Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Myth of The Economic Migrant

The Myth of The Economic Migrant 
as propagated by Alan Jones and The Daily Telegraph

Imagine you live in an average community in a poor country somewhere on the other side of the world. You survive in humble, frugal conditions perhaps on between the equivalent of $40-$80 a week. Not much really. The people in your community are poor like you and your immediate family. However you do have access to food and water, shelter and basic health and education services. You are surrounded by your friends, your brothers and sisters, mother and father and extended family whom you can turn to in times of need. You’re respected and liked and active and involved in your local community and mosque/temple all of which means everything to you. Your country is not suffering war or conflict; and life, although a struggle, is basically stable and peaceful.

In fact, you recently managed to save enough money to become the first household in your street to buy a TV! A luxury: this television set, you regularly invite your neighbours and friends to watch it with you.

Now you are exposed to images and programs about life in really wealthy countries. You become fascinated with TV from the West. Over and over you watch documentaries and programs and reality shows depicting the wonderful, wealthy, easy, fantastic, awesome  lives led by people in the West. In particular, shows from Australia (which is obviously by far the most advanced, progressive and wealthy country in the whole world) catch your eye. Soon, you become obsessed with the lifestyles these filthy rich “Aussies” lead. Slowly you start to become resentful. 'Why should they have it so easy while I have to work my butt off to feed my family? They have everything! Unlimited food, clean water, free health care, all the latest technology: iPads, iPhones, computers, cars for everyone, broadband internet, by the gods: swimming pools in the backyards! They even get paid welfare and child support for doing absolutely nothing! I want all that too & more!!'

One day you've had enough of your humble but peaceful existence. You decide on a whim to pack up you meagre belongings, say farewell to all the friends and family you’ve known and loved all your life, take your spouse and kids and start a dangerous, uncertain 9000 km overland trek at a cost of $20000 you borrowed off a loan shark in the faint hope of one day getting to Australia. All of because of what you’ve seen on The Block, Neighbours and Masterchef: The Professionals! (But of course you don’t know any better. According to the real experts: the Aussie shock-jocks, you’re from a poor, non-Christian country, so by definition you’re envious, materialistic, backwards, uncaring, possibly harbouring terrorist inclinations and, being so new to TV; apparently also unable to distinguish reality from fantasy.) Friends and family? Community? Peace and stability? You can stuff all that up yours mate! You want to get stinking, filthy rich or better yet, become a lazy Aussie dole bludger! Who cares about mates and mom and pop.

So, you will give up everything you’ve ever loved and known, trekking a long and often dangerous journey to first reach Indonesia/Malaysia, an unwelcoming country, where you will have no support, no rights, the certainty of constant official harassment; where you won't be able to work and your kids won't be able to go to school. You will have to try and struggle and survive that nightmare for maybe years while you slowly organise with a corrupt people smuggler to get your precious family whom you love onto a small, leaky, overcrowded boat for a journey of 30-40 days that may or may not sink on the way, killing you all, to what may or may not turn out to be Australia.

All this harrowing effort, danger and uncertainty! Just so that you can get to Australia to live a life of "luxury" bludging on the dole that pays you $250 a week (plus RA) so you can sit on your ugly old couch donated by the Salvos, in your cramped, chilly rent-subsidised flat in a bleak back street in St. Albans or Springvale; your friends and family thousands of miles away while you watch more Masterchef Australia and Dancing With Stars and open another tinny of VB paid for by Centrelink.

Think about it seriously for a minute. How realistic is any of  this really? Could you ever even remotely see yourself in such shoes? I doubt it. That’s because it is all pure fantasy and total crap. Yet this is the myth of the economic migrant boat person we are constantly being fed by a xenophobic, wilfully ignorant narrow minded "mainstream" media. As utterly ridiculous as it all sounds this is honestly what Alan Jones and The Daily Telegraph want us to believe about why most boat people make their arduous and perilous way to this country.

it’s time we were reminded of the truth.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Out of Light - cometh Darkness

Out of Light – cometh Darkness

1. “These recordings may be seen as a notation of our deadminded society, but not as a reaction against it, we will all become ambient dead heads, if not...” (Archon Satani, In Shelter, liner note, 1994)

If not, then ellipsis. The conditional clause of fact, followed by an open-ended ellipsis, where not only the conjunction between a conditional present and an effected future (then...), but the whole of future time itself is omitted – is a good way to immerse oneself in a description towards a functional definition of a difficult form of a “popular” underground music (I write popular because it is, in critical terms, usually excluded from the domain of “high” culture, or “serious” music, being more aligned with other popular underground genres, eg, industrial, death metal), that would seem to defy the very notion of popularity a priori: I write of so-called ‘dark ambient’ music.

