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End of year thoughts in the Endarkenment 2023


We’ll all be rooned,’ said Hanrahan,

‘Before the year is out.’

-       Said Hanrahan, John O’Brien


A hot and steamy morning in Melbourne and it’s a few more sleeps to Christmas. My phone’s photo app has been kicking me into heart-wrenching nostalgia with its prompts for ‘On this day 2016’. The children, so little and so tender. All of us so much younger and stronger. The world was changing around us, and we were too happy to worry too much, even though a charlatan-clown had just gained the White House. Seven years later, he’s threatening to return.

The internet beckons as I doom-scroll today’s tumults and horrors. The non-bad news is stupid and empty –ridiculous but unfunny. What do I care what a celebrity wears? I certainly don’t care about what is cheerfully and macabrely called the ‘body count’ of some reality star. I don’t even click on those items, but the Daily Mail still proffers the TMI headlines next to the other stuff as you scroll. Yes – shock horror – I do read the Daily Mail and will continue to do so. It’s the most popular news site in the world for a couple of reasons – mainly it’s free, offers a surprising range of sane ideas along with the right-wing dreck, and can afford to update breaking global news in ways that the truncated and castrated broadsheets that once held my trust in the past can’t.

Gone are the days of anticipating the paper version of Saturday’s Age, too heavy for the dog to bring in, forest-wrecking paper prodigal that it was, full of actual news and real, deep-diving features. The Green Guide, bible for the week’s planned viewing: remember when you followed a series, drip-fed one episode a week at a time? It seems incomprehensible now, that we actually had to wait until a specific time of day or night on a particular date to catch a program. Not two decades ago there was no streaming, and we had to turn on a clunky VCR or DVD player.

Being able to record programs and watch them when convenient changed us in many ways, I think. For one thing, we started to binge on entire series as though they were books. We want it all now, if not sooner.  But it’s easier to put down a book than turn off a screen. What on earth did we do in those book-filled days? Days with real weekends, filled with all that plethora of things that might be neglected or forgotten now as we stare too much into the noösphere – what did we do then?

That noösphere, now. I don’t think that Teilhard de Chardin could have foretold the downside of the sentient skin of shared consciousness that he envisaged. In his hope-filled mind, all the hopes and needs of humanity would converge to a shared awareness, his Omega Point. Did he underestimate how dangerous that might be if the collective consciousness included the worst as well as the best of human thoughts and aspirations? One part of us yearns for goodness, love and reason. Another part of us is driven to dominate and compel, to displace those in our wishes’ way, to eliminate, to erase, to annihilate.

Moved by ignorance and targeted misinformation, compassion becomes corrupted into a rage for vengeance, and so we see the noösphere used by bad actors of all kidneys, and our streets now heave with outraged mobs who chant hate. Their kindness and compassion extended only to one side, their baser human instincts weaponised to relish the ostracism and punishment of the ancient Jewish scapegoat. And so, among the signs calling for peace and ceasefire we see uglier ones that I can’t bring myself to write. We hear chants that call for death and erasure of Jews, placards depicting the Star of David in a rubbish bin. And in the US and the UK the mobs are stopping public Christmas lights and carols; they have remembered that Jesus was a Jew, too.


'So what do, in the new age of endarkenment? It’s made me sometimes very worried and sad. But I won’t give up on Christmas. I’ve called my Jewish friends to make sure they know I care. I will respect and be silent among my beloved left-wing friends and family who don’t agree with me about Israel and women’s rights and safety.'


We also see the wish for a cleaner, more sustainable world deflected into pointless vandalistic stunts that only turn off the general public’s will for change, and thus play into the hands of the oil oligarchs that dominated the agendas at the UN’s COP28 conference, which coincidentally was held in Dubai, belly of the oil beast, just a stone’s throw away from Doha, that gilded haven for billionaire terrorist bosses.

It’s becoming an age of Endarkenment.

