September 2007


SO those of you who are regular visitors here have probably been a bit… well, I won’t fill in that blank for you. But it’s been a while since I’ve felt able to post something substantial, for a multitude of reasons, some of which, if you’re a regular, you know about. I have been hoping to get back into the swing of it really soon. But at the moment my life is about to hit chaos: marking, a paper to finish, another to write (well, another few, but one sooner than the others), an abstract for a book to write, a chapter to finish and an annual review (gulp!) to prepare for. Chaos, I tells ya! But given that the ‘I really ought to do a decent blog post sometime soon’ stress is one I have a bit more control over, I think I should set it aside for a little while. I do mean a little while. Hopefully less than two weeks. Cross your fingers and toes for me!

MICHELE Le Doeuff:

Discretion is obligatory when one slips into the room where a doctoral viva is being held. Indeed Sorbford University has inherited from its British past the conviction that such thing should not be public at all. Its French past, on the other hand, has instilled into it the certainty that only silent witnesses lacking the faculty of memory may legitimately be present at this delicate moment in someone’s life. Their role will be to give a friendly pat on the back afterwards to this small woman who is presently perched on a chair like a nervous bird and defending a thesis on Kant weighing several kilos. Opposite her on the platform is a long desk covered with a heavy-looking material, like brocade. Behind this desk sit five gentlemen all in a row; these are the panel of examiners. One of them is speaking at this moment and, indisputably, he can see her. Can she see him? Is she allowing herself to observe the shape of his chin, of his ears and hands? Has she even noticed the slightly odd tone of his voice, which is saying, ‘Madame, in your bibliography you have omitted to cite Nabert. How, Madame, could you have forgotten to cite Nabert? Nabert whose fine Kantian beard everyoen remembers. And when I speak of Nabert’s Kantian beard (pause), I do not mean ‘a fine beard like Kant’s’ (pause), for like everyone else I know that Kant was cleanshaven. I simply mean that all the great commentators on Kant have always worn fine patriarchal beards like Nabert’s.’

Addressed to all, this book is particularly dedicated to those young women preparing to enter a world where it will be held against them that they do not belong to the side of the Almighty, and thus that they believe and spread the belief that intelligence lies elsewhere. (Hipparchia’s Choice, xi)

I don’t doubt that this kind of insult is this unsubtle these days; nonetheless, the point, I think, stands, as Haslanger [pdf] reminds us. Actually, Le Doeuff’s humour and wit are a pleasure to come back to:

Since we are moving towards Europe in any case, intellectually as in other ways, it would be most unwise to leave our new-born community with nothing but godfathers who are more than happy to be all men together. Imagining what these heirs of Hegel (who describes women as the enemy within), of Tocqueville (who thinks it is not such a bad thing for them to be sad), of Vives (who approves of those who deprive women of shoes so that they have to stay at home) and of Samuel Johnson (who compares women who speak in public to dancing poodles) might be capable of doing with all of us, men and women, if we leave all the decision making to them is definitely a cause for serious anxiety. (xii)

and in the latter, ‘acknowledgement’-y part of her Preface she says:

As for those men and women whom I should like to thank, ‘there are so many of you that it is impossible to name you all individually, and it would be shameful to leave anyone out’, as Cicero said to those who brought him back from exile. I hope that in this book you will see the love of life with which you inspire me. A debt greater than words can say is sweet indeed. And then I could not write here what one so often reads elsewhere: ‘Lastly, I should like to thank my wife, who typed the seven successive versions of my manuscript; who so graciously agreed that I should spend a great deal fo my time abroad for my research; who helped me by reading a great number of general works for me, including some in the Bibliotheque Nationale; my dear wife, whose good humour has been my constant support; occasionally bringing me back to the level of daily life as not the least of her virtues and contributions to my work.’

As Virginia Woolf said, the truer the facts the better the fiction: I beg the reader to note that no similarity between the fruits of my imagination and real situations is accidental. (xiii)

Ah, razor sharp and generous… what more can I say? I love it!

