Sheep, goats, angry men in coats.

One of the most troubling elements of recent political life is that some of my fondest theories and literatures are being recast in a new light, and it’s not flattering. The Frankfurt School, comprised of a twitchy bunch of middle-European men, thick in both coat and brow, produced much of the most prescient works on the cultural aspects of consumerist culture.

Adorno, Horkheimer and Marcuse angrily penned blistering critiques of low culture – films, books, T.V and drew direct lines between consuming this shit and quietly by-standing the Holocaust. More than fifty years on, all of their works are still troublingly apposite, but perhaps what’s become most alarming to me is that their ideas and language have been co-opted by what we might charitably call, ‘the far right’.

Consider this quote from Herbert Marcuse (1964),

Independence of thought, autonomy, and the right to political opposition are being deprived of their basic critical function in a society which seems increasingly capable of satisfying the needs of the Individuals through the way in which it is organised.

Every day some version of this statement will turn up on my Instagram account, usually in the service of those who champion, ‘freedom’. The anti-vax movement didn’t initiate this movement but it networked, refined and mobilised those with nascent views about their ‘freedom’. You know the people I’m talking about – the sovereign citizens, terrain theorists, bio hackers, survivalists etc.,. People I don’t normally think of myself as naturally gravitating towards. Although these people are generally characterised as being racist (something I can’t judge really as I have the privilege of not paying enough attention) what I am absolutely sure they are united by is a sneaky whiff of anti-semitism. The Frankfurt School would be sizzling.

The irony of bleating about the insidious and nefarious social and political manipulation rolled out through instagram is not lost on me. And yet claims about how the mainstream media depoliticises and poisons us, frames junk choices, broadly, controls us, continue apace. Here’s Adorno (1974), not even remotely writing about Instagram,

The phrase, the world wants to be deceived, has become truer than had ever been intended.

The resonance with today’s current bunch of wellness warriors is acute.

So what to make of this? For me, it’s like discovering that your high minded, moral, well-meaning religion (critical theory) has been adopted by Hillsong. Extremism is the hallmark of ‘not really understanding what the Frankfurt School was on about’. The creation of binary narratives – sheep/goats, blind/seeing, redpilled/bluepilled etc.,. are simplistic meta-narratives that mirror the ones that ‘freedom warriors’ claim to be so keen to resist.

The people who really get on the wagon with the ‘freedom’ talk are doing exactly the same thing as the people who run their lives according to the mainstream consumerism presented to them via the same channels. The sheep and the goats are equally serviceable in a curry. They are all making and producing and reproducing themselves and their identities through the medium of images presented and controlled through social media.

Herbert Marcuse claimed that ultimately, the main aim of the culture industries was to make profit, and I think that’s the right place to start thinking about this. Because although people who are extreme about what we might loosely call ‘the freedom movement’ mediated through social media, it is the social media platforms that make money out of them. They are, to repeat the phrase, the product.

Often, these social media personalities complain about being silenced or moderated or edited by the platform because of their unpopular views (for instance, people having their anti-vax posts removed) but in fact, the posts that get removed are the ones that don’t make the platform enough money. Engagement plus advertisement makes profit.

Perhaps these ‘influencers’, bravely baring their unshaved clackers to the world to give a defiant finger to ‘transhumanism’ are aware that the platform still makes money out of their content, but think it’s an acceptable price to pay for the ability to get the message out.

A vast majority of the content about ‘freedom’ exists in the health sphere, and was consolidated and weaponised by the anti-vax issue. Suddenly, a big part of the ‘wellness’ sphere transmogrified into a tight coalition of ‘paleo-bros’ and ‘bio hackers’ – a very male dominated eco system of tightly wound, mostly white guys who are succesful in part because you can’t smell ketosis through the screen. These people, like many, many others (including me) are convinced that the modern food industries are designed for profit rather than human health. It’s very hard to argue with that. But their criticisms of the corporate structures that engender the ‘food’ economy are refracted through their own bodies, identities and relationships. They use much of the language of the men’s rights movement – that men should be strong, protective, muscle bound, virile etc.,. and that the modern food industry has feminised men and contributed to the breakdown of the modern family.

