Today, I have the Guardian news feed open on my laptop. This is not frequent.
I swallowed antidepressants, anti histamines and pain killers with my morning coffee. I coaxed my flatmate to swallow some anti nausea tablets to unknot his stomach which has refused food for days.
These are the quotidian somatic effects of politics. The habitus of terror and disgust. I went to bed early last night. Buried myself under blankets and doona and locked myself into a stupid escapist game on my iPad.
I don’t want a fascist bully boy as prime minister. Someone who in his cabinet portfolio has pushed the limits of his department to give him vast amounts of personal power. Someone who is basically, atavistically corrupt and mean and selfish. I don’t like the current prime minister either: but he’s just a greedy spineless twat. At least he danced with Cher at Mardi Gras. The alternative would like to spray tear gas at Mardi Gras if he could.
So…. this is news. It’s distressing. It’s distressing to engage with the endless hypertrophic spectacle of political outrage ricochetting through social media, echo, echo, echo…..
In other news; in the academosphere, or the paracademosphere that is my social media world (given that the discourse of the academy is mainly dominated by the horrors of university marketing departments) there has been another scandal.
A fairly famous feminist professor has been accused of sexual harassment by a male grad student/assistant. Both are gay, but the relationship was inflected with icky boundary crossing power plays. I haven’t been a massive fan of said professor, ever since I read a somewhat trite interview in the famous 1992 edition of Angry Woman – aka the third wave feminist bible, but many other friends admire her. I have admired the many academics who have signed a petition of support for her, and now I feel confused. One of my friends on social media was outraged that local academics weren’t joining the fray and expressing our outrage, at the abuse of power by the professor and the other elite academics supporting her. I think most of us are confused and overwhelmed. Social media outrage does not allow for nuance. The USA is known for hypertrophic performance of embattled identity politics, and this current scandal has seen battle lines drawn between gay men and feminists, and accuser/defendant camps. Jack Halberstam is my main source of US academic social media, and a good reminder of why I avoid twitter.
I prefer their longer sassy/sarcastic blog posts. Such as this one about the new university. Meanwhile my union is running a campaign to get everyone to record their unpaid hours. They have selected a system that is only slightly more baroque than the electronic timesheet service that the university provides. The latter takes half an hour for me to complete the 6 hours of face to face teaching I log each fortnight, and I don’t even know where to begin to log the infinity of hours of reading, thinking, reflecting, reading, searching and then finally compiling a lecture, planning a tutorial, responding to student emails, creating rubrics and self assessment sheets. I could avoid all of this. I could skimp on the extra research and cobble together vague skimming lectures that gloss over the key texts…. I could assign less texts. I could simplify the assessment so it is straightforward for the students and easy and quick to mark.
However, at the very margins of abject middle class exploitation is where I am getting to exercise my vocation. The think I love: sharing the ideas I love with people. Creating a space where they can immerse themselves in something bigger than themselves. I was burnt out by the horrors of my former job, but I have a 3 month opportunity to breathe a little bit, and slowly remind myself of what I love, or have loved in the academy. Which is education: that strange work of allowing people to step outside their comfort zone and mentally grow a little. I like this post that discusses the different forms of education, and I like the strange miraculous affects involved in teaching: of taking people places they didn’t know existed.
This subject may well be my swan song. I am looking for jobs outside of the sector, because I need to pay rent and see a dentist once a year, and casual academia doesn’t allow for this. I am sick of being exhausted all of the time, and justifiably terrified of the gnashing teeth of neoliberalism that are bearing closer and closer. It is almost impossible to obtain Centrelink benefits, and it is absolutely impossible to subsist on them. They don’t cover rent, or power bills, let alone food. The current monsters in power will dismantle public health as soon as they can. Already people pay an additional medicare levy if they don’t subscribe to private health insurance. I am looking and hoping for some job somewhere that will allow me to subsist, so that I can keep doing the things that I love, like making and creating and sharing…..
Somehow, I am still creating. I compiled a video based on a poem and performance with Melbourne Artists for Asylum at the NGV in January. It includes contributions from a friend who has been in detention for nearly 9 years. I am writing a lecture on indefinite detention next week. I am reading Behrouz Boochani’s astonishingly wonderful book. I hug my neighbours and flatmates, and get hugs back and draw in and survive. This is what its like to live under a cloud. To draw in and huddle close and hold onto those we love. Fascism has arrived and this is what we do to resist it when we cannot defeat it.