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SCRIPT FOR DIVA CUP™ COMMERCIAL: BLEEDING BEGINS

batman with tampons

A shadowy figure is perched on top of a tall building overlooking the busy streets of Gotham. Their cape billows in the wind, casting a sinister silhouette against the night sky. Sirens suddenly blare in the distance, swelling in a crescendo. A crazed cackling and gunshots echo across the city. The figure turns their head towards the chaos.

 

FIGURE The city needs me.

 

Their armour gleams in the moonlight, a dark knight to defend the citizens of Gotham from the threats of those who wish to bring chaos and harm to its streets. The figure straightens up to a stand, but pauses suddenly and looks down at their crotch area.

 

FIGURE Shit!

 

The figure steps into frame, the moon and street lights from below illuminating their face and entire torso to reveal a woman, clad in a jet black armoured body suit, a bright red lipsticked scowl underneath a bat mask. Batwoman turns to face the camera.

 

BATWOMAN Don’t you hate it when you stand up on your period, only to feel like half the contents of your uterus has fallen out in the span of a few seconds?

 

She turns to face a camera on the side and the shot changes to follow her.

 

BATWOMAN Normal sanitary products always leave me feeling like I’m wearing a glorified adult diaper. They’re uncomfortable and even the most absorbent ones do little to combat my heavy flow.

 

She turns back to face the front camera head on.

 

BATWOMAN Now what’s a woman to do?

 

She disappears in a twirl of her cape, only to reappear clutching a pink translucent menstrual cup.

 

BATWOMAN Say hello to the new menstrual product, the hero Gotham deserves – the Diva Cup™!

 

Camera zooms in on the cup brandished by Batwoman, then a close up of her beaming face, switching to a wide shot again.

 

BATWOMAN The Diva Cup™ can hold up to 30 ml of menstrual flow and can be kept in for up to twelve hours! That’s twelve hours I don’t have to waste worrying about if I’ll leak all over my enemies as I send them flying through the air into the Marvel Universe with a roundhouse kick!

 

Sirens start blaring again and sadistic cackling can be heard. Batwoman turns to the noise.

 

BATWOMAN Excuse me, I have business to attend to.

 

She jumps down from the building, landing in the middle of the streets of Gotham. A cluster of police cars in pursuit of the Joker, cackling as he rides two motorbikes at once, one foot on each with a revolver in each hand, shooting into the sky.

 

BATWOMAN (muttering to herself) What the fuck.

 

She presses a button on her arm that seemingly triggers a signal. A moment later the batmobile speeds towards them, stopping right in the path of the Joker. Speeding towards the batmobile, there is no time to swerve and the Joker brakes his motorbike so hard that they both topple over and he falls off, rolling back onto his feet. The police cars screech to a halt, surrounding him.

 

BATWOMAN Just what do you think you’re doing?

 

JOKER (smirking) Having fun?

 

BATWOMAN No more fun for tonight, surrender.

 

Police officers edge towards the Joker but he points his guns towards them, making gunshot sounds provocatively at them.

 

JOKER The night is still young. Let me play some more.

 

BATWOMAN Gotham isn’t your playground for you to endanger the lives of citizens for your own amusement.

 

JOKER (cackling) Aww what a party pooper – are you on your period or something?

 

BATWOMAN As a matter of fact I am.

 

JOKER (looks visibly uncomfortable) Oh –

 

BATWOMAN Does the natural workings of the menstruating human body make you feel uncomfortable?

 

JOKER   (uncomfortable) … yes –

 

BATWOMAN Ha! I have discovered your weakness – anything to do with menstruation!

 

Batwoman reaches into her pockets and pulls out two menstrual cups, brandishing them as weapons in her fists. The Joker looks apprehensively at them.

 

BATWOMAN (tauntingly) You know what these are?

 

JOKER (gulps) Some kind of portable drinking device?

 

BATWOMAN (sadistically) No, these are for catching menstrual blood when I’m on my period. What makes these products stand out from the typical pads or tampons that you no doubt would try to avoid the aisle entirely in a supermarket, is that these cups are reusable! They are made of strong durable silicone, perfect for sticking inside my vagina every month, or using as nunchucks to kick your ass!

 

Batwoman jumps at the Joker, who is frozen in extreme discomfort at hearing about vaginas, periods and menstruation products, and enacts impressive martial arts moves to knock him down, punching him with the aid of the versatile Diva Cup™.

 

The Joker passes out, dropping to the ground. As a final touch, she suctions one cup on the top of his head, a perverse unicorn, as a parting gift to him for when he wakes up. Batwoman stands in front of his unconscious body and turns towards the camera.

 

BATWOMAN (hand on her hip, winking) And that’s why I choose the Diva Cup™.

 

The bat signal beams bright and high into the skies of Gotham. Batwoman turns to face the backdrop of the night and smiles.

 

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Dissent: Edition 4

Dissent – Sport the Difference

Sport the Difference

By Celaena June Sardothian

CW: sexism, cissexism

It is impossible to escape stereotypes about women. I think everyone has seen, heard, or been subject to some sort of stereotype, especially when it comes to women in sport. Across the whole industry, those stereotypes affect how women are treated from the court to the playing field. Girls never get picked first for teams. People hesitate before passing you the ball, or avoid throwing it to you altogether. Boys and girls play on different courts, and in different leagues, because otherwise it wouldn’t be fair.

I never really cared much for the whole ‘boys are better than girls in sport’ thing, because for the most part I thought it wasn’t all that true. I’ve always considered myself quite good at sport. I tried a bit of everything, from football to badminton to gymnastics, and usually did just as well as my three brothers. Looking back, it’s obvious I was lucky in that I had male siblings (even if they did take it easy on me when we played together) and a sporty family, who encouraged me to pursue sport. I also found a sport that I loved, and so I never really lost interest in physical activity. It could have so easily gone the other way, like it does for a lot of us.

I have 3 distinct memories about sport in my childhood:

  1. I used to get out of running laps at school because my (male) sport teacher knew later that day I would be playing representative basketball and wanted me to save my energy for the game. I played with my best friend and we were the only “representative” basketball players in our year so it was a pretty big deal for our school. My teacher seemed genuinely impressed at our sporting abilities and knew we could deal with the extra exercise but wanted us to really excel.
  2. My Dad said to me one Saturday evening, the night before an early basketball training session that he didn’t want to take me there anymore because “[I] wouldn’t get anywhere with basketball anyway”. I didn’t really understand why he said that, everyone at school was so supportive and my brothers played basketball too and Mum was happy to take me… so why did my Dad have an issue? I still don’t know.
  3. In year six, my school basketball team (girls) played in the boys’ division because we were too good for the girls’ competition. We couldn’t play in any other division; we were the oldest age group for primary school sport and were in the top girls division so the boys division was the only realistic option. We assumed the boys division would be more stimulating; the competition was better because they enjoyed the game more and played more aggressively, so it was more of a challenge. The boys, though, were angry at the audacity of the league to allow such a ‘violation’ of rules. My mum remembers the boys’ parents being appalled at the idea and wanted to watch us lose. We finished 3rd!

