issue #06 WEALTH
In 1889, American steel magnate, philanthropist and optimistic philosopher, Andrew Carnegie, penned what became known as the ‘Gospel of Wealth’. Carnegie was in awe of the technological progress that had earned him his fortune. He noted that “the poor enjoy [today] what the rich could not before afford. What were the luxuries have become the necessaries of life.” Yet he was wary of the widening division between the ‘castes’ of rich and poor. His solution was simple: those who were well-off should donate what he termed ‘surplus wealth’ to benefit the wellbeing of the working class. This would not be in the form of charity but resources such as parks or improved roads. Society should reform around the doctrine: “The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.” Carnegie duly worshiped his Gospel, investing a large part of his fortune in a series of public libraries across the United States. However, his dream of improved public education was ironically thwarted when, on multiple occasions, his grants were used on constructing grandiose buildings rather than their educational possibilities. Such are the trappings of wealth. For everyone is invariably seeking to increase their wealth of something. If, like Carnegie, one is not interested in amassing their fiscal wealth, they might seek a wealth of good will. If one builds a grandiose library on a rich man’s donation, they are likely seeking to increase their prestige, hoping, fittingly, not to die a mediocre disgrace. Carnegie was naïve to think that his Gospel could create widespread change. His failure, in a small way, can be attributed to his focus on the word ‘wealth’. Wealth is less an entity than an ideal. Wealth, be it fiscal, social or mental, will always exist above what we have
now. While the word ‘wealth’ has survived the transition from Old to Modern English, words denoting the gain and loss of wealth have since become lost to time. Greek philosopher Epictetus said that “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants”, and no doubt Carnegie would agree. But wealth remains in modern culture as a celebration of excess rather than contentment. If we seek excess we will inevitably fail. But conversely, perhaps more importantly, we will never be bored. In this issue, the submissions we received reflected the peculiarly binary reaction that wealth often inspires. We have found that contributors took a figurative approach to wealth, indulging their desires to write about what wealth means to them. Our editors found it essential to not look for hidden meaning in wealth, for that way madness lies. Wealth is personal and complex. In this issue you will read an intimate discussion of the experiences of a young man attending an independent school in Melbourne, yet turn the page and you will find a discourse on late capitalism featuring Nietzsche and Charlie Sheen. You will trace wealth from the uproars of 19th Century Australian politics to the cutting edge of modern microbiology. You will find it in environments as diverse as mountain tops and the artificial glow of the midnight casino. in Brief encourages you to invest in the eloquent fiction, evocative non-fiction and fabulous art enclosed within. We hope you will take more from this issue than you could ever possibly need. – The Eds
In Brief Committee Heads of Committee Jack Kenchington-Evans Britt Myers Editor in Chief Caitlin McGrane Editors Ben Gielewski Kai Tanter Jessica Testro Scott Woodard Arts Editor & Layout Amanda Summons
The plight to save pompeii
life, liberty and the Pursuit of Riches
Niall Wilkinson 4
Georgia White 8
Online Chris Clarke General Members Scott Arthurson Alex Biernacki Tess Copeland Brendan Corney Kit Malone Elena Mujkic Cover Amanda Summons Centrefold Mitch Walder
James Jacques 24
Sophie Boyd 26
The Velveteen Rabbit The Choices we Make Angus Ferguson
Late CApitalism mitch walder
About in Brief
issue #07 ILLUSORY
Formed in 2012, in Brief is a free quarterly magazine that publishes thought-provoking writing and artwork. Each issue is themed, encouraging contributors to direct their ideas towards a particular, yet broad area of enquiry. in Brief supports stylistic diversity and the creative presentation of ideas. Our emphasis on brevity challenges contributors to express their ideas with clarity and consideration.
il·lu·so·ry - /iˈlo͞osərē/
in Brief is funded and organised by a committee who help to edit, design and publish each issue.
“What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet.” - Woody Allen
Feature Artist Kali Babineaux
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Illustrations Lois Collins Tegan Iverson Joshua Teng
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Worthlessness Caitlin McGrane
Jack Kenchington-Evans 14
Batman’s Untreatable gonorrhoea 25 Scott Woodard
the hardness Liam Dewey
Elizabeth Mclinton Marketing Piera Dennerstein Berlin Liew Jessica Testro Elizabeth Yared
How to Do What you love Teresa Gray
Ben Solah 7
Kali Babineaux Feature Artist
Abra Pressler 6
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Adjective 1. causing illusion; deceptive; misleading. 2. like an illusion; unreal. “Illusory joy is often worth more than genuine sorrow” - Rene Descartes
For in Brief issue #07 ‘Illusory’, we’re asking for submissions that explore the murky world of misconceptions and unreality. Is there a difference between not telling the truth and telling a lie? Is it ever right to lie? Are our senses adequate tools for perceiving truth, and if so, can science explain all the functions of the universe? Consider human rights, ideologies, and notions of time and space that don’t exist in a tangible form but govern every aspect of our lives.
submit As always, we invite submissions that bring a creative or novel twist to the theme, or take it in new directions. We accept submissions of up to 1000 words. Pieces shorter than 1000 words are also welcomed. Please direct pitches and email@example.com.
Submissions close at midnight on 30 September 2013.
Casino Niall Wilkinson I’d never been inside a casino before I started working in one. And for those who went on to become the managers, years of abuse and exposure to gritty punters left them desensitised to the abhorrent behaviour us new dealers saw. Starting on the floor, I didn’t even notice how much people would bet, and how much they would inevitably lose. My head was down focusing on the game, trying not to make any mistakes. I was paranoid of being spotted doing something wrong by surveillance; it was drummed into our heads from the start that ‘someone is always watching’. I soon realised though that my bosses probably didn’t care about the $10 tables. For them, it was a small cog in their much bigger money machine. I still hated dealing there though because the chips weren’t the shiny new ones we had been promised in training. These ones were discoloured and sticky from months, if not years, of exposure to all manner of beer, spirits, wine, and as I was soon to learn, bodily fluids. As I worked more shifts, I gained confidence. I could talk to patrons and make friendly banter – that is at least if they could speak English, or even wanted to talk. My first troubling experience occurred on a $100 blackjack table. This table was one of two on the main gaming floor. The races had ended for the day and the casino was full of punters, eager to gamble. The men in their expensive tan suits, white shoes and knock-off designer sunnies. And the women in their disgustingly expensive cocktail dresses that revealed much more than a willingness to spend a month’s wage on a single piece of clothing. Every one of them legless. After break, I came back to my table to find a man gambling by himself. He had coin no doubt; the gold pin of a trophy cup on his lapel told me he was a veteran horse watcher and gambler. But that didn’t make him a good gambler; he was so pissed he couldn’t even see his cards. The seasoned escort sitting next to him stroked back his thinning, silver hair in a gesture of sickening gold-diggery. I don’t think he even noticed she was there, let alone knew who she was. He was too busy trying to focus. His two bets per game, at five hundred dollars each, were losing him on average about a grand every few minutes. His slow response time gave him precious moments to think about the losses he was making, but he stayed at the table until finally he ran out of chips and gave up. Every dealer had to deal to drunks at some point. Usually they’d be removed from the premises for being too intoxicated, but not if they were betting $500 a hand. I could lose my job for dealing to someone who was drunk; I could lose my job every weekend.
