The Wheeler Centre’s Festival Of Questions’s Philosophical Fight Club could perhaps be better described as a session of philosophical mediation; this diverse line-up sought not to fight, but instead find common ground. The panel offered up many moments of illumination and insights. Hosted by the ever charismatic Geoffrey Robertson, a broadcaster, human rights barrister, academic and author who holds dual citizenship between the UK and Australia, the panel offered up many moments of illumination and insights. Joining him as panel members were Trans activist Jordan Raskopoulos, Political commentator George Megalogensis, esteemed author Anna Krien, and Julian Burnside. Robertson began with a somewhat rambling but delightful introduction about statues around the world that have been erected and in some cases torn down or moved out of the public eye, due to the celebration of murders, genocide and racism.
We first took a look at the problems that dog the founding of Melbourne, the discrepancies between the federation story, and the true lineage of a culture that extends back 60 000 years. The white washing of Melbourne’s story was discussed, as was the problematic lack of knowledge of the genocide committed at the hands of one of our forefathers John Batman, of whom we have several statues and public references dotted across town. From here we moved deeper into perhaps dangerous and certainly controversial subjects. The white washing of our story and history extends far beyond our own locale. The panel members unanimously agree that each new generation of Australian should be taught the true story of White Australia’s violent inception. Yet here in this discussion, the plain fact in sight is uncovered and remains. In the Australian education system; our children can only be told so much of this story, that extends no further than the Dreamtime. A poor, inadequate and quite frankly disgusting cop out, on part of Australian society. In terms of this vital instilling of knowledge Julian Burnside referenced the elephant in the room with a loaded response likening our acknowledgment of the land on which we meet to nothing more than lip service, following by saying that we need to do more than this.
The Australian political system was attacked, particularly within the context of Robertson’s own dual citizenship, for recent parliamentary scandals; the perks, accountability and transparency were all agreed to be more important than section 44 of The Australian Constitution. On a more global level, populism was discussed, referencing Brexit and Trump as two strong points of contention as well as the way in which media has been used to sway the public opinion through propaganda attributed to racism and in extension the rise in disassociation with the political system. As our country edges closer to a full adoption of American cultural and societal views, how close could we be to having Pauline Hanson as PM?
In future contexts, then current postal vote is used as a beacon of hope. It has seemingly engaged a new wave of voters, and it could be argued that this new generation are in fact interested and engaging once again with the system; they do genuinely believe in equality.
Political, engaging, but in the context of things such as our now 24 hour news cycle, conversations like this however important or philosophical unfortunately suffer the tendency of being drowned out by white noise. As a community, we are exhausted not only by the context in which we must live, the boxes we must tick, and those we must fill, but also the constant chatter and inability for a true leader to emerge from among us and steer our nation towards unity and utopia.
Lingering now- a single question- what will it take to affect this change?
Photo credit: Jon Tjhia