Primary school was great for me. I won sports awards and had heaps of athletics ribbons and loved being on the oval at lunch time with my friends playing any sport we wanted. My best friends and I fit in perfectly amongst the boys and they loved the competition! Back then we weren’t afraid to show some friendly aggression.

After primary school comes high school, and well, puberty. I watched friends’ interest in physical activity drop, and was disheartened to find that everybody else found this normal. At lunch, we self-segregated, with the boys playing footy and the girls sitting in the shade. The average Beep Test score for girls in my age group dropped each year, while the boys’ would rise. I hated it and it made me sad. It didn’t make sense to me, and still doesn’t really.

In basketball, girls nails had to be kept short because scratching was a major concern, the boys didn’t seem to have that rule; I guess if the boys got scratched they just had to suck it up? Maybe it was just because long nails were more of a “girl thing”? Who knows? I didn’t love the idea that in tennis the girls had to play 2 fewer sets than the boys. If I’m playing a sport then I wanted to make the most of it! I came to tire myself out!! I never tried netball, the girls at school would always talk about how bitchy the girls were and I wasn’t for that at all. Maybe I’ll never understand why rules and regulations in sport are so sexist.

Ultimately, I found the biggest difference between boys and girls when it came to sport was aggression: boys could get away with playing rough without judgement or fear for their safety, while for us girls, aggression was seen as unladylike. Aggression was perceived as a male trait, and girls who played sport with some attitude were often labelled “manly”. It was important to me that I had an avenue to be aggressive without feeling unladylike.

Once I found a sport that worked for me I latched onto it. Volleyball! It was perfect for me in so many ways: a full body work out, a team sport, offence and defence combined, and the best part? It’s aggressive as hell (but there’s a net between you and the other team so aggression is more than acceptable). In fact, we are constantly told to be more aggressive, and at the end of the games when you shake hands with the other team they comment on how well you play if you play aggressively!! It was the only sport I found where I could show aggression and refs didn’t take it the wrong way.

I’ve been playing volleyball almost exclusively now for about 10 years. I like to imagine the other sports I tried in my childhood are different now to how I experienced them, and are less dependent on stereotypes about girls and women. It’s possible I had a completely different experience to others, and that they never experience sexism in sport, but I fear that’s wishful thinking. Women in sport aren’t taken as seriously or treated the same way as men.

In the meantime, I’ll wait patiently for our turn and cheer on any movement in the right direction! Women’s AFL, Michelle Payne, the Williams sisters. It’s looking good.

 

 

“It’s Just Locker Room Talk”

By Hamah Hosen

CW: sexism, sexual assault, rape, rape culture, sexual harassment, victim blaming

A newly structured version of “boys will be boys” has emerged,
highlighting the continuation of sexism within our society.

The framing of sexist comments as banter suggests
this behaviour is tolerated,
this behaviour is acceptable
That is of course,
as long as no one opposes them,
as long as it’s not taken seriously,
as long as they can be seen as a joke

Disrespect is no joke.
cat-calls while walking on the street
sexist jokes on the public bus
non-consensual grabbing at work
But don’t worry, “It’s Just Locker Room Talk”.

The reality is,
these words are rarely ever only confined in the private environment of locker rooms.
But somehow…
they remained said with an excuse
they remain said with a justification
they remain said to facilitate rape culture

It’s a dangerous game facilitating an attitude of no accountability
in a culture …
where 1 in 3 women will become victims of sexual violence.
where 1 in 6 men are victims of sexual violence.
where less than 15% of rapes are reported
But don’t worry, “It’s Just Locker Room Talk”.

The ‘Game of Life’ is automatically sabotaged
Free unlimited spins of the rhetoric
Rewards for moving on in the journey
Lucky chances for not being the 1 in 3

It becomes a constant struggle to win the game …
when we constantly have to tug and re-adjust our clothing while passing the players
when we constantly have to try to speed up our pace while passing the players
when we constantly have to watch that we aren’t provoking while passing the players
But don’t worry, “It’s Just Locker Room Talk”.

There’s no win-win in this situation
The odds are not in our favour,
as long as the rhetoric remains intact
at the office,
at the shops,
in the bathrooms.

This tired rhetoric needs to be challenged.
It’s been overused and reused.
We need to refuse to accept these conversations as a norm
We need to refuse to stay silent
We need to refuse to see this rhetoric as an excuse

“Locker room talk” is not simply locker room talk.

 

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Stanley Kubrick on Napoleon and many other things

Stanley Kubrick (John Henry)

Despite turning 89 this year, Stanley Kubrick just concluded principal photography on his new film Napoleon. It is Kubrick’s first work since the hypnotic Eyes Wide Shut, and he is quietly confident about it.

Upon pulling up at Childwickbury Manor, it is impossible to resist the allure of the place. Its character announces itself from far away, like one of the mansions in Kubrick’s beautifully-shot Barry Lyndon. The abode absolutely reflects the man: mythic, but still concrete; isolated, but still occupied; aging, but still imposing.

Kubrick is standing on the front lawn waiting for me when I arrive. I feel an irrepressible need to rush towards him, not to waste a second of his time. Childswickbury Manor towers over his declining stature, but it only makes him seem greater.

“Hello, yes, thanks for coming,” are the first words he says. He comes across as spritely and affable – two qualities I imagined to be antithetical to his character. After some of the horror stories told of his behaviour on set, this pleasant introduction was unexpected. Perhaps age has mellowed him.

I follow him up to the front of the house. He walks with a cautious steadiness, which gives me time to formalise my thoughts. “We will do the interview out here. It’s a nice day for once, so we will get it done out here.” We sit down on some outdoor vintage furniture, and he locks me in with his penetrating gaze.

“Relaxing out here, isn’t it?” He remarks. “I don’t get out here enough, it’s really quite nice.”

“Actually, before we get started, no questions about politics. I’m over it all, if we could just focus on movies, that would be great.”

“Sure, we can do that,” I reply.

 

The filming of Napoleon was secretive. Can you tell us whether you used film, or whether you used digital technology?

Yes I can reveal that. These days, everyone is always ‘revealing’ something. Not, uh, telling you something, but revealing it. I find that strange really.

We chose to film the picture on 35mm. There were some discussions about using digital, which I have experimented with and enjoyed, but this just wasn’t the film to use it. With Napoleon we are going back to the 19th Century, and we thought that 35mm would better capture the time period we were going for. I’m eager to use digital technology in my films, but this wasn’t the film for us to do that.