Was it ever thus? So many going mad with one half of the facts? When Gregory the Great changed the calendar in 1582, mobs rioted because they thought he’d removed ten days from their actual lives. There used to be witch hunts with yelling mobs centuries ago. All the ignorant mobs primed and steered by people who knew a little something and had executioners’ axes to grind. Even they, had they known more, learned more, would they hate so hard? Would they still be able to project as fiercely all their own dark side onto an external whipping boy? As Pope said in his ‘Essay on Criticism’:


A little learning is a dangerous thing;

Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:

There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,

And drinking largely sobers us again.


Fuelled by TikTok and some captured media, the mobs have drunk deep of slogans and thought-terminating clichés. Yeats had it summed up in his ‘Meditations in Time of Civil War’ – nothing new about stirred-up hatreds:


‘We had fed the heart on fantasies,

The heart's grown brutal from the fare;

More substance in our enmities

Than in our love …


This brings to mind memories of different demos. It feels so, so painfully different now. When, as young parents, we took the kids to Palm Sunday peace marches in the Eighties, we weren’t chanting hatred against anyone. We walked up Swanston Street to the Shrine and it was the safest, kindest crowd to be in anywhere in the world. We wanted our children to grow up without the threat of nuclear annihilation. We didn’t hate the Russians: we knew, as Sting reminded us, that they loved their children too. We didn’t want anyone to be targeted, ethnically cleansed, purged or pogromed. Certainly not the ‘rage-driven, rage-tormented, and rage-hungry’ mobs described by Yeats and that we’ve seen in city streets all over the West since October 7.

So sometimes I just have to retreat. Reading a book now feels like a defence against the onslaught of social media and news – everlasting, ever-repeating, bludgeoning news. News that is rarely of use, except to people who are paying media companies to publicise something or someone. I barely watch free-to-air channel news now. It’s not telling me anything that I can’t get quicker online and from more trusted sources: ergo doom-scrolling.

Some books this year have been great; right now, I’m reading Graham Linehan’s Tough Crowd and David Mamet’s Everywhere an Oink Oink and finding some solace and good humour even if both these men are spiky, uncomfortable and full of rage against the dying of the Enlightenment.

We’ve also been reading Simon Sebag Montefiore’s huge and highly accessible The World: a Family History of Humanity. I read some of the stuff he presents and think ‘No wonder we don’t see any intergalactic alien visitors – they would take one look at what we’ve been doing for our whole history and then hightail right back to Planet Zog or whatever. Because we are a very dangerous set of beings, we homo sapiens.’

However, if you’re too busy to read, go on YouTube you’ll find Bill Maher, who is that rare animal, the thoughtful progressive (no thought-terminating clichés are safe with him from either side of the spectrum) interviewing people of all kinds of viewpoints, as does John Cleese in his regular Dinosaur Hour. These two keep asking open-ended questions and that is so refreshing in the parcelled-up, vetted and de-triggered conversations that you now get on channels that used to do better.

So what do, in the new age of endarkenment? It’s made me sometimes very worried and sad. But I won’t give up on Christmas. I’ve called my Jewish friends to make sure they know I care. I will respect and be silent among my beloved left-wing friends and family who don’t agree with me about Israel and women’s rights and safety. And, I have still made Christmas pudding and cake once more, even though not everyone will want to eat them (you never know who’s allergic, or going vegan, do you?)  And I’ll sing Christmas carols and dress the Christmas tree with our old ornaments that remind us of family times past, when the children were round-eyed in wonder, before they were old enough to ask about Father Christmas (we had a rule: old enough to ask means old enough to know, because we have a no-lying principle. For one of them it was five or maybe six. His friends alerted his little brother at even younger. Don’t you love peer groups?)

And I’ll make the usual resolutions about dieting after Christmas and have another Quixotic tilt at literally lightening up as I attempt the figurative lightening-up too. Faith, hope and charity are not feelings, after all: they’re virtues and require the exercise of one’s will. So, while we’re being a bit heavy on all fronts, I’m flying a flag for faith in goodness, hope of better things to come, and love of family, friends and the stranger at the door. Here’s my offering to you: our family Christmas pudding and Christmas cake recipes: they work, tried and true.

