Last December in an article for Crikey, correspondent-at-large Guy Rundle trenchantly diagnosed the Coalition’s catastrophic miss-management of the universities as a betrayal of the very ‘western values’ they claim to revere. However, he also assigned a mysterious share of the situation’s blame to nefarious left-wing thinkers with their impenetrable queer theory and scandalous intolerance of intolerance. He singled out the linguist and NTEU branch president Dr Nick Riemer (writing in your very own humble radical literary journal) for describing Captain Cook’s observation of the Transit of Venus as a ‘pretext’ rather than a disinterested scientific inquiry. That Cook also had covert orders from the Admiralty to be opened on arrival in Tahiti is not historically disputed, of course, but that’s not the real problem with this kind of argument. Even if the motives of the expedition had been purely scientific, it would nonetheless be absurdly petty to make them a sticking point in an argument about the ethical stakes of Australian history. In the context of the tertiary sector this kind of pointless quibbling amounts a debate over a toothpick in a burning forest. More recently, in The Australian two writers have published yet another tired screed arguing that their individual experiences of being criticised on twitter symptomise the death of art. This, while the already terminal condition of federal arts funding receives yet another critical blow. The deep-set problems in both sectors require collective, organised, and determined action to redress. These issues are not primarily philosophical, but if the discourse does have an obvious problem with a straightforward discursive solution, it’s the amount of ink being taken up by disingenuous fuckwits bloviating about middle-class discomforts while thousands of artists and academics face untenable working conditions. As we approach another fraught election, let us hope for a more productive use for our collective pens.

Bugalwan, solidarity,

Evelyn Araluen and Jonathan Dunk

Evelyn Araluen

Evelyn Araluen is a Goorie and Koori poet, researcher, and co-editor of Overland Literary Journal. Her Stella-prize-winning poetry collection DROPBEAR was published by UQP in 2021. She lectures in Literature and Creative Writing at Deakin University.

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Jonathan Dunk

Jonathan Dunk is the co-editor of Overland and a widely published poet and scholar. He lives on Wurundjeri country.

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