Talking Politics


I travelled Europe a long time ago. Landed in London but my time in England was brief. I went to France, Spain and Germany. Only really felt like spending a lot of time in Italy. I met a man in Naples who took me to a pizzeria. He asked me how long Australia had been around, and I told him a little over two hundred years. Well, he said, this pizzeria has been around longer than that.

On the wall the pictures of a family holding pizza paddles moved from full colour, to uncertain colour, to black and white, to sepia, to murky experiments in photography. Outside there were buildings that seemed occupied by Communists and others by Anarchists, but were simply community centres.

I went to watch a film with him, and before the film, struggled through a massive march campaigning for peace. When we walked out of the movie, a Fascist march was moving through the same area. In that pizzeria the Neapolitan surprised me by guessing that I was an Anarchist. We hadn’t even talked politics. I asked him what the deal was with Italy. It seemed everyone was crazy with politics. I asked him why there seemed to be so much corruption and confusion in Italian politics. He said they had yet to institutionalize corruption like other countries.

Whatever the reason, it still seemed pretty fucked up. I suppose his guess amazed me because where I came from we never declared ourselves unless we couldn’t help it. We didn’t fly banners from buildings proclaiming our ideals. We probably never will. But occasionally I wonder whether people who look like they’re concerned with nothing more than footy scores or rising real-estate prices might have secret ideals no one has guessed at. We might not go on as many marches as the Italians though I really do wonder what we stand for. But you can’t ask that kind of question on the concourse of Australian society without seeming like a wanker.

Of course there are these kinds of blogging forums, which you are a part of just by reading this post, but magazines like Overland are rare in declaring a firm position in Australia’s political spectrum. These politicised areas remain discreet regions of our cultural conscience. Meanwhile the country continues along a course that does not change through successive governments, whether they be nominally left or right. The question for those of us concerned with that direction is how we open up a discourse on the actual political agenda of this country. Whatever way we choose to define ourselves politically, it seems the next step in our social evolution must be to move our representational democratic model to an activated agenda setting society.

We need not follow the Italians into their somewhat hysterical political climate but I would actually like to see a few public buildings rolling out political banners here and there. I wouldn’t mind more room on the streets of our suburbs for people to come out freely and talk about their ideals and thoughts on our country’s future. It’d be a change to the pennants and flags of companies and corporations that we currently see draped over our city buildings, besides each major road and in every public space they can find to put up their propaganda.

Alec Patric

AS Patric is the award-winning author of The Rattler & other stories (Spineless Wonders, 2011), Las Vegas for Vegans (Transit Lounge, 2012) and Bruno Kramzer (Finlay Lloyd, 2013).

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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  1. something about this country discourages ideology, i think it’s a refugee mentality… all that we left behind. the relative quietness is wonderful, but i agree there is not a lot of wholistic agenda in our politics. or moral consistency ftm.

    i like the way italians basically ignore their ridiculous government and just get along with organising themselves. we need more of that in the NT.

  2. ‘A refugee mentality’ is interesting. That might still be a root cause, but I think we’re just too comfy in our suburban lounge-rooms or too isolated in our fractured communities to feel any kind of esprit de corps. But the GFC isn’t just a glitch. Capitalism is faltering. A system of exploitation can’t be anything but terminal, and as it begins to shut down, we’ll form new communal centres that are based on principles of community and a genuine ‘commonwealth.’ Until then –> solidarity.

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