In other words, the ‘anti authoritarians’ question and reject the meta narratives of science, government, risk and control and replace them with another set of equally controlling hyper individualistic notions of personal sovereignty, that amount to little more than outing themselves as advanced hyper-consumers who are seeking to reproduce much older traditional ideas about the family and masculinity. The main difference between the meta narratives of science, governmentality and risk is the focus on humans as a group whereas the ‘anti-authoritarians’ are extreme individualists. These people are the ultimate consumers – they are performatively made and remade through their relationship to the products they consume.

To be clear – BOTH groups are pretty bad. On the one hand, there’s the mainstream, slavish adherence to ideas about how to be a controlled body – eat mass produced food and consume the ‘mental health’ bullshit that renders you governable. Many of the strategies of government and public health exist to address the obscene rates of illness that are a direct result of corporate negligence in the service of profit.

BUT, the extreme ‘anti-authoritarians’ are doing more or less the same thing – finding their tribe, allowing themselves to be completely preoccupied with their narcissistic individuality, completely obviating the possibility of political engagement in the current omnishambles. They are noisily ‘opting out’ and thinking this will solve everything.

What to make of all this? How to retain my love affair with critical theory as liberation? For me, it’s with the help of two ideas – governmentality and anti semitism.

The idea of an extreme freedom midwived through extreme narcissism and cultivation of the performative individual is little more than the most modern iteration of identity-based, late capitalist consumerism. The appeal of simplistic, formulaic ideas of control (government bad and evil versus plucky heroic freedom warriors) simply reproduces some very well worn patriarchal tropes. It’s Star Wars in yoga pants.

And anti-semitism? Well, the idea that the extreme left and right are connected by anti-semitism isn’t new. The left think that major media corporations are Jewish controlled, and as such, governments dance to their tune. The right are anti-semitic for more tribal reasons. Both frame Judaism as a powerful, controlling force with a ready supply of sleeper foot-soldiers. The Frankfurt School was developed precisely because its founding members were understandably horrified by the way in which the Holocaust could be countenanced by regular, ordinary working people – their friends, neighbours, colleagues and associates. I’m always stunned when I see people at protests holding signs that say, ‘Always wondered who let the Jews be taken away? Now you know’ etc.,. These are always the same people who ascribe to ideas about the global order that aren’t much different to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

And with that, it’s time for me to go and make a potentiated almond goat’s uterus smoothie.

Reality, but make it fashun

I’ve only got five minutes to write today but last night my kid was harassing me about climate change, and some of the pretty scary science that describes it. And it is scary, to be sure, but there’s also the issue of doomerism, uncertainty and the very real fact that we’re aware of the impact of burning fossil fuels and gradually, in a half-arsed, we’re cocking it up, shambling, bitching pissing and moaning kind of way, doing something about it.

It will always be too little, and will it always be too late to return us to what went before, but that’s extremism talking. And extremism, where we must have the absolute answer, the absolute solution, the absolute position to the exclusion of all others, is very much the vibe of the moment. And it’s a product of manipulation. It is how we are being taught to think about problems.

I’m increasingly seeing the media’s portrayal of all issues as either reality-driven or anti reality. We’ve been coddled into this. Ten years of inspirational Instagram tiles telling us to, ‘make our own truth’ and ‘be who we want to be’, to ‘manifest our destiny’. People who think this New Age fuckspeak is without consequences are foolish in the extreme. And it’s not a modern phenomenon either. In the 80s I remember all those books and movies about how the winsome protagonist made his dreams happen because he believed in himself. It’s the lynchpin of shifting the focus from the macro (large organisations, corporates, governments) to the micro (individuals). And now we’ve cultivated the individual so much so that we think we can bend reality. I distinctly remember going to a friend’s place to watch Live Aid, on the tele, interspersed with footage all those poor wee kids with their swollen tummies who had failed to believe in themselves.

