Cultural Dissent

A History Man’s Past & Other People’s Stories: A Shared Memoir. Part One: Other People’s Wars
By John Tognolini
2015, 160 pages
pb $24, ebook $5
Order the book

British-Tamil musician M.I.A.'s video for her new song "Borders", which expresses solidarity with refugees seeking to flee to safety, has caused controversy. French football team Paris Saint-Germain has requested the video, directed by the artist herself, be taken offline because M.I.A. is seen in the video wearing a modified version of the club's shirt.

This past year there was no shortage of people who tried to leverage the sports world to boldly speak out on issues beyond the field of play.

In the United States, Missouri football players went on strike against racism; the remarkable activists in Boston — led in many neighbourhoods by people of colour and women — kept out the rapacious Olympics; the continuing fight ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics is taking on both the International Olympic Committee and the Brazilian government.

I BELIEVE that reviewers generally should disclose when they have a vested interest in the thing they're reviewing, so full disclosure: Barring another Jar Jar Binks fiasco, there was about as much chance of me--a geek hurtling toward middle age at light speed--hating J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII--The Force Awakens as there is of the Millennium Falcon successfully navigating an asteroid field.

Suffragette
Directed by Sarah Gavron, written by Abi Morgan
Starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter & Meryl Streep
In cinemas now

Suffragette, written by a woman (Abi Morgan), directed by a woman (Sarah Gavron) and co-produced by two women (Alison Owen and Faye Ward) is a paean of praise to the British women who rebelliously demanded the right for women to vote.

"Should Team Autralia Be Disqualified?' was the theme of a comedy debate held as a fundraiser for Green Left Weekly in Sydney on October 17.

The United Nations has a strict definition of the term "refugee," whereby you are only a refugee if you are fleeing war or persecution of some kind. If you are fleeing a place because there is no way for you to feed yourself or your family if you stay, the UN defines this kind of movement as "migration." Until 1967, the only refugees recognized by the original refugee convention were Europeans.

When feminist writer Clementine Ford outed one of her online abusers to his employer, it struck a chord with people who have endured similar sexist harassment and abuse: on their blogs, social media, and even dating websites. However, Ford also been criticised and been told she's doing more harm than good, most famously in the widely discussed opinion piece on independent news site New Matilda by Jack Kilbride titled “Why Courageous Clementine Ford Is Not The Answer”.

The Butterfly Prison
Tamara Pearson 343pps
Open Books
www.open-bks.com

In her debut novel The Butterfly Prison, Tamara Pearson, an Australian journalist working for Latin American news site TeleSUR in Quito, uses a poet’s sensitivity and language combined with a journalist’s eye for reportage. She weaves storylines that situate the poor and alienated as actors in resisting the living prison which dehumanises them.

He fell in Afghanistan
Sometime the day before

The Major from the New Mexico National Guard
couldn't find my house
and it was a stormy night in Albuquerque
So we talked by cell phone instead--
No dress uniforms at my door--
It was a clean three shots
Straight through the heart
He was dead before he hit the ground

The Major was a father himself he said
I could hear his kid behind the phone
I could see my own son reaching up to his dad

The Major called back later
The government could fly me
the Major said
to the Dignified Transfer at Dover base

I asked where that was


Red and Black Bloc banner on November 29.

A large-scale revolt of fans of the A-League, Australia's leading football (soccer) competition, has broken out. With several “active support” fan groups on an indefinite strike and fans from each of the 10 clubs protesting in one form or another, it is one of the largest sporting-related protests in Australia's history.

The Black players on the University of Missouri’s football (gridiron) team — a team in the national title hunt just two years ago — went on strike against racism on November 7.

The players demand was simple: they would not play until school president Tim Wolfe resigned over his inability to address a series of racist incidents on campus.

Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull
Paddy Manning
Melbourne University Press,2015
442 pages

Coalition Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull likes to downplay his image as a privileged, wealthy silvertail by touting his time as a flat-dwelling young boy from a broken family.

