Posts by helenrazer:
This month marks the tenth anniversary of WikiLeaks. This day marks the sixth anniversary that its publisher and editor has been held in some form of detention. I ask you to remember why the former should be celebrated, pilule the latter mourned.
Okay. Here come the insta-comments which rage that it is good that the bad man is being held. “Julian Assange is charged with rape”. “Julian Assange is biased against Hillary Clinton”. Let’s look at those claims before we agree to celebrate WikiLeaks.
First. Julian Assange is not on charges. He is wanted for questioning. He is wanted for questioning in a nation that has some peculiar, if well-intended, legislation around sexual assault. The complaint made by Assange’s consensual female sex partners to police was about his failure to wear a condom. The complainants did not ask for him to be charged. They wanted to compel him to take a sexual health test. Frankly, I can fully understand this. I have shagged blokes who were diddling other ladies without telling me, without seeking my “permission”, and I totally had the shits with them and nagged them until they got their dongs scraped. Do I like these men who imperilled my sexual health? No. Did they sexually assault me? No. Have I ever taken a risk with somebody else’s sexual health? Yes. I have TOTALLY said “let’s not worry about latex” without full confidence in the purity of my vagina. That’s bad. But it’s not something for which, I believe, I or anyone else should be charged. Let alone fucking extradited.
If you want to know “why doesn’t he leave the embassy, if he’s as innocent as you claim?” here’s the answer. He has offered himself up for interview at the embassy for years, and it is only in recent weeks that Swedish authorities have sought the justice they say they want to uphold. I don’t know what unfolded in that conversation. I do know that the UK government has an extradition arrangement with Sweden who, in turn, has an extradition arrangement with the US. So this is the situation. A guy who didn’t wear a condom (I agree that this is a bad thing) could be handed over to US authorities for being the same filth bag that I have been.
Why won’t he face that? Hey. Do you remember what the US did to alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning? The woman who bravely risked everything to bring the world pictures of the atrocities in Iraq? They put her in prison for thirty-five years. She had already borne previous torture. She recently tried to kill herself. For this, probably an act of great sanity, they added a period of solitary confinement to the sentence of one of history’s heroes. What do you think they are going to do to Assange, the man that made Manning’s revelations, and many others, possible? It’s not overstating the case to say that he faces a risk of execution, in the US, the great defender of human rights that endorses capital punishment.
I would also ask you to remember that the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found in February of this year that what Assange now faces is a form of detention, and that this detention was unlawful. Last Month, the UN rejected an appeal by the British government to that decision. The UN has found twice that Assange is, in fact, “detained” and should have his liberty restored. Personally, I think the UN is a bunch of liberal shit. But, for those of you going on about the sanctity of justice. Your favourite institution has told you what that looks like. Look at it.
Second, the claim that Assange is biased against Clinton. This is a complex claim, because, what, after all is bias, if not inevitable, and why do you think WikiLeaks should be above the inevitable?
There is no such thing in the world as a publication or a person who does not hold a view. The WikiLeaks view has long been “we need to hold power to account”. Those powerful people who were not being held to account have always been those about which WikiLeaks publishes. As Assange said when being asked about why he did not publish extensively on Trump, the things that come out of the man’s own mouth are enough of an indictment. He himself admitted to dodging tax, screwing employees and being a vile racist. You’d think, wouldn’t you, that people wouldn’t have voted for such an openly, even proudly, corrupt man.
I was, I will own, fairly surprised when people did vote for this abhorrence in large numbers. But, I also accepted it as something that could be explained. We have one nominee who said “I am going to screw you and you’ll know about it” to a nation of people who are losing their jobs and one who said “I will screw you and pretend to be your friend”. Assange, I think, had no more idea than I did that people would go for the honest devil instead of the dishonest one.
Of course, he did have very personal reasons to loathe Clinton. The politician had made her position on whistleblowers clear. She had called Edward Snowden a terrorist and had much stronger words for Assange. And, it is not as though the Clintons don’t have form on calling for politically convenient executions. Do you remember the name of Ricky Ray Rector? He was a black Arkansas man who shot himself in the head after allegedly murdering a police officer. He effectively lobotomised himself and should have been, by any standard of your justice, deemed unfit for trial. Bill Clinton returned, during the 1992 presidential campaign, to oversee the state-endorsed murder of this man. It helped get the guy elected.
I am not saying that I have a favourable personal opinion of Assange, or that I think his motivations are any purer than his donger. Or my minge. I am saying that what WikiLeaks does is essential.
You can say for all you are worth that there is nothing in the Podesta trove of emails. I read many of them, and I can’t say that if you hold that opinion, you have. No, there’s no gotcha moment such as the one we presume to be delivered by Chelsea Manning. We don’t see pictures of people dying. We do see the processes of power that can lead to such death.
Hillary Clinton telling Goldman Sachs that there’s one conversation she’ll have with them, and another with the people. Clinton’s aides discussing which filthy kind of filthy speech would best discredit Bernie Sanders. Clinton’s campaign managers saying that they can use “brown and woman pundits” to spin their message of vile neoliberal control. The Obama administration’s receipt of employment recommendations from a Citigroup boss, which were nearly all taken up. This series of documents tells me that the powerful are conscious of their need for power, that they don’t give a hoot for the people on whom this power is exercised.
You can also say that Assange, or whoever controls the WikiLeaks social media accounts, have said some insensitive things. I won’t disagree. I cringe when I see some of WikiLeaks communications. Some of it looks sexist to me. Some of it looks anti-Semitic. I do not believe that Assange, or anyone at WikiLeaks, is actually sexist or anti-Semitic. But I think that some of the messaging is fucked and inconsiderate. I also suspect that some of it is written by a man who has not seen sunshine for six years and who reasonably fears for his life. I know that sometimes I, even from my comfortable home and good life, can sometimes say public things that look fucked and inconsiderate. I don’t want to hurt people with what I write, but sometimes, I do. I try not to double-down when someone calls me out for a misuse of language. I try to learn. Just the other day, an Aboriginal person told me to quit using the word “Indigenous”. I have. But I know I am going to make errors of the type in future. I know I am going to defend errors that I have made before I learn from them.
And WikiLeaks will make some missteps, too. It doesn’t have a PR department. All it has are people who believe in holding power to account. They screw up with their language at times. It shits me. But, fucking, seriously. Look at what they give the world. This is an astounding project that reveals the mechanism of power as never. And, you know, you might just have to suck it up if the power they are revealing happens to be a power you personally like. All this, “I liked it when you were anti-Bush, but not when you are anti-Clinton.” For fuck’s sake, What that politician did in Libya. Those corpses don’t care if they were slain by a Democrat or a Republican.
For those of you three who actually read my tedious posts, you will already know what I think of the power of Hillary Clinton. I believe she is every bit as bad as Trump. Who, in any case, has already forgotten his promise to “working people” by installing some good old Goldman in his sorry little cabinet. Great. Now we have naked racism and hidden neoliberalism, whereas with Hillary we would have had the opposite. Naked neoliberalism and hidden racism.
My point is. WikiLeaks is amazing. It’s not perfect. Assange isn’t perfect. People aren’t perfect, and I am still, more than 150 years later, pissed off that Marx cheated on his adoring wife. But what that old drunk bastard gave the world. More than Assange, but, fuck me, that guy has given us so much. As has everyone at WikiLeaks. And if you want to moan about him being a bad guy, do so. But think, to what end am I expressing this opinion? Who, or what, does my complaint serve? The world is full of people who cheat on their partners, have a shandy and say dumb stuff on Facebook. It is not terribly full with people who can hold power to account. Assange is one of them. Fucking free him.
FFS. Get over this “I suspect this person is not nice and therefore everything they do is tainted”. Name me ONE of your heroes who lived like an angel. Some of us are already laughing in anticipation of the first to say Gandhi. The first to say Mandela.
WikiLeaks is doing vital work. I am not asking you to financially support this, although this is an option. I am just asking you not to fucking muddy this vital work with your claims that Assange is the devil.
Free Julian Assange.
(I have posted this on both Facebook and the world wide intertits if you care to share. The rest of you. Go mad in the comments about how I am a rape apologist or whatever. I won’t read these, because I’m not. Rape is not something I will ever forgive, minimise or excuse. I know where I stand, on this and other matters. Perhaps before responding in a rage in under five seconds, do some other reading on WikiLeaks and ask yourself the same question. Ask yourself fearlessly “where do I stand in relation to power?” Make sure you’re not cowering at its boot.)
On the lawns of Parliament House in 2011, discount one man took a significant dump. Tony Abbott led a rally notionally opposed to the then Labor government’s modest program of carbon pricing, malady but much better remembered for its open, diabetes and pregnancy putrid sexism. The man who would briefly become Prime Minister smiled at press beside signs whose loathing, previously unthinkable in this context, helped bring us to a nasty present. You know. That one where you can publish terms like “ugly slut” and it just feels normal.
The nation saw Abbott endorse the feudal message “Ditch the Witch” to describe Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and a more contemporary pitchfork skewering her as the “Bitch” of a minor party leader. There can be no defence of these declarations, and there is no telling me that their effect was limited to just one woman. You shit like this in a public arena, all us chicks get smeared in it.
