So endearing: Poster Boy

Attend:

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Those posters are by Peter Drew, an Australian artist (b. 1983).  Last month BlackInc Books published his autobiography Poster Boy.  Fortunately for me Wollongong Library acquired it on 13 August.  So quick!

The publisher’s blurb:

45420509._SY475_Peter Drew’s posters are a familiar sight across Australia – his ‘Real Australians Say Welcome’ and ‘Aussie’ campaigns took on lives of their own, attaining cult status and starting conversations all over the country. But who made them, and why?

In this irresistible and unexpected memoir, Peter Drew searches for the answers to these questions. He traces the links between his creative and personal lives, and discovers surprising parallels between Australia’s dark, unacknowledged past and the unspoken conflict at the core of his own family.

Packed full of Peter Drew’s memorable images, Poster Boy is an intelligent, funny and brutally honest dive into the stew of individual, family and national identity. It’s about politics and art, and why we need them both. And it’s about making a mark.

I really have found the book irresistible!  The personality that comes through is so attractive. And so honest, as another reader on Goodreads has noted.

Honest as fukk and raw as ya mama’s favourite blue steak. Some real good quotes about the way the world be for real for real. Well done Peter Drew, whoever the hell you are, two first names do not unmaketh the man after all, thanks for writing this – I got a lot out of it.

There is an Epilogue “Ten Rules for Great Propaganda”.  With this blog in mind, not to mention Facebook and Twitter, I rather relate to, and will more consciously practise, this one:

Irritate Both Extremes

Try to pull your audience towards the centre by irritating people at both extremes of an issue. Unless you’re being attacked by the extremists on both sides, you’re doing something wrong.

As Molly Meldrum would say, “Do yourself a favour…”

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Free E-book from ANU: The Lives of Stories

My free e-books from ANU Press include some excellent publications on Indigenous Australian History, Emma Dortins, The Lives of Stories: Three Aboriginal-Settler Friendships (2018) being one. The three friendships are: Arthur Phillip and Bennelong (see cover), James Morrill and the Birri-gubba people of Queensland, and Windradyne and the Suttor family of Brucedale, Bathurst NSW. The first story is the best known, the third less well known by most Australians. The Windradyne/Suttor story features in Stan Grant’s excellent family story, The Tears of Strangers (Harper Collins 2002), which I read recently courtesy of Wollongong Library.

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The Lives of Stories is based on a History thesis written at Sydney University between 2007 and 2012. It blends meticulous research based in documents, some revealed for the first time, with consideration from a number of critical perspectives. I found the result enriched my understanding both of the strictly historical matters and the theoretical frameworks around their interpretation over time and place. In her concluding chapter Emma Dortins says:

When I set out, I was on the alert for change; I wanted to hear the new interpretations and fresh perspectives on these old stories that I felt would flow from their retelling in changing social and political climates. Initially, characterisation of the differences between versions came more easily to me than plumbing the meanings of the many layers of continuity that had been maintained through repetition. I was most flummoxed by a story that had not changed when I expected that it would have. However, I gradually came to see that the patterns of repetition and familiarity told their own story….

It is the activity of sharing stories, and working on their meanings, that can, at times, bring people together to enact social healing, and may also highlight different desired futures. It is the activity of sharing stories that continues to lay down strata of meaning about ancestors, past events and ancient places. These three stories are part of a conversation about the past in which there will be no last word.

Here is the accepted burial site of Windradyne of the Wiradjuri people at Brucedale, near Bathurst in NSW.

