Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The Mission To Civilise: Farewell to The Newsroom

Perhaps the saddest loss I suffered this year was the end of my favourite TV Show of the past 20 years, Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom. As I've written previously, I always love the worlds Sorkin creates, even though most seem to tire of them. The Newsroom is my very definition of a great television show, intelligent, politically aware, darkly funny and romantic. The Newsroom teaches the viewer so many things that other TV shows seem to ignore.

The through line of The Newsroom's three season run was Will McAvoy's 'Mission to Civilise', the essential premise of Don Quixote, which is used by Aaron Sorkin frequently. This isn't just a snappy catchphrase, or a so-called 'Sorkinism'. Too many critics make this mistake. Sorkin is not trying to score political points, or rewrite history. Will's 'Mission' is as realistic as Alonzo's was over 400 years before, and draws on the same basic lessons.

The Atlantis Cable Network (ACN) bears absolutely no resemblance to any Cable News Channel throughout the world. Will, Mack, Charlie, Jim, Sloan, Maggie, Don, Neil, and the rest who inhabit Sorkin's universe are all damaged characters in the best ways... because no actual human being could exhibit flaws so earnestly, and with such righteousness. ACN is therefore a fictional ideological orbit, where every choice is intellectually justified, principled and designed to emphasise 'the greater good'.

While some story lines are based on real events, I choose to believe The Newsroom has no basis in reality whatsoever. It is instead a parable, just like Don Quixote. If you accept Sorkin's ideological predilections as I do, people can use the lessons of the ACN universe to be politically, socially and intellectually responsible.

The critics can please themselves.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

My Favourite Internet Journalism of 2014

I've often use the phrase 'Knowledge is Power', and one of the ways I obtain this knowledge is by reading long form journalism on the internet. I think, on average, I read about two longform pieces a day. Instead of cataloguing my favourite pieces in my annual list of pop culture. I've decided to highlight two of my favourite internet writers and then link to some of my favourite articles of the year; a reading list if you will.

One of the problems with literary crushes, is that they remain just that. There is no way to consummate the love properly, there is minimal chance of having a dialogue on the pieces they have written, even less of a chance that you will see them in person to have a conversation on their work. Nonetheless, I can say these two women below have given me more joy than just about anything else this year.

Anne Helen Peterson

Anne Helen Petersen (AHP) has a doctorate in Media Studies from the University of Texas, and is a former visiting professor at Whitman College. Her speciality is the study of 'gossip', as an academic tool to observe the power structure within society. Often incorporating semiotics, gender theory, and film studies scholarship, Petersen turns what might be naively described as a superficial and superfluous subject into a wider exploration of societal trends. Earlier this year AHP left her academic position to take a job as a features writer for Buzzfeed, where she has written some of her best work to date. Some of her best pieces this year have included an analysis of why Gone Girl's theatrical adaption didn't capture the magic of the book, why the leak of the Jennifer Lawrence naked photos does not constitute a 'scandal', why romance novels by Nicholas Sparks (and particularly their screen adaptions) are important, why Angelina Jolie is the Queen of the publicity game, an examination of Zac Efron's evolution from 'teen idol' to a 'bro' and a look at the history of Entertainment Weekly. I first discovered AHP last year, when she began writing a series of articles entitled The Scandals of Classic Hollywood, which she turned into a book. I can't wait to read it over summer.

Charlotte Shane

Charlotte Shane is a sex worker and proud of it. I first read an article of hers about three months ago. Shane's writing was frank and candid, but never smutty. She intelligently broke down common misconceptions about the sex industry (it is not always dangerous or glamourous). Instantly after finishing the piece I went searching through the the interwebs to see if I could find more of her work. I then discovered her Tinyletter account, Prostitute Laundry. I get an email, usually 500-1000 words a piece, roughly two times a week. The email contains a little vignette, each connected by a larger linear narrative. They are the best thing I've discovered this year. While these emails often contain vivid descriptions of sex acts, their power lies in Shane's ability to examine what men need from sex (and why some pay for it). Getting you to sign up to the Tinyletter account is my Christmas gift to my readers. I'm also addicted to her twitter feed, which is full of positive political discussion around gender and sex work.