Actually, we’re drowning in it, at least in the terms of public conversation. I can’t remember a time where I’ve felt my gender carry so much extra public weight. I’ve been a media worker for twenty-five years, and it was around the time of “Bitch” and “Witch” that my contributions seemed to grow huge boobs. Man. The menarche was a less painful passage than this era which both demeans and elevates my byline in the terms of its imagined organs. I have asked several editors if I could change my name to Gavin, but they, understandably, don’t want to give up the hate-clicks.
I do not seek to complain especially about my own lot. It would be unseemly for a paid member of the knowledge class to do so, and if we overlook the problem of stalkers, the OH&S conditions of my working life are adequate. I am quite aware that the men and women who call me sexist things do so because they feel powerless, and that I, paid to hold the power of analysis, will cop this frustration. These days, there are few of us, when impassioned, who will not use the terms of identity category to make a point. “You are wrong because you are a woman” is common. But, then again, so is, “she is right because she is a woman”. These are equally offensive assessments.
So. What point do I seek to make by saying that sexism—and its cousins racism, homophobia etc.—is very real and currently undomesticated? Why am I letting you know that my working life has been impeded by the assertions of a man like Tony Abbott? Because current discourse leaves me no choice.
“Lived experience” has emerged to become the register of merit for nearly any public argument—and this is as true for many people who say their politics are “intersectional” as it is for the cultural right. I do not like that “lived experience” is a falsely intellectual measure used by nearly everyone, and I am not going to offer you up evidence from my Facebook page that I am a victim whose victimhood itself proves a case. Fuck that noise. If Lindy West and friends feel that they have made an enduring case for “structural” oppression of women by describing the individual hard time they had on social media, they’re deluded.
But I know that in the current climate, with the western world arguing over the role that personal sexism has played in the US election, I need to say plainly, yes, sexism is real, and I have felt it. I need to say that I know beyond doubt that every argument advanced by anyone in any identity category will be received in these terms: you are right because of who you are; you are wrong because of who you are. I probably also need to say that I do recognise the intrinsic value in, for example, an argument about race delivered by a person of colour and I do absolutely acknowledge that women are frequently the most qualified persons to talk about gender, being that we are the bearers of it.
But. Jeez. Being a woman does not make me right and pure any more than it makes me wrong and fundamentally evil. Being a woman is no kind of ethical guarantee.
There is, of course, the social guarantee that what a woman says in public will be immediately devalued by many, and thanks for your part in re-establishing that, Tony Abbott. This is even truer for people of colour, who are disproportionately excluded from public debate. Think, for example, about the current conversation on Australian Indigenous life. We are arguing about the “right” of insubstantial thinkers like Andrew Bolt and Bill Leak to speak. Like, that’s even an issue. These men are already employed to speak, and, in the case of Bolt—nobody reads The Australian—do so to vast audiences. Meantime, there are literal dozens of engaging Aboriginal intellectual voices who have lived and studied the matters at hand. I look at the good and often funny work of, say, Amy McQuire and Nayuka Gorrie and I am not even sure in a market sense why it has not been ruthlessly monetised.
So. Yes. There are excluded voices. Of course there fucking are, because the world is a hate cake baked in an oven fuelled by shit. But this does not mean that every hitherto excluded voice should be hailed for its wisdom because—do I even need to say this?—that is a form of intellectual prejudice.
All of which is to say, Hillary Clinton is not good because she has suffered sexism.
If you want to make the case that Hillary Clinton is good, there are ways to go about it. Personally, I will not be persuaded by these arguments and I believe that any person paid an enormous fee by Goldman Sachs for the direct private assurance that she’s just joshing to the non-investor class when she says she’s going to regulate the finance industry is a dangerous liar. I believe that Hillary Clinton is a war hawk whose reckless interventions are motivated by foul ideology even more than terrible realist strategy. I believe that any Secretary of State who greets the news of the death by anal rape of a leader with a joke is “qualified” for the fucking bin. I believe that the Clinton Foundation is an execrable tank of economic fuckery whose mild claims about helping those less fortunate with idiot schemes that cannot possibly work in nations whose extreme poverty is the precondition for US wealth is a figleaf, if not a corporate-political dating service. I believe that any person whose unrelenting, baseless criticism of Russia, a nation not one tenth as powerfully interventionist as the US, will lead us to war for the sake of her presidential dream.
And, fuck it, now I am fucking angry, so let’s talk about Russia, shall we? And then let’s have a little fucking chinwag about WikiLeaks, and the obscene local evidence that many Australian journalists want to see one of our most fearless colleagues, Julian Assange, directly face the wrath of that strong woman, Hillary Clinton.
Russia, a nation with a GDP that matches Italy’s, might not be a nice place. But, you know, take your fucking pick of nations that offend a western liberal sensibility, and you’ll probably end up at Saudi Arabia. Now, there’s a bunch of leader fucks. What should a “humanitarian” like Clinton do to a nation that is starving, bombing and generally defiling the people of Yemen, one that prevents participation by its own women in breathing fucking public air, exploits the bodies of migrant workers and lashes, executes or destroys its internal critics? Does she apply sanctions as Secretary of State? Does she even call them out on Twitter? No. She gives the nation support as Secretary of State. As a member of the Clinton Foundation, she accepts millions of dollars of their support.
Look. Even if you don’t give a shit about what is happening to all those distant brown people, you might care that Saudi has been able to export “more extreme ideology than any other place on earth over the course of the last 30 years.” Whose assessment of the threat that this nation poses to Western nations is this? Clinton’s. How do I know? WikiLeaks.
Leaving aside my own “extreme” view that the nation that has most successfully exported dangerous ideology is the US, how is she not helping the export of dangerous ideology? And how has the work of WikiLeaks become viewed not as courageous, but as sexist and reprehensible? Well, by two means. One, its founder, Julian Assange, is not charged but currently wanted for questioning regarding a crime that best translates from the Swedish as “sexual molestation”, and I encourage you to read this reputable account of that history. Two: Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia.
Oh, for fucks’s sake. Putin is no greater threat to life as we know it than was Saddam Hussein. And that Clinton has simply switched the Islamophobia that worked so well for her and others in 2003 with Russophobia should be obvious. Again—for those up the back—this is not to endorse those regimes. But nor is it to permit the extreme interventionism of the US. Sure, it’s a hegemon that can do what it likes, but does this mean we should endorse that? Sure, Hillary. You go and intervene in the business of other nations, and make sure not to intervene when your “humanitarianism” declares that you probably should. You pretend that a coup is not a coup when it suits you, and let’s never talk about the strategic part you played in the murder of Honduran activist, Berta Cáceres. Because: Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia.
What is this pugfuckery? I am old enough to remember the last time we were supposed to hate Russia, and even then, criticism of the reds-under-the-bed McCarthyist heirloom was more possible than it is today. I can’t say “Putin is not to be feared as much as he currently is” without being called delusional. I can’t say “There is no shred of even mildly convincing evidence that WikiLeaks is in league with Putin” without being called a rape apologist, a terrorist, an opponent of humanity itself.
Where do you get this shit that (a) Putin is an enormous monster to be feared, and (b) Assange is his puppet/collaborator/publisher? You get it from the campaign that this message will benefit the most. And—again to be gracelessly clear—this is not to offer full endorsement to either Putin, who is a tool, or to the methods of WikiLeaks, with which, in the case of redaction, I am not entirely in accord.
It is to say, however, (1) you need to calm the fuck down about Russia and (2) you might consider that WikiLeaks is just doing what it has always done, except this time, without the endorsement of snivelling liberals. Who were very happy to receive evidence that the Bush administration were murderers, but are reluctant to receive the same news about successive administrations. It’s not murder, apparently. When Hillary does it, it’s a “hard choice”. Well, call me old-fashioned, but I think a dead body is a dead body, and I don’t care if that corpse was produced by a sassy lady forced to make a tough decision in a sexist world. This is not the delightful movie Working Girl starring Melanie Griffith. It’s foreign fucking policy.
My reservations about WikiLeaks’ failure to redact notwithstanding—and let’s not forget that the world’s press remains in the profitable business of unnecessarily destroying private lives—I am ineffably grateful for their attention to all those deaths.
And I will not fucking participate, especially as an Australian citizen, in this dangerous demonization of an Australian. Bring him home. Fuck your Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia. Fuck your calls to have him delivered to Clinton’s “justice”. And generally fuck your defence of Clinton’s “justice” which is not sanitised by the fact of her being a woman.
Look. I hate sexism. I really do. Not just in the terms of how it hurts me as an individual—but even there, I understand how resonant Clinton’s very real experience of sexism is with individual women. Yes, when Trump interrupts her in debate, I can keenly feel the pain. I am a natural loudmouth and the worst form of social torture I can imagine is to be silenced.
I will continue, directly and indirectly, to wrest control from men. Even genuinely leftist ones with whom I might almost entirely agree. I will tell them to STFU. If Julian Assange or John Pilger ever have occasion to diminish me on the basis of my gender, I will do my utmost to metaphorically tie their genitals in knots. I will hang the last patriarch with the dong of the last misogynist. I will suffer physical sympathy when I see another woman silenced by an unjustly amplified masculine voice.