2. Your attention is drawn to a notation of the future as ellipsis, as a potent form of signifying a coming-into-being that is never-yet, and may well never be, as a danger:

The future can only be anticipated in the form of an absolute danger. It is that which breaks absolutely with the constituted normality and only be proclaimedpresented, as a sort of monstrosity (Derrida, 1974: 3).

This ellipsis of the future, signifying danger (becoming, in Archon Satani’s space, dead headed), also dislodges the comfort of the present, and of presence; of the representing object, and its relation to the object represented, of the sign versus its referent. Hence the need for a notation, obtuse of signifying directives, not yet as a denotation and decoding, full of revealed meaning, of a certain type of society; but only of the function of recording qua art in reality, over and against symbolised reality, and even without any metaphysical reality. Archon Satani refuse permission for their recordings (not yet historicised as music, nor art) to be seen and hence, to be read as a reaction qua art against society: “we will all become ambient dead heads...”
3. In refusing music, and art, and reaction as historically revealed, politics are also seen to be refused. The future is one where the listener-subject will become as dead as the given inanimacy of the environment that surrounds her. Fundamentally psychoanalytic desires – those hinged upon death and sex may be in nuance in such a statement. In that case, this is not music with a message, a will to change the world, it is not resistance a la Theodor Adorno against regressive listening, it is not vibrant, it is not constructive, it is not essential, it’s not high art, it is not even supposed to be music yet, with all the ideological imports that the word ‘music’ carries, and may well never be. It is just a notation, a form of writing, transcription, a recording. But to that extent, it must be added that it appears as such already given within the universal ideological written document that is usually named as reality. These recordings are neither transparent signs – across the surfaces of which one may easily interpret the messages, nor opaque signs – seeking to problematise notions of reference, representationality, or even the position of the speaking subject. The recordings are just discrete bits submerged within the general recording called ‘the environment’. And it must be emphasised that their discretion is lent them mainly by the signs of commodification which surround them – here, the compact disc, the cover art, the credits, the track-titles, the band’s name, the price tag which informs me that I paid $26.95 for these recordings. All these commodifying instances lend these recordings a certain productive, cultural, musical value which directs the way in which they are listened to, which in fact makes them that much easier to accept as, at least, ‘recordings’ and not just background noise. The ellipsis, however, remains – an internal slippage and excess, a trace, within the notion of recording and its product itself - and hints that they are, after all, just noise, a part of environmental excess, and it is in this very manner that they manage to actually be a notation of a certain society, rather than simply a reaction against it. The future to be fashioned is never anything that is to be found, it just always might be, or it might not be, in death, and danger, and to hope for more is to succumb to a cynical nihilism of the present. In this sense the recordings offer a moment of affirmation...

4. Similarly, Time Machines (better known as Coil) on their self-titled disc from c. 1999 direct the listener to the idea that, “Artifacts generated by your listening environment are an intrinsic part of the experience”. Once again, what is affirmed is no longer all in the music, is no longer all generated by music, is not a simple or even more complex expression of the music’s ‘inner form’, but is the problematisation of the distinction between presence and future – so as to affirm a historical moment in preference to history as a ‘grand scheme’, a relation between music and the environment in which listening is done; so as to affirm the social – but which environment music traditionally has no relationship with, which it’s supposed to transcend. In such a direction, perhaps the existential as opposed to aesthetic authenticity, but also the reifying, and stultifying principles of repetitive listening, which tend, admittedly, to make much popular music into more or less relevant pieces of nostalgia, but nonetheless static and ossified in terms of the present moment, (ie formally complete) are violated. These principles must be aborted where the listening environment (never static, never repeatable) becomes an intrinsic part of the (musical) experience:

