Show yourself

At the dogleg turn on Trenerry crescent near Dights Falls in
Abbotsford, a group of artists have created a makeshift gallery.  As you drive into the turn you face a stretch
of wall that extends the length of the road and the freeway, presumably to
block out sound. 
Months ago I noticed the first small offering, a portrait in
the centre of the first section of the wall, soon followed by another couple of
works, a treescape, a landscape, and a splodge of colour. 
More recently the number of pictures has trebled.  
There’s one that stands out: a take on an old
classic, with a view of the harbour where a dark skinned and naked aboriginal
man with spear in hand looks over the water to an approaching eighteenth
century vessel and curses, ‘Bloody boat people’. 
There’s also a large photograph on paper of a native
tribeswoman from somewhere like Africa. 
There are more scenes of trees and water and several
portraits, mostly in oils, though there’s also one that looks to be a lithograph, judging by its texture and colour and a tiny piece on tin.
Some pictures are small, most on plywood canvases and some
take up more space than others, but each nestles comfortably alongside its
companion, as if this gallery were planned and arranged by some thoughtful
curator.  Though that’s unlikely. 
I reckon this gallery has sprung up in the wonderful way
these things do when one person inspires another to add to their own
inspiration, and now we have this evocative, albeit temporary, gallery on
Trenerry Crescent.
 
Temporary only in so far as the natural elements, the rain
and sun and wind, will eventually destroy the images over time but they have
been standing up to the worst of the weather for several months now and maybe
as one dies – certainly the photograph of the tribeswoman on paper will
disappear soon – maybe others will take their place.
This type of installation gives me hope in human nature at a
time when the world seems grim. 
We have a state election to vote in today and without getting
too caught up in local politics, it’s suffice for me to say my world seems to
be leaning in a far right direction that’s terrifying. 
I heard on the radio today that our government had turned
back a boatload of some thirty seven-asylum seekers from Sri Lanka, including
six children.  Sri Lankan government
representatives then intercepted these asylum seekers and took them into custody while
they await trial for ‘falsely leaving the country’ or some other such crime. 
I don’t understand all the ins and outs of it but it makes me
wonder about this business of being forced to stay in an unbearable situation,
because no one else wants you, and the powers that be don’t want you to leave
from under their auspice. 
I have been finding it more difficult to write about my life
lately.  Some internal silencer whispers
in my ear, you can’t say that. You can’t talk about that.  In case someone reads and is offended, in
case someone reads and decides I have violated their privacy, in case someone
reads and disagrees with my version of events. 
If I listen to these voices for too long, I am paralysed into
silence. 
That’s another thing that seems to happen in the things I
read.  The extraordinary pressure on
people to say the outrageous, write something new, give us something to get
excited about, but don’t go too far.
If you do, the naysayers will be out in droves and crucify you.
Has it ever occurred to readers that the writers who dare to
put their writing out there have stuck their necks out, have exposed
themselves, so why not tread gently with their critiques? 
I was once friendly with a woman many years ago and I
realised too late that she enjoyed listening to me speak about all the things
she could not/would not say, but she did not reciprocate. 
She did not offer any self-revealing versions of her own
vulnerability.  It was up to me to
provide the grist, on which she could chew and then she could spit it out or do with it as
she pleased. 
I know that people are different, some are more out there and
others prefer to keep things close to their chests.  I don’t have a problem in either case but
when the quiet ones get their rocks off listening to the noisy ones and then
condemn the noisy ones for saying things they should not say then I reckon the
quiet ones need to take a turn on centre stage and declare their views, so that
they too can take a turn at exposure. 
The joy of the gallery lies here.  
I have never thought before to write under a
pseudonym.  It has always been important
to declare myself, but lately I have wondered what would it be like, to throw
your words out there into the ether under a pseudonym, so that no one will know
who you are, even if they believe they do.
To take up the name of a man, for instance, and see what type
of response I get.  To be able to write
all the things I fear I cannot say here and get away with it because the person of
the writer does not exist, except as a fantasy, like those anonymous artists
who put up their pictures in Trenerry Crescent.  
And
how’s this for a treatise on the notion of thought, another antidote to my grim
thoughts, from Brevity’s
blog?
Quinn
Norton writes:
There is more than one kind of thought. There are
thoughts you cannot complete within a month, or a fiscal quarter, just as there
are thoughts that can occupy less than a vacation period, a weekend, or a smoke
break. Like the spectrum of photonic behavior, thoughts come in a nearly
infinite range of lengths and frequencies, and always move at the exact pace of
human life, wherever they are in the universe. Some thoughts are long, they can
take years to think, or a lifetime. Some thoughts take many lifetimes, and we
hand them off to the next generation like the batons in a relay race. Some of
these are the best of thoughts, even if they can be the least productive.
Lifetimes along, they shift the whole world, like a secret lever built and
placed by the loving imaginations of thousands of unproductive stargazers.