WildlyParenthetical, honouring International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Pirates, Flogging Molly, rum, men in eye makeup, swords and Johnny Depp; what better? Enjoy!

(forgive the pixel-y vid!)

WHAT do you think, people? Spam, or not spam?

Hi, Im from Melbourne.
Please check out these references which say everything that all the Continental philosophers (male & female) said—and much more besides—and with complete certainty about what He is communicating.

1. www.mummerybook.org
2. www.daplastique.com
3. http://global.adidam.org/books/eleutherios.html
4. www.kneeoflistening.com
5. www.dabase.org/twoarmc.htm

I’m a little bemused—and amused—by the specificity. It’s… erm… good that you’re from Melbourne, thinks I. They have quality caffeinated beverages in that corner of the world. And also good that you’re including those without cocks in amongst that testosterone-heavy bunch regularly called “Continental philosophers”. I tend to be distrustful of ‘complete certainty’ at the best of times, however, and also of pronouns that are capitalised without the excuse of immediately following a full stop. All the moreso when I chase the links and discover that someone seems to think that I’m in desperate need of a) a guru, b) “Eastern wisdom” and c) leaving my body behind in order to achieve… um… Paradise.

Is it just straight-up sluttishness [Tongue! Cheek!] to proclaim that actually, I quite enjoy being embodied, and that this Paradise sounds rather hellish as a result? Or shall I go the conceptual route all over again, point out that this is exactly what Nietzsche meant when he rejected the Platonic two-worlds hypothesis, and that even poor Descartes, who keeps being made responsible for the Cartesian split, thought that conceiving of the body as a container for the mind was more than a little bit dubious?

Nah, let’s stick with apparent sluttishness…

FOR the course I’m tutoring this semester, we’re reading Bluff Rock: Autobiography of a Massacre by Katrina Schlunke. It’s an engagement with the stories woven around Bluff Rock, a big granite outcrop in the New England, an area of New South Wales where Schlunke grew up. At the heart is a concern with the engagement between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people around and as part of ‘settlement,’ most particularly the massacre(s) of Aboriginal people that occurred as part of this process. It is, in the end, a thoroughly fictocritical account, a non-fiction novel. Christos Tsiolkas (who wrote Dead Europe and Loaded, later made into a movie called Head On) offers glowing praise:

Bluff Rock is analytical and wise, by which I mean the scholarship and research is rigorous but also committed to the historian’s task of making argument lucid and understandable. The book is also impassioned and honest, by which I mean it is driven by the ethical obligation to explore racist interpretations of the pas tin order to illuminate how racism functions in the words, actions and psyches of our present.

Katrina Schlunke’s book achieves what many of us hope from cultural theory, that through an investigation of language, words and culture, we come to a questioning of history, politics and the treacherous relationship between memory and myth. Her objective terrain is the contested arena of racist war in Australia, but her terrain is also how our ways of seeing race, colonialism, being white and being Aborigine have been formed by cultural forms and expressions that have made us repress signs of both violence and resistance in the landscape.

It’s an interesting book, a beautiful challenge to the deathly whiteness of Keith Windschuttle’s attempts at ‘Australian history,’ valuable also because it demonstrates that an awareness of one’s own whiteness permits a new and different way of doing history, one which need not conclude in guilty paralysis, nor reiterate innocence in the face of destruction.

An excerpt:

The saved child

Coming on them on the side of a deep precipice, the avenging party attacked them and wiped them out, with the exception of one small piccaninny. The little chap ran to Bill Bates and clung to his legs and was spared. William Bates kept and reared him (the boy). He was always grateful and useful to him in after years.

The Aborigines withdrew to higher ground until they found themselves between a precipice and their pursuers. The entire group, women and children were driven over the edge—with the exception of one small boy, the only survivor. This boy, incidentally, was brought up very successfully by one of the white men involved. They developed a strong feeling of devotion to each other.