5. ...the emphasis on the artifactual element in art concerns less the fact that it is manufactured than its own inner constitution, regardless of how it came to be...[Artworks] speak by virtue of the communication of everything particular in is precisely as artifacts, as products of social labour, that they also communicate with the empirical experience that they reject and from which they draw their Inhalt [content]...If art opposes the empirical through the element of form – and the mediation of form and content is not to be grasped without their differentiation – the mediation is to be sought in the recognition of aesthetic form as sedimented content (Adorno, 1997: 5)

It is by this appeal to the recognition of aesthetic form as sedimented content, through a self-consciousness of the mediating process between form and content, that Time Machines pose a challenge to the idea that aesthetic value is ahistorical, already given, whether in the inner form, or upon the postmodern ‘surface’. Time Machines would return us to the value of a cultic symbolism.

6. Once again, in fact, the hyper-loaded term ‘music’ is avoided. It would seem that ‘dark ambient’ albums often avoid the simple term of music, in order to dislocate this very loading itself. Once one is sure that one is listening to music, much else flows automatically. The very term ‘music’ already classifies and categorises the experience in such a way that it becomes instantly ossified, assimilated into wider cultural experience in predictable ways that rob the experience of any potential which might invoke the metaphor ‘spiritual’. It is by disturbing the phenomenon of music, by radically unsettling it, by ‘deconstructing’ it if you like, that something, anything might occur. If we don’t all turn into ambient deadheads... who knows? The only other clue to the functionality of the listening experiences invoked by playing Time Machines’ CD is that these are “4 tones to facilitate travel through time”. With the challenge to aesthetic value as ahistorical comes also a challenge to conventional narrative practices, to the inevitable forward, ‘progressive’ flow we have constructed as being the force of history (into the future), which force itself is traditionally written as ahistorial, supposedly the highest aesthetic value.  But if this is, in fact, not a given, then the concept Time Machines would also suggest that if time and history are produced (by a certain political machine), it must follow that they be ideological.  In short, the truth is there is no simple historical  ‘life force’ – progress is a sham, one should dream instead of time travel.

7. If resistant moments in pop music (such as ‘grunge’ or ‘punk’), so often read in a political context, always end up being sacrificed to hegemony, assimilated into the mainstream, it is because they always seem to be expected to change the world: “Music seeks to change life; life goes on; the music is left behind; that is what is left to talk about” (Marcus: 1989, 3). If it’s an affirmed and consistent life, life as self-fulfilling presence, as stable present, past and future which is being challenged, it’s by using an inadequate terminology which, while it may resist the structures in the dominant language, is nonetheless intrinsically dependent on that language without any consciousness of this dependence. In such instances music in the capacity of music is a functional tool, ready-made, the language of which is taken for granted – music itself may become distorted, but it is never yet ‘deconstructed’. It is always so associated with a Utopia, or more recently with anti-Utopia, so far lifted out of its environment, that its form tends to choke it. The question of the future, whether it might be in fact, nothing more than an abyss, is never really raised. Whilst resisting structures, resistant strains in popular music never seek to fundamentally question the actual structural foundations of the languages they speak, nor do they seek to radically historicise these structures. Too often ( and for example in grunge music), seriousness becomes parody. Irony becomes sarcasm, which becomes cynicism, which in turn melts into a hopeless despair (Kurt Cobain being the most obvious symbol of this).
8. But perhaps this is moving too closely to political speech. After all, ‘dark ambient’ recordings are not yet asking about direct political motivation or goals, they are asking questions about the generalised structures of utopia, about the fundamental definitions of music, about the meaning of the listening subject within an environment; in the above case, about the idea of travelling through time using tonal facilitation.
9. Perhaps this is a reason why ‘dark ambient’ works are often engrossed with abyssal, massive and fantastic spaces: such spaces are fundamentally indeterminate. The cover of the Time Machines CD returns us to art as cultic symbolism: it is simply a black ellipse with the words TIME MACHINES above it, against a grey background. 