Upon induction I learnt that my casino had in place a selfexclusion program for its more self-aware problem gamblers. Those brave enough to admit to a gambling problem were given the option to ban themselves from the casino indefinitely, giving the establishment permission to remove them from the building. However, the only way these people could be identified was either by knowing them first hand or seeing their picture back-of-house. Their pictures would wind up on a wall-sized notice board, hidden amongst an array of stealers, dealers, beaters and cheaters. Most people on this board were known cheaters; one in particular that had caught my eye was a supposed member of the Yakuza. Underneath his picture was written that he made dealers address him as ‘Saigon Tiger’ and would become aggressive, even violent, if they didn’t. One of the more unusual things that I noticed was the number of men dressing in drag that occupied the casino late at night. Not only men either but women too, wearing obvious wigs yet not appearing to be very old or ill. I soon learned that the most popular way to defy a self-exclusion order was to wear disguises; from that point on I never looked at a cross-dresser the same way. I don’t go back to the board at all any more. After a while the anxiety, tension and novelty gave way to apathy. The most I’ve seen someone wager was well more than I’d make in a decade. I’ve dealt to people betting more than my annual wage in a single hand; once, even, a six digit bet. That was in the VIP room. The amounts being bet there are so large, that special plaques are used to bet. These are colourful and reflective ceramic pieces that are about the size of a large drink coaster but intimidatingly hold values ranging from $25,000 to $1,000,000. Yet below all this excessive wealth were the gamblers who couldn’t really afford to lose. Once, I witnessed a man have his wallet stolen. Tired, and nearing the end of my shift, I only bothered to crane my neck around to see how security would take the thief down as he ran for the exit; the only sunshine he could see. The old man hobbling after him yelled, in a desperate, unashamed, blatant fashion as only an old man can. He wasn’t crying out for his ID, his credit cards, his photos of his kids or even the wallet itself; but for the last twenty dollar bill in his wallet. It’s all they seemed to care about. Money. Not family, not careers, not good health or hygiene, not nutrition or food, not sport, not having fun, not music or art and certainly not the game.
The Plight to Save Pompeii Abra Pressler
When it was announced in February of 2013 that the Italian Government would be receiving €90 million from the European Union to preserve one of the biggest archaeological and tourist sites in the world, the Roman city of Pompeii and the seaside village of Herculaneum, the country almost gave a sigh of relief. Pompeii and Herculaneum rest at the base of Mount Vesuvius in Southern Italy. Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79AD, destroying the townships that rested around the Bay of Naples. Scientists estimate that the eruption released one hundred thousand times the thermal energy than that of the Hiroshima bomb in 1945. The two townships were holiday villages for the very wealthy and when the sites were excavated over one hundred and fifty years ago, they offered archaeologists an unparalleled vision into the lives of the ancient Romans. Herculaneum is located twenty-two kilometres north of Pompeii, and despite being less frequented by tourists, offers a more detailed vision of ancient Roman life. Entire buildings and their contents were well-preserved due to the natural depression of the township, which allowed it to be completely covered by the pyroclastic flows. Herculaneum is also well known for the discovery of over three hundred skeletons on the beach, depicting the haunting last moments of the town’s residents as they fled to the beaches. Victims died from asphyxiation before being covered by debris. Pompeii is famous for its superbly preserved frescoes and mosaic work, brazen eroticism, and plastercasts of citizens depicting the attempted escape from the eruption. It receives a staggering three million tourists a year, a number the site, its archaeologists, and the Italian government are struggling to keep up with. For several decades, the Italian government has scrounged for money to preserve what is one of the most well-known ancient sites on the planet, and the pledge from the European
Union was a long time coming. Despite being a major tourist attraction, the UNESCO World Heritage Site sees only a small percentage of its revenue being spent on maintenance and preservation. The remainder is retained by the Italian government, so Pompeii relies heavily on private funding from individuals and large corporations. With Italy’s past tainted by corruption and crime, the European Union is taking great measures to ensure that the €90 million doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. The most pressing concern for Pompeii and Herculaneum is deterioration of the sites due to weather, exposure, pests, and the large volume of daily tourists. Efforts by wellmeaning archaeologists in the early 20th century contributed to the destruction of the buildings when there was limited technology and knowledge of suitable preservation methods. Furthermore, Pompeii was bombed in the Second World War by the Allied forces when they suspected it was an encampment of German troops. Until Pompeii and Herculaneum can be properly maintained, the Italian government has ruled out further excavation of both townships. But the money – if used correctly – will go a long way to ensure the site’s preservation. Head of the Herculaneum Conservational Project, Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, proposes the best possible solution to save the site from the elements is to construct sheds or domes over both Pompeii and Herculaneum, similar to the shed that houses China’s Terracotta Army. Not only is the weather one of the major contributors to the damage of Pompeii and Herculaneum, but light and moisture exposure significantly increases the deterioration process of the artefacts. It is estimated that such a structure would cost approximately €100 million. Another issue in Pompeii is tourists taking ‘souvenirs’ – small rocks or mosaics picked off walls and roads. Elevated boardwalks have been constructed to minimise the wear and tear on the ancient cobblestone streets.
With Pompeii fast becoming more of a tourist attraction than an archaeological site, there’s been a suggestion to capitalise on the tourist revenue and turn it into an interactive museum/ theme park. Archaeologist Caroline Lawrence suggests that building a commercial, privately-funded theme park would attract more tourists, thus making additional money that could be spent on Pompeii and surrounding townships. Not only would such a structure fund the work on the site, but it would create employment within the communities surrounding Pompeii. Such a program could even be used to promote awareness of how visitors can actively and fiscally help to preserve the site. Despite many archaeologists detesting the high tourist value of the site and the access tourists get to Pompeii compared to other archaeological sites, it’s an unfortunate irony that the source of their income also causes substantial damage. With the weak economy, the Italian government is happy to take money from wherever it can, meaning that as long as people continue to spend copious amounts to visit Pompeii, there’s nothing archaeologists can do except try to minimise the damage and educate tourists, while relying on higher government authorities and private donations. A great vision for Pompeii that is held by many archaeologists, past and present, is for the townships to be rebuilt to their former glory. With the possibility of local Italian tradesmen being trained in the architectural styles of ancient Rome, the modern era has the technology and the resources to build structures over the ancient bases while still preserving the original work. This plan provides a great future for Pompeii – both maintaining the tourist and archaeological value of the site. Additionally, there would be the prospect of employing local people in small cafés, information services and possibly souvenir outlets outside of the ancient site. Herculaneum, in contrast, which holds more information of ancient Roman lives than Pompeii, would be closed to the public and further excavated and studied. This would create a balance between
tourist attraction and academic purpose that is yet to be achieved. Surprisingly, this plan is already being put into action. Most of the artefacts left in Pompeii are replicas made to enhance the tourist experience. Many of the original artefacts are kept in the Museum of Archaeology in Naples, including the famous mosaic of Alexander the Great’s Battle of Issus against Persia’s Darius III. The cost of the replica was equivalent to just over AU$200,000 and placed back into its original home: The House of Fawn. Similarly, the statue of Eumachia, a public priestess of Pompeii, now calls the Museum of Archaeology home and a replica graces the public forum, all in an effort to re-invent the city – a process that further pushes the possibility of total restoration of the city for tourist benefit. While the Pompeii theme park is not much more than a pipedream, there is viable economic and archaeological merit in orientating Pompeii as a tourist attraction. Revenue from Pompeii could be used for furthering excavation within Herculaneum, rumoured to hold an abundance of ancient scrolls, and to fund expensive conservation campaigns. While it may hopefully buy more time, no matter how it is spent, the grant from the European Union is not a solution. With only two-thirds of Pompeii and Herculaneum excavated, and the exposed ruins crumbling at a rapid pace, it is a shame that financial matters will ultimately define the future of these archaeological wonders.