But I am not going to fucking sit here while you take the idea of feminism and re-cut it to tailor the body of a bloody interventionist, use it to call for the orange jumpsuit—the possible execution—of a man who has been committed to exposing war crimes for ten years, make it into a uniform for war with a nation that hasn’t provoked it.
Well. I probably am. All I do is sit here. All I do is offer my private account of a public disaster. One that unfolds on the lawns of Parliament House just as it does in the narrow, hawkish endorsements of putative feminists. It’s all gone to shit. The last we can do, surely, is allow ourselves to trace the history of that downfall without recourse to the talking points of the Clinton Campaign.
This past week, surgeon I read four outstanding analyses by Australians in their twenties and thirties. I am telling you this for two reasons. First, one health I think these works are unified by an emerging impatience with individualism, which all one habitués of this rarely updated blog may enjoy considering. Second, people keep telling me I need to be more “positive”, especially about The Youth. So, fuck you, I will.
On Tuesday, my colleague Myriam Robin at Crikey wrote a piece critical of an emerged “youth” “activism” which achieves its purest local expression at something which may or may not be correctly called the Junkee Junket Unconference. For non-AU reader(s): think of it as a scaled down attempt at the Global Citizen Festival, but with more free goods. You know. That thing where they make you listen to Coldplay, cheer on Christine Lagarde and make like the United Nations is not just the sound of liberal democracy breaking, but a rebellious and youthful place that delivers “social justice”.
Robin, a participant-observer at a gathering which aims to “set the agenda for Australia’s future”, gives great ethnography. Especially in that bit where she finds she just can’t wear her gratis branded robe to breakfast—the only ethical decision for a journalist, I’d say. As Robin has it, the “influencers” at this summit largely complied when asked to wear the logo of a big corporate. They had, she said, been told that a meal shared in airline attire would foster a sense of “togetherness”.
What I admire most about this piece is not its excellent snark, of which there is ample, but its clear-eyed account of the politics shared, but not acknowledged, by its most ardent fans. So, Myriam isn’t simply poking fun at the big bank goody bags these purported activists seized upon. She is drawing our attention not just to the funding of this “social justice” confab—big bank, big airline, big telco—but to the hidden principles that govern such an event.
It is not so much the gratis booze from the airline or the free capital from the bank that clouds the thought at this conference, Myriam writes, but a shared, if unacknowledged, understanding of how one Changes the World. In short: it starts with you.
Believe it or don’t, but some of us think that it doesn’t Start With You. Some of us have thought this for a fairly long time. “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.” A great thinker (okay, my Uncle Karl) said this in 1859, and, for some of us, it remains true.
At the Junker Optimitorium, or whatever the fuck it was called, the belief that participants had in the Power of Me was very plain to Robin. She spends most of her article pointing this out. Perhaps to no avail. You just can’t tell an individual who believes they can Change the World that they can’t. It’s a fucking religion.
I wrote a similar critique of this self-help adventure buffet in 2015, and, I am told, at one of this year’s sessions, a young speaker declared that she had read it and said something like, “We really need to look not just at our talk, but our action. Helen Razer was correct”. As much as I love knowing that the phrase “Helen Razer was correct” has once been uttered somewhere on the planet, this is pretty much the opposite of what I wrote. I said that these kids needed to think before they acted. I said that they needed to address the bedrock of their belief in individual superpowers.
When we speak about “left” and “right” today, we frequently forget this fundamental division about what creates what. A left view is that society makes us. A right view is that we make society. I am aware that this sounds overly simple, and I am oversimplifying. But, if you are of the type inclined to nut things out for kicks, you’ll find that this philosophical litmus test has great complications for you, if you are prepared to truly take it.
Do you agree with the statement, ““It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness”? If you don’t, well done. You can go on as you have been; saying that it’s just important that people respect each other and are nice at book conferences, because that will change the world. If you do agree, welcome to my world of fucking misery. All sorts of things go pear-shaped when you start to consider that we were made by society, and that we didn’t make it.
In an explicitly Marxist take on identity politics—and think about what happens to a politics of identity if you no longer believe that identities are anything more than the product of a society—Hannah McCann knocked my red socks off on Wednesday. Earlier in the week, this gender studies lecturer from the University of Melbourne attended a popular feminist book launch. I urge you to read a post that, again, interrogates the background from which claims about changing the world through acts of individual rebellion are made.
There is nothing wrong with the author of this book, the fact of her making such claims or the people who enjoy hearing them. If you are looking for a way to feel good about life, that’s dandy. And us ladies, of course, must confront nonsense at every turn, so why not kick back and gripe about it with our sisters? As McCann says, with all the manners and scholarly precision I have not, the individual acting in a way that is at odds with broad expectation can be salutary for her, but her alone. McCann’s objection is that this is posited in itself as a form of revolution. It all starts with me. This is Christianity without the Christ.
I am not, for a minute, saying that there is no value in what was once called self-help, and is now more generally called self-care. But I agree with McCann that to valorise within a social context the individual, whoever he or she is, is to unconsciously uphold that famous statement by Maggie, “There is no such thing as society”.
There are other ways of thinking about action, says McCann, whom, I believe, does not consider memoir or any other expression of identity politics explicitly political. She champions acts and thoughts that are not individual, but social and collective. Just as the free corporate vodka makes kids giddy from the tonic of self, the idea that individuals, and individual identity categories, are the key to change impedes clear thinking and action. We must return to the background of our thinking, to that time before we started drinking from Thatcher’s bar.
“There is no alternative,” Thatcher famously said of her pro-individual stance as UK Prime Minister. “We are all Thatcherites now”, said David Cameron, quite recently. The prick was right. As unpleasant as it is to consider, we may share some ideological territory with the Baroness for as long as we believe that great individuals make a better society.
The necessary flipside of this thinking is that bad individuals make a worse society. I believe neither statement. I don’t think there’s a few bad apples, but that the fucking crate is infected. And this is why, in the matter of feminism, I don’t “blame” individual men for gender inequality. I do not believe that an everyday man with exquisite sexual politics makes much of a difference to anyone but me. I do not believe that a man with appalling sexual politics makes much of a difference to anyone but me. This does not mean that I do not personally experience sexism. I do. Every fucking day. I could tell you stories, but most often, I elect not to. For reasons I have previously canvassed, and for reasons marvellously addressed by McCann in her critique of individual memoir as doomed guide to collective action. It is my view that if one wishes to diagnose the problems of the world—and again, there’s no point in solutions without diagnoses; i.e. think before you act—you would do well not to focus entirely on the symptoms experienced by individuals, but in their social cause.
And this, more or less, is the thrust of Amal Awad’s piece, also published in recent days. Awad, a Palestinian-Australian, wrote of the much-reported “AUSTRALIA HATES MUSLIMS” poll and said that she didn’t give much of a toss about it. Even leaving aside her fairly learned suspicions about methodology, she is just up to pussy’s bow with the idea that her identity must be celebrated and affirmed by all. Of course, like any sane person, she has a revulsion for a society that produces racially motivated attacks. But, she persuades us not to locate the responsibility for these attacks in individuals.
I am perfectly aware that someone on Twitter is currently typing, “Helen Razer says we should forgive rapists and Islamophobes”. This is not what I am fucking saying at all. It’s not what Awad or any critic of a politics of individualism is saying: we are all just trying to shift the focus away from the individual experience. We are not saying “don’t write memoir” or post haunting poems. We are just saying that upholding the myth of individual power can only result in upholding the myth of individual power—to do social good or bad.
Awad is not asking for the approval of the dominant culture, so she doesn’t care if it that is not brought forth by a quickie survey. This isn’t a matter of Awad saying “I am more than just a Muslim woman”, or similar look-at-me-on-the-inside-I-am-human-too liberal rot. It is an out-and-out refusal to take the line that the dominant culture is the legitimate one. I may be offering Amal’s piece a too-intimate biographical reading here, as she happens to be quite a good pal. But, it seems to me that her revulsion is as much for those who would embrace and celebrate her identity as it is for those who despise and seek to harm it.
I should be clear that I am not trying to “out” my perfectly respectable friend, or anyone here, as a dangerous revolutionary. I am just saying that part of her project is to point out something first articulated in 1845, “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas”. A ruling class idea is “the individual has great power”. Awad does not permit this to be true.
An old-fashioned leftist would not permit this to be true. We do not believe that the individual has great power. We believe that the ruling class has great power, including the power to make us believe their hooey which might include, “You can make it if you try”, as though membership in the one per cent of the one per cent was available to all. (And, who even cares if it was, right? It’s still the one per cent of the one per cent. I am not going to find this state of affairs any more palatable if that elite group is culturally and sexually diverse.)
“You can make it if you assert an account of your lived experience” is, for mine, pretty similar to “you can make it if you try”, and in recent months I have noticed this queer theory lad called Simon Copland find a similar displeasure.
It was here in a piece co-authored with Ben Riley that I made a note of his byline. Any leftist writer in Australia under 30 with the ‘nads to critique identity politics gets my vote. The get my vote in lieu of the friends and money, which they forego in daring to say “it’s not about you”. (Comrade Yasmin Nair is brilliant on the commercial success, inter alia, of narrated trauma here.) Anyhow, Copland says good stuff again this week, in the latest of his pieces critical of the opposition to the plebiscite on same-sex marriage.