It recalls to me George Grosz’s comment on Dada: “Our symbol was nothingness, a vacuum, a void.” But this isn’t just about a nihilistic void, nor a naïve void that would pretend to triumph by standing on its own, resisting any point of meaning. Rather, this void tries mostly not to fall back into what Barthes called the trap of essentialism (in Mythologies) – unwittingly coming to represent what is being rejected, ie, the essence of things, by attempting to represent nothing. This void here, in any case, is placed below the words ‘Time Machines’, against a grey background signifying the highest state of entropy, of equilibrium. Here the void is firmly placed as a signifier within a system and structure – but one that presents itself as something to be played around with: on the inside cover the theme is repeated, now the background is black, the ellipse is white, suggesting an egg, maybe, and in its centre is a sign whose meaning is indeterminate, it could be an astrological symbol for one of the planets, but it isn’t. Nonetheless, the abyss is now given a momentary centre, perhaps from which to commence one’s time travels, but the centre’s meaning is unknown: its signified is as wide open as that of the result when artefacts generated by the listening environment do in fact become an intrinsic part of listening, whether they be as mundane as the sound of the vacuum cleaner next door, or as allegedly exotic as the sound of one’s heartbeat while under the influence of psilocybin.

10. Brian Lustmord is another charter of listening experiences, whose work is concerned with abysses, darkness, reverberation and space. With Lustmord, we move closer to the idea of a project within listening – of direct, discrete, even central affirmation. Not just concerned with notation itself, the album The Place Where the Black Stars Hang (1994) is concerned with “...a very real need to uncover the magical graphs and ciphers that unseal the cells of... eldritch dimensions”. Works prior to this (eg Heresy, Paradise Disowned) were concerned with what I would be best termed an aural ‘deconstruction’ of western judeo-christian principles. The mingling and mixing of vastly reverberating christian chants with pipes, machinery, gongs, a shawn, ‘noise generation’, ‘acoustic treatments’ and ‘digital loops’ on Paradise Disowned re-configured and undermined traditional notions of canonical music’s function as a mainly liturgical tool for godly worship and reaffirmation/reification of immutable dogma, while Heresy is a work so intense that it deserves an essay unto itself. The Place Where the Black Stars Hang poses a challenge to orthodox scientific methodology as the new dogma and religion of the (post)enlightenment era, and does so by referring to  a certain cosmological space, “the space between space... and the infinite darkness thereof, where metaphysical transgressions prevail.” Also invoked is microcosmic space, “...where DNA is the ultimate parasite, and life itself is but a vibration”. This evocation of vast spaces, both cosmological and microcosmic, affirms absence rather than brute presence, vibration rather than expression.  In form also, the western musical tradition of tightly structured time signatures, clearly defined harmonies and melodious pitch variations, so enamoured of musicologists of the Canon, is utterly denied. It seems that Lustmord is (by negation) most clearly articulating (western) music’s alignment and intimate relationship with ideological structures and practices. Rather than seeking to revolutionise these through force and violence (not that these do not have their own particular articulations within the ‘genre’, but that is another discussion...) he is seeking to create, by way of abyssal, cavernous aural environments, a re-opening of the question of truth, of the future, of the course of human evolution usually taken for granted. This is not yet saying there is or there is not truth, or a future, or evolution, but is asking after, even interrogating the very structures which make such saying possible. In making ‘music’ out of deep space or metastatic resonance, one is taken to a very different place than by either traditional western classical or popular music. With Lustmord, it may be appropriate to talk of a Kristevian signifiance. In affirming the abyss, emptiness rather than presence, vastness as opposed to centre, in affirming ‘metaphysical transgression’, Lustmord, like other ‘dark ambient’ composers may be said to be fundamentally unsettling the traditional syntax and order of western music, using a fundamentally radical way of creating ‘music’ – that actually goes beyond codal transgression into a deep rupturing of the code itself. The traditional elements of the score, the orchestra, the band, the song, have all been replaced – they have a completely different kind of presence. In place of ‘instruments’ we have thermal radiation, electron particle interaction, metastatic resonances – a new language, for not many listeners could assign these ‘instruments’ discrete semiotic meanings, let alone identify these sounds ‘naturally’ (How to recognise hearing an aural representation of electron particle interaction? What should it signify, like the cello signifies this sad emotion, or the harp that gentle one?) It is of note that one theme or device that is always employed in Lustmord’s works is elaborate, lengthy reverberation, often with times of twenty seconds or more.  But of course it goes without saying that this is just one interpretation... A music that appeals to a vast abyss must to an extent, remain that; as well as an open wound in discourse...

