Frankenstorm versus Frankenstein

In case Sandy actually does destroy the entire North East of the USA, I might take this opportunity to reflect upon the significance of the neologism ‘Frankenstorm’, before such academic nit-picking comes to seem insensitive. Indeed, it might already be so, because this storm claimed 21 lives in the Caribbean before moving back out to sea. But this reflection seems particularly poignant given the storm’s coinciding with the final days of the presidential campaign.

The  nick name ‘Frankenstorm’ is not just a media buzzword, but a quirky name attributed to Sandy in the first instance by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Sandy is the convergence of two tropical cyclones, and the product is the giant monster storm we are all calling ‘Frankenstorm’. The name, of course, references Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. But Frankenstein is not the monstrous hybrid creature in the book, rather Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein, is the creator. Andrew Revkin writing on the NYTimes blog has already picked up on this and noted that “While the echo of Frankenstein in that Twitter moniker can imply this is a human-created meteorological monster, it’s just not that simple.” Ok, so we can’t just solely attribute the huge cataclysm to human activity. That is fine. But the blog’s correct reading of the neologism belies the fact that the media has picked it up and is using it in various ways to refer not to the storm’s creators but to the storm itself or its stormy effects: “Nick-named ‘Frankenstorm’ for its potentially monstrous effect”, for example.

In the recent presidential debates in the US climate change was not mentioned once. This is the first time that climate change has not been mentioned in such a significant debate in the US since the early 1980s. There is therefore tragic irony in the fact that although climate change is decidedly off the mainstream political agenda in the USA, that everyone is referring to the storm that threatens to devastate some of the most populous regions of the nation by a name that by virtue of the neologism’s literary origins, implies it is, in some way, a creation of humankind.

Then of course there is the actual name of the storm, Sandy, which is another topic altogether.


My Crown of Weeds

A long time ago I promised to think more about the crown of weeds in King Lear. On October 12, 2012, more than two years since I made that promise, I was given that opportunity in public. I participated in the creation of a tradition at UNSW that involved the actual construction of a weedy crown. On this day Professor Deborah Bird Rose crowned me with weeds to celebrate the submission of my PhD*. Hopefully future students in the Environmental Humanities** will also be similarly crowned! The tradition was the collaborative brainchild of Drs Eben Kirksey, Thom van Dooren and Ms-not-quite-Dr myself and made with the assistance of Diego Bonetto, Sydney’s own King of Weeds. Eben suggested I make a costume to celebrate my submission, Thom was amicable to this idea, I came up with the idea of crowning myself with weeds and Diego helped me select the edible weeds.

On a frosty morning Diego, Carin (from Slow Food Sydney) and myself went walking along the Cooks River and Wolli Creek in search of rogue edible plants. Below are a series of photos that capture the creation of this foraged weedy crown.

My PhD is on the storm in King Lear and during his time in the storm Lear strips naked and then crowns himself with weeds. My favourite interpretation of this crown is from Akira Kurosawa’s 1985 Adaptation Ran (Chaos).

Hidetora’s Crown of Weeds (Emperor Hidetora is the Lear of Kurosawa’s Film)

I wanted to make the crown because I like what it represents. It is usually considered an indicator of Lear’s madness or the chaos in the kingdom. But I think the weedy crown represents the promise of an alternative political order. Taken out of its dramatic context, I think a weedy crown can be worn by anyone (of the 99%!) to represent an alternative way of imaging and living in the world. For me this alternative world positions disorderly natural forces (such as weeds, parasites and storms) and the unwieldy patterns of life and death at the heart of a refigured body politic.

This post comes with two disclaimers.

*Firstly, I have not yet received the award of PhD, given all this attention I can only hope I pass!

**I am a student of English at UNSW, not Environmental Humanities but I have been teaching in the Environmental Humanities and it was lovely of them to help mark this occasion. When I do finally receive the award, however, it will be through the English department.

Nevertheless, I am incredibly honoured to have been crowned with weeds by Professor Bird Rose and I can only hope to live up to the ideals represented by this digestible and perishable diadem.