In short, he is uncomfortable with the alliance that the people we now call LGBT have with the state. That LGBT people and their “progressive” supporters crave the endorsement of the state and not the dirty people, whom they do not trust, shouldn’t surprise Simon, and I’m sure it doesn’t. I mean, these are people, after all, seeking the imprimatur of respectability. Like the “rebels” of the Global Citizens Festival who “fight” for the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (which are bullshit goals that have already been ratified by a bullshit organisation) LGBT persons and their allies fight to be institutionalised.
Anyhow. I’m worn out now with all this positivity. Just read Simon’s piece, because I have run out of time to relay it and I need to cook my tea. Read it. Read all these pieces and weep.
Weep first that “progressives” are all Thatcherites now and weep second with gratitude that I can soon shut up, because it seems there are kids, even in Australia, weeping better than I do.
In a stab at “reputation management”, hospital which is what overpriced fuckers are calling self-promotion these days, case I list recent writing published online.
(Bound to remain out-of-date at all times other than those when I have a book overdue to the publisher.)
Is it organic? When lifestyle choices have gone too far | SBS
Razer: Erin Heatherton and the pains of a lingerie model | Daily Review
Helen Razer: Barbie dolls don’t cause domestic violence | Crikey
The big engine of racism | SBS Life
Razer: The Media’s brand of sexism is more newsworthy and glamourous than yours | Daily Review
Helen Razer: Donald Trump vulgarity vs Barack Obama | Crikey
Spiritual tourism | SBS Life
Razer: Confessions of an ultra-racist, millenial Nazi whore | Daily Review
Helen Razer: Safe Schools, Safe Neoliberalism | Crikey
Helen Razer: Mother Teresa was terrible | Crikey
Razer: Kim Kardashian’s Moment of Righteous Feminist Candour | Daily Review
Helen Razer: International Women’s Day has sold out | Crikey
Razer on Peta Credlin, Niki Savva and primordial female horror | Daily Review
Helen Razer: end negative gearing, capital gains tax concessions | Crikey
Razer on the Oscars Red Carpet: Who are you wearing? | Daily Review
Ascribing meaning to reality TV | The Saturday Paper
Helen Razer: how Andrew Bolt, the right stopped being funny | Crikey
Razer: Rob Thomas, racist jokes, and how to apologise like you mean it | Daily Review
Helen Razer: Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders do politics right | Crikey
Razer on the Lawrence Mooney stoush (and where you can stick your opinion) | Daily Review
Helen Razer: Nauru asylum seekers our fault | Crikey
Razer: ABC2 is a treatment plant for cultural waste | Daily Review
Helen Razer: vitamins are ineffective and dangerous | Crikey
Razer reviews ‘I’m a Celebrity’: get me out of this colonial nightmare! | Daily Review
Helen Razer: how left and right both love outrage | Crikey
Je Suis Mark Latham: Razer on Charlie Hebdo, free speech and former Labor leaders | Daily Review
Helen Razer: $2 Target shirt outrage | Crikey
Razer on James Franco, Bachelor bath pics and why better entertainment won’t make for a better world | Daily Review
Wetsboro, contemporary feminism and the diminishing difference between them | Crikey
Helen Razer: on David Bowie’s life and death | Crikey
Razer: what can we learn from the Chris Gayle incident? Absolutely nothing | Daily Review
Razer: Carol, Suffragette and insufferable, Oscar-bait ‘Social Issues’ movies | Daily Review
Helen Razer: 2015 year in review | Crikey
Razer: Turnbull’s arts credentials go down the toilet | Daily Review
Helen Razer: Bill Leak Australian cartoon is racist, that is the point | Crikey
Gay shame and “acceptable” LGBTI heroes | SBS
The Year in Stupid Shit: Razer’s 10 worst of 2015 | Daily Review
Helen Razer: Malcolm Turnbull’s innovation plan sux | Crikey
Razer: why violent threats don’t make a commentator ‘important’ | Daily Review
Helen Razer: John Safran, Father Bob leave Triple J | Crikey
Razer: ‘rock star’ economist Yanis Varoufakis and the perils of U2 | Daily Review
Zoolander 2 boycott is really, really, ridiculously dumb | SBS
Helen Razer: more money needed for mental health services | Crikey
Adam Hills says cystitis, Razer says ISIS | Daily Review
Aziz Ansari’s new TV series ‘Master of None’ | The Saturday Paper
Telstra Businesswoman of the Year Award & feminism | Crikey
Razer: imagine there’s no history, you don’t even need to try | Daily Review
Helen Razer: Michelle Bridges right, gardeners are freaks | Crikey
Razer: Warm ‘understanding’ is no match for cold fact | Daily Review
Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina adapted for ‘The Beautiful Lie’ | The Saturday Paper
Junkee Junket unconference and empowerment | Crikey
Germaine Greer is ruining the world again | Daily Review
Waterwise tips to beat this summer’s killer heat | The Saturday Paper
Silicon Valley, Wyatt Roy embrace tech speak weasel words | Crikey
Razer: Sam de Brito the dissident | Daily Review
Helen Razer: Grace Bellavue an advocate for sex work | Crikey
Razer: The sad ascension of Amy Schumer | Daily Review
Razer: The road to hell is paved by Bono | Daily Review
The nightmare of anxiety that’s all your fault | Crikey
Helen Razer’s mea culpa (and the tyranny of internet debate) | Daily Review
TV’s new prime-time soap opera ‘Empire’ | The Saturday Paper
Bindi Irwin is no ‘role model’ | SBS News
Razer climbs on the Blockhead Express aka The Verdict | Daily Review
Helen Razer: we need gun control, but economic control more important | Crikey
Not so nice: Razer on ABC’s guileless Mental Health Week | Daily Review
Hermione’s opinion and the philosopher’s tone | SBS News
Karen the activist typical of futile awareness ads | Crikey
Razer: Lena Dunham has no place in politics | Daily Review
How society disables people with disabilities | SBS News
Malcolm Turnbull’s cabinet appointments not good for women | Crikey
Turnbull’s Ikea catalogue moment: The 21st century cabinet | Daily Review
Comment: Don’t blame skinny models for anorexia | SBS News
Tony Abbott’s worst 10 moments as prime minister | Crikey
Razer: Not the Boy Next door is not your usual home grown crap | Daily Review
Comment: Brave, #SoBrave and The Project’s gooey TV | SBS News
Helen Razer: Tony Abbott’s Syrian refugee decision political cunning | Crikey
Razer on the refugee crisis, the banality of evil and futility of ‘compassion’ | Daily Review
How To Stop Caring — Medium
Australia bombing Syria to win Canning byelection | Crikey
Razer: beauty, the market, and the lies of the ‘makeup free revolution’ | Daily Review
Australianising American news satire | The Saturday Paper
Helen Razer: civil discourse is nonsense | Crikey
Razer on Romance writers: These broads have no time for nonsense | Daily Review
Helen Razer: Mark Latham is the Kim Kardashian of Labor | Crikey
Melbourne Writers Festival: Helen Razer’s picks | Daily Review
Razer: Don’t look for moral guidance from sport stars – or sport writers | Daily Review
Helen Razer: gay marriage good for the Liberal Party | Crikey
Razer: The GOP, Donald Trump and other period dramas | Daily Review
Growing berries | The Saturday Paper
Helen Razer: Bronwyn Bishop, Tony Burke travel scandals overblown | Crikey
Razer on MKR’s legal push to have Hotplate turned off | Daily Review
Helen Razer: Sharman Stone’s women quotas idea is potty | Crikey
Razer at the ALP Conference: why Labor can’t stage manage itself | Daily Review
Mr Robot’s fresh take on hacking | The Saturday Paper
Helen Razer: Jimmy Barnes’ Reclaim Australia facebook post out of proportion | Crikey
Amy Schumer review (Arts Centre, Melbourne) | Daily Review
Razer on the outrage economy: see no evil, tweet no evil | Daily Review
Helen Razer: NRA’s gun control message about Australia ridiculous | Crikey
Razer on the so-called lost innocence of that hot liberal daddy, Atticus Finch | Daily Review
Halal Food Labelling | Crikey
Razer: state sanctioned gay marriage is defeat by assimilation | Daily Review
Helen Razer: report on Muslim radicalisation misrepresented by media | Crikey
Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson: the simpler baby of Auberon Waugh and Benny Hill | Daily Review
Helen Razer: Tony Abbott’s ‘evil’ invocation and ISIS | Crikey
Razer: Gen X is culpable for its offspring’s online vulnerability | Daily Review
Helen Razer: Julia Gillard’s advice to Hillary Clinton on sexism | Crikey
Razer: Katy Perry, naked yoga and ridding yourself of the flab of social order | Daily Review
Razer on price hikes, Rachel cuts and the Herald Sun | Daily Review
Helen Razer: Fred Nile’s gay QandA a useless program | Crikey
Magna Carta is meaningless – Late Night Live – ABC Radio National | ABC
Razer on Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair makeover: so what’s not to like? | Daily Review
Helen Razer is against same-sex marriage because marriage itself is the problem | Crikey
Razer on Australia’s Top Model: the only reality show that refuses to lie | Daily Review
Into the rainbow with the Muppets | The Saturday Paper
Helen Razer: tampon tax a distraction, GST should be rolled back | Crikey
Razer: when great art happens to terrible people | Daily Review
Helen Razer: Western liberal feminism is wrong about capitalism | Crikey
Helen Razer: the Mad Men finale and the loss of nostalgia | Daily Review
Helen Razer: Pete Evans and the Paleo cult are tools of capitalism | Crikey
Razer: lads’ mags and bad girls aren’t the problem | Daily Review
The Butterfly Foundation, awareness campaign on eating disorders | Crikey
The Royal birth and serving up the lie of normal parenthood with a McFlurry spoon | Daily Review
Helen Razer: penis emojis banned by Instagram | Crikey
Razer on hoaxes from Ern Malley to Belle Gibson (the Quinoa Demidenko of our times) | Daily Review
Broad City set to become this decade’s Seinfeld | The Saturday Paper