That choice did cause us a few problems, because of the cost of shooting on film.

 

Is that one of the reasons why there’s such a gap between this and Eyes Wide Shut?

Yes. It was a bit of a fight for us to get our way, but I wasn’t going to make the film any other way. It had to be done on 35mm. It would be a totally different picture if it was filmed with digital technology. It wouldn’t be the film I wanted to make. And when you get to this age, you only want to be making the films that you want to make. You don’t want to spend your years making things you aren’t happy with. You might as well work at a desk job.

I had a few health problems that set me back a bit in between this and Eyes Wide Shut. That was irritating to me; health getting in the way of work. But, I suppose you can’t always get around that.

 

Does the amount of time you’ve invested in the film mean it’s an almost perfect product?

I couldn’t really answer that because the whole process isn’t done. There’s still a lot for us to do to finish the film. And even if it was done, I don’t know if any film could be considered perfect or not. Maybe some could, but there’s always that human error element in films. Something could always be done better, whether that’s my doing or one of the cast and crew. I think you can minimise the faults with a film, absolutely; but I’m not sure you can make a perfect film. Something like Bergman’s Wild Strawberries is close to a perfect film, and maybe it is.

Actually, Metropolis is a good example. It’s a good film, a really marvellous, grand piece of cinema. But it’s full of flaws. The story in places is downright implausible, and its tone is sometimes a bit disorientating. But that’s because parts of it are missing.

 

You usually make emotionally distant films…

I don’t know if that’s the way to put it. I always get told this, but I don’t see it. The kind of films I make are the ones that appeal to me, the ones that stick out to me. I think they do deal with emotion, most of them. They deal with human characters, and there’s always an element of emotion connected to that.

 

So you think the commentators are getting it wrong?

I’m not in a position to say that. Obviously, everyone brings different things into their experience of a film, and I think they’re entitled to their judgements of my films. Of course, I’ll have my own ideas of my own movies, and others will have theirs. That’s what creates a healthy film community – discussion and interpretation. I don’t believe in forcing my opinion of my films down the throats of my audiences, so let’s just leave it at that.

 

What made you pursue this film so strongly? What motivates you to keep working?

The story of Napoleon has always intrigued me, he’s one of those characters that never seems to stop bothering you in your mind. I think to be a ruler like he was, uh, you have to be an interesting person. He actually wrote a romance novel before he became a military leader. It was called Clisson et Eugénie. He was such an adept military leader, a powerful man; but he wrote a novel about love? See, that kind of thing is interesting. It reminds you, no matter how history is told, that people are multi-faceted creatures. You can’t just pin someone down as one thing. They might be something else as well.

His life, I think as I’ve said in the past, is a real epic poem of action. To be able to capture that in a movie is just something I have wanted to do for a long time. There’s not really a good way to explain it, other than that there is something that really draws me to him and his life.

As for why I still work, what else would I be doing? Making movies is something I have to do, it’s much more preferable than rotting away in a home or something to that effect.

 

Do you have any regrets looking back? On the way you conducted yourself or anything like that?

As I said before, there are always things you could do differently. But is there much point worrying about that? No. I think there’s something to be said for acknowledging the past – your triumphs, your less pleasant times – but regrets aren’t something I think about. I don’t worry about them. In the moment, I always do what I think is best. That’s what you do.

 

Is there a film that you’ve made that stands out to you?

The simple answer is no. All the films I’ve made I’ve made for a good reason, bar a few I made early in my career. Fear and Desire is one of them, there’s only a few good moments in that. I’m not ashamed of it, but looking back it’s not a great film at all.

I’m not in the habit of ranking my movies, and prefer to think of them all as discrete expressions of my thoughts and ideas. They are all different, and offer different things to an audience. A Clockwork Orange questions the authority of the state: should the state have complete control to modify our behaviours? Eyes Wide Shut explores the dynamics of marriage, and the insecurities we all hold in relation to our partners. Another film I wasn’t happy with was Spartacus. There’s no truth to it.

 

Personally, I find 2001: A Space Odyssey to be your most ambitious film, if not your best. For the time, and even now, it is just like nothing else we’ve seen.

I always wanted to make a big film out of 2001. A lot of what ended up in the film came from Arthur (Arthur C. Clarke) who was really one of the great science-fiction writers. We wrote up a novel alongside the screenplay to the film. As you can imagine, we wanted to get it right, make sure it was as unique as possible. I would refrain from calling it my best film, but I am certainly very proud of it. And I think it stands up against any sci-fi picture that has been made since.

 

Kirk Douglas, Spartacus’ brainchild, recently turned 100. Did you send him your wishes?

Now you’re just being facetious. My question would be whether he’s still working or not.

 

The Melbourne International Film Festival is showing a Kubrick retrospective from November 1.

 

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Dissent: Edition 3

not-your-thinspo-print

 

Dissent, first published 1993, is brought to you by the Women’s Department. These pages are dedicated to giving voice to the women of Monash. Dissent aims to raise women up by giving them a stage to voice their reality, experiences, opinions, frustrations, wants and needs. We Dissent by speaking out when the world expects us to remain quiet. We Dissent by standing up for ourselves despite getting knocked down. We Dissent by talking back, asking questions, giving answers, telling stories, drawing pictures, writing poems, broadening horizons, singing songs, making art, climbing mountains, signing petitions, filming videos, laughing loudly, changing the world and in a million other ways every single day. We invite you to join us by reading, sharing, writing, designing and submitting your own work to msa-womens@monash.edu

Artwork by Baby with a Nail Gun

 

Fear

Words by Constance Wilde

Content warning: Rape, rape culture, sexual assault, victim blaming, acquaintance rape, friend-zone, torture.

 

I am afraid of boys. Attracted to, but afraid of men.

Terrified that if I’m too polite to this stranger,

He will turn my words against me,

And tell me that of course he raped me.

I gave permission with my sweet nothings and attention.

I was asking for it.

So he gave it to me.

 

These are the thoughts that cross my mind when I meet men:

My smile is a bullet in your gun with my name on it.

You’re either a rapist or you aren’t,

But I can’t tell the difference as you pass me in the supermarket.

Is your laugh genuine or something sinister?

How do I know there isn’t a monster lurking beneath your patterned jumper?

Because rapist aren’t just monsters,

Lurking in dark alleyways;

They are ordinary people and so are you.

Please don’t hurt me just because I was nice,

I could be rude,

But of course, but that’s a catch 22.

Making you angry would just be handing you another excuse.

 

The responsibility is inescapable.

It’s there in the morning when I dress,

Telling me that my skirt is far too short;

Could I show my body any less?

It’s with me when I lock my car,

And when I’m walking home.

Clearing my throat in case I need to scream.

Or dialling the number of a friend into my phone.