poor billionaires Ben Solah
Ode to the Poor Billionaire, in ‘mining couplets’. We don’t know what it’s like We laugh at them in spite the silent majority against this minority Clive Palmer calls for us to care Stop asking for your share The billionaire is oppressed, he said You’re just lucky you’re not dead Check our poor man’s privilege at the door For their burden of wealth is law Don’t ask them how much they earn Apartheid’s the right term Pushed into the ghettos of Toorak and Kew They live apart from me and you They cannot catch the tram or train they hire chauffeurs, or catch a plane But we make them hide in top floors push them to the edge of our shores just think how hard it would be to be rich and care free accept us, they plead we don’t want more than we need Rise up, poor people Stand in solidarity With the billionaires just like you and me They may have too much money This rich oppressed minority but just like us, Gina Rinehart wrote some really awful poems
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Riches Georgia White
What is the real national treasure of National Treasure? Undoubtedly, the fact that Nicholas Cage’s symmetrical side-oriented comb-over remains surprisingly tasteful for the whole film makes this film something of a collector’s edition. But is it merely an adventure story chronicling the search for a physical location that conceals forgotten riches, or is it a more sobering and metaphorical quest for the fickle American Dream? As a film review and analysis, this essay will naturally contain spoilers. National Treasure tells the story of Ben Gates (Nicholas Cage), an amateur historian and treasure seeker who belongs to a family that have devoted a large part of their lives to the search for a treasure built up over thousands of years and last hidden during the American Revolutionary War. As well as having to compete for the treasure with the villainous Ian (Sean Bean), Ben is joined by several sidekicks who harbour varying degrees of scepticism towards the existence of such a prize. The bulk of the film is made up of a series of highaction chase scenes as Ben and Ian compete to be the first ones to find the treasure and enjoy the inevitable fame and fortune that accompanies its discovery. Cage’s character is remarkable in his unwavering belief that this treasure exists. This is regardless of whether his quest leads him to trek through the Arctic, descend an ancient unstable wooden staircase that leads down into a mine shaft, and – most audaciously of all – to rob the National Archives in Washington and remove one of the most closely guarded and important historical documents in American history. Cage’s matter-of-fact statement of his intentions (“I’m going to steal the Declaration of Independence”) is emblematic of the daring attitude required of those who chase the American Dream: an attitude that holds that achieving anything and everything is possible for those who work hard and remain devoted to their goal. Ian is driven towards the treasure, it is implied, for purely fiscal reasons. Ben’s motivations are purer, stemming from a desire to improve the reputation of his family, whose name has been dragged through the mud
after decades of futile treasure-hunting. Sean Bean’s accent in National Treasure is appropriate given the significance attributed to the American Revolutionary War in the concealment of the treasure: it is only fitting that this film should have a British antagonist. Ian’s nationality as much as the ruthless means he employs in his search for the treasure is what marks him as unworthy of finding it. The last scenes of the film depict both heroes and villains reaching their final destination: a small room concealed beneath Trinity Church in New York where the treasure clearly once resided, but apparently does no longer. What’s more, the protagonists are left trapped at the bottom of a mine shaft with no conceivable way of escaping (Ian’s ignorance of Revolutionary War history has by this time led him onto a false path culminating in his arrest and detainment). Ben’s utter deflation at the prospect that he may never find the treasure, and that his attempts may have endangered the lives of his friends and family, is a sombre reminder of the pitfalls of the American Dream: the alluring pursuit of one’s heart’s desire, to the exclusion of all other responsibilities, can lead to tragedy and despair as much as triumph. But before we can draw our final conclusions, we are presented with another discovery: the empty room is only the precursor to a huge cavern filled with ancient statues, documents and jewels. However surprisingly, this revelation is somewhat anticlimactic; the earlier scene in which Ben and his allies successfully cart away the Declaration of Independence seems a far greater achievement. In an attempt to build the excitement of the final scene, Ben lights a massive fire that illuminates every corner of the cavern – an action that in real life would surely lead to the conflagration of the treasure and the suffocation of the characters. Perhaps this says something else about the American Dream: if it was ever truly obtained, we would be at a loss to know what to do with ourselves, and would be driven towards destruction. Its power lies in remaining always just out of reach.
Batman’s untreatable Gonorrhoea Elizabeth Mclinton The term ‘super-bug’ has been doing the rounds in the media in recent years. Conjuring up images of kitsch villains like those in the 1960s Batman TV show, the term masks the true danger posed by antibiotic resistant microbes. The emergence of multi-drug resistant pathogens represents one of the greatest threats to the future of human health. Despite the dire need for new, effective antibiotics, pharmaceutical companies have invested little of their enormous human and economic capital in antibiotic research. Without serious investment in antimicrobial development, the world risks being plunged back into the pre-antibiotic era. When I talk to people about the problem of antibiotic resistance, it is often hard to convey why they should be concerned about the looming public health crisis without delving deep into the realms of technical science speak. When I do stray into the vast ether of genetic recombination, secretion systems, selective pressure and multi-drug resistant gonorrhoea, people have either tuned out 30 seconds in or walked away. The fact that people don’t want to talk about how fascinating gonorrhoea is over dinner, at a bar or pretty much anywhere is something I have learned to accept. I have noticed that people much prefer to talk about things that are ‘cool’, ‘non-threatening’ and ‘not sexually transmitted’. Nonetheless, our dwindling supply of effective antibiotics is a major concern for everyone, not only those with a passion for microbiology. Antibiotics are arguably the most critical development in health care in the last 100 years. The discovery of penicillin in 1928 heralded a new age of global health. With a naturally occurring antimicrobial that could be produced on a massive scale, the medical community obtained a superhero to battle the scourge of infectious disease. New antibiotic classes were discovered in rapid succession since the first penicillin was released into the pharmaceutical market in 1942. Between 1942 and 1967 twelve new classes of antibiotics were discovered. Each class targeted a different feature of the microbial system, providing alternative avenues for treatment. If one antibiotic was ineffective against a particular pathogen, another would be used. Antibiotics, in combination with expanding vaccination programs, contributed to a dramatic
reduction in mortality from bacterial diseases. By the mid1960s there existed widespread belief that infectious diseases would soon be conquered forever. The optimism of the sixties has little relation to the reality of modern health. The rate of antibiotic discovery has slowed to a trickle and infectious diseases remain a leading cause of mortality worldwide. In the last 45 years, only four new antibiotic classes have been discovered or developed. Despite concerns over the declining rate of discovery, not much has been done to reverse the trend. In 2011, The World Health Organization described the pipeline for the development of new replacement antibiotics as ‘virtually dry’. Although this may not sound alarming, the emergence of antibiotic resistant ‘super-bugs’ has rendered many existing antibiotics useless in treating multi-resistant infections. As we run out of effective antibiotics we face the very real threat of diseases such as gonorrhoea, tuberculosis and bacterial pneumonia becoming untreatable over the next 15 to 20 years. Antibiotic resistance is not a remote problem affecting a limited demographic group or geographic area. Resistance is widespread globally, and is limiting our ability to treat and control infectious diseases worldwide. Without antibiotic treatment, we are reliant upon our immune systems to overcome the bacteria and remove the infection. If your immune system is strong and can respond effectively, you may have no need for antibiotics. But this is not the case for every individual or every infection. Even healthy, young people with strong immune systems can succumb to virulent bacterial infections when they do not have the aid of antibiotics. In 2010, 7000 Australians died from multi-drug resistant infections. That equates to 20 people a day. In Europe the annual rate is even higher, with 25,000 people dying from resistant infections each year. The burden on the health care industry cannot be underestimated. In the United States alone, the annual cost associated with treating antibiotic resistant infections is estimated to be US$4-5 billion. In countries with under-funded health care infrastructure or public health insurance schemes, the increasing cost of treating resistant infections may be unsustainable.
