To Set Aside Cynicism

A poem…

 

Walk out the door and cynics can be fed

The grinding grim happiness of morning media grins

There’s a path down which to be led

They have, like many, their job that spins and spins

 

Cities bear the scars of their divides, history, temporal walls built from centuries’ toil

Aware of it all the cynics are as they whizz by in whatever metal box

They hear “All you see is heartache, all you do is spoil”

To be a cynic is to be placed in the faux optimists’ stocks

 

There remains the dream – become a true optimist instead

Be aware of the pain, but work for emotional gain

Bring some joy, not lock plans of it in your head

Bring some absolute empathy while others feign

 

There is the rub

How to gather this spirit before you reach the hub

 

 

There’s Never Been A More Exciting Time To Run a Country – Our Charles Foster Turnbull is lost

(Originally on Ausvotes 2016 – new title suggestion from @patstokes)

It’s been a strange couple of weeks for Malcolm Turnbull, with many things changing and unravelling about “his” government.  The suave, leather jacket wearing Point Piper sophisticate seems to have already forgotten why it is he was made leader and what his job is as Prime Minister.   The shifts and back peddling by Turnbull are clear to see – and are being catalogued by cartoonist Dave Pope with his sharp eye for details.  With this week’s acquiescence to the homophobic wing of his party in allowing an inquiry into the Safe Schools program, Pope posits that Turnbull is allowing himself to be bullied by the homophobes in order to keep his job as Principal.IMG_4176.JPG

A bit different to the Pope image from a couple of weeks before, where Turnbull was the sophisticate getting ready to make the switch to election mode, though still tied to Riverview’s old boy combo, Abbott and Joyce.

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The most telling cartoon from Pope for me this year is the one where Turnbull is handcuffed to Joyce whilst driving the Abbott car – it’s both amusing and chilling, with the “boot full of asylum babies” line.

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If we’re talking characters, though, overall Turnbull can be seen as being more like Charles Foster Kane from Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane.  Turnbull himself is a vastly talented person who has flitted from place to place, able to achieve any number of things. Kane may have inherited his fortune, unlike Turnbull, who made his own – but Kane could have gone anywhere, done anything, but he chose to focus on building up a broken down newspaper, because it would be “fun to run a newspaper”.  He did so partially in order to fight for the disenfranchised and underprivileged, because, as he puts it, he can because he has money and power.  Our own C.F. Kane, though, has created his own feckless catchphrase – “there’s never been a more exciting time to run a country” would be more accurate.

Turnbull seems to have decided, like Kane, that it would be fun to run a country.  And he fought his way to do so, continually sniping in a variety of subtle and not so subtle ways at the previous incumbent throughout his time as leader, chiefly by presenting himself as the leader of moderate thinking. One such way was being a leader in the marriage equality issue, suggesting a private members’ bill introducing the change, which saw him come into conflict with Bernardi and others.  Another was his continual support for action on climate change, which included him being a passionate advocate for scientists who would address climate change, as opposed to the “climate change is crap” stance of his predecessor.  These stances from the outer made him the popular figure who continually topped opinion polls.  The sensible moderate who should be leading the country instead of the clown who was.  The Man of Principles.

Unlike Kane, though, Turnbull doesn’t seem to have written them down and have them published – only to be reminded of them later.  Turnbull’s principles all seem to be evaporating in a very short time.  He supports the ineffective Direct Action policy, the ridiculously expensive (and pointless) Marriage Equality Plebiscite is going ahead. This week, it is reprehensible that, unlike old Malcolm, he isn’t speaking out against the kind of comments being made by the likes of  George Christensen accusing the Safe Schools Coalition of “grooming” children.  Instead, he is making meaningless comments about people “needing to be careful“.  The squibbing on this necessary discipline is highlighted by Cathy Wilcox’s outstanding cartoon, which highlights why Turnbull should be speaking as he used to.

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It is, as Jacqueline Maley has said, as if Turnbull is becoming the “incredible shrinking man“.

Another aspect of Citizen Kane is when Kane runs for election and loses.

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He is, like Turnbull, charismatic and charming.  We never really find out, however, why he runs, except for vague promises to help the underprivileged.  He doesn’t really seem to know why he’s running for political office.  He does it for the same reason he wants to run a newspaper – it would be fun and he may get the chance to help people.  His old friend Leland, however, points out how patronising his rich man paternalism is in one of the best scenes in the film.