I’m not wondering what if?

I’m waiting.

 

I set my sights on men I know would never look at me,

To protect myself from actually being seen.

I am queen of an empire filled with women,

I keep boys at arms-length as if it is part of my religion.

Somehow fearing rapists means I’m afraid of all men,

They make it difficult to tell them apart,

When they jump to each other’s defence.  

Yet I am desperate… to fall in love.

To have my own piece of magic that will hold me in his arms,

And say he loves me.

But how do I know I’ve found the right one?

He is sweet, but is he safe? What will happen when we’re alone?

What if he waits for doors to close?

Or for me to let him take me home?

Is there something in his smile?

Some way I could know?

It is lonely on this throne I have created.

 

How am I supposed to fall in love if I can’t even make friends?

I call my mates up for coffee without thinking,

But I won’t call them if they’re men.

In case my invitation is all the consent they need.

I am sorry, but not sure that I should be,

When people still have the nerve to say:

“You invited him over. What did you think was going to happen?”

 

I pinpoint cameras in the parking lot,

But hyper-vigilance doesn’t help.

I am not the only woman,

That is living in this hell.

I must look desirable, but not irresistible.

Show enough skin to get your attention,

But not arouse your inner demon.

I must make you want to date me,

Without making you want to

rape

  1. me.

I tell my friends,

And they agree with me.

This fear of men is all I ever see.

Rose-tinted glasses, except they’re tinted red.

Screaming “DANGER: that man’s appetite needs to be fed”

I feel consumable, overpower-able, and weak.

What if my body is the answer to whatever it is you seek?

Of course nice guys exist but are they the men that I know?

I am powerless to stop this but I’m still holding onto hope.

I’m not afraid of commitment, but I am afraid of dating.

It seems ridiculous, but I spend night after night waiting.

In my mind, it’s not a question of what if but when.

And when I meet someone else it just starts all over again.

 

A boy in class told me being in the friend-zone counts as torture;

Told me the pain was unimaginably overwhelming,

As if it was on par with electrocution and waterboarding.

When I asked if he was joking,

He exploded in my face as if my question was a detonation.

Every boy I pass daily could be a rapist or a harmless stranger,

But he’s the one complaining.

 

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Coffee: The Rise of Modernity: Book Review

Coffee Review (Joanne Fong)

 

‘Just as Darwin discovered the law of development or organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc. …’

Frederich Engels, 1883

So begins Dmitri Gallo’s spirited and sometimes controversial history. Adopting the dusty Marxist thesis that ideas and social forces in history are ultimately at the mercy of economic and technological developments, Gallo suggests that the centre of world history is actually your morning brew. With characteristic energy (no doubt from indulging in his subject matter), Gallo puts forward the radical thesis that “for the past three centuries, coffee has had the power to make and unmake the modern world as we know it.”

Gallo’s story begins in 16th century Europe. I was somewhat disappointed that Gallo barely touches upon the coffee bean’s mythical origins, and its popularity in the Middle East he neglects some good stories but I suppose the book was already long enough at some 600 pages.

According to Gallo, it was the Venetian merchants that brought coffee from Turkey to the Continent. Originally a luxury commodity, it soon became more widely available across Europe, from 16th century England and the Netherlands’ roaring maritime trade, and the caffeinated military spoils from Turkey enjoyed by 17th century Austria.

Wherever he looks in the past few centuries, Gallo sees coffee everywhere. Before the onset of the 18th century, Europe was already overcome by the coffee-infused ‘public sphere’, from the Parisian café, the Austrian Kaffeehaus and the ubiquitous London coffeehouses. These public haunts allowed the middle classes to remain informed of daily affairs through spirited discussion, and as a result coffeehouses became a refuge for dangerous ideas to percolate. Political radicals would assemble and conspire together, and it was no surprise that Charles II had earlier attempted to shut down all the London coffeehouses in 1675. Gallo suggests that drinking alcohol and public discussions don’t mix well; coffeehouses provided people with greater energy to discuss new ideas at length, and with a newfound clarity. “I can only speak from experience,” says Gallo, “but when I drink cheap wine with my friends, I’m not up for discussions about restructuring the economy by the seventh glass… well, not a decent discussion, anyway.” Coffee allowed a portion of the London public to distance themselves from the ‘gin craze’ raging at the time, says Gallo, and talk soberly about modern affairs.

Gallo quite rightly points out that the spread of coffee didn’t just influence the anonymous social scene across Europe. It also had an enormous impact on the intellectual figureheads of the 18th century Enlightenment, from the urbane coffeehouse discussions of Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe, to the pathological coffee addiction of Voltaire. Much is made of the fact that Bach composed a libretto on coffee addiction, titled Be Still, Stop Chattering (yes, really). Gallo makes a strict connection between Voltaire’s penchant for caffeine and his enormous output of writing: “…The man’s writings could fill 200 volumes. You don’t achieve that by drinking water.” Immanuel Kant, another coffee enthusiast in his time, receives the same treatment: “…It is manifestly impossible to stay awake unaided and read The Critique of Pure Reason. Imagine writing the thing.”

Two-thirds into the book, and all these historical tidbits are finally cobbled together for Gallo’s grand thesis: “the development of the modern world would be inconceivable without the aid of caffeine. No coffee, no modernity.” Without coffee, intellectual chatter at coffeehouses and salons would have been cut short or entirely non-existent; without the widespread consumption of coffee, European bourgeois capitalism would have enjoyed less prosperity and power to undermine the older landed nobility; without coffee, the 18th century canonical writers would have written a quarter of their works; without coffee, seditious ideas that triggered the French and American revolutions would have perished at birth. “No revolution,” says Gallo, “means no Romantic reaction. Without coffee, we would have no Napoleon, and no conservative movement to inveigh against the destruction of the Bastille in France. Without coffee, our political landscape today would be unrecognisable. No socialism, no conservatism. No coffee.”

By this point in the book, Gallo’s contention that he develops becomes extremely overwhelming. To my disbelief, he suggests in a footnote that he wants to start a new research program based on ‘Caffeinated Historical Materialism’. Exhausted, I flip over a few pages. Now coffee has become one of the most popular commodities by the 19th century, as the mid-19th century moralist campaigners prescribe tea and coffee over alcoholic beverages for the masses. Later still, coffeehouses begin to allow women’s admittance later in that century he credits it as the dominant social force that puts women’s emancipation into motion.

I had to put the book down for a while, but it had already incurably distorted my view of the world. Every morning, all over the world, there are millions servings of coffee that are consumed; would everything be different if that wasn’t the case? I am seized by a fresh paranoia as I try not to look at the regiments of coffee jars in the supermarket aisles. I pointedly avoid the cafés that plague and determine the intricate workings of Melbourne life.

