Wednesday, July 29, 2015

When was it, shall we say, that we became radicalized?

There are some aspects of modern living that are so completely opaque to me that to even consider them manifestations of an evolving civilization would be to launch myself into a deep, dark chasm of terrifying self-revelation that has no escape chute inherent in its design.

The American faith in the selling of guns for public consumption is one such abyss, but there are others so much more immediate in their criticality, so crucially undermining to the myth of a shared humanity that we must construct to be able to have any will at all to continue living consequential lives, that to deny naming them is to deny that there might yet be a measure of salvation for us.

Will we say to our future generations that we became radicalized when we saw the sceptre of absolute and calamitous devastation wrought upon the people (and their children) who were systematically terrorized for being trespassers on their own land in the fifteen years since the 2nd Intifada of the Palestinian people began?

Will we say that we became radicalized when we saw tumultuous waves of terrified and desperate foreigners (and their children) descend upon our paved streets and pretty waterfront chalets to bring us face to face with our 500 years of economic and physical predation of their erstwhile lands?

Will we say that we became radicalized when we shamed and cut down people (and their children) because they were less fortunate, less able-bodied, less adept at negotiating the ways of a treacherous world of elite exclusivity?

Will we say that we became radicalized when we saw the fatal effects of a staggering dehumanization of a whole race of our neighbours (and their children) by the guardians of society, whom we pay and put our trust in to protect all of us, for no other reason than how different they looked from us?

When was it, shall we tell our children and grandchildren, that we became radicalized?

When?

Friday, July 3, 2015

You can't eat the weather

There should be a word for this kind of living - one that encapsulates various lifestyles, all extremely leisurely; one that unremittingly strives to go beyond what is romantically alluded to as an 'utopia'; one that makes that smile forming at the corner of your mouth as forcefully garnered as the enjoyment you are expected to feel at a beautiful day, no matter whether it's spring, summer or winter, on the water (some water, any water); one that feeds the sense of belonging to a cult of sensual-gratification worshippers more closely matching the famous description of, 'Shiny Happy People', than, probably, any other community anywhere else in the world.

The living in Western Australia's capital city of Perth is a dream wrapped in a cocoon of exclusivity presented in a gigantic steel bucket filled to the brim with ice, sans the gleaming green bottle of celebratory bubbly - 'Sorry, mate; you should have brought your own', says the sticker on the side. Long regarded as a sun-drenched and tradie-hungry haven for those escaping the class-ridden daily humiliations of Great Britain, the city is slowly beginning to capitulate to an idea of the world that allows for all those inscrutable black, brown and yellow bodies to take a servile part in what is locally regarded as genteel society, but is rudely coming up against the competing idea that some of 'them' might actually begin to live like 'us' if 'we' allowed them to.

Australia is too dependent on the kind of skilled migration that has long been spoken about in parliament and corner shops around the country in hushed tones, to wish to antagonize the large community of expatriates, temporary residents, and permanent residents who have chosen this beautiful country to try to make their futures in. But in less-scrutinised hubs such as Perth, far removed from the bustling crowds at Dandenong Market and every other shopping centre in Paramatta, the outrage at these 'others' moving in, and buying everything in sight, including smug markers of prosperity such as boats, double-storey Mcmansions, and the latest caravans, is gradually beginning to manifest itself in the shutting out of people from professions in which they have a direct propensity to contribute, and earn a living by. Subjective judgement about what constitutes expertise, experience and communication standards, cultural bias, and racial prejudice, drives most recruiters' instincts when considering CVs, and the unending renewal of short-term contracts for professionals used to a much more demanding work ethic in their home countries doesn't lend itself to a sense of security and belonging, and contributes to a wider alienation among them that consequentially fans the communal flames at the heart of the current citizenship debate in Federal politics.

Australia is surely trying to come to terms with what kind of immigrant nation it wants to be on a national level, but the effects of that debate are being felt in its distant townships and suburbs, on the beautiful white-sand beaches and verdant parks far, far away from the hubbub of Parliament's musings on Australian identity. And those effects are not good.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Get Social

I don't know if there has ever been a more monumentally voyeuristic forum for the kind of wide-eyed gawking that we were less self-conscious of as children, when we gather to look upon the world exchanging thoughts, opinions, ideas, and prejudices - all from one accessible interface - on the barely regulated social media platform that is Twitter.
It is certainly endearing that during a time when Facebook is finally making concrete inroads towards that elusive goal of 'monetization' that has been the stumbling block for most fledgling social media platforms, Twitter, in comparison, resembles a confused squirrel debating with itself which tree in the forest contains the best nuts without even being able to see them because its vantage point is so close to the ground.
Inarguably though, the most enlightening aspect of being able to follow, comment on, and troll the virtual selves of people who you will most probably never get to encounter in real life, is the freedom to linger on collective trails of thought: as they first begin life as concise expressions of observation or intent, and evolve, after much rich composting from a mass of unsolicited and critical contribution, into fully-formed insights on the entire scope of human experience that this complex world we inhabit today makes possible. From the loftiest preoccupations of our time such as: the environment, racism, public policy, sex, nationalism, education, civic evolution, and the future of sport, to the specifically subjective: grooming, class, peer pressure, and human physical attributes or the lack thereof, all manner of conceit is up for debate and scrutiny in a whirlwind of direct questioning, quoting, appropriating, and critiquing. It's never been a mystery why such sneering scorn has been heaped on the, 'fashionable outrage of the twitterati', by the establishment - as a society, we never could have prepared ourselves for such a democratic disgorging of the span of human consciousness into neat little 140 character snippets.
It is a tribute to the platform that it facilitates, sometimes, the positive change that can occur in the minds and hearts of even the most hardened individuals because of the pressure brought to bear by a collective consciousness, but we must never lose sight of the thousands of individuals who must constantly be vigilant that their spirits are not crushed by the avalanche of hate that accompanies their personal confrontations with the status quo. It must surely be a trial to feel like you're finally getting somewhere with a dearly held conviction only to be met with vitriol and cowardly ad hominem attacks. It is, after all, a simple walk down the road from there to the swamplands that Reddit, that much heralded and singular banner of free expression since inception, finds itself enmeshed in these days.
Today on Twitter I see racism being dredged up from all its latent holes, stripped bare, and laid out in the hot, humid sun for all to be repulsed by, and hopefully be so repulsed by that it finally signals the dismantling of a 400-year old criminal institution. Perhaps tomorrow I will see post-colonialism, gender discrimination, caste bias, or indigenous rights being so tackled. I wait with bated breath, fingers hovering over touch screen and keyboard. It is a good time to be alive.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