A friend’s social media post yesterday alerted me to the newest Covid fad – the Event 401. ‘Look it up! It’s all right there, people just can’t be bothered to even look, they’re such sheep!’

Event 401 was a tabletop exercise run by Johns Hopkins in 2019, aimed at hypothetically testing global preparedness for a SARS-like pandemic.

If you recall, SARS (and MERS) were a bit of a bugger. The global response was broadly effective, albeit in the usual shambling kind of way. And then, when it all died down, everyone got together and went,

‘Phew, that was ugly, thank goodness it will never, ever happen again!’

Oh, hang on. No, that’s not quite right.

In actual fact, they got together and said, ‘Given what we know about the conditions under which SARS and MERS emerged, we should expect another zoonotic to human pandemic within the next 20 years. Let’s prepare for it (including the development of potential vaccines)’.

If Event 401 is supposed to prove that Covid19 is a hoax then I can’t wait to see these idiots discover earthquakes.

But this is where we’re at. We are at the point where completely predictable, observable reality is positioned as proof of a hoax.

“See that? It’s rain! it’s raining!”

“Yes, it is”

“Toldya. Sheep”

I’m now watching my friends argue on instagram about the participation of permaculture activists in the Melbourne protests.

‘You’re protesting with Nazis! And you’re being manipulated by Clive Palmer!’

It perfectly encapsulates the two characteristics of modern thinking about these problems; You have a tribe, and the price of allegiance is to forsake all others. If you’re anti vaccine mandate, therefore you march with Nazis. Therefore, you are a Nazi. Or, if you believe in permaculture, you don’t believe in science. All these positions, from Nazism to permaculture to anti vax assume one thing – a puritanistic supremacy of the individual to force their truth on to reality.

It’s much more nuanced than that. I can understand the position of the permaculture people on vaccines – to see humans as sitting within a web of life, rather than outside of it, and to focus on the web rather than the individual. We are ‘cheating’ nature with vaccines. Nature would have us die. Indeed, nature would have killed somewhere between 15 to 40% of the people at the protests, before they had reached 60. That’s reality.

I’ve personally been saved by modern medicine no less than 8 times in my life, maybe more. And that’s just the direct impact of medicine. And that’s before plumbing.

It’s no good being a puritan about this shit unless you’re willing to accept the endpoint – natural death. But puritan individuality is what we are constantly trained to think about. Because projecting our sense of individual power over our circumstances plays into the biggest fleecing of all – that climate change requires individual rather than systemic change. This cult of the individual is nothing more than fashionable politics. It is adorning oneself with something that makes you feel good, endlessly reinventing yourself in an empowering but ultimately innocuous and futile way. The irony is that it’s often the permaculture/wholeness/wellness people who’re most involved in their own personal identity brands.

We are personalising the political. And it will be the buggering of us.

On discrimination and ableism.

As the lockdown lifted in NSW, many stores and cafes took to their social media feeds to announce their intentions. 

Many decided to only open their doors fully after December the 1st, when the state vaccination rate reaches 90% (now looking like 95%). 

The first of many such announcements was from a local cafe and health food store, on Instagram, a beige screenshot of the ocean with a beautifully composed homily about light, spirit and wellness and kindness. Love everyone, it intoned.

This is Instagram speak for, ‘We won’t be opening our doors if we can only let the vaccinated in’. 

Some are more direct; ‘We do not discriminate against anyone, regardless of their beliefs. All are welcome here. We won’t be opening until December 1st”.

Laudable sentiments. No one likes to think of themselves as discriminating against people, especially not those who wear crystals. 

My dear friend has stage 4 cancer. She is vaccinated, but it is unlikely to have had much of an impact. Her family engages with the world. Her partner works in a shop, her kids go to school. Her family members need to work and go to school, and obviously, there is still risk, but the risk of passing Covid on is much smaller if there’s a high rate of vaccination.  