This was also a story I was told in Tenterfield. The story was that the child grew up, and when dead, was buried at the foot of the Bluff. One might see the grave; I found nothing. William Bates’ son says nothing about having an adopted Aboriginal brother. Campbell (the author of the second quote above, which is from his thesis) acknowledges no source for his statement; it could well have been the collected oral histories from the Tenterfield Historical Society records (as in the first quote above). There is no supporting objective evidence in the shape of graves or in the shape of adults who have come forward to tell of their unusual upbringing, but the story keeps on being told and written. Campbell’s confident assertion—in a thesis, no less—even makes it official history. But if it is not true, why would people invent or believe such a tale? What does this story do?

First, it individualises morality. While a group was chasing and killing, when one child appealed to one of these killers, he ‘saved’ the child. This same man, we assume, could not and did not wish to stop killing all the others, but he did save one child. It wants to tell us that these men were not entirely monsters; that they also had a fundamental humanity. That close up, when appealed to directly, one man’s choice was to save a child. But could we call this ‘humanity’? Is this how the sensibility that led to the more systematic Stolen Generations began? When an Aboriginal child was told it was lucky to have been ‘saved’, stolen up from death, ‘rescued’ from ‘wild blacks’ to become ‘grateful’ and ‘useful’, ‘devoted’ and successfully ‘brought up‘? But if one child could be saved, why not all of the group? One can begin to see why the Romantic imagination strained within colonialism. The innocent child saved but the rest killed—why? The sentiment attached to children frayed and played itself out alongside the raw and unromantic slaughter.

Children were also involved in other massacres. About two hours from Bluff Rock is Myall Creek, where in 1838 (six years before Irby et al. carried out their ‘punishment’ [in the massacre described above]) Kilmeister et al. were slaughtering a group of children, women and men. Some of the perpetrators, all current or ex-convicts, were eventually hanged amongst general outrage that any white man should died for killing Indigenous Australians. They were not found guilty at their first trail, which was for killing an Aboriginal known as ‘Daddy’, but in their second trial they were found guilty on five counts of th e’murder of an Aboriginal Black Child who name was to the Attorney-General unknown.’ This child had been identified by its rib bones, a jaw bone and some teeth. In Tales of Old Times: Early Australian Incident and Adventure (1903), Chomley records Anderson (the hutkeeper) saying about the group on Myall Creek that:

There was a little child at the back of the hut when they were tying this party; and when the blacks and party were going away, this little child as I thought, was going to follow the party with its mother, but I took hold of it and put it into the hut and stopped it from going.

However, in his first sworn statement about the event, Anderson says the following:

All the black at the station were taken away except Davy and his brother Billy, two Black gins a pickininny [a little boy] and two little boys who saved themselves when the horsemen were coming up by jumping into the creek. The Men left a black Gin with me saying she was a good looking Gin. They gave another to Davy. The little child came from behind the hut when they were taking the blacks away as I thought to follow them. I put him into the hut and shut the door—they did not come back after him.

One of the reasons, then, that Anderson (and Davy) didn’t act to stop the larger slaughter was that they were given women to do with what they wished. It could also be said therefore that Kilmeister ‘saved’ two Aboriginal women—but they were saved only to be raped? used? by others. There was another woman ‘saved’ from this massacre by another man. She was the mother of Charly, a small boy (noted for his ‘familiar and friendly way’) whom Davy had tried to save—but ‘he would go along with mammy’. Charly was killed, but his mother, according to other evidence, was picked out by John Blake, who kept her, saved her, for ‘future use’. Like putting pennies in the bank—this woman was ‘saved’ as only the most brutal white economic metaphor can imply. The colonial rationality of economy. Did this lone woman, the mother of at least one of the suggested ten to twelve children killed, imagine that she was saved in any other sense? Was death by slaughter something worse in her psychology and cosmology than knowing all her group had been beheaded, stabbed, burnt? Would it have been better than being taken away from ehr country, used by Blake and perhaps others? Did she think she was saved? Might there also have been Aboriginal women taken from others of the massacres carried out around Tenterfield? And were children also used sexually and economically? What did Bates, of ‘The Bluff Rock Massacre’, intend for his ‘saved’ child? Was the child of Bluff Rock saved because a dead child had hanged the others who had massacred at Myall Creek? Had the word come back from the Sydney—not only don’t tell anyone about killing Aboriginal people, but particularly don’t tell of killing children?

