Help may be out there – in fiction!

Since I talked to you last some strange things have happened: a reading, an election, and a spill on the horizon. All this has got me thinking and I guess, ranting, a bit. Last week, I received a last-minute call to remind me of an invitation to listen to a writer from Melbourne passing through Vienna and speaking at Shakespeare & Company about an anthology she edited, Melbourne Subjective. I’m always happy to visit the good people at Shakespeare, the only exclusively English-language bookshop in MelbourneVienna. I get to smoke in the back room and enjoy a glass of wine and a chat, which is an added treat. Anyway, Patricia Poppenbeek, the editor, presented the “bocage” as she calls it – short fiction [and poetry] some with strange styles, nonfiction and even film stills. Her reading and presentation was a little like the “bocage” itself, interspersed as it was with chatting about what was going on in the Land of Oz. A delightful evening and an interesting book on Melbourne.

I’d been to Melbourne once for an extended period way back in 1988 for a big international telecoms conference that saw itself setting a compass for the future of the Internet and its service providers. The weather at that conference went from a heatwave to having to live in a fisherman’s jumper from a nearby army disposal store as the warmest garment I could find. And that hot and cold contrast, to my mind, seems to have become part of what the Internet has become. Munney not only makes the world go around, but may well send it spinning off its axis.

Predictions see the whole world being connected in a couple of years. I can see the good that can bring, but there’s also a certain fatigue, a need to step back and opt out, a need to have the choice to do so. Oh, and it’s not necessarily all about surveillance, its usage and abusage. “Abusage” is all about language and this is where those weasel words come in. It’s not easy to find clear voices out there at a time when moguls control the press and twiddle their puppet-master fingers. And I’m not the only one thinking this – here a recent article on Tony Abbott in which the author states more generally:  “Politicians crave control and certainty, because the old orthodoxies and rituals are busted.” Another prediction is that there may be no countries as such – a good thing perhaps with nationalism rearing its head in such ugly ways – but that there may just be interest groups spread all over the world. Some of that has been around in a clandestine way, but a good sign is that grass roots and people power are getting in on the action. Everything is possible.

Like in Queensland. Those elections showed that the people have a voice and can use it. After the Australian Liberal Party (funny name as it’s not at all liberal) lost elections in Victoria, Queensland was a real shock. My home State, NSW is next, and there may be a new Prime Minister next week. This all shows that there is a need for empathy, that politicians, rulers, bosses, people up there, are being watched very closely and many are found wanting. Yes, they want for themselves and don’t give a damn about the people whose wellbeing has been entrusted to them. The Internet has brought things out in the open thanks to Wikileaks, Ed Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Aaron Swartz and a host of others who have grown up with the technology. I guess that’s why governments, especially those with leaders with a foot still on the neck of past glories, are so gung-ho about surveillance, and please don’t give me that cybercrime/security angle – most crime of the magnitude one would want us to panic about is only possible with “friends” in high places, either holding out a palm or turning a blind eye, the latter with a visible bank account number. Did you know that illegally parked money by the rich – and it’s too easy to say corporations because the buck does stop in somebody’s pocket – could do so much to heal the world? Russell Brand does have a point.

All this is going round in my head, informing my reading and my writing. Fiction helps on my way onwards!