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I recall being part of a Sydney High history excursion to Hill End back in 1986 — the year of Halley’s Comet — when the bus we were on came to a halt so Brian Hodge, local Hill End historian and then Head of History at Sydney Boys High, could tell the story of Brucedale and the Suttor family. That came back to me as I read the last third of this book. Here Emma Dortins outlines the story:

The opening episode of the First Australians television series concluded with a story of friendship, jointly told by Wiradjuri Elder Dinawan Dyirribang, formerly Bill Allen, and David Suttor, owner of Brucedale, a cattle farming property near Bathurst. Suttor introduced his great–great grandfather, William—a 17-year-old, ambitious to succeed in the new world he saw opening up to him as more extensive settlement was permitted beyond the Great Dividing Range in the early 1820s. Dinawan Dyirribang introduced his ancestor, Windradyne—a fiery young warrior, family orientated and strong in his culture, who met the newcomers with dignity. Wiradjuri people guided William and his father, George, to land with good water, and Brucedale was established. William was left to manage the property with instructions from his father to respect the Wiradjuri. He took these instructions to heart, learning some of the Wiradjuri language. When violence ignited under the pressure of rapidly increasing settler and stock numbers in Wiradjuri country, the ties between the Suttor family and Windradyne and his people held.

A flashpoint came when a farmer offered Wiradjuri people some of his potatoes, but then, when some of the same people returned the following day to help themselves, he rounded up an armed posse to help him ‘defend’ his crop. Several of Windradyne’s family members were killed. Soon afterwards, Windradyne and a group of warriors surrounded William Suttor’s hut at night. William came to the door and spoke with Windradyne in the Wiradjuri language. After extended discussion, the warriors departed. Thirteen other settlers were speared and burned to death in their huts over the following month, and the stock of many farmers scattered, but Brucedale was spared. The settlers retaliated, killing Wiradjuri men, women and children. Governor Brisbane declared martial law in the Bathurst district on 14 August 1824, and the Wiradjuri faced a military contingent, as well as continued action by landowners and their servants.

Eventually, perhaps recognising the toll the conflict was having on his people, Windradyne and 130 other warriors walked to Parramatta to attend the governor’s annual Aboriginal conference and negotiated peace with Governor Brisbane. Windradyne returned to live on his own land, which included Brucedale, and was buried there in the Wiradjuri way. The story closed with Dinawan Dyirribang calling for recognition of the harm and pain caused on both sides of the conflict, and David Suttor thanking the Wiradjuri people for their mercy on that fateful night in 1824; without their goodwill, Suttor said, ‘we might not be here today’.1

As the voices of Dinawan Dyirribang and David Suttor entwine, their story of friendship takes on a redeeming quality, transcending the larger narrative of war of which it is a small part. The viewer is left with a sense of hope…

I really commend this excellent book. See also Professional Historians Association NSW & ACT.

This book emerged from a scholarly endeavour but is infused by Dortins’ experience as a public historian. She has engaged with the academic literature but also with local history groups and, through her own professional life, with the policy and practice of heritage. From this combined experience emerges an important consideration of how history is made and the role it plays in the nation. Dortins does not want to burden these three stories of Aboriginal-settler friendships with too much responsibility but does demonstrate how they contribute to the reconciliation movement. Her book also shows that history cannot be made just once; it must be retained and repeated and reassessed.

Sydney stabbings and more on China

Kudos to the three young English chaps who wrestled Mert Ney, the crazed stabber, to the ground in the Sydney CBD yesterday. Riveting footage from Channel 7 too. It appears this was not the terrorist attack most of us watching at home would have first thought, but obviously a very sad and bad event nonetheless. I was rather taken by a vox pop on Channel 7 an hour or so after the event. The interviewee turned out to be an American who had been in Sydney for just one day. He said: “At home he would have had a gun. It’s time we did what you have done.” Referring to Australia’s gun laws.