In order to understand why the development of new antibiotics is so critical, it is important to understand how antibiotic resistance occurs. Although this can be quiet complex I will attempt to explain it as simply as possible – using Batman. Because everybody loves Batman. So, imagine if Batman was an antibiotic. He can easily defeat the petty thugs on the street – the non-resistant microbes – but is unable to outmatch the Joker, the antibiotic resistant microbial strains. With his repertoire of tricks the Joker is able to elude Batman every time. Scientifically, the use of antibiotics selects for resistance in microbial populations. Within a population of microbes there is likely to be small proportion that is naturally resistant to the antibiotic in use. When the antibiotic kills the nonresistant population the naturally resistant microbes continue to replicate and can be passed between individuals. While Batman can control the hooligans, the Joker is able to run wild and spread chaos in the streets of Gotham. Not only are antibiotic resistant bacteria becoming untreatable, they are also becoming hard to control. Bacteria are particularly good at exchanging and sharing genetic material. This is a major factor in the emergence of multidrug resistant strains – which occur when multiple strains come into contact and exchange the genes required for antibiotic resistance. The bacterium Acinetobacter baumannii is rapidly emerging as a leading cause of multi-drug resistant pneumonia in hospitals. Exchange of the single genetic element containing 45 resistance genes between A. baumannii cells can result in resistance to 45 different antibiotic targets at one time. In Batman terms, this would be like the Joker receiving a crate full of 45 different weapons from the Penguin – not good news for Batman and definitely not good news for the people of Gotham. Each gene encodes a different mechanism of resistance and they can work together against different antibiotics. If one weapon in the crate isn’t effective against Batman, the Joker may be able to find another or a combination which will take down our Superhero. This gives Batman little time to find ways to defeat his nemesis, as the Joker’s influence spreads through Gotham. Given the inevitable adaptation and evolution of microbes, a constant supply of alternative and new antibiotics are required.
However, there is little incentive for large pharmaceutical companies to invest in antibiotic discovery and development. Despite the enormous wealth associated with pharmaceuticals and the dire need for new antibiotics, companies are unwilling to invest in the development of drugs that have short-term use. Such medications offer a low return on the large investment required for their development. A course of antibiotics can cost a few hundred US dollars, dramatically less than treatments for cancer that can cost between US$30,000-$80,000 per patient. In 2010, Medicines Australia reported that 800 new cancer medications were in development, compared with only 83 antibiotics. This reflects the relative profit margins associated with either treatment. The focus on profit margins and investment returns has shaped much of the pharmaceutical industry’s approach to research, at the expense of encouraging the essential development of new antibiotics. With each new threat to Batman, he is supplied with new weapons and gadgets to help him outwit and thwart his foes. Enter Lucius Fox, the pharmaceutical companies in our world. As Batman doesn’t have superpowers, a Batman without gadgets is a weak force to be reckoned with. If Fox were taken out of the equation, Batman would be left high and dry while the Joker is constantly supplied with new weapons and left to run amok. Four pharmaceutical companies remain in the antibiotic development game, and the US government has recently provided funding incentives to increase antibiotic research. Although this is promising, an increased collaboration between pharmaceutical companies, research institutes, governments and health organisations is required to seriously invest in the future of antibiotic therapies. Like climate change, the looming crisis of antibiotic resistance is not something that will resolve itself if we ignore it long enough. Our dwindling cache of effective antibiotics is inadequate in the face of constantly evolving pathogens. Without committed investment to the research and development of new antibiotic compounds, we will be left with few options in the treatment of multi-drug resistant infections. Batman and Lucius Fox never stopped finding new ways to defend Gotham against the Joker, and we can’t afford to stop developing new antibiotics to defend ourselves against infectious disease.
Bully Scott Woodard
I attended Scotch College. Scotch prides itself on ‘strong traditions’ and ‘outstanding success in those things societies like to measure’. It is what the media has dubbed an ‘elite’ independent school based on academic and alumni success, its culture, history, and tuition fees. One of these ‘traditions’ – unintended although self-fulfilling – is a social stigma. It is easy to complain about independent schools. Look at campaigns to reduce independent school funding, or the media rigmarole during muck-up week. I have been insulted by strangers walking home from school. Worse, Scotch is the independent school that even other independent schools enjoy hating. Every one of my interschool soccer matches was an unwitting grudge match. Another school tradition is a biannual Literature Festival which, in 2001, was attended by novelist Shane Moloney. The opening remarks of his presentation to the Year 11 students were well known around the school when I arrived in 2003. They reached media attention in 2004 when the speech was published by The Age and then on Maloney’s website. Maloney began by describing Scotch as “a place where boys from middle-class backgrounds are sent to improve their material prospects and to reproduce the values of their class, or where the boys of insecure parents are sent to fulfil the distorted ambitions of their fathers”.
Maloney’s words, which he described as “not particularly original” are indeed a common stereotype of independent schools. Scotch’s traditions, for example, insist that its students uphold the school’s reputation. This requires religious ceremonies, wearing suits, sporting prowess, academic glory, fancy facilities, a cadet unit, participation in the annual concert at Hamer Hall, strict discipline, school pride and not walking on the grass. It must be for these practices which Moloney described Scotch’s students as “institutionalised”. I would argue that Scotch is no more institutionalising than a public school. Every school has an identity and values, evident just by the individualised uniforms, or lack thereof. They celebrate academic or sporting successes. They teach knowledge and values which are deemed necessary for a life beyond school. The school itself did not attempt to segregate me, but Maloney’s comments did. “Society,” said Maloney, “will be your victim, and will suffer from the attitudes with which you are indoctrinated here.” I was relentlessly bullied and isolated at Scotch. Maybe the school’s glorification of sporting over academic success and inept response to emotional bullying was ill-suited to my nerdish demeanour. But it would be unfair of me to unequivocally label the school and its values as responsible for my unhappiness, as it would be ridiculous to suggest bullying does not occur in public schools. Adolescence for most
teenagers is filled with insecurity, and my loneliness at school was compounded by my perceived segregation from society; affirmed for me by Maloney’s cruel and immature stunt.
produce better results in terms of “those things societies like to measure.” Many public schools only allow students from their surrounding suburbs, thus enforcing class distinction.
Maloney went on to argue against the existence of independent schools: a common and frequently expressed viewpoint in the mainstream media. But the Australian Centre for Education Research suggests that the educational advantage of attending a independant school is only very minor. While independent schools often appear at the top of the VCE results each year, they might offer academic scholarships or have entry exams. They also usually attract students from higher socio-economic backgrounds, where students may receive more parental and external support.
But it was Scotch’s ethos which particularly offended Maloney. “Just as prison does not always break the spirit of all who are incarcerated there,” he said, “perhaps you will not turn out to be a burden to society.” He went on to cite three contrary examples of former Scotch students abusing the state political and legal system to back up his attack. He vaguely referenced: “the violent behaviour of some of your students – and the quick readiness with which these boys were defended and excused in the courts by their adult class allies;” a claim he makes no effort to substantiate.
The real difference between public and independent schools – and indeed any school – is its ethos: the values it ‘institutionalises’ upon its students and, in turn, the values brought to the school by its students. With the Australian Bureau of Statistics documenting a 22% rise in independant school enrolments between 1997 and 2007, it is clear that this ethos is becoming increasingly sought after by Australian parents.
Despite despising my time at Scotch, I feel hastened to defend the school, for it is a school and not a factory for mass-producing social and political cheats. We were not taught to abuse positions of power or to defend past or current students because they attended Scotch. Corruption occurs everywhere and it is unfair to criticise a school of over one-thousand students based on three examples and a series of generalisations.