11. Similarly, David Myers of Arcane Device is concerned with such re-conceptualisation of music, as can be heard on Envoi in Cumin (1993). Perhaps one of the most subtle works that may be classified ‘dark ambient’, the ellipsis here transforms itself into an infinitely polysemous loop, fascinatingly engaging itself with the idea, so current in contemporary theory, of the eternally sliding, slipping signifier. Here the loop is closed, like the linguistic system, the producing device sees its own output as its input, it feeds upon itself, figuring itself according to Myers, as a snake eating its own tail, where as a result, “...the snake’s body becomes not a single solid, but a vast interpenetrating web” (liner note). For 75 minutes a single loop lasting between seven and fifteen seconds is repeated, but the loop, continuously fed by itself, is never the same – a ‘music’ is produced, for the system which encloses it also guarantees that infinite difference, unending variation ensues. Perhaps this is the most ‘hopeful’ (in the traditional sense) and affirmative (in the deconstructive sense) of ‘dark ambient’ pieces I have come across. After 75 minutes the loop fades away, much like an ellipsis. But it could well have gone on for ever, never repeating itself, never finding a centre, neither bowing to utopia, nor to homogeneity, but “allowing electrons to create a self determined shape and dynamic, showing their place as an element of great nature”, which might be a good analogy with what many humans would like to make of their own lives. 


Adorno T.W. (1997) Aesthetic Theory (eds. G. Adorno and R. Tiedemann) (new trans. and ed. R. Hullot-Kentor) London: The Athlone Press.
Derrida J. (1976) Of Grammatology (trans. G. C. Spivak) Baltimore: John Hopkins UP.
Myers G. (1989) Lipstick Traces: a secret history of the twentieth century CambridgeMA: Harvard University Press.


Arcane Device (1994) Envoi in Cumin Compact Disk. Almada: Play Loud.
 Archon Satani (1994) In Shelter Compact Disk Waldassen: Dark Vinyl.
Lustmord (1984) Paradise Disowned Compact Disk. Amsterdam: Soleilmoon.
 ________ (1990) Heresy Compact Disk. Amsterdam: Soleilmoon.
________ (1994) The Place Where the Black Stars Hang Compact Disk. Waldassen: Side Effects.
Time Machines (1999) Time Machines Compact Disk. London: World Serpent.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Inland Empire: A Brief Commentary

In our incessant and never-ending drive to make sense of the human project of existence, what is more often than not lost it seems is an appreciation of the subtleness of ontology, the absolute weirdness and absurdity of Being which always lurks just below the every-day imagination. To me, a David Lynch film invites you to sit back, relax, suspend the constant narrative-making impulse that rules everyday life, tune out and just become totally absorbed in that which lies just below the surface of human existence – that weirdness, that sense of dread – the dread of the suspicion that that which we affirm as reality is in reality itself just so much story-telling, an illusion lurking at the edge of an infinite abyss of nothingness; that existentialist realm of “Not-Being” from which 100% of the human population has come and back to which 100% of that same will return.

Take the rabbit scenes in Inland Empire, where three characters dressed in rabbit costumes deliver dead-pan, serious but obtuse dialogue highlighted by canned laughter, after the fashion of your typical sit-com. Most reviews of Inland Empire cannot seem to make any sense of these scenes, why they are in the film, what  the rabbits are doing and how they may or may not relate to the Polish characters in the upstairs room into whom they magically dissolve. But perhaps the rabbit scenes are best read as a mordant critique which is simultaneously humorous in an absurdist way for all its intensity; a critique of that narrative drive which turns the extraordinary and unexpected reality of everyday existence into a clichéd, banal and in a radical sense, mundane set of stories and lines whose structure, syntagm and conclusions, whose cardinal functions are already totally known and which seem to perpetuate themselves by a kind of fundamentalist evangelical auto-propagation; light entertainment that repeats incessantly and constantly on our TV screens informing us, by way of attempts at comedy, that reality constructed as a clean narrative with beginning, middle and end; introduction, body and conclusion is the safest and surest, though ultimately terribly dreary way to write human existence. As Shakespeare once noted “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

I recently watched Lost Highway again  before sitting down to Inland Empire a third time. I remember how unsettlingly awesome and weird that film seemed at the time. I’d never encountered anything quite like it before,  but looking at it now, after Inland Empire; it seems like a totally ordinary film in the sense that it pretty much makes sense. There’s nothing that weird about Lost Highway anymore, indeed it seems downright conventional after the total mind-fuck that is Inland Empire.