I pick up the book one last time. Gallo promised in the introduction that he would explore coffee’s role in contemporary world history what, then, does he say?

“It is clear that coffee has become the scaffolding that supports late capitalism. Without daily stimulation, entire workforces predicated on long, irregular and nightly hours would collapse. The workers, in their fatigue, would no longer sustain the hulking and swollen carcass of our technological age. We would have a revolution, but a slumberous one, where there is not a dictatorship of the proletariat, but a worldwide slumber. Industrial modernity would perish a quiet death.”

I do not recommend this book.

Published by Sidgewick University Press, Coffee: The Rise of Modernity is available at major booksellers at $39.99 in paperback (ISBN 0740700251).

 

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A Self Decapitating Nation

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The current trend of dismissing mature age people as part of the restructuring of industry and favouring younger persons holds dire consequences for the nation. For in that disposing of ‘surplus workers’ the accumulated experience, understanding and wisdom born out of generational practice is forever lost. This dispensing with human values for the sake of economic gains, paves the way for superficiality, lack of vision and the disintegration of the social fabric. Worse, it accelerates that trend foreseen  – early last century – by the ethnologist Oswald Spengler in his Decline of the West where: “a new sort of nomad, cohering unstably in fluid masses” gathers in the cities as tradition-less dwellers, “utterly matter-of-fact, religion-less, clever, unfruitful, deeply contemptuous” of the aged and the past.

At this point is worth remembering Spengler’s view that: “Economic thought…sets in only where art and philosophy have irrevocably passed away”; and that whilst:” Politics sacrifices men for an idea… (The) economy merely wastes them away”. This is the point that we have now reached in Australia, a country that in the 19th century led the world in social reform, work ethics and fairness. But, that now, is unable to even deal fairly with those retrenched workers that, toiled a virtual life time for its wellbeing. And now considered untrainable. Are we all totally unaware of Portia’s aside to Lord Bassanio?

” Happy is this, she is not yet so old

                                          But she may learn, happier than this,

                                          She is not bred so dull but she can learn”.

        [Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice.]

 

Have we become so dislocated from our past as to forget Marcus Aurelius injunctions?

 

And whatever thou doest, do it in conjunction with this…

                              The being good… Keep to this in every action”.

 

And for those with power and those that govern:

 

(Policy) must proceed only from a certain persuasion,

                               As what is just or of common advantage…

                              Not because it appears pleasant or brings reputation”.

 

And how about: “This one thing, thoughts just, and act social, and words which never lie”!

                                               [Meditations Bk. lV. 10, 12. lX. 33.]

 Do we not realize that in dispensing with the mature workers, knowledge diminishes and with it discernment and distinguishing “without which little knowledge is attained” [Locke, Concerning Human Understanding]. Can it really be said that a young person interviewing a mature age individual by means of a questionnaire based entirely on empirical thinking – hence reproductive [William James  – Reasoning.] can really gauge the inherent knowledge, reasoning power, experience and the  accumulated wisdom of  that one applying for a job? Yet, that is precisely what is happening today, throughout the employment agencies of Australia.

And what of wisdom, where the individual alone can grow in it? Are we to assume that every young person these days, ranks with ‘The Younger Pitt’ and is able to steer a cabinet through policies and life’s vicissitudes with such dexterity as to render experienced people: Useless?

 

Neither art, nor science nor learning can attain to soul’s wisdom. It comes with age and experience. A country that loses sight of that, fares blindly onwards at its peril. For in shedding its elders becomes a decapitated nation. For it is wisdom that unites knowledge and action. And, according to Plato, “ascending to wisdom and returning enlightened to the realm of action” is the ultimate good. For it brings with it those four virtues: Wisdom, Temperance, Courage and Justice that properly guide a just society. Qualities usually gained with maturity, but readily disposed of in these days of efficient production and balanced budgets.

There is a desperate need to reconsider the path that we have embarked upon in Australia and in the West. A path that is serving an economy that grinds human values, destroys communities, and wastes the environment. To which, even those who appear to be in charge, are swept along as hapless victims manifesting a: ”dullness of wit; boldness of stupidity, contentiousness in judgment” [Montaigne].  Of late, amply demonstrated throughout the parliaments of the Western world!

It is worth remembering that it is Jove’s eldest daughter ‘Folly’ that shuts men’s eyes to their destruction. That she was flung from Olympus by her exasperated father to Earth, to thereby taunt mankind [Homer, Iliad]. That according to Aquinas, “folly is to withdraw our sense from spiritual things and to plunge it into earthly things”.

We cannot act for the rest of the world, but we can certainly strive to regain those lost values that were once an essential part of Australia, and made it foremost among democracies. It means pausing, reconsidering and seeing what this nation is currently experiencing:

“A crisis of love: a collapse of empathy, manifesting in epidemics of loneliness and depression”. [R. Flanagan – The Australian Disease: On the Decline of Love and the Rise of Non – Freedom].

It means giving a fair go to everyone on this land. Especially the refugees, the elders and the unemployed. Of making things better for the people and not budgets. Of having the courage to alter laws, trends and customs. And face outcomes for the genuine betterment and common needs of the people. It means vision. And the gift of wisdom to:

“Direct man’s actions to the sovereign good which is the last end,

By knowing which man is said to be truly wise” [Thomas Aquinas].

 

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The Greenhouse

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The white roses are her favourite.

Delicate snow petals, spilling out from the centres, like a ballerina’s tulle frozen forever mid pirouette.

A violent assault of deep reds, canary yellows, rich blues; each more colourful than the last surround her in the greenhouse. The roses are like her children, all scrambling for her attention, for her eyes to linger for just a second more upon their technicolour cries.

Amid the harlequin chaos the white roses sit patiently, quiet, solemn. Their subdued silence sings loudest of all.

She still loves every rose in the garden of her greenhouse though. She feels guilty for having favourites.

At first she would visit every so often; a few minutes at first, which turned into a few hours, then whole days.

Eventually leaving became too hard. So she just never left.

It’s peaceful here. She feels secure. It’s not like how things were on the outside. Dark and shadowy and turbulent. Everything was too overwhelming as though she was being suffocated by the invisible grasp of her monsters.

Sometimes he comes to visit her. He is the one thing from the outside that she allows in.

She knows that he wants her to leave, leave the safe haven she has made for herself in the greenhouse. But she can’t.

When he talks she gets drawn into what he has to say. It makes her feel wistful, a strange twinge of melancholy fluttering in her chest.

He lulls her with soft coaxing anecdotes; how there was a galah in the backyard that didn’t run away when he approached it, how the leaves of the elms on his street were starting to golden, or how he’d left the stove on to boil water and had come back to a pot burnt black. He tells her how much he misses her. So, so much.

He reminds her that there is life outside. She would have forgotten long ago otherwise.