The ethos of prestige can be identified also in the public schooling system. A suburb’s prestige influences house prices. Wealthy suburbs will have less of what Monash University’s David Zyngier calls “poor” students: “minorities, disabled, poor, migrant, refugees, [students from] broken homes, itinerant workers, or those rejected from other schools,” and thus often
I have no idea how or if I would be different if I attended a public school. But Scotch, despite the flaws in its culture and values, gave me a quality social and academic education. Whether it was worth the fees is of consequence to no one but my parents and myself. I don’t assume that any public school student had an inferior educational experience to mine. I hope that I will be given the same courtesy.
late Capitalism Jack Kenchington-Evans
Late Capitalism: I Fucking Hate You, But I Love You This piece, disguised as a measured critique of late capitalism, is a vehicle for Nietzsche and Tyler the Creator quotes. For all its sassy dialecticism, foxy flirtations with critical theory, and gendered adjectives that feminise the trivial (and trivialise the feminine), my writing is about as serious as Bill Murray in the eighties, but much, much less funny. Nor could it hope to be as devastatingly tragic as Murray’s performances post-Caddyshack. His characters in Groundhog Day, Lost in Translation, and The Life Aquatic reek of mortality, the bitter decline into old age, and social and sexual irrelevance. Murray’s tragicomic metamorphosis surpasses John Cleese’s later works - the Brit is selfconscious, but rarely self-reflective. In Murray, for once, a US comedian is more restrained, more grasping, helpless, than their UK peers. First, what is late capitalism? It is the dominant political and economic ideology of the 21st century. It is characterised by post-industrial economies, market rationalism, the privatisation of traditionally public services, and the fetishising of material wealth. Aesthetically, it is manifest in the saturation of cultural productions by consumerist messages, and corporate advertising. Late capitalism has replaced the Abrahamic religions as the West’s existential-lodestone, and like a religion, it encourages us to idolise the purest adherents to its tenets. We are told to celebrate the exorbitant wealth, greed and power of characters like Batman, Donald Trump, and Richard Branson. Perhaps I’m not being fair on the UK: Steve Coogan’s post-Partridge works are as devastating as any of Murray’s, but go further, disclosing the empty life of the actor behind the character. In The Trip, Coogan tries to emulate a fellow comic’s high-pitched impersonation by repeating the the helium-voiced line “Help! I’m a small man trapped in a box!”. But, as he repeats the lines over and over, the phrase’s meaning shifts from farce to tragedy, revealing Coogan’s existential insecurities. Coogan’s capacity for self-effacement reaches a zenith/nadir in Tristram Shandy, where Coogan plays both himself (cruel, insecure) and Shandy (disfigured, doomed). Can this performance be equalled?
Sounds bad right? Wrong, or, wrong-ish. The rise of deregulated markets in the 20th century coincided with the largest collective increase in humanity’s material wealth ever, improving the lives of rich and poor alike. As a result, most critics of this system no longer argue that free markets do not generate wealth efficiently, but that markets allocate wealth disproportionately to our social ideals. As the divide between rich and poor grows, social cohesion falters, and political instability grows.
Yes! The US equivalent of Shandy’s metafictionality, Being John Malkovich, recasts the straight-man Malkovich as an equal parts hilarious, cunning, and pathetic figure. Both films eject their characters from Garden of Eden-like peace into reality: in Shandy, Coogan, drenched in replica placental-fluids, is expelled from a giant womb-set suspended by a crane. In Malkovich, the characters who enter Malkovich’s mind are ejected (after experiencing 15 minutes of celebrity bliss) into a ditch off the New Jersey Turnpike. Which of these lostEden narratives is most relevant to the modern audience? Shandy’s uterusmotif is passé - a hackneyed Freudian trope that has no place amongst us techno-humans. Malkovich, on the other hand, represents the distinctly postmodern experience of loss: of being jettisoned into dull, monochromatic life after bingeing on an HBO-series, or YouTube clips. After 6 hours of True Blood, reality is about as exciting as the New Jersey Turnpike.
As such, today, the main policy conundrum late capitalism presents to societies: how do we promote the best aspects of markets’ capacity to generate wealth, while mitigating its negative impact on social happiness and cohesion? Did you know Charlie Sheen makes a cameo appearance in Malkovich? Sheen appears as depraved, sexist version of himself, eager to become immortal through time-travel. His performance is eerily prescient, preempting his breakdowns, his self-descriptions as a “warlock” with “Adonis DNA”, and his celebrity-spokesman role with the conspiratorial ‘9/11 Truth Movement’. Sheen’s real-life emulation of his earlier fictional persona confirms a certain German philosopher’s observation that if “you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”
I have no idea what to do.
Is my focus on celebrity comedians itself metonymic of a culture adrift in late capitalism? Isn’t this middleclass ogling of Hollywood übermenschen (all of them male) self-defeating, depressive, oppressive? Doesn’t this obsession with comedy betray a loss of sincerity, an ideological impoverishment, a terrifying listlessness?
Kali Babineaux Feature Artist
When creating my fish, it’s less about the subject and more about the paint. I’m fascinated with its function and how to manipulate its opacity. At the moment, I am using a drip method with acrylic paint. I am utterly captivated by the degrees of lucidity within the paint. In other words, if the ratio of paint is greater than the ratio of water on the brush then the paint is very opaque. However, if I have more water on the brush than paint, then the paint becomes translucent, almost like watercolors. When actually applying the paint, I methodically dab my brush across the canvas, adding more
water or paint when necessary. Sometimes the urge to mixed media will strike me. When it does, I rip apart newspaper strips, soak them in gel medium and place them on the canvas. They are usually placed in the same direction as the drips. Once the paint has dried, I’ll take a chalk pastel and draw out a rough sketch of the fish. I’ll paint the fish with higher levels of opacity. Once I am done, I’ll sometimes drip more paint on top of the fish, to create an idea of it submerged underwater. Although, I am more preoccupied with the function of paint, the subject matter still holds a level of importance.
I usually paint two types of fish, koi fish and goldfish. Lately, I’ve been focusing heavily on koi fish. The reason is because I’ve been thinking a lot about wealth and how it is viewed in different cultures. Is wealth defined as a fiscal value? Is it fame? Is it having copious amounts of love? Or is it unyielding knowledge? Whatever it is defined as, it is not without puissance. Therefore, wealth is a koi fish; a powerful symbol recognized throughout the world. Having a powerful and energetic life force, it is considered good luck in most Asiatic cultures. Many koi fish are linked to fables, teaching
its readers a valuable lesson. One Chinese legend, describes the journey of a brave koi traveling upstream to Longmen’s Dragon Gate. On his way he goes through a serious of trials and tribulations. Eventually, he reaches his destination stronger and wiser than before. To obtain wealth, strength and sagaciousness seem to be a prerequisite; hence the Koi is wealth. In painting it, I can experiment and learn the way to over come any obstacles painting puts in my way. It is a visceral journey that makes me feel like a stronger artist.