Queues

During the Howard Years the label ‘queue jumper’ was applied to anyone who tried to enter Australia via ‘unofficial’ means or ‘illegal’ passage. For the most part these people are refugees. So, anyone who fled their home and country for fear of prosecution, but who also failed to fill out the correct paperwork before arriving in Australia was labelled a ‘queue jumper’. Rather than just being an offensive gaffe by some loose lipped Barnaby Joyce-type politician,forgotten well before the next election, this phrase has entered common usage in the Australian vernacular; indeed it was a phrase key in winning Howard the next election. It is a tragic misnomer for a range of reasons but most tragically in relation to refugees: one cannot queue to flee. However the phrase stuck because it made sense to a shameless majority; it played into the imaginations of many Australians who, it turns out, are afraid that the wide brown land is too small to accommodate people in need.

********

I was in a queue the other day, but it was a queue of a very different order. I was queuing for coffee at a cafe in Chippendale. But at first I didn’t see the queue. A girl walked in, looked at me, and walked straight past me to a line that was trained along the counter. This line was obviously a queue. I noticed this almost immediately and joined the queue behind the girl who had walked in after me. ‘Is this the queue?’ I asked. ‘Yes it is’, she replied quite definitely. I wasn’t too disgruntled that she was in front of me in the queue, even though I’d been at the cafe for a few minutes longer than her (and she knew that!). But it did make me think a little bit about the mundane, interpersonal politics of queues and how this might relate to the concept of the ‘queue jumper’.

My basic point is, even if you can join a queue (i.e. because you aren’t ‘fleeing’ or because it’s a sunny and peaceful Friday morning and you can wait ten more seconds for a decaf flat white), you can’t join the queue until you know where it is. Then, when you do find the queue, no one actually cares how long you’ve been looking for the queue. When you do join it you have to get on the back of the line. That’s the rule. There can be no way to register when you decide to start looking for the queue, because if you knew how to register, you’d know how to find the queue. What struck me was that the girl could have offered to let me in the line, but she didn’t. She knew where the queue was, I didn’t. She’s gotta wait too. Why would she want to wait any longer?

It is here, in this mundane, more or less every day unspoken rule, we find the base and wretched political power of the phrase ‘queue jumper’. It doesn’t matter that many of the people labelled ‘queue jumpers’ don’t even know there is a queue (if we can even speak of the wait to immigrate to Australia as a ‘queue’, as such). Furthermore, anyone seeking refugee status would not be able to queue anyway: queuing to ‘flee’ imminent danger is impossible by definition. It doesn’t matter because while you’re average joe is waiting for his morning coffee, and reading the daily tele’s latest wretched story about ‘queue jumpers’, he’s linking the idea of the refugee to his coffee queue; he’s thinking about what he’d like to do to anyone who dared extend his wait time for his mug-o-cino and using that ‘basic instinct’ to interpret the plight of those displaced by political turmoil. It may too banal and too base but I feel like there’s something in it.

I’m looking forward to watching ‘Go Back to Where You Came From‘ on SBS tonight.


Cars

I have spent the day trying to construct a talk about my WALK project for The Right to the City Symposium this weekend. My project is entitled “walking in the rain” and is, as it says it is, a walk in the rain. The walk will happen rain, hail or shine along the Cooks River in Canterbury. I chose the site because of a range of reasons, but largely because the river is one enormous drain. Also I thought it would be interesting to think about rain in the city in relation to the infrastructure designed to drain it all away. I’ve been trying to think about my work in terms of the politics of storm water management, private property and urban planning. But it is really hard to construct a talk about a work that is not yet finished. So today I’ve been easily distracted from this task by Google Images, Flickr and YouTube. I was looking for engineered urban river systems, to help me think differently the particularities of the Cooks River system.