To someone with cancer, or a disability that impacts their immunity, shops that say, ‘We don’t discriminate against anyone’ are actually saying, ‘….except you, weaklings. We don’t give a fuck about you at all and if we’re honest, you probably brought your conditions on yourself. Have some potentiated dried bees’ testes!’

This position, where you assume that everyone is well and that vaccination only impacts on the person who chooses to be vaccinated, is the very definition of ableism. Making self-aggrandising comments about your ‘commitment to non discrimination’ gives the middle finger to those people who have experienced the most discrimination in their lives – disabled people. 

I have and will continue to boycott local places that cheerfully announce their lack of accumulated fucks for the most vulnerable in society. Just like them, I will discriminate.

Once again….

I haven’t written anything on this blog, or anywhere else, for months. I’m busy I suppose, but also side-lined, bright-lined and maligned by the endless task of interpreting statistics about disease and the lack thereof. Shifting paradigms.

Increasingly I’m drawn to two orthogonal poles. The first we might broadly refer to as ‘science’ – the shambling, iterative, dirty net curtain of rationality and causality. The second is more sociological or cultural – the idea that there are patterns, fashions, if you like, that characterise different intellectual epochs. These are slippery and developed in concert with their constituent technology. The best example of course, is the current one, our kind of technocratic rationalism, running on the fumes of utilitarianism with the inferred certainty of a kind of social Carnot cycle. In this model, we take scientific rationalism and apply it, writ large, to social problems.

As a fashion, we’ve been subject to this model for quite some time. Bureaucrats carefully but assuredly ‘pulling levers’, feebly adjusting the fuel mix of the economy in the vain hope that it will overcome its chaotic wobbliness. I suppose this is neoliberalism – the promise of certainty, stability in the face of an economic rationalism that perpetually threatens to end it all.

The model is anywhere and everywhere, the language of rational management, the bloodless accounting of society’s ups and downs. Consider the enormous and still flourishing network of ‘mental health’. An institution is sanctified and legitimised once it reaches a certain size and begins to upholster its processes with the baubles of ‘wellbeing’. One is ‘at risk’, then ‘assessed’ then, ‘assessed for risk of immediate harm’ then assessed for one’s ability to ‘engage with processes that might engender a meaningful shifts in outlook’ and then, and then and then. Of course, to those experiencing the pointy end of whatever institutional shafting the Random Shafting Generator has selected for them on any given day, this window-dressing is offensive. And that’s the point. It is, as they say, a feature, not a bug. It shifts blame to the victim, while assiduously ossifying the power of those who seek to create a seamless integration of professional and personal. The shiny-bummed carpet baggers.

Your personal is your political, and your political better get the fuck on board.

Examples abound. Just two days ago, the NSW state government declared a massive increase in funding for Headspace. This is a service that ‘deals with’ mental health issues amongst young people. Only, of course, it doesn’t. Being well acquainted with a former manager of Headspace, I can unsurprisingly inform you, Dear Reader, that Headspace does absolutely nothing for the mental health of those who seek its services. Because it provides nothing. That’s the point. It sits there telling young people who are distressed because they feel alienated from their lives, their families, their nature and their culture, that they have mental health problems. Young people who’re expected to find their way in the world, stumbling along on a diet of chicken salt and Fortnite.

Of course, for those who do, in fact, have mental health problems, like schizophrenia, no help exists at all. It was ever thus. The ex Headspace manager mused about the amount of money that could have been spent on young people with schizophrenia, were it not all being soaked up by the dangly-earring set, feeding teenagers a quaintly June Daly Watkins/Margaret Thatcher habitus.

I’ve digressed. Because this, ‘mental health’, was only meant to be an example of the broader style, or fashion, of thinking and talking, in which we are training ourselves. The technocratic rationality. At times is becomes visible for all – the anti vax debate is a particularly current example. On the one hand, the simple, modernist and muscular public health logic dictates the best outcome for the most people. On the other, a supreme adherence to individualism, fostered by what is now 30 years of neoliberalism, and cosseted by the rude good health guaranteed by previous public health measures based on the aggregated self, now illustrates the extent to which people grapple with the invisibility of government and their own (in)significance.

