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NAJ TAYLOR | October 24, 2012 | POST | |

“I was the last one in the death link”: A response to Samuel Maoz’s Lebanon

As with Ari Folman’s animated documentary Waltz with Bashir, this film is most commonly viewed as a confession, by a former Israeli soldier, about his part in the 1982 Lebanon War. Indeed, in interview, director Samuel Maoz confines his remarks to the personal. As in: “I cannot escape the fact that I was the last one in the [...]

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ROBIN CAMERON | March 08, 2012 | POST | 1 |

Exercise caution with KONY 2012

A brief comment on the KONY 2012 that has flooded social media over the last two days. I would suggest exercising extended  critical reflection on the issue before further circulating it. The issue is not as black and white as it is painted nor will any good solution come easily. Invisible Children’s suggestion of a [...]

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PETER CHAMBERS | February 15, 2012 | POST | 13 |

Notes from Occupied Melbourne, 2012

a) Why, it’s kicking off everywhere… except Melbourne

It’s been a wild year. After two to three years of seeming paralysis after the GFC, things kicked off. Indeed, as Paul Mason’s timely canvassing of the issue says, it appears to be kicking off everywhere.

Everywhere except Australia.

A pedal through Melbourne’s leafy north-east the other Sunday offered telling ride-by snapshots of middle-class Australia in 2012. On lower Heidelberg Road there’s a billboard advertising domain.com.au’s new iPad app, telling its punters ‘You’re not a property buyer, you’re a warrior in a battle for territory’ (?!); a few Ks up the road, the ‘Save Ivanhoe!’ campaign – signs on the plush, deep lawns of capacious interwar houses – reminds all passers by that ‘we’ oppose inappropriate development. But the most telling combo is just south of the Eastern, on Belmore Road, where the mausoleum bling of display home McMansions (with names like The Consort, the Ambassador, The Concubine), stretching from Box Hill to Kew, is punctuated by 100s upon 100s of dead CRT TVs. They’re everywhere: small and massive, old and new, many with cardboard signs saying ‘works fine’ and the remotes sticky taped to the top. Others lie face down on the nature strip besides curious baby magpies or reel silently against trees, their faces tagged up or smashed in. Who tags a dead TV? Thousands of people, apparently. Some have been there for months in the grass, soaking up the dog piss and the rain, waiting for the TV angels to swoop down and take them to TV heaven, or Lagos.

Middle-class suburban Australia in 2012 seems untouchably far from everything except itself, in which it remains totally, contentedly absorbed. When the weather’s good, you get the sense that things will be like this forever. Talking Heads said it: heaven really is a place, a where nothing, nothing ever happens. The countervoice says: ‘a storm is blowing in from Paradise’. Cyclones make it this far south when they’re made out of capital, when capital is built out of promises and premises that turn out to be false. I cycle past another sign, which reads ‘guard dogs patrol these premises’. We’ll need another decade or three to know what McMansion Australia was really made of. I have a feeling many of the CRTs will still be on the nature strip. But my sense is that, just like they still work fine for free-to-air, the TVs gathering in our streets can be viewed as a form of unwitting political assembly. In one sense they the real Occupy Melbourne, in that they do accurately represent the actions, interests and credit card transactions of the 99%.

Their presence says so much about Australia. Somehow it’s totally okay to throw out a TV, leave it on the street. We trust that someone will pick it up; sometimes hard rubbish do. Or dawn brigades of ageless Carnie-like men – the ones who monster the still dark stalls of Camberwell market of a Sunday – will spirit them away. Their presence also suggests, perhaps, that we trust that those who do pick our ex companions up will take them somewhere and treat them with the respect you would treat aged pet or parent. Put away quietly somewhere. Personally, their presence chills me, they’re sentinels from a future doom. ‘Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet…’

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ROBIN CAMERON | February 09, 2012 | POST | 10 |

What do we mean by ‘sexist’ when we refer to the criticisms of Gillard?

