dolorosa_12: (le guin)
This has been my tradition since 2007, and I've found it to be a good way to take stock and pause for reflection in the moment as one year slips into the next.

Questions and answers behind the cut )

Happy 2017, everyone.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
I am about to write up my annual 'year in review' post, but because this year has been A Lot, I had some things to say that weren't going to be covered by a Q-and-A-style meme about favourite songs and best new TV shows of 2016. I'm always very contemplative at this time of year, and over the past few days I've been thinking a lot about stories.

I haven't really felt genuinely happy since June 24th this year. However, I managed to struggle on for a few months after the EU referendum result by telling myself, pretty much every day, 'I can live with the Leave vote, as long as Hillary Clinton wins the US election in November.' Well, we all know how that went. I didn't sleep much for the whole month of November, and the activities of daily life, of planning for the future, seemed utterly futile. What was the point of the next cohort of NHS doctors knowing how to search databases, or of healthcare researchers managing their data or conducting a systematic review properly? What was the point of planning a wedding, or growing a garden, or meeting up with friends, or cleaning the house? I remember very little of November, just this kind of dampening fog of despair, interspersed with flashes of fear and worry about how to help distant friends.

And then I went to the cinema, and watched Rogue One. It's not a perfect movie — it's not even a perfect Star Wars movie — but it is the story of a ragtag found family of misfits, finding courage in each other, choosing to fight against incredible odds and an overwhelmingly technologically and numerically superior enemy. More importantly to me, it's about people making a choice in the face of utter hopelessness and despair, and the knowledge that they are unlikely to live to see the results of their actions, to save the world for others, when they know they will not be able to save it for themselves.

This brought me back to myself, not because I believe I would be one to emulate those characters' actions — I've never been tested in this way, but I am pretty certain I do not have that kind of moral courage — but because it reminded me of the comfort and consolation and power of stories, and of the stories that I carry around with me like a kind of personal canon.

And then I remembered the five wives of Fury Road, a quintet of traumatised and violated women, making common cause, fighting back against oppression and exploitation and a misogynistic death cult, asserting 'We are not things' as they build a better world.

I remembered the clones of Orphan Black, women supporting other women as they reclaimed control over their own lives and choices and bodies. I remembered Jessica Jones, another abused, exploited woman, bringing herself out of the pit of despair by protecting and saving other people.

I remembered the characters of Station Eleven choosing, in a blighted, postapocalyptic world, to create libraries, make music, and become a band of travelling players performing Shakespeare, because 'survival is insufficient.' I remembered the children of Space Demons giving up the gun and dreaming of a world of peace and plenty.

I remembered Pagan Kidrouk, Isidore Orbus, and Babylonne Kidrouk learning, loving, and living fiercely, carving out spaces of tolerance, pluralism and integrity in a world slowing crushing such spaces in favour of extremism and ideological uniformity. I remembered the characters of The Lions of Al-Rassan doing the same.

I remembered Noviana Una, organising a rebellion against an oppressive empire from within a twenty-first-century Library of Alexandria, and leading a mob of the dispossessed, abused women and traumatised military conscripts, to confront a violent, misogynistic, abusive, all powerful ruler. And above all, I remembered the story that started everything, that has taught and given me so much, and was the first one that ever told me, 'Tell them stories. They need the truth you must tell them true stories, and everything will be well, just tell them stories.'

Your stories will be different to mine. They may not be in books and films and TV shows. They may not be fictional. They may not be stories at all. Whatever they are, I hope you find them, and find strength and comfort and courage in them. We are going to need all those things in the coming year, and we must draw on what we can to get them. Happy 2017, everyone. Love, hope, and stories to you all.
dolorosa_12: (sleepy hollow)
The emotions of Trump's supporters need no economic explanation: hatred is its own ground. It is the oldest and most pitiful liberal self-delusion to imagine that ethnic hatred, or, now, misogyny is merely a masked form of economic distress — the bad way that an authentic emotion expresses itself.
— Adam Gopnik, A Point of View.