I won’t make an attempt at a synopsis, as that would be giving in to the temptation to make some kind of linear narrative sense of a film which, if it does nothing else, commands you with certain force: THOU SHALT NOT attempt to turn Inland Empire into any kind of linear narrative. I’m not sure if David Lynch has read Roland Barthes, but Barthes’ unique method of post-structuralist textual criticism seems to apply itself almost perfectly to this film. What we can analyse are themes, memes and rhemes – such as proposed in S/Z. Where lexias dominate and the ideal text is reversible and infinitely interpretable. If there is one consistent signpost as to the manner in which to derive the (non-)meaning of David Lynch films, it seems to be the perverse way Lynch uses what Barthes called catalytic functions in his discourse. Catalysts in a discourse do just that, they serve to speed up, summarize or anticipate events in the narrative. When we see a catalyst we semi-consciously mark it in the narrative as a driver in the narrative whose specific function, even if its meaning be delayed, will notwithstanding soon be made clear in order for us to neatly make sense of everything that we’ve seen, heard and read. Classic examples of these in Inland Empire are the symbol “Axxon N.” that we see painted on walls and the portent references to a certain time of day – after midnight. 

We almost cannot help but read these as clues whose catalytic function in the narrative will become clear and provide us with the key to the code. Except they never do. There is no key in the end. What appear to be catalytic elements turn out to be perhaps cardinal functions in the discourse, or worse yet, perhaps just ornaments designed to lead us further down the rabbit hole. The point being, that the distinction is classically a binary one. We are so used to dividing up narratives into catalytic and cardinal functions that we are in danger of failing to see the film for what it is – a continuous series of catalytic functions: indices and pieces of information for which relate only negatively to, indicating an absence of, cardinal functions. In other words, there are no nuclei, there is no certain story to be found in Inland Empire. What we have instead is a continuous, uninterrupted 3 hour stream of discourse, whose purpose is simply to maintain phatic contact between the narrator (the film) and in this case viewer (the audience), and nothing more. In other words, whose purpose is manifestly just to keep you watching the film, and nothing else. No messages, no sermons, no truths: just aesthetic impulse. The purpose here is not to tell a story whose meaning and interpretation is finite and decidable by everyday conventions, but to narrate a set of indices and sets of information in order to create moods and feelings, emotional responses: those relating mainly to situations appearing ominous, portent, eerie, surreal, incomprehensible, supernatural and even horrific to some extent. 

The whole cardinal/catalytic paradigm is here suspended, the syntagm is dissolved and we are invited in every sense into a dream world full of foreboding and menace, but at the same time, if you are willing to just let go for a few hours, mind-blowingly amazing. Freud hinted that the symbolism of dreams is reversed as it were. In dreams time becomes space and space becomes time, every object stands for another object but the ordinary waking code is suspended to be replaced by the secret code of the unconscious. That is why dreams confuse us so much. Inland Empire invites us to interpret, at endless length, and in doing so, perhaps come to some kind of clarity or realization of the nature of our own identities and how fragile they often can be. If nothing else, if you watch this film open to these contexts and these textual approaches, you will almost certainly be compelled to watch it a second, and a third, and a fourth time: the surest mark of a successful film. If however you are not open to these kinds of textual approaches and prefer a clearly coded, explicitly linear narrative (and not suggesting there’s anything wrong with that at all) then this film will almost certainly confound you and I would recommend rather renting a horror film like “They” or “Pitch Black”.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

10 Reasons Why I Am Looking Forward To Turning 40 in 2012 [And You Should Too]

1. If it were 100 years ago, we probably wouldn't be looking forward to celebrating turning 40 - we'd be already dead or getting ready to die: the average life expectancy back then was a little over 45.

