing to do.

That stuff about procrastinating is great. I've gone from being a miserable procrastinator to a happily productive worker by changing to working in a team where everything is planned meticulously and somewhat micro-managed. It might be some people's worst nightmare but it works wonderfully for me, and now I'm committed to the process rather than the goal (another tip I read somewhere), I can happily micro-manage myself with minimal input from my line manager. I still spend a bit of the day 'pratting around on the internet' (as this comment shows) but now I do it as a break to help me refresh for more productivity later in the day, rather than as an avoidance tactic to put off what i should be doing.

It has seriously changed my life. My stress levels are so much lower and my current boss thinks I'm great and can always reply on me to get stuff done in time without a mass panic at the last minute. And I don't work late into the evenings or at weekends anymore.

Feh. I've been gender-obscuring online for a decade or so, and I am running at roughly 60/40 in whether people who don't know me's assumptions about my gender are accurate or not, because it matters to me that outside certain specific and very limited contexts (medical professionals and those of my partners who have a gender preference) it shouldn't matter.

Look at my name: am I male or female?

I originally called myself "Frank Language" on another site because I knew from experience women online were outnumbered by men, and I might as well keep 'em guessing as long as I can.

Some people on LJ have guessed I was a wimpy guy, so I guess it works. (I'm a girl, for those who didn't know.)

I've read another report of that guy with the online dating thing, and both (though this one in particular) were needlessly and stupidly harsh towards him.

It's not a gender thing that 'he can't simply ask women what their online experience is' (as the other article put it). It's a human thing.

Many years ago at uni, I and a bunch of others were relentlessly banging on to the student union and the uni people about better adaptations for wheelchair users. We got some sympathetic noises, and assurances that everything was ok. It wasn't until we did a silly stunt of forcing the union officers and uni committee members to go round for a whole day in a wheelchair that they actually understood that problems we were talking about: there's a lift but it's always full, the toilet has a stack of bar supplies in it, the door at the top of the ramp means you roll back down, another door smacks you in the face, and so on.

Humans are utterly lousy at really understanding what experiences are like for other people, even when they are repeatedly told.

Of course, I am failing to understand how the authors of those articles are failing to understand this principle, in calling them stupid.


It's true though - if your culture is so different to other people's culture then you find it very hard to see the world through their filter.

Humans are utterly lousy at really understanding what experiences are like for other people, even when they are repeatedly told.

I kind of have to take exception at this - I think it's a lot easier for some groups to understand or at least sympathise with other groups' experiences, because they've experienced similar things themselves. I haven't experienced racism, but I damn well believe when other people describe situations in which they have, because I've faced discrimination of other flavours before and I know what people are capable of. I don't need to dress up in blackface and experience it myself to agree that it's a problem and needs to be dealt with.

I mean, you were able to see the problem with the wheelchair accommodation, presumably without having to go through the exercise yourself. It's not that hard to understand what other people go through if you put a modicum of time and effort into understanding, but you have to try. It doesn't happen without effort*.

*the effort of thinking about it, not going through the whole 'pretend I'm X and see how I'm treated' like the article says.

Edited at 2014-01-15 04:59 pm (UTC)

"I think it's a lot easier for some groups to understand or at least sympathise with other groups' experiences, because they've experienced similar things themselves."

Absolutely. But if you've never experienced that kind of thing (and an awful lot of people haven't, because they're in the majority) then it just never occurs to you. Which can make explaining things to them difficult, because they just don't comprehend that people would behave that way.

Edit: Obviously by "majority" I don't mean overall - if you're white and male then you're in one actual majority, and one about-parity. But you're not "in a minority" and you're in a massive group that frequently comes across as being "Everyone. Or at least everyone who matters."

Edited at 2014-01-15 05:25 pm (UTC)

I guess where I find that idea objectionable is when it comes to actually doing stuff about it - too often you hear about these types of stories where people go "wow, I didn't realise it was so bad, I'll definitely be changing my behaviour/trying harder/working to fight the problem now".

I don't want everybody to have to experience all the stuff other people go through in order to try and change it for the better, because a) that would take too long and b) I don't want _anybody_ to have to go through that stuff.

I'm not sure what you mean by "objectionable" here. Either people act in this way/change their beliefs in this way, or they don't. (Obviously there'll be a spectrum of behaviours, but I'm talking about the majority case.) Do you mean that you like/don't like the fact that they do? Or something else?

I completely agree that I don't want everyone to have to experience stuff before they want to improve it. And I don't think they _have_ to. I think that education can do a lot of good (I wouldn't bother sharing a lot of the stuff I do if I didn't think it might help).

I know that, in the past, documentaries and dramas have had a massive effect on people's view of a situation - things like Cathy Come Home - and I'd have thought that we could do with more of that.

If we had more shows about how awful life for poor people is, rather than things like Benefits Street, then we'd probably be doing a good job of getting things over and triggering that sense of empathy in people.

The tricky bit, in my opinion, is portraying it in a way that gets it over to the mass market, without them feeling attacked by it, because that turns people off. That's a really tricky thing to do, and I wish there were (more) people in the mass media who were working on it.

I don't know, I think maybe I have extrapolated too much from the original example; I disliked the insinuation that it's human nature not to empathise with other people unless you're put in the exact same position as them. I agree that education is vital, but in the example above there are plenty of education resources/news articles/etc about the sort of crap women get online and the frustration many people have expressed that this guy couldn't believe it until he went through it himself is justified, I think.

Anyway, I think maybe I've gotten off the point and am arguing at cross-purposes now. I agree that the media seems to gleefully enjoy pitting us against each other more than helping us understand each other, and I'd like to see that stop.

I agree that there's a lot of resources about it. But people don't look at those unless they believe there's a reason to. It's a vicious cycle, whereby people don't believe there's a problem because they've never seen a problem, and they won't go looking for proof of a problem because they've never a reason to believe it exists.

You see similar things throughout history too - including things like factionalism in groups during the 60s (because the anti-racism groups couldn't empathise with the feminist groups, and the class-warfare groups couldn't empathise with either of them).

I think one of the great things that's happened over the last few years is the resurge of feminism that's happened because of the internet. It's been a fairly classic case of this - where society is held up in a great big cycle of false beliefs about minorities, and because there wasn't an easy way for individuals/small groups to connect and mobilise they weren't being successful at breaking that cycle - but connecting them over things like Twitter, and a variety of websites, we've ended up with people who are slowly breaking through that.

It's hard though. And almost certainly going to take a generation or three.

In support of Erin's comment with anecdata, as someone who gets into a shit ton of Facebook arguments, I've noted that straight white able-bodied (etc) guys are demonstrably and repeatedly far worse equipped and far less likely to understand what marginalised groups go through than people who belong firmly in one or more of marginalised group.

I admit that I'm only talking about what I've seen (though the body of evidence is literally everywhere I look), but on the web ANY post about ANY KIND OF privilege tends to immediately be followed by a string of comments from white (etc) guys taking exception to it in some way or decrying it or criticising it. This doesn't just apply to articles or discussions of gender but also, overwhelmingly, the subtler issues of (for example) race, like media representation and cultural appropriation.

Now, my wider circle is predominantly white, but you basically never see the white women piping in refuting these articles with their god-given opinions. I would posit that this is because women Get It (at least, on some level - we can never REALLY Get It, not fully, but we understand that and that helps), because they belong to a marginalised group. The only other explanation is that all the men I know are stupider or more argumentative than the women, which is just a ridiculous concept.

And it isn't just race either. I've seen it with mental health issues, physical disability, (more rarely) sexuality and even issues like class and minority issues relating to creative processes. Every. Single. Time. it's the white (etC) dudes who are piping in saying there's no problem and people should get over themselves, NOT, as you suggest, the 'humans'.

Edited at 2014-01-15 05:09 pm (UTC)

I agree (as upthread, with Erin), that the problem is with a lack of empathy. And I'm not defending that (nor, I think, is Joachim) - just trying to discuss/understand where it comes from - which is, I think, a position of both never having been discriminated against in that kind of way, and (presumably) not consciously discriminating.

Certainly, it took me quite a while, coming as I did from a lovely family, and only ever having been bullied for being _personally_ odd to come to terms with the idea that there was systemic awfulness going on. Because it seemed (and still seems) so barkingly odd that I cannot empathise with it at all.

I seem to remember that of the people in question, one was a black guy, two were women of whom one had been the women's officer the year before, and the college staff member was a woman too.

Well, that's the problem with anecdata, of course; you have no excuse to disregard outliers, consider variables (here, say, the pressure to find reasons not to spend money vs the pressure of being in a discussion on the internet), or argue about sample sizes or data cleanliness.

What I will say is that Andrew has the 'thrust' of Erin's argument a little wrong above. It's not really about empathy - I don't have to empathise with a black person to support their stance. It's about trust. It's about trusting that when a marginalised person reports their lived experiences to you, says "This is something I see every day" they are telling the truth, even if it's not a truth you understand. It's about saying "Okay, I don't see how that can be, but I'm going to trust that you are telling the truth because this is a world I do not see."

Making a metatextual analysis of this comment thread pretty funny :-P

Edited at 2014-01-16 08:42 am (UTC)

My point was precisely about empathy.

The people in my anecdote said to us afterwards that they'd never realized just how bloody hard it was to get from one side of campus to the other. They'd heard about it, but it didn't actually register until there was an element of experience.

So the OKCupid guy probably had heard how awful it was. But the sheer volume and intensity and impact of every damn message only really registered when he actually felt it.

The discussions above about privilege and empathy brought to mind this article I found on Tumblr: Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person... I feel like much of the anger at discussions of privilege is rooted in the disconnect between the power people feel they have in their lives versus what they're told they have.

I just read that as Disney's frozen head is headed for Broadway...

You would not be the only one - I got a very similar response on Twitter!

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