Thursday, 21 May 2009

Manifesto (Updated)

I am 25 years and six months old tomorrow. I do a lot of writing, particularly recently, but for those who know me some questions remain unanswered. Some are obvious, some have not yet been articulated, some known to me but are not shared. The following manifesto attempts to answer the most basic question: Who am I and what do I stand for?

Lets start with the personal stuff first. Apart from the four members of my immediate family I can honestly say I love four other people. They know who they are. These are people who I would die for, and people I would like to think would die for me. Aside from these eight very diverse people, I have a couple of other close friends who I enjoy spending time with. In actuality, I came name five people off the top of my head (Although I may be forgetting one or two people), which I like to spend time with socially. The common thread between all these people is that they challenge me intellectually. At this point, I should state the obvious; I am an arrogant snob who is often a social recluse. Society in general views this quality as a negative characteristic. I treat it with a sense of ambivalence, I don’t embrace it, but at the same time I don’t ignore it. It is indeed who I am, for good or bad at least I am honest with myself.

I am sure however that this does hamper my relationship with the opposite sex. In my life so far I have never embarked upon a meaningful long term relationship with the opposite sex. The amount of people my age who haven’t had a relationship of this nature is probably equal the number of people who vote for the National Party, that is to say not many. I used to be upset over this, but not any more. I have come to realise that I am too selfish, too individualistic, and far too self absorbed to even be bothered at this point to give myself to anybody else. People say this is often the attitude of a person in their twenties, some people just don’t have the self awareness to realise it. (Fortunately, if I have anything in abundance it is self awareness.) I concede that these feelings might change as I grow older, but at the present time the only constant companion I enjoy is myself. That aside I do acknowledge my nymphomaniacal tendencies, and if there is one thing I do lack more than anything else it is the opportunity for reciprocal physical intimacy. I understand given my physical disability that a great deal of the population is somewhat unwilling to take the leap required to share this level of intimacy. Therefore, if I am to share these experiences at regular intervals I must be willing to open up and become emotionally vulnerable. Paradoxically, this is something that I am unwilling and unable to do. Thus in the greatest contradiction of my human experience: I am both content with myself, yet grossly unsatisfied.

I have two passions in my life politics and music. For me they have many common elements that bind them together. They both have the power to captivate people to a magnificent extreme. Politics to me achieves this on an external level. Policies can change how people live their lives, policies can change attitudes, policies can motivate, and policies can shape personal and collective cultures like nothing else. Music on the other hand is an internal device; each person has a different response to the many different pieces of music our world offers. The reaction is personal, purely based on our own experience and our environment. The right piece of music touches my soul; the right policy, party or politician touches our collective souls.

Politically I identify myself as a social democrat. Social democracy is defined as “A moderate political philosophy that aims to achieve socialistic goals within capitalist society such as by means of a strong welfare state and regulation of private industry.” At an early age I identified with the principles of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) Labor's enduring policy objectives include:

  • a fairer distribution of political and economic power;
  • restoration of full employment;
  • greater equality in the distribution of income, wealth and opportunity;
  • equal access and rights to employment, education, health and other community services and activities;
  • more democratic control, ownership and participation in Australian industry;
  • maintenance of world peace; and
  • an independent Australian position in world affairs.
The quest to fulfill these ideals led me to join the ALP and follow in the footsteps of the three politicians I admire the most: Edward (Gough) Whitlam, Don Dunston and John Curtin.

The qualities I admire in these politicians are that they were able use their policies to promote the social issues of the day and place them in the forefront of the public consciousness. The great achievements of the Whitlam and Dunston governments were that they made education and healthcare a priority. Whitlam ushered in the great agenda of reform by establishing free university education, and a universal healthcare system. Dunston was able to further enhance these reforms and customise them to suit the circumstances of South Australia. Up until Dunston took office in 1970, South Australia was regarded as an inefficient, ineffective state that lacked the energy of its counterparts in Victoria and New South Wales. The important aspect of Dunston’s reforms is that he and his government brought a sense of identity to South Australia, by creating a culture of infrastructure, creativity and development. He was arguably the first politician who understood the value of the community and what it could contribute. Curtin, is in my opinion is Australia’s most underrated Prime Minister. He personified a great wartime leader who made decisions that were not always popular with the public, but proved to be beneficial for Australia. These decisions resulted in radical shifts in foreign policy away from the British towards the United States, and this changed Australia’s political culture forever. Such decisions ultimately cost Curtin his life and his rightful place amongst one of the greatest political leaders in Australia’s history.