It feels clumsy to lump this way of thinking into BN (Before Neoliberalism) and after, but it is easy to delineate some key differences, through the prism of public health. We imagine the state is invisible, imagine our lives as governed by our own hard work and good fortune. Of course, this is sheer folly. The average Filipino works just as hard, if not harder, than the average Australian. Our Australian cards sit on the top of the economic deck because of our position in the ‘first world’, or ‘global north’. These benefits are almost entirely due to our government’s ability to consolidate influence within the global financial markets, either to create wealth from wealth, or to capitalise on wealth we ‘produce’ (commodities). At no point is there a direct linear relationship in which we can compare the output of an Indian, Filipino or Nepalese worker and an Australian in the same position.

I’m not going to get into a long-winded account of global currency markets, but it’s enough to say that our government’s role in our welfare and wellbeing is mostly ‘international’ rather than domestic. And yet it is the domestic politics with which we are the most familiar. This is how our governance is presented to us. Hot Mess Gladys and the endless handwringing over the intergenerational inequities in the housing market.

Public health is also invisible, unless there’s a crisis. Our wellbeing, the security of our nation in terms of ‘burden of disease’ is only relevant in broad terms.

I remember, many years ago, reading about risk and public health, from Nikolas Rose, who, ironically, is a biologist. What occurs (and this is because I can’t recall if it’s his idea, or perhaps my own that was generated through interaction with his work – suspect the former) is that risk helps us to imagine ourselves in the aggregate – it is a tool through which we might be controlled. Talking about our bodies through a prism of risk is something Foucault got hot and bothered about too. We can think of ourselves as entities disseminated through multiple strategies of risk. We’re all familiar with this way of talking and thinking about ourselves.

‘Smokers have a 50% chance of dying from a smoking related illness’

In this way, we might imagine ourselves as a collective, constantly shifting the levels on the risk amplifier we share with everyone else. Certainly, this was an element of neoliberalism – the utilitarian model applied to bodies as a means to control and moderate them, and to perfectly integrate them within a model of ‘productivity’.

And this is where fashion comes in. Because I am now old enough to recognise when this went out of favour, with the rise of identity politics. It happened with fatness. Partly, this was to do with over-reach. The model was overfitted. Risk was attributed everywhere, to everyone. The model got lazy. I remember the first debunking of the ‘Obesity Epidemic‘. Supposedly, obesity was causing high rates of diabetes and other poorly defined problems. The pendulum swung back, people began to question lazy data science. And, most importantly, there was a growing focus on the social consequences of ‘epidemics’. Who is affected and why? Who gets categorised, and what does that mean for them? What are the implications of being labelled fat?

We witnessed a shift in thinking, away from the rational, bio-deterministic models of social control, partly due to sloppy science, and partly due to the rise of the individual. Identity emerged; we began to hear terms like ‘fat shaming’ and the reclamation of physical attributes as identity (reclaiming the term ‘fat’ for instance). This is an interesting shift, a revocation and refusal of the bio medical model that sees humans as barely functioning meat-sacks on the fritz.

And then, we can trace the rise of the ‘victim’ narrative, salvation through identity. The rise of the virtuous disability, as yet another way to claim power.

Underneath it all, to me, these modes of thinking all retain one thing in common; they serve the same power that they always did.

That’s enough crapping on for one morning.

Addendum, By the way, I note that Nikolas Rose has shifted his interests to the ‘psy-disciplines’ and is, unsurprisingly, friendly with Foucault.

Is 2018 The Year of the Mandal?

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It’s holidays, and we’re in the midst of the annual migration of well-laundered baby boomer men. They’re at The Beach, enjoying Leisure with their Family.

At a certain age, men wriggle out of the last vestiges of their adult form and return to a pre-pubescent larval stage. They begin to wear children’s velcro sandals.