The lack of agreement on the question of whether undue criticism of Gillard is sexist boils down to how we think about sexism. Is sexism something we view at an individual level or a wider social structural level? Is it still sexism, when gender discrimination occurs at a structural level?

Before addressing this, I’d just like to mark a special moment that arose because of this issue; Monday saw Christopher Pyne and Bob Katter coming out in support of women’s rights. Who would have thought that in 2012 Katter and Pyne would be the standard-bearers in the fight against sexism?

Oh, except they really aren’t.

After reassuring the Australian people on Monday that he would be the first to call out any sexism against Gillard, two days later Pyne was labeling her ‘worse than lady MacBeth’. Way to single her out specifically on the basis of her gender characteristics Christopher Pyne.

And then there’s Bob Katter. He correctly identified that Australia has a female Governor-General, a female Premier and female Prime Minister. You’re right Bob Katter, Australia couldn’t possibly be denying opportunity to women. But it took only one sentence for him to say that it’s “you know, if anything probably the other way around”. Oh well, back to square one.

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PETER CHAMBERS | February 02, 2012 | POST | 4 |

From the Worrier Pose to Narcissisasana (and Back): why it might be no bad thing if yoga wrecks you

We know how yoga can wreck your body. But I wonder: isn’t it more that we’ve wrecked yoga? In other words: ask not what your yoga is doing to you; ask what we are doing to our yoga. Responding adequately to that question would require knowing about how yoga ought to be, ideally. I have no idea about this, and I would feel uncomfortable adopting a ‘normative yoga posture’. But I do know a little about governance, and its norms. And after spending some more time re-reading Broad’s article, considering the responses to it, and spending the week discussing it with several of my yoga-practicing friends, I’m convinced that there is more than a little of governance in our yoga practice.

a) governance: coping with coping

Governance is a buzzword, even a planetary vulgate. But it’s a word with a history. To many people, it’s just a cryptic way of saying things like neoliberal, corporate, or capitalist. On this account, governance would be the ideological way that neoliberal capitalists working for corporations talk about their ideology.

There’s substantial truth to that interpretation, but to me, governance is better thought of as a modus vivendi – it’s a way of coping. A means of negotiating a tolerable way through the intolerable (but ineradicable). It’s not optimal, it’s not perfect, but it’s all we (as stakeholders) have to work with (going forward). The best that we can hope for is to meet, consult, and negotiate. More than any other leader in Australia’s history, Julia Gillard speaks the language of governance from the depths of her soul; this is why she has a passion for negotiation (even if she can’t pronounce it). We have to cope because we have no choice, because we are interdependent. And our working environments, like our world, they are increasingly complex. To that extent, governance is merely the least worst way of dealing, of managing, of coping. But there’s more to it than that.

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ROBIN CAMERON | January 31, 2012 | POST | 8 |

Homeland: TBH TV Review

Airing on Sunday nights is a new TV drama, Homeland, which explores the phenomenon of ‘sleeper cells’. Understandably, this show seeks to position itself as something other than an alarmist Bush-era program about terrorists. In this case the potential sleeper agent is a serving marine. Ultimately, however, this plot innovation is really just an elaborate attempt to provide a seemingly reasonable justification for the kind of security policies associated with previous shows like 24.

First off, a comment on the marketing of the show for Australian audiences: it’s awful. The attempt by the writers of Homeland to negotiate complex politics through a multi-layered plot-line has been erased completely from the Australian promotional material released by Channel 10. Here they are selling a complex psychological/political thriller as tawdry pap.

I’m not sure if this should be taken as a comment on the the likely viewing audience, but we can say at the very least that someone in Channel Ten’s marketing department seems to think we are not very clever. Clearly we are not judged ready for the sophisticated style of storytelling that have graced our TV screens (and laptops) thanks to US cable television over the last decade.