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Now things continue to heat up in Hong Kong, and as I said yesterday I watch in some trepidation. Beijing has made some ominous noises and posted some blatantly obvious video threats, the latest of tanks massing in an “exercise” in neighbouring Shenzhen. Meanwhile this morning the ABC has revealed more examples of Chinese soft propaganda influencing Australian politicians, including in this case a government member. I do think it is something of a beat-up though. Yesterday’s Herald recycled as a front page story the views of “outspoken author Clive Hamilton.” I do recommend you look if you can at Linda Jaivin, “Red detachment: Is Chinese culture beyond reach?” (Australian Foreign Affairs Issue 5, February 2019) for a critique (pp. 45-49) of Clive Hamilton. “Hamilton, who does not speak or read Chinese, doesn’t get everything right about China.” She goes on to demolish his tendentious interpretation of that anthem of the Tiananmen protestors, Hou Dejian’s “Children of the Dragon.” And Linda Jaivin is better placed than almost anyone else in Australia to make a judgement about that!

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Hou Dejian, second from the right, Tiananmen June 1989

See also Linda Jaivin on Goodreads:

This is a very frustrating book. Clive Hamilton discusses some very serious issues about China’s relationship with Australia, issues that need to be discussed and addressed. But he undercuts his argument with rather tiresome name-calling (anyone who would take a different view to him is a member of the “China lobby”, a “dupe”, an “apologist” and so on) and other tropes that reek of the harangue, including the unsourced ascription of motivation to people who do or say things with which he disagrees. He also makes the occasional but telling error of fact, judgement or interpretation due to his reliance on interpreters and informants for understanding aspects of Chinese culture, society and politics.

His interpretation of the song ‘Descendants of the Dragon’ (also called ‘Heirs of the Dragon’) by Hou Dejian is a perfect example of this; my book The Monkey and the Dragon, about Hou Dejian, tells the fascinating and complex story of this song, which is far from the ethno-nationalistic propaganda Hamilton assumes it to be, although it has certainly been used that way; he is seemingly unaware that it was sung on Tiananmen Square in 1989 by students and by Hou, who changed the line that Hamilton quotes, and banned for years. Is this important? It’s a small detail, but it’s one that illustrates the flaws in the book, which tends to trample on nuance in its rush to hammer home its argument.

Linda Jaivin also commends to those interested in Chinese dissident views Geremie Barme’s site chinaheritage.net. I endorse that.

We should not, should we, be surprised at the fact of China attempting by hard, soft, or sneaky means to influence opinion overseas about its policies and actions. Have not others done the same for decades? What about Voice of America? What about Fox News? What about the CIA? And one could name Russia, and Saudi Arabia — which finances all kinds of things including here in Australia, including Islamic schools. Surely the thing is for us to be discerning and critical, aware that there are all kinds of influencers out there constantly seeking to shape public opinion. And of course our security people should be on the lookout for foreign interference or cyber attacks, wherever they might come from.

On which I commend another oldie but very goodie, which I have been reading courtesy of Project Gutenberg. Just finished it at the weekend in fact: Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion, NY 1922. Dated of course, but surprisingly relevant, even in this age of the internet and tweeting Presidents.

Finally, let me share again what democratic China might some day look like, even if not in my lifetime. I posted Death of a Hero a while back. I repost now Liu Xiaobo’s brave manifesto:

What did he write?

Many things, but his participation in the Charter of Human Rights in China (Charter 08) has been the cause both of his Nobel Prize and his imprisonment.

