Ben Adams performing Bukowski (Paroxysm Shaky Cam)

Me covering Buk’s “eulogy” at the 2016 Bukowski Birthday Bash.


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September 10, 2016 · 1:11 PM

On conservative opposition to ‘changing the date’

Regarding currently fashionable opposition to changing the date of Australia Day, or better contextualising historically inaccurate public monuments, conservative commentators such as Dean Jaensch appear to want it both ways when dealing with the question of symbolic representation and its role in our society (Australia Day should be a celebration of unity, not division and conflict).

On the one hand, they say, to ‘change the date’ would be ‘political correctness gone mad’ because Australia Day is only meant to celebrate the best, not the worst, of what our country has been and become. The painful symbolic consequences that result from celebrating Australia’s national unity on a date which marks the beginning of Indigenous people’s original dispossession are dismissed.

On the other hand, calls for change are also met with hysterically hyperbolic ridicule because it would supposedly represent an Orwellian “cleansing” of history likened to the worst cultural crimes of Stalin and National Socialism. Madness, indeed.

Why is the pain felt by Indigenous people because of Australia Day’s current symbolic connotations less important than the desire of conservative white Australians to preserve a symbolically one sided, often inaccurate view of Australian history?

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In response to a letter entitled “Deconstruction” and the ramifications thereof

Don de Ieso has a misguided understanding of history, historiography and the socio-cultural purposes of historical remembrance (Letters, 24/8/17).

Merely to remove statues or monuments from public display is not repressing knowledge of the occurrences and people they depict. Nor does changing the date of Australia Day erase or condemn the entirety of post-1788 society and culture in Australia.

Rather than a “deconstruction” or “transformation” of history, such changes actually reflect a “reconstruction” of previously lost histories: a deeper, more accurate engagement with the complexities of past events and their consequences, particularly for settler-colonial societies like Australia or the United States.

Confederate statues being taken down will be moved to museums, not blown up as ISIS and Taliban fighters have done to cultural and religious monuments. Moreover, it seems farcically and dangerously absurd to compare Holocaust denial with a desire to more appropriately reflect (through symbolically altering our national day of celebration) the grotesquely destructive cultural impact of the stolen generations and real violence suffered by indigenous Australians because of colonisation.

To quote John McEnroe, “you cannot be serious.”

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An unpublished, open ‘letter to the ed’ reply, regarding prejudice and being mean to white men

Mick Cearnes makes a frustratingly common category mistake when he suggests that labelling “old white men” as “grumpy”, or blaming them for being over-represented among opponents of social progress, can be equated with the kinds of prejudice experienced by black women, Muslims, or other marginalised social groups (Discussion, Sunday Mail, 06/08/17).

Sexism, racism and other forms of bigotry are not simply about saying ‘mean’ or offensive things to people of a particular gender, nor making stereotypical generalisations about certain racial groups. Such personal slurs are also part of broader political issues involving systemic forms of discrimination and disadvantage.

So, while older, particularly rich, white men can be stereotyped and (choose to be) offended by mean things people say, such ‘slurs’ carry none of the same connections to real social disadvantage, cultural erasure or historical dispossession as they might, say, for a homeless teenager, a queer woman, or an Indigenous Australian.

This is because white men, as white men, are not the victims of any systemic prejudices in our current society. But perhaps we should begin making the grumpy ones demonstrate commitment to our shared values of cheerfulness on pain of deportation. That would be a step toward ending prejudice, surely?

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Thoughts on the Alt-Right and Online Trolls, while listening to Bob Dylan’s ‘Only a Pawn in Their Game’

A South politician preaches to the poor white man
“You got more than the blacks, don’t complain.
You’re better than them, you been born with white skin,” they explain.
And the Negro’s name
Is used it is plain
For the politician’s gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game

The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid
And the marshals and cops get the same
But the poor white man’s used in the hands of them all like a tool
He’s taught in his school
From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
To keep up his hate
So he never thinks straight
’Bout the shape that he’s in
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game

From the poverty shacks, he looks from the cracks to the tracks
And the hoofbeats pound in his brain
And he’s taught how to walk in a pack
Shoot in the back
With his fist in a clinch
To hang and to lynch
To hide ’neath the hood
To kill with no pain
Like a dog on a chain
He ain’t got no name
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.

Copyright © 1963, 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1992 by Special Rider Music

I would like to make something clear and direct, now, in my late night, post night-shift period of reflection, relaxation and moderate whiskey drinking. A period in which I listen to music that encourages me to reflect, read poems or articles about the world’s state of affairs that drive my own thinking.

I detest the alt-right. Online trolls disgust me. I don’t mean because you (and yes, this is directed at you) revel in offending, revel in breaking taboos. I can get behind that, in certain ways. In many ways. It’s certainly not the source of my contempt, my absolute revulsion at your content, your methods, your style, your tactics, your selves.

No, what provides me with this complete rejection of your essential claim to existence – that you are waging some kind of war against orthodoxy – is the absolute laziness which underpins your attempt to prosecute this pathetic little rear-guard action. You have read no history, though you claim to have studied it.

You understand no philosophy, though you claim to be driven by the highest (mutilated) ideals of the Enlightenment.

You appear, most often, to have not even a basic grasp of the English language, competency in which you wield against immigrant others, to keep them from becoming a part of societies to which they will undoubtedly make incalculably greater contributions than your own laughably small, manifestly self-centered offerings of reactionary wrench-throwing.

If Bob Dylan, himself such a fluxing and tension-ridden figure, could scope out the basic premise of your position 50 years ago – that you are pawns in the game of people who care not a shred about your little selves, because what they care about is power, that you have been fundamentally misled, and have misled yourselves in this endeavor – well, if he could do that 50 years ago, then I really think it’s time for you to grow a pair, to wake up, to acknowledge your place in this world . . . or, really, to just quit.

Quit this whole circus.

Because you aren’t offering anything new, anything provocative, anything original or even interesting. And though it ain’t you to blame, ultimately, the fact remains you’re offering nothing but pathetic self-pity, and hatred, and tedious repetition of an insufferably boring, tiresome premise.

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‘Tenochtitlan’ by Ben Adams in Red Fez Issue 90   
Read on Red Fez | Read Later

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June 14, 2016 · 3:47 PM

Buy the Grapple Annual No. 1

The first Grapple Annual was officially launched at the National Young Writers Festival in Newcastle earlier this month. You can buy it now from their website.

The book contains my poem THE LAST NIGHT OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY’S LIFE along with a host of other great poems and short stories, and the whole package ‘feels good’ as the kids would say; ‘has a nice texture’. So if you like ‘art and/or literature’ or have a lot of money (or both) you should buy one. They’re only $20.

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