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ROBIN CAMERON | January 27, 2012 | POST | 7 |

Update: Colbert’s (sort of) presidential campaign

Last week, comedian Stephen Colbert announced his entry into mucky world of American electoral politics with a satirical bid for nomination in the Republican South Carolina primary. In this short space of time Colbert was able to momentarily overshadow the deep banality of the Republican nomination process and cast attention on the absurd system of campaign finance laws presently in place in the US. He did this by releasing a series of attack ads that he (well, technically fellow comedian Jon Stewart) financed and produced using a Super PAC that allowed the channeling of an undisclosed but large amount of money raised from anonymous sources into .

The first attack ad (included in a previous post) accused the then leading candidate, Mitt Romney, of being a serial killer. This accusation was founded on the idea that if ‘corporations are people’, then Romney’s history of profiting from aggressive corporate restructures constitutes murder. This played on the underlying logic of the argument that organizations have the same right to free speech as individuals under the constitution, an argument that paved the way for unlimited financing of political campaigning.

This mucky blend of corporate profit-taking and political interference was the focus of his second attack ad.

Having promised the fix the political process with more senseless ads of his own, the actual campaign by Colbert for nomination hit an early stumbling block when it became clear that he was not going to be on the ballot as the list of nominees had already been finalized. This would not stop him from wreaking havoc.

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PETER CHAMBERS | January 25, 2012 | POST | 15 |

Celebrate Australia Day, $3.99!

Australia Day used to be controversial. I kinda liked that. I remember going to the Big Day Out in Sydney 1996 on Australia Day and hearing Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha do a big rant about Invasion Day, and feeling stirred when the crowd roared in approval. I should add: no one, no one would have worn a flag to the Big Day Out then. Let alone the Australian flag. You’d have looked a goose, you’d have been teased for being one. Man, TISM would have teased you mercilessly from the stage. But those were different times. After all,  John Howard was still about two months off being elected, and it was only three years after Paul Keating delivered that Don Watson penned speech that, the legend now has it, re-ignited white Australia’s love of itself, its flag and its old diggers.

Australia Day is an odd selection for a national day. I mean, most nation-states celebrate independence: independence that they fought for, or won, or were given. I suppose this is impossible in Australia, seeing as we effectively refused it when given the opportunity. Nonetheless, the obvious choice is Federation, which was on January 1, 1901. It would be the technically correct choice, since before that, ‘we’ weren’t a nation, just a bunch of self-governing British colonies. But it would also be the hungover choice, given that it’s also New Years Day… in Australia. Scotch that.

But it gets weirder as soon as you ask what Australia Day actually purports to commemorate. I mean, the arrival of a bunch of stinking prison hulks full of transported convicts, mostly men, and their introduction of smallpox to the local Aboriginal populations… Well, it doesn’t seem like our finest moment. Convict origins, shit food, barely potable water, various types of pox, no toothpaste, insufficient opportunities for conjugal bliss… it seems like an experience that most peoples would prefer to forget.

But I like the weirdness, just like I liked the controversy, precisely because both weirdness and controversy are states that say something about who we might be as a nation. We’re a weird mob, and we don’t agree on much, or even have much in common.

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PETER CHAMBERS | January 24, 2012 | POST | 1 |

Fitter, happier, more productive: this yoga harms?

By this stage in January, your resolutions are probably in the process of being sorely tested. Especially when the tennis is on, the sun is shining, and the afternoons are just so dreamily endless and given to, well, drinking beer. Well, I speak for myself… I just finished an introductory course at a yoga school [...]

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NAJ TAYLOR | January 18, 2012 | POST | |

A.Q. Khan’s fourth customer: India?

Oddly enough, Playboy Magazine has uncovered something that should interest all Australian parliamentarians. Given the Labor Party has just lifted the ban on uranium exports to India, I believe it has the capacity the cast any future deal in doubt. In sum, the article by Joshua Pollack concerns an already infamous Pakistani and a group of Indian nuclear [...]

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