I’ve never before written a letter to an author that I did not already know. I’m not telling you this because I want this letter to seem particularly special. It’s more to allow me to introduce a small amount of context about where I’m at as I started to read Experiments in Imagining Otherwise.
I’m in Berlin right now and the idea that I came to Europe for a long, hot summer is already feeling distant as the days become shorter and cocooned in the grey, chill of autumn. I return to my home in Naarm (otherwise known by it’s colonised name of Melbourne, in so-called Australia) in less than two weeks. The mood is definitely one of contemplation and deep thought about the next stage of life, how I hold onto a revolutionary imagination filled with rebellious desires as I get older and how I incorporate the experiences I’ve had and lessons I’ve learned while I’ve been here.
I write to try to make sense of such considerations. There’s been a small amount of writing I’ve been doing on this trip – some postcards and letters to loved ones, a couple of ‘travel story’ type pieces and one long(ish) piece of feedback to a friend about a draft of an excellent article that they wrote. But I have no more postcards to send now.
Disclaimer: This was mostly written before the anti-lockdown/ anti vaccine mandate protests that broke out in Narrm on Monday, September 20th, 2021. While those protests added extra layers of complexity, I am still comfortable putting the ideas contained in this piece forward as being relevant to the whole mess we’re in.
Another lockdown drags its weight through the winter and into spring, embellishing hours into days and days into weeks. I endure time by going for runs, strumming my bass, reading, writing, cooking. Materially comfortable enough for now. Missing those I love. Staying close to the few I love that I’m able to. Sometimes bored, sometimes worried. Just passing time.
There’s another post saying not to complain about lockdowns because there’s people in jail or in detention centers or dying. I half nod, caught out by the instinctive call and response posture. Then I shrug. There’s always the guilt of someone worse off. These words are emptied of meaning precisely because of their transcendent righteousness.
Their emptiness is a mirror of the baffling mess that they critique – the anti-lockdown demonstrations. Whereas the righteous words sit in a hollowness of their own creation, of being so correct that they (seek to) leave no space for any other feeling, the protests are all feeling at their core with little interest in the sense they make or in being able to grasp something that holds true. And so we have a constellation of narratives seeking to unearth the greatest conspiracies, possibly entertaining if not for the darker endpoints they often lurch towards.
Reflections on the proliferation of borders from a pandemic world. (written mostly in 2020, finished off in 2021)
When the flames engulfed the home of the brave,
The stampede towards the the border was in vain.
Faces palmed, faces paled
As the wall they said would make them great could not be scaled.
– ‘Victory Lap’, Propagandhi
The nation closes its borders. This is both remarkable and not. Unremarkable because the militarised border regime that has governed the political trajectory of this island nation had easily created the capacity to enforce a total shutdown. It ordinarily walks the line between living up to the racist fantasies of a paranoid population and the economic need for certain types of migration to fill gaps in the labour market. But these aren’t ordinary times and so it flexes and the racists swoon while the ‘progressive’ liberals are appeased in their sense of (bio-)security.
In the midst of the COVID-related lockdown I wrote of how “time passes at the tenor of a slow murmur” to try and describe the sense of a distortion that I was feeling. It might have been apt at the time, but the weeks following have passed at a different, much quicker tempo. Now the institutions (police, prisons) and systems of oppression (white supremacy, anti-blackness, colonialism) that seemed so fundamental to daily life that they must have been born with the changing of the seasons are teetering on the precipice. The murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police has sparked a rebellion that has spread and taken form in all corners of the globe. Suddenly, time is a blur as history crashes around us.
(a printable zine/ pdf version of this can be found at the end or in ‘zines’ tab).
Part I: Finding each other.
“The noise of excited voices could be heard, the streets must be full of people, the crowd shouting just three words, I can see, said those who had already recovered their eyesight and those who were just starting to see, I can see, I can see, the story in which people said, I am blind, truly appears to belong to another world.”
– Blindness by Jose Saramago
I want you to describe for me the scene when the pandemic passed and social distancing ended. The one where we poured out from the cocoons we’d harboured within over these long months and into each others arms. Homes with doors opened to the streets and into neighbouring houses, creating a chain of encounters and dancefloors – the greatest party of all. Was it the block party to end all block parties, an after-the-revolution style celebration like Run the Jewels depict? Or was it more a stunned exuberance as Saramago describes? I’m sure that, just as importantly, there were quieter moments of coming together – moments of closeness with dear friends, of sharing meals again, of enjoying the sun and outdoors in company. How did we create the necessary spaces for grieving and reflection?