Each time he’s with her, her greenhouse starts to get fuzzy, like the remnants of a dream before it slips through your fingers like sand.

It scares her.

Memories of the outside start to seem more vibrant, more alluring.

Memories of dipping her feet into the cool wet sand of the ocean, sitting next to a cosy fireplace with heavy rain outside, homemade spaghetti nights, fighting over who got to finish the last serving.

Memories with him, experiencing all those things.

Memories with him; shivering, trembling, shallow breaths, burning holes into her skin with his mouth.

Every day he comes, the roses decay. She keeps finding more of their shrivelled little corpses scattered along the branches of the bushes, faded and stained brown.

She desperately puts her nose to the buds, searching for a hint of fresh perfume but all she can smell is death.

There is a bitter taste in her mouth, metallic like she has gargled blood.

It’s all his fault. Poisoning her with his stories, taking her away from her garden with his allure.

When he’s there, the gold rays of sunshine that stream down through the glass seem to taunt her, knowing that she will never venture beyond the walls to feel its warmth on her skin.

One day he comes to visit, but she ignores him.

“Go away.” She is pruning the roses carefully with a small pair of clippers. She doesn’t look at him. Looking at him is too hard.

“Why?” He asks.

She continues to prune the roses as if he weren’t there. Snip. Snip. Snip.

“What’s wrong?

Snip.

It hurts to breathe. The silence chokes her.

Snip.

Snip.

“You can’t come visit me anymore,” she says finally.

“What? Why not?”

Snip.

Snip.

Pause.

“You’re killing the flowers.”

Sni-

Her hand falters, slipping, dragging against the rose bush’s thorns, slicing into her flesh like butter. Her fingers are on fire. She is on fire.

Her eyes flash up at him, burning. “You’re ruining everything.”

He sighs. “Why can’t we go back to how it use to be? When you weren’t like this?” He asks exasperated.

“What do you mean?”

“I hate you being here, in this place. I hate you not being at home with me.”

“I like it here. I feel safe here.”

“You’ll be safe with me.”

“I’m safe in my greenhouse.”

“Ha. Your greenhouse?”

“Yes!”

“Don’t you understand? This isn’t real – none of this is real!”

“Wha – “

She feels dizzy, the rose bushes, the earthy scent of dirt, the greenhouse walls all start to blur and distort. The vibrant colours start to fade, dissolve; sickly sweet sugar-coated lies.

“Wha- what do you mean?”

The glass walls start to crack. The sun streams into the darkest corners of her mind. It’s liberating, it’s horrifying, it’s terrifying. Fuck.

The world is grey. Grey linoleum floors and dull grey walls. A thin grey mattress covered in a single sheet on a cool metal bedframe. She blinks. Hard. Once. Twice. Why won’t the grey go away?

Where are her roses? Where is her garden? Where is her greenhouse?

“You’re crazy.” His voice cuts her like jagged glass. “You’re fucking crazy! Why can’t you just-“

“Stop!” Her vision is blurry. Everything hurts. Why won’t it stop? Stop. Stop. Stop.

She plunges the rose clippers straight into his chest.

Stop.

He chokes, staring at her in wide disbelief. She gazes back blankly at him.

With one sharp jerk she wrenches the blade out. Then she thrusts it back in again. Again. Again. Again.

The blood spurts out of him slowly at first, a rusty drink tap being turned on for the first time in years. And then it gushes out all at once.

Everything is red. Warm, warm, warm on her fingers and hands and arms and clothes.

The room is spinning.

The walls, the bed, the floor are all marred with splatters of crimson. She looks down at her hands, a pair of blunt craft scissors glistening red clutched tightly in her fist.

She scans the walls around her, garish childlike drawings of roses scrawled with coloured crayons, cut out clumsily and thumbtacked on every inch possible.

This isn’t real. It can’t be.

She blinks. Hard. Once. Twice.

And then it all rushes back.

Everything is still again. Everything is better. The greenhouse walls, the flowers, the colours have all solidified again. Everything is real again. Familiar. Safe.

The dirt of the garden bed is soaked with blood, still warm. Alive.

Small white rosebuds are starting to dot the branches around her.
She smiles. They are beginning to grow again.

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Going Home: A Cycle of Self Discovery

Going home

 

Some students know how it feels to re-locate to study and go back “home” over the holiday period, away from their new friends, partner(s) and Melbourne summer events and atmosphere. Whilst some travel for an hour or two by car others travel by plane for three or more hours. And still both struggle with existential questions, displacement, and cyclical nature of living away from home to study. Although, whilst it all sounds serious, seeing family once (or more) a year is a pretty cathartic experience where you get to live like old times, where your housemates are your own flesh and blood.

My existentialist side comes out to play only in Darwin, where I grew up and started to decide the kind of person I wanted to be. And with this, it is the place where I can no longer run away from answering the dreaded questions of “Who am I? Where am I going? And what am I doing?” which are common amongst uni students, especially during exam period and semester breaks, but there is something much more poignant about trying to find the answers in the place you grew up. And whilst I never have an answer for these questions, it’s the process of seemingly long stares at the ceiling, extensive journal writing and asking overly complex questions to my parents about what they did when they were young that bookends the end and beginning of my year. And every year my soul search spirals into a several day period of depression about how I became who I am, until I snap myself out of it to think about who I am, where I’m going, what I’m doing… until next year. I feel extremely lucky to have a home away from home and to get away from the intensity of Melbourne to a place that’s inhabited by nothing but crocodiles and grey nomads. I can explore my existentialism and reflect on the year past and the one ahead. However, it isn’t always a calm reflective time.

Displacement feels inescapable when you’re living between two places. For me it feels like I have three separate lives that are all sewn together through my experiences in Darwin and my memorabilia there. All with contrasting experiences, they feel disjointed and fragmented. I grew up in Melbourne where I engaged with the natural environment and walked home every day with my best friend through the most beautiful Sherbrooke forests and made new friends in my first years at high school. Then my family moved to Darwin where I started all over again, making new friends, exploring new interests and wishing to return to Melbourne. Those years, of course, were stained with teenage angst. My current life in Melbourne feels like I’m returning to a reoccurring dream where everything is so familiar but isn’t the same and not quite like how it used to be. Visiting where I used to grow up and my old friends there, I am engulfed in a wave of nostalgia and familiarity but also a strange hunch that they’re memories from a life that isn’t mine. My displacement stems from living away from family where I have a shared history with them for a great majority of my life and where I am now, living in an environment where I have a future. I’m am still unsure whether I can confidently call two places my home, for remotely different reasons, but I am willing to try.

