Final Summative Entry

Do the interests, concerns and experiences of writers in the Twentieth Century still have relevance to human needs in the Twenty-First century?

To answer this question in a word; absolutely! The lessons these writers are trying to teach are just as important to human lives today as they were when they were written. Sadly today, just as when they were written, most of these texts are ignored, misunderstood or underappreciated and people continue to live their lives in a kind of robotic and reactionary way.

Joseph Conrad revealed the arrogance and cruelty of European colonisation in the late 1800s. The plunder of other nation’s natural resources and the brutality to and contempt of the native peoples of these lands was extremely disturbing. Tragically, this continues in our own time all over the world. Rich and powerful nations continue to rape and pillage weaker nations that possess profitable natural resources; oil is a prime example in our day.

Next we met a bunch of German soldiers fighting in World War One in “All Quiet on The Western Front”. We quickly understood that these supposed enemies (form an Australian WW1 perspective) were just like us. They were fooled by fascist propaganda into believing they had an obligation to go off and kill total strangers. Once on the battlefield they quickly understood the absurdity, horror and pointlessness of war.

Through this novel and the poetry of many other World War One poets we were given a poignant and heartbreaking reminder of the preciousness and beauty of being alive. These men urged us to cherish the little moments in life and understand that this treasure that is life could be cruelly snatched away at any moment.

We also read the cunningly convincing poems of the bastards who anointed themselves champions of the war effort. They used their eloquent words to con young men into joining the armed forces. Of course most of these poseur poets usually never risked their own lives on the field of battle. Young men and women still go off to fight and die in wars without full understanding of what they are actually fighting for. The people urging them to fight are still sitting back in safety counting their profits.

Carol Anne Duffy’s update of a 15th Century morality play hammered home the pleas of the World War 1 writers; we must all appreciate and adore the limited time we have to be alive. This update is a prime example of how good writing can be timeless. The original play was written in the 1500s but the message is still crucial today. Even though the technology and material possessions were updated, the underlying selfish and materialistic desires of the protagonist remained the same; as did the underlying assertion that life itself is the greatest thing one can possess. This still remains acutely relevant. In this day and age we are constantly bombarded by ingenious advertisements insisting that we must purchase this or that in order to be happy and fulfilled. Our mindless consumption and pursuit of ego fulfilment threatens to rot our inner joy for the sake of fleeting and hollow pleasures.

George Orwell alerted us to the perils of the decay of the English language. Our language is the very essence of our thoughts and if we allow it to wither we will eventually be robbed of our ability to think and express ourselves. The clever use of language can allow governments to convince populations that atrocities are mere transgressions. Unjust invasions can be magically transformed into essential defensive manoeuvres with the cunning use of rhetoric. This kind of Machiavellian manipulation of the masses seems more rampant today than ever.

Finally we met the modernists who smashed the old forms and structures of writing (and visual art). They challenged the set patterns and strict rules of English literature in a quest to free the artist and introduce the reader to an exciting new world of experiences. We also got to meet English writers from many different races and cultural backgrounds, again adding a richness and vibrancy to our reading.

Personally I learned that life can be a fantastic journey if one has the courage to take it on with his eyes and heart wide open. That does not mean it will be all good; oh no. The world can be a cruel and intensely sad place and we must understand that hurt people will hurt people. However this is all the more reason to guard and nurture the beauty and kindness we find in ourselves and others. Ultimately we must cherish the precious little time we are given on this amazing planet and the great writers of the past and present can help us find a way to enhance our reality.

Comment on:

It is bizarre to realise that the man who is supposed to be in charge feels just as trapped as the people he is meant to lead. The term “The Man” is an interesting one. Orwell in this narrative is “The Man” according to the natives. He is merely a representative of “The Man” according to himself. The freedom the villagers think he has is non-existent to him. Orwell is just as controlled by “The Man” as the locals. What is “The Man”?

Week 11: The Melting Pot

When I was in primary school I had a lot of Yugoslav friends. In high school most of them became Macedonian and would speak about Serbians and Croatians. I had no idea what they were on about, but it seemed important to them.

The major nationalities in my high school were Greek and Lebanese. I did not know if those particular nations had a grudge with each other in the outside world, but in my playground they were battling for dominance. The Vietnamese had plenty of numbers, but they didn’t seem too interested in schoolyard skirmishes.