O.. for a warm hearth with your name on it

There can be no more trepidation that emanates from the depths of the human soul in the modern world than is summoned by the act of choosing a physical structure in a geographical area to call your own.
A place to rest your weary head. An escape from the demands of having to constantly perform in the world without for the cynical benefit of those who are ever-ready and ever-willing to undermine your existence.
A refuge from the thousand insults and the million betrayals visited on you by an unfeeling wider community cruelly dismissive of the expansive sensitivity of your delicate emotional constitution.
A shaft of sunlight streaming through a well-placed window and falling on a particular section of table and floor, an anonymous bird song that greets you every time you return; that you have come to accept as gratefully as a child's loud, 'Welcome Home'.
A smell of the familiar, a sound of normality, a feeling of security, an atmosphere of acceptance.
A home, in other words, that is yours.
One that you can build and build on. One that you can touch, feel, and take comfort in. One that you can nurture and be nurtured by. One that you can cultivate and watch grow along with the people in it. One that is self-sustained and sustaining, a bedrock of strength, self-aware in its surface immutability.
A lighthouse, a purifying pyre, a watchtower, a cave.
A beacon, a lamplight, a library, a family kitchen.
A well-stocked larder, an overflowing fruit basket, a sweet-smelling linen cupboard, an over-stuffed laundry pile.

Call me bourgeois, call me lame,
Call me capitalist, say, 'Oh, for shame'.
But, O... for a warm hearth with your name on it,
You can choke on your own disdain.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Un-answer

In the time it's taken for the weather to change from a bracing energetic chill here in Perth, to a treacherous and inertia-inducing cold, another seductive benumbing seems to have crept up on the world's unsuspecting masses, lured by the vigours of the 24-hour news and social media cycle, and the merits of an argument that has been laboured over ever since the advent of the communal fire at the heart of the proto-society: that of the positive effects of Violence.
The various names that the civil unrest in Baltimore has been called; ranging from the pro-establishment, riots, to the heroic, uprising, itself is a signal that the debate on violence has not run its course over millennia of invasion, war, city-sacking, and raping and pillaging, given expression through the ever-mutating propaganda machine that has recurrently reared its head throughout the recorded history of the world to justify the righteous fight against forces of darkness and injustice. We live in a world that has routinely seen parents bury children, looters savage priceless heirlooms, terrorists devastate societies so many times over since we began thinking of ourselves as beings with agency, that we cannot but shrug when violence arrives pre-packaged in the shiny wrapping of a vision of brave oppressed peoples rising up against their erstwhile oppressors in a heartfelt explosion of rage and helplessness that brings the world to a horrified standstill, in contemplation of these bleak works of man...
It has to stop.
It beggars belief that there is a certain credence being granted to the theory that were it not for the unrest in Baltimore the police officers responsible for the death of Freddie Gray would never have been charged with a crime. This line of reasoning follows from the same tortured logic that underlies the belief that the world is better off since the two world wars of the last century, and the response to the tragedy that was 9/11 in this one.
Violence cannot be justified, and not just the violence that follows from the works of man. When a person dies unnaturally from any cause, whether immediately known or ultimately unknown, it is due cause for grief and investigation, and possible mitigation of similar circumstances that could cause the death of another. We cannot and should not accept that the violence we visit on ourselves or that is visited on us from without is immutable, ever. What has to change is the systems and processes we put in place to mitigate the eruptions of violence in the world today, not our responses to it.
The debate in the immediate aftermath of the unrest in Baltimore centred on whether the rioting and the looting that led to the imposition of a curfew in that city could ever be justified. I took in this debate between protesters and news reporters with a fervency verging on disbelief, amid an atmosphere of absolute surreality in which police officers spoke calmly and respectfully to white protesters as they milled around in mostly white neighbourhoods holding placards denouncing racism, while, at the same time, worked to aggressively impose the curfew in mostly black neighbourhoods in the same city with violent arrests - for an event that was brought on primarily because of their own organization's actions.
This is not a surreal world. Everyone feels pain, frustration, and the pangs of impotency. Everyone wants freedom, a sense of manifest agency, and love. We must work towards a world where achievement cannot be tied to whether or not someone was brave enough to commit an act of violence to combat another act of violence. There's something fundamentally wrong with an argument such as that.