II. Our Fundamental Concepts 
At this historical juncture of the future destiny of China, it is necessary to rethink the last 100 years of modernization and reaffirm the following concepts:
Freedom: Freedom is at the core of universal values. The rights of speech, publication, belief, assembly, association, movement, and to demonstrate are all the concrete realizations of freedom. If freedom is not flourishing, then there is no modern civilization of which to speak.
Human Rights: Human rights are not bestowed by the state, but are rights that each person is born with and enjoys. To ensure/guarantee human rights must be the foundation of the first objective of government and lawful public authority, and is also the inherent demand of “putting people first.” The past political calamities of China are all closely related to the disregard of human rights by the ruling authorities.
Equality: Each individual, regardless of social status, occupation, gender, economic situation, ethnic group, skin color, religion, or political belief, is equal in human dignity and freedom. The principle of equality before the law and a citizen’s society must be implemented; the principle of equality of economic, cultural, and political rights must be implemented.
Republicanism: Republicanism is “governing together; living peacefully together,” □ that is, the decentralization of power and balancing of interests, that is comprised of diverse interests, different social groups, pluralistic culture and groups seeking religious belief, on the foundation of equal participation, peaceful competition, public discussion, and peaceful handling of public affairs.
Democracy: The most basic meaning is that sovereignty resides in the people and the people elect government. Democracy has the following basic characteristics: (1) the legitimacy of government comes from the people, the source of government power is the people; (2) government must be chosen by the people; (3) citizens enjoy the right to vote, important civil servants and officials of all levels should be produced through elections at fixed times; (4) the decisions of the majority must be respected while protecting the basic rights of the minority. In a word, democracy will become the modern tool for making government one “from the people, by the people, and for the people.”
Constitutionalism: Constitutionalism is the principle of protecting basic constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms and rights of citizens through law and a rule of law, delimiting the boundaries of government power and actions, and providing corresponding systemic capacity.
In China, the era of imperial power has long passed and will not return; in the world, authoritarian systems are approaching the dusk of their endings. The only fundamental way out for China: citizens should become the true masters of the nation, throw off the consciousness of reliance on a wise ruler or honest and upright official, make widely public civic consciousness of the centrality of rights and the responsibility of participation, and practice freedom, democracy, and respect for law.
III. Our basic standpoint 
In line with a responsible and constructive citizens’ spirit towards the country’s political system, civil rights and various aspects of social development, we put forward the following specific standpoints:

  1. Amend the Constitution: Based on the aforementioned values and concepts, amend the Constitution, abolishing the provisions in the current Constitution that are not in conformity with the principle that sovereignty resides in the people so that the Constitution can truly become a document for guaranteeing human rights and [appropriate use of] public power. The Constitution should be the implementable supreme law that any individual, group or party shall not violate, and lay the legal foundation for the democratization of China.
  2. Separation and balance of power: A modern government that separates, checks and keeps balance among powers guarantees the separation of legislative, judicial, and administrative power. The principle of governing by laws and being a responsible Government shall be established. Over-expansion of executive power shall be prevented; the Government shall be responsible to the taxpayers; the separation, checking and keeping balance of powers between the central and local governments shall be set up; the central power authority shall be clearly defined and mandated by the Constitution, and the local governments shall be fully autonomous.
  3. Democratize the lawmaking process: All levels of the legislative bodies shall be directly elected. Maintain the principles of fairness and justice in making law, and democratize the lawmaking process.
  4. Independence of the judiciary: The judiciary shall be nonpartisan, free from any interference. Ensure judicial independence, and guarantee judicial fairness. Establish a Constitutional Court and a system of judicial review; maintain the authority of the Constitution. Abolish as soon as possible the Party’s Committees of Political and Legislative affairs at all levels that seriously endanger the country’s rule of law. Avoid using public tools for private objectives.
  5. Public institutions should be used for the public: Realize the nationalization of the armed forces. The military shall be loyal to the Constitution and to the country. The political party organizations in the armed forces should be withdrawn. The level of military professionalism should be raised. All civil servants including the police shall remain politically neutral. Discrimination in employment of civil servants based on party preference should be eliminated and equal employment without any party preference should be adopted.
  6. Protect human rights: Protection of human rights should be effectively implemented and human dignity should be safeguarded. A Commission on Human Rights shall be established that is responsible to the highest level of authority representing public opinion. [This Commission] will prevent government abuse of public power and violation of human rights, and especially protect the personal freedom of citizens. All persons should be be free from unlawful arrest, detention, summons, interrogation, and punishment. The system of Reeducation-Through-Labor should be abolished.
  7. Election of public officials: The democratic electoral system should be fully implemented, with the realization of the equal voting right of one person one vote. Direct election of all levels of administrative heads should be institutionalized step by step. Free competition in the elections on a regular basis and citizen participation in the election of public officials are inalienable basic human rights.
  8. Urban and rural equality: The current urban-rural household registration system should be repealed. The equal rights for all citizens guaranteed by the Constitution should be implemented. The freedom of movement for citizens should be protected.
  9. Freedom of association: Citizens’ right to freedom of association shall be safeguarded. The current system for registration and examination before approval for civil society organizations should be changed to a registration and recording system. The ban on freely organizing political parties should be lifted. All activities of parties should be regulated by the Constitution and law. One-party monopolization of ruling privileges should be abolished. The principle of freedom of activities of political parties and fair competition should be established. The normalization of party politics and a rule by law should be realized.
  10. Freedom of assembly: Peaceful assembly, protest, demonstration and freedom of expression are fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. They should not be subject to unlawful interference and unconstitutional restrictions by the ruling party and the government.
  11. Freedom of expression: The freedom of speech, freedom of the press and academic freedom should be implemented. Citizens’ right to know and to monitor supervise should be protected. A press and publication law should be promulgated. The ban on freely publishing newspapers should be lifted. The current provision of “inciting subversion of state power” in the Criminal Law should be repealed and criminal punishment for speech should be eliminated.
  12. Freedom of religion: Freedom of religion and freedom of belief should be protected. Religion and politics should be separated. Religious activities should be free from government interference. All administrative regulations, administrative rules and local regulations and rules that restrict or deprive citizens’ freedom of religion should be reviewed and repealed. Management of religious activities by administrative legislature should be prohibited. The current prior approval system in which religious groups (including places of worship) must be registered before obtaining legal status should be abolished, and instead, a new record-keeping system for religious groups and their worship places should replace the current one.
  13. Citizen Education: Abolish political education and examinations that are deeply ideological and serve one-party rule. Promote citizen education that encompasses universal values and civil rights, establishes civil consciousness, and promotes the civil virtue of serving society.
  14. Property Protection: Establish and protect private property rights, implement a free and open market economy, protect the freedom of entrepreneurship, and eliminate administrative monopoly; set up a state-owned property management committee that is responsible to the highest legislative agency, initiate property rights reforms legally and orderly, make clear the property rights of owners and obligors, initiate a new land movement, advance land privatization, and strictly protect citizens’, in particular, farmers’, land rights.
  15. Fiscal Reforms: Firmly establish democracy in finance and protect taxpayers’ rights. Build a public finance system and operational mechanisms in which powers and obligations are clear, and create a reasonable and effective division of power in finance among all levels of government; implement major reforms in the tax system to reduce the tax rate, simplify the tax system, and achieve tax equity. The administrative departments should not be allowed to increase tax or create new tax arbitrarily without a social public choice and resolutions of the legislative agencies. Pass reforms on property rights, introduce diverse market subjects and competition mechanisms, lower the market-entry threshold in banking, and create conditions for the development of privately-owned banking to energize the financial system.
  16. Social Security: Build a social security system that covers all of the citizens, and provide them with fundamental protections for education, medical care, elderly care and employment.
  17. Environmental Protection: Protect the ecological environment, promote sustainable development, and take up responsibility to future generations and humanity; enforce the respective responsibilities of the state and government officials of all levels; perform the function of participation and supervision by civil organizations on environmental protection.
  18. Federal Republic: Participate in and maintain regional peace and development with an equal and fair attitude, and create an image of a responsible great country. Protect the free systems of Hong Kong and Macao. Under the precondition of freedom and democracy, seek a settlement resolution on cross-strait relations by way of equal negotiation and cooperative interaction. Explore possible ways and an institutional design to promote the mutual prospects of all ethnicities with great wisdom, and to establish China’s federal republic under the structure of democracy and constitutionalism.
  19. Transitional Justice: Rehabilitate the reputation of and give state compensation to the victims who suffered political persecution during past political movements as well as their families; release all political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and people who are convicted because of their beliefs; establish a truth commission to restore historical truth, to pursue accountability and to fulfill justice; seek a settlement of the society on this foundation.

