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All deaths great and small

25 June 2015 | Brian Matthews

Cover of 'A Small Death in Lisbon'Many deaths of course are not small deaths. They evoke distinction, achievement, leadership, innovation, creativity or, in some cases notoriety, quixoticism or eccentricity. Yet placing some names above many, some in a class of their own, others in a ruck of the scarcely memorable, one indispensable criterion unites all the characters and places them beyond our imaginative, intellectual or descriptive reach: they are dead.


There's hope for mediocre women

13 Comments
18 June 2015 | Ellena Savage

Corporate womanI have a friend who tells me she loves seeing what she terms 'mediocre women' at the top of their fields, especially in public, because it shows that feminism is working. Some women have made a success of themselves as men have always done, through acquiring privilege and seizing opportunities with a sense of entitlement, rather than by the myths of brilliance and sacrifice. I like this perspective. 


The snob who snubbed Australia's Indigenous imagination

13 Comments
30 April 2015 | Brian Matthews

George Herbert CowlingMrs Cowling was formidable. Her significant physical presence was accentuated by a commanding mien, impeccable English enunciation, and an impressive depth and breadth of literary reference supporting rock-firm opinions. All these years later, I wonder just how burdened she was in teaching literature to Australian students, which she continued to do into her 80th year, by her husband's notoriety.


Australia's friendship with Indonesia is bruised but should not break

13 Comments
30 April 2015 | Emily Mitchell

Stained Indonesian flagToday, the relationship between Indonesia and Australia — the 'most important relationship' espoused by our Prime Minister — is aching. People are saying we must boycott Bali, that we must not go to Indonesia. While I understand these sentiments, I do not think this is the answer. To stay within our borders would only maintain the status quo. Instead we must embrace our neighbours and rekindle our friendship.


The ignorant courage of the anti-vaxxers

22 Comments
26 April 2015 | Jen Vuk

VaccineWhen my friend Lena told me she wouldn’t be vaccinating her newborn son Sammy, I admit I was fascinated but not surprised. Lena was always going to do motherhood her way. There are many like her who decided with a clear vision and level-head. But I can no longer accept these decisions. Since having my own precious boys, my world view has shifted and I am less ignorant.


Europe's more humane approach to on-water matters

13 Comments
23 April 2015 | Ellena Savage

North African immigrants in SicilyAustralian references to 'boat people' is simplistic and offensive. 'Queue jumper' inaccurate and moralising. Even the term 'asylum seeker' has become politically complicit. European coverage of this week's Mediterranean boat tragedy describes the victims and survivors simply as 'migrants', which is an open description of a person on a boat crossing borders.


Cricket's assault on Australian racism

11 Comments
26 March 2015 | Brian Matthews

Frank WorrellDuring the West Indies 1960-61 tour of Australia, Frank Worrell and his predominantly black team transfixed Australians from coast to coast and, without any missionary intent, struck a resounding blow at the White Australia Policy, which was still in place. This jubilant, exciting story prompts questions about today's masses, who enthusiastically support harsh, and arguably racist, treatment of asylum seekers.


Inside the head of an IS martyr

13 Comments
19 March 2015 | Ellena Savage

Jake BilardiThe language of martyrdom is being used to recruit young Australians to brutal stateless warfare. Because martyrs are morally superior to suburban burnouts. IS propagandist Abu Ismail described Melburnian Jake Bilardi as 'a lion on the battlefield although he was at a young age and with a weak body'. So, Bilardi was a weak young lion and therefore ripe for battle. How obscene!


Negotiating climate deniers and plovers

9 Comments
26 February 2015 | Brian Matthews

PloverCall me paranoid if you like, but as I walked away, affecting a nonchalant strolling gait, I knew, I just knew, that she was a climate change denier and was daring me to argue the point. Had I hesitated one more moment, I would have been regaled with statistics about the mild coastal summer and other utterly benign climatological phenomena.


Ciggie butt brains indict Aussie middle class elitism

8 Comments
19 February 2015 | Ellena Savage

Damo and Darren in Train StationWhen Damo and Darren's 'Train Station' — Michael Cusack's animation of an obscene 'part derro, part yobbo, part bogan' duo fighting over a lighter — was published on YouTube, it clocked 2 million views in its first month, and made people very happy. I showed it to a friend who had grown up in England's north under Margaret Thatcher. He was not amused. 'Why are Australians laughing at poor people?' he asked.


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