‘The global capitalist system is approaching an apocalyptic zero-point,’ Slavoj Žižek observes in Living in the End Times. For Žižek, the four riders are climate change, biogenetics, system imbalances (from intellectual property to water as a resource) and ever-increasing social divisions. Perhaps belief in the apocalypse is not only for fundamentalists: there are many moments one feels these might be the final days of capitalism. There are only so many billions of people it can exhaust, so many planets it can devour.
Sure, everyone says children’s books are benign, but make no mistake: reading is a gateway drug. I was doing poems by the age of five. At ten I had read every book in the house. Every cent of my pocket money went to support my habit. I fooled around with writing a novel, but back then I still had some sense of self-preservation. I threw it out and stuck with poems. Everyone said poems did no harm.
When my grandmother developed Alzheimer’s disease, she started to get me confused with her son, who had moved to Brazil at what was then my age. As a result of this, and of the feelings of guilt she still harboured towards him, seeing me had the effect of making her anxious. It was only through conversation that she became calmer to the point where we could enjoy each other’s company.
I’m worried I’m an over-writer. Look, I just really like adjectives, okay? My worst stylistic habit is stringing them onto my sentences two at a time, like perfect glossy beads. I can see myself doing it, but can’t stop. Adverbs, too. And when I write descriptively, allusively, using grammar rhythmically, I sense my meaning sharpening a little more with each detail.
The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Bloc had opened up whole swathes of Eastern Europe to the benefits of the European Union; the possibilities for expansion, both for the EU and for NATO, were endless. The sober light of EU economic and social management was shone across the old Iron Curtain and into the obscure corners of the Slavic zone. Or so many thought.
Today, stories of violence against women – particularly those who self-identify as feminists – appear in what feels like a ceaseless onslaught. Recent examples range from the harassment of Melbourne writer Clementine Ford and the Gamergate scandal, to the brutal murder of American university student Grace Mann. The velocity with which these stories spread across social media suggests that the phenomenon is relatively contemporary and gaining momentum, but one does not need to search hard for earlier examples.
What if our most closely held ideas about nature are reactionary? What if the project of restoring wildernesses that we (humans or moderns) have defiled – is misconceived and counterproductive? What if the deeply inscribed understanding of prelapsarian nature, as McKenzie Wark proposes, ‘an ecology that was self-correcting, self-balancing and self-healing’, is a way of surreptitiously reviving a God who might regulate and constrain human appetites? How would abandoning such ideas help us to address the interlocking emergencies – climatic, economic, humanitarian – that are already underway?
Many people I know share a common vision of the end of the world. When humans are gone, we imagine, the wilderness will grow over the ruins of our civilisation. Weeds will break through the cement. Tree roots will crack the foundations of buildings. Decay will restore some kind of natural equilibrium. The absence of human beings will allow the planet to find its level. It’s everywhere, this set of images.
This paragraph raises a lot of questions. The most straightforward is the one that might seem the hardest to define: what should the science fiction community stand for? In so far as science fiction is a community – a term that could encompass much, from informal gatherings to the industrial empires of media franchises – it should stand for the levels of good practice you would expect in a well-managed and well-organised workplace or public event in an advanced capitalist country. Don’t stand for bullying, harassment, insults, assaults.
On 19 March 2014, the NSW Liberal government announced its decision to sell all social housing in Millers Point on the private market. In total, this amounts to 293 properties. The announcement was made by Pru Goward, then Minister for Family and Community Services. Goward described the sell-off as a decision made ‘for the benefit of the entire social housing system.’ For every property sold in Millers Point, the government has argued, another three social housing properties (or another five – the figure seems to fluctuate) can be built elsewhere.
I became a person of interest to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) at 5:40 pm on 14 November 1969. At the time, I was a Year 10 student at Telopea Park High School in Canberra, and I was becoming increasingly interested in radical politics. I was not unique: several activist groups had sprung up already among secondary students. These were generally formed in response to the Vietnam War, and then focused on more local issues, often within schools.
This happened when I was a young man, just shy of my twenty-first birthday. All my life, I’d lived in a New South Wales country town; I won’t say which one, only that it was within four hours of Sydney and has since been abandoned. The town was a combination of abattoirs and grain and white collars. If you listened hard enough, you could hear the cries of a million cows in the throes of death.
He had always loved driving. One of the reasons he’d been so eager to take up a job at the police station was its remoteness, the long roads unreeling endlessly beneath new vehicles, their wheels handling bitumen or corrugated track with equal ease. He loved doing errands in the town, too, waving at the little Aboriginal kids who wandered the streets, leaning out of the window and calling them by name.
I gobbled a round of caerphilly, then Theophily
called to me, under the linden tree.
Conservatism? Let me count the ways:
It must seem like a mountain of folly
to the old people, but we take our chances
and we’re always on the ready.
A stadium can hold the most sound
drowning out the bora ring
mudding the lines we needed to know
The person honourable, the crimes austere. In circumstances of woodland decay well suited to delinquency
Le paradis n’est pas artificiel,
but melting and fermenting, it seems.
The panting, perishing white lemuroid
A wife looks at her husband; a treefrog at a modem. They view the bush from a comfortable position: enjoy wifi
One day later on a later day in the year of some animal
I am ankle-deep in leaves and though the days burn bright the fast-falling evening has a bite now:
A northern branch – rough handled – right
for curving the animal from me.
In winter she opens: one white flower.
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
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.
Casual [Kazh-ooh-uh l]; adjective 1. From the Latin cadere, meaning fall. As in: the employer had a casual Attitude to ladder safety. As in:
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)’.
It appears we’ve had a coup. Lulz. But not a joke, apparently.
WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR
Around 1000 people dressed in blue and yellow skivvies have occupied federal parliament. No-one has been allowed in or out. The *revolutionaries* (terrorists?) have said we’ll be held hostage until ‘real democracy’ has been established. Great.
In the grey light, the only noise was the hum of the console as it worked through the day’s roster. Elizabeth waited, stretched out on the mattress, not wanting to get up if there wasn’t a reason to. The console whirred, the low-level purr of a sleeping cat, for a few more beats, and then announced the outcome with a sharp bleat.
A notice flashed on the screen.
Cartoon winner, Fair Australia Prize.