My Favourite Pieces I've Read This Year

20 Years Later: Tonya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan the Spectacle of Power & Pain
The Other Side of the Story: a teacher/student sexual relationship from the student's POV
The Master A sexual abuse case at exclusive New York private school, Horace Mann
The Guilty Man: Michael Morton was wrongfully imprisoned for 25 years, how he was set free
The Father of the Sandy Hook Killer Searches for Answers
Understanding the Academy Awards
Is Tony Abbott an Echo of Early Australian Prime Minister Joseph Cook?
An Unlikely Ballerina: A Profile of Misty Copeland
1994-95 One of TV's Last Great Seasons
Difficult Girl: Lena Dunham talks about her experiences in therapy
I'm Chevy Chase and You're Not: Chevy Chase's career on Saturday Night Live
How OJ Simpson Killed Popular Culture
Escape From Jonestown
On and Off The Road With Barack Obama
Murder By Craigslist
How Much My Novel Cost Me

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

2014: Consolidating the Happiness & Surviving

I'm a survivor - a living example of what people can go through and survive.
 Elizabeth Taylor: describing herself

If 2013 was the year of self discovery and independence, 2014 has proven to be one of consolidation. Of proving to myself that the happiness and joy I have felt since I moved away was not just temporary. Last week in the middle of writing my thesis, I had a fleeting thought that has sometimes struck me since I forged out on my own.
I am free. I can do whatever the fuck I want and I don't have to answer to anyone! 
Every single day since December 27th 2012 has proven to be a gift, because I truly know how shitty life can be.

Last year I ambitiously forecast that 2014 would be 'The Year of the Doctor'. It was not. I still have more than a year to go before the PhD thesis will be completed. But I haven't sat still. My argument has been redefined, and my supervisors are more confident in the path that we are taking. It may not be finished in 2015. Who knows? The new deadline date is August 31st, 2016, so as long as it is completed by then, I don't really care how I get there. There are no ambitious forecasts this time. Life is for having fun.

Fun is exactly what I've been having this year. In August, I took my first travelling holiday since 2007. I spent a week on the Gold Coast, in a fully accessible lake house on Runaway Bay. With the supporting cast of three excellent staff members from Wesley Mission Brisbane, and two of my fellow residents from the Youngcare complex, I read 3 books, gambled, watched my favourite musical of the year, and got some much needed sleep.

In 2014, I participated in the ultimate brotherly bonding moment when we saw James Faulkner brake the hearts of the English Cricket Team, educated a few Queenslanders on the finer points of the greatest game the world has ever known, saw my father get bear hugged by a Crows supporter, who claimed to follow Port, while wearing a Gold Coast Suns jumper, and enjoyed an entire day of live Test cricket. All of that was at the one venue, The Gabba.

I also cried when my beloved Port Adelaide missed the Grand Final by a kick. I will never get over that.

Musically, I attended live gigs that featured Bruce Springsteen, Neko Case, Lior, Angus and Julia Stone, and Jimmy Eat World (at a gig that celebrated the tenth anniversary of one of my favourite albums, Futures). My next year in music promises to be bigger still, as I've already secured tickets to see Belle and Sebastian, First Aid Kit, The Veronicas, Demi Lovato and the incomparable Taylor Swift.

In the midst of all that frivolity, my biggest achievement of the year was writing and starring in Youngcare's ad campaign. I am so proud of the ad, and the other work I've done with Youngcare this year, including participating in meetings with the Federal Parliamentary Secretary of Disabilities, as well as the Queensland Treasurer, and the Queensland Minister for Disabilities. My year in disability advocacy became even larger when Wesley Mission Brisbane asked to participate in their fundraising campaigns too.

At the end of the last few years I always think I survived the year and that is an achievement, but that doesn't mean I'm entirely satisfied with everything that transpired. Once again I'm continually disappointed by the struggle to find intimacy, which is not treated like a commodity. This is particularly so given that I've worked so hard trying to be more outgoing in 2014. Objects of this author's affection remain unattainable as always, only to continue the cycle of perpetual disappointment.

My conflict with the disability sector also continues unabated. The progression of the corrupt and fragmented NDIS continues much to my ongoing disgust. The government also closed down Ramp Up at the end of the financial year, denying a key vehicle of advocacy for people with disabilities. Although I wouldn't have lasted much longer anyway, I still mourn its loss every time that an issue for people with disabilities does not get covered by the mainstream media, which is to say every single day.