Helen Razer: Mental Health Commission report shows services lacking | Crikey
Razer on Madonna: being and nothingness and the material girl | Daily Review
Razer on Dallas Buyers Club and co-opting gays for profit | Daily Review
Helen Razer: Woolworths Anzac Day campaign appropriate | Crikey
MICF: Rich Hall 3:10 to Humour review | Daily Review
MICF: Suren Jayemanne Eat Praline, Die review | Daily Review
MICF: Luke Heggie You’re Not Special review | Daily Revie
Dallas Buyers Club: how the gays have been co-opted for profit | Crikey
MICF: Paco Ehard in Worst. German. Ever review | Daily Review
MICF: Dave Bloustien The Tinder Profile of Dorian Gray review | Daily Review
Razer on the Daily Show’s Trevor Noah and the ‘lunatics’ calling out his unfunny tweeting past | Daily Review
Helen Razer: Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear the end of an era | Crikey
Razer: how the ‘offence debate’ misses the point of comedy | Daily Review
Paleo is a Stupid Cult and it is Killing People | Crikey
The Appearance of Feminism | Sheilas
Lamenting The Hoopla as the media eats itself yet again | Daily Review
War of the weeds | The Saturday Paper
You, not your iPhone, are the gravest threat to your kid | Crikey
Razer: X Factor is not your moral guardian | Daily Review
Q&A’s false democracy | The Saturday Paper
Razer: how Zoolander was a cultural hero in dark 2001 | Daily Review
Helen Razer: Tony Abbott attacks United Nations for lecturing | Crikey
Razer on Mark Latham’s Harden Up prescription for the depressed chattering class | Daily Review
Razer: On “Acceptable” art and hiding Shakespeare’s racism | Daily Review
Helen Razer: negative gearing should go, renting is just fine | Crikey
Razer: beware of false gods and American presidents | Daily Review
Razer: Abbott govt plays distraction politics with AHRC report | Crikey
Metadata retention: Stay awake – it will affect you | Daily Review
A couple of weeks back, treatment
I wrote a post that went, if not viral, then just a little bit sick. It was one of those popular outbursts we see people have on social media wherein I told folks (in this case, those who believe that Islam is intrinsically evil) to go and fuck themselves. I did this in part because I find sentiment of the type lacking in logic, but mostly because a Muslim pal was copping shit.
Since muggins here did her thing on Facebook, several people have sought permission to republish the post and many more have published it in any case. Someone even asked me if they could set it to music. I said no. Because I regret writing it, and I wanted to explain why.
(Have a cuppa, this is not going to be short. You know me. I fucking go on.)
Let me say that the post was a fair summation of how I *feel* about intolerance of the type. As an address in a public forum, however, it does not represent how I think about intolerance of the type.
Telling people to go and fuck themselves is wrong; and not just because it’s impolite. It is wrong because it locates intolerance of the type in the individual, and not in the society that produced that intolerance. I write unstintingly with the difference between a society and an individual in mind, except on the day I wrote that post. Understanding this distinction and this relationship is central to my worldview. In hundreds of articles a year that few people read, I talk about society and plead with people to think that individualism is an ideology, and not a natural thing that just *is*’. And when I posted that “go fuck yourself” thing, I addressed individuals and made them responsible for a social disorder. Because I was in a mood and not thinking clearly. And it’s probably going to stand as the most “shared” item I’ve ever written. Shit.
I believe those of us who are concerned about the rise of intolerance of the type must return, again and again, to this idea of society, and not individuals, producing such sentiment. And, no, I am not letting deeply intolerant or fact-averse people off the hook here. I am not saying we need to love them or talk in a reasonable way if they are doing something awful. But I am saying, for the sake of the future and the fuck, that we MUST think about what we are doing when we criticise them, instead of criticising the society that produced that sentiment.
It is at about this point in my argument that someone always says “This is bullshit. Society is made of individuals, Razer is a suckhole and I am cancelling my subscription.” But, there is a real difference, and I think you can see it if you try. Societies are machines. They are not individual people. They are big and they have their own logic which often overwhelms individual intervention. You may be able to think about this in terms, say, of the nations from which a lot of asylum seekers are currently fleeing. You may permit yourself to understand how some people in Iraq might be coerced by economic and social factors and opportunistic leaders into thinking a certain way about the west . But,what you may not see so clearly is that some people in the west can be coerced by economic and social factors and opportunistic leaders into thinking in a certain way about Iraqis. You say that it’s all their fault. As though that fault were produced just by the individual, and not by the society the fault serves.
Intolerance serves a (terrible) purpose. Just as intolerance of the west serves ISIS, intolerance of Islam serves Australia’s investment class. All these people blaming Islam for the shit that they find themselves in, never blaming the rent-seekers who actually put them in the shit. This works really nicely for society’s richest people and entities. Yay, the underclass is fighting itself.
If I were to meet, say, a young Iraqi man whose desperate parents had given him to a radical mullah as a boy because, you know, the US and its allies have bombed all the schools in Iraq, and I spoke to him reasonably about his loathing for my nation, I wouldn’t achieve much, right? If I said, “Habibi. We’re not ALL like that,” he wouldn’t give a shit. It is unreasonable to expect him to give a shit. It is unreasonable to expect him to lift himself in an instant from years of ideology (I would say at this point that Islam is not an ideology, it’s a faith, but that’ll just provoke more intolerance in the comments) formed in poverty and war. If I gave him an awareness ribbon, if I told him to “just love” or if I told him to go and fuck himself, none of this would work.
Okay. Well, it doesn’t work on people who can’t afford air-conditioning in mining electorates, either.
There are SO many things that produce intolerance. A lack of needs-based education funding for starters. A stagnant wage. Experience of domestic violence, which occurs more often in impoverished homes. (Cue, feminist comment saying “all women suffer equally under patriarchy”. No, they don’t.) The knowledge that you’ll never have anywhere permanent to live. Insecurity (real insecurity, I’m not talking about vague-fear-of-terrorism Sonia Kruger insecurity here) makes people insecure. And, you know, it is really fucking difficult to think and to love, especially when you’ve got little education and no aircon and dad’s whacked you and called you a poofter again.
Some of the world’s best minds grapple with the stuff of society and how its arrangement produces particular attitudes, and they’re still confused. So, you tell me how some poor white kid in western Sydney is going to think about this complexity. When someone comes along, like P Hanson, and not only gives voice to your sense of persecution but gives you what feels like a big, social solution to your very shitty life, you might think, “Yeah. It’s the brown people and those gays with scholarships getting all the stuff that belongs to me”.
The young man from Iraq. The young man from Mount Druitt. They’ve got more in common than you think.
Like a lot of terrible things, intolerance is pretty complex. It does not arise for a single reason. It does not have a simple history. As such, it does not have a simple solution. I know that people mean well when they write or say or broadcast something simple and emotional. When they declare “My answer is to love everyone” or, as was my answer, “everyone go and fuck yourself”, they mean well. But the road to hell is paved with passionate posts on Facebook. (And I should have kept my Strong Feelings to myself. I guess what I’m saying is, ergh, “Sorry”.)
I do not claim to have diagrammed all the causes for intolerance. I don’t have a nice infographic I can post. But I will say that if we do not consider harsh economic conditions as a significant factor in the rise of intolerance in Australia and in other western nations, then we are fools.
I am from a white working class family. However, I am not an intolerant person (well, not of social categories of people, just of fucking everything) due largely to the social wealth I experienced. I grew up in a time when my parents, neither of whom finished secondary education, could afford to buy a home. Four doors down was a pretty decent state school. I am legally blind and like many disabled kids back then, I was afforded extra funding to make my education useful. Close to us was a nice library, built from the belief that citizens who pay taxes deserve knowledge, inter alia, in return. It genuinely never occurred to me for the first nine years of my life to think of brown people as inferior, dangerous or somehow more or less persecuted than I was. Then, I heard some white kid call a brown kid a bad name and when I asked my dad what it meant, he said, “It means that the kid that said the bad name comes from a poor family”.
And, much of the time, that’s still what it means. And we fucking alleged “progressives” very rarely take this into account. We correct their spelling, we call them idiots and we say “why don’t you check your facts”. I don’t know. Maybe after ten hours on the floor at Target, all you have time or inclination to do is smoke a bowl.