2. Just when we thought we were totally over the hill, the 80s are cool again - but we know better, having grown up in them, that they weren't cool at all and get to secretly laugh at all the stupid dumb kids who think they were.

3. Somehow it's all okay, because, unlike at 30; no matter how hard you try to make it feel like it matters again, it just doesn't seem important anymore.

4. Our teenage idols [for me: The Cure, Madonna, Nick Cave, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Kate Bush, New Order &c.] will always be and look 10-15 years older than we will.

5. We have now not only total freedom but also the means and experience to do and think whatever we want and not give a shit. No one can tell us what to do. Instead we can look forward to telling others what to do. Remember how restrictive and totally controlled by others life seemed at 15?

6. We got to grow up in & live through what may well yet turn out to have been the most prosperous, peaceful, liberal and technologically advanced period in history. We never wanted or lacked for clothes, food, medicine or stuff; we got to see both the invention and benefit enormously from the dramatic evolution of the home PC and the internet as well as reap the benefits of the social changes of the 60s and 70s that have given us personal and material freedom and access to such a wealth of information at our fingertips that even our parents could but dream of.

7. We don't have to hang out with young people anymore.

8. We're old enough to appreciate vinyl and cassette as more than just a silly fetish or a "coolness" symbol, we can feel genuine nostalgia for them. 

9.  By the time global warming really kicks in and overpopulation, the end of the oil supply, plus the pressure on scarce resources leads to conflict and misery on a global scale affecting even the first world, we'll either be too old to give a damn or dead.

10. We're the epitome of Generation X. We'll always be cool because we never ever gave a flying fuck in the first place.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Gay Marriage Debate & Love of Christians in Australia

Apparently some 57% of Australians polled, supported the legalization of gay marriage in 2007. That number is probably higher in 2010.

So why is it that on this particular issue Australia is lagging so far behind the rest of the world? What does it say about Gen X Australia that our first female, atheist, de-facto partnered Prime Minister, Julia Gillard staunchly opposes gay marriage and that, worse yet, Australia's Minister for Climate Change, who is both an out lesbian and a member of the Labor Party is more interested in maintaining the status quo and going along with caucus than using her ministerial position to promote gay and lesbian rights and is actually also on the record as - would you believe it - opposing gay marriage: a position about which Senator Bob Brown, leader of the Australian Greens, and also an out gay man, rightly expressed his horror.

If you think about it, Bob Brown is right to be outraged. As we all should be. Every Aussie, gay or straight. How on earth can an openly lesbian Cabinet minister who also happens to be of Asian descent possibly oppose the legalisation of gay marriage? 

It's as if we went back to the 1967 referendum which gave indigenous people the right to citizenship and we had an Aboriginal minister saying they opposed the recognition of Aborigines as people because supporting Labor Caucus was more important than fighting for human rights. Or if we went back to White Australia days and Ms. Wong supported excluding Asians from migration to this country because supporting Labor caucus was more important than justice and equality.

It's really that bad!

The implications from the ALP for gay people are profoundly disturbing and I can't believe Ms. Wong's cynical, thoughtless and heartless stance has not been pounced upon and made into much more of an issue in this very dour campaign by a media much, much more interested in that bitter old fart, Mark bloody Latham (*massive yawn*).

The Chaser Team lampooned Minister Wong well on their Yes We Canberra! show on Thursday:

So what's going on here really? Why, when well more than 50% of Australians actually support gay marriage do Left wing social "progressives" like Julia Gillard and Penny Wong, herself a lesbian for God's sake, feel the need to speak out against it?

I have a feeling that it shows how much traction the Christian vote has managed to gain, in the wake of a Gen X electorate which seemingly ostensibly has no obvious values or monumental ideologies left. The voice of the Christian Right is getting louder and louder in Australia. More importantly, this voice tends to emanate from blue-collar, outer suburban marginal electorates which political parties of both persuasions desperately need to win over in order to win elections.

In other words it doesn't matter what 80% of Australians think, because we all live in "safe seats" whose outcome is decided and whose opinions are therefore irrelevant to the outcome of the election. It's those 20% of Australians who live in marginal seats whose voices really count and MPs will do anything - even sell their soul to Satan, as Wong so obviously has - to gain the vote.