Lastly, thank you to the staff who work with me in my home, all of whom are employed by Wesley Mission Brisbane. Without them I couldn't do any of the things I mentioned above. The place that Youngcare built with vision and care. I would encourage every reader to donate to Youngcare and/or Wesley this Christmas. So far I'm only one person of 25 who gets to live in this fantastic environment. There needs to be more. Please give the gift of freedom. The kind of freedom I always dreamed of, and now have.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

'The Stella Paradigm' & How I Lost My Tribe

Four years ago this month I wrote the first published article on the ABC's online disability portal Ramp Up. Writing that article was, at the time, a thrilling experience. I always wanted to be a contributor to my national broadcaster. I was so green though, and it showed. I thought the views I expressed in that article were indicative of the views of people with disabilities around the country. Turns out they were not. I was the radical within my own fringe group.

In the following months, this sense of displacement grow wider, as the views on my own disability radicalised. It was pure happenstance that I learnt to loathe my cripness at the same time that my views on disability became more widely known. I never set out to ruffle feathers, and contrary to the opinion of some, I don't take pleasure in telling the world that I hate my most widely known characteristic.

I can never understand the mainstream orthodoxy of disability in this country. Since being published by Ramp Up, at the instigation of Stella Young, I have really tried to understand the views of the disability community that differed from my own, particularly those of Stella's, who to my mind was always the personification of this orthodoxy. I read every article of hers, more than once. Each time I could feel myself wondering:

How the hell did she get there?

For someone so beloved by so many people I know and respect, I was often so utterly confused by Stella. It wasn't that we disagreed, and that we were polar opposites ideologically, but that our views were so personal, and went to the core of our respective beings. Every time she would write, and appear on TV, she would proclaim that being disabled was not only a thing that she loved, but that it was the best part of her.

Since news of her death emerged, the response of the media and the community has genuinely astounded me by its sheer number. It is great that she has been recognised, because she was a game changer for disability advocacy. I don't begrudge the enormity of the coverage, even though the occasional piece veers into the self indulgent wankery of 'I knew Stella better than you did.'

I did not know Stella at all, but the response to her death leaves me more confused than any of her pieces ever did. When the only coverage of disability in the media (and thereby the only argument projected to the general public) is centred around individuals who accept 'The Stella Paradigm' of disability pride: where all crips are assumed to be for the social model of disability, NDIS advocating, 'inspiration porn' crusading, crip champions for the masses.

What happens when you disagree with every single aspect of 'The Stella Paradigm'?

Over the past three days I've read all of Stella's editorials for the ABC again, trying to figure out why there was such divergence between us.

Am I just plain wrong?

Am I being too harsh on my own disability? Should I learn to love it? How come I cannot?

How come when I think of my disability, it brings me nothing but pain, regret and longing?

How could similar thoughts bring Stella, and many others, so much joy?

It is these questions that give me pause and so much confusion.

Just a few hours ago I read an article that advocated for the return of Ramp Up. Looking at the big picture, I always think it is fantastic idea to give people with disabilities the opportunity to share their opinions and values. However, if Ramp Up was to replicate its former model. I don't want to be part of it. I met some great people through my connection with the site, but that model represents 'The Stella Paradigm' in all its glory. Pride proclaiming, chest beating, flag waving cripdom. 

This week has been such a struggle. Revisiting my own crip ideology, I have concluded that the biggest thing that defines my disability is my own self loathing.  I have never wanted to do what Stella did on behalf of all disabled Australians. I would hate to be the walkie's authority on all things disability. It is why I admired Stella. She did things I could never do. She spoke for the nation. She loved her tribe. She loved herself.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Stella Young: The Voice for the Voiceless

My former editor, colleague and worthy adversary, Stella Young died this weekend, at the age of 32. I feel like I have no choice but to write about this, in an effort to process my grief. I never met Stella face to face, but in one of our last emails when she commissioned me for a piece, she told me:

'I write to you because even when you don't try, you drive up traffic. I hate what you say, but no one says it quite like you. You're the Andrew Bolt of disability. We need people like you. You are not afraid to say what you feel. Ramp Up needs to be shaken up again.'

Even though her death is a tragedy, I grieve not for my personal loss, the last time we spoke was February, but for the hole that her loss leaves for people with disabilities in this country. Even though I often bemoaned it, Stella was the nation's go to voice on all things disability. I didn't agree with her TED talk, or 90% of her writing.

But at least people saw it.

I respected Stella, and she, I like to think, respected me.

I wonder where we go from here? Who will fill the massive hole that the loss of Stella leaves us?

There is no one. No one at all.

That is why I cry.