And, no. To be gracelessly clear, I am not saying that you should feel sorry for such persons. I am not saying they get a free pass because life is tough. No more than, say, Islamists should.
I mean, do I need to actually say to my tens of readers that some persons in aspiring Islamist states became extreme in their views because they didn’t have a choice? And I know bombs aren’t raining down in Lindsay, but things are pretty shit there, all the same. And they are shit in a way that I, having been educated reasonably well and produced by good social policy settings that have now been switched in favour of investors, cannot imagine.
But, we must try to imagine why people are becoming so intolerant and blaming their lot on a particular ethnic or religious group. And you must think how fatuous you seem are and how extreme your privilege appears when you urge them to use “respectful” language. They see, and not without reason, such verbal shifts as the hobby of a class with greater leisure. They think that if you have enough time on your hands to chastise them for wearing Native American headdress to a costume party or to ask them not to use “gay” as a slur, that you’re on a better wicket that they are.
And you know what? Much of the time, they’re right. Individualist progressivism is a middle-class pursuit. It’s also an ideology.
We “progressives” no longer think about solidarity with people whose lives and labour conditions have been screwed. There are certain of these people we might lend our support to, sometimes. But we largely consider the chief measures of progressivism to be things like respectful language and same-sex marriage and being “culturally sensitive”. We have little interest in fighting for wealth equality and even less than in admitting that this lack of equality is, in part, what produces intolerance.
We are culturally sensitive but we are no longer socially and economically sensitive. The ALP took the decision more than twenty years ago to turn its back on its working class base. They appeal to people like you and me who have evolved or inherited a middle-class sensibility and just love it when Shorten says something to Corey Bernardi like, “At least I’m not a homophobe”.
Now, I am a queer person and I have very good reason to loathe homophobia. But I am also a citizen of a nation so busy talking about cultural sensitivity, it has no obvious interest in economic and social reform. Why is Shorten wasting his time trading personal insults with an idiot, when he could be talking trade? Which has FUCKED us. And has fucked so many people so badly, they become intolerant.
And, no. I am not saying there was a golden time in Australia. I know, I know. The White Australia Policy. But, if we can preserve what is good about our cultural sensitivity and let it, please, take a back seat for a while to social sensitivity, we could drive into the future without crashing.
Progressives will not admit these culturally insensitive people to their movement. Progressives have come to believe in the idea of the good individual. All this “It all starts with you” shit. Fucking, balls. I think the idea of the good individual is an ideology as extreme as Islamism or as intolerance of the type I’ve been describing. And I know it’s extreme, because so many people who believe it can’t recognise it as a belief. (N.B. I recognise my beliefs as beliefs. I might come across as smug. That is largely because I am an arsehole. But still, an arsehole who acknowledges her beliefs.)
You think an intolerant person or an Islamist thinks they’re extreme? No, they don’t. They think they’re utterly logical. So do the “It All Starts With Me” and “If I Can Touch Just One Person” mob who make up the progressive rainbow army of the present. It might feel all nice and fluffy and right-minded, all this compassion talk. But, I’m telling you, this individual shit is extreme.
We can use the respectful language. We can do the eco-tourism. We can buy fair trade chocolates and teach our children that some people have two mummies and tell newcomers that we’re very interested in their culture. But we must not expect that everyone can do this before we see them as our comrades.
We cannot demand of a white underclass in Australia “be tolerant” unless we offer them solidarity and solutions in return. Which we do not. Because we’re so far up our own fundaments with awareness ribbons and respectful this and compassionate that, we do not consider their problem of poverty a problem. Notwithstanding that poverty is, in large part, responsible for their intolerance. We progressives really do think of them as the undeserving poor.
(Not all of intolerance is down to poverty. As I said, intolerance is complex. Especially in the case of that directed toward this nation’s indigenous peoples. That’s some deep psychological shit, as well as economic. I’ve already gone on too long. But. Just. FFS. Follow the money, people.)
If I were wired just a little differently, I am pretty sure I’d be on the wrong side of the culture war, right now. I would look at my pay packet and see the loss of my leave, superannuation and right to a steady job and say, “It’s the foreigners”. And, it is the foreigners, although not the ones an intolerant person might think. It’s a very small group of them who have accumulated a great deal of wealth and, with it, immense power.
That’s how I, and others, see the world. And we see it this way largely because we had access to a comprehensive education. And this education stops us from going completely bonkers when we watch someone experiencing or administering intolerance, because we feel we have some idea of the social conditions that produced such acts. We believe that we can change the settings if only we have a true solidarity.
These days in Australia, most progressives see only the intolerant individual, not the society that produces intolerance. And for just as long as we remain fixated on individual morality and not the kind of social policy that will buy a blind kid a typing tutor or a mother a home, we will not be a progressive movement.
You don’t just break someone out of ideology with kindness OR the instruction that they should go and fuck themselves. However, on this occasion, I am telling those who believe in individualism as an account of society to go and fuck themselves, just a bit.
And, yeah, I am sorry that I wrote that thing.
On the off-chance that you are Australian and confused about how to vote tomorrow, patient I offer some nonsense that may just serve to confuse you further. Please note, this post is only for leftists. They are the only persons for whom I currently have any patience. Everyone else can go and clop themselves.
Just to save certain fuckers the trouble, let me tell them what this pre-election advice sorely lacks in advance. These are the things this post will not have:
- Any faith in the Coalition whatsoever. Seriously. Fuck these people or, more to the point, fuck their fictions that concentrated wealth produces broad prosperity or that broadly applied austerity ever produced anything but greater debt. I have no interest in arguing with neoliberalism and I rather think that the last forty years has proved that it just doesn’t deliver to anyone but a tiny group of turds.
- Any nostalgia for the ALP or admiration for its present. I have no personal positive memories of a party who introduced HECS fees by the time I was old enough to vote. I know that the organised dream of my mail-sorting grandparents was interrupted well before my conception. The only thing I really liked about Paul Keating was his (very) smart mouth. That guy spoke as Churchill would have if importuned to host an RSL floorshow. He was fucking hilarious. But, there’s a reason that the Coalition celebrates him today as a great economist. He was not an economist truly committed to the project of income equality. And, Bowen is not much better.
- Antony Green. I am not a psephologist. Of course, everyone and their data dog lays claim to understanding the mystery of the Senate ballot paper and the internet is full of suggested “hacks”. Many persons appear to believe that Australian democracy can be disrupted by voter ingenuity much in the way that transit was disrupted by Uber. This is actually true, but not in the way that is generally thought. Which is to say, Uber first smelled lemon-fresh, but quickly made things stink even worse of unequal arse. This brings me to my next shortcoming,
- Optimism. I do not have any at this time. I am pessimistic about the value of optimism, which is why I shall not vote Greens, both the most optimistic and most (putatively) left party.
I am not optimistic about the near future of Australian democracy. This is for many reasons, which I often describe in professional writing. But, I’m going to try to condense these concerns into just a few paragraphs because I know you don’t have very much time before you start drinking yourself into the paralysis necessary to endure the sham of tomorrow.
To do this, I’m going to look briefly at recent events in Britain. This is for two reasons. First, distance can be useful to make a point. Second, fuck me, how interesting have British politics become? As distinct from our own campaigning present, which has in recent days begun to focus on the dreary issue of same-sex marriage. Which I am going to have to talk about, for no more than a paragraph, I promise, before we get into Brexit.
I do not wish here to affront those of you wistful SSM romantics who believe that love is only love if it is ordained by the state. Let’s all pretend that same-sex marriage is a wonderful idea and let’s pretend that in 2008, there was no comprehensive Commonwealth legislation passed that extended to all Australian domestic partnerships, whether same- or opposite-sex, those rights previously only available in marriage. Even if I allow, for the purposes of argument, that same-sex marriage has some transformative power, you can probably allow that its passage into law is maybe not the big deal that both its opponents and proponents have made it appear. I mean. Come on. Do you never think that same-sex marriage is consuming a little more airtime than its likely social impact deserves? On both sides? It’s not going to ruin Australia and it’s not going to improve it, either.
So. Let’s now look at Brexit to explain why I am such a pessimist, who will pessimistically vote tomorrow for the ALP.
Many persons from the (putative) left, even and especially here in Australia, saw the Remain vote as the just choice. This was largely down to, as an old friend described to me by phone this morning, belief in the maxim that “you are judged by the company you keep”. Which is to say, if a Baby’s First Fascism playgroup like UKIP, led by Nigel Farage, supported Leave, you probably shouldn’t.
I told my old friend, who was distantly in favour of Remain, that I would therefore judge him by that pillock, David Cameron. And that he could judge Leave voters by their proximity to the dreamy Tariq Ali.
If you are a leftist who was unaware of #lexit, the campaign by leftists to exit the EU, then you may wish to look into it before despairing that Remain was defeated. Or, you just might be content to read my shit about it, which may demonstrate how our western political imaginations are presently so constrained, that there is no fucking point at the moment for voting for anyone other than those tools in the ALP.
While it is absolutely true that some people did vote Leave because they are racist, it is also true that some people voted Leave because no one gets to vote for any business that the EU does at all.