The problem with Turnbull is that it’s rapidly becoming clear that he doesn’t seem to quite know what he needs to do, now he’s Prime Minister.  He is letting people like Bernardi, Christensen and Abetz run rings around him.  We expect him to give them looks like this –

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But he doesn’t. He hasn’t been able to stop the Onion Man from staying in parliament, doing his sniping not sniping act.   In terms of showing they actually believe in something, Labor has well and truly got the jump on him with their Negative Gearing policy.  They have snookered him in terms of showing they have ideas about how to both address first home owner house purchasing and the revenue loss currently occurring with the tax break (I outline my reflections on their policy as someone who uses negative gearing here).  His response was to become nothing more than a confused 2 Dollar shop scaremongerer about the issue, diving into his weakest persona, Retail Politician. As pointed out here, his “opposition to Labor’s plan is full of contradictions and has been made on the run for political purposes rather than sound policy judgements”. This is because, like Kane, Turnbull is playing at being a politician, rather than truly believing in what he’s doing.  He needs to remember, however, what it was that got him into the chair in the first place, his popularity as a moderate. He is running the risk of spurning those who supported his rise. These supporters must be increasingly thinking they are doing this whilst giving their support:

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Turnbull himself needs to get some passion into his politics. He needs to stop acting like a feckless wealthy patrician hobbyist and have some idea of the principles he may have had at some stage in his life. Or maybe he never really had them.

Postscript – There’s been some discussion about this analogy. In it, Jed Leland is Chris Kenny, a close confidant who is now drifting his own way. Rosebud is maybe the Republic…

Negative Gearing – Why Boomers and Gen X Need to Let It Go

There’s been a great deal of chatter about negative gearing in the wake of the new ALP policy in relation to the tax break.  It’s a brave thing for the ALP to take on a policy instrument that is essentially middle class welfare, making it easier for those with some means to get into Australia’s wildly over inflated housing market.  But it’s a necessary move, in order to address a gross generational inequality and help out the Australian construction and steel making industries.

In terms of the issue of negative gearing, I am part of the audience being pitched to by both major parties. I am someone who uses negative gearing.  As I wrote in my post about selling my old flat, I have, for the first time, bought somewhere purely as an investment.  I also – completely by chance – have fallen into the pattern that the ALP want investors to follow, as in purchasing a new property.  Hence I will be able to take advantage of the taxable reduction afforded by depreciation on that new property, as well as other benefits that will come with the reduction of my taxable income.  Reflecting on the process of buying the new property, I can see the advantages of Labor’s plan to have people being encouraged to buy new housing stock and making it available to tenants – as well as keeping the other benefits of negative gearing.

Where the problem is negative gearing, however, is that there’s something questionable with the current system where people are encouraged to buy existing properties, rent them out until they accumulate in value, sell, and gain a 50% discount on the Capital Gains Tax made on the property.  It’s a pretty sweet, low risk deal, especially if the rental yields are low and you can reduce personal income tax to well below Scott Morrison’s magic $80,000 figure.   From my personal experience, it encourages the type of investor frenzy caused by the selling of Preston Towers.

My old flat in South Penrith should be the type of place that would be perfect for first home owners. It’s 30 years old, with no depreciation potential. It’s close to shops, schools and public transport.  It’s also small, in the middle of an area filled with apartment blocks of varying ages and should be cheap, as it was for me as a first home owner in 2009.  I did ask my real estate agent during the process the type of people who would be buying the property – I was thinking of the tenants, who had taken great care of the property, but were also of Indian heritage, which may have made finding another property in Penrith difficult (I remember being asked when I was renting out the property whether “it was ok that they were Indian”).  It was made very clear to me early on that only investors would be in the market for it, as only they had the means necessary for an offer battle.

So it came to pass. On the day of the first open home, there were multiple offers, and at prices I could barely believe. The “winner” was a baby boomer investor using superannuation proceeds.  So that small flat will continue to be a rental, out of reach to first home owners, as will any other property in that area.  There will be negative gearing, as the price that was paid cannot be covered by the rent for that area for some time.  Under the current system, whenever the market goes up again in the same way it did between 2013 – 2015, the investor will sell, pocket the half of the gap with the discount and move onto somewhere else, denying even more first home owners a chance for a foot in the door.  With the ALP system, the owner will be forced to be very sure that he is ready to shift his investment to new housing stock, with its reduction of the CGT discount.  Or he will just hang onto the current place under the grandfathering provisions and be happy with the rental returns and reduction in taxable income – one day still being able to pocket the CGT discount.

For this kind of problem to occur in Penrith, its should show us that negative gearing policy change is a generational shift that should occur.  It’s wrong that baby boomers are able to swoop in and deny Gen Y first home owners chances to buy their first home.  There will be ridiculous scare campaigns directed at boomers and Gen X middle class voters, such as Malcolm Turnbull’s “Middle Class People, Your House Value Will Drop!!!!!”  Even if that happens, that would be a good outcome for younger generations wanting to buy. It is difficult to see, however, with the grandfathering provisions for the people currently using negative gearing, how prices would drop dramatically. It would be hard to see why people who own investment property would panic sell before the changes come, risking a dropped value in their properties.  The shift might be more gradual, however, as people investing in property will have to consider how to do their investing in the future.

