It’s a classy kind of thing

Rod Quantock has argued that the reason there never has been, nor ever will be, a political revolution in Australia is because the middle class is completely obsessed by their lawns. The maintenance of their lawns and the rituals of mowing the lawn keep them from coffee, Gauloise and revolutionary talk in dimly lit cafes.

The bloke argues that the lack of Parisian-style cobbled streets is a significant barrier to glorious revolution.

As a political scientist, I argue that a persistent commitment to the myth of egalitarianism and a classless society significantly hinder the development of the class consciousness that is a necessary component to revolution of that type. I provide the following comment as evidence. The fact that I heard it on campus nearly made me weep.

Young woman to friend: “I mean, it’s not like they’re well-off or anything, but they’re not bogans either.”

Learnings and yearnings

Because I am a glutton for punishment, I insisted to the Bloke that we must buy Don Watson’s latest book, Bendable Learnings. With zeal, cynicism, and a fine grasp of the English language and its possibilities, Watson has waged a campaign against soul destroying managerialist language. That language that brings us such horrors as ‘performativity’, ‘going forwards’ and ‘key drivers’ and forces out of your head the likes of Auden, Heaney, Woolf and Plath.

We have his previous books (Weasel Words and Death Sentence) and they leave you groaning with the weight of mangled syntax that modern managers and politicians can produce. Bendable Learnings cries to be read aloud, sometimes because it’s the only way you can wring meaning out of a sentence. That and you need to share the pain or go mad. This book is particularly excruciating because it replicates the language and experience of a year’s work with a university on their strategic something or other. A team of people, many quite senior and presumably well educated, adopted this managerial language and behaviour because they were convinced that it was the only way to legitimately reinvent themselves and their institution. It was like watching a snake devour itself as they accepted the behaviour and logic of corporate managerialism without understanding its purposes, used the language without understanding it, and pursued it ever more vigorously as the project stumbled and slid.

From experience, I can tell you that it is madness to be a part of this and to know that the language is obscuring meaning, purpose and intent, making the project an impossiblity even before it began. I remember meetings late in my time with the project where I gave up on making the distinctions between strategic plan and its implementation, between outcomes and their measures of attainment, between an indicator and a metric. When few in the project could discern the differences they preferred to rely on ‘buy-in’, ‘stakeholder relationships’, ‘team building’ and ‘value adding’. Disagreement was dissent and it certainly didn’t count as buy-in. Which is why I bought out, in the end.

Now I have the brain space to yearn for more time in my studio with a new-to-me screenprinting process, some fabric found at a local quilt exhibition, and patterns for spring blouses and skirts.

Writing without pictures

I hadn’t realised quite how long it had been since my last post. There’s been some busy-ness but mostly a little frustration with managing photos. And thinking the camera was elsewhere and unavailable when it was actually put back in its proper place.

Then I realised I’d presumed I couldn’t post without including photos. So I thought of a post without pictures, and that’s when I found the camera. You can’t tell me that doesn’t mean anything.

What I was thinking about was in response to Janice Breen Burns’ article in the Sunday Age about the dangers of thinking/wishing you can sew. That is, the dangers of a teenager who’s done Home Ek and is therefore qualified to sew anything. In one afternoon, with outrageously inappropriate fabric, the sewing skills of a gnat and expectations of Karl Lagerfeld.

So I had Home Ek and Textiles flashbacks and realised that each was completely removed from the reality of baking or sewing or other DIY. I went into Home Ek in Year 7 thinking this could be good ‘cos I already know a thing or two about cooking. And it wasn’t any good precisely because I did know how to bake scones, cakes, biscuits and put together a basic meal for a family of six (even if it did involve a packet). The subject seemed designed to ‘professionalise’ cooking, to make it a science. That’s why it’s now called Food Technology. Anything I knew about cooking was clearly irrelevant to the subject because I didn’t discuss nutritional qualities beforehand or paste magazine pictures into a workbook to illustrate the effects of my cooking (happy, smiling, white families apparently). Quite bizarrely, Home Ek seemed to have bugger all to do with food. Or eating.

I went to a different school the next year where they didn’t have Home Ek (only because it had upper middle class pretensions and if you wanted that sort of thing, you could go down the road to that other girls’ school. ask innercitygarden). But my school did have Textiles and Art and a few hangovers which meant the Year 7 textiles activity was chain stitching your name onto the pocket of your pinny. I would have been happy to wear my sister’s pinny and confuse the teachers but that wasn’t Good Form. So I wandered around nameless for the next five years.

The major Textiles activity I remember was making a clown softie. We cut out the clown from a template and our creativity was supposed to come it in the decorating thereof. The challenge was to make clothes for it. I can’t say that particularly appealed to me because it didn’t seem quite difficult enough. So I was a complete smartarse and decided to go for Pierrot. It involved only one colour, minimal stitching for the face and (most importantly), no hair. If they were going to make sewing easy, I thought, I’ll beat them at their own game.  I’ve already said I was a smartarse.

I think I would have been a little more impressed if it hadn’t been so patronising. It really isn’t that difficult to construct a top or a simple dress and learn about measurements, form and garment construction on the way. And it would have been handy.

Because then you’d really know that trying to make an outfit in outrageously inappropriate fabric, with limited skills and the expectations of haute couture was only going to end in tears. But you’d also know that you could sew up a simple, flattering dress that looked good.