Felt a tremor stir beneath my breath
That forecasts storms on the gallup poll
Woke up from the nightmare news
And hoping to read a sign in the morning air

Nothing changes here and nothing improves
All say my friends who just want out
And leave these troubles behind
Scatter like paper in the eye of the storm
Documented with a silent snow
That's only heard from far away

More cards in play, follow in suit
Everywhere you look, you only see red
And wonder when to call off the race
Watching a horse running down its last legs
Just when you think it couldn't get much worse
Watch the numbers rise on the death toll
And the chimes of freedom flash and fade
Only heard from far, far away

I hear you can't trust in your own
Now the grey is broken in the early morn
And the words forming barely have a voice
It's just your heart that's breaking without choice

Everything you've learned is distorted in your head
Bouncing off the walls, unravelling the thread
Staying up with the blue screen glow
Forgetting everything you ever dreamed years ago

When the dread is flowing down my veins
I want to tear it all down and build it up again
Tear it all down, build it up again

Hear your heart that's breaking without choice
I want to hear those chimes ring again
Ring again

— Calexico, 'All Systems Red'.


The latter is my favourite political protest song, written as an anguished cry of despair during the George W. Bush years. How bleak, how horrifying, how much it crushes the soul that it is again applicable today, that it was always applicable, hiding just around the corner.
dolorosa_12: (doctor horrible)
Everyone expected me to become a journalist. My parents are journalists, and all their friends are journalists, and I grew up in Canberra, where it sometimes feels like everyone is either a journalist, a politician or a public servant. When I was growing up, the concepts of 'adult' and 'journalist' were almost interchangeable.

I say 'journalists', but what I really mean is 'political journalists'. My father is a very senior political journalist, and so are most of his friends. Hell, even the woman who introduced my dad to my stepmother is a senior political journalist.

I could tell you any number of wacky stories relating to politicians - like the time Paul Keating rang our home number in a blistering rage in 1992 because Dad had said something unflattering on the news, and I, a seven-year-old, answered the phone and had a rather surreal conversation with the surly Prime Minister. Or the time I got roped into a dinner at Bill Shorten's house (because his then-partner knew my stepmother) before Shorten became a politician, where everyone smoked indoors and he tried not to make his ambitions so obvious. Or the time when I was 22 years old and accidentally met Wayne Swan while I was wearing my pyjamas and he proceeded to grill me about opinions of Labor among young people.

Political journalists were my mentors. When I was a child they treated me like a sort of precocious pet, when I was a teenager they tried to steer me in that direction as a career, and when I did, briefly, become a journalist as an adult, they treated me as one of their own. I looked up to them and thought there could be no one as clever and eloquent and cynical and powerful as them. When my father broke very important political stories, I basked in reflected glory, and when Kevin Rudd first emerged as a credible candidate in 2007, I stood in the newsroom with the other journalists, glued to the TV and feeling as if I were participating in something powerful.

And I think it's fairly obvious that I'm extremely left-leaning, so I don't feel like I need to say anything about the horrors that have been going on in the Labor Party since it came to power, because you know what I will say, and what I will feel.

I have always responded to Australian politics like a journalist, even as a child, and even now, when it's five years since I could call myself such a thing. And that is why it hurts. Because political journalism in Australia, particularly after Gillard came to power, is a disgrace. It has reduced everything to personality - and so personality, not policy, came to matter. I am ashamed to have been a journalist, and to have had a journalist's mentality. My childhood memories are tainted. I feel like my trust has been betrayed.

The recent leadership spill upset me less because it will hand Australia to Tony Abbott on a plate, than because it is the crowning moment in a series of things that have shown the Australian political media in an extremely poor light. I know these priorities of mine are messed up, but it is what it is.

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rushes into my heart and my skull

June 2017

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