As Stella often told the world, she was not an inspiration. She did even speak for me. But she gave a voice to the majority of those with disabilities, many of whom are voiceless.

And now that voice is silenced.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Best of 2014

Movies ( Released in Australia, 2014. Ranked in order of quality)

1. Her

Albums (Ranked in order of quality)

1. When the Morning Comes: Marit Larsen
2. Fumes: Lily and Madeleine
3. 1989: Taylor Swift
4. The Veronicas: The Veronicas
5. No One is Lost: Stars
6. Stay GoldFirst Aid Kit
7Ryan Adams: Ryan Adams
8. The Voyager: Jenny Lewis
9. Scattered Reflections: Lior 

Songs (No order)

Best Books I Read In 2004 (No Order)

Not That Kind of Girl: Lena Dunham
The Professionals: Stephen Mills
Showtime: Jeff Pearlman
The Man He Became: James Tobin
The First Stone: Helen Garner
Jacks and Jokers: Matthew Condon
This House of Grief: Helen Garner 

TV (In Order of Preference)

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

'...lucky the rest of the world is not crippled'.

Yesterday, I think, a friend posted this on her Facebook page. Over the years, this friend and I have had many a conversation about our different methods of finding a rewarding long term relationship. She's in one now, I'm not. Just a few hours ago I only half joked that my thoughts on this article would not fit into a Facebook comment box. And then I thought about why... then I came here.

One: We Don't Understand Ourselves 
The very idea that we might not be too difficult as people should set off alarm bells in any prospective partner. The question is just where the problems will lie: perhaps we have a latent tendency to get furious when someone disagrees with us, or we can only relax when we are working, or we’re a bit tricky around intimacy after sex, or we’ve never been so good at explaining what’s going on when we’re worried. It’s these sort of issues that – over decades – create catastrophes and that we therefore need to know about way ahead of time, in order to look out for people who are optimally designed to withstand them. A standard question on any early dinner date should be quite simply: ‘And how are you mad?’ 

What if you know exactly 'how you are mad'? You know all your tricks, insecurities, and psychological flaws? You knew how they turned people on? You knew how they turned people off? You knew them so well, that you could also time them to the second? The only thing that you did not know was how to stop them coming out eventually?

My problem is not that 'we don't understand ourselves' it is that I might know myself too well.

I used to think this was directly related to my disability, that I knew myself hyper-senstively, because I knew what I could not do instantly. Now, I just think I know myself so well because I have so much time to stew inwardly. Just because I know that the mistakes are coming, it doesn't mean I can stop making them.
Two: We Don't Understand People  
We need to know the intimate functioning of the psyche of the person we’re planning to marry. We need to know their attitudes to, or stance on, authority, humiliation, introspection, sexual intimacy, projection, money, children, aging, fidelity and a hundred things besides. This knowledge won’t be available via a standard chat. In the absence of all this, we are led – in large part – by what they look like. There seems to be so much information to be gleaned from their eyes, nose, shape of forehead, distribution of freckles, smiles… But this is about as wise as thinking that a photograph of the outside of a power station can tell us everything we need to know about nuclear fission. We ‘project’ a range of perfections into the beloved on the basis of only a little evidence. In elaborating a whole personality from a few small – but hugely evocative – details, we are doing for the inner character of a person what our eyes naturally do with the sketch of a face.

Right answer, wrong question.

The question should be:

Do you want the same thing out of a relationship as I do?

Simple question. Or maybe not for me.

Do I want a relationship with a ‘walkie’  to prove that I can get one? To prove that I am 'normal'?

So I don’t have to pay for the intimacy I crave?

So I don’t have to be alone?

So I can have stability?

So there’s actual proof that someone beyond my family actually gives a shit about me, above all else?

That last one is why I thought people got married.

I thought you got married because: 

You’re it. You’re the person I picked. Here’s the person who is not connected to me via blood, who is with me until I die. Because she wants to be.

That was my definition. Now I have none. I struggle to think that person even exists any more. But if they do, they better have that same definition.
Three: We Aren’t Used to Being Happy 
As adults, we may then reject certain healthy candidates whom we encounter, not because they are wrong, but precisely because they are too well-balanced (too mature, too understanding, too reliable), and this rightness feels unfamiliar and alien, almost oppressive. We head instead to candidates whom our unconscious is drawn to, not because they will please us, but because they will frustrate us in familiar ways. We marry the wrong people because the right ones feel wrong – undeserved; because we have no experience of health, because we don’t ultimately associate being loved with feeling satisfied.