The cycle of going back and forth between two places not only feeds into the idea of displacement – never really settling anywhere or feeling completely at peace – but also feeds the cycle of annual self-reflection. Every year the cycle continues to show personal growth, reflection and boundless possibilities. But will the concept of entropy ring true? To the point where the regularity of my annual self-reflection will decline into a greater disorder and further disassociation with memory, and the feelings of displacement and fragmentation. Or will it, alternatively, become so regular, where the reflective time spent away from Melbourne no longer harbours the effects of personal reflection as the years go past? I honestly don’t know which I prefer but can feel slightly more at ease, knowing there are other students in the Monash community who face the same challenges of the cyclical nature of living away from home.

I definitely feel I’ve grown as a person since the last time I visited Darwin but I can imagine I said this last year and I will say it again next year. But I don’t know, it just feels like there’s something more to living away from home than just being in two places at different times of the year, in places that hold such personal relevance, for completely opposite reasons.

 

Artwork by Rachelle Lee
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How to remove the training wheels

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No matter how happy or sad we are, we all have that idea of the person we wish we were, but are not. Maybe a thinner version of yourself? One who would start working on their assignments more than two hours before the deadline? Maybe your ideal twin would travel the world? Stop overthinking everything about their relationships, or just clean their room more often?

Most of the time, you’ll have to admit it, you already know what to do to become that person. Just – fucking – do it. Stop eating cake all day, stop procrastinating, go to the gym. Easy to say, I know.

Many years ago (but not that many, to be perfectly honest), I was a child wishing to be this other child who knew how to ride a bike without training wheels. How to become this other (better) child? Nothing easier: just remove these wheels and go. Just do it. Just stop being scared, just stop overthinking it. Just go. But I didn’t want to. I was going to fall, for sure. It was going to hurt, obviously. I was fed up with those scabs on my knees. I was ashamed because my friend Ann could already ride without training wheels. I was scared of being ashamed; and ashamed of being scared.

I never learnt. For many years, I had been that girl pretending I didn’t like to cycle that much. Didn’t like it, didn’t want to, had a super nice book to read – just go without me. And one day it hit me straight in the face; I remember that abandonment, I still feel it in my face. All those lovely days, all those sunny rides I had been missing. All those private jokes I couldn’t understand because I wasn’t there. I was determined to learn, but I had no idea how to achieve that. Then one day, one of my cousins, eight years older than me, who had no idea I didn’t know how to ride a bike, asked me if I wanted to go with him. I was around twelve and (of course) I had a massive crush on him: he had perfect blonde hair and was more mature than all the other boys I knew. I said yes with heart-shaped eyes before my mind had time to say ‘Wait. Fuck – you can’t actually do that’. Before I understood what was happening, I was on the seat, right food on the pedal, left foot on the ground, and so scared I felt my heart beating from the tip of my hair to my toenails. I remember that my little sister gave me that look – worried beyond belief. She didn’t say anything but probably knew it all: I was in big trouble. I suddenly remembered one piece of advice from a movie, or a dream, or a book, or anything: ride as fast as you can. Not sure it was a good advice: maybe I had even made it up. I think I fell once, but I told my cousin there was a thing on the road, and it went fine. I am not sure I had ever felt so scared before, but it was also a relief. I thought “Really? All those fretful years for that?” I felt ridiculous, relieved and actually pretty great. I could feel the air toying with my hair, the tears beading in my eyes – just so they weren’t too dry, the fresh wind engulfing me in a very hot summer day. My heartbeat, so loud, as if it was trying to recreate the sound of my steps if I had been walking instead. I fell in love with speed and going fast.

Ten years later, I am finally able to rationalise my fears… haha, nope, just kidding. If I was an animal, I would be the most yellow-livered chicken in the coop, the weak one which looks kind of sick and lost. I remember how the same story happened again with motorcycles (ultimate fear – too ashamed to admit it – try anyway – love it) and many other things. A weird mixture of fear and excitement. A weird mixture of fear and excitement. Just the awareness that I had defeated a phobia was incredible, stirring. There is nothing like the feeling that you just overcame one of your greatest fears.

Just. Fucking. Do it. It’s worth it.

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Voiceless

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I had always lived in Paris.

8, rue des Wallons. For as long as I can remember.

I had never seen anything else: I had never travelled before last year. That’s why when I had the opportunity to study abroad, I chose to apply far away. Really far. The other side of the world…Australia. When I was a child someone told me people there were upside down, and that they would celebrate Christmas in shorts.

It might seem stupid, but I thought the distance would help me find myself. Wherever I was. Maybe it was there.

I wanted to try everything. Start a new life. I was in the “Great Unknown” all my favourite adventures books were describing, experiencing a feeling I’d been reading and dreaming about since I was a child. A new culture, a new life, a new language ; that’s what I was about to see.

That language part was the most appealing, yet the most frightening. Of course I knew English, but I didn’t feel comfort-able with it at all. I am a writer; I love puns, poems and play on words in French. What would happen with a new code I did not have mastery of at all?

I had no idea how difficult it would be to deal with that new language, and that was the greatest part of the adventure. I felt lost in new linguistic difficulties, drowning in a world where I suddenly became voiceless.

*

Quarter past eleven. I’ve overslept, again. I’ve been here for a year, but lately I have felt constantly jet-lagged, trying to keep in touch with France by staying up late. I’ve missed it. I’ve missed my language. I dream in English now. I have even started using Australian slang. It all makes me sick.

Another quick glance at my phone screen tells me I have no new messages or calls. I go from disappointment, to sadness, then to mingled anger and disgust. I try to tell myself I am worth more than that. I try to believe that I am not the one who was losing something, that I am not the one who is going to regret something. But if I am perfectly honest, I feel like I am experiencing a forced weaning. It is emotionally hard, but also physically. I can’t handle the loss any longer. I need to hear that voice again.

I’ve always been passionate: maybe that’s my fault actually, perhaps that’s why it did not work. Maybe I loved too much. Maybe I was oppressive? I tried hard to put the fault on myself so I don’t feel hate, but it felt wrong: who chased the other? not me! It was not my fault. I couldn’t imagine someone chasing me and then changing their mind. It was unbelievable. It sounds stupid. Useless. “A total waste of time.”

I remember the first day we’ve met. I’d just arrived in that new country, and felt like discovering Melbourne’s cold nightlife. To discover a people, a culture… Everything was so different from Paris. My wandering drove me to a pub. A band was playing, people were drinking and dancing, but I don’t really remember any visual details. All I could focus on was a voice. The voice. It wrapped me in a feeling I’d never known before. A weird warmth; powerful, smooth but tough at the same time. It was like the voice wanted to say something. It could reach notes I’ve never heard before. It was calling me. Asking me to join, to stay with it forever. It said it would be there for me anytime. It said it would never leave me.
I remember that voice. I’ve never been able to detach from it since then. It was like it was part of me now, it penetrated me, it cast a spell on me, maybe. I entered that pub, without the faintest idea how much my life would change from that moment. Without the faintest idea how that voice would never leave.

