Of oxymorons, sheep and words

I’ve always been optimistic, but lately there’ve been some reality bytes. Despite the veneer of a new PM, the Australian government continues its horrific attitude towards asylum seekers and now plans to send them to Kyrgyzstan; and Australia wants to join China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Maldives and Kazakhstan on the UN Human Rights Council. Oxymorons abound. Sulky loser, Tony Abbott keeps spreading his vitriol and, in the process, is earning big bucks on the talkie circuit while PM Turnbull continues to laud the worst PM Australia ever had to endure.

Elsewhere, too, one UN organization held a telco extravaganza in Budapest, while another cried out for the plight of refugees. Are these arms of the UN not even talking to each other? It seems that everyone’s in it for themselves these days. I’m all right Jack, right? Après moi le deluge, and all that.

Switzerland, that neutral oasis housing not only several UN organisations, Henri Dunant’s Red Cross, but also Sepp Blatter’s FIFA, has now gone about as far right as that country could go, or can it go further with its politics of fear and protectionism? Where are you, Voltaire, when we need you?

The only people who seem to be talking any sense these days are stand-up comedians, artists and writers. But even they are exposed to the wrath of the fear-filled power mongers. Ah, the power of the arts where an Ai Weiwei can subvert Lego with a little help from many friends, just ordinary people, no big names.

And the UBUD Writers & Readers Festival has just kicked off albeit a little bruised due to the cancellation of panels and readings that, heaven forbid, recall recent bloody history.

Austria, too, is loath to face its past with the jailing of writer Stephan Templ.

History. Lest we forget. Maybe there have always been forked tongues and it’s just thanks to Ed Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange, that we are now aware. But do we care? Fortress Europe drawing up its bridges against the Others to whom we don’t even want to give a chance. Oh, we’ve heard all the stories, but let’s just look at this blogpost by my friend, DL Nelson as she chronicles her memories of a lost Syria 2000.

Hope lies in words and in people, those who in their own ways try and empathise rather than draw up the bridges to their countries and minds. Listen to the artists, listen to the creative young. Sheep are sweet beings. But they are still sheep, only bleating when it’s too late.

So here’s to hope in words.

TwistedTales2015I was proud to have been on the judging panel of the 2015 Twisted Tales anthology. It’s full of flash fiction stories with a twist and many do not shy away from the Zeitgeist.

Another book to which I’m proud to have contributed is the Refugee Welcome Anthology launched by an Englishman in Denmark, Greg McQueen. (Greg also masterminded the charity anthologies 100 Stories for Haiti, 50 Stories for Pakistan, which inspired 100 Stories for Queensland and several other charity anthologies.) There’ll be more on this book when it’s available. In the meantime, meet one of the writers with a story in the anthology and see why he contributed, even against some odds.

More words in Vienna, this time from afar, were inspirational. Scottish writer, Kirstin Zhang shared stories and guidance at a reading and workshop last weekend. She writes of the humans caught up in the battles for bodies, souls and minds predominantly in South-East Asia. A rare sample of her work can be seen here.

And there’ve been an intense two weeks in my online self-editing course where we tried to get our heads around voice and psychic distance. Needless to say my opus is buzzing, but I need to step back and reflect.

So until next time, as ever, onwards!