Good media — yes, there is such a thing…

… or should that be “there are such things”? (Yes, I did Latin at Sydney University!) Here at Wollongong City Diggers just now they are playing Bingo in the next room. Could have sworn the caller was speaking Mandarin! But I am sure it just sounded that way…

So last night on WIN — that is, for Sydneyites Channel 10 — I saw and much benefited from the Adam Goodes documentary.

The film’s director, Ian Darling, said the fact that some people felt the need to put an apology in writing was encouraging.

“At the end of the day there were hundreds of thousands of people across the country who booed. Not everybody is going to change their mind,” Darling said.

“We have done test screenings and when you show it to school kids there is a real honesty and a number of them after 70 minutes said, ‘Wow, I got this so wrong’.”

A chance for the public to reflect

Darling said one of the main aims of the documentary was to ensure Goodes’s voice was finally heard by re-compiling the events of his final three years in the game, in chronological order.

During that period, Goodes was targeted by fans who booed and jeered him whenever he touched the ball. It led to his exit from the game in 2015.

I had not paid close attention at the time, though I saw  with disgust the responses during that period of the likes of Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine and Alan Jones. (The latter was represented in the doco by an actor’s voice, which actually was a bit of an improvement! The words were his though.)

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Given the opportunity to hear extensively from Adam Goodes himself, one could only marvel at how much more polite and reasonable he was than the gaggle of knockers. Particularly dreadful was Sam Newman. Fortunately I have lived for 76 years without ever seeing or hearing him! Believe it or not, that’s true! There have to be some benefits to living in NSW!

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If you get a chance, do see The Final Quarter! Related: from 10 Daily — It’s one of the most shameful chapters in Australian sporting history.  Eddie McGuire had a few of his least fine moments back then, but do read ‘Heartbreaking’: Eddie McGuire responds to Adam Goodes doco.

The hour-long film touched on McGuire’s widely-condemned King Kong comments as well as the racial slur Goodes copped from a 13-year-old Collingwood supporter. The two-time Brownlow Medallist, who won two premierships with the Sydney Swans and was also named Australian of the year in 2014, was booed at subsequent AFL games and announced his retirement shortly after.

Director Ian Darling has previously said the film is an unflinching look at “what racism looks like”.

“One of our greatest footballers, who happened to be Indigenous and a proud Australian of the Year, was literally booed out of the game,” he said. “Adam did so much talking over that period – far more than I realised [before starting the documentary]. The problem was that as a nation, we didn’t listen to him. So you can see as the film unfolds how it has affected him so profoundly.”

AFL staff have since apologised to Goodes, admitting they did not do enough to “call out” racism and discrimination.

My second example of good media is ABC News, particularly their drought coverage this week. So important, and so good that we got to hear these stories! For example:

Gippsland farmers in their third year of drought are estimated to have lost as much as 70 per cent of their regular income.

The situation is now described as a “green drought”, where paddocks look green from a distance, however pasture growth is hamstrung by low rainfall and grass growth is stymied by weeds.

Rodwells Sale agronomist, Casey Willis, said these weeds had limited nutritional value.

“A green drought is a drought through the wintertime where we have a green cover but there’s no actual growth coming from any desirable pasture species,” Ms Willis said….”

“A lot of what’s being grown in paddocks at the moment is weeds and they have little to no nutritional value for stock.

Australian media owners and journalists unite to call for laws to protect a free press

Thanks AdNews.

Media owners have united in an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison asking him to defend press freedom in Australia.

The “Journalism is not a Crime” letter was published in News Corp Australia newspapers, including The Australian, and Nine newspapers, including The Sydney Morning Herald.

The letter, also signed by some of the nation’s most prominent journalists, including Karen Middleton, David Marr, Kathrine Murphy, Laurie Oaks and Malcolm Farr, calls for legislation to “recognise and enshrine a positive public interest protection for whistleblowers and for journalists”….

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