August 23, 2022
Welcome back to my open music journal. It’s about to get underway again after a hiatus, and here’s why it’s been a year since I wrote anything new.
Last year I took a break from it to move the material from a forum onto my own space. You’d think that the best place to write this stuff would be a public forum specifically for the audience of the band whose back catalogue I am exploring. After all, my husband has a thing for writing recreational essays on the Cyberman episodes of Dr Who audio dramas, and duly places them on Gallifrey Base.
But Gallifrey Base is very much alive, active and daily brimming with thoughtful contributions and commentary. Curefans was not. I spent two years writing there with the philosophy, “If it doesn’t exist, try to help create it.” It was a bit weird being the only person to regularly write long posts, having come from an online journal group in which everyone was writing long posts, usually several times a week, and interacting with each other about those posts.
Occasionally we got old members popping in to discuss things, and new members drifted in to write things of their own. But the new people disappeared again quickly – even very nice ones with whom I am still in touch privately. There are many reasons why; the main one I think is that most people who are interested in a particular topic don’t also enjoy writing recreational essays – the whole concept of writing for exploration and pleasure is an oxymoron to the majority of the population, but not to members of my own household or to other graphophiles of my acquaintance.
So one thing you need to get a forum alive and happening is a critical mass of graphophiles and other interested regulars. Gallifrey Base and the animal forum I’ve had a journal on for many years are examples of such places. So is a neurodiversity forum I came across this year.
The audiences for the organising topics of these forums are of course far larger than for a forum about one particular alternative band. Still, it would only take a core of a dozen people to create an interesting, vibrant online place.
But then there is also the problem faced by every forum: Annihilating trolling and hate while at the same time preserving an ability to write freely even pieces that some people are going to disagree with. This is why many writers eventually will go back to their own online spaces where they can write unfettered.
There’s also the fact that many forums have PG and language policies that prohibit the discussion of so-called adult topics, e.g. related to drug use, sexuality, violence, politics and religion, and prohibit the use of “bad” language, sometimes to the ridiculous extent you can’t even write down our own binomial species name, Homo (allegedly) sapiens, discuss diffusion retarders when you’re writing about house building, refer to donkeys as asses, use the verb for creating a vacuum in non-derogatory context, etc etc. So at the end of the day, you can’t write freely about much that adults ought to be discussing thoughtfully and respectfully in order to rise above the mental and emotional morass that defines our modern civilisation.
Refreshingly, this was not an issue on Curefans – adult topics were welcome and anyone who’s spent time with post-punks has gotten used to a bit of profanity, which is not necessarily a bad thing, depending on how you do it – and this is where the Guardian to my mind has sensible policies that allow some pointed expression while also avoiding much misogyny and generalised disrespect from one commentator to another.
What did become an issue on Curefans is what my husband calls the “fiefdom of the moderators” – where disagreeing with moderators/admins, e.g. having different views on song lyric interpretations, ethical issues, etc made it unpleasant to stick around, especially when these people could deal out a lot of disrespect and below-the-belt jibing to people who had for one reason or another raised their ire, without being answerable to anyone themselves. This is a problem on many forums, because of human nature, and is a main reason regulars leave.
I’ve had meta discussions with participants of various forums on these problems – and you actually can’t have them “in public” because that’s forbidden, you have to do it via group PM and email. People want friendly spaces to discuss things they’re passionate about with others, and they don’t want to be trolled or treated with personal disrespect, but they also don’t want the be censored when they’re writing in good faith and respectfully. Plus, they want moderators to play by the same rules the community is expected to abide by, and not to have pet contributors whom they hold to lower standards, or who can troll others from the sidelines.
Sadly, wherever there are humans, there are problems. I ended up leaving my online journal group last year because I had had thoroughly enough of Trumpism, conspiracy theories, anthropogenic climate change denial, etc, and it was there even amongst that group. We had already ditched social ties with some of our farm neighbours over these kinds of issues, like getting highly allergic to the constant broken record over how the Port Arthur massacre was staged by the Australian government so they could deprive people of guns – give me a break, and this complaint from people who still had tons of guns. Likewise, some of them ditched us – e.g. we were open about voting yes to marriage equality in 2017, and after freely owning this and discussing why when locals asked us, found that social invitations were no longer forthcoming to certain households, now that we were clearly a moral danger to their grandchildren and the fabric of society (which is indeed going to hell in a handbasket, but not because people are moving to provide justice for previously marginalised and disadvantaged groups).
And having made the decision we’d rather be outsiders in our own rural-conservative neighbourhood than turn ourselves inside out attempting to maintain civil relations, I carried the same “enough is enough” principle through to my online communities. I asked myself questions like, “Am I enjoying this? Does this feel friendly to me? Do I want to turn a blind eye and make nice when other people, no matter they have good points too, admire, aid and abet the modern equivalents of Hitler and believe their lies? What are the consequences of not calling this kind of thing out?”
This meant leaving US-dominated, US-moderated forums – even new ones I test-drove in the last year. I am now intensely uncomfortable about being a part of an online social group where surface niceness is maintained between progressives and the more right-leaning conservatives by constantly window dressing and avoiding certain topics. It feels too much like all the serious and important things you have to never raise so people in a dysfunctional family can play “happy families” to the outside. It is asking that you pretend to be someone you aren’t and that you don’t care about things you actually care deeply about. It is asking that if you get uncomfortable or triggered you bite your lip and attempt to pretend everything is fine so as not to ruffle the oily surface of faux peace and civility.