The child of ‘The Bluff Rock Massacre’ had seen (we assume) his closest relations and friends ‘wiped out’, but he ran toward the legs of one of these shooters and was ‘spared’. This little boy ran across and made his physical presence felt to a man holding a gun. The little boy clung to the man’s legs and hte man couldn’t shoot. At that moment the man could have thrown the boy aside and shot him, but at that moemnt he didn’t. And so the story goes that this unnamed boy was always ‘grateful and useful’—he had been saved up for later, careful, use. He didn’t send those who massacred to be hanged.

In the early years of carrying to and from the coast the blacks would occasionally raid the teams. When Bates’ teams were threatened, this boy would help to defend them and would persuade the wild blacks not to attack, so that his [Bates’] loads were never raided.

And so the saved becomes the saviour on a regular basis. (pp. 104-108)

YES, I lied. This morning I got up and suddenly felt like going to the protest after all. The whole idea of being intimidated by the potential behaviour of other protesters as it was being exaggerated by the media and police and government was too much. I wanted some way of staying further away so I could have some space to assess, but once I got to Central, where I was meeting up with friends (we had been planning on going to the Greenpeace/NGO Media Centre), it seemed it wasn’t just me who had had a change of heart. So we just jumped on a train for one stop.

It started on the train. We jumped into a carriage with two police men, and three yoof activisty types who had two painted barrels with not much in them. Apparently the police felt that it was necessary to not just go through the barrels, but have one of the guys open out the banner that they had. Yes, kids, this is where bombs are hidden. The terrifying potency of words. (Or tomato sauce…)

It was extremely strange. We arrived, along with a fair number of other people, and headed up the stairs from Town Hall station, the ones that come out on the corner. Coming out, I was struck by, first, the row of police buses lined up on Park St to block off George St, the QVB and half of York St. Two helicopters overhead. There were a few people gathered near the statue of the Queen, apparently watching. The actual crowd of protesters were mostly out the front of the town hall, and around in the Square next to it. Bizarrely, along the edge of the pavement on Park St, a row of police officers stood, an arm’s length from each other. We were looking around, trying to decide where to head, when one of them suddenly said, “In or out. That’s it. In or out. Once you’re in, you can’t get out.” Belligerence embodied. Lovely.

So we headed into the crowd, bantering about the state of exclusion that was being produced by their line. Also, bizarrely, it struck me that the protesters were being marked as entirely distinct from the ‘spectators’ who were standing happily on the other side of Druitt/Park St. ‘Pick. Take on an identity we’ve already framed for you (as violent).’ It was the usual protest crowd, really, except for this barricade of police keeping everyone off Druitt/Park St. (This was particularly weird because the new and revised and police-OK’d route was along Park St.) We had lost one of our group, so we called, and he came up to the line of police officers, about to join us, when two of them slammed up their arms to stop him. We just stared at them, and they said, “You have to go down that way.” So he made his way four cops down the line, and then abruptly one of them said, “Alright, in you go,” and stepped out of his way. Completely random.