Full Anglo Aussies, like me, were a minority in my school and didn’t we have a lot of minorities. Aboriginal, Italian, Kiwi, Maori, Indian, Portuguese, Pakistani, Tongan, Samoan, Turkish, Spanish, Chinese, Fijian, Filipino, Maltese, Korean and I don’t know how many I didn’t know or misrepresented. On the whole we got along quite well and enjoyed finding out the funny quirks of each other’s nationalities. It was funny how most of us loved learning how to swear in a different language.

However, when tempers flared, out it flowed; “white cunt!”, “black cunt!”, “wog!”, “fucken Aussie!”, “slap head!”. “Fucken Aussie” was a real insult. So much so that I had a mate who lived in England until he was two and he would point out that he was actually a “Pom” and not an “Aussie”.

One thing I learned in school was that racism is definitely a multi-cultural phenomenon. All nationalities seem to have their targets.

Week 10: The “Sucker Punch”

Instead of political double-speak I would like to look at a concerted effort of the media to alter the public opinion of the sucker punch. This is being achieved by replacing a phrase possessing a positive connotation with one that better describes the sinister act.

A sucker punch is basically punching someone in the head when they are not ready. Previously it was reported as a “King-Hit” which alludes to a grandiose and macho action. This has been replaced with the term “Coward Punch” which is a much more accurate description of it.

Growing up with my fair share of knuckleheads I was exposed to these word games in day to day life. The guy who threw the sucker punch would call it a “King Hit”. The one on the receiving end would label it a “Dog Shot”. The same action would receive a different name depending on which side of the altercation one was on.

Interestingly, in self-defence terminology it is called a “Pre-Emptive Strike”. The logic is that in a real life violent encounter blocking and dodging is ineffective. If you are reacting to the onslaught of the other person you are in a lot of trouble. One saying that sticks with me is “in order to succeed in a violent encounter, you need to be the one doing the violence to the other person”. This is good advice if you are in a terrible situation where violence is your only means of escape. Unfortunately many people resort to violence simply because they are losing an argument, or worse, just in a bad mood. “Pre-Emptive Strike” could be a way for a person to justify their “Coward Punch”. The USA invading a foreign country springs to mind for some reason.

Comment on:

Great call to action Dave!
One of my favourites is “enhanced interrogation”; it’s bloody torture!!!! “Pre-emptive strike” instead of unprovoked attack because we suspect something may possibly happen in the future. “Downsizing” instead of we’re going to sack a bunch of people. It’s become so prominent I’m not sure most of us know we are being subjected to it, or doing it ourselves.
Nice use of video too.

Week 8: Being the Bossman

“I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalised figure of a sahib.” – George Orwell

This paragraph conjures up the image of the “Great and Powerful Oz”, who sustained his power by fooling the masses into believing he was a masterful wizard. Make no mistake, the British Empire definitively possessed the firepower to destroy anyone who opposed them, but one cannot rule a dead population. Ghandi proved that the people needed to co-operate with their rulers in order for the tyrants to be successful. If that co-operation is removed and fear no longer inspires compliance, the wheels cease turning and the system may well collapse. The rulers consistently need to impress their own necessity and brilliance into the minds of the population in order to maintain respect. In the end most power is simply artful deception that would crumble if the people actually realised their combined strength. As a leader it is better to be loved than feared, but instilling awe into the hearts of one’s subjects will do the trick nicely.

Comment on:

OUCH!!!! The image of the red hands grabbed my attention straight away. You built the tension well, but I think you let us off the hook a bit too quickly. You could have kept us guessing a little longer. I was intrigued! Maybe, like me, you try to keep your blogs short, but I would have read more if you dragged it out a little further.

Week 7: Dylan Thomas is spinning me out!

Dylan Thomas’ poem “The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower” splits my mind in two and then seems to re-join it with a bizarre revelation; death is life!

I sense that the force he speaks of is both life-force and a force of decay and annihilation:

“The force that through the green fuse drives the flower

Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees

Is my destroyer.

And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose

My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.”

The force that creates eventually destroys. Time must move forward and eventually everything will succumb to its ravaging attrition. It is an extraordinary thought that life cannot exist without death. If I were never born I would never know about death. Before I was born was I dead?

That’ll do for now…

Trying to unpack this on my own makes me appreciate the group effort of our tutorials.

Comment on:

That is bizarre!!!! I’m so glad you explained how the poem was created because at first glance I thought I had forgotten how to comprehend the english language. Sometimes it’s great to just play around with the language and not be concerned with making sense. Many people would call this a waste of time and then proceed to stare at a reality show on TV for an hour. A lot of great art comes from experiment and play.