Today, injustice goes with a certain stride,
The oppressors move in for ten thousand years.
Force sounds certain: it will stay the way it is.
No voice resounds except the voice of the rulers

And on the markets, exploitation says it out loud:
I am only just beginning.

But of the oppressed, many now say:
What we want will never happen

Whoever is still alive must never say ‘never’!
Certainty is never certain.
It will not stay the way it is.

When the rulers have already spoken
Then the ruled will start to speak.
Who dares say ‘never’?

Brecht’s words describe the extraordinary events we’ve just lived through as, in the space of a few weeks, the dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt disintegrated and tumbled.

When history moves, past certainties become retrospectively improbable. Today, the leaders of the West proclaim the triumph of liberty in Egypt. Yet, as recently as December 2010, Kevin Rudd was meeting with Mubarak to hail ‘the strength of this important bilateral relationship’.

Back then, with the US funnelling billions to keep the dictatorship in tanks and tear gas, freedom seemed entirely utopian. Now we wonder that tyranny lasted so long.

The essays in Overland 202 focus on freedom, oppression and resistance, at home and abroad from the saga of WikiLeaks to the impact of the Northern Territory Intervention.

This issue contains the successful poem from the 2010 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize for New and Emerging Poets, as well as the judge’s report from new poetry editor Peter Minter. It features a story by Helen Dinmore, another from outgoing fiction editor Kalinda Ashton, and the first fiction selected by new editor Jane Gleeson-White, Clare Strahan’s story, ‘Finders Keepers’.

We’re also proud to publish the inaugural essay in the ‘CAL Connections’ series, a project showcasing work from emerging writers from cultural backgrounds outside the literary mainstream, with David Donaldson, a young queer author, examining on the politics of the ‘homosexual advance’ defence.
‘Who’s to blame if oppression remains?’ asks Brecht – and then answers, ‘We are.’

It’s not enough to cheer events from afar, when there’s injustices aplenty here in Australia. But the revolt shaking the Middle East should still provide inspiration.
Brecht again:

Because the vanquished of today will be tomorrow’s victors
And never will become: already today!

© Jeff  Sparrow
Overland 202-autumn 2011, pp. 2–3

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Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, broadcaster and former editor of Overland.

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