In 1958, New Left thinker Raymond Williams published the influential essay, ‘Culture is Ordinary’, articulating through his own experience that, as the title suggests, culture is ordinary and is located in the everyday. Culture does not belong to any particular social class. Culture is not exclusionary. All over the world, workers and their families read and write poetry and literature. They visit art galleries and paint.
As Antjie Krog pointed out in Country of My Skull, her account of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to hear the innumerable intimate stories of violence to which ordinary people have been exposed is to feel like you are living in a double world. The material processes of society continue as though they didn’t exist. In fact, they create the very violence on which they subsist.
It is not fashionable to write about ‘class’ in universities, unless accompanied by words like ‘transcend’, ‘post-industrial’ or ‘knowledge-economy’. And yet, academics should have a great deal to say about class, not least because they work in one of Australia’s most insecure work environments. If anyone doubts that casualisation is a class issue, just consider that, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘the occupation with the highest proportion of paid leave entitlements was managers (93 per cent)’.
Hardest of the places to begin the blueprint, chewed cuticles
To the gristle bone-white, stertorous the drafts that make up
Our permanence tethered and forever. Most of what
A northern branch – rough handled – right
for curving the animal from me.
In winter she opens: one white flower.