when I told friends and family about going to Baxter, thay asked "Are You OK?"
"I mean I hope you didn't get hurt or anything"
"Oh my God that looked so violent! wow! you've got guts!"
I have to start this with a note that I do not have "guts" - unless I mean that large blob of flesh that holds my boobs up from my pubes. Gut I got a lot of (damn those tim tams!) but gumption, guts, strength bravado, is all well concealed in that big yellow stripe that runs down my back.
i'm so gutless I don't go out at night, unless I'm on my bike which I NEVER ride wihtout a helmet, and even then only when i'm feeling "brave"
I'm so gutless I get claustrophobic in cinemas
I'm so gutless I've only ever shaved my LEGS twice - and the second time was for money ($500.00)
I'm so gutless that I've had NOTHING pierced, shaved or anything else "cool"
I hate the dentist, shun hairdressers all due to fear.
I'm scared of heights, skiiing, speed, motorcycles, driving, mammograms .........
get the picture?
My decision to attend the protests at Baxter Detention Centre this Easter seemed at first insane. "yep, I am insane" I told myself "I've gone completely self destructively manic" the thesis has gotten to me at last no doubt.
It didn't help that the decisions was kind of a last minute spur of the moment thing. I was checking my email after spending a week in bed with some sinus migraine hell thing, and I read Nori's posting on the Queeruption chatsite. "Sweaty Smelly activists! shitting in a hole! who can resist?" And unbelievably enough I couldn't.
I think it was the conjunction of my Birthday with the protests, that made it feel like a perverse sort of self indlugence. And I wanted Anna to see the desert and this seemed like a really easy way to drag her beyond the blue mountains. I was surprised when someone we mentioned it too sighed about being too selfish to go to the baxter protest, coz I really saw that going to the protest was something easy and indulgent. As disgusted as I have been by the policies of Mandatory detention, I haven't been to Villawood, haven't joined any support networks, and didn't do any of the hard slog of fundraising or organising for this bus trip. for us it was even easier to attend than the average Confest. We just had to pay $100 and pack our bags! Also I just don't do self denial anymore (or at least try not to - see "squatting and the recovering catholic"). I believe in acknolwedging my own selfish, affective motivations in the limited amount of activtism that I do engage in.......
anyway, anna's response went along the lines of "No.....Yes......Maybe.....Yes......Dunno.....What?......Yes......" all uttered over the course of a week. She arrive dhome at 10pm the night before departure, screamingly drunk and an impediment to my last minute packing of EVERYTHING. the next day she had to be literally carried onto a cab and onto the bus. Her face was a sickly state of green, and yet healthier than the dodgy DT ridden cabbie. "whoa!" as he swerved punch drunk away from nothing, "what's left?" "errr - Isn't Ultimo on the other side of Parramatta road?" "How do I get onto Cleveland Street?" I'd had 3 hours sleep. this was not looking good.
Somehow, we got on the bus. Someone (angel of mercy)lent me earplugs. We slept most of the bus journey there. I mainly remember - people doing yoga at bus stops and watching a veyr jumpy video of "love and other catastrophes" at which Anna was not impressed at all. I was amazed how accurate a portrayal of Unimelb cinema studies it was. We chatted despondently about the leads porbably being LUGS (lesbians until graduation), and really Picnic at hanging rock being a far more powerful evocation of antipodean sapphic frolics.(miranda! miranda!).
We weree on one of two buses from Sydney. Our bus seemed to be a mixture of queer anarchists (yayy for queeruption!) other vegan/activist/anarcho types, some uni students, small groupings or solo travellers who I hadn't met before, a pleasant smattering of dykes and members of the NSW refugee Action coalition which included some faces I'd known from the old ISO. (Read John birmingham for laughs or do a google search).
Early on I chatted with Mark GoodCamp (a more appropriate spelling of his name given his organising role) - about mutual connections of the past 10 or 12 years in student politics. I noted that he was also dyeing his hair as he said "We're now the elders". Crikey. i'm still making poo jokes in meetings. Apparently the australian trotskyite left have splintered even more than 10 years ago when I was involved. I felt a bit despondent when I hear this and tried to fit the expanding geneology into my brain but now I reckon Hells bells! fuck the tree analogy! I reckon they've just gone RHIZOMATIC. They are just engaging in infinite possilbiities of micorsurface connections. rah rah deleuze! As long as no one metions Kronstad I reckon I can feel OK about it all. they seem to be working well together anyway an were nice to the anarchists and dilletants such as moi.
