What stories should we be telling each other in these anxious times?

what stories

I just put a jacket on. It’s cold again. Winter is having a few last laughs while we ponder a future world cooked by a carbon dioxide soaked climate. The weather, always on our minds.

When I’m one hundred and ten and the young folk ask me what it was like when modern civilisation was in full swing, I’ll tell them, “They were anxious times.”

Not long ago, I was thinking that the time was ripe for some new form of literature to appear on the scene – that the novel, novella and the short story had possibly run past their use-by-date. Of course, there is flash fiction. So quick and easy as we rush around in this busy world. But, is flash just fashion? A flash in the pan?

One other new trend, a genre named ‘cli-fi’, is speculative fiction set within the post-modern-civilised-world of the near future that has been ravaged by climate change. Not having read any of this new genre, I assume that some works of cli-fi paint the future as a pure dystopian hell, while others inject doses of hope into the hot and humid chaos to console our anxious souls. Maybe some of the better examples of cli-fi simply explore the perennial universal aspects of the human condition in this new paradigm where hunting and gathering and small scale horticultural activities have by necessity returned to the daily routine.

However, will there be a new movement, and not just some new trendy commercial genre, but a whole new literary form and style that will inform and enlighten the masses as to the reasons why everything in this world is so confusing and frustrating and unfathomable? Will literary fiction be able to evolve in a new direction that will supplant our current obsessive bingeing on an endless stream of multiple seasons of multiple episodes of escapism currently available at the touch of several buttons on the remote control in our living rooms?

Will it be that this new age of literature only comes into existence when the high-tech dependent mediums go out with the lights? Who knows?

The reality we are facing is one where the world becomes an absolutely horrible place to live in, with millions, if not not billions, of people suffering and dying. Will any of us, when the shit really starts hitting the fan, have the luxury of indulging in the pastime of reading? And what about writing? Will the only relevant literature produced in these times of collapse be works extracted from the ruins, such as the diaries of the those who managed to find a pen and paper, and some space and time and peace, to be able to record first hand accounts of human suffering on a scale which has never been seen before?

Or, will the collapse of civilisation be slow and whimpering and, therefore, a substantially long enough era that will sustain a thriving culture of writing and reading? A literature that will portray humanity in the throes of decline, be they times of joy or mayhem, or both. At some point human civilisation, if our species does survive, will be kicking off once again. And will this new literature be a blueprint of salvation for this next civilisation? Will humanity ever learn the lessons required to ensure that a sustainable existence cannot not ignore the limits to growth on a finite planet?

In the meantime, what stories should we be telling each other? Surely, the classic hero’s journey, or the Bildungsroman, or the stock standard three act drama of rising conflict to climax and denouement, are ultimately irrelevant when the largest human civilisation ever to exist on Earth is collapsing. What is the point of self discovery, or battling evil forces, or correcting systemic injustice, when the reality is that the world as we know it is falling apart around our ears and in front of our eyes?

What stories should we be telling each other in these anxious times?

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Happy Equinox

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are so many things that can divide us – race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, income. Identity politics is tribalism gone mad.

Today, every human (and every fish, bird, ant and plant; not to mention the beaches and oceans and mountains and plains) on this planet we call Earth, will experience twelve hours of day and twelve of night.

All equal, everywhere.

Even-stevens.

Unity.

Leaving home

leaving home

2013: Australia votes in Tony Abbott as Prime Minister – move to New Zealand?

2016: Australia votes in Malcom Turnbull as Prime Minister – move to New Zealand?? Donald Trump is voted in as POTUS, things could get nasty – move to New Zealand???

2017: New Zealand elects Jacinda Ardern; yes, female, yes, Labour, and yes, she calls out capitalism as a ‘blatant failure’. Malcolm Turnbull dismisses Uluru Statement from the Heart – look up real estate in New Zealand.

2019: Australia votes in Scott Morrison as Prime Minister, who appoints first indigenous person as minister responsible for Aboriginal affairs and then dismisses Uluru Statement from the Heart – book flights to New Zealand.

book flights

Short Story Stock Clearance Sale – 50% OFF!

For a short time only these never before published titles are available for sale at 50% off the standard Media Entertainment Arts Alliance (MEAA) base rate per word of 95 cents.

As well as gaining full copyright of the story, purchasers will receive by Australia Post regular mail, a signed by the author, hard-copy short story printed on Coles brand A4 paper. Free postage and packaging. Electronic version of story available upon request at no extra cost.

Ape School – $604.20

Months to Live – $868.78

Coming to Grips – $826.03

The Town with No Name – $2,337.00

Doing the Best They Can – $799.90

The Simple Solution – $517.28

Ergot on Rye – $1,055.93

Talk Raw Data to Me – $234.18

It’s All Arranged – $134.43

So Far … – $760.00

My Mad Mutation Mountain Mission – $655.00

The Joys of Country Life – $545.00

Socialists Have Aspirations as Well

Dear Prime Minister,

It’s pretty clear that you and your side of politics believe that any form of taxation or welfare destroys people’s aspirations. I speak for myself while suspecting I am not alone, especially since at the last federal election more people voted for Labor and the Greens than voted for your so called broad church coalition of neo/liberal/conservative/national parties.