Another criticism of the plan will state that may also be a bit of an increase in value in new developments, but that will also be interesting to see – there’s a great deal of building going on around the country which will need investors and it’s difficult to envisage a huge battle between investors driving up prices artificially.  This way, channelling investor cash towards new property will have the impact of helping to grow working class jobs in construction and steel, rather than just helping to artificially driving up prices on existing properties.

There’s more qualified people than me to be looking at such things, using graphs and data.  This is just one taxpayer’s questioning of funnelling possible taxation receipts into the pockets of wealthy property owners from the Baby Boomer and Generation X just willing to get more low risk cash. Meanwhile, the younger generation wait while such people count their tax breaks and advantages.

Trollentine’s Day – An Antidote to Commercialised Romance

Valentine’s Day. It’s everywhere, it creeps into conversations, it dominates TV, shopping centres. It also inspires Google searches like this

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Yes, it’s such a central part of our culture that people think it could be a public holiday.  But this is not a post going into the history of Valentine’s Day, whether he is a Saint, all that we already know (except – Valentinus means worthy, strong, powerful, which brings with a whole lot of ideas of what Valentine’s Day actually means in terms of shows of power).

I have had a strong dislike of Valentine’s Day for most of my life.  I remember it vividly as a time when I never received a Valentine’s Day rose / message at high school. Then later, I remember the pressure from society that it was the socially expected time to shower my first wife with gifts / chocolates / flowers / booking at an expensive restaurant.  So then all the flower sellers, chocolate manufacturers, courier companies, restaurants all benefit as people (usually men) attempt to outdo each other with their expensive, sanctioned public shows of affection.  As we were pretty much on a financial abyss throughout our marriage, we just ignored the whole farrago.

My feeling then was the same as it is now.  This madness needs to stop.  Apart from anything else, it emphasises to all of those without a “Valentine” that they are alone. The secret Valentine thing is also weird and vaguely creepy.

So, this is the proposal – people should celebrate Trollentines Day.  Find a loved one and give her / him a present that is guaranteed to drive them up the wall – in a fun way.  Then, sling the money you save to Sweetheart Day – an initiative designed to research children’ heart disease.

Fortunately, my second wife, Claire, is also as unimpressed by the Corporate Affection Time as I, so we have started this tradition. That is, we buy for each other the most inappropriate present we can dream up for each other.  The present we know the other person will never want or use.  As in, deliberately trolling each other (teasing, provoking, whatever else you want to call this in an age where the term “troll” is used indiscriminately by various media outlets).  Last year, Claire bought me a DVD copy of 20,000 Days On Earth, the self indulgent Nick Cave project (though for me, saying “self indulgent” and “Nick Cave” is just tautology).  I bought her a Kardashian leopard print bag. Pretty much everything Claire is not.

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This year, we are pushing out the concept to be playing and showing things that the other person really doesn’t like.  I’m tossing up the possibility of putting on some back issues of the Matty Johns Show, playing Nickelback or reading out excerpts of the future autobiography of Barnaby Joyce, My Life with Alpacas (though, that might be entertaining). For Claire, that could mean any number of things – though having us both drink VB would be trolling herself, which is not part of the deal.  We are also going to eat lunch at a restaurant we would not normally consider the ideal venue for a romantic Valentine’s Day meal. One idea for us was the restaurant that helps define what actually is Western Sydney

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Or maybe Rashay’s family restaurant, that uniquely Western Sydney franchise (with which we can do a similar line to the Red Rooster line), where every steak meal is served with the same mushroom sauce.  Great for families (especially ones that like mushroom sauce), but not a place one would normally associate with Valentine’s.

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Trollentines Day is tricky to do, to an extent. You need to know exactly what irritates your partner, but not in a serious way, but more in a light hearted way.  So, TV, movies, music and the like.  It’s actually also surprisingly romantic – a good troll means you really need to know your partner. (And in our case, the restaurant location has had to be a mutually agreed thing.)

But honestly, the day can be whatever you make of it – it’s meant to be a bit of fun, highlighting just how absurd it is that society believes that Romance has to occur on an appointed time and with the appropriate spending of money.

Whacktivism and Whacky Ibises – The Newish World of Online Campaigning

This week has seen one of the bigger Auspol Twitter meltdowns of recent times.  It springs from the recent resignation of ABC tech writer Nick Ross and his story of ABC editorial “suppression” of his work whilst there. The issue is covered well, but still in a general form, in the Huffington Post.  It’s certainly an important story about possible editorial interference with the coverage of the National Broadband Network in the lead up to the 2013 election.

I remember seeing the original tweet from Ross, announcing his resignation and that he inferring that he would be allowed to write about the NBN again.  I then saw how a group of people immediately gathered around him and claimed him as their champion – a group that contained amongst its number, a group of hardcore, passionate NBN supporters who liked using the megaphoning technique.  That is, they have been claiming since 2012 – 13 that media outlets have deliberately played down / ignored / suppressed how bad the Coalition’s NBN plan was in comparison to Labor’s plan. I can understand to an extent where they came from – there’s many, especially in various regional and suburban areas, who believe the NBN could have been a great piece of infrastructure and it became their No. 1 political issue.  And here was Nick Ross confirming the suppression of “the truth of the NBN” for them. As a result, he was encouraged by them to spill the beans, to show the evidence.  Hence the creation of a Reddit, where Ross went into detail about his story.

Now, personally, I felt at the time that this was a mistake, because Reddit is more a forum for all sorts of uncontrollable discussions and responses, rather than a reliable news source, especially if the intent is to get the story disseminated further than Twitter, Reddit and and insular political internet.   It was at this point, however, that we had the Buzzfeed story by Alex Lee and Mark Di Stefano about the Reddit.  I can understand what tone was being struck in the piece – it was meaning to be lighthearted and mocking, like a number of Buzzfeed pieces are.  The problem was that in including the images and the published tweets that mocked those passionate about the NBN, Buzzfeed were possibly unconsciously feeding into a feeling of conspiracy and suppression that has existed for more than 3 years.  Hence the responses of those people to, it seemed, more Mark Di Stefano than to Alex Lee.  Therefore, people then saw this now notorious tweet, whose impact has possibly surpassed his more deliberate stirring efforts in regards Taylor Swift and the Hottest 100:

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The response has been 10 solid days of responses, reactions, blog posts, and images such as this:

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The theme from many was that they had never seen this term used before, and I can understand why.  It wasn’t widely used.  I did see, however, “broken” being used by a group of Twitter users for 2 years or so to describe those I have previously described as megaphones – that is, people who either RT the same message, or constantly bombard the mentions of journalists and others with the same messages over and over.  In addition, the term is used for those who seem to be not actively listening to any responses provided by these journalists and others. It’s a shorthand term.  I can see in retrospect why Di Stefano would use it out of frustration at the level of abusive responses he would have been getting from the NBN supporters.  I believe, however, he was wrong for lashing out – mainly because he is widely respected and has a considerable audience. It’s also fed the conspiracies further about the media and being compliant with the Government.

In terms of the word broken, I had used it a couple of times some time in the past in conversations with others, though I still preferred “megaphone” or “megaphoning” throughout.  When this issue of “broken” came out into the open, however, I could see the many problems surrounding the use of the word.  As we discovered in the ensuing discussion over these almost two weeks, it is a word that is used to describe and negatively categorise the mentally ill, people from a variety of minorities and racial backgrounds. It acts to punch down at the powerless.  I could see that the word’s usage might not have been originally intended to have that meaning, but as we know, the power of words so often go beyond their intended meaning. The word “broken” clearly hurts people, and really, on reflection, people should stop using it due to those connotations.

The problem is that you can’t just stop using a word with no alternative. The phenomenon of abuse and repetition continues.  There needs to be a shorthand word for Twitter users who will go into an exchange with people and post abuse, or just attack people without wanting to engage in a meaningful manner. For those willing to do this:

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Or this kind of high horse riding:

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And using shots of children like this in order to compare themselves to victims of terrible and violent oppression, which is a strange and offensive style of martyrdom.

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I am suggesting, therefore, that perhaps we could call such campaigning “Whacktivism” – a style of activism where people are wishing mainly to whack others with whom they don’t agree. The kind of discussion where people are ready to whack people they believe are part of a conspiracy of suppression and censorship.  It’s like the playing a grand game of whack-a-mole, where activists are seeking to have journalists and others submit to their truth via a forcefully and frequently placed mallet.

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That way, if we adopt that word – or something like it, we don’t have people feeling rightfully offended at the use of a term that wasn’t meant for them. We can have a term for the adoption of a communication technique that uses one sided, one way repetition of messages. An approach that has at its heart the mistaken believe that people will agree and believe in a cause through the attrition of being whacked over the head several times.

In all of this, I am concerned about the future of the Nick Ross story. It is clear he feels vulnerable and hurt in the aftermath of his ABC days – as can be seen in tweets like these:

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With all the talk of “brokens”, it has acted to bury the story that sparked this internecine, self regarding language argument. The difficulty with the story’s reportage is that it now has many moral layers wrapped up in the allegedly illegal recordings made by Ross that were reported in New Matilda and the problems for more risk averse media outlets wishing to pick up the story, if they wanted to.   There’s also something to be said for the view expressed on Media Watch that Ross had become more activist than journalist about the NBN, especially in the piece that was “suppressed”.  Having the line “This is misleading and wrong” at the start, for example, would not really help to show that the article is an ABC style dispassionate look at the facts.  The content and facts in the article as compelling and interesting, but could have been phrased and framed better, so those facts could better speak for themselves, loudly and clearly.

All in all, it’s going to be a long year in political twitter. Hopefully, the term “Whacktivism” can help delineate those who are passionately, but rationally interested in political discussion and those intent mainly on whacking others over the head with their views.

Postscript

Or even better, as I have discovered today, my phone autocorrects “Whacktivist” to “Whacky Ibises”. So, Whacky Ibises it is. (With thanks to Matthew Beggs for the picture). They certainly can be seen as a bit of a garbage bin searching pest, so the name is fairly apt.

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The Vuvuzelas and Onion Boys – Megaphones Pining for Abbott

Megaphones – The Old Term

Some time ago, I wrote a piece on megaphones on Twitter, constantly repeating and retweeting the same mantra time and again, hoping that people – especially journalists would listen to their plaintive cry.  At the time, the big issue was Ashbygate and the actions of Mal Brough.  In October this year, 2 years and 8 months and still certain sections of Twitter accuse me of various Twitter crimes :

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Thing is, there was always something fishy in the James Ashby case. I never said that there wasn’t – not in a blog post, not on Twitter. And as we are now seeing, Mal Brough’s career is now in serious question.  The point I was making in 2013 was never that there was “nothing” in the Ashby matter.  This is what I said at the time – that people were tweeting constantly about

the failed actions of James Ashby, the fact Malcolm Brough is managing to avoid all journalists

That’s it. Not me “making a political decision on a legal matter”. I was making an observation of the use of Twitter as a communication tool.  I still believe now, as I did in 2013, that the constant shouting on the net about that one issue could the impact of lessening the effectiveness of campaigning on a broader range of issues.  I also questioned the significance of it in terms of broader governmental issues.  It certainly had an impact on the wider credibility of a number of twitter users who cashed whatever Twitter capital they may have developed by becoming people who just continually repeated themselves about that one thing.

But really, for what end?  Even now, if the Ashby case causes the downfall of Mal Brough, then it will call into question the wisdom of Turnbull of promoting him – which it should.  It was a very poor call based on, most probably, reward for his actions to get Turnbull into the leadership.  The questions, however, will last probably about a week in media circles and will barely make a blip outside Twitter. It may lead to the LNP in Queensland preselecting someone else for Fisher next year.  But that’s probably about it.  Does anyone seriously believe that it will bring about the downfall of the Turnbull Government, as these megaphones fervently hope it does?

It is the case, though, that these same megaphones such as the ones quoted above will continue to believe that I wanted the Ashby matter to disappear completely and for Brough to get away with his alleged crimes – no matter what I say or actually believe.

A New Term Has Come – The Vuvuzela

I realise, now, however, that megaphones is possibly the wrong metaphor for these people. I was thinking of people outside rallies and union pickets, saying the same thing and the message losing its effectiveness over time.   I think the better one was given to me by @aegnor74 – they are Vuvuzelas, those trumpets we heard continually at the World Cup in South Africa.  They buzz the same indeterminate note continually and annoyingly.

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Three Easy Ways to Flush Vuvuzelas off your Timeline

The constant negative and often nasty reaction to my megaphone piece has led to me over time, working hard on making sure that these people are cleansed from my timeline. There’s a few crucial steps to take.

1. Unfollow the minor vuvuzela players

It’s easy enough to identify the minor level vuvuzelas – they RT the simplistic bald statements and slogans created by the major vuvuzela players, like Geeksrulz, the Finnigans, Kiera Gorden, Chris Kenny, Coalition Tea Lady, Correllio, Miranda Devine, et cetera. If tweets from those people appear in your timeline, just find out who RTed and bang, unfollow.

2. Encourage vuvuzela followers to unfollow you

I have had a fair few vuvuzela followers, who think I’m there to provide them with empty slogans to RT.  When they realise that I don’t fit into that category, they turn on me and blare at me with great speed and volume. I challenge them and discuss the grey areas of particular issues, which makes them usually declare I’m “disappointing” and then unfollow me.  Sometimes they need a little push, such as me criticising some kind of unsupported and/or baseless feelpinion they have expressed.

3. Challenge the Assertions of the Leaders of the Vuvuzela Squadrons so they do a high dudgeon block.

Sometimes, the first two methods don’t work to really rid your timeline of such noisy people.  To rid your timeline of vuvuzelas quickly, you need to respond to one of the leaders and ask them for greater analysis of why it is that constantly repeating the same dumbed down lines and shouting for permanent activism will actually work.   Press hard enough, and they will accuse you of being an operative for “the other side” and do a high dudgeon block, such as this.

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The thing that happens after such moments is that is piles of people, usually of baby boomer vintage, who have either followed you or not, just blare their vuvuzelas at you.  Like this strange exchange from someone who has never followed me or interacted with me.

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But what of Turnbull and the Vuvuzelas?

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If you want to see how they are switching their campaign for Turnbull, have a look for the Squadron leaders on opinion sites and see their direction. One such leader, Van Badham, is now working for the Labor Herald and we can see her working hard at making Malcolm Turnbull into the new Evil Enemy. Fair play to them – it’s their desire to see the LNP be replaced by the Labor and Greens, so why change a strategy that they think works.

These observations aren’t here to suggest that Turnbull is running a great government and is flawless – far from it.  There’s serious flaws, such as the Brough decision, and the dogged, ridiculous insistence that coal is good for humanity and the economy that needs close focus each week. Still not sure, though, that the shouting method works, and the propensity for Turnbull to turn away from the cheap slogan and populist simplification complicates matters.  There is, though, still some fun and games for the old vuvuzela crew – the Onion Boys.

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Nothing gets the vuvuzelas more excited than whenever one of the Onion Boys starts making noises.  Whether that’s Andrew Nikolic talking about taking away liberties;  Kevin Andrews taking potshots ; Cory Bernardi deleting his tweets ;  Eric Abetz justifying the use of racist language or all of them continuing to complain about the way things were done in the spill and whingeing about post spill life – not least of all, the Big Onion Man himself. The vuvuzelas just remember the old days and the way the Onion Boys just said things so stupid the slogans just wrote themselves.

And really, weren’t they just the best days, the salad days of brutalist politics?  The vuvuzelas exist to remind us of those simpler days.

 

 

 

Eight Things to Know About the New Sydney Push

There’s been some conversation about my very personal blog post about the idea of the Sydney Push and its successors.  I intended it to be a musing about the nature of cliques and what they are both capable of achieving, but also the personal impacts of such groups. It wasn’t meant to be particularly exhaustive or comprehensive.  The subsequent conversation has led to me considering some key points about a New Sydney Push, their place in history and the challenges they face when compared to those faced by the 50s / 60s Push.

1.The Challenges of the Era Have Changed Just a Touch

A feature of the original Sydney Push was that there were existing journalists and aspiring writers, and a host of others in between.  Those existing journalists would have had to write a whole range of boring pap in a tightly controlling, moralistic era. It was an era, for example, that the Chief Conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Head of the Conservatorium, Eugene Goossens, was hounded out of the country for bringing into the country pornographic photos, rubber masks and sticks of incense.  It’s little wonder they were straining under the weight of the Menzies era and wanted a bit of libertarian freedom.

This era poses different issues, though some appear fairly similar. Conservatism and moralism remain, expressed through various channels such as the Daily Telegraph, various outrage-seeking talkback radio shows (which seems to have a hold on Sydney like in no other), the old-people-raging-at-clouds editorial team at The Australian as well as many of our politicians.  The continuing desire to collect metadata and somehow control the internet, for example, is something to rebel against.  There’s also a need to rail against the many privileged media pulpit spruikers like Miranda Devine, Paul Sheehan, Angela Shanahan, et al, who continue to wilfully misunderstand gender politics, domestic violence and issues relating to race and express that loudly. The difference now is though is that the voices of the young and the divergent have a place and are standing up to those with bully pulpits.

2. The Power and Privilege of the Old Guard

There’s solid reasons why the New Sydney Push spend a considerable amount of time talking negatively about the Baby Boomer generation.  For one, the continuing ownership of inner city housing and objection to the construction of new apartments is perceived as a scheme to protect their interests and shut Generation Y out of a foot in the door.  Plus, these days, there’s the new phenomenon of baby boomers investing in the flats of Sydney and becoming landlords – a bit of a shift from the supposed revolutionary urges of those who grew up in the 1960s. There’s also the Boomer domination of media and politics, with their sometimes outdated attitudes and opinions that grate. That opposition and tension is to be expected with any generational shift.

This reality poses a difficulty for the new Sydney Push – that is that they face the uncertainty of the future, whether they can continue to afford living in Sydney and not to be seen to “sell out” and adapt to industries and professions that might require actions at variance to passionately held – and fundamentally good – values and attitudes.

The original Sydney Push took a variety of paths, whether that was to go into full time journalism, lecturing or becoming expats. The latter path was the one taken by Clive James and Germaine Greer, who did take the fresh challenging air of the Push to their various stages.  They may have become figures that are the subject for derision since, but we can’t deny their brilliance and sharp wit.  It may be harder, however, for the current bright young things of Sydney to become successful expats in the mould of Greer and James.  The London that accepted the energy of James and Greer and helped to make them powerful voices has changed a fair amount since those days.

3. The advantages and disadvantages to being a close knit group in a social media age

Any good teacher will tell you that group work and close knit groups in general can have their advantages in terms of cultural production.  Having people around you know can be a help when developing ideas, treatments and the like. This is why groups like the original Sydney Push worked in terms of fuelling passionate discussion and formulating ideas. Eventually, that group split up socially and spread around the world, but the ideas that were sparked and moulded in the crucible of the Royal George went on and grew.  That’s a challenge for any group of people in their 20s seeking to find their place in the world.  It’s also inevitable that a group of intelligent, sharp witted friends will flock together and seek support and mateship.

4. New Media gives a more immediate Voice… but, there’s problems

One of the advantages for the New Sydney Push is that they are being provided with employment, forums and spaces in places that weren’t around for the original Push. That’s why we see their work, ideas and beliefs in a variety of publications.  We therefore see some great work from the new Push, along with the weak.  Sometimes having to produce a lot of work means that quality isn’t always assured – a commonality with any form of cultural production.  It shouldn’t be assumed at all that because the work is from Gen Y that it’s immediately to be suspect and not provided with respect.

There’s also a shift in terms of the requirements new media place on the members of the new Sydney Push.  There’s the continually frustrating word limits, but more deeply, there’s the requirement to be able to follow the buzz of the news cycle and produce work that is going to be read by as many as possible. This is not a revelation, of course, but it is a shift away from the free idea creation and conversations of the likes of James and Greer in the original Push.

That produces a conundrum for us reading the likes of Buzzfeed and Junkee. Many people may dislike some of the subject matter and decry the listicles of trivialities, but that is what is needed in the new media environment. We as the audience are only barely aware of the statistics behind the scenes – the stats that drive the pitch to advertisers.   What would perhaps be better for us as the observers to do is build filters that seek only what we need and put aside the rage that could be induced by the presence of some of the content being pumped out by members of the Push. After all, there’s a lot of quality, meaty content being provided by Push members in these new media outlets, which should not be forgotten.  I would also add that a lot of the satire coming from the makers of Backburner on SBS is also excellent. Ultimately, though, throwing the switch the vaudeville is a necessity for many.  After all, Clive James is better known to more people as the host of a show that laughed at Japanese game shows than as the writer of Cultural Amnesia.

That’s the reason I included in the first post a mention of a Halloween photo of members of the new Push ending up in New York Magazine.  Such photos and the unexpected buzz they create is a part of the new media environment, which is a pretty solid difference between this era and the 60s – in some ways anyway.  The idea that the original Push members were always serious and weighty while the new ones aren’t ever is pretty inaccurate. Think of the often puerile jokes in Oz Magazine and then in the films of the early 70s like Stork.  Using the Clive James example again, I don’t think he or the fans of his heavier tomes would have ever suspected he would become a pop culture icon who would also be romancing the ex-wife of Geoffrey Edelsten.  But he did, and he had fun in that life.  I think the so-called “Hennoween” photo was a funny moment, good for a chuckle and then people can move on, as is what happens in this era.

5. Yes, there’s going to be exclusions

I think some people may have misread my original post as being jealousy at being excluded from the new Sydney Push – understandable, as I was writing it from the perspective of someone reminiscing over his sadness tinged uni days where I felt excluded, even if I wasn’t as much as I perceived.  Anxiety is a bastard and is worse when you are away from your cocoon.  There’s memories that came when I wrote the post that I couldn’t repeat here.

Honestly, though, someone like me shouldn’t be included in any group like the Sydney Push. I’m too conservative, regional, establishment and old for such a group. My philosophies and approaches to ideas are too much shaped by compromised, pragmatic decisions I’ve had to make and continue to make.  The people in the Push are, for the most part, wishing to challenge what’s been, learn about the world, make their own mistakes and perhaps gain wisdom.  I represent much of what they are rebelling against and will continue to. I’m not that changeable in my core values and attitudes, even if I am able to have my mind changed by a good counter argument.

It is, however, inevitable that there will be exclusions from any clique of people who are younger than me who have a more serious objection to the actions and access of that group.  For me, I have realised over time that I have little desire to write paid opinion pieces or be part of that media world. I’m happy in my own professional and personal life and my blog posts and twitter life is a leisure activity only.

For others, though, I can understand the frustration they feel when they aren’t getting the paid opportunities and access that is being afforded the members of the new Sydney Push.  It’s also inevitable, therefore, that there will be criticism from people who feel as though others outside the Push should be provided with more opportunities.  How that is handled and dealt with, however, is a different story.  I don’t envy the job of editors and managers of new media outlets trying to obtain buzz and clicks through the employment of the right people. As we have seen, the people who seem to be the right people emerge on Twitter through their engagement with others and with content.  Time tells, however, how successful they continue to be – and that success can often be very fleeting and based on factors outside the control of the creators of content.

6. The Spaces for Connection are More Virtual than Physical

The original Sydney Push could only connect in person, at pubs, before the six o’clock swill. That’s not the case for the new Sydney Push. They do connect offline, but they also have good times online.  Plus, it means that the New Sydney Push is based in Sydney, but connects outwards. That’s a mix of the busy lives of Gen Y and the ease of online connection colliding in a mostly positive way.  The problem lays, however, with the public nature of the interactions. In the past, those outside such cliques didn’t see any of that bonding and therefore people couldn’t form an opinion about the form of that bonding. We didn’t see, for example, what kinds of tricks Clive James may have played. Or what Paddy McGuinness may have said about someone. Or Germaine Greer’s opinion about a particular issue of the day and how others responded to those.  We only hear about those things in second, third, fourth hand versions. But now, we can all see how the bonding happens with codes, conversations, subtweets.

I’ll admit here that I have expressed dislike towards the forms of bonding at times – and, looking back at it, I probably should have held back my tweets and just seen it for what it was – but then comment only if it becomes abusive or belittling to others. This is an approach I am currently working on adopting.   Difficulty is for everyone, though, is that the bonding patterns have become permanent records on social media and commented on from a variety of angles.

That’s tough for everyone in their 20s and younger.

7. Who Are These People?

The members of the new Sydney Push are from a fairly diverse background when compared to the original – and far fewer are connected to Sydney University (which is a good thing, frankly). My list isn’t exhaustive and I’d like to add to them if people can throw me some ideas. There’s a fair few members of the Push that I don’t really know all that well. But here goes as a start (and I apologise in advance to those I have excluded):

Guardian Writers (regular and occasional) – Adam Brereton, Osman Faruqi, J. R. Hennessy, Bridie Jabour, Liam Hogan, Dan Nolan, Erin Riley, Eleanor Robertson

SBS Writers and Presenters – The Feed Crew – Marc Fennell, Jeanette Francis, Andy Park (once upon a time), Patrick Abboud ; The Backburner writers (I know only the name of one of them – Jam Colley, sorry Backburner people, I do like what you do, but I don’t know your names)

Buzzfeeders – Mark Di Stefano, Rob Stott, Alex Lee, Mikey Nicholson, Lane Sainty, Jenna Guillaume, Mat Whitehead, Brad Esposito

Freelance Writers – Elle Hardy, Lauren Ingram, Kate Iselin, Rebecca Shaw, @courtwhip, Kate Doak

The Hungry Beast Crew (I still mourn the loss of one of my favourite shows of the last few years) – Kirsten Drysdale, Dan Ilic, Monique Schafter, Nicholas Hayden

Researchers – Trisha Jha

Junkee Central – Steph Harmon, Alex McKinnon

Fairfax Writers – Michael Koziol, Sheree Joseph

There’s others who are part of the group who aren’t writers in publications but instead contribute to the Twitter conversation.   Everyone’s favourite Public Transport App and Photoshop Image Maker, @rpy, for example and @swearyanthony

8. Let’s See What Happens

There’s those people who may believe that I am attempting to stop or blast those in the new Sydney Push with my blog posts. But I can no more stop anything happening on the internet than Xerxes could stop the sea with his whips.  Nor would I want to. There’s a lot of interesting and engaging stuff coming from members of the new Sydney Push. I am making observations from my perspective and making historical parallels.  When I was at uni, my focus became the Australia of the 1950s – 60s – especially the Eugene Goossens scandal and the activities of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra of that time – and the era still fascinates me.  The comparisons I made are, however, at best, broad brushstroke comparisons and it was a surmising about the relationship of the new and emerging writers and new media forms.

I’m still watching and reading what emerges from this pool of young Sydney based writers – and those from other cities – and also a bit curious as to what happens next. Which one is going to be the next Clive James? Taking things back to the tone of the first post, I went to uni with a brilliantly talented woman who idolised James and had a burning desire to write and go overseas.  She followed her dream and ended up teaching at Princeton, which is where I think she still is. We caught up once and compared notes on students we taught and had some surprising things in common. But her world will always be more dazzling than mine, and fair enough.  I would not have a clue how to be and what to do in that world. I sometimes wonder if one day she’ll emerge as a pop culture icon or writing brilliant books. There’s still time – as there is for the members of the new Push.

There’s also the question – who will end up as Paddy McGuinness? I’m not sure people would be necessarily lining up for that fate.

There remains, though, the distinct possibility that I am completely wrong and that there isn’t a “New Sydney Push” and this is just a group of people who write for new media and hang around with each other because they are mates.  There always remains that distinct possibility for anything I write.  Whatever is the case, though, they will remain being fascinating to watch.

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