After the dramatic canola field sunset, someone put on a video of the previous detention centre protests - ie Baxter 03 and woomera in 02. since abandoning all faith in the maintstream media, my knowledge of protests has been through word of mouth or the net. I'd read a great account of the Woomera protests in "antipopper" blog, but nothing prepared me for the TV images. Baxter 03 looked violent and scary as all fuck. I wished anna hadn't fallen asleep, and tied my legs in a wee holding knot. then we got to the woomera foootage, edited by some digicam boffins wth lotsa meaty quotes.
oh my god.
I had to stifle my sobs as tears rolled down my cheeks.
"I'm not cut out for this activist stuff" I thought. "I'm too sensitive, this is so unbelievalby bad I'll go mad if I try to think about it" I shuddered and wondered what would happen if I rocke dup to the border fence and burst into tears? Loud keening sobs for hours and hours? Would the revolutionaries condemn me as petit bourgeoise diletante bleeding heart scum? would the scary cops drag me into the camp as another Cornelia Rau headcase?
WHAT THE FUCK WOULD I DO WITH MY GRIEF?????
There ain't much mention of affect in VI Lenin. trotsky does a bit, Guevara & fidel touch on it lightly, Mao skips over it and Ho Chi Minh wrote some damn fine poems. I guess I can blame them for being blokes, coz Julietta Pareda is a bit better (go, do a google search, she rocks). but the point I'm making is that the revolution doens't allow much time for the weepy stuff. Knee trembling, stomach churning, panty wetting, palm sweating stuff. onward heroic peoples with the heroic peoples struggle. Well i'm noone's hero and I decided against martyrdom about the same time as virginity. Besides I'm not eve sure if I'm a revolutionary. Sure enough I'd like a revolution, I'd like a lot of things. i'd like a house with water views, and a harem of curvacious cavorting err...... ahem! and a couple of dogs, ad maybe a piglet. I reckon I'd like a combie van to drive around austrlia in, and a trust account that I can live off.....
In any case, what I am actually devoting my life to acheiving, is the serous and sensitive practice of art. whihc seems trivial when there are CHILDREN locked up in concentration camps. I have absolutely o doubt of the evil of this current practice, and I'm amazed that people can justify turning a bling eye to it.
When I was a kid in a redneck country town 20 years ago, the same redneck coutnry town SPONSORED two families of boat people, stranded in a refugee camp in INdonesia to come to Austrlia and settle locally. That is the Australia I grew up with. I cannot understand why the hell BLOODY POMMIE backpackers who rampage over coogee and bondi are allowed to overstay their visas when people heroic enough to cross the indian ocean in a tugboat get put in gaol! These people shold be given a heros welcome - just like they were twenty years ago.
anyway,Anna pointed out another thing, whihc is in the Universal Declaration of Human rights. and that is that citizens have a duty (not a RIGHT but a DUTY) to resist an oppressive or unjust state.
I often wonder about the latter day guilt of the Germans who lived under tha Nazi regime, and wonder how Australians will feel in 50 years time, when the diabolical hypocrisy of the refugee camps is officially acknolwedged. Maybe theyll be like the same australians who won't say sorry to the Stolen generations. Maybe Jesus Jones was right and 1989 was " the end of history"
and there'll be no judgement for posterity. bugger! there goes my Walter Benjamin books!
In any case, if society is condemend to Barbarism, if history is condemend to a fashionist flux of neo and retro waves between ever lightening tonal schemes of grey and beige (oh look! it's a third way! Oooh look it's neoliberalism!) if God really does exist and is the type of scary bitgootted humourless prick that would make PETER JENSEN and GEORGE PELL in his own image; Well we are all fucked!
I sat and thought about that the other day as I scoffed another packet of tim tams (now available in chilli chocolate flavour!) and tried to avoid my thesis. and I decided that living is hard. And that there is a big difference between living and anaesthesia. anaethesia is what most of us do in the name of enjoyment. Anaesthesia is what is promoted by our culture (and I mean our coz I love bits of it as much as the next moron) as enjoyment. Obilivion, forgetting, distraction, food, alcohol, entertainment, new products - all anaesthetising us to realising how painful it is to be aware. this is nothing new. I'd been on a bus for 18 hours by this stage. I could have been at Vipassana and come to the same conclusion.
The thing is, I felt that I had to protest, to make an attempt to protest, in order to realise and actualise my own capacity to do so. Across the aisle from me were two refugee activists whose homes had been raided by federal police and who had been charged with HELPING REGUGEES ESCAPE FROM AUSTRALIA. and no they weren't being offered any international medals for human rights, but jail terms. Locking up refugees doen's just affect "ordinary australians' by making us hang our heads in shame and feel guilty, but the actual price we all pay for allowing this to happen is that we also allow the government to enforce peoples inaction in this matter. the government actually will intimidate, harass and attack people who try to oppose their policies - and so this is why I feel the need to encourage others who have had the courage and capacity to voice their oppostion to mandatory detention, but to add my own voice to their protests - while I still have one that can be heard.