Initially scientists assumed this was due to the Mandal’s superior level of comfort and versatility, however this theory was quickly disproved. Unlike children’s velcro sandals that roughly follow the child’s footprint, Mandals extend at least three centimetres beyond the toes, providing a large footbed that frequently trips the wearer, compounding the their lack of proprioception due to chronically swollen feet. Congestive heart failure is a tricksy beast.

Initially it was assumed the wearer had simply purchased a sandal that was too large – exhibiting the boomer’s deep and unremitting fear of any level of discomfort, no matter how minor, in everyday life. However, closer inspection reveals that the Mandal is in fact designed to extend out the front of the foot. The sizing is correct.

Perhaps the explanation is cultural; the large, frontal extension resembles the suburban verandah? Or maybe it serves to maximise one’s footprint, a literal expression of the baby boomers moral purpose? Perhaps it is a boomer expression of ethnic identity, referencing a nostalgic time when Australia was cleanly divided into skippies and wogs. Australians of southern European extraction would not be seen dead in velcro fucking sandals.

The only threat to the Mandal is the burgeoning trend of NormCore, where hipsters are busily inverting the inherent ugliness of 90s Boomer-Dad-fashion. If you can’t buy their houses, gently mock their footwear.  Take that!

Fuck off with your ankle bracelet

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One week ago, without even having to inconvenience myself by robbing a petrol station or raping someone with a broom handle, I was issued with an ankle bracelet.

Yep, my workplace was participating in a corporate ‘wellbeing challenge’. Staff were organised into teams and pedometers were handed out.

All you have to do is measure how many steps you take in a day!

Apparently, this is because our employer is dedicated to staff wellbeing;

‘For those of you lucky enough to have your zero hours contracts renewed for another six months, we really care about your personal wellbeing! Look! There’s even a video! And hell – o! It’s funky!’

In the olden days, by which I mean the period immediately preceding the age characterised by endless moaning about how millennials are too lazy and entitled to commit suicide already, working for a living defined you as a lifter, rather than a leaner. Lifters were masters of their own destiny, less scrutinised than those languishing in the nationalised cost of labour market elasticity.

Where was I? Ah yes, work makes free. It’s got a lovely ring to it, don’t you think?

Male, white collar workers could drink till it came out their ears, drive badly and eat Big Macs off the arses off as many Brazilian models as they liked (I fondly imagine this is what they were up to anyway), with little oversight. Women, of course, could work as much as they liked but were still subject to open scrutiny. Who is paying the price for your selfish obsession with paying the bills, bitch? (At least some things never change).

However, by and large, working for a living placed you under less scrutiny than being on welfare. Or at least that what’s my ankle bracelet told me to say. Because I’m not being ‘scrutinised’. I’m simply being trained in methods so I can scrutinise myself.

To be sure, the pedometer is not forcing my behaviour, it’s not making me walk around the suburb in my slippers in the dark, counting each step as I go. No, that’s not how this shit works. Social control must be subtle. It must appear sensible and self evident. It must legitimise itself. You must want to do it.

My ankle bracelet encourages me to think about my body, my self, in a particular way. For instance, it enables me to think of all the walking I do as discrete parcels of exercise. this fits in nicely with the idea of the compartmentalised self, where activities such as ‘walking’ are realised as both a noun and a verb.

Walking can be slotted into a rubric of self-care and public health. It helps me to work on my body, where my body is a commodity that I produce myself, with the help of other products of course. The pedometer strings together a strategy of the body, a way of thinking about my output as compartmentalised. It also gets me used to the idea of complete monitoring.

The pedometer is accompanied by helpful tidbits of information;

‘Did you know that you actually do exercise in your ordinary life, just by walking around?’

Here it connects the very act of moving from the bed to the bathroom, for instance, with a regime of order that is intrinsically connected to the larger structures in your life – a seamlessly integrated alliance of work and public health,

‘Woah. You mean just by walking around I’m getting exercise? Every step I take actually counts? I’m totally going to start snorting coke off the downstairs toilet cistern from now on!’ (FYI – this type of response elicits the ‘you are not a team player’ derisory sigh in the tea room, and a suggestion that perhaps I am not a Model Employee).

