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On playing the victim

The former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce recently lamented his lot. In a high profile newspaper report. He joins a long line of powerful people--usually men--complaining how hard done by they are. And using their power to do so. I wrote something for Meanjin on this, playing the victim. The spectacle of Barnaby Joyce draped in a tea towel, lamenting his family’s stressors, prompted charges of ‘playing the victim’. And his resignation press conference too, with its air of disgruntled injury. Sure, if anyone has been playing the victim, it’s Joyce. The former Deputy Prime Minister gave glib housing advice, but happily took up free rental from a rich mate. Now he’s sad about moving home?

The deceptive story of virtuous homebuyers

There's a genre of newspaper and magazine story that's been annoying me for a while: the virtuous home buyer. They scrimp and save and, in so doing, become a moral exemplar for the unwashed, unpropertied masses. I've no problem with the hard work and austerity required to pay off a mortgage. My problem is the suggestion that everyone else isn't also working hard and living austerely; that there's a level playing field, in which some are just magically better at the game. My latest for The Canberra Times: A story is currently filling the weekend newspapers and real-estate lift-outs. A story of struggle, frugality and the entitlement that stems from these. A couple buy property. They work very

Political embarrassment

Watching politics, it's often difficult not to cringe. Perhaps our most common political emotion is contempt or disgust--but embarrassment is familiar. I wrote about this for the Canberra Times: 'Being embarrassed about Australian politics is a sign we care'. There are many emotions that nations can evoke: pride, anger, disgust, perhaps even arousal. These happen at varying levels of abstraction, from vague stereotypes to specific policies. They can be prompted by leaders, cuisines, literature – from Putin's shirtless machismo, to Japan's twitching squid noodles, to Greece's Freedom and Death, by Nikos Kazantzakis. I want to discuss political embarrassment at Australia. Not because this is t

A cautious argument for the scrutiny of hypocrites

So, it turns out Barnaby Joyce is a cheat, in many ways. I wrote a little essay for Meanjin on him and his political class. Let us not speak of Barnaby Joyce. Let us not speak of a man who turned protection against HPV and cervical cancer into a ‘licence to be promiscuous’, demonstrating poor medical, psychological and moral reasoning. A man who defended ‘the current definition of marriage’ in parliament, ignoring not only John Howard’s recent changes to the law, but also that the de facto Australian definition is now wholly at odds with his own. A man who blundered in all these ways—and, we now know, so many more. Let us not speak of Barnaby Joyce, then. Let us, instead, speak of hypocrites

"The important thing is to do good work and not be a shit..."

I was interviewed about my writing life by Madeleine Doré for Kill Your Darlings magazine. This is part of their new 'Extraordinary Routines' series. Even at its best, writing is always precarious. To have the same success in almost any other field would give you a stable income and some degree of control, but in writing, even people who are doing quite well are doing badly next to other professions. I think a lot of aspiring writers think, ‘Oh, it will be different for me.’ I think especially for young, male, white, middle class writers, there is a sense of entitlement there – they think, ‘Well that’s other people, but I’ll be the one who makes a living out of this.’ So it’s really importan

Thug life

I've an essay in the latest The New Philosopher: "Thug Life". It's about the unruly and seemingly unreasonable character of existence: how life itself is a bit thuggish. In Phaedo and elsewhere, [Plato] argued that the body was a danger. The soul has wings, to use his metaphor, but the heavy flesh pulls it down. He was very worried about lust, and recommended celibacy for ‘self-mastery and inward peace’. But he was more generally concerned about our meat sacks, which threaten to leave our souls ‘tainted and impure’. This is perhaps the most philosophical of conceits: the mind is clear and pure, and physicality is what muddles or muddies it. An “I” is a transparent gaze upon the world. The ap

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