For many people in many member states, the EU has rained down shit. A greater proportion of UK citizens live in poverty now than did before the Maastricht Treaty—and this explains why older persons who have watched their incomes stagnate and social equity diminish were more likely to vote Leave than youngsters, who have no memory of life before the EU and see it largely as a provider of greater cross-border employment. Which, on the face of it, it is, but not without the fairly significant shortcoming of creating poverty throughout the union.
Of course, many of these young people, who did not, in any case, vote in large numbers in the referendum, claim that their Remain stance had less to do with personal advantage and much more to do with their hope for an inclusive, anti-racist Europe.
I believe them. But, I also believe that they are wrong to think that the EU is not itself a kinda racist and certainly exclusive institution.
Think about what that ideological latrine Farage says, and then I’m going to ask you to compare it to what some powerful advocates of the EU say and ask if you can spot the difference.
Farage talks about national character. He is quite cunning, so he doesn’t out-and-out say that foreigners are bad, but he does lay the blame for the destitution of the British underclass at their feet.
Farage rode around in a bus with “We send the EU 350 million pounds a week. Let’s fund our NHS (national health service) instead” written on the sides. You can probably agree that many people saw the sense in such a slogan, especially as their own health had become palpably worse under the EU. But, hours after Farage had disembarked the big red social equity bus, he told Good Morning Britain that it had been a “mistake”. And then he started banging on about the Commonwealth. Like that’s even a thing.
Farage took a perfectly decent political impulse from the electorate and shat on it as soon as he could. He knew that people were hurting. But, the material pain that many people feel as the result of the EU is not, I’ll wager, as important to him as the cultural pain he feels every time he sees someone in Glorious England with brown skin.
Farage is vile, but interesting. His operations provide a fascinating, almost reverse illustration of what is currently occurring on the liberal-left. Farage conceals his cultural bias from others inside a material one. The liberal-left conceals its material bias (even, increasingly, from itself) with a cultural one.
Farage, I believe, has a cultural agenda, but he pretends it is a material one. He says “I want to give you back your social safety net”, but what he actually means is “I want to give you back your pale nation”. The liberal left, such as many of those who support Remain, say “I want to ensure that we have a colourful and diverse nation!” when what the actually produce in their radically uncritical support for the EU is, in fact, an undemocratic system of trade relations that has created (and was intended to create) real, demonstrable inequality.
So, what we have in the UK is a shrewd right that pretends it’s being all economically rational, but is ultimately committed, à la Trump, to some bunghole idea of cultural purity. And we have an intellectually muted liberal-left that pretends it’s being culturally inclusive, but is ultimately committed to a program of trade that makes quite a few Germans and some rotters in London rather rich.
You can say you’re inclusive and that you love diversity until you’re a uniform shade of blue in the face. But, if you’re simultaneously lending your faith to an organisation that is accountable to nothing but the highest tiers of the finance sector, then the possibilities for this inclusivity are extraordinarily limited.
Now, even if you happen to be the sort of liberal-leftist who thinks that “equal opportunity” is the mark and the goal of a good society—you know, you’re happy if there are more women on boards and more people of colour with their unequal share of the wealth and more lesbians on TV etc.—you kind of have to admit that certain ethnic groups have been fucked by the EU. Notably, those with whom we enjoy a particularly intimate relationship here in Australia, the Greeks.
Angela Merkel leads a nation that is the greatest beneficiary of the EU and so, of course, she is one of its strongest advocates. It’s worth looking at how her speech becomes quite racialized when it suits her, which is usually around the time of some financial crisis.
It was in 2008 that this champion of the EU first brought up the figure of the Swabian Housewife. This fictional creature is praised by Merkel for her inspirational thrift. This housewife makes do! This housewife doesn’t overspend! This housewife works hard and is all that is good about Germans.
It was during talks with Greece on what was never a Greek financial crisis that Merkel relied, however subtly, on some less positive ethnic stereotyping. The Lazy and Corrupt Greek who Retires Too Early was invoked to chastise an entire nation.
Now, if you want to read about the self-serving practice of the EU elite from someone who was actually pro Remain, see Yanis Varoufakis, the guy that actually had to sit there as Merkel, the Swabian Housewife, made all sorts of slights against the character of his countrymen. No matter that Greeks work longer hours than Germans, receive asmaller post-retirement pension than Germans, sustain less household debt than Germans and employ fewer public servants than Germans. The EU applied punitive measures to Greeks on the fucking basis that they were lazy good-for-nothing Anthony Quinns who cared to do little more than daub themselves in ouzo oil as they baked in the Aegean.
Fuck off. Germany needed Greek poverty much more than Greece needed German cars. Germany needs poor member nations, inter alia, to keep its trading currency low enough to export its (admittedly very good) stuff to China. For the EU to punish Greece on the basis that it was “irresponsible”, which it actually isn’t, and to keep it firmly in its impoverished place (austerity doesn’t work to improve a national economy for all; I mean, how are you going to sell shit to people who have no money and need to spend more money on things the government no longer provides, like the NHS?) was an act of material violence greased by bigotry. Which is not that dissimilar from Farage, who commits acts of bigotry by pretending to hate material violence.
So THIS is what we think of as “left” or, at least, as diverse and inclusive? You know, it is entirely possible to think of trade that crosses borders as undesirable and still think of asylum seekers crossing borders as something that needs, very urgently, to happen.
None of which is to say that I would have certainly voted Leave in the UK. I may have been swayed by Varoufakis’ argument to Remain and make those fucks accountable. But, I certainly wouldn’t have got all poopy with Jeremy Corbyn, the popularly elected Labour leader who is now in the shitter for not doing his bit to convince his supporters, who have been fucked by the undemocratic power of the EU, to vote for the undemocratic power of the EU. And now these liberal-leftists are turning on him, accusing him of anti-Semitism and calling him “unelectable”. When what they mean is undesirable, because Corbyn’s argument is largely a material one. And the liberal-left has a great fear of the material, which it has now given over entirely to the right side of politics.
If you talk about money, apparently, you’re a racist or a fascist. Or, at best, insensitive. I have heard many times people form the putative left say “We live in a society! Not an economy!” What the blind shit does that even mean?
Impoverished people do not have the luxury of believing that they live only in a “society”, which has now become a synonym for culture. If you’ve ever been short of the rent one month, you’ll know what I mean. I can pretend that I live only in a “society” in those years where my gross income exceeds 60K. Otherwise, I am keenly aware of life within an economy.
As I have written elsewhere, tomorrow I will vote 1 Labor, and not for the belief, such as Varoufakis has, that this is an institution that can be reformed. I think they’re fucked and, as I have written elsewhere, I think many of their candidates are as enamoured of the idea of a “society” or a “culture” and their role in forming these things than they are in even acquiring a basic understanding of how the labour market works. I genuinely think I understand labour supply and demand better than some ALP candidates, and that is fucking depressing because I am really not that good on shit like that. As will be plain to more economically literate readers.
I will Vote 1 Labor because it is the party that least elevates the idea of the culture. The cultural right of the Coalition wants a better (read: whiter and more uniform) culture and its material right just wants the same falsely “equal opportunity” as Merkel. And the Greens want a better culture, too. And, yes, I know they have their private conversations about transforming the economy, but unless they lead us all openly in this material conversation, there is really not much point. Particularly at this moment in time where we see large numbers of people actually attending lectures by Varoufakis or the born-again Keynesian Paul Krugman or turning out in the tens of millions to hear Bernie Sanders offer his new New Deal. We are ready in the west for some boring conversation about money, especially as so many of us find we have so little of it. And if the Greens led that conversation and didn’t conceal it with a “We Need To Be More Inclusive and Care More” moralising message of culture, I would vote for them. I would tell you to vote for them.
The idea of the culture has become such a preoccupation. Of course, I’m not saying that the culture doesn’t matter and I am not saying that you shouldn’t call sexism out when you see it or crowdfund more inclusive TV shows or whatever. Do that stuff. But, do not allow this to be a proxy for the things of the everyday: education, health, leisure, transport, labour etc
By no means do I think that the ALP offers Australia anything close to the radical reorganisation that would provide these things. The one thing it offers is a scintilla of tedious, economic talk—and I am referring particularly here to the debate on negative gearing which is a great example of something very boring becoming a hot topic. The end itself to the negative gearing concession on established properties won’t change our housing crisis much. But that we have been engaged with that fucking tedious conversation to the point where many of us actually understand it—and I am so heartened by how many young commentators have explained it to their peers outrunning the typical “old people culture blows” and restoring a “neoliberal economics blows” material perspective—is a really good thing.
Our political imagination has been impoverished by the topic of the culture. While it is absolutely true that the ALP has made only the merest efforts to enrich it, it’s the only party that has. And, yes, they are fucks. And, yes, there are true problems with the aging ideologues of the right. And there are one or two Labor MPs whose likely defeat by the Greens I will privately enjoy because they are doucheburps whose interest in their constituents does not even come close to their fondness for their careers. And, yes, there are some really awesome people in the Greens. I would much rather be stuck next to Senator Ludlam on a bus than someone from the Shoppies.
But until the Greens have the courage, and the confidence, to commit themselves, and all of us, to a frank economic discussion, I cannot vote for the culture.