Right up until the moment it went into the ocean, the little plastic pedometer was educating me in the right way to think about my body, how to regulate myself. This is what Foucault would call governmentality – the conduct of conduct.

“Governmentalities are both mentalities and technologies, both ways of thinking and tools for intervening, and it is important to keep in view the irreducibility of one to the other” (Miller and Rose 2008:20)

I like this because it makes me think about Actor Network Theory. I like the conceptual slipperiness of ANT, the idea that there are connections between things, networks, ideas and what Papuans might call Kastom. I like that it’s a way of finding traces of power, but it’s not absolute. Power is in flux, constantly, and the objects things and networks all shift in relation to one another, sometimes becoming one another. Foucault is often presented as more fixed, when in fact I think his work is more like ANT. The panoptican, for instance, is presented as a metaphor – here is a building that represents a way that people can think about themselves in relation to the control of the state. Well, no, the panopticon is more than a representation or a metaphor. Foucault’s genealogies work more like fashions of thought, for me anyway.

The pedometer, for instance, makes me think of myself as a knowable, homogenised commodity. All the walking you do is rendered the same, whether it’s getting up to a baby in the middle of the night or snorting coke off the downstairs loo. Walking is an essential human activity (for most people). It’s essentiality is a wonderful thing to give you a sense of control over. The pedometer co-opts walking into a regime of order and homogeneity. It’s the McDonaldisation of your steps! Excuse me, Kate Tempest, I believe I’m being noisy now….is this thing on…?

OK, McDonaldisation might be a bit clunky.

But perhaps we can think of walking as connected to exercise. Everything is now exercise. And what is ‘exercise’? It’s moral, self-management in the pursuit of a commodity-body, where the emphasis is on the through-put of the images of self, rather than the self itself.

The idea that walking at work can be exercise is something interesting too – it joins the world of the personal and labour….Hey, you’re actually performing a first world leisure activity (exercise) while you’re working! WIN! You should be thinking of your job as a vocation, because that’s how winners think about work. Yeah, think of yourself as both producer and product, where work is something that produces you. The real you. The one that feels gipped when you have to ‘give up’ work to look after kids.

Exercise is also connected to risk. We’re all familiar with this message – if you don’t exercise you’re volunteering yourself for a cascade of neo-liberal reversals. You’ve brought this on yourself. Fatty.

Risk is an aggregation of destinies, in this way I am connected to everyone else. This gives me both more control (I must get off my arse immediately so I don’t end up with diabetes) and less control (this aggregation of information, called risk, knows more about me and my life chances than I do myself). What it does do is homogenise me, and make me more controllable. I’m a standardised metric. The only purchase I have on risk is through the chirpy, pastellised infographics on the train station walls (as long as the message is expressed in two moronic words or less).

Get Active! Just Quit! Fuck off!

So, risk does two things –

One: it encourages me to think about myself as part of a polity, as connected to everyone else. Moreover, it makes me think I have a particular responsibility to mobilise and care for my body in a morally acceptable way.

Two: There is something called ‘risk’ which knows more about my life chances than I can know, but is ‘good for me’. It also exists within the realm of professionals – biostatisticians, psychologists, public health experts. I should trust their judgement and wisdom.

I must learn to be comfortable with acquiescing my sense of personal control. The pedometer can help with that. It gives me a sense of ‘self-care’ and primes me for being controlled.

If I feel uncomfortable with this then it’s because I’m not sufficiently fluent in these techniques of the self. This is when Foucault is most visible – when everyone else in the tea room thinks the ‘steps project’ is a ‘bit of fun’ and ‘enters into the spirit of the thing’ and I feel like I’m on page 67 of 1984. Sure, there are ways of getting around this – loudly but casually referring to it as the ‘Pedo Challenge’ certainly makes for good tea room banter – but generally I think there’s no way out.

I’ve snorted way less coke off the downstairs loo since I got rid of the pedometer though.






