July 25, 2012
What's in a name? Everything, for Aboriginal rapper Eskatology. His music has his name written all over it.
Eskatology, also known as 26-year-old South Australian Jonathan Stier, first came across the term "eschatology" through studying religion.
"Religion does play a part in my life, and I was doing a bit of religious studying and came across this word and it intrigued me," he tells Green Left Weekly.
"So I found the meaning to be 'an end or talks of a world end' and thought it matched well with my stories, about preparing for an end, and righting wrongs before the end, as well as me turning over a new time in my life."
Eskatology's new album, Eskape Reality, tells how he has made a new start after a tough upbringing marked by absent father figures.
The rapper, who is a heavyweight in stature as well as stanza, was raised in the small town of Crystal Brook by his Ngarrindjeri grandmother and her husband. He never knew his grandmother's previous husband, a German who fathered his mother. He also did not know his own Yugoslavian father.
"I grew up knowing more of my Aboriginal heritage than any of my other mixed blood," says Eskatology, who was baptised Lutheran. "My grandma was full blood and I didn't know my German grandfather and my dad wasn't around. So I guess that's all I knew."
It's a sentiment that calls into question the views of Bess Price, the former chair of the Northern Territory Indigenous Affairs Advisory Council, who recently chided fair-skinned Aboriginal people for identifying as only Aboriginal.
Her comments led radical artist Richard Bell to retort: "I have been a blackfella all my life. I don't know any of my white relatives. In fact, I have never met even one of them. So Bess Price, or any other idiot non-friend, don't tell me to be proud of those fuckers."
Such issues are never simply black and white. In fact, Eskatology identifies as Aboriginal, German and Yugoslavian.
"I struggled to find myself a lot of the time," says Eskatology. "I grew up mainly with my grandparents, until I was 10, then went back to my mum. I have only just come in contact with my father. Haven’t had anything to do with him."
The rapper's eschatological beliefs also come to the fore in "2012”, a track that addresses the end of the Mayan calendar on December 21 this year. Bolivia's indigenous president, Evo Morales, has predicted the date will mark the end of capitalism, ushering in a new era of equality, and has vowed to eject Coca-Cola from the country on that date.
Eskatology is not so sure about the outcome.
"'2012' I feel will be an end," he says. "But not as everyone sees it, where the whole world will fall to bits, but more of an old cycle entering a new one.”
A key to what it means for Eskatology lies in his album's artwork. "In the middle it is the 'all-seeing eye', which is a symbol of the New World Order," he says.
New World Order theorists believe the world is headed towards an eschatological event in the formation of a one-world government. They have been dismissed as conspiracy theorists, but "conspiracy theorist" is a term that has perhaps become too narrowly defined.
As intellectual and activist Noam Chomsky has pointed out: "Every example we find of planning decisions… where some people got together and tried to use whatever power they could draw upon to achieve a result - if you like, those are 'conspiracies'. That means that almost everything that happens in the world is a 'conspiracy'...
"The developing needs of this new international corporate ruling class - it's what has sometimes been called an emerging 'de facto world government'. That's what all of the new international trade agreements are about... These are all efforts to try to centralise power in a world economic system geared towards ensuring that 'policy is insulated from politics' - in other words, towards ensuring that the general populations of the world have no role in decision-making."
Eskatology's song "Mr Wolf" intones, "without a democracy there is no solution". Asked to elaborate, the rapper says: "A democracy would allow the people to stand up and control the affairs of people, and without this, who is going to keep control of this world and its affairs? The same leaders that brainwash us, the same ones that give praise to the US leaders when they are in need of war."
But for Eskatology, eschatology is as personal as it is political. His album tells of three deaths in his family in three years as well as his close friend dying.
Chris Graham, managing editor of Aboriginal rights magazine Tracker, says one of the main differences he sees between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians is the fact that Aboriginal people deal with death far more often.
"I would have to agree with Chris Graham," says Eskatology. "It usually comes in three deaths with Aboriginal people. I lost my uncle in '96 to pneumonia, my aunty who was 26 died in '97, and my nana died in '98."
Dealing with such grief has led him to substance abuse. "I started drinking heavily in Port Augusta," he says. "I suffered bad anxiety from a young age."
In "Thousand voices", Eskatology raps about taking Prozac to help him with that anxiety. Some psychologists say the anxiety suffered by conspiracy theorists arises from a combination of them holding strong individualist values and lacking power.
In The Return Of The Public, author Dan Hind suggests a general rise in anxiety over the past 30 years has come about as a result of the rise in inequality, and the real underlying issues are not being addressed. He says drugs such as Prozac are addictive and only marginally more effective than a placebo.
"Well I would agree and disagree,” says Eskatology. “I would say it doesn’t have a placebo effect because I have noticed changes a few weeks after taking it, which I didn’t really get from others, but it is addictive.”
However, he has quit his other addictions, so the concept of eschatology has arisen again in Eskatology turning over a new leaf, health-wise.
"Eskatology also symbolises the old me," he says. "I slowed down drinking, I quit the weed and cigs, so it was like a new start."
Eschatology can be taken to mean rebirth or resurrection, and the release of Eskape Reality - Eskatology's album number two - marks the second coming of a fine rapper.
Green Left has bought a copy of Eskape Reality to give away. Email your name and address to CriticalFilms@gmail.com before the next issue of Green Left comes out. Winner picked at random. Buy Eskape Reality and download Eskatology's first album for free here.
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