I’ve never been 100% happy.

Never. Ever.

As a kid I was disabled, so I wasn’t happy. As a teenager and young adult I was never happy because I was in denial, and I programmed myself to think I was. Now in the happiest time in my life, I’m still not terribly satisfied to the point of self actualisation. And I still don’t know why. Maybe I just need attractive women to hold me? Maybe it is a part of my DNA? Maybe it is the thing that makes me so driven? My ongoing quest to finally get to ‘100% happiness’.

But at the same time, these past two years of ‘peak happiness’ have taught me that trying to find a woman to fill that percentage quota will lead me down the wrong path. So I guess that’s progress.

Four: Being Single is so Awful 
One is never in a good frame of mind to choose a partner rationally when remaining single is unbearable. We have to be utterly at peace with the prospect of many years of solitude in order to have any chance of forming a good relationship. Or we’ll love no longer being single rather more than we love the partner who spared us being so. Unfortunately, after a certain age, society makes singlehood dangerously unpleasant. Communal life starts to wither, couples are too threatened by the independence of the single to invite them around very often, one starts to feel a freak when going to the cinema alone. Sex is hard to come by as well. For all the new gadgets and supposed freedoms of modernity, it can be very hard to get laid – and expecting to do so regularly with new people is bound to end in disappointment after 30

This of course leads to the next point. To be blunt, for me, I think this part rings the truest. For a long time now, society has tried to teach me both implicitly and explicitly that the only way a disabled man can get regular sex, and express himself sexually, is through a relationship, usually with a disabled female. Disabled men don’t have ‘fuck buddies’ because disabled men don’t like sex. And if this mythical creature ‘the disabled man with a high sex drive’ wants sex, he can pay for it, but we must never talk about it. Or he can marry someone, (if he ever found someone who thought he was sexually attractive, another mythical creature). I don’t need to tell you that good sex does not make a good long term relationship. Especially if you think it is your only option. 
Five: Instinct Has Too Much Prestige 
Medieval miniature. Meeting of the Roman Senate. Discussion on marriage between a plebeian woman and a roman patrician. 15th century. Back in the olden days, marriage was a rational business; all to do with matching your bit of land with theirs. It was cold, ruthless and disconnected from the happiness of the protagonists. We are still traumatised by this. 

What replaced the marriage of reason was the marriage of instinct, the Romantic marriage. It dictated that how one felt about someone should be the only guide to marriage. If one felt ‘in love’, that was enough. No more questions asked. Feeling was triumphant. Outsiders could only applaud the feeling’s arrival, respecting it as one might the visitation of a divine spirit. Parents might be aghast, but they had to suppose that only the couple could ever know. We have for three hundred years been in collective reaction against thousands of years of very unhelpful interference based on prejudice, snobbery and lack of imagination. 
So pedantic and cautious was the old ‘marriage of reason’ that one of the features of the marriage of feeling is its belief that one shouldn’t think too much about why one is marrying. To analyse the decision feels ‘un-Romantic’. To write out charts of pros and cons seems absurd and cold. The most Romantic thing one can do is just to propose quickly and suddenly, perhaps after only a few weeks, in a rush of enthusiasm – without any chance to do the horrible ‘reasoning’ that guaranteed misery to people for thousands of years previously. The recklessness at play seems a sign that the marriage can work, precisely because the old kind of ‘safety’ was such a danger to one’s happiness.

This falls under the category of  ‘A beautiful woman around my age treats me like a 'normal' human being, and not like a crippled dumb arse, therefore I must be in love with her

Still a mistake I continually make.

There are four more points, each have their valid arguments, but ones I find have less relevance to me. 

My Facebook friend posited that she didn’t know anyone who started a long term committed relationship before they turned 25, who were still together today, and the reasons in this article suggested why. To be honest, I thought ‘I bet this article will be full of bullshit’. You see, contrary to what you’ve read above, I’ve always been the eternal relationship optimist, and she the ultimate pragmatist. But then I read the thing, and I thought ‘Shit, this is about 75% right, lucky the rest of the world is not crippled.’

Sunday, 30 November 2014

A Musical Diversion

In the wake of unspeakable tragedies and news that shocks the world to its core I think it is time to divert ones attention to something that makes you happy to be on this earth.