We decided that staying away from the unpredictable cops, especially given that they didn’t seem to be able to communicate like other people using voices, was probably a good plan—as one of our bunch said, “I’d rather be caught between protesters and protesters than protesters and police.” After a bit of hanging around the Queer Bloc, we all turned around and started making our way along what was now, of course, probably the shortest protest route known to humankind. We were nearish the front, and there was a whole lot of cheerful yelling of slogans, clapping and cheering. I have to say, though, that compared to some protests I’ve been at, it was a pretty subdued kind of affair. We made our way up Park St, battling various forms of media people, many carrying cameras which apparently license one to become the rock the river flows around. I’m pretty sure it was every cross street that was blocked off by the same huge police buses. At the corner of Park and Castlereagh, we sat down on the dampish ground for a while, still chanting various carefully broad slogans, giving everyone a chance to catch up. There was an Aboriginal man who sang and spoke to the crowd a bit about Jabiluka and about Howard’s plan to take his land. We jumped up again, and headed off. Then we reached Hyde Park pretty quickly, where the organisation was a little less fabulous than it could have been: the planned stage and PA system hadn’t arrived (I don’t think they’d been allowed to bring it into the Park earlier, or something). We hung around for quite a while, doing some petition-signing, hiding under umbrellas, dancing, chatting away, while more people poured into the park. Eventually, we decided to head up to the PA which had been set up near the fountain, but there still wasn’t a whole lot going on, and there was some keenness for food, so we decided to leave. This was when we became properly aware of the police presence.

We headed down towards Market St, since that was closest. We reached the roadside at Elizabeth St, and became aware that there were police—I’m not entirely sure how thorough the body armour has to be before it’s considered riot gear, but they were wearing protective gloves, leg and ankle protectors and carrying batons—and when I say there were police, I mean that they were lining the entire street. From somewhere up where St. James Road meets up with Elizabeth St, all the way down to where Park St meets Elizabeth, there was a police officer standing every meter. It looked like this (which I think is a photo taken from the other side of the road, but I can’t be positive), or, better, like this, or, alternatively, like this. There were more lining the other side of the street, more in clumps outside particular buildings. Performing, as we observed, security. However much the evident treatment of a bunch of peaceful protesters as a security threat might have been pretty annoying, everyone refused to be drawn. The overkill was amazing. I heard a figure of 2000 protesters. Terrifying, I’m sure. (ETA: Organisers are claiming 10,000. I have no idea.)

“What’s going on?” we asked someone on the side of the road.

“There’s something coming through. They’ll let us through in fifteen minutes.”

“Something? What something?”

“A motorcade.”

Huh. A motorcade. At the time it seemed like just another excuse, but Flickr comments seem to suggest it was for the protection of Helen Clark, the NZ PM. Yeah. We all threatened to move to New Zealand when John Howard was re-elected because she’s the worst ever. C’mon, I know she’s not the most fabulous, but do we even use the phrase ‘anti-NZ sentiment’?! One of the police told us that we could get out where the protest had come in, along Park St. So we wandered along the bizarre line of police. As we watched, two women in conservative dress and dragging rolling suitcases were permitted across the road. Apparently a suitcase is an indication of trust-worthiness! One of the cops was vaguely cheerful and friendly (even if in a kind of stupid way, joking that they were off to play hockey after they were done there) when we took a picture. He even seemed to be mildly amused at the ridiculousness of the situation, commenting on our hesitation at coming (too?) close to the line of police. Since the ludicrousness of the whole thing was what struck me, I wasn’t too irritable at this (though others, I don’t doubt, would have been). It did certainly demonstrate that the belligerence of every police officer we saw before and after was entirely unnecessary—obvious, yes. When we reached the corner of Park and Elizabeth, we found that actually, the rear of the march must have been rounded up by the police as they came into Hyde Park, because Park St was completely inaccessible. The line of police was even denser here, and half of them looked a bit anxious, not least because we weren’t the only ones saying things like, “So we can’t get through here?” The crowd that had gathered in the expectation of being able to leave was substantial.

“No, you have to go down there.”

“We just came from there, and they told us to come up here.”

“Well, I don’t know what to tell you, I’m just standing here.”

I picked out the dude with the radio hanging off his chest and said, “So, can you find out for us where we can get out, then?”

“I told you, you need to go back that way-”

“We just came from there, and they said to come down here.”

“Go that way then,” he said.

Someone else said, “We just came from there, they told us to come here.”

“Well, that’s the way out.”

Patience. Deep breath. “Can you call someone else and find out where we can get out? We just came from there, and they sent us this way.”

Eventually another copper turned up, and said, “No, you have to go over that way,” pointing diagonally across the Park. After a bit we gave up trying to get anything more out of them, and made our way across the Park, down onto College St and then into the south, open section of Hyde Park. Big, totally unnecessary loop. The police presence keeping the protesters in was astonishing, even more marked when we were wandering through the Park looking back at the northern section, lined as it was by police. It was, as a friend remarked, an extremely effective way of being provocative, and I wouldn’t be that surprised if after we had left, people had gotten so frustrated about not being able to get out of the Park, they’d had an actual go at the police. It’s pretty annoying, especially if you need to use the loo!

Once your identity as a protester had been established, you were forced to permanently throw your lot in with the rest of the rally, with no option to leave. It’s an extremely effective technique, because it means that those who have absolutely no interest in participating in something violent would have had no way at all of disengaging had that been the direction in which it had turned. Worse, if such a situation had arisen, and you tried to leave, you would have had to take on the police lines in order to not take part, caught between the police and whatever violent moment had taken place. Movement is precisely what’s at stake.
Interestingly, of course, I saw absolutely no sign of violence at all. None. I wish I could contact the mainstream media just to say that, but sadly, it’s not really that newsworthy! More intriguing still was the leaflet I’d been handed while at Town Hall:

“Reclaim your city! If you want to join us to reclaim our city meet at the pink flag at Hyde Park after the rally. We will decide together if we have enough people to enter the excluded zone.”

It would seem that the organisers had found a perfect management technique, one as problematic as useful. I’m sure there’s more to be said about this…

The one (? maybe I’m being pessimistic) really actually hopeful moment in a day kinda marked by an atmosphere of resignation, happened near the beginning. We were coming up the stairs from under Town Hall. A drumming group were going at it near the top, and as we surfaced, we saw one cop’s legs. He was standing as part of the barricade line, and whilst the top half of his body betrayed no movement at all, his knees bent one at a time in time with the beat, hips swaying just slightly. It made me grin, and grin, and grin…

I SPENT a few hours in the middle of Sydney today. My response to the politely worded signs on public transport—they say something like “To reduce inconvenience, try to reduce trips to the city during this time—was a combination of sincere political disapproval of the fact that between these signs and the ‘protesters are going to be violent! violent! violent!’ that’s been coming out of the prime minister’s mouth and repeated in the media ad infinitum, public space was being swiftly made a space of (more) tenuous safety and fear, and a completely juvenile ‘Fuck you, buddy!’ I went in partly to satisfy my juvenile urges, partly to see exactly what the city was like, and mostly to meet up with a friend who works at one of the truly hideous insurance-style companies or something down near-ish Circular Quay for lunch. I caught the train in, and was surprised at the number of people on it. But in the city was strange – the QVB (which for those who don’t know it is a large, old, fancy-shmance kind of shopping centre right in the middle of the city, with designerwear available on the higher floors, leadlight in the windows, patterned tiled floor and a bizarre clock thing) was much quieter than usual, and the combined absence of store lights shining out of windows into the main thoroughfare made it much duskier than usual inside (and amusingly though unsurprisingly a bit more pleasant for it!). I bought a coffee (Bacio’s coffee, for my money, is the only decent coffee to be had in the inner city—that I’ve found, anyway—which is why I’m regularly tempted to move to Melbourne and spend so much time in the Inner West) and decided to walk down to where I was meeting Sam, since I had the time.

Of course, it promptly started raining. But it was strange, as I made my way through the Myer Centre and bought an umbrella on Pitt St… the combination of shops being closed and the far fewer people than usual made even this shopping bit of the city feel much much darker, and really dead. It only got weirder as I wandered further into the business section toward Circular Quay. I’ve never seen so little traffic in there, and there were even a couple of self-important siren moments from police on motorbikes (I couldn’t help thinking that seriously, wherever they were going, there wasn’t really anyone who needed to be warned! The streets were practically empty!) There were entire streets with no cars, because they’ve been prohibited in the ‘restricted area’ (which is apparently where I was), the vast majority of the occasional shops were closed, and there were only a few people wandering the streets. But in front of almost every building stood a security guard or two, looking incredibly bored in most cases. One of them said to me, “Hey, you’re not working today, are you?” “Oh, no,” I said, “Just meeting a friend for lunch.” “Not much open today,” he said with a big grin. “No, I know, but hopefully we’ll find something.” The exchange felt odd—the inner city really isn’t the space where these kinds of friendly nothings usually happen. And especially not with people who are explicitly there to help guard against the expected property damage those ‘crazy protesters’ will, naturally, of course, cause…

It got more bizarre as I got closer to Circular Quay. I hadn’t really thought much about the logistics of the infamous Wall, but as it turns out, the main thoroughfare into the… I don’t actually know what it’s called… the ultra-restrictive area, down by Circular Quay, seems to be Philip Street. This means that for a few blocks before the actual area we’re not allowed into, there’s fences running along the edge of the pavement, preventing anyone unwanted from getting in with the traffic. Each of these sections can be closed off into individual little chicken runs, and they are thoroughly guarded by police (one baby-faced police officer looking rather stressed about directing traffic.) There’s even a very exciting LED sign which tells everyone that the right lane is the ‘vehicle search’ lane, and Channel 9 and Laurie Oakes (so Sam told me, I don’t really watch commercial news) taking full advantage of the police cars+famous fence+helpful LED sign+entrance to ultra-restricty area to sensationalise.

And yes, Sam and I had enormous difficulty finding lunch, and wound up in the trough below Myer (which was much less trough-like today thanks to the much reduced crowds). Leaving the city proved more difficult: the bus stops along the main street, George St, were all closed and the signs a bit useless for where I was headed (“Where the fuck does the 412 go from?” Careful reading of sign. “It’s not on here. Awesome. That’s right. Doesn’t exist. Stupid APEC. Stupid sign.” Apparently the political is not just personal, but petulant! It took me 40 minutes to get to Newtown, damn the ridiculous reduction of services which has nothing to do with anything but discouraging people from going into the city, I swear!) I heard a couple of older women reading one of the ‘This is a Restricted Area’ signs, and saying to each other, “Well, we just have to get to our bus, so we need to cross the road…” They were so clearly ever so slightly annoyed and somewhat anxious that they were doing something wrong in just crossing George Street. Ugh.

It would seem that most of Sydney, then, took the approved option, and opted out. Lots of me thinks this is a good plan—if you don’t have to work, then why would you?—but I was a little horrified at how few people were in the inner city especially on a public holiday when people usually make the most of the day off to hang out with friends and family and go and eat and shop in the city or have picnics at the Botanic Gardens (closed, of course!). It would seem that either people were willing to stay out of the city because they were requested, or they were vaguely scared. I saw a few people who were part of the APEC contingent (with special tags on their backpacks and accents), and it felt very odd that this quiet, quiet city was the sense they were getting of Sydney. I wonder how many of them have seen the campaigns to keep people away, from the public holiday, the TV and other media ads, the police statements to the media to John Howard’s ‘best foot forward’ and ‘scary scary protesters’ lines… It demonstrated incredibly clearly how much control fear can grant.

Or that’s how I saw it. We’ll see how tomorrow is…. For those sweethearts out there who’re worried about my physical health, don’t stress, I’m not planning on protesting in quite the usual way (still being a bit careful with myself after my clumsiness earlier this year led to the expense of a broken tooth). There’s another event organised by Greenpeace I’m attending—more focussed on discussion of what kinds of decisions are being made at APEC, and a fair way away from where the action’s going to be. I might poke my head out just to see how big the protest itself is, but that’ll be about it—I’m just intrigued to see whether the majority of people have been scared off by the fear-mongers, or whether my irritation has affected others so deeply they’re willing to risk getting a bit broken to articulate their right to dissent… How much will they tolerate?

ETA: It looks like I may have been wandering in and out of the crosshairs of a sniper today. Wonderful. Hat tip to da hoyden(s).

Next Page »