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Happy New Year, You Cock

Well, population health then. 2013!!! Pop your cork and congratulate yourselves, tooth Social Justice Warriors. What a bumper year you’ve had looking up at shiny objects while just below the scope of your happy self-hypnosis, physician the world turned to shit apace!!! Tie your naked self up in an Awareness Ribbon and bare your breasts FEMEN-style and prepare to receive the precious pearl necklace of a dirty-old liberal democracy artificially priapic on the drug of capital!!!!!rainbow_vomit_by_panda_P0P

Highlights of your year included:

1. Not really being interested in the great interest Snowden revealed the NSA has in us. This year, concern for online bullying outshone concern for privacy. Because, hey. It’s important to feel empowered online! Even if every moment of perceived empowerment is illegally recorded and held in a hundred underground databanks.
It’s IMPORTANT to HAVE A VOICE. And the enemy of your expression (itself generally a poor xerox of an expression already uttered multiply yesterday) is not a colossal organisation that stores all your secrets just, as Snowden says, because it can.
No! It’s mean TROLLS! Stop the trolls! And let the NSA continue its abuse of Australian data sovereignty unchallenged.

2. Worrying more that FOI hero Chelsea Manning receives the courtesy of the feminine pronoun and less that she was sentenced to 35 years in prison for telling us the truth.
Free Chelsea. And not from the gender binary.

3. Devoting the finite resource of human passion (and don’t give me that your activism is infinite, you fibber) to marriage equality. Usually on the unproven grounds this (current) political impossibility will “stop youth suicide”. Once, we campaigned to house at-risk queer kids Now, we figure they’ll be fine when turfed out of their family homes just as long as we marry them off. Nice emphasis, the “Left”!

4. Allowing a schism to develop between the Stop the Boats and Let Them Come principles of asylum seeker policy. Both sides believe themselves to be compassionate. Neither side is fully committed to a solution that would save the largest number of lives worldwide.

5. We look at the atrocities of Manus Island and ask “How did this happen?” and we answer “Because Scott Morrison is evil”. And we forget that it is a bloody, cruel and recent history that allowed this to occur.
We have been rehearsing atrocity in this nation for 225 years. We have been doing this for a long time and that is why we are good at it.
To hold the idea that we are customarily a just and easygoing nation that champions a Fair Go for all is little short of an insult to the Australian Aboriginal people who have had their land stolen, their children taken and their dignity and lives systematically destroyed.
Manus Island is not without precedent.
If you want to know how Manus Island happened, you can content yourself with saying it is the work of evil representatives of a party for whom we did not vote.
Or, you can man up and admit that it is the engine of history that led us to a terminus that is as unsurprising as it is tragic. Get the fuck on board.

Or. You can continue with the ostensibly sensitive chic you’ve worn all year. You can continue with the smarm; the revulsion for individuals and not the ideas they espouse; the “movement” that now so regularly promises the paralysis of “safe space”.

I’ve heard a lot about “safe spaces” in 2013. You know, the term didn’t always mean “an assembly of dills committed to say nothing even mildly provocative”. Now, it is used to advertised readings of awful feminist poetry and end-of-year performances for remedial Circus Arts graduates. Back in the eighties, a “safe space” quite specifically meant medium-term lodging for kids turfed out of their family homes due to their queer orientation.

Remember them? They were the beneficiaries of queer activism BEFORE you got all excited about “gay marriage”. Remember them? You think a few weddings and the emergence of a new-normal is going to make their lives more bearable?

OF COURSE YOU DO.

It was no surprise that leisure-progressives stole “safe space” away from homeless youth and used it as a way to describe “room full of people who will uncritically applaud reeking word turds”. Leisure-progressivism has the habit of co-opting a sense of terror. For the endurance of, say, a poem by Maya Angelou, fear of something worse than the poem itself is necessary.

I mean. Maya. This woman is the go-to laureate for all sorts of progressivism-tinged major events from Clinton’s inauguration to Oprah’s last show. Goodness, the occasional verse she wrote for Oprah was especially awful. My memory of it is that she repeated “Everyone gets a car! Everyone gets a car!” in that gravitas-enriched Stateswoman voice.


I know why the caged bird sings too, Maya. It’s trying to drown out the sound of your adjectival retching like.

“Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.”
(Phenomenal Woman – Maya Angelou)

Yes, I know that Angelou works in poetry’s oral tradition and we can’t expect the James Earl Jones of doggerel to look as good on the page as she does showered in the credulous ejaculate of progressive appreciation. But, bugger me: someone has to say it: Maya Angelou was a wonderful activist but is a genuinely terrible poet and I want to break her pencils. Or, better yet, at the next State occasion she threatens to ruin with her rot, I want to hack the tele-prompter and replace her nonsense about “summer puffs of wind” or whatever with the words from the Mentos ad. Her voice is wonderful but her poetry is no nobler than,

It doesn’t matter what comes, fresh goes better with life,
and Mentos is fresh and full of life.
Nothing gets to you, staying fresh staying cool,
with Mentos, fresh and full of life.
Fresh goes better, Mentos freshness, fresh goes better
with Mentos, fresh and full of life.

2013 was the year of the “safe space”. The “safe space” confers value on the valueless. In so doing, it also crashes Angelou’s stock as a figure of no little historical significance. Get the woman up to chat about Malcolm X, systematised racism or MLK. Do not, under any circumstances, let her humiliate herself and the poetic tradition. We are afraid in the safe space to say the obvious thing: Maya really should get a job writing jingles.

My wish for 2014 is that those of us sincerely troubled by a lack of justice commit ourselves to its redress with the full force of our reason. My wish is for a way out of “safe spaces”.

Sometimes in liberal democracy, we have the habit of looking at shiny, disposable things. Look next year, even if only for a minute, at the dull, hulking engine of history.

It’s not pretty viewing. But it is the only route to real justice.

Your feelings are for you alone. Your understanding is for everyone. This space in which we seek real justice was never supposed to be safe.

28 Responses to “Happy New Year, You Cock”

  1. Lukealex says:

    Best New Years comedown ever. The dull, hulking engine of history will be my locomotive for 2014.

    My friends and colleagues are going to hate me by this time next year but maybe when they think about me they will also think and think.

  2. David G says:

    Great piece. Concise, direct, compelling.

  3. Emily says:

    Wow! I need to re-read a few times to fully absorb, but I so appreciate your writing. I feel like my brain is getting flexed (and my brain needs it!).

  4. Cathy says:

    Great piece, as usual.

  5. Mel says:

    Great. A litany of complaints with no solutions. Sure you will be high on useless self-satisfaction for days! How can you fail to see that you are performing exactly what you decry, just in a slightly different key?

    • Helen Razer says:

      Urging those seeking social justice to logic is, for mine, an end in itself. Thinking critically, I believe, leads to thinking and acting effectively. The “solution” I am proposing is to to a problem among left-thinking people I (and others; Peter Singer, for example) have identified. The solution for me is to prompt people to think about liberal democracy and how it works to sustain the worst of itself.
      With a scintilla of respect for your accusation that I have offered no solution (a) it is okay not to offer a solution and just intensify an emerging problem; in this case, complacent thinking (b) the solution to bad thinking (the target of some of my recent writing and blogging) is to think differently. I am saying “look over there, not over there”. That is a solution. To looking over there.
      I do not understand how my writing and blogging reproduces the systems I criticise. I do not know but suspect it is because I don’t come across like a nice person. In which case, LOL and read the smarm piece.
      Srs.
      Finally. I believe that “Awareness” and “Calling Out” are not only so ineffective that not a policy of significance would change should they cease to be practised tomorrow, I believe they both-embolden the idea of the individual which is at the foundation of the worst of liberal democracy.
      I write about that here.
      Again, I am offering a solution if you feel you really need one. The way to solve ineffective thinking is by abandoning it.

  6. Dave M says:

    A very neat trick of crapitalism is to get us looking one way while they screw us from another direction. The gay marriage thing is one such example. Is there nothing more important to young people than this? Yes. but we won’t find about it until it is far up us. We never would have found out about the Snowden info unless the Guardian printed it. Manus is another complete shame job for this country but we will never hear or see the truth until it’s all over. Thanks Rupert. We don’t need all that stuff upsetting our holidays do we?