When I need such guidance I retreat into the world of the musical. So if you need a positive diversion, as I do, here's some of my favourite Movie and TV musical moments since 2000.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The True Veronicas.

Am I meant to sit here
And just take this, when you promise me that I would be the one that you would never leave?
I can't believe I fell for what you said
Does it make you feel good to make me feel less of who I am?
Does it make you feel strong? Like you're a bigger man?
What did I do to deserve this? To shut me out.
Did I love too much is that what this is about?
I thanked god every morning for having you in my life, now I'm praying to forget and you know why...

And if you were gonna lie, at least be a man and lie to my face. So you can watch my tears fall to the ground as I tear myself apart 
Wondering why, why I ever cried.
I put myself through hell for you. Fuck you! I hate you! I love you! I need you!
Wanna run, wanna run.
I wanna run, but I don't wanna run if you're not gonna find me.
So we should just pretend to be friends, right? And fake our way to the bitter end.

These are the lyrics of the soliloquy that comprises the heart of the track Cold, off the new self titled album from The Veronicas. This album is their first in 6 years, and by far their best. Unfortunately, due to the fact that both members of The Veronicas, Lisa and Jess Origliasso, are stunningly attractive identical twins, their looks detract from their artistry. The qualities that separates The Veronicas from the other sibling based bands that I love, (including Tegan and Sara, Meg and Dia, Lily and Madeleine and First Aid Kit) is the dichotomy that lies at the heart of their music.

Out of all the artists mentioned above The Veronicas are the band that is the most unashamedly mainstream. They compose songs that always aim for the top of the charts, even when they don't seem to mean it. Despite their previous predilections for chart success, and their tendency to exploit their apparent superficality for greater public attention their lyrics were always overtly caustic, bitter, morbid and emotional, even by the standard of today's confessional songwriting.

And now they can say this...

Fuck you! I hate you! I love you! I need you!

This speaks to all of us, because those four short sentences encapsulate the nature of any romantic relationship.The rest of the album follows this lead. 

I think this is why The Veronicas chose a ballad for the first single of this album. Gone are the days of wide eyed optimism and the needless sexualisation of the pair (No doubt thought up by a horny marketing executive, in an attempt for them to break into the US) of their previous two first singles, and instead they have turned up the heartbreak and melodrama, which have always been the strength of The Veronicas. Like Cold, You Ruin Me exploits this heartbreak to its maximum effect with amazing results. This is not an overt attempt for air time, radio play, or chart success. Yet they got all three anyway, and that is because The Veronicas have truly found their collective voice.

Perhaps no one was ready for 'The True Veronicas' up until now? Perhaps they knew what their former record company did not? Perhaps no one expected the combination of pure pop and power balladry to be successful? The signs were always there though. The Veronicas may wish they were born Bob Dylan, but with this record they have found their own voices, and at just the right time.  

Tuesday, 18 November 2014


At the end of the week I turn 31.

When I thought of the number 31 as a child I always saw Ron Barassi, playing AFL for either Carlton or Melbourne, wearing that number on his back. All of his highlights would be in black and white. He would invariably be crashing through a pack, or trying to demolish an opposing player. Barassi was (and still is) the personification of the traditional Australian male. A man who leads authoritatively, aggressively, and as a man who you would hate to disappoint. A man of words and deeds.
31 always seemed to be so far away to me. My first memories of growing up were when my father was that age. At that time, he had struck me as just like Barassi, a looming towering figure who would always lead the way, and someone who you would never want to disappoint, because that meant you were disappointing yourself. The difference between Barassi and Dad was that the footballer would grab his disciples by the throat, figuratively or literally and berate them, whereas Dad might initially bark at me like a football captain, but at the end of the day he'd always give me a hug, teach me a lesson, and tell me how much he loved me.

Now I'm almost 31. I cannot make foolish mistakes hiding behind the shield of young adulthood. Life's plans are in place. Responsibilities must be fulfilled. Obligations met. I'm a fully fledged grown up. A third of my life is done... and yet it isn't.

I still don't know what it is like to have a proper intimate relationship. Previous attempts have been painful and diabolical. I've spent the past decade and half begging for necessities that seem to come so naturally to other people. Friends are getting married, having babies, becoming domesticated... and I feel like I'm in an ironic game of Musical Chairs. The table is filled with people sitting in seats. The chair is empty at the head of the table. But I can't use a chair. Instead I have to pull out the chair and fit my wheelchair under the table so I can join in the fun, only the chair is too heavy to move.

