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Paper dolls

Notions of good and evil have become a tradeable commodity in the rhetoric that has enveloped the conflict in Iraq. And the extent of human suffering—the ‘collateral damage’—in this war becomes more apparent each day. The war has exacerbated the problems of what was already an intolerable life for a population almost wholly reliant on food aid and enduring what can only be described euphemistically as a health care system.

The images of pre-war Iraq by Mathias Heng (left) are reminders of what life has been like after more than ten years of UN sanctions and a regime that believed that violence was the only language Iraqis understood. Mathias is presently negotiating with a bureaucracy in absentia for permission to return to Iraq and document the effects of war.

The urgent need for access to clean water and medical assistance is currently competing with commerce. British Minister for Trade Brian Wilson says he hopes that those who joined the US to form the ‘coalition of the willing’—Britain, Australia and Poland—will be entitled to ‘their fair share’ of trade contracts in the new Iraq. The unseemly squabbling for the spoils of war was well under way even in the early days of the conflict. And the failure of the US to comply with existing international trade agreements suggests that it is not fond of sharing.

In spite of the apparent jubilation of some Iraqis at the removal of Saddam’s government, the thin veil of justification thrown over the conflict cannot mask the West’s desire to revel in the potential wealth of a fully operational Iraqi economy. One wonders how long ago such designs were drawn.

Meditations on the human condition feature throughout this issue of Eureka Street. The cover illustration, a detail from di Paolo’s ‘The Creation of the World and the Expulsion from Paradise’ (page 28) reflects our fascination with questions of origin and existence, and leads quickly—in the Judeo-Christian view at least—to a contemplation of the relationship between good and evil, and meaning and suffering.

Such fundamental questions are often best addressed through art. In his essay on the relationship between poetry and painting, Peter Steele helps us capture that which is just beyond our reach, the place where words fail and our reaction is largely visceral.

Jane Austen knew a thing or two about the human condition. In her first piece for Eureka Street, Eleanor Collins shares her insights into the timelessness of Austen and her capacity to dissect, with the skill of a surgeon, our ideas about love and the human condition.

Austen’s writing has once again been made fashionable by adaptations for television and cinema, and by Helen Fielding’s novel, Bridget Jones’s Diary. You can find useful and informative websites devoted to Austen’s writing and life. Some depict the homes in which she lived and died, quaint in their determination to recreate the ‘real’ Jane Austen.

Others, more curious, analyse Austen’s handwriting and offer dress-up dolls of Elizabeth Bennett, complete with a fashion ensemble any middle-class young Englishwoman would have killed for.

Then there are the fan sites, stretching from Tokyo to Vladivostok, that include the bizarre:

The Jane Austen Evening is a mixture of live music, food, authentic dance, historical discussion, gaming and tea. The event will begin at 3:00 pm, with an afternoon tea. During the tea, the attendees will be diverted by a series of Regency era parlour entertanments [sic]. Following this will be a two-hour,
intensive dance class. After the dance class, a light meal will be served and at approximately 8:00 pm, Axworthy’s Academy of Music will strike up, and the dancing will begin. Davies Hall is located in Farnsworth Park, at Lake and Mount Curve, in Altadena.

Next year in Baghdad! 




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