I have attempted to adopt the principles of these political leaders in forging my own political career. The reason why I have become interested in politics is that I want the ability to ask questions. I have had enough life experience to realise that I am very fortunate to have the ability to articulate my needs, wants and desires to the community. Others are not so fortunate. Conservatism and individualism have dominated the community, whether it is politically, economically or socially. Other voices need to be heard. To often the standard line of the hierarchical system is based on the needs of the individual, rather then the collective. Economic responsibility is necessary to ensure the safety and security of the community at large. However, the provision of services, such as access to an adequate standard of healthcare and education must be made a priority. Currently, this is not the case. If this trend continues the concept of ‘community’ will evaporate as it becomes consumed by the individualistic society. Access to services will be contingent upon how much wealth the individual creates, rather than what they have to offer the community. This will only further enhance the gulf between those who will have access to services and those who will not.

Musically, I consider by self to be a poptimist. A poptimist is someone who has “...a penchant for contemporary pop music, as opposed to rock, pure hip-hop, etc. The opposite of the poptimist is a rockist. “Rockists treat rock as normative. From a rockist view, rock is the standard state of popular music.” These are not my definitions but dominate my ideologies towards music criticism. As in politics, people have a wide variety of opinions on music, and therefore it is interesting to understand each discipline from an ideological perspective. However, music is so multi facetted you cannot only look at it from an ideological perspective, but also from a personal perspective. In this regard, the smartest comment made about music was not made by a critic, but rather a very intelligent friend of mine:

I was at a dinner on the weekend and got asked what seemed to me to be a really weird question: "So, why do you love music?" Seriously, who asks a question like that (and out of the blue, no less) anyway??? Everyone at the table turned and waited for me to respond...which was quite difficult for me, especially sort of being put on the spot like that.

I mumbled something about all of us feeling at least somewhat alone in this world, and that music allows us to connect with each other, to overcome this sometimes overwhelming feeling of isolation. That it provides a medium to reach out to each other - which is, I think, what being human is all about - and it is made all the more powerful because it is universal and timeless. You can listen to a song written years and years ago that portrays what life was like for that person at that time, but holds some fundamental truths that are still applicable for our lives today.

How good is music as an escape? I mean, seriously. Some songs can just reach into my soul and make my problems vanish (even if this sensation is only transitory), or make me feel like I'm not all alone - that there are other people out there who understand how I am feeling, and that it's going to be okay. Not easy, but okay. And suddenly the world doesn't seem quite so big and scary anymore, because these people have felt what I am feeling and they've gotten through it. Or they sing about something good, and just like that, my faith in humanity (maybe not as a whole, but in general) can be restored. And then there are the bands that I simply can't get enough of, like T & S. I put on one of their CDs and just want to be consumed by the music. And I want to play the CD faster, just so I can hear all the songs straight away. It's hard to explain; I wish I could use words to describe this effectively, to do this feeling justice. It's like I'm addicted to music, and one song is just not enough - I need more and I almost can't wait until one song is over to start another one, there's just this...desperation. That being said, there are also the times when I'm half-way through a track and I really have to go somewhere, but I just can't bring myself to press the stop button. I can't end the song, or the album, even, early. I just can't, because it's so damn good. And I really can't answer exactly what it is that makes music so good.

I would like to add to this definition by saying that I know what makes it so good. It lifts the spirit and captures the moment. Nothing can have possibly topped the moment when you listen to an album for the very first time (Particularly with headphones). There is this indescribable moment when a good bridge and a chorus merge into one solid pathway that makes me do nothing but smile.

It is fitting that the best 3:38 of my life came just over eighteen months ago. I was sitting in a crowded Melbourne theatre with my best friend in the entire world. Just 26 hours earlier I had found out that I had reached what I hope will be the first of many professional peaks. Suddenly I catch a glimpse of Tegan Quin for the first time ever as she sings arguably my favourite Tegan and Sara song ‘Dark Come Soon’ The mix of euphoria at seeing her, the sense of joy at my achievement, and sharing the moment with the one person whom matters the most to me made me burst into tears of ecstasy. This is to me, is what life is all about. That one moment and I will cherish it forever. It symbolizes my current destination in the complex journey that is my life.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad music can do the same things it can do for me. Music saves lives. A great caveat:

    "The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music." Kurt Vonnegut said he wanted this on his ephitaph. Whether or not it has been done is unbeknownst to me.

    Life is beautiful. Don't forget that.

    As far as the relationships go, don't worry about it, things will work out somehow. You need not look in all the wrong places for it. You know what I'm talking about here. Because that's what most people do and they are crazy.