I did walking meditation for the first time this week. In a group, all of us pacing in deliberate, serious-faced slow-mo, it felt like I was back in fourth form interpretive dance. "I am a piece of seaweed."
Our mindfulness classes are held at the Peace Place. There are pictures of the Dalai Lama and a sort of ramshackle social justice decor I really like, a Trade Aid vibe via Frida Kahlo. I was glugging a can of Diet Coke when I arrived this week but hurriedly hid it in my bag. It just seemed like turning up to meet Nelson Mandela in a thong or high-fiving Doris Lessing or something. (Yes, I know they're both dead. It was a metaphor).
Walking meditation was literally putting one foot in front of the other, but still I struggle to do it properly. I've learned meditation is not like stand-up paddleboarding. It is a sloppy kind of alchemy, one that does not demand strenuous self-improvement. It's about noticing what is. Even when "is" happens to be that I'm a crap meditator.
So this week when we are supposed to be sending loving kindness to someone we don't really know, instead I am thinking "So the European regulator fined Google $2.7 billion. Freaking heck. $2.7 BILLION".
I know I should be concentrating on paired words. Inhale. "Let". Exhale. "Go." But all I am thinking is Inhale Mark. Exhale Berry. Mark Berry, Mark Berry. I wonder if he's been anyone's meditation mantra before.
What I'm wondering is if the European regulator can impose this sort of fine, why doesn't our Commerce Commission do anything about the unbridled power of Facebook and Google too? (My ex-therapist warned I'd find meditation "challenging" but I don't think it was because of these anti-trust laws. He thought my "trust issues" were more to do with sugar daddies.)
Meditation is supposed to be about compassion but it feels more like my anger reservoir has overflowed. I am so not sending any loving kindness to Google. Or Facebook.
Everyone needs a hate object and these days - having watched our local news media decimated by these brutes - Google and Facebook are my targets. I think we should be de-balling them. And maybe let's de-ball Apple and Amazon while we're at it.
Oh, I see. You're laughing. What could little old New Zealand do to de-fang those Silicon Valley behemoths, the biggest companies in the world? Well, Grant Dalton and Team New Zealand managed to show Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison a thing or two didn't they? All we need is some political will. (I know. Good luck with that.)
And if there is one thing economists agree about, it's that monopolies are bad.
Professor Jonathan Taplin, author of Move Fast and Break Things: How Google, Facebook and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy, says it is time to break up Google . "In a democratic society the existence of large centres of private power is dangerous to the continuing vitality of a free people."
Ain't that the truth.
The commission doesn't have the remit to rule on foreign ownership of news media but surely that wouldn't stop it, or some other regulator investigating other aspects of Google and Facebook's oppressive monopolisation?
If we don't stand up, who will? Doesn't seem likely to be the US.
With libertarian tech moguls like Peter Thiel in President Trump's inner circle, anti-trust regulation of the internet monopolies is not likely to be a priority there anytime soon.
A hundred years ago President Woodrow Wilson said: "If monopoly persists, monopoly will always sit at the helm of the Government" and nothing much seems to have changed since then.
Professor Taplin: "We are going to have to decide fairly soon whether Google, Facebook and Amazon are the kinds of natural monopolies that need to be regulated, or whether we allow the status quo to continue, pretending that unfettered monoliths don't inflict damage on our privacy and democracy."
This makes my blood boil so it is fortunate I have learned to take deep, calming breaths.
Sadly, the chances of me becoming a Zen master, able to stay silent for weeks at a time, are probably way higher than anyone daring to poke a stick at the power of Google. Maybe we could appoint Dalts a special investigator? I'll send him some loving kindness.