But, writes the business journalist Paddy Manning in his biography of the former investment banker, Turnbull's upbringing was not that humble.

Marx & Nature: A Red & Green Perspective
By Paul Burkett
Haymarket Books, 2014

Marx and Nature is a challenging, but very important book for all those concerned with developing and acting on the ecological insights in Marxist theory.

Joe Hill was a senior organiser, popular songwriter and cartoonist for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), more commonly known as the Wobblies. The 100th anniversary of his death is being commemorated worldwide this month.

Hill’s life is best remembered in labour movement songs that are still performed today by such renowned artists as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Bruce Springsteen. It could be argued that he is more famous now in death than he ever was in life.

Darwin’s Bagot community launched its Painting Home Project on November 7. It was the culmination of a seven-week collaboration between Aboriginal artists, Bagot residents, street artists from as far away as Melbourne, and other arts and cultural workers.

“Matildas midfielder Hayley Raso says the pay increase gained by Australia's top female soccer players could not have been obtained without strike action,” the Sydney Morning Herald said on November 9.

In the first ever strike by a national sporting team, the Matildas refused to travel to play world women's football champions, the US, in protest at the refusal of Football Federation Australia to meet their demands.

Remembrance Day is marked in Commonwealth nations on November 11 -- to commemorate the end of the bloodbath that was World War I. As a commemoration of fallen soldiers, it is overshadowed in Australia by Anzac Day -- but is a far bigger deal in Britain.

Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg
By Kate Evans
Edited by Paul Buhle
Verso Books, London, 2015,
220 pages $16.95.
Order here

Perhaps a new comic-book super hero is about to take the world by storm. An unlikely Frau Luxemburg, who transforms from a tiny and odd-looking outsider into the almost unstoppable Red Rosa — Revolutionary Scourge of the Oppressors.

“There is a saying amongst them that all cops are bastards,” Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm said on November 3 about the attitude of many fans of the Western Sydney Wanderers football (soccer) team towards the police force. “The cops have earned that label, they have to un-earn it.”

The author of the Harry Potter series of novels, JK Rowling, has disappointed many of her fans by signing a letter opposing a boycott of Israel.

The letter, which was also signed by other British cultural figures, such as TV presenter Melvyn Bragg, popular historian Tom Holland and author Hilary Mantel, proclaims its support for what it called “an independent UK network” called Culture for Coexistence.

Tracks
By Channa Wickremesekera
Samayawardhana Printers
156 pages, paperback

Class, family, lust, the need to fit in and hero worship are the recurrent tropes in Sri Lankan-born Melbourne-based author Channa Wickremesekera's latest novel Tracks.

He explores the sexual confusion of a young middle-class boy of Sri Lankan descent (Sheehan) who develops a huge crush on one of the more rebellious “Anglo” boys (Robbie) in his school.

Melbourne-based author and community radio presenter Iain McIntyre has been documenting and celebrating Australian radical history since the 1990s. A series of zines he created entitled How To Make Trouble And Influence People were compiled into an expanded edition by Breakdown Press in 2009 with a second edition released in conjunction with US publisher PM Press in 2013.

Faction Man: Bill Shorten's Path to Power
David Marr
Quarterly Essay No. 59
Black Inc., 2015

Even the usually perceptive journalist David Marr, in his latest political profile for Quarterly Essay, is defeated by the indistinct and bland Shorten who, in public opinion polls, trails behind “Someone Else” as preferred leader of the Labor Opposition.

Sydney-based performing arts company Kinetic Energy Theatre Company turned 40 this year.

It is a miraculous achievement to survive in a dog-eat-dog world. Our consumer society is ruled by commercialisation and profit-making. The powers that be would rather feed cultural atrophy and political amnesia than cultivate intelligent artistic endeavours for the health and vibrancy of the people.

