Thursday, January 26, 2017

The continued relevance of feminism and other protest movements

The alt-right will insist there is no longer any need for feminism. In so doing, they will lampoon the perspective of some crazy YouTubers or radical ideologues, ignoring the majority of ordinary, everyday women who understand (and experience the fact) that systemic or cultural sexism still exists - even in the West. And even if its occurrence has been vastly reduced over the past four decades.

Other ordinary, everyday people will understand and experience the fact that racism, xenophobia, homophobia and religious persecution are also still woven into the fabric of all societies - including Western ones.

To assume that all those who recognise the continued existence of some level of systemic or cultural discrimination in society are "radicals" who have some "agenda" flies in the face of fact. Clear, incontrovertible fact (not "alternative fact").

Consider feminism. If it is no longer an issue in Western society, then why have such a large number of female surgeons in Australia recently reported that they were being sexually harassed in the workplace or having their careers destroyed due to blatant, systemic gender-based discrimination?

And in terms of history, do we really think that in such a short time (a few decades), full equality would be established between the sexes - given our (recent) shameful past? Consider the short video below:

Yes, I'm a "humanist". But since I have seen discrimination against women in the workplace first-hand (in reasonably recent times) I'll also be a "feminist" until such time as I feel systemic or cultural discrimination against women has been more or less eliminated from our society. Humanism does not obviate or invalidate feminism: the latter is a focused perspective of the former, addressing one particular aspect of social inequality.

In the same vein, humanism doesn't make the statement "black lives matter" irrelevant because "all lives matter".

Yes "all lives matter". But that hardly addresses the concerns of those whose lives don't seem to matter - especially when statistics make it clear that there is a societal ambivalence towards black incarceration rates and deaths in places like the US and Australia (an ambivalence that would certainly not be tolerated if that figure represented whites).

So I will continue to protest the fact that black lives also matter until there is a change in the attitude of the prevailing majority; until we start to recognise that this is a problem we must solve together - not one we must "accept as inevitable/unavoidable" or for which we apportion blame to the victims.

I will also protest discrimination against the LGBTI community until such time as this community has the same rights as any other subset of society.

And I will protest the rights of refugees - especially those fleeing wars we helped start and prolong.

And so on.

In other words, I can be a "humanist" and also be an advocate for each group of people that suffers systemic and cultural discrimination - and in each guise have a different label ("feminist", "anti-racist", "LGBTI ally", "refugee advocate" etc.). I can and will support any group when it is subject to discrimination or other unfairness.

And I don't care if you pejoratively call me a "social justice warrior". I've never called myself that, but if you insist, I'll happily wear the label as a badge of honour.

But I don't appreciate you simplistically lumping me with some radical ideologues or crazy YouTubers, looting/rioting protesters or objectionable misandrists/reverse racists etc. There are radicals everywhere: this doesn't change levels of inequality/unfairness in our societies - nor the need to address these levels of inequality/unfairness. The "left" and "right" both have extremes. This has nothing to do with the fact that certain groups continue to face systemic or cultural discrimination.

We have a way to go - even in the West - to achieve equality. Maybe we need "warriors" to make it happen - even if that means that some of these will overstate or radicalise their case.

The fact that you are personally doing "just fine" is irrelevant to me. The fact that in your industry you never see sexism/racism/bigotry is of no particular interest to me. The fact that some YouTuber has concocted some outrageously radical ideology that you want to correct is also neither here nor there. These sorts of "internet battles" between relatively privileged people hardly reflect reality.

Furthermore, the fact that you have your focus on some other disadvantaged group (which you consider more deserving of your attention) does not diminish my concerns in relation to any particular type of discrimination that catches my attention.

So as a writer I will use my "pen" to make my voice heard.

I won't be silent while people like Piers Morgan utter nonsense about "male emasculation" due to women marching - comments that have all the logic of the "war on Christmas" propaganda (one of Piers' master's - Rupert Murdoch's - favourite obsessions in the US over the last eight years). Especially when Piers Morgan is not some random YouTuber but a high profile "journalist" who is using his considerable exposure to help the current US administration set back women's hard-fought reproductive rights.