Gen Y; Just like Gen X but with interest

With all the media pitching and yawing about Gen Y unable to buy houses for the same reasons as Gen X only people give a fuck about them….it’s worth making the only statement that needs to be made;

Sydney house prices have risen 88% since 2009. The price-t0-earnings ratio is all you need to know. Not much can keep up with that kind of growth. Everything else is just intergenerational warfare to keep us all entertained.

As I have said before, the comes a point where growth impacts its own growth. Sydney is at the point of pole-axing itself. It is reducing itself to a hollowed out facade of banal avarice and 100% proof suburbia, a museum exhibit. I love Sydney but it’s on its way out.

Sewing generations

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Hey, I can see early puberty from here!

Having children ushers in a period of reminiscing so profound you could be mistaken for the Garbage Heap on Fraggle Rock. It’s become fashionable amongst the aged to claim that we’re being increasingly unmoored by technology, but I don’t think that’s the case.

I spent part of this morning parked up in front of a laptop, browsing sewing patterns with my daughter. Being a fossil hunting pirate surgeon who makes machines that distribute water/food colouring/manky flour-paste over the lounge room does not preclude frocks.

The method might have changed, but the practice is the same.

As a kid I accompanied my mother to the sewing shop, where, under bright fluoro lights, I would select a dress pattern. The pattern books were huge and positioned on architect’s tables. There was a small wooden stool for little girls to stand on while their mothers leafed through outsized pages of sewing patterns.  Tabs marked the age categories in each book – babies, toddlers, 3-4 and so on.Boys were banned from the sanctity of the dressmaking shop.

My mother would heave slabs of pages over where they would land with a whump, blowing a cool, faintly vinegary breeze into face. There was a sense of order and ritual to this almost silent activity, my mother efficiently flicking through the pages, occasionally pausing on a pattern she thought suitable,

‘What about that one?’ she’d ask, in a whisper.

‘Yes’ I’d breathe, trying to imagine how I could possibly look as glamorous as the smiling, insouciant girl in the picture who was no doubt an American and also probably swallowed bubble gum.

Fast forward thirty years and we don’t go to sewing shops anymore. I’m sure the books still exist, now firmly in the domain of hipster crafting shops where women buy $100 a metre Japanese slub linen to look like they’re wearing an Amish horse cover.

The process is the same, though. My daughter still sits beside me, cruising through patterns, asking if that’s something I could make her.

“I like that one!”




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Review; Grit by Angela Duckworth (or Detritus, for Early Adopters)

When choosing a pseudo-scientific theory, nine out of ten people who buy cosmetics off the television prefer post hoc, reductionist, wooly fabulism!

Buy now! Success in three easy steps/easy-to-drink Insta-Shake/slimline suppository!

Related; How to make money selling self-help books for losers.

Step One; develop a ‘scientifically proven’ psychological theory that reveals that 100% of non-losers became non-losers by…….not being losers.

Step Two;  Sell book to losers.

Homeowners lament life on Earth

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-pic from ABC News

Battlers in one of Sydney’s wealthiest suburbs, Collaroy, have lamented the government’s disregard for damage to their properties, following storms that left some residents without the ability to swim in their own pool.

‘What is the point in even having a pool to swim in if the ocean beside it is going to take it away?’ said Lenora of Collaroy Beach, adding that her husband, Tony, had been a member of the Pittwater Sailing Club for 35 years.

On top of that, many residents are dealing with the news that insurance companies will not cover damage due to existence on the planet. In a statement, the Insurance Council of Australia said;

“People often think insurance exists to compensate for damage due to known risks, and that premiums will scale in accordance with that risk. This is simply incorrect. Insurance is simply a direct transfer of wealth from policy holders to share holders.”

For Tony and Lenora of Collaroy Beach, this news is especially galling. As shareholders in three of Australia’s biggest insurance companies, they are left with little choice but to spend two thirds of their quarterly dividend on repairing their beachfront property.

“It’ll be a struggle, but at least no lives were lost and the patio is largely intact.”