Inside/Outside — Six Plays from Palestine & the Diaspora
Edited by Naomi Wallace & Ismail Khalidi
TGC Books, 2015
Sykes-Picot: The Legacy
Edited by Kenneth Pickering
Arts Canteen, 2015

There is a long tradition of drama in Palestinian culture, but it is not a written one. This point is made by Nathalie Handal in her excellent and detailed introduction to Inside/Outside, a collection of Palestinian plays.

Palestinian theatre was — and continues to be — created through collective improvisation. It has its roots in oral storytelling traditions.

Henning Mankell, the creator of the Swedish detective Wallander and activist for Palestinian and African rights, died at home on October 5 aged 67. He had been diagnosed with cancer early last year.

Many fans of crime fiction will remember Mankell best for his Wallander novels — dark Scandinavian crime stories featuring a cynical, aging detective. Yet his stand for Palestinian rights is also an important part of his legacy.

The Spanish football club Sevilla has rejected a €5 million sponsorship deal to advertise tourism in Israel on its players’ shirts.

The 2015 UEFA Europa League champions turned down the offer due to the “political connotations” of appearing to support Israel, according to the Spanish sports publication Mundo Deportivo.

Club sources told the sports website ElDesmarque that the image Israeli sponsorship would project “could be detrimental to Sevilla, especially taking into account present political issues and sensibilities and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict”.

Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for Solutions to the Climate Crisis
By Tim Flannery
Text Publishing, 2015
245 pages

Australian scientist Tim Flannery became fascinated with proposals to extract excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and oceans when the billionaire aeronautics carbon-polluter Richard Branson, in response to Flannery's first book on climate change, The Weather Makers, invited Flannery to be a judge on Branson's £25 million Virgin Earth Challenge prize for methods of carbon withdrawal and storage.

The Coal Face
By Tom Doig
Penguin, 2015
$9.99, 144 pages

Released earlier this year, Tom Doig's The Coal Face describes the day last year that fire took hold in Victoria's Hazelwood coal mine and burned for one-and-a-half months.

Henning Mankell, the creator of the Swedish detective Wallander and activist for Palestinian and African rights, died at home on October 5 aged 67. He had been diagnosed with cancer early last year.

Many fans of crime fiction will remember Mankell best for his Wallander novels — dark Scandinavian crime stories featuring a cynical, aging detective. Yet his stand for Palestinian rights is also an important part of his legacy.

The WikiLeaks Files: The World According to the US Empire
Verso, 2015
624 pages, hardback

George Orwell said: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

These are dark times, in which the propaganda of deceit touches all our lives. It is as if political reality has been privatised and illusion legitimised.

The information age is a media age. We have politics by media; censorship by media; war by media; retribution by media; diversion by media — a surreal assembly line of clichés and false assumptions.

Amir Amirani's documentary film We Are Many — on the huge outpouring of public opposition to the Iraq War in February 2003 — has its Australian premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival on Oct 22 and 24.

On Feb 15, 2003, 30 million people marched against the impending US-led war in Iraq. The protesters warned the Iraq invasion would be a disaster and humanitarian catastrophe — and were tragically proven right.

Books are lives compressed, humanity summarised into screaming or striking stories.

One would think the book world would be a safe haven from inequality. But instead the traditional publishing industry — the big corporate publishers — is perpetuating prejudice and limiting ideas by elevating certain authors, characters, and thoughts above all others, with significant social consequences.

Here's this month's radical record round-up, which actually features more than 20 albums (count them). What album, or albums, would you suggest? Comment below, on Twitter or Facebook.

1. NERINA PALLOT - THE SOUND AND THE FURY

The arts sector is celebrating the removal of the arts portfolio from Attorney-General George Brandis in the aftermath of sustained protests over the Brandis-led cuts to the Australia Council for the Arts.

An open letter, signed by a collective of dozens of writers including renowned musician and author Nick Cave, had demanded new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sack Brandis as arts minister and reverse arts funding cuts.

In Turnbull's cabinet shake-up following his replacement of Tony Abbott as prime minister, Senator Fifield was appointed arts and communications minister.

Pages