    • Helen Razer says:

      Yes, David. I would not necessarily agree (and perhaps I have wrongly inferred) that what happens is always a “trick” as I believe capitalism, like other complex systems of organisation, has its own logic and is not (always) administered by a Few Guys. What’s the quote: between conspiracy and cock-up, the latter is usually true. Something. Anyhow. There are occasions, for example in election campaigns, where the asylum seeker debate will be used to distract the electorate knowingly. But this compassion-competition now happen independent of any conscious control.
      Liberal democracy needs us to believe in its beauty and so we do. Which is so odd to me. It is both goo and bad to have lived long enough to see such uncomplaining acceptance of the primacy of capital with the simultaneous appearance of “action”.
      I find so many people so monumentally deluded about their “empowerment” and this, for me, is more frightening than openly bigoted behaviour.
      You may have already rea this, the first chapter of Baudrillard’s Simulations and Simulacra. This is a fun translation. http://www.continentcontinent.cc/index.php/continent/article/view/91 I draw your attention particularly to the words about Watergate and how, in being posited as a scandal and not something that is commonplace, it becomes a smokescreen for the real “scandal”. The scandal of liberal democracy itself.

      • Dave M says:

        I’m going to read that again when my brain cools down. I get the illusion of the left / right thing but, when the right are in I seem to move further to the left and when what passes for the left in this country are in, I seem to get pushed further to the left as well. At least I can argue intelligently with my leftist associates whilst the right have no humour at all especially when it comes to money. This is in the full knowledge that politics, no matter what the flavour, is, and will always be, just deals done by drunk idiots over pisstroughs as normal. I’ve been a shop floor union delegate for 30 years and have seen some horrible jokes perpetrated on workers. Asbestosis, multiple chemical allergies, electrocutions, dusted lungs etc we’ve seen it all. We need the illusion of left and right to be able to form up into some kind of half effective opposition to try and get the illusion of peace for individuals. I use the word peace because rarely do I see anyone get the illusion of justice. One thing that I have learnt that some of my associates haven’t yet is that we, the people, have no power. The only power that we have is that which has been bestowed on us by seemingly benevolent dictators and that’s not power at all is it? So am I getting beaten up on a daily basis by conspiracy or cock up? I will need to examine situations more closely I think. I mean to cock things up as badly as they are in my multinational company world at the moment conspiratorially would take great intelligence and supreme networking skill. I seriously doubt that these fools have either so almost certainly I’m giving them credit that they don’t deserve.

  7. Bec says:

    Thank you, thank you. This has been perfect procastination on my first day back at work. May your pencils remain unbroken this year.

  8. Cal says:

    Nailed it, Helen.

    It’s depressing that people seem unable to advocate for anyone beyond themselves. As enthusiastically as white, middle class ‘progressives’ invoke the suicide thing, they’re not campaigning for the rights of at-risk LGBTI young people: they’re campaigning for their own right to fork out for a housing deposit worth of floral arrangements and canapés.

    If only some of the unicorn tears shed by gay marriage campaigners could be put to use for suicide prevention funding, mental health first aid training , youth intervention programs, mental health liaison nurses, and street programs- you know, things that would actually prevent LGBTI youth committing suicide.

    That’s the heart of all these op-eds about rape culture, sexism, gendered play, etc. A bunch of middle class white people unable to advocate for anything beyond their own interests; individualism masquerading as collectivism.

  9. Helen Frances says:

    It is possible to support both sides of these issues. For example, it is possible to support Edward Snowden and his actions, while being against trolling. It is possible to support Chelsea Manning in her wish to be seen as a female while being outraged at the sentence she received. It is possible to support same-sex marriage and be against bullying and mistreatment of LGBT people, young, middle-aged and elderly.It is possible to hate the Abbott government’s treatment of “illegals” and be appalled at their treatment by the previous Labor, and by both sides treatment of indigenous people. It’s doesn’t have to be an ‘either or’ situation. As for Maya Angelou, that I don’t care about.

    • Helen Razer says:

      I have considered that it is possible to support both social and cultural change but I am at pains to point out here that the bulk of the activist focus goes to the latter thereby throwing a shroud over the former. Thereby, the worst of liberal democracy perpetuates itself.
      Perhaps I should be more explicit and begin every paragraph with “I am talking about behavioural trends here and not just you”. But I am talking about what most activists do. Which I believe is counterproductive.

  10. sean bedlam says:

    Lost count of the times I’ve retweeted this epic blog post.

  11. Eva A says:

    Lol so basically Helen Razer is too old for tumblr so is going to label all the people who have their whole lives in front of them as irrelevant to try to get her groove back. Sorry dear, you may have been cool back in the days of triple j but i fear you’ve hardly kept up with issues with your erasure of transgender and sex worker inclusive feminism.

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