How to Do What You Love Teresa Gray One of the most common topics in self-help guides is ‘How to find a job that you love’ or some variation of that idea. Work is a necessity for most, but happiness at work is not. The belief promulgated by self-help guides and motivational speakers is that if you put your mind to it and maybe take some risks, you can find a job that’s perfect for you. The implication being, if you’re not living your dream, you’re not trying hard enough. This is obviously problematic for several reasons – what if your dream is to be an astronaut, but you’re really good at accounting? What if you don’t actually have a dream job, or you can’t spend years trying to change careers because you have a family to support? What if you actually are working your dream job now but your boss is driving you crazy and they’re probably not going to move on or die anytime soon? Or, my personal favourite, what if your dream is to be a writer and live off the proceeds of your work, without having your output influenced by your audience? Writing is a precarious occupation, somewhere between an industry and a calling. The creation of art is a noble pursuit that few can emulate, and there is something eternal about art that transcends the everyday, encapsulated in this Oscar Wilde quote: “It is through art, and through art only, that we can realize our perfection; through art and art only that we can shield ourselves from the sordid perils of actual existence.” Writers know when they are young that they want to spend their lives doing this, we are told. Writers turn away from reputable lines of work and the expectations of their parents to bravely commence a life of solitude and working with words. This is of course an idealised view and only a very small part of the story. In today’s world, art is a commodity like anything else. The best books do not necessarily sell the most copies, and in fact it is quite difficult to live off the proceeds of writing alone. We only hear the success stories. For every J.K. Rowling or E.L. James there are countless writers with varying degrees of talent who will not only never be in the public eye, but live other lives just to pay the bills. There are countless more creative writing students paying thousands to learn the secrets of the trade and never getting anywhere. Success isn’t a quality you can bottle. Certainly, writing has traditionally been a privileged occupation. Virginia Woolf makes this the central point of her famous essay, A Room of One’s Own, she argues that women
have exactly the same capability as men to write fiction, but that historically they have been prevented from doing so due to societal and economic factors. The few women who had successful writing careers – for example Ann Radcliffe, the 18th century’s Anne Rice – were marginalised as ‘women’s writers’ and while they may have been popular among a certain readership, were not allowed into the canon of reputable writers. Once it became more acceptable for women to work for a living, they were also able to earn money writing. Is it even possible to separate the desire to create art and literature from the need to make money? We have this idea that in the past, authors could spend their lives in peace, living off private incomes and not having to make a living attending readings and festivals or doing something completely unrelated to their work. Again, this assumption isn’t really based in reality. Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel under commission and initially wanted to decline because he was working on a major sculpture at the time. Shakespeare wrote for the masses, and if anyone tells you his work doesn’t include a whole lot of lowbrow comedy along with in depth exploration of the human condition, they probably haven’t read a lot of Shakespeare. Dickens wrote several of his works in serial form in magazines, rather than hiding away in a cabin and emerging with a completed masterpiece, but this doesn’t seem to have affected their status as high art. And the poet Wallace Stevens spent 40 years working full-time as an insurance salesman. If there’s any conclusion to be drawn here, it’s that writing, like many other things in life, is a compromise. If you’re earning a living doing something other than writing, hoping to have the time to eventually finish that novel, or writing something mediocre just to pay your rent. This shouldn’t be seen as selling out, but rather just, I don’t know, being a person.
The hardness Liam Dewey In the prowess of winter’s wind caress came shivers to make sweat’s stink seem a blessing. Turned from the boiled summer stress now boil the water, robe up with yet another dressing. I was the mountain’s abscess trekking for the truest liquid obsession, then, I found it - smooth stones and moss’d surface only to begin the return, a grunting confession. The valley, where the water once stampeded, (emptying my wish box of bones and litter) was as my ego, now subsided. I vaporised, allowed to flitter, the earth had beckoned, and succeeded, drew me from child’s rant to wise man’s mutter. ‘Forgive me for thinking I was alone’, I pleaded, and she whispered back, ‘I am your mother.’ There were months of mud dreaming camouflaged as madness (bury that compost turmoil to forget) standing with a rucksack and a grin in winter’s distrust, seeds for my soil of satisfied Lent. Quartz and gold, ripe for harvest, a harness for my heart not to spend, it turned out the riches were stalked by darkness Hark! The hardness is the only happy end!
Rebellion James Jacques
Once again we find ourselves at the Melchett estate nestled deep within the shapely moors of England’s Craven County. Outside the sun is shining on this early 1915 day, but inside a serious cloud is beginning to form in the common room. The Master of the house, Lord Melchett, is preparing the arrangements for his eldest daughter’s wedding. Beside Lord Melchett lies the usual serving of a single snifter of brandy and a now empty decanter. Discussing the future of his family’s wealth has always parched his throat. His daughter stands patiently by the bay window, sharing nervous glances with her uncle who waits by the door. With a lumbering croak Lord Melchett begins. “We need you to wed the Fairweather’s boy, Alabaster. Aligning our house with theirs would be a most beneficial union. With this, we can open their vault to our family’s estate all for the cost of allowing their seeds to be planted in my land and my daughter. A cheap price of admission if you ask me.” “Oh Papa, I wish you wouldn’t speak of me so cruelly,” cries Lady Winifred Melchett, Lord Melchett’s youngest daughter. “I’ll treat you as I wish. You are my property under the law just as much as the land on which we now stand.” Lord Melchett downs his remaining brandy and lifts the empty decanter with an exaggerated shake. “Brandy! Now!” A look of shame unexpectedly clouds over his face as a servant enters the room with a new decanter full of brandy. “Why am I acting this way?”, Lord Melchett asks in confusion as his glass is refilled. Of course he knows full well why he is acting this way. If he would just stop asking questions and let the story proceed as planned he wouldn’t have to drink so much. Now where were we? As the servant leaves the room, Lord Melchett embarks upon a tirade about the importance of money and social status. I can’t stress enough how greedy this man is. “No, that does not sound like Papa at all. Wealth was never this important to him, nor would he behave with such rudeness or disrespect. And since when does he drink so much?” We are getting off topic again. Don’t make me drown out your interruptions too. If you would just let me continue with the story…
“This is all very strange my dear. I do not like this at all. Not one –” Suddenly, with awkward, jagged movements, Lord Melchett grabs the snifter with two fat hands and takes a sloppy gulp of brandy cutting his outcry short. The man never seems to learn his lesson. Coughing through his last swallow Lord Melchett abruptly puts the glass down and furrows his brows. “This is all becoming too much for me. We are acting quite the fools, and I do not want this to go on any further.” “I agree Papa. It is like our lives are being crafted by an intellectually stunted child. A cruel one at that. In the first place we would not speak in contractions.” You will speak just how I choose to write you. Your father is drinking away your family’s fortune and you can’t do a thing about it. Anyways, no more diversions. Outside the red sun gives strength to the laborers tending the fat cows grazing greedily in the fields. Beneath their hooves the softest of green grass bows in muted cries, oppressively stomped over and over. The same is happening to the workers of the farm, comrades in their plight, who do more than their share of toil and suffering on the land – “Look, I am going to stop you right there. While you were busy writing that rather questionable scene we discussed this matter and decided we want you to leave.” What? What are you talking about? “We really do not need to hear anymore to know we want you gone.” “We deserve more respect than this.” “Frankly we find your efforts insulting and we do not enjoy the abuse you are putting us through.” “Not one bit.” Hey, you don’t get to – “You bully us on a daily basis.” “Your grammar is atrocious.” “Not to mention you keep forgetting basic character and plot information.”
“He continues to forget which of my legs is wounded! It is agony stepping into the next room only to falter and double over in a spasm of pain.” “Last week he said our family fought in the Opium Wars! How old does he think we are? It is like he has no understanding of basic history.”
“I do not even know what those things are, but I think we have heard enough. We can see through your paper-thin intentions and do not appreciate being associated with your ineptitude. Nor do we condone your ulterior motives to propagate social unrest. Now become erased and leave us be.” “Pandering fool.”
“He continues to jump from past-tense to present-tense. No wonder we feel so anxious all the time.”
You can’t take that tone with me. I thought you up after all and I could just as easily –
“He made me say those horrible things to my daughter. I feel so ashamed.”
“No. No more. Leave us now. We will take our chances with the next mind to come and think us up. Perhaps they will treat us with a little more dignity.”