Given the current political climate, the relevance of movements to protect those who are unfairly discriminated against has never been higher.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Never play to the gallery

I've written four novels, all of which are experimental, and none of which are remotely alike or fit any easy genre classification.

Every book I write has been, and will be, different. Every time I write, I take a risk: I throw myself in the deep end. I never let myself get comfortable. Because it is only when you are treading water, unable to touch the bottom, that you stand a chance of doing something different, something exciting.

The late, great, David Bowie put it well: never play it safe - and never play to the gallery.

I refuse to play to the gallery - utterly and completely. Every fibre in my being rebels against this pressure. I don't mind if you like 'series' of books or the comfort of formula fiction - each to their own. But when I write, I want to do something different. I want the chance to do something 'original' - if that's at all possible.

In particular I have copped flak for two of my more eclectic pieces - Nights of the Moon and The Shadow of Dusk because they defied convention.

The one and only time I've found my books
on loan at my local library!
Even my biggest-selling novel, The Mirror Image of Sound, caused some people to write to me, complaining about the perspective and tense (first person present).

"Don't you want people to read it?" asked one person.

Another gave me lectures on writing technique, offering dialogue from Attack of the Clones (I know - wtf?) as a point of reference or for comparison.

To add insult to injury, both of the above commentators (neither of whom have any real writing experience or literary qualifications) had read no more than a handful of pages of the novel (off the net or using the sample pages on Amazon). Yet they still offered their unsolicited advice as if they were experts - to someone who studied literature and creative writing at a tertiary level, and who had done a twenty year apprenticeship, writing up to 300,000 words per year (critiqued by professional mentors like the poet and author Andrew Burke) before attempting his first novel.

I know the rules - I break them on purpose. I know the gallery - I don't write to it. I know traditional publishing exists - but I like to create my art my way and at my own impatient pace. It's part of my artistic method.

Despite my lack of concession - my refusal to compromise - people still buy my books every single day. The libraries buy them but they are always out on loan when I visit my local one. I regularly meet strangers from around the world who recognise me and say they have enjoyed my books. Go figure eh?

Never play to the gallery. Be true to yourself as an artist. There can be no compromises. You will never derive self-worth from the valuation of others - only from your honest evaluation of yourself.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Following fading footprints

I was 18 when my father died. He was 48. It makes for easy arithmetic - 30 years between us, almost exactly.

This year I'm 50. I'm now 2 years older than my father was when he died. And I've come to a realisation - a powerful one I can only relate via analogy.

But first, some background:

My father was mysterious figure for most of my childhood: a man who was just as likely to say something profound, if brief, as he was to become irritable. I learned early on to give him space. For most of my life, he was a person I feared as much as loved and respected.

You see, I don't think my father knew how to be a parent largely because he had come from a broken home - torn apart by World War II and by the oppressive communist regime that followed it. He had scars - and we, his family, could feel them even if we couldn't see them - or know what they were.

So my father didn't know how to "be" with children. With adults, he was the ideal companion - a raconteur, consummate host, incisive commentator, perfect listening post. But with children he was, at best, awkward. That was my experience anyway.

For all his flaws as a parent, I can say one thing: he led by example. He behaved with honour and dignity. He admitted mistakes and corrected them. He was honest. His work ethic was impeccable. He was loyal. He was pragmatic, fearless, principled and morally incorruptible. Yet he was also always modest and self-effacing.

Of course, I didn't really understand all this way back when. I took my father for granted for most of the time we shared this Earth.

Indeed, it was only in the year or two before I left home at 18 that my father and I started getting closer. It was a gradual thing. He'd be working on something. I'd help. He'd curse as he hit his thumb or forced something that was jammed. I'd pretend I didn't hear, handing him the next nail or the wrench or the hammer or whatever. But we somehow managed to begin understanding each other. I had transformed from a cloying, insecure infant into a confident young adult. He transformed from a frightening authority figure into a daggy middle-aged dad - of the kind most other kids in my social circle seemed to have.

It was at around this time that my brother and I even coined a new name for him: we started calling him "Pop" - a rather strange turn of events given our culture and family history. In his last letter to us, he even signed himself using this name, sealing his new identity: one that matched our new mutual understanding as my brother and I approached adulthood and found common ground with him.

