Show Me What You Got: The Arts and Corruption in Australia and Papua New Guinea

So what’s happened recently?

The Arts Party popped up on my facebook feed, being all totally non-left-or-right (maybe depending on your understanding of political ideology I guess) but they’re all about just being pro Artist. I think that’s cool, because I’m an artist, and I am happy to see a party that accurately represents my interests: re: showing more care to artists, show more care for affordable education, because it’s really tough being an artist, especially if for whatever reason you’re not quite financially or emotionally capable of going through 3-5 years of institutionalized arts education, which doesn’t Make an artist, but certainly helps when it comes to getting to know people who have enough money to purchase art that isn’t a digitally reproduced printed canvas of Motivating Words from that discount store across the carpark from Woolworths and Bakers Delight in South Freo (deep breath).

Also I think it’s cool that Ben Quilty, who went to Afganistan as Australia’s Official War Artist is pro Arts Party.

The Greens responded to this with a call to give Australian artists help towards not being broke constantly and like, supporting them (us) and stuff, which I also think is cool. Up the exposure guys, we’re definitely worth something.

I was at this announcement in Melbourne in 2011 when the then Victorian premier Ted Baillieu wanted to go on record saying that in that place, at least, the arts were a substantial part of the local economy (some photos here)

so…

If we’re gonna play the economy in politics card… why not help foster local creative talent, what with the potential for even more increase in cultural tourism around the country and all, let the artists do some art, work together to make beautiful art, do cool things that entice spenders here, inspire some people, show them what we’ve got, word of mouth plus good social media campaigns wouldn’t hurt according to market trends, as well as non repressive state government structures that show more care towards keeping the special, inspirational and meaningful things about this chunk of world healthy and sustained, like land, like trees, like ocean, like wildlife, like history; people come here to spend money to see that stuff, to experience it, and learn; not just to sit in a fancy restaurant that specializes in expensive Exclusive Fusion Cuisine…

We may be multi-cultural, and proudly so, but we should maybe spend some more time focusing on the culture that was born of this ground that all our houses are built on. As a nation and as a voting democracy we should be working much harder with the people who know the land, making sure that the babies of those ancestral lines, as far as they reach, are encouraged and respected in their acquisition of that knowledge, AND create culturally safe pathways of education for that knowledge to be shared with everyone who resides on this land, while providing support structures to keep everyone healthy, bring the stories home, learn the land, move with the earth… post-colonial concerns should be with atoning for the crimes of the past (AND ensuring no more destruction or forced assimilation), I reckon anyway…

Speaking of ground, and country, and nations and stuff, four students were shot by police in Port Morseby the other day during a protest against the PNG government, which they were protesting because of government corruption, allegations which are tied to $30 million of fraudulent legal bills being paid – upon the prime minister’s instance – to a legal firm, which was apparently then siphoned in to Australia through real estate and other investments.

Dude. That’s so shit.

And four young educated people were shot while they protested this situation in their nation’s capital.

This same nation’s supreme court recently ruled the detention of asylum seekers sent from Australian waters on their soil (Manus Island) illegal according to the country’s constitution.

Australia all but ignores the ramifications of this ruling.

Remember last ANZAC Day, when heaps of stuff was going around about PNG’s “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels”?

…sigh… we’re fed 70 year old mythical (bordering on infantile) stories about the Kind and Cute Ones Up North and not kicking up a stink about how condescending that weird “war is good Because Mateship but don’t look at what’s happening in contemporary wars” story is in light of our current situation regarding putting asylum seekers – from wars our own military is involved in – in prison on their shores, against their constitution… presumably thanks to the kind of corruption which students are getting shot for publicly protesting about?

Hey also, do you know that Geronimo song? By a band called Sheppard. You’ve probably heard it on commercial radio, or seen the cutie-pie cardboard army film clip on television screens in places where they get paid to play video clips on certain channels or some shit…

Well, two of the band members grew up in Papua New Guinea, and their father owns the business side of the band, AND he is a partner with a law firm linked with significant political corruption AND was a former director of a security firm operating the Manus Island detention centre.