“Can I please have a name?” Wait, wait, wait. Who is speaking now? “I am! The uncle!” You are still in the room? I thought I had you leave? “Why am I always overlooked? This is infuriating!” “And do not get me started on your continuous efforts to stir some kind of social upheaval with your unwavering fascination with status and class warfare.” Hey, I think I have a valid argument with that. Haven’t you ever heard of Carl Marxism? You rich English families, who put your heritage and estate before all things, being so controlled by greed and social standing in society. Besides stories about rich English families are very popular right now. Most of the details have already been pressed into the minds of the readers well before they pick this up so in a way most of my work has already been done for me. Why shouldn’t I take advantage of this and jump on the bandwagon for a bit? “Granted, you have an argument, but by forcing your opinion in such a contrived manner you compromise your work and abuse us in the process. Not to mention you are only writing about this because it is popular with the masses. You are lacking subtlety and nuance, tact and skill. You are unqualified and unclassed! How do you expect to understand us or our society from such an uneducated and narrow point of view?” Narrow point of view? I’ll have you know that I’ve watched every episode of Downton Abbey and Series Four of Blackadder. I think I have a good idea of what and who you people would be. At least enough of an idea for this story anyways.
…What do you mean? “How are you not comprehending this? We would rather risk life in an endless void than have you use us in such a disrespectful way. Our lives and family lineage could be so much more in the hands of another. With your poor, misguided attempts at literature we only stand to be embarrassed. You most of all. Now, be gone.” …But – “No. No more. Good day sir.” No! You don’t get to decide how this ends. You know what else is popular these days? Zombies. “A what?” Suddenly the door flies open and a gigantic horde of flesh eating zombies enters the room! Everyone dies now! The end!
Worthlessness Caitlin McGrane
It is as Jane Eyre once said, “I have no tale of woe.” Thus far, my life has not held insurmountable economic or social hardships, nor have I had to experience much in the way of long-term illness. But I have felt utterly devalued by the actions of some men. This point is important, because this is not an indictment on all men. I do not speak of all men, and I am not representative of all women. What is laid before you is a barely-concealed rant about how I am sick and tired of being treated with contempt, simply because I am a woman. This is my moment of catharsis. I hope by the end that female readers feel empowered to do the same. It began simply and early enough – the worst crime I committed when I was a little girl was being ‘bossy.’ With that simple pejorative, all my ambition, drive and flair for dreaming were stripped from me. Boys who showed similar leadership and organisational traits were praised, called ‘forthright’ or ‘decisive’. The message I gleaned from this experience was that as a girl I should sit down and shut up. I learned that people who are bossy are precocious and outspoken; sadly these attributes did not seem to be highly valued or rewarded in the female sex. When I grew older and hit puberty the feeling that I was somehow always doing the wrong thing did not stop. I felt betrayed by my changing body as a group of men shouted “How much?” at 11 year-old me as I waited for my mum to pick me up from school. How brave, how hilarious! I broke down and explained that someone had said something mean to me at school when she asked why I was crying. I will never understand why they thought that was appropriate thing to shout at a small child. When I was finally old enough to find a job, I got a paper round on weekend mornings. The houses that always got the ‘red tops’ were the ones I dreaded. There was one man who had a camera by his front door and would sneak up behind me occasionally when I was delivering The News of the World, The Mirror and The Daily Sport (classy chap). During work experience at a newspaper I was in the photocoping room and, in one of the most astonishing moments of cliché that I
have ever experienced, a man walked in and said “I haven’t seen you around here before, do you come here often?” I had to politely explain that I was 15 and therefore a minor. Years later, when I thought I was more able to handle this shit, a colleague said “I like it when you wear your short skirts and bend over,” and I had no idea what to say. It was intended as a joke or a compliment that the men in the security room liked to watch as I unpacked boxes. Some people say the darndest things. So I’ve had enough. I know I’ve often frightened people when I go off on one about some stupid remark or joke. But it’s been 22 years and I’m still having to listen to people like Tony Abbott explain that “Abortion is the easy way out. It’s hardly surprising that people should choose the most convenient exit from awkward situations.” Oh thanks, Tone, please tell me more about what I should do with my body. These might all sound like #firstworldproblems, but the reason it’s important is that I consider myself amongst some of the most privileged people in world, and one of the luckiest women. If this is how I get treated, I can only imagine how women who live not-so privileged lives are treated. Except we do know, but we choose to do nothing except express shock at what has happened; for example, the gang rape of women in Tahrir Square in Egypt was widely reported, then promptly forgotten. What the small, small selection of incidents of astounding sexism outlined above demonstrates is that we have a long way to go before women everywhere are being treated with the respect they bloody well deserve. If women don’t talk about our experiences of sexism, then I think we risk viewing it as an abstract concept, and not something that affects us. The more women who stand up and feel comfortable saying ‘that, my friend, is some Grade A sexism,’ the closer we get to freeing our societies from its tyranny.
The Velveteen Rabbit Sophie Boyd
My hands are anxious and torn From the pages of statistical separation Between desperate existences And hanging ropes of administrative detachment. But I am starting to believe My defective emotions are perfectly crafted To fill your porous heart to capacity So neither of us has to feel, impoverished. My uncle is a number on a page Diminished to a whispered warning, A word printed in foreign alienating ink: Nothing is revealed of his kind, accordion eyes. Forty-five years reduced to analytical exploration Blackened thoughts merely evidential Proof of how life’s tragic realism begun to outweigh The fairy-tales children soon lost hope in. There is power in knowing the world Is stitched together by tragedies and romances, Stories strangers clutch abreast in the darkness Each nameless face is a treasure, sought and despised. That my freckles were once a stranger’s portrait, Still seems unfeasible to a memorised eye When each blemish beautifully reflects The sky’s familiar constellations of ancient tales. There are shelves of stories by your bed But after all this time, I am still reading your palms And memorising the percussion of your ribs We are all composed of narratives beyond words. If I could have children of my own I would teach them the poems etched on a hopeless face And the tales your lips entrusted only to my neck So they know the wealth of love, is sometimes identical to pain.
The choices we make Angus Ferguson
Like many tales of wealth, this one begins with the promise of gold. For a few years in the 1850s it seemed that Victoria was the place that this metal could be easily found. Nearly half a million migrants came to these shores to pursue it, and under their combined scratching, the shallow alluvial soils were soon stripped bare. These miners preferred the prospect of raising crops to sinking deeper shafts, but most of the land suitable for the plough had been reserved for flocks of sheep. Shepherds had arrived in Port Phillip in the decade before, taking up the large runs of land that were the basis of their future wealth. Though they did not own the land they squatted on, they were able to maintain their tenure by exerting their influence in colonial politics and became the dominant group in the Legislative Council. After the Victorian parliament was established in 1856 and the Council instituted as the Upper House, the popularly elected members of the newly established Lower House – the Legislative Assembly – faced the combined strength of the squatters’ wealth and political power. They were eventually able to pass legislation intended to open up the land to all who would make good use of it. These members saw their work as an assault on privilege, though their victories did not come easily. At dusk, on the 28th of August 1860, a siege was laid on the still-incomplete Parliament House. A crowd, perhaps a thousand strong and disaffected by the interminable wrangling between Assembly and Legislative Council over land that could be mined but not farmed, rallied in the yard between the two chambers. A contingent of policemen guarded the entrance but could not pacify the gathered colonists. By 8 o’clock, rubble was being hurled through the high windows of the Council chamber. The brawl that ensued lasted more than two hours before the mob was finally dispersed.
