When Statesmen gravely say ‘We must be realistic’,
The chances are they’re weak and, therefore, pacifistic,
But when they speak of Principles, look out: perhaps
Their generals are already poring over maps.

We go to print almost exactly on the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, a historic crime that perfectly illustrates Auden’s point, given the unctuous, oily rhetoric of that time cloaking all the war’s most grotesque atrocities in the vocabulary of humanitarianism.

This edition of Overland contains much terrific writing – in the essays, as well as the stories and the prize-winning poems in the Overland Judith Wright competition. Our contributors focus on the most pressing issues of the era, from environmental crisis to the resurgence of fascism, and from the war on terror to the oppression of Tibet.

Collated under the one cover, these essays paint a picture of the massive challenges facing our generation. The problems can seem overwhelming, especially since, in many instances, no obvious solutions present themselves.

Then again we are past the time for comforting illusions.

A decade ago, our leaders proclaimed a new kind of politics, even as they confidently hitched their principles into the service of lies. Today, in the wake of Iraq (and, after it, the GFC), we hear less of the rhetoric of interventions and civilisational clashes, precisely because the politicians of today feel so much weaker. That’s a good thing, as anyone who looks at the record of Iraq will know.

But it does foster a broader perception that alternatives to the status quo are in short supply.

Today, there’s a chance for the Left to rearticulate its own principles, to outline a way forward not based on crisis and violence. But that means beginning with the world as it is, not as we’d like it to be.

That’s what this edition’s about.

Jeff Sparrow

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

More by Jeff Sparrow ›

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