But by then I had left home: I had embarked on my own journey, travelling across the great oceans to a distant land. And 6 months into this journey, I received word that my father died suddenly.

So back to my analogy.

I think of the 32 years since his death in this way: I imagine I've retraced my father's steps on a beach. And I've been following his footprints. Sometimes they have been clear, at times they have been faint and at other times they have been completely washed away. But on the whole I've been able to follow them - to see where my father was heading.

Putting it more literally, I've spent a good portion of the last three decades coming to a greater understanding of my father's decisions and motivations at critical times. I've caught my reflection in a window and seen his expression - and realised what he must have been thinking when he did X or said Y. I've faced social, fiscal and moral dilemmas and recognised them as reflections of dilemmas my father faced. In other words, my father has guided me - even though he has been long-gone.

This is all courtesy of those metaphorical footprints. He'd walked a path before me. I wasn't walking exactly in his footprints, but rather following them from my own vantage point in the dunes. He may have been absent from my life for 30 years, but I had footprints left to guide me - those in my memories.

Today I woke up and realised that it has been two years since I stopped following those metaphorical footprints. It's been two years since I last realised that "this is what my father must have been thinking" or "this is what he must have meant". My father is no longer a reference point. There are no more footprints left to follow.

The trail hasn't ended - it's just that my father's journey along it has. It ended two years ago. Since that time I've been in uncharted territory. I've gone farther than he went. I don't need to look back to know that the footprints I've been following have all but washed away.

My father died 32 years ago. But in a sense, I only lost him 2 years ago. Even though he wasn't with me, his footsteps guided me in life. As flawed as he was, he provided me with wisdom, with guidance - all through his example.

Two years ago, I was ready to make my own way. His footsteps stopped, and I barely noticed - not because they were irrelevant but because they had served their purpose: they got me to where I needed to be.

There might be a lot more to parenting than providing a good example, but I'm pretty sure that no other aspect of has a more lasting effect.

Thanks Pop. I may not need your footprints any longer but I still miss them. Just as I will always miss you.

Friday, December 23, 2016

"Girl in the Attic" in final stage of pre-publication

The final files - internal and cover - have been submitted to the printers for "Girl in the Attic".

You have a week left to read it online!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"Girl in the Attic" nears publication

"Girl in the Attic" is in its final stages of preparation for publication.

Here are images of the proof:

Make sure you don't miss out on the free online access up to 30 December 2016!

Happy reading!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Proposed cover for "Girl in the Attic" released

Coming soon - my young adult mystery novel "Girl in the Attic", to be published by Pikkeljig Press.

Here is the proposed cover:

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Girl in the Attic completed!

I've finished my fourth work of fiction "Girl in the Attic", netting a record number of online readers and very encouraging and enthusiastic messages from fans. Thank you everyone who has joined me on this journey over the last two months. If you haven't gotten into it yet, now is your chance - click on the image below or go here.

The blurb is as follows:
Rose lives with her mother Valerie in a run-down cottage in an old part of town. Rose steals things. Valerie drinks. That's just the way it is. Whenever Rose gets caught, Valerie banishes her to the cramped, dusty attic - often for weeks at a time.

Then one day Rose decides she's going to change her life: she's going to close that attic door forever. And that's exactly what she does.

So why do the police suddenly want to speak with Rose again? Why does she have a shiny new watch she can't recall buying (or stealing!)? For that matter, why can't she seem to remember speaking with some people, being at various places, taking up smoking or making particular sketches and notes in her journal?

And why is it that, as Rose lies awake at night with her covers pulled up to chin, she can hear something - bumps, shuffling steps and a girl's cough - coming from the attic?

Girl in the Attic is a young adult mystery that explores themes of compulsive behaviour, addiction, the importance of family, the nature of chance and the role your choices play in shaping destiny.

Dan Djurdjevic is a multi-award winning blogger and Amazon bestselling author whose previous works include The Mirror Image of Sound, Nights of the Moon and The Shadow of Dusk. This is his first work of young adult fiction.
The story will stay up for only two more weeks before it is taken down for preparation for publication by Pikkeljig Press.