When anything is denied me, refractionist something dark in my person reaches for it.
When the world is spinning beyond the poles of reason and when parties in each cultural hemisphere seem impelled only by a magnet of numbest hate, public reaction takes two distinct routes.
There are those, like myself, who watch aghast as scattered, televised terror unfolds east and west. We’re felled by the complexity of this post-modern sorrow. We are unable to do much at all but gape and figure new ways of screeching WHY to a world that will provide no sensible riposte any time soon.
Then, there are those who equip themselves with more decisive analytic machinery. Armed with the wisdom of a more reasonable age, they busy themselves with the work of correcting our contemporary ills and our failing moral compass. There are old solutions to new turmoil, they insist. Forgotten logic from a buried century is exhumed to end our living torment.
As one who sees most of the world in an untenable flux, I am envious of this latter group. Those commentators and states-people who believe they have “The Answer” are, at the very least, prompted into ethical action. When I view images of London or, less often, depictions of Baghdad, I am struck by the unrelenting fluidity of contemporary terror. I can’t quite see its origin, much less prescribe an enlightened end to it. I can, in sort, offer nothing but anaesthetised grief.
And then, on occasion, I am troubled by the re-emergence of these reasonable relics. When fragile questions are bludgeoned with big, dull answers, things are going to end in shards.
The paternalistic hammer was poised this past week. With the national call to remove extremist literature from sale, a metaphoric Aussie dad cleared his throat and cautioned the kids.
We simply can’t be trusted with the unchecked paraphernalia of adults, it seems. We will hand back the keys to the library this instant.
Now, what I know about Islamic fundamentalism couldn’t fill even the slimmest brochure. But as a former impressionable kiddie, I do understand the mechanics of overbearing censorship.
When any text or artefact is placed outside the realm of my access, a dark and primal part of my person longs to reach it.
This renegade reflex had led me to all manner of questionable amusements. From The Anarchist’s Cookbook to Salo to Piss Christ to Big Brother, I’ve expended a lot of unnecessary time and critical valour in pursuit of items dad has locked up in the shed. Now, I’m going to have to add Defence of The Muslim Lands to my reading list. And, following early warnings that the cinematic exploration of pedophilia Mysterious Skin will be stripped of its rating by the Office of Literature and Film Classification, I’ll probably have to see that, too.
When the sphere of my context is diminished, I deem it my civic duty to break the law.
Like many consumers, I perceive an absence far more keenly that a presence. There are those things within the cultural milieu that are, in my view, destructive, offensive or just plain vile. These might include, but are by no means limited to, the novels of Ayn Rand, the radio broadcasts of Rex Hunt and nearly everything that ever happened on The Footy Show.
Have you ever WATCHED The Footy Show? If our national apprehension of womanhood was informed or meaningfully influenced by this noxious hour of Packer waste, then X chromosomes would be banned, everyone would be renamed Eddie, Sam or Trev and those virtual ladies actually permitted to exist would be mere silicone renderings of an imagined femininity with candy-floss hair and the impossible, synthetic silhouette of Pamela Anderson.
There are those unduly influenced by texts such as Defence of The Muslim Lands and The Footy Show. Whether it’s the garish, covert sadism of television or the explicit stupidity of a manual for murder, each text can, mercifully, be forgotten.
I deem all these articles, most particularly The Footy Show, to be toxic. I am profoundly affected by what I perceive to be the gaping lack of humanity that informs the core of their production. I fear that these artefacts evince fear, hatred and an utter dearth of anything resembling acceptable taste.
Nonetheless, I view all these items within their convoluted context. I accept the matter of their existence, I strive to understand their genesis and then, with the benefit of a broad rigorous cultural reading, I throw them to the dustbin of memory.
Most of us consign potentially lethal items to this wasteland. If we didn’t, we’d go bananas. So we optimise our attention and we strive to afford our attention to those texts that nourish or simply entertain.
Most of us are vigilant. Some of us are unstuck. A very few of us hurt people, murder people and strap homemade explosives to our sour, deadened bodies. These atrocious narratives did not have their roots in works seen on screen or in literature.
Helen Razer is a Melbourne writer.