Is there a point, an age, or a time where you have to change your modus operandi if one part of your life doesn't work the way you want it to?

If so, how do you change a part of your life, but keep the other elements that you like intact?

Or do you just accept that it is broken and it cannot be repaired?

I thought these questions would be solved sooner. This frustrates the completist in me. The guy who has a detailed road map of where he wants to be, when he wants to get there, and how he wants to do it.

This fragile part of my life, the truly broken part, doesn't have 'a how to booklet' that goes with it.

31. Welcome to true adulthood. 

Monday, 10 November 2014

Goss The Boss: Father of Modern Queensland.

Wayne Goss, former Premier Queensland from 1989-1995, died today aged 63. He will forever be remembered as the man who lead the Queensland ALP back to government after 32 years in opposition. His history making 1989 election victory alone is worth a comprehensive eulogy. However to comment on this achievement alone is to do him, and his government, a severe injustice. 

Though I did not live in Queensland during the Goss era, I have never forgotten the legacy of his government. Without the Goss Government, Queensland would still be a backward looking provincial colony. Most importantly of all, Queensland would still be a corrupt, vengeful, autocracy subjected to the whims of self serving leaders. He changed political culture in this state for the better.

Given that the deaths of Whitlam and Goss have occurred in close proximity to one another, comparisons between the two leaders are perhaps inevitable. Both men returned the ALP back to government after a generation in Opposition. However, the Queensland ALP stayed in the wilderness for more than a decade longer than their Federal counterpart. Goss  doubled Whitlam's term as the leader of a Government. Perhaps Goss and his government learned from Whitlam's mistakes, but Goss's job as a Premier who led an enormous transformational period in Queensland history should not be, and is often, overlooked.

The legacy of the Goss Government as whole also continues to be underestimated. You may argue whether he is the 'best' according to partisan preferences. However, Wayne Goss was the most important Premier of any state in the past 50 years, that to me is undisputed.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow: Whitlam and I

This morning, two points of history will intersect.

I was 14 in my year nine history class at Unley High School when the teacher told me that I could write an 800 word essay on any topic in Australian history. I chose The Dismissal because I had just become immersed in everything Gough Whitlam. When I finished the essay it was 2500 words long. The teacher, Mr Godden, wrote as his final comment.

I have no choice but to give you full marks, even though you ignored the word count. Quite simply you have proven that you know far more about this subject than I.

Though I have tempered my Whitlamite zealotry in the sixteen years since, that essay was the beginning of my career in political academia.

As Whitlam is memorialised, I will be at Matthew Flinders Anglican College (MFAC) receiving a cheque on behalf of Youngcare Australia. While many of the tributes to Gough have used hyperbole as a form of understatement, it is important to recognise that without Edward Gough Whitlam:

  1. My father would have not gone to university for free. This in turn means that he would have had trouble getting a job as a primary school teacher, and struggled to be my family's primary provider as my parents came to terms with my disability.
  2. I would have had limited opportunities to be integrated into the mainstream community, and I would have continued to be segregated on the basis of my disability alone.
  3. I would have not have gone to the Regency Park Centre School (RPC) in Adelaide that Whitlam and South Australian Premier Don Dunston helped establish for children with disabilities. Without the RPC I wouldn't have learned how to talk, feed myself or advocate for my own needs.
  4. I would have been unable to complete any form of education at all, much less two (almost three) university degrees. I wouldn't have learnt how to use a computer, drive a wheelchair or read a book. In other words I would have been completely helpless.
Read those points again and think about a life of a person with Cerebral Palsy who is 50, instead of 30, as I am. They might be just as smart as I am, just as tenuous, and just as willing to absorb knowledge. But you might not know it, because a person with a disability born in 1963 did not have access to the opportunities I mentioned above. I was extremely fortunate to be born on the right side of history.

The timing of today's historical intersection is therefore fitting. As Australia says one last goodbye to a bygone political era, the students of MFAC and I will be honouring the Whitlamite legacy in our own way. For without Whitlam there is no Youngcare. There is no concept of people with disabilities living independently. Importantly without Whitlam, there is no political or ideological basis to treat people with disabilities as part of the general community.

While one may argue successfully that any politician could have implemented these reforms eventually, the truth is that despite the Whitlam Government's many, many failings I would not be anywhere near the man I am today without that government.

May Edward Gough Whitlam rest in peace. He has certainly deserved it.