Outrunning the bears

Have you ever had the sensation of
lying in bed at night alert to every sound and thought such that sleep evades
you?  Of course you have.  Sleeplessness hits us all at one time
or another.  
Last night I had
fallen asleep for an hour or so but then I woke around midnight with the
awareness that my daughter was not yet home and, although she is an adult and
midnight is not late for a young woman of her generation to be out and about, I could not
get back to sleep.  
I started that
awful process of listening for the click of the door.  I wanted her home and then I could sleep.  I wanted to hear from her that she was
okay.  I wanted the click of the
door, the front lights to blink on at her arrival, the key in the lock.  I went through her mobile number in my
head again and again as I do on such nights when I keep hoping one or other of my
daughters will arrive home safe. 
My thoughts fluctuated between
telling myself to go to sleep, be patient and the urge to dial those
numbers.  Eventually I text messaged her.  I spent some time rehearsing the
message.  
‘I trust all’s
okay.’  
I pressed the send
button and then resumed waiting.  And the waiting got worse as we rolled onto one o’clock in the morning.  You see, I knew my daughter had gone out
on a blind date.  You know, the sort where you do not know the person
you are meeting.  
A dinner in a
restaurant which must have been over by then.  She’s an adult, I told myself.  She’s over twenty one, stop worrying. 
Thoughts of myself at that age ran through, all
the crazy things I have done, endangered my life.   My mind ran amok.  The days events ran through.  
I had been to the Freud conference,
that wondrous annual event where two or three speakers, usually of international
renown, get up and talk about things related to psychoanalysis and how psychoanalytic ideas features on the world stage in practice and applied.  
Yesterday Julian Burnside gave us an inside look at the
lives of certain asylum seekers that makes me further ashamed to live in this
country and turn a blind eye to such profound injustice. Earlier Nancy Hollander had talked about the situation in America where Latino migrants are
treated equally badly in the United States.  She thought
in terms of the systemic nature of these abuses, and how important it is to recognise them and the impact of the social world in analytic work.  Traditionally in psychoanalysis the emphasis has been on the internal world.
Hollander told the joke about a man who
goes shopping in order to prepare for his camping trip.  He goes into a camping store and buys his tent, his sleeping bag, all the stuff a person needs for such an event, but as
he rocks up to the counter, the shop keeper says.  
‘What about your runners?  You’ll need runners.’
 And the man says.  ‘No, I won’t need runners.  I’m going on a camping trip.  You don’t need runners for camping.’
 And the man says, ‘you’ll need
runners to be able to outrun any bears that come along.’
And the man says ‘I could never outrun a
bear, runners or not.’ 
‘But you could outrun your friend.’  
The joke ended there and we all
laughed nervously because the point was made.  This is the essence of neo-liberalism, the idea that the
fittest survive and the rest serve the purpose of the fittest – as food for the
bears. 
Better the bears get the asylum seekers, the unwanted migrants. Better
the immigrants take all those crumby jobs, while we who are more comfortable maintain the
status quo.
I feel even more ashamed of myself
than ever before.  And then after
the talks in the early evening, we went on a tour of the Cunningham Dax Gallery, an
exhibition of art works mainly completed by inmates of Royal Park, some over
fifty-seventy years ago, paintings that reflect the pain of their mental illness and
their incarceration in a mental hospital, and I felt further ashamed.  
Then one of my companions at the talk
said to me over a glass of wine: These people here, these other folks in the audience –
including, I presume he meant, he and I – will go home feeling unsettled for a while, but
then we’ll go back to our everyday lives cleansed of our distress and ready
to resume our busy full lives, strangely refreshed by the experience, as if we
have done enough in simply hearing the talk.  Nothing more we can do.
Helpless as I felt last night with
my daughter out in the dark with a stranger and me fearing the worst, I feel worse about the asylum seekers, not far from here and scattered throughout Australia and beyond  living desperate lives in
no man’s land waiting for asylum after enduring the most appalling experiences
elsewhere.
 I cannot write here all the stories that Julian Burnside told us,
especially of the man who sent Burnside a videotape of another man whose relatives
watched while guards gauged out his eyes and lay the eye balls on a towel
nearby.  This man had been refused asylum and now feared this fate for himself.
And I worry more for my daughters to be growing up in a country whose
behaviour emulates that of the Nazis in Germany some seventy years ago. 
We know and yet we turn a blind
eye. 
How many of you reading here will abandon reading at this point.  I realised as I listened yesterday to
Julian Burnside that I did not want to hear what he had to say, that he was
planting images in my mind of such horror that I could barely stop myself from
bursting into tears.  How can we
continue to allow such cruelty in our treatment of asylum seekers?
And then there is my daughter out
in night with a stranger and what can I do?  It’s not enough to sign petitions – the easy thing – Julian
Burnside reckons, better to write to our local member and his/her opposition
counterpart.  Write a letter tell
them your vote depends on this.  Ask questions and when you get the
standard pro forma back, write another letter.
Burnside then acknowledged that the two dominant parties care only about the marginal seats,
care only about securing their votes in order to retain or gain power.  They therefore pander to the sentiments
of the ‘unsafe seats’, many of whose constituents are the most disenfranchised
of our society and they perhaps most of all resent the incomers and fear there is not
enough to go around. 
They endorse the cruel treatment of
asylum seekers in the belief that there will be more for them but in terms of
what I have recently discovered as ‘biopower’, they along with the rest of us who remain silent actually support the state
infrastructures, the government ruling class that means we wind up policing our
own, via the introduction of such things as the privatisation of asylum
seekers, whereby those who care for detainees are merely prison guards and
asylum seekers who have broken no laws are treated as criminals.
You must be exhausted reading this,
not nearly as exhausted as me, for even after my daughter texted me finally at
1.35 am to say that all was well and she’d see me in the morning, I still could not
sleep. 
If she has elected to stay out with
the stranger I trust her judgement. 
I must.  She’s a grown up, but the world is so cruel
and terrible things can happen and I have not seen her yet and all those
atrocities happen in this ‘fair’ land day after day in the name of the law and
in the name of good governance and I feel sick to the pit of my stomach.