Tuesday, 26 May 2009

It does my head in / What happened to the bigger picture?

It's all rather typical and generic. Everyone hates the same things and people. Sometimes different people and things. And sometimes they can even be convinced to change a previously held opinion, all because someone all of a sudden agreed with them, or did enough agreeable things over a period of time to sway that opinion to the other side. Or they get caught up in the emotion and half-eloquence created by someone who washes and learned how to spell.

What I am talking about? Well, in the lesser sense, football fandom and the ongoing Bitter/New Dawner trench warfare, but in a larger sense perhaps, Planet Earth. But there's humour to be found in it, humour and irony and sadness. Les Murray and SBS are despised for being pro A-League and forgetful of the old migrant and other NSL clubs, those that gave them their livelihoods for so many years. They are also accused of being anti A-League and everything that the new regime has tried to make happen. Mike Cockerill has gone from hated to loved, and loved to hated. Michael Lynch from love to hated and hated to loved, and to writing essays defending his coverage and lack of coverage to angry letter writers.

There are those who love the game above all, because without the game there is nothing. And there are those who reluctantly and not love their club above the game, for without clubs, there would only be nations, exhibition matches and park football. There are those from both sides who hate indiscriminately, and from who don't care what the evidence is. And there are those who put forth faux intellectual spins, Hephaestus inspired word and truth smithery. And then there are those caught in the middle. Those who embraced the A-League as their first true footballing love but who can see the Bitter side... and those Bitters who still attend their first love club but have an appreciation of the need to change. And we are forever painted in blacks and whites, ethnics and anglos, Bitters and New Dawners, reactionaries and other reactionaries.

Oh, and everyone being Against Modern Football, even though it's an inconsistent and never the same to two different people mix of terrace romanticism and excuse to bash the fuck out of whoever they feel like, because that's what real soccer support is all about, maaaaaaaaaan.

The broader fantasy land that is Australia, or at least huge swathes of it, says there is only one type of Australia. It is meat pies, it is kangaroos, it is Holden cars. It is Bradman, it is Digger, Aussie, Digger, Aussie, Dinkum and a flag with four foreign nations represented on it and the mistaken belief that we own the Southern Cross, or some neo-Nazi group does, or worse, Melbourne Victory fans. It is asking Asian people how long they've lived in Australia even though they were born here. It's not nearly illiterate factory wogs learning to speak different languages while working. Or babies brought up by neighbours of different ethnicities while you worked. It's not 25,000 at Olympic Park when the VFL was actively trying to kill off VFA clubs.

The NSL was, in its own typically bumbling fashion, so Australian that it was not Australian. It had the broadest range of people, and experiences, and food, and style, and all that tree hugging multicultural crap that we were told was an essential part of being Australia, that after many backward years of racism, the multicultural shift that had made Australia great. No. It was too Australian. Too pluralist, too ramshackle, too independent, too anarchic, too representative of everything the beloved mainstream didn't stand for, neat cul-de-sacs and sunny beaches to send back to the old country which was wasn't (but really was).

I'm sick of the crap and the hypocrisy, but I'm more sick of how it all misses the greater issues that this stuff taps into. That so many in this country have been duped into thinking multiculturalism means everyone acting the same, just eating different food. Reminds me of a line in a song, 'The New World Order is like the EPL; same old shit, just more expensive'. And if you stand a up like a nail, then you will be knocked down. And the Commonwealth Ban has sent me several important messages about my account through email, which is great except for one thing. I don't bank with the Commonwealth. And maybe doing Working Class Writing was a lot of fun, but it also made me even more negative. And maybe I saw or maybe I just thought I saw an old teacher of mine today, who believed in me and encouraged me, but I couldn't be sure it was him so I didn't say anything, and then came to the conclusion that if it was him, he didn't recognise me because of my hat and the fact that I was wearing a band t-shirt.

Which doesn't make any sense of course. And it's really tiring. And that looking at pictures of deepest space, or remembering lessons from Epicurus and Seneca derived from pop-philosopher/entrepreneur Alain De Botton... and thinking about a silly photocopied sheet of paper passed on to me by Mike Baylis who I haven't spoken to in 7 years and will likely never speak to again even though tracking him down is not an impossible task, from Lyle Stebbing, the aforementioned teacher, whose class I wasn't even in anymore because I'd done it the previous year, about existentialism... it changed my life, probably for the better, but it's taken a while for that fruit to ripen on that tree.


  1. terrific piece Paul.... though worried that you use Alain de Bottom as a source ...I suggest CP Cavafy Collected Poems by Daniel Mendelsohn ... oops forgot you write a Hellas blog.

  2. Hi John,

    I've just finished my semester 1 stuff and hopefully will get through Tsiolkas' The Slap soon after finally getting a copy yesterday. And after that maybe read one or two of the other stuff on my ever increasing backlog, before having to trawl through Offset submissions.

    When Readers Feast gets me my next voucher in a month or two, I'll pick up that Cavafy book, as I've been meaning to look into him... either that or go nuts on some e.e. cummings or John Forbes.

    Thanks for writing. And don't be so hard on our friend Alain, he's not all that bad!

  3. What did you think of The Slap? There was something about it I didn't like.

    Although I loved how he inserted a nasty Greek mother into the plot!

    1. I liked The Slap, despite whatever flaws there are with it and Tsiolkas' style in general. As good as Dead Europe was, it was also a dead end - there was no further that Tsiolkas could take that kind of work without ending up where certain French Anarchist writers ended up circa 1900.

      I liked that he moved away from exclusively Greek characters, and also worked on issues being dealt with in a contemporary time. Therefore he is making judgements about how we live now in the now, as opposed to looking back.

      It's also about as bracing an attack on the liberal middle class in Australia as you can get. People may focus on 'the slap' itself (while forgetting the second slap of love towards the end of the novel), but it's the discussion about public vs private education at the BBQ that's key for mine (and which is expanded upon in Barracuda).

      That by the end of the novel the only proper working class characters - Rosie and Gary - are effectively exiled from suburbia is absolutely worth focusing on, despite whatever negative feelings one may have towards them as parents and providers.

      20 years before the setting of this novel, Tsiolkas' characters were resolutely working class, even as that label and sense of solidarity was falling apart. The Slap is about what happens after working class solidarity gets killed - with the values of now middle class and nouveau riche second gen migrants leaving a lot to be desired (except for Bilal and Shamira, an interesting side plot in itself.)

      And what's even more pleasing about it is that at the end there is a kind of hope where in his previous work there'd been none to hold on to. Richie surviving his suicide attempt, indeed his desire to want to survive, is a huge turning point in Tsiolkas' work.

    2. As an aside, while Tsiolkas was working on The Slap, he sent in an early version of some of the novel to be used as his contribution as feature writer for Victoria University's student arts journal Offset.


      The 'Luke' section of 'Luke and Shamira' ended up in the novel, but the Shamira section ended up being altered. This is a much fuller version of the then Sammi's conversion to Islam.


A few notes on comments.

We've had a lot of fun over the years with my freewheeling comments policy, but all good things must come to an end. Therefore I will no longer be approving comments that contain personal abuse of any sort.

Still, if your post doesn't get approved straight away, it's probably because I haven't seen it yet.

As usual, publication of a comment does not mean endorsement of its content.