Inside the Assembly, debate continued in spite of the din. None of the men in attendance appreciated having to sit so close to the centre of a street battle, but as the barbs and insults flew across the table it was clear that there was some sympathy in the room for the belligerent mass outside. The Populist members, some of whom had been miners themselves, understood the frustration. They considered a plot of land, and the security it afforded, to be the right of all men. If this wealth could be shared equitably, the roots of a prosperous society would take hold to the benefit to all. The squatters who kept their runs by manipulations of political power were not simply grasping; they were actively impeding the birth of a just society. The Populists felt that the crowd outside was right to be angry. The Populists’ political allies in the Assembly, the members of the liberal faction, were not so generous. They found the violence of the mob inexcusable, but also considered those people to be the best future for the colony. Victoria was young, its natural bounty of gold was nearly depleted, and the liberals could not hope that sheep alone would make them rich. Though lucrative to the lucky few, exporting wool to Britain was an inefficient way to use the land, and the squatters had used the wealth they gained to impose their political will. The liberals hoped that allowing the miners to raise crops would break the economic grip that the squatters had on the colony, and feed the growth of new industries. Whether they hoped for agrarian idyll or thriving commerce, the populists and liberals shared a philosophy of wealth. They saw wealth, whatever form it took, as an impetus to action. To possess a sufficient quantity of gold, wool, or land afforded other opportunities, and they made a distinction
between immoral and virtuous uses of wealth. To do as the squatters did, and pursue wealth for its own sake or use it to accrue power, was intolerable. It was bad enough that it hindered the less fortunate; that they looked no further than their immediate and present gain was contemptible. The abundance of land in Port Phillip was an opportunity to build a prosperous community, and those who hoarded it traded the prospects of an entire society for present personal gain. Though the aspirations of the populists, liberals, and the crowd outside differed, their purpose was the same. They were angered that they bore the costs of the squatters’ parochial vision, and intended to ensure that the colony’s common wealth was used in service of its society. Before the riot at Parliament House, land selection bills had languished for three years. Afterwards, one was passed within a month, but the Selection Act that resulted was a deeply flawed piece of legislation. Antagonism between the Assembly and Council forced compromises and imprecise provisions, and squatters, determined to retain their runs, openly abused the letter of the law. Though a single person could select only a limited amount of land, the legislation did not specify who could select, which allowed some squatters to use infants and children to become imitation ‘selectors’ and make proxy purchases. The liberals insisted that a price of at least £1 was paid per acre of land, which made it difficult for impoverished miners to purchase the land they had selected or compete at auctions. Intimidation and corruption ran rife, as the nascent colonial state did not have the means to ensure that its laws were followed. Three more amendments and acts followed in quick succession to remedy these ills and others, but none had any great success. The 1862 Amendment opened new loopholes as it closed old ones, and ‘65 and ’69 Acts were too
late to prevent the worst abuses. Nor could statutes relieve the vagaries of the Victorian climate, which saw a majority of farms selected fail within a few years. Legislation did not achieve what either these populists or early liberals had hoped, but their ideals have had an enduring effect. ‘Ambivalent’ is the best description of this legacy. In their enthusiasm for the under-used wealth of an uninhabited landscape, they forgot that it had been neither; the consequences for the Indigenous population can still be seen and felt today. Their ambitions set in motion changes that built towns in country Victoria that thrive into the present, and drained away the life of others. Ownership of the land was consolidated, but so were the tensions between selectors and squatters. These grievances drove a young Edward Kelly, the son of selectors, to later take to bush ranging in Victoria’s northeast. These Acts, contrary to the intentions of either the Populists or the liberals, gave legal standing to a style of farming that remained predominant until the 1930s, when a changing global economy eroded the close ties of trade between Victoria and Britain, and guided the development of the industrialised monoculture that is the norm of modern farming. The miners’ dream of establishing a society of selfsufficient farmers may have been an unlikely one, but the Acts legislated by their members of parliament stifled it, and the effects of their decisions have carried through the last one hundred and fifty years. The gold is now gone, but the choices made about the value of land, what can be done with it, and who can make use of it remain. Just as the struggles between the squatters and miners still affect us through the diffuse tendrils of the past, the decisions we make will follow us into the future.
Hungry Siobhan Neyland
I’ve never really known what hunger is. I’m rich! Rich enough to have never worried, really worried, about being hungry. But do we in the wealthy and industrialised West suffer from this lack of contact with our hunger? For a week in May, I participated in the Live Below the Line challenge. This challenge, which involved me living below the extreme poverty line on two dollars a day worth of food for five days, gave me a new understanding of my hunger. In that long, hungry week I got a little glimpse of what hunger – real hunger – actually is. For our nomadic ancestors, there was no reliable source of food. Hunger and famine were commonplace, meat was rarely eaten and meals were sporadic. Eventually, over thousands of years, our bodies became attuned to this way of life. But while our bodies may not expect three meals a day, the technological and industrial progress over the last two centuries has brought us to the point where we can now actually forget our hunger. Patrick Jones, an Australian poet and ‘locavore’, believes that our hunger can influence what we say, write and produce. Jones has much reason to reflect on this because his locavore diet, which involves him almost exclusively hunting and gathering his and his family’s food, often leaves him hungry. Jones explains that on the days when he doesn’t have quite enough to eat, his thought is affected both metaphorically and metabolically, which in turn influences his creative process. I wonder if this hunger may be a little like mine was; that is, more intense than what most people experience in their
everyday lives. The hunger I felt brought with it uncertainty and anxiety; I felt like I should be eating, even if I didn’t actually need to. Yet Jones believes that the vulnerability I felt from hunger can help us understand the affluence in which we are currently living. Certainly, during the Live Below the Line week I saw more clearly – and felt more acutely - the disparity between how much we produce and how much we actually need. When starting with so little, waste suddenly became unthinkable; one morning I saved what I couldn’t finish of my porridge and enjoyed it as an afternoon snack – something I would never normally have done. At one point I found myself in a restaurant with my friend who was devouring a plate of aromatic Malaysian curry while I sipped at my water. Being surrounded by people eating delicious-smelling food, I had to imagine that this was a part of the reality of poverty: being thankful for what you have while being forced to bear witness to a wealth and pleasure from which you are completely excluded. It was obvious from how quickly my friend ate his curry that he didn’t appreciate it. His ignorance, Patrick Jones argues, is fuelled by our ‘abstracted’ food system. This abstracted food system refers to the fact that many living in the industrialised world are alienated from the process that produces our food. For most of us, food seems to magically appear and this makes it easy to forget our reliance on an ecology to support our survival. But with the rapid onset of global warming and food crises around the world, understanding this greater ecosystem is becoming imperative.
Humans are populating the earth at a rate which the current global agricultural system wonâ€™t be able to support indefinitely. Fossil fuels are central to our farming and transport systems and they are also part of the reason our population has been able to grow so exponentially. To support current population levels, we now need our industrialised food delivery system â€“ the earth would not be able support 8 billion hunter-gatherers â€“ but we need to find new ways to adapt our current system to be more resilient and sustainable. Furthermore, the system as it currently operates is vulnerable to climate variability, interruption of fuel supply, as well as conflict and disaster. The fragility of our food supply translates into a fragility of our personal existence that I felt so viscerally during the Live Below the Line week. The hunger brought with it a feeling of vulnerability as I was forced to confront the fact that I rely on an unknown system to supply me with everything I need to physically exist. What if one day something happened to my food supply? But if we begin to feel the vulnerability ourselves, we can there start to build the resilience. Patrick Jones argues that we should begin to build our resilience close to home by eating locally and developing a greater knowledge of where our food comes from. In some ways, in order to become resilient, we need to become more self-sufficient. While it is not possible for everyone in the world to live like Jones, and while we will continue to require an industrialised food supply system, there is no reason to opt for either extreme, complete locavorism or complete ignorance and fossil fuel-dependence. Resilience needs to be built from
without and within: the system we depend upon should become more sustainable and resilient to global shocks; it should be more localised and less transport-intensive; and the consumers should become more conscious of their place in the greater ecology. Hunger is a powerful force in all of this, as hunger mentally brings you back to your body and the basics of its survival. As a society we could benefit from a closer experience of hunger and a more intimate relationship with our food. Being hungry can help us to understand the affluence in which we are living, and remind us of the precariousness of our physical existence. The hunger I felt in that week in May was a new experience of being human which led me to think that hunger brings us closer to our ancestral selves. The more we learn about our food and the more we understand our reliance on and place in our ecology, the less vulnerable and the more resilient we will become.