Sydney Writers’ Week 2005

Spent a fantastic Saturday at the Writers’ Week. What an expansion of horizons! Saw Australia’s Helen Garner interviewed by Novelist Roger MacDonald. A great conversation about how Garner’s writing, especially her non-fiction was a way of giving a voice to those people in our community who are not heard. Inspired me to read some of her work.
Then a great interview with American best-selling author Mark Kurlansky, author of Cod and Salt and 1968. 1968 was the year that I was 20 and it was a time of huge social upheaval: anti-war riots (against VietNam); the arrival of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. It was a period of reaction against the repression that had followed the Second World War. I was born in 1948 when there was still food rationing… by 1968 young people were ready to blow the lid off conservatism… so the Beatles stormed the hearts and souls of the young. Mark Kurlansky has captured this era in his 1968. In conversation with him he raised the question of what was happening with the younger generation today… were they ready to challenge the crazy politics of our leaders in Australia and America… were we happy to simply go along with the lies based on economic expediency. He put forward the interesting proposal that whilst Bush was going hard at Iraq to try to stop China controlling the World’s oil fields, Howard was joining forces with Bush simply because he wanted to secure trade agreements! Don’t worry about all the innocent women and children killed in the process.
Then I listened to David Suzuki… also in conversation with Mark Kurlansky. They were talking about what needs to be done in the world to change the progressive destruction of the environment. Why is it, they asked, when we have all the scientific evidence we need to know that global warming will cause havoc in the next 50 years and that fossil fuels WILL run out in the next century… why is it that we are powerless to put systems in place that will make life for our grandchildren less traumatic… The answer was that we as a human species don’t seem to have any real capacity for feeling for anyone except those who are most close to us in space and time. Despite all the advances of technology and internet communication we seem to have less forsight than our ancient cave-dwelling ancestors who knew exactly how much food they needed to store for winter etc….
This was quite a frightening scenario, but it certainly made me think about the implications of how I lead my life.
Suzuki said, in conclusion, that the greatest hope for the earth was its children… they were least selfish, least locked into consumerism… it is for this reason that he has written more than half his books (over 40) for children, hoping that he will get his subversive message across to those people who are really capable of creating some change on the planet over the next generation.
One of the most distinguished authors at the Writers’ Week was the American writer/ historian/ scientist Diamond… if you can catch an interview with him on SBS on Tuesday night at 7.30- well worth a watch.
Over and out. MG

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