It has nothing to with principles, or values, or standing for anything any more because the Parties feel that this generation of voters don't have any of these - except for the Christians. And therefore it is safer to pander to those Christians and keep gay marriage illegal while removing all other forms of discrimination in order to keep everyone happy. Well, grumbling, grudgingly quiet anyway.

What's really so sad about this is that in many areas, Australia used to be a world leader. For example, it was one of the first countries to give women the right to vote. One of the first to grant workers a decent minimum wage. Australia used to be socially progressive. Of course it wasn't quite as progressive when it came to recognizing that Aborigines were Australian citizens - that took until 1967, when Australians at a national referendum overwhelmingly denounced their cowardly elected leaders and said what's what. 

Maybe this is another issue that will in the end need to be decided by a referendum, where the Churches and the Australian Christian Lobby and countless petty minor interest groups can't sway political opinion. This is an issue where the Australian people should make up their own minds - surely we are mature enough to be trusted to make the right choice? Then, whatever the result, the government can simply say "the people have spoken." What stronger mandate could you ask for anyway?

But noooooooo....."leaders" like Gillard and Wong just do not have the guts. In this cynical 2010 election campaign it's the Cardinals, and the Evangelists, and the Bishops and the Marginal Seats which decide what's best for the rest of us.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Worst Names Ever!

For Whom To Vote If You're On The Dole

It's election time again, so as usual both Parties are throwing around money left, right and centre like clowns throwing candy at kids at a birthday party. What fun. 

It's early days yet - the election having been called just last weekend, but already it looks like schoolkids and their parents will get a cash break, especially private school kids; this phenomenon otherwise being known as "middle class welfare", or welfare for people who tend to complain about how bad they have it because they took out a 700 thousand dollar mortgage on an expansive suburban house when they really shouldn't have and now demand society take care of their kids. Bludgers haha.

But what about those of us genuinely on the dole for whatever hard luck story we have to tell? What's in it for us? Well, neither party, in fact no party - not even the Greens - is saying anything about dole bludgers, so you have to look under the radar for the hints.

If you are on the dole you may have noticed some changes to the way you "report" (that means, hand in your fortnightly form) recently. The previous Coalition government brought in all kinds of "proactive" things such as making jobseekers fill in "dole diaries", increasing the amount of jobs searched for declared on the fortnightly form from two to four, meeting various kinds of "mutual obligation" requirements, such as working for the dole which somehow never seemed to be mutually re-obligated by being offered a job.

Under the Labor government however, things have, very quietly, got simpler. OK, so there's no big increase in payments, but it would take manna from heaven for that to ever happen in this country. Notwithstanding, the Labor government has quietly got rid of the dreaded and useless waste of paper that was the "dole diary", where you had to record 10 jobs a fortnight for up to 3 months only to have a petulant Centrelink officer glance at it and throw it in the waste bin (literally). Better yet, this Labor government has got rid of the arbitrary requirement to physically shuffle in to a dole office and hand in a form to some dour looking, condescending public service fat (actually, literally obese, in 80% of cases) cat once a fortnight in order to receive a payment.

You can as of now, do it all on-line, and just declare that you have been looking for work, instead of putting down the obligatory 4 jobs whose phone numbers you looked up in the Yellow Pages and which no one ever bothers to check anyway & which is just wasting everyone's time really. But mostly the jobseeker's time in that they always had to physically make time to come in to fill out the form and travel in to the office - time which could be better spent looking for work after all. Or watching the cricket on Channel 9, or drinking beer and writing poetry, or however it is you fill your bleak, empty days whilst on welfare.

Seriously though, I think this is a brave thing for Labor to do - considering that in our climate of virtually full employment, a lot of those on the dole right now are people who are genuinely sick and cannot get a disability support pension, because their condition has not "stabilized" (ie they are not at death's door, gasping their last breaths just quite yet), nor get sickness allowance since that no longer exists (thanks Howard) - or are newly arrived people, refugees likely, who are in a high state of stress coping with learning a new language, recovering from the trauma of war and maybe losing loved ones, and getting used to our cities and whose last need is, seriously, to learn how to fill out a dole form, unless it is a legislative requirement, which it thankfully is no more.