(I’ve pushed what is chronologically the fifth ‘dispatch’ to the top of the pile because it’s probably the most important).
Dispatch #5 (January 8th- 10th): Delivering supplies to affected areas on the lands of the Gunaikurnai nation (East Gippsland)
Just spent a couple of days delivering supplies with two friends to some of the affected areas in East Gippsland. We went as far out as Orbost, but roads were closed beyond that. Yesterday we made some deliveries around Bairnsdale and Bruthen. We decided to leave the area last night, because conditions were due to get hectic again today. These were my main thoughts from being out there:
For people who aren’t white and living in a colonised and white supremacist society, being able to understand and process feelings of guilt, shame and trauma is an ongoing exercise that requires honest reflection and accountability. Where We Stand is a dance/ performance ‘ritual’ that facilitates this by inviting Indigenous and other people of colour into a theatre turned into a healing space filled with warm, soothing aural tones and soft places to be in. In that space, personal stories of the damage of these interlocking oppressive systems are shared amongst us. In being there, feeling the intimacy of relating such experiences, a question arises in my mind: how do these personal affects, these lifelong traumas shared between us as confessional mementos translate into forms of anti-colonial solidarity and action that might upturn the colonial, white supremacist society that we inhabit?
Reflections on the blockade of IMARC, police violence and how to act politically against it.
For a few days in late October, protesters attempted to shut down the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) because fuck mining and capitalist resource extraction as it murders Indigenous peoples, devastates the environment and creates the conditions for the world to burn. Numbers weren’t large enough and tactics not fluid enough* to be entirely successful but there was significant disruption.
And so the police went hard. And people were staunch. And the police went harder. I’ve been up close with plenty of scenes of police violence and even still it was distressing as I stood there unable to see – having lost my glasses in the scuffles – but hearing people wailing and being sick from the effects of copious amounts of capsicum spray used viciously at close quarters.
An affectation of innocence underscores white Australia’s relation to non-white migrants who arrive here. It exists as a certainty in the inherent goodness of the structures of liberal democracy, a belief that the welcome that has been given to us migrants is charitable and tolerant in such a way that reinforces a position of benevolent authority. In conjunction with this belief is the sense that non-white migrants are always looking to exploit the naïve, kindness of white Australia. This is a continuation of racist, colonial narratives that disguises the violence of colonisation by positioning white people as constantly endangered by the lurking, dangerous brown/ black other, who will use any means – barbaric and violent or sneaky and underhanded – to access all the goodness of white society. The sense of fragility and paranoia that these colonial narratives engender mean that migrants’ place here is predicated on endlessly demonstrating our gratitude for having been allowed to stay. We are expected to display our affection and attachment in ways that are both recognisable to, and uphold, the assumed neutrality of liberal democracy by not calling it for what it is: white, liberal democracy. This veil of innocence, of impartiality, attempts to obscure a founding violence that defines all racial politics in this country, while allowing for the ongoing exploitation and dispossession faced by First Nations people.
The cops shoot dead a young Indigenous man in his home in Yuendumu. The eastern seaboard burns. The coloniser’s logic won’t let them make the connection between genocide, relentless resource extraction and ecocide.
This track is where my head is at. Here are the lyrics:
When the flames engulfed the home of the brave, the stampede toward the border was in vain. Faces palmed, faces paled as the wall they said would make them great could not be scaled. When the free-market fundamentalist steps on a roadside bomb outside Kandahar bleeding to death, I swear to Ayn Rand I’ll ask if he needs an invisible hand. You say #notallcops. You say #notallmen. Yeah you insist #itsonly99%. There’s nothing new for you to learn. Ok, sit back, relax and watch it all burn. The colossal waste of energy: talent upon the talented, freedom upon the free. This whole damn beautiful life wasted on you and me. God are you there? It’s me, in the denim jacket. Are you receiving my prayers through the noise and cosmic static? God are you there? Can you confirm i’m on the right goddamn planet?!? The day the rapture came, a forgettable event. The clouds, they opened up and not a single person went. To the chromatic whistle of a carousel calliope stomp the citizens of our clown idiot dingbat society.