*

Still no new text message, and it was pretty late. I found myself wondering what I did wrong to deserve that. All the people I love always end up leaving me at some point. Watching my phone screen with empty eyes, re-reading our conversations, memories of a relationship that started well. Finding this message from a few months ago:

« I can’t control it. I want to talk to you forever. I feel guilty for giving you all of my attention right now when I have so much work to do… but I just can’t stop myself. I want to talk to you, I really like it, I really like you. It’s hard to explain because it’s hard to under-stand. I don’t want to do anything else. »

At the time, I found it eerily cute. Today, I read it as a wake up call, a warning. It was too intense, too dangerous. Now I understand what that means, and that’s not because I speak English better. It was not a declaration of love. It was grievanc-es. It was complaints. It was the expression of a fear I couldn’t understand in time. I hadn’t taken it into account. Maybe that’s why it didn’t end well. We’ll never know.

Since I had to, I went to bed, thinking about all the things I might have misunderstood since I’ve been living in that strange land. I speak English, but I feel like there is a language I don’t speak. I can’t understand feelings. I can’t express them anymore. They’re different over here. When I finally understood the real language barrier, I felt like someone just had just stolen my right to speak. One does not simply translate a feeling. Even though I was trying to scream my feelings out loud, my voice just couldn’t reflect them. And even if it had, they couldn’t have reached anyone. I was voiceless.

Everything reminds me of that story, and I wonder if I’m ob-sessed yet. I remember we use to talk about words a lot, about how they could make us closer or drive us away. Our scales were so different, we used to have fun comparing them.

Then we’d laugh. “Have you ever noticed how when you repeat a word over and over, it becomes funny, and makes no sense anymore?” Maybe those were the words I loved. They sounded better when pronounced by that voice. I’ve always thought I was talkative, but it’s usually small talk, like I have nothing interesting to say. Like I couldn’t express the things I had to say. I think we both felt that way. I could have chosen music, like you did, but I chose to write. I could have written songs instead. I still hear that voice telling me they were hiding “more secrets about me than I could ever tell you.” I loved that idea, and I studied each song just like I used to study literature, phrase by phrase, word by word, searching for a hidden mean-ing in every voice variation, in any string vibration.

I thought we were able to communicate, but our linguistic repertoires never tuned. After one or two misunderstandings, a false note, a wrong word, everything stopped. Words hurt, they’re dangerous, and maybe they shouldn’t be carelessly touched, especially by my inexpert hands. I yelled for the last time, trying to express a feeling that didn’t exist in that coun-try, and that’s how we split, mutually misunderstood, maybe forever.

*

Yesterday, for my last night here in Australia, I decided to go back to that pub, and some weird coincidence decided that the voice was there again. I didn’t plan it, but I thought perhaps it was meaningful to hear it one last time, where we met a year ago. It was like a loop, or the end point of a great adventure. I don’t know if I wanted to live something more, to try once more, I just wanted to hear it again. I wanted to write the end of the story.

And while the gig started, I remembered. I remembered our laughs, I remembered our fights. I remembered our words, I remembered our fears. Nights spent talking about the differences between our lifestyles, and between our countries. Or the ones spent singing, listening to that voice, listening to that guitar. I remembered the songs, their lyrics resonating in me like they were saying out loud what I’d spent my whole life secretly thinking. That song especially, expressing that fear, that feeling to be in front of the unknown, to be a whole person. About this relationship that nobody knows how long would last. “I don’t know, a second? Or a billion million years? In the grand scheme of things, hell, I don’t have a clue. But I’m certain that this fraction, now, is really all we have, I’m just happy to be in this time with you”. And eventually, I understood. I knew the song by heart, but I had to wait for that day to finally get what it meant. I left before the show ended. I didn’t need to be here anymore. I enjoy thinking about us: how we could have spent our lives together, talking another language we’d have created, playing with our differences. But we couldn’t. We didn’t end up togeth-er. There were no emotional reunion, no heart-rending cry at the airport, no kiss under the tropical rains of the Southern Hemisphere. No voice begged me to stay. Nobody tried to block my way to the gate. I entered my plane like nothing was holding me in that country… nothing did. The link’s broken, and all that remains from this voice are the few CDs I kept. I can hear it, but I’m not sure my own voice will ever reach anything down there. Maybe it will send a scrambled, indecipherable message, in an unknown language, through these words or others, yet unknown.

*

I discovered, travelling, that we don’t just learn a new language; we create it. I’ll never speak English; I’ll master its sounds, its words, its grammatical rules as much as I can, but I’ll use them all to speak my own language, a new one that comes from my experiences, and that’s spoken by nobody else. Maybe we don’t need the others to build ourselves: we just need a voice, resonating in ourselves forever. The ones from those songs which, I hope, will keep inspiring me for many years. I may have not found my way at the other side of the world, but I found that voice, and that’s more than enough.

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In Defence of an Arts Degree

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This article was originally published in Lot’s Wife Edition 6: Parody

To clarify, I am defending a single Arts degree. Science/Arts, Arts/Law, and so on are not included; you have allies in another faculty, don’t be greedy.

Arts has a rather unpleasant reputation. We are the people who studied history, literature and English at school, and maybe another language or something like psychology to mix it up. We like to read and write about interesting matters regarding the human condition rather than dull paperwork (looking at you Law students), learn about historical matters that affect our current social position, and maybe debate whole-heartedly about politics (not me though, do not come to me to talk about politics unless you want a one-sided conversation).

Let’s be honest, you’re all jealous. You resent us for having copious electives and “interesting” subjects such as ‘how to write a pop tune’ whilst you have compulsory subjects like ‘marketing research methods’. You call our subjects pointless and unnecessary; we call it crucial for broadening knowledge and opening the mind. We don’t expect you to understand. We’ll be outside drinking our white chocolate macadamia nut frappaccinos contemplating the ‘moral psychology of evil’ or writing an essay on ‘satire, sex and sensibility in the eighteenth century’ while you’re researching ‘foundations of public health’.

As for Medicine and Law students: politely get your heads out of your asses. Now that you can hear me, your studies aren’t more important than ours! (Although we do appreciate the medical services of practitioners and possible legal services) Sure, your degrees may help you secure reasonable careers in the future, but our degree can also lead us to interesting career paths: we could become anthropologists, academics, producers or criminal intelligence investigators (so basically spies), to name a few.

On a serious note, what are we supposed to study at university if we have no interest in science, maths, health sciences or law, and have no particular talent in practical art or music? We are here to write infinite essays on the artistic structure of the greater world and the worlds in our minds. So, next time you want to talk about the futility of an Arts degree, instead bitch about geography. Geography sucks.

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