I have lots of aspirations. One of these I can phrase in your very own faux fair dinkum ozzie parlance. It is: a fair go so we can all have a go. It looks a lot like your mantra: a fair go for those who have a go, but it is quite different, and the type of society that would emanate from my philosophy would be quite different from the one you are currently legislating into existence.

If you’re having trouble understanding the difference, let me use this horticultural analogy. One gardener, let’s call him Bluey, sows a field of wild flower seeds. The other gardener, let’s call her Cerise, does the same. Bluey likes to keep a tight rein on his gardening budget so he waits until the seeds sprout before he decides which plants will get water, mulch and fertiliser. Cerise has already fertilised and mulched the soil and she regularly waters the whole field. It doesn’t take long before some of the wild flowers in Bluey’s patch sprout and grow tall and strong. Bluey gives them lots of water and all the fertiliser they need, he mulches around them and sings their praises. “Why look at this tall strong blue flower, it is clearly having a go. It deserves to be well looked after.” After some time Bluey’s field contains a smattering of tall thriving blue flowers. “Look how they reach for the sky, they will be an inspiration for all the other flowers who are not so tall or strong. Oh, what a good gardener am I.”

Cerise’s garden has blue flowers as well, but they don’t stand out like the ones in Bluey’s garden because they are surrounded by a multi-coloured blanket of floral delights. By feeding, watering and tending to the whole field each species of flower can thrive and blossom.

Not all flowers aspire to be the tallest.

Image result for wildflowers

 

Scott, I believe that the brand of aspiration you and your adherents claim that socially progressive political parties wish to destroy, is the aspiration that drives some people to become wealthy by winning at the brutal game of capitalism.

I don’t aspire to be wealthy, but I do aspire. I aspire to live in a society that is well watered and fertilised, a society where every person is looked after so they can thrive in a multi-coloured field of wild and unique humans.

Call me a socialist if you will. Yes, a small red flower, that for a long time now has been wrongly accused of being something that it is not. I am not a communist, I am not a soldier of class warfare. I am not envious of the rich and influential. I aspire for things other than money and power. I aspire for peace and equality and for our human society to tread a whole lot more lightly on the planet and all its life forms.

Scomo, you have been elected to serve all the peoples of Australia. Please understand that not all of us aspire to get ahead of the pack to be tall poppies in the corporate world that is destroying the planet with its dogged pursuit of growth and profits. Welfare and taxation are the water and fertiliser for a healthy society. Most of us would prefer to live in Cerise’s garden and not Bluey’s.

Fair dinkum,

Sean

Want a gig?

While the media focuses on stagnant wage growth, many workers’ incomes are shrinking. Their companies have developed smart phone apps which enable their services to be delivered 24/7. Scheduled hours with an hourly rate are a thing of the past, or, if not totally extinct, they are critically endangered, rapidly disappearing.

To earn, the worker must make themselves available on the app and be able to drop everything and get to the workplace, likely a computer, or get to the customer and start work within a tight time limit designated by the company. And, you will need to respond quickly to the app on the smart phone, or someone else, a work colleague whom you’ve never met, will snap up the work.

You’ll get paid by the minute or the piece. It will be a minimum casual rate, with no on-call allowance, no penalty rates and no questions welcomed. You will be persuaded to believe that this great new technical innovation will be beneficial for everyone involved. Most workers will know upfront that this company-speak is bullshit. Those initially fooled by the hyped up propaganda will soon learn the truth as their income shrinks and their work becomes sporadic and thinly spread over every hour of every day.

It’s the gig economy. We didn’t ask for it, but we got it because the company gets what the company wants. And nothing’s as precious as increased profits.

 

Power to the People – Part II

On Q & A (ABC TV, 27/5/19) a young person skyped a question to the panel about how she is being ‘shamed’ because she voted for the LNP in the recent federal election. After some clarification, it was established that the shaming came primarily from social media, and more importantly, it was revealed that she voted LNP because their policies benefited her, personally, financially. She should have been ashamed of herself.

The panel unanimously agreed that people should not be attacked because of how they voted, fair enough. Marcia Langton stated that our rage should be directed at the right targets. Good point. It appears that in recent times we, the electorate, have become so divided, so polarised in our views, that the status quo rolls on, effectively unchallenged, as we squabble among ourselves. The divide and conquer tactic is working for the LNP.

What is this status quo?

It’s not pretty.

Australia is one of the most wealthy nations on Earth, yet, our government puts the economy ahead of climate change. Scott Morrison stated, prior to the election: “Our Government will take, and is taking, meaningful, practical, sensible, responsible action on climate change without damaging our economy or your family budget.”