When thinking of urban waterways The Seine and the Thames of course came to mind, as did New York’s Hudson River. But as soon as I saw the picture I realised that the Los Angeles River is really the most extraordinarily stark example of a river that has been engineered in order to suit the water management needs of a modern industrialised city.

Los Angeles River

It is the epitome of ugliness and hasty, unsustainable urban planning. But it is also spectacular in its own way; for me the scale of the concrete system is almost sublime. It is a drain that is so big that it is iconic. But this is not what this post is actually about. This post is about cars. The Cars that Flooded Toowoomba.

In the process of looking for my urban riverscapes, I came across a video of the Toowoomba flash flood from earlier in the year. This footage was replayed over and over on TV at the time, probably under the headline ‘Inland Tsunami’, but I had never heard the original audio until today. The audio is a discussion between a group of colleagues, one holding the camera and the rest looking on in awe, while the flood waters rush into their work’s car park.

If you watched the video, did you notice that the discussion only refers to the flood waters a couple of times? Did you notice that for the majority of the clip entirely about the cars parked in the car park? This struck me as a telescoping of all media representation of disasters; ‘Nature’s’ fury doesn’t make sense to us unless pictured in relation with what ‘she’s’ furious with, in this case it’s the cars. Watching the footage of the Tsunami in Japan recently was the same for me; bridges crushing boats, suburbs of houses swirling around together like crumbs in a sink hole were the things that enabled me, with my limited human capacity, to begin to understand the scale of the non human wave.

While I think it is a banal, base and impulsive response, and (in the Toowoomba clip at least) it is also a funny response, it is nonetheless meaningful. If there was nothing meaningful in that relation between the natural event (wave, flood, storm) and the damage (houses, bridges, cars) what’s the difference between the footage of the Tsunami and images or footage of Niagara Falls? The ‘disaster’ is the relationship between the two. In fact, one scale for measuring the force of a tornado turns the basic human perspective into a kind of scientific method: the Fujita Scale measures the intensity of the cyclone by the amount of human infrastructure and vegetation it destroyed.  For me the video of the flood in Toowoomba is a wonderful example of this curious human reflex.

As someone trying to write a thesis about a storm, I actually long for the opposite to be true. My entire thesis tries to circumvent this basic impulse to account for the human and not the storm. I am in engaged in a struggle to account for the storm itself; but then most of my observations have to begin with the drama of human perspectives that plays out within it/beside it/below it. I wonder what would need to be different for the basic reflex to be the opposite? I wonder what it would take for most of us non-experts to be able to imagine the storm instead of the broken power lines, the bush fire instead of the roadblock, the wave instead of the devastated town and the flood waters instead of the cars (the rising sea-levels instead of the politics?).

*******

But how to link this impulse to focus on the cars in Toowoomba anyway to my day of thinking about urban storm water management? Here’s an idea. Our cities are built on the promise that we can manage the rain water. But, as French theorist Paul Virilio once stated that the invention of the train was also, in the same instance, the invention of the train wreck; by extension, the invention of the drain in some sense is also the invention of the flood.[1] When the drains fail, be it the drain in the bathroom or the network of drains in the state of Queensland, it is logical that we take note of the damage to the things that the drain was supposed to keep dry. And perhaps recognise the drain itself as a mediator of the relationship between the flood waters and the damaged property; the drain/riverdrain is the conduit of meaning. The drain in this sense is meaningful.[2] But meaningful how? I hope the meaning of the drain and its relevance to my my WALK project, to The Right to the City and to my talk on Saturday will emerge in a dream tonight. Sorry to leave this one hanging.

[1] all machines can be viewed in this way: plane/plane crash, ship/shipwreck, car/car crash. In fact perhaps it is just the industrialised version of Life/Death. Hmmm. That’s food for thought.

[2] It reminds me of this quote from the first episode of Treme “Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster, but what happened in New Orleans was a man made catastrophe of epic fucking proportions”.


War Games

There is much to be said about Operation Odyssey Dawn, the US’s name for the UN sanctioned strikes against Libya. We could start with its decidedly impractical name: How about Operation Support Civilian Protesters? I guess it is likely that Odyssey Dawn is more honest, the first phase of yet another potentially long term military odyssey for the US and its allies. However, on the 8th anniversary of the Coalition of the Willing’s illegal invasion of Iraq, and just over 24 hours into the military action against Libya, I simply want to focus on this image I found on the Sydney Morning Herald website earlier this morning.

Taken from the Sydney Morning Herald Website 20th March, 2011

Just a few days ago, I was discussing with a friend how reprehensible the mainstream media’s coverage of “Shock and Awe” was. I recalled how even though the days preceding the invasion were overwhelmed by mass global debate and protest, as soon as the bombing began, the politics fell out of the mainstream press. By “politics” I mean the US’s  (and the rest of the Coalition’s) Defiance of the UN, the fabrication of the reason for going to war, the massive resistance to the invasion from the citizens of the US, UK, Australia to name a few, and the conflict of military and business interests that Iraq presented the billionaire’s club Bush administration. On the day of the invasion all of this politics was trumped by the spectacular fireworks display that was the invasion bombing of Baghdad. The “Shock and Awe” campaign was designed to send shockwaves through the Iraqi population in order to lubricate the regime change (and wholesale privatisation of the state) [1], but also the “Shock and Awe” was replicated for us to marvel at on TV, only at a much safer distance. It was like some spectacular war game, people I remember would go home after work to “watch the war”. We are right to be angry and cynical about the media representation of the early days of the Iraq war, it was explicitly designed to distract us from the politics. Indeed, that the way in which the mainstream media lapped up the idea of “Shock and Awe” in those early days is possibly the one success story of the invasion. But, the spectacularisation of the invasion of Iraq makes a perverse kind of sense given the objectives of the Coalition; shameful and criminal as it was and still is, Iraq was designed to be shamelessly dazzling. This is not the same in Libya.

In Libya we have a popular uprising violently repressed by a militant dictator, and a concerned international community ‘intervening’ to support the people; or so they say. It is in the meaningful difference between Iraq and Libya that caused my despair upon seeing these images. The series of images captures the destruction one of Gaddafi’s jets, shot down by allied forces enforcing the no fly zone in order to attempt to thwart Gaddafi’s violent backlash against his own people. It is not the destruction of the jet that disturbs me so, it is the captions–“going”, “going”, “gone”–as though the plane was the highest bidder at a high-stakes military auction. For me the captions are an example of a particularly problematic, patronising, post-Shock and Awe, western gaze.

The captions serve no practical purpose; we can tell that the plane is crashing, crashing, crashed without them. While they do not tell us anything about the image itself, they do add something to it. Even though I have no idea who actually created the captions and for what purpose, these captions are fundamentally political. They adopt a moral high ground and neutralise debate around the military action by tacitly assuming that the Allied forces are doing what is right and that whomsoever the soldiers were in that plane got what was coming to them for siding with the enemy. In fact, less than 24hours into this conflict, the captions suggest war itself is a kind of fun game that they are already confidently winning. There is a kind of excitement imbedded in the destruction of this enemy target. The captions, it could be argued, have the same dehumanised tone as the soldiers caught on the wikileaks Collateral Murder video. It seems to me that these images with such playful captions is more at home on some right-wing pro-war discussion board than on a mainstream news website. To me these captions are the journalistic equivalent of Bush’s famous “Mission Accomplished” speech, only it is perhaps even more pre-emptive. One plane shot down and, mission accomplished, Gaddafi is going, going, gone. Not quite. Not even close.

This war that is less than 24hours old so much is unknown, when and how Gaddafi will retaliate is unknown and the effects are yet to be determined, except for the stated goal of trying to get Gaddafi to stop attacking the civilian protesters other Western interests remain undeclared (Oil?), will the action actually assist anti-government protesters in the end, and how many civilians will die in this process. In spite of the fact that the allied forces successfully shot down one plane with one of the 110 missiles used in the first day of conflict, what will happen in Libya is unknown. At this stage we can only hope that the hubris displayed by our anonymous caption-editor is not the same as those planning the battle, or we might find that it is another Iraq or Afghanistan dawning in North Africa.

*****

[1] “Shock and Awe is often presented as merely a strategy of overwhelming firepower, but the authors of the doctrine see it as much more than that: it is, they claim, a sophisticated psychological blueprint aimed ‘directly at the public will of the adversary to resist’ … With clear echoes of the CIA’s interrogation manuals, ‘Shock and Awe’ states, “In crude terms, Rapid Dominance would seize control of the environment and paralyze or so overload an adversary’s perceptions and understanding of events”

“Iraq … was the logical conclusion of Chicago School theory: a public sector reduced to a minimal number of employees, mostly contract workers, living in a Halliburton city state, tasked with signing corporate-friendly laws drafted by KPMG and handing out duffle bags of cash to Western contractors protected by mercenary soldiers, themselves shielded by full legal immunity. All around them were furious people, increasingly turning to religious fundamentalism because it is the only source of power in a hollowed out state. Like Russia’s gangsterism and Bush’s cronyism, contemporary Iraq is a creation of the fifty-year crusade to privatise the world.”

Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine, p.333 & 359

Post script: I spent today at two rallies unrelated to the Libyan conflict: Free Bradley Manning and No more Coal Mines/No Coal Seam Gas. Images here.


An Unoriginal Gripe

Sometime in the middle of the hottest night of the longest heatwave, in Sydney’s recorded meteorological history, I was sitting on a pontoon on Sydney harbour, in my underpants, talking about leaf blowers. The conversation had drifted from the phenomenon of the manicured lawn, to the lawn mower, then onto the leaf blower. Leaf blowers have, for a long time, symbolised to me everything that is wrong with the world today. For example, I have a page of this blog saved in drafts called “Despair”. The page is a work-in-progress list of the top things that make me lose faith in the world and everything in it. Leaf Blowers currently sits at number one.

When I mentioned this gripe, two of Sydney’s bright young professional science and environment writers, also in their underpants, rolled their eyes and said (to radically paraphrase), “everyone wants us to write about leaf blowers, it is such a cliche, we can’t see that there’s anything wrong with one or two leaf blowers, there are bigger fish to fry.” I argued my point briefly, which I will come to in a minute, and I was given the concession that perhaps if I was writing in an academic rather than journalistic context the problem could be framed in a more interesting way. Even so, the general feeling toward leaf blowers was a resounding “meh” or “bleargh”. But, this is beside the point, I didn’t need convincing that the issue/symbol of the Leaf Blower is interesting (it’s my number one gripe!). The point is, it was actually the first part of their criticism that really disturbed me. My Number One Gripe, the gripe that I thought contained within it the hitherto unexpressed problem with the world today, is actually entirely unoriginal and a tired old cliche?

Gripes are trivial complaints. I tend to feel despair in relation to many gripes, not because I empathise with the griper, but that the object of the gripe (the gripee?) is  actually capable of stirring enough negative emotion and energy in the griper to warrant a gripe in the first place–long queues at Woolworths, the cost of parking in the city, a faulty iphone 4, the slight struggle to comprehend the accented voice of the phone banking attendant in South East Asia, bad customer service at the Yacht Club–I tend to think most gripes warrant the hash-tag “first world problems”. That is why I was shaken up by the knowledge that every bleeding hearted greenie has a fundamental problem with leaf blowers, and that the gripe itself is actually a “gripe” rather than an “issue”, and is therefore really trite. Further, this gripe might not only warrant the hash tag “first world problems” but something even worse, #boring. So here, without doing any more research, without checking to see who in the world might also have expressed this opinion, without wasting one more second of my time on this hackneyed topic, I want to briefly defend my position on Leaf Blowers, but at the same time perhaps get it out of my system, retire this unoriginal gripe and focus on the bigger picture.

Leaf Blowers are a power tool that look like a cross between a chainsaw and a vacum cleaner. When in use, it is held about waste height so the large tube could considered by the user as a fantastically long and powerful, mechanical extension of the human penis. They are designed to blow leaves from one place to another: from path/park/yard to the drain, or, as is no doubt sometimes the case, designed to move stuff that I do not want on my property onto someone else’s. The practical function and fundamental purpose of the leaf blower is, therefore, a metaphor for the problems of property ownership. The person blowing the leaves from their property to their neighbours, or from Local Council jurisdiction to Crown Land, or if you happen to live on some geopolitical border, from one nation to another, it implies that you do not see a valuable connection between your land and someone elses. As long as your land is free from dead leaves and rain-soaked snail-eaten poorly-discarded junk mail, then you are OK. (There’s a metaphor for the refugee crisis in there too… but I won’t go into it now).

It is also a metaphor for, and literal embodiment of, “outsourcing” and all its adjunt political issues. In blowing my leaves from my front lawn to yours, I am effectively striking a deal with a developing nation to bury my toxic waste, or I am hiring a Human Resources firm to come in and get rid of “all the dead wood”, so to speak. If someone who has just been unreasonably fired by a large corporation not by their direct superior, but by some weirdo temp guy with a plastic smile and an unnaturally logical reason for ending the employment contract asks, “How come my termination notice smells like diesel and sounds like a two-bit engine?”, perhaps direct them to this post.

I also believe that leaf blowers are a literal embodiment of, and metaphor for, the resources crisis and climate change. The Leaf Blower, which itself requires petrol to power, expresses all the problems of hidden costs, supply chains, oil dependence and deregulated free-market capitalism and, therefore, Leaf Blowers could be understood as being responsible for the melting of the polar ice caps. The leaves that I could move from my yard to the compost or even to the green bin with my hands, requires an product delivered to me via an unregulated international supply chain and therefore the Leaf Blower helps to prop-up slave labour markets, an oil economy built on warfare, and, if you include purchase a sausage sandwich and can of coke at the Bunnings charity barbeque at the same time as you buy your underpriced garden machine, factory farming and the third world fresh-water crisis.

Not to mention the noise.

I also think that what needs some serious cultural analysis is the children’s toy version of the “humble” leaf blower. These toys are available via Amazon, and no doubt in a toy store near you. The method of production of the toy of course repeats the same problems as the product itself, plus one.

Kiddy Leaf Blower

Second wave feminists were good at pointing out the way in which children’s toys produce gender identities. Trucks and lego go with penises to make “Boys”. Dolls and kitchen sets go with vaginas to make “Girls”. I would like to add that  Kiddy Leaf Blowers can be matched with either penises or vaginas in order to make “Neoconservatives“.

If I wanted to, I could even go a step further and suggest that the Leaf Blower was the cause of the heatwave that prompted us to go an sit on a pontoon in Sydney harbour in the middle of the night in order to survive. But, I won’t. We were really on the pontoon for a friend’s birthday. And it was an enormously fun night out! So, I will leave it there. That’s my gripe. It’s unresearched. Superficial. Hyperbolic. It smacks of my status as a bleeding hearted greenie with an overly-generalised-knoweledge of the complex international system and a trumped up sense of self-righteousness. But, screw it. I like it. I’ve said it. It’s my unoriginal gripe. It is out of my system. I can move on. I hope you did not find this post too #boring.


Invasion Day

By 5pm it was 30 degrees in the shade. I’d already swapped the ocean for a Survival Day festival. A Survival Day festival for a cold bath and a book. And the cold bath and a book for a cold glass of water and a muesli bar. I was working myself up to putting on clothes. The house was peaceful. Newtown was peaceful. Because most people were getting pissed at the beach. I shared a beer with some friends at 6pm. And, by 8pm I was at the Opera House watching the Gob Squad’s amazing Super Night Shot. By 10.30pm I’d stacked it on my bike and ripped all the skin from the underside of my left knee. By 11.30pm I was asleep. That was my January 26 in a nut shell. It is always strange day because it is still a celebration of the colonisation of Australia by the British.

The night before, I marked Invasion Day by going to Film Fanatics at Petersham Bowling Club. And, under a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, we watched Australia Daze (1988), One People Sing Freedom (1988) and Babakiueria (1986). All three films were great in their own way. One People Sing Freedom was a short doco about Indigenous Australians who travelled to Sydney to take part in the Survival Day Protest on 26th January, 1988. Babakiueria, a film that has dated somewhat, is a mockumentary that inverts the traditional narrative of colonisation, putting white’s in black shoes. However, it is Australia Daze that I want to make comment upon here.

The idea for the doco was born in January 1987 in a pub in King’s Cross. Film maker Pat Fiske, and a man who would end up as Assistant Producer, Denis O’Rourke, were drinking beer and concocting a plan to make a film about Australia’s bicentenary celebrations. 1 year later, with the ABC as backers and $450K support, 29 film crews converged on cities and towns all over the country to film the day where Australia celebrated 200 years of white settlement. People from Sydney, Hobart, Mt Isa, and Canberra, and a selection of television footage from commercial stations that covered the celebrations feature in this extraordinary, underrated and undercirculated doco that shows a nation divided by its own historical narrative.

26 January, 1988. I was dressed as a green fairy on a Opera-House shaped parade-float, riding through the streets of Wollongong, waving to onlookers. My biggest problem on that day, as a five year old, was that I didn’t get to wear the pink fairy dress and instead was relegated to the (clearly inferior) lime green. Meanwhile in Sydney, millions of dollars of public money was spent on a dramatised re-enactment of the first fleet landing in Sydney harbour: hundreds of thousands of people came out to celebrate the event and glorify the 200 years of colonial history. But also, thousands of indigenous Australians converged on Lady Macquarie’s Chair, overlooking Sydney Harbour, to protest what the day represents and in particular the way in which it was being celebrated in 1988, and also to demand recognition for what colonisation meant and means for Indigenous people, their land and culture, past, present and future.

While the doco represents a substantial chunk of the spectrum of Australian identities, including the focus on European migrants, working class suburbanites, rural horse wranglers, the divided historical narrative between Black and White is at the heart of Australia Daze. And the film represents this divide by letting the subjects explain to camera what the day means to them. The divide comes out between the carefree attitude of wealthy white Australians who speak of the pride they feel on the day, and the resistance put up by Indigenous and non-Indigenous protesters alike who lament the lack of recognition for what the day really represents.

I spent yesterday with the film at the forefront of my mind. 22 years later and, really, little has changed. With the Northern Territory intervention continuing in spite of a national apology, with the Block in disrepair, and with the millions of people cramming onto the beach with Australian Flag temporary tattoos plastered on their face, this particular divide is still as marked as ever. I do not have anything new to add to this discussion. I guess I just wanted to note it here, for whatever minimal posterity this blog enables, and also in a belated gesture of solidarity with the protesters back in 1988. White Australia has a Black History. That history needs to be widely represented and widely understood, and more needs to be done politically to change legacy in a material sense for indigenous people living today, and all that complexity needs to be visible when we stop work to think symbolically about our Imagined Community and what it means to share this Great Southern Land.

Also, I think it might be good if ABC screened Australia Daze every year on Invasion Day.

RESOURCES:

Australia Daze http://aso.gov.au/titles/documentaries/australia-daze/

One People Sing Freedomhttp://aso.gov.au/titles/tv/one-people-sing-freedom/

Babakiueriahttp://aso.gov.au/titles/shorts/babakiueria/

Film Fanatics: http://thepbc.org.au/happenings/inner-west-film-forum

Yabun Festival: http://www.gadigal.org.au/arts/arts.aspx?id=14

 

Before the madness by 10am the sun still hadn't burned through the morning mist over the water

 

"White Australia has a Black History": small banners like this one were visible around the city throughout the day. This one was up the street from the Yabun festival.

 

 

 

 


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