Last night the thunder roared over us and the sky spat hail. Now the clouds are still sullen, nursing their grudges till they rain karma on us again for all the carbon we’re pumping into them. The little one who was graduating from kinder in 2016 is now graduating from Grade Six. There will be parties. Life goes on where it will.

A Peaceful and Happy Christmastide to you all. God Bless Us, Every One.



Juliette & Rick’s Christmas Pud

These amounts are for a 16cm pudding bowl.

220g breadcrumbs

110 shredded suet (ask your butcher or get Atora from a good retailer or substitute chopped cold butter if you can’t find it. Just don’t use margarine, though. It doesn’t keep as well and isn’t good for you anyway.)

100g self-raising flour (or plain flour with half a teaspoon of baking powder.)

225g brown sugar

200g currants

150g raisins, chopped

150g sultanas

25g almonds

25g mixed peel

Zest of an orange and half a lemon

1 tspn cinnamon

1 tspn nutmeg

1 tspn mixed spice

2 eggs

100ml stout

50mls brandy, sherry, whisky or port, whichever you prefer

(Substitute fruit juice for teetotallers; whichever you like best, because that is going to dictate the flavour.)

Soak fruit and spices in liquid overnight. Mix everything else in a bowl and give everyone a stir and a wish. Butter and line your 16cm pudding bowl with baking paper; cut a circle for the bottom. Cover the top with a circle of paper then cover again with foil and tie down tightly with string to stop water getting in. Put pudding in a large pot in enough boiling water to come halfway up the bowl and boil for 4 hours. Yes, FOUR! Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t boil dry; it’s a real labour of love and not trusting teenagers to do it. Take out, cool down and store in the fridge.  On Christmas Day, boil it for two hours; and for non-teetotallers, flame it with heated brandy. Serve with any or all of whatever you like: custard, hard sauce, cream, ice-cream. Serves about 12 greedy people or 16 normies who have filled up on roast spuds.


Christmas Cake

500g currants

250g sultanas

250g raisins, chopped

60g real glacé cherries not the fake ones.

60g mixed peel

60g almonds, chopped

200g plain flour (it’s a heavy block of fruity madness, not a feathery sponge, OK?)

75g self-raising flour (sift with the plain flour)

275g soft brown sugar

275g unsalted butter

5 large eggs

1 zest of orange

1 zest of lemon

1 tbspn black treacle

Good pinch salt

Half teaspoon nutmeg

3 tspns mixed spice

2 tspns powdered ginger

100ml brandy (or fruit juice)

150ml sherry (or fruit juice)

Put brandy, sherry and spices and treacle with all the dried fruit, nuts and zest, butter and sugar in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. If your fruit is very dry, you should add a little more liquid till you get a nice thick sludge of fruit – use your common sense. If it’s too liquidy, pour some off and use it as an ice-cream topping. Simmer for ten minutes and allow to cool.

Add the beaten eggs to the cooled fruit mixture then add flour mixture. Stir well till combined.

Prepare 23cm cake pan (actually 9-inch round or 8-inch square): line with three layers of paper, putting a dab of butter on the bottom and between each sheet to stop the paper sliding around.

Pour cake mixture into pan and smooth the top. Decorate with almonds if you want. Then place another circle of paper on top of the cake with a coin-sized hole in the paper to let out steam.

Place in a preheated oven at 140C for one hour. Then turn down the oven to 120C and bake for another three hours. After four hours in total, test with a skewer. Depending on your oven, it may still be uncooked in the middle. Keep baking and testing for another half hour until the skewer comes out clean. While hot, poke holes in the top with a skewer and drizzle with whatever alcohol you like. (This last is optional but doesn’t work well with fruit juice, which won’t keep as long.)  Cool in the tin and decorate how you please. Serves about 20. Don’t ask about the calories.




Juliette Hughes is a freelance writer. 

Topic tags: Juliette Hughes, Christmas, AusPol, Media



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