Scott Morrison and his ministers still insist that we are going to smash our Paris Targets. The Australian Government Department of Environment and Energy publish data that shows that our emissions have been increasing ever since the LNP gained power in 2013. The same data also shows that during the period of the Labor Government, 2007 – 2013, greenhouse gas emissions declined every year. This has been attributed to the carbon tax, which now, thanks to the propaganda of the neo-conservatives in this country, will likely never be on the table again.

emissions

(http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/4391288e-fc2b-477d-9f0b-99a01363e534/files/nggi-quarterly-update-sept-2018.pdf )

The proof is in the pudding, if you can somehow fool the electorate into believing that their electricity bill will rise if you vote Labor, even while it continues to rise under the LNP government which lost a Prime Minister in the shit fight trying to get an energy policy happening, then you can bullshit all you want about targets and emissions and responsible approaches to climate change. Enough voters, not the majority mind you, but enough to win an election, are swayed more by their hip pocket than their concern for the environment.

Carbon is dirty. Carbon tax is even dirtier. The word tax has become so politically toxic, that you can use it in fear campaigns to win an election even after six years of internal chaos and embarrassing incompetence.

“retiree tax”

“superannuation tax”

“housing tax”

“death tax”

Labor taxes. The Liberals cut tax, especially if you are wealthy and obviously having a go.

The wealthy are getting wealthier. On the same Q & A where the young woman bemoaned being shamed for voting LNP, host, Tony Jones, badgered Mark Dreyfuss about the toxicity of the Labor party’s policy to end franking tax credits (aka the “retiree tax”).

From Kaye Lee at the Australian Independent Media (AIM), 29/5/19:

Tony Jones to the rescue, asking Mark Dreyfuss “Would you agree, at least, that it was a financial impost on many retirees?”

Dreyfuss answered “It was a removal of a benefit or a subsidy that is paid by the Australian Tax Office, using other taxpayers’ money… to about 3% of Australian taxpayers.”

Tony persisted.

Well, 3% who were on it, and how many per cent were waiting to use that system, and how many relatives and people who had the system? I mean, you’re not…you’re not seriously considering continuing with the policy, are you?”

(https://theaimn.com/quiet-australians/)

Is Tony Jones a mouthpiece for the LNP? Are the LNP cuts to the ABC working? Will it soon be for sale? Will Murdoch buy it?

Wealth inequality is growing. Many people who voted for the LNP seem to be ignorant of this fact, or worse still, aspire to get in on the tax rorts. Scott Morrison comes from a marketing background. His campaign for Tourism Australia, “Where the bloody hell are you?”, was a failure, but his campaign to fool enough people that he and his party are the best managers of the economy has sadly been a success. The truth is, the top 10% will be better off, the bottom 90% worse off.

The same Q & A that supported the shamed LNP voter, and that tried to bury and cremate forever any policy to reverse a socially unjust tax loophole, also attempted an impartial discussion on a referendum for indigenous recognition in the constitution of Australia.

Oh dear.

After Malcom Turnbull shamefully dismissed the Uluru Statement from the Heart, we now are wondering what Scott Morrison will do about this. It seems clear that the prime minister will market an ‘in-principle support’ and then kick the issue down the street with some bullshit that more talk is needed. What an insult to the indigenous people of this nation. Tim Wilson, once a human rights commissioner, now an aspirant for the PM position, made it clear that he can’t accept the indigenous people’s eloquent and articulate expression of how a voice in parliament would work, and so did Paul Kelly, conservative extraordinaire and employee of Murdoch’s press. They feel it needs a white man’s reworking. Marcia Langton, Mark Dreyfus and Rachael Jacobs, the other three panellists all agreed that the referendum could and should take place in this current term.

Unfortunately, just today, Ken Wyatt, the first indigenous Minister for Aboriginal Australians has toed the party line and dismissed the possibility of a referendum in this term of government.

Shame on us.

We must maintain the rage. The conservative narrative that all us left wing progressives should shut up and let the Morrison government do, or not do, whatever it wants, is a sham. There is no mandate. The reality is that the Labor Party got more votes that any other political party.

Lest we forget
(https://www.abc.net.au/news/elections/federal/2019/results/party-totals)

And even after you add up the votes for the three parties that form the coalition, The Liberal Party, The Liberal National Party, and the Nationals of Australia, they still have less votes than the Labor Party and the Greens combined.

Coalition

Let it be noted:

More people voted for left wing progressive political parties than voted for the right wing neo-conservative LNP coalition.

It could be argued that there is something wrong with the system. With reform to the electoral system, we could easily have a parliament that is truly more representational of the people of the nation.

Imagine that. Imagine a truly representational democracy that would deliver policy that the majority of Australians are yearning for.

The majority of Australians do not want neo-conservative policies. Australians want real action on climate change. Australians want justice for indigenous people. Australians want a fairer distribution of wealth.

After the recent election result, we are going to have to fight harder and louder to get what we truly deserve. Just like we had to fight tooth and nail for marriage equality against an LNP government and a minority of religious conservatives who used free speech to vilify people and divide the nation.

Shaming people who voted for self interest and inequality, is nothing compared to the damage being done to Australia by the LNP.