a year gone by

 

By Syed Saif Uddin

A year where norms were left in tatters, of selfish delights and our worst traits on full display
Scarcity and misery unleashed like a hell hound, our demons did come out to play
The year humanity cowered in a silent collective, forgoing their divine rectitude
Kindness extinguished, families bereft of kin, and politicians even more so of their moral fortitude

A year with that endless soup kitchen line and millions of souls having to live off the welfare dime
Going through a year without breaking; the year human connection was deemed a crime
Walking the desolate streets in a city teeming with millions, not a soul to be found
Families hunkered down and front-line warriors having to steel their hearts, with so many corpses around

Even washed with grief with a mind going hollow, there was hope, a sliver still
Hope of human ingenuity and spark that could mount up and climb this steep hill
A year of solitary confinement, where keeping your distance was the primary refrain
A year of loss, a year of pain, and a thousand sorrows my heart couldn’t contain

Our nature of being social creatures oft-cited in the columns of opinion pieces far and wide
Oh the calamity that befell us when from the wretