This may sound weird but our youngest boy is currently ‘earning a turtle’ by feeding the dog. It’s my way of ensuring that due responsibility is taken for this potential new pet, which I have a sneaking suspicion will end up being an extraordinary amount of work for something the size of a fifty cent piece.
Technically speaking, it will be a terrapin. This is largely because the request was for a baby turtle and we figured this was a good approximation. When I said a terrapin is like a tiny turtle, the next request was for a boy and a girl terrapin so we could have ‘even babier ones’.
Yes, it sounds cute until you factor in the tank, the light, heater, rocks, plants, bedside tables, office chairs and whatever else smart petshop marketers have dreamed up for the efficient, satisfied and high-performing amphibian.
My husband is the resident wealth of curious information in our household and has long bemoaned the fact that turtles are designed with weaponry custom-built to inflict painful and fatal damage. It is not the gore factor or death design that concerns him, after all the platypus has a similarly nasty spur. No, it’s the fact that the killing equipment of the turtle is not to defend against predators or to hunt prey, it is tailor-made for killing other turtles.
Although the Gospel of Google tells me this is known as intraspecific competition, the turtle is simply our friendly family metaphor for the unnecessary carnage people inflict on each other when they fail to see eye to eye.
There are not many more frustrating experiences than arguing with someone who refuses to see another viewpoint. I find this is particularly common over Christmas dinner and, in this context, it’s almost as acceptable as silly jokes and repeating old stories.
But refusing to accept that everyone looks through a different set of eyes in a broader social context, particularly in the workplace or the community space, can create a vicious vibe.
Earlier this week, I was riveted to an hour long Twitter discussion between four well-known, well-educated feminists about intersectionality. With no prior knowledge of this topic, I was learning at warp speed reading the rapid fire messages, noting moments of misunderstanding and miscommunication in the unforgiving Twittersphere. To say it was harsh is an understatement.
On Monday afternoon I attended the local government electoral review public forum in Geelong West out of curiosity. As with the majority of consultative attempts it started on a Monday afternoon and the turnout was minimal. I had happened across the advertisement in Saturday’s paper and was interested in the topic, given my recent experience with election processes.
Notably, the audience comprised what is probably known colloquially as the vocal minority and a number of councillors. Roughly a dozen submissions were heard with fairness and discussed with obvious interest by the chair, Petro Giorgiou, and two other expert panel members. Aside from a couple of inappropriate interjections and more than a few dirty looks, peace was maintained.
But it was clear that not all is well in our fair city. While the terms of reference for the forum were ostensibly limited, they were also ambiguous enough to allow for discussions to wander off track until directed back to relevance with gentle dexterity by the chair.
The sparks flew on a couple of topical points, namely the Council Community Priorities Funding and the responsibility of councillors to hold the CEO and council officers accountable for delivering results.
It is obvious that at least a few councillors are furious at the accusation of a ‘slush fund’ to describe what they see as a budget mechanism to ensure their ward communities get the infrastructure they want. It is equally apparent that community members are outraged at the lack of accountability around the system, assuming that lack of transparency means dodgy behaviour.
Both viewpoints are passionately held and both are valid. The process that has been brought to the blinding light of public scrutiny by the Geelong Advertiser unquestionably needs reviewing. People have every right to see how the rates are spent and community groups that are dependent on funding need visibility of the ‘money-go-round’, even if they are not eligible.
Equally, councillors who work hard for their wards deserve appreciation not mistrust.
Walking in each set of shoes that attended the meeting, it is undeniable that everyone has a point. The greatest irony is that while the angst is evident, everyone is there for the betterment of Geelong.
So there is no need for huffing puffing, shouting and table thumping. It’s time to plan how to make next year’s budgeting process transparent.
We are not turtles after all.