This is not just about me and my feelings and values, this is about caring for other people and the planet – social justice and environmental issues – something the right-wingers have never been good at historically; socially they play in-group/out-group and they continue to impoverish the out-groups, sometimes knowing full well, sometimes unwittingly through ideological blindness and generations of indoctrination. But there’s always, somewhere in the equation, the scapegoating of out-groups, the stereotypical sneering at refugees, immigrants, LGBTIQ, women, people with disabilities, the unemployed, poor people, etc, or at the very least the enabling of such behaviour by others.
There’s the anti-science, anti-intellectualism, the mansplaining, the whitesplaining, and bottomless ignorance dressed up in boundless confidence. There’s people spoonfed by the commercial media, “alternative-facts” machines and their military pap collection, telling you that your information sources (including UN reports, reputable scientific journals, independent news media, investigative journalism, encyclopaedias, the World Happiness Institute, many actual conversations with diverse people on the ground, etc), are invalid, biased, shallow, second-rate, while Fox News and their latest tome by General Andsoforth are the gospel (plus of course the Bible is infallible, no matter how poorly they seem to comprehend the Sermon on the Mount if you examine their social ethics).
My grandmother cried when she told me about the people in Germany who were dragged away onto the backs of trucks by soldiers with guns. How can I stand by and say nothing when people around me admire and enable Trump, Putin, Bolsonaro, Johnson, Morrison or any other sociopathic, ecocidal dictator type?
I spent decades studying and caring for nature and the earth, hold a scholarship-entry, top-graduate exit double science degree in these areas, and was part of a team of scientists who prepared professional advice on land management for biodiversity and sustainability. My work is in the Australian National Library. I also spent nearly 20 years as an educator. How can I stand by and say nothing when people dish up denial, misinformation and conspiracy theories about the code-red environmental crisis we are in the middle of?
I will not, any longer, in any sphere anywhere, contribute in the name of surface peace and faux harmony to the conspiracies of silence that enable the continuation of systems that create social injustice, cause runaway climate change and worldwide toxic pollution, and annihilate biodiversity. Neither will I stand by and say nothing while hard-won civil rights gains are being eroded, whether by the Taliban or its Western equivalents.
I now take care to make this explicit in any community with which I engage. Which by the way doesn’t mean I think this is the way that everyone should handle these matters (see also the reader comments on a related article here). I actually think it’s good if there is a diversity of approaches, reflective of people’s different sensibilities, past experiences, boundaries etc. If some speak out unequivocally and others bide their time and speak sparingly, if some shout from the rooftops and others whisper in the ear, if some say “I can’t be happy continuing to interact with you because of XYZ, this is my personal limit” and others stay in a difficult social circle to foster the possibility of broad dialogue rather than self-perpetuating echo chambers – I suspect that’s a very good thing, and that only a combination of different and even mutually exclusive personal approaches can help to bring a little light to this terribly dark, apocalyptic epoch we live in.
August 24, 2022
I’ve not music journalled for a year, and did not expect to be away for so long. After all, I was just transferring existing material from a forum to my own site before continuing here, how long could this take?
Turns out that even transferring and curating a body of writing takes more time than you think. I had to re-read everything, re-organise “disappeared” pictures and clips, and do a little editing to adapt the writing to its new home.
But it was more than this. There were the considerations I discussed yesterday to grapple with in real time, there was everyday life and the neverending to-do list, and there was grief and loss – two good long-time friends who had meant the world to me died in the second half of last year. When I have difficult feelings to work through and hard things to think about, I write. This produced two memorials which celebrated the lives of these individuals, discussed love and legacy, and explored grief, with a very wide-focus lens in time and space. I’ve had repeated positive feedback on both pieces thanking me for sharing them, as often happens when I write mental/emotional health related material. You can find these here:
Also, here’s an earlier reflection on mortality and the cycle of life, with an ecological bent that’s not often considered.
This year, there were many matters delaying re-engagement with my open music journal. There was the tail end of grief over a death just before Christmas, and grappling with other personal issues such as a period of depression in my spouse which, I am very happy to report, was hugely alleviated by the Australian public’s decision to finally throw out the most morally bankrupt, corrupt, incompetent, damaging government Australia has ever had. First Dog On The Moon caught the moment, just before as well as just after:
And then, there was an attic to finally plaster and an adopted harness horse to re-educate to saddle – experimentally written up in an old stomping ground:
There was non-stop hosting over the summer break in our eco-farmstay, and bursts of it off-season. There were numerous sets of equine hooves to trim as always, a new lot of calves to raise, landscaping and food gardening to be done, rabbit burrows to be found and exterminated to stop feral rabbits raiding our food garden and devastating 50 hectares of native ecosystem we are managing for biodiversity – to name just some of the things that occupy me in my “daytime job” – we run this place without any outside help, just the two of us, and my husband off-site in an office job four days a week.
On the fun side, there were also lovely wilderness hikes, the best of which we document as photoessays here:
And there was even some impromptu music journalling I did as catharsis when once again banging my head against the wall about the repressiveness of some people’s right-wing attitudes. Do you know what a litmus test it is to drop a visual of Robert Smith performing live with The Cure into a white, privileged, mostly conservative audience? The people who want to tightly prescribe gender roles, acceptable appearances, sexual morality, acceptable viewpoints etc seem often to have a very hard time with their judgemental attitudes when they see what he looks like. Also they’re usually adulating cowboy movies, military tomes, Country & Western and other safe stomping grounds for traditional, often toxic masculinity. The Cure very much represent the antithesis of this, to me – and are a good example of how the arts and creativity can help us make a safer world for those who are not in the dominant power group of our society.
I wrote this last month and am itching to get back to where I left off, in the middle of the 2004 self-titled album, and then get through as much of the first four studio albums as I can before their long-awaited new album is released. I’ll see you around! ♥