I am sorry this was so long. I hope this clears things up in your mind about the relationship of the material and the cultural a little (which I KNOW is a mutually constituting relationship because I don’t live in 1870, but I think many people on the left have forgotten that it is a mutual relationship, when they attribute so much to the culture, or are afraid to attribute it publicly). I hope that I have expressed that the fear that I have about how the dominance of the culture in our political imaginations limits our material future, which expresses itself as cultural in any case. Less importantly, I hope you don’t think I have any sort of real or abstract intimacy with the ALP, who can bite me, but for whom I will still vote. Because without an economic conversation, there will be no economic future for so many of us.
And, no. The “economic” conversation neoliberals have is not authentically economic. It is deeply moralising and cultural; it is about the undeserving poor. For more on that, see this very readable book, which I linked to earlier, on the profoundly moral history of economic liberalism.
I realise “Vote Labor to guarantee the future open conversation of the left” is a statement about as convincing as “David Bowie’s best single was Blue Jean”. I understand why some might think I am either a party hack or a naïf or an oldie clinging to a verdant shred of youth. My claim is that I think we need to put the culture in its proper place. Which is not nowhere, but just a little south of everywhere. And I do respect your decision to vote Green, and I don’t think you’re dumb or guileless for casting it.
Right. I’m not much of a drinker, but I think a fucking sparkling is deffo on the cards.
Currently in Australia, pfizer
noted foreign policy adviser breakfast television host is at the hub of what now passes for “controversy”. You’ve heard this story, or a similar one, before. Some normally mild, not-terribly-astute servant of mass culture says something more than mildly bigoted. Persons who are the target of this bigotry are, very understandably, distressed. First on social media and then in press, they, and their allies, seek to reason with the bigotry.
Before the matter accelerates into a big fast nothing (it always does) good people see an opportunity to discuss aggressions faced every day. They mean very well. They make their case in a positive spirit. They even invite bigots ‘round for tea. Thanks to the renewable resource of optimism, they believe they can take a moment from the mass culture and use it to throw some sunshine on society’s darkest impulses.
Except, of course, that enlightenment never occurs. We believe we are “shining a light”, but what occurs is a much deeper obfuscation. I won’t write here about the false revelation electronic media inevitably bring us, as I want to make another, simpler point. I’ll just offer one of the better critical descriptions of mass culture I have ever read: it behaves like “psychoanalysis in reverse”. (Adorno, for the curious baby wanker.)
I want to be very clear before I recommend silence in matters like these, I’m not expecting silence. If I were a person, especially a woman, with Islamic heritage or faith, I would never shut up about bigotry. I mean, how does anyone deal with this shite? People who are clearly sexist tell me that I am oppressed by my brothers. People who are clearly idiots tell me that my choice to worship is idiocy. People who have faith in an empty sausage like Trump tell me my faith is empty of everything but evil. People who I KNOW have heard me and my fellows apologise for terrorism, even though it had nothing to do with me, say “Muslims never apologise for terrorism”. People who have sought canonical rulings from their own church keep screaming “Sharia Law!” And, FFS, then they send me a YouTube of that intolerable vacancy, Sam Harris.
I’d be Malcolm X-ing the shit out of everyone if I were Muslim.
So, if you are a Muslim reading this, please know I do not expect you to quit your reasonable speech. I know shutting up would not be physically possible for me were I in your hijab and, frankly, how so many of you stay so sane in the face of bigoted insanity makes me occasionally wonder if the prophet, Peace be Upon Him, didn’t have some good stuff to say. Well, I have actually read your holy text, but I can’t say it grabbed me. I’m more of a Capital lady. But, we’re cool, right, you and me? I fucking totally affirm the right to your beliefs, which have never caused me or my mind-bogglingly dumb nation harm, and you should totally fucking expect this. Because, we do prance about in the west, don’t we, boasting we’re the most tolerant civilisation ever to be upchucked by history.
In short, you are behaving a whole lot better than I would. I do not request nor expect your silence.
You non-Muslims allies, though. You might want to think about zipping it in this case. Or, at least, not responding to every critique of your critique. Because, back to the plot, what happens after you reasonable people get upset (as you are justified in doing) is that fans of bigotry poke you. And then, the conversation turns to ash with a half-dozen turds writing tedious but influential opinion pieces about “my right to have an opinion” (notably, without actually bothering to form an opinion) and then, a few people on the anti-bigotry side get, apparently, so upset, they begin to say dumb shit which emboldens the bigots and gives them opportunity to say “see, I TOLD you our bigotry was justified”.
Now, I know this is a version of the bad playground advice your mum gave you: just ignore the bullies. This is, as I understand it, no longer official playground policy, probably because it doesn’t really work. But, in this curious era, the bullies are very often best ignored. Because sometimes, they’re not real bullies.
As I watched the Sonia Kruger matter unfold on social media, I noted the creation of dozens of new Twitter accounts. About half of them are devoted to supporting ultra-nationalism, and the other half to opposing it. All of them mention Sonia Kruger.
I am pretty sure these are sock-puppet accounts. Their reliance on almost identical and identically misspelled “argument” is a tip off. Their hyperbole, never as funny as 4chan, is similar. It’s generally centred around women’s reproductive parts. I do not wish to link to these accounts nor do I wish to repeat their substance, which I find unfunny and distasteful. But, ugh, there’s a lot of stuff about enforced sterilisation of Muslim women on one side, and then stuff about brutal rape of the television host on the other.
The function of the anti-Muslim sock-puppet accounts is to make progressive persons angry enough to say something stupid, and “newsworthy”. The functions of the “anti-racist” misogynist bile is to make progressive people angry with each other. I want to focus on this second category of sock-puppet and urge you not to “call them out”.
I have seen accounts created in the last half hour currently threatening the television host with rape. These represent leftist Australians like IS represents Muslims. To be clear for the hard of thinking: that is, not at all.
What they do represent is a new trend of manufactured misogyny which serves conservative ends by undoing the left.
A “softer” version of this can be seen in the Clinton campaign. As anyone with a calculator knows, former candidate Bernie Sanders is far more legitimately “left” than Hillary. In order to make Hillary appear progressive, especially to the large number of young voters who found her financialisation and foreign policies offensive (they are offensive), the idea of the “Bernie Bro” was exaggerated by Clinton campaigners.
Now, I have no doubt that a candidate like Sanders who attracted crowds and donors of historic volume also attracted a few fuckwits. I am certain that a few of them were sexist fuckwits. But, this handful of men were used, very effectively, as camouflage for Clinton’s aggressive conservatism.
We can see, sadly, similar tactics currently playing out in the UK. While Angela Eagle and other pro-war, pro-austerity “New Labour” representatives have yet to convince us that Corbyn is sexist (they’re trying) they’ve done a pretty good job of presenting him as an anti-Semite. The message, by a very conservative part of British Labour, is that Corbyn, an actual anti-war, anti-austerity socialist, is not as progressive as we think. Look, he hates Jews, etc. And Eagle won’t shut up about how Corbyn has created uncivilised conditions. This is a woman who supported the uncivilised invasion of Iraq.
If you create the idea that someone who opposes you is vulgar, you get to hide your own vulgarity. And I am seeing that play out, rather crudely, on social media today.
I don’t know which Australian right-wing organisation has learnt so much from the Eagle and Clinton campaigns, but I can just smell today that it’s one of them. Look. I am not a fan of Chomsky and I loathe conspiracy theories, preferring always to think that the mass produces its own irrationalism. But, this is very Chomsky. It’s such manufactured dissent.
I have counted many new accounts apparently opposed to racism, but apparently in favour of gang rape. I suggest that open border advocates aren’t generally known for their threats of brutal sodomy. I suggest that whether sock-puppet or “genuine”, “leftist” socmed misogyny should not be “called out”, but avoided like the toxin it is.
Honestly. Please stop “calling out” performance hatred. The only kindness you’re doing is to News Corp. If Team Rupert hasn’t reported already on the faux-accounts making vile threats as “evidence” that the left is crazy, it soon will. “Look. People who like Muslims also want to do our Dancing with the Stars hostess in the bum.”
The right, as we have seen in the US and the UK, are losing ground. After forty years of their supply-side malarkey, young people feel, very keenly and correctly, that they have been cheated. Very few on the right can actually preach “trickle down” convincingly any more. The right has lost the skill of explaining its economic bullshit. But, it’s become very good at AstroTurf outrage.
If you are truly of the left, do the revolution a favour and dismiss the ultra-trolls we see this afternoon as fiction as divisive as financialisation.
Of course, a small number of anti-racist persons may also be big fans of femicide. Even if real, they are beyond your reason. So, zip it.
I know this is difficult. I often think about “calling out” the men who threaten to rape my dusty old arse etc. But, it’s important to resist. Block and report hate speech, if it helps. Then proceed to your own productive speech. Do not engage with these fake trolls.
Unless, of course, you enjoy helping out conservatives. In which case, just cut out the middle-man and join the IPA.
Fuck the right. Fuck their serfs who mine the seam of our *actual* ethics and try to rob us of this wealth. Be strong. Know that strength comes from evolving your thought with your comrades. Weakness is speaking into a vacuum.
Finally, to my Muslim comrades: I apologise for the mass atrocities of violent politicians against those of your faith. These extremists do not represent me or the best of my western heritage. Sorry. I really am.