WHAAAATTT? That’s crazy right? The further you go with this shit, the weirder it gets. Stinks like oily propaganda, keeping audiences placated with inane meaningless bullshit, and mutual-benefit-backslapping to me.

~~~

Paul Hasluck, the guy the electoral division of Hasluck (big chunk of eastern perth area including Gosnells and surrounds, Kalamuunda, Midland, Wattle Grove etc) is named after (and also his author wife), said in his 1988 book “Shades of Darkness: Aboriginal Affairs, 1925-1965) that:

“To practice politics or to discuss political affairs without the illumination of history is as risky as performing surgery in an operating theatre without lights.”

That’s all I got.

Being a Nerd

Last week I began watching Star trek for the first time. It was one of those shows that I kind of mostly ignored, for years, too much pop cultural influence without anyone in my life being in to it, until a good friend recently recommended it, over and over, as a counter to the occasional bouts of compassion fatigue I experience as I continue with my studies and Australian history research without the aid of a therapist. There’s only so many case-studies and accounts of horrible violence+colonial genocidal practices you can take it before it all gets a liiiiiiiitle bit too much, you know?

And the show works, as my friend said it would! It’s fucking great. Really. Quality viewing for everyone with a decent command of English. It champions diplomacy, cultural sensitivity, and highlights the importance of recognizing how values can shape a society. It’s inspiring. And to top it off, each of the main characters is, generally, treated by every other character with complete respect and appreciation of their skills, knowledge and background. Empathy, on that spaceship, abounds beautifully.

Funny things is though, the show was originally created through inspiration gathered from Captain Cook’s voyages around Earth. James Kirk. James Cook. I haven’t seen the Star Trek featuring Captain Kirk. I cannot comment on that aspect. Though I’m sure Captain Cook wouldn’t have ever come even remotely close to the amount of compassion and respect for other cultures that Captain Picard displays as he navigates through unknown space… not saying Cook was necessarily an asshole or nothing, but you know, different times, different minds…

Anyway, thank fuck for Star Trek.

The enjoyment I take is not unlike that which I gain from playing Civilization V (specifically Brave New World expansion pack).

Diplomacy, culture, technological evolution.

Avoiding war at all costs.

I have played Civ for a few years now, quite regularly. Some might say too much. I sometimes think I play too much. It’s exciting to start a new game: what conditions will there be? How will I shape my first few cities? How well I can I train particular units to defend neighbouring city-states from invading barbarians? Sometimes I sit down to play, look up at the clock and realize with a start that it’s been 4 hours since I started and I’ve been chain smoking for most of that time, especially if my position on the map is in close proximity to war-mongering AI players and they hella want my land.

It’s easy to get lost in the game. It is complex; you have to consider every element, have to have a strategy, have to have a goal for victory.

You don’t want to neglect your culture points as you boost your science points, otherwise your citizens mayy become dissatisfied and push for a revolt against your chosen ideology. You can’t let the happiness of your empire drop whilst building up your army, otherwise overall productivity is severely affected, as is the performance of your military units. You can’t neglect the building up of your military forces while you strive for quick accrual of culture and tourism points, otherwise stronger civilisations will attack and totally fuck you up. You can’t ignore global technological advancements because they may be charging ahead towards a scientific victory, or may obliterate you with atomic weapons before you’re able to decrease their effects.

Also, you get to see, hear and read excerpts from great works of art/music/writing occasionally too.

It is complicated, time consuming, and immensely satisfying when a cultural or diplomatic victory is finally achieved. I strive for cultural victories, it is always my end goal, and I avoid wars as much as possible. I think, for me, it comes down to wanting to prove to myself that it is not necessary to be a Military Might in order to achieve “greatness”. You must defend yourself, of course, because a few other civilisations are programmed to just want to destroy everything in their paths, but it’s Doesn’t Have to Be Like That, especially, I’m told, if you’re playing with like-minded individuals (friends, even) in a LAN setting. I wouldn’t know about that, because I’m a loner.

That’s why Start Trek is so good too. For loners! Not really, but kinda. The value system championed in the show is that Aggression is Loathsome, and I absolutely agree. It is only necessary in a fight for survival, if someone is attacking you first, but with such great technological advancements and apparent ease of food and energy production, fighting other people just ain’t a thing that needs to be done. In the show, I mean. Not today’s world. We’re still too troubled for all that.

And it is when I get to those thoughts, the “we’re still too troubled” thoughts, that I turn away from my screens and sit in front of a canvas to paint it all out.

I feel like playing Civilization V and watching Star trek: Next Generation have a useful purpose, for me at least. In times when I do not want to create something, in times when I do not want to spend time with other people, in times when I do not feel like studying, or reading books, I will play that game or watch that show and learn, without evening trying, some vitals clues as to how our world functions, how values shape our attitudes, how culture can emerge and move and be exchanged, with the idea of harmony never really too out of reach. Hell, if I can ensure my Polynesia civilization wins a cultural victory before war-mongers try their best to tear it apart, then I feel that, you know, maybe there is hope in this world after all.

Also, it’s a very good feeling when you notice yourself getting better at the art of strategy.

Also, I lied: tonight I started a war with America because they were sending their archeologists to dig through ruins within my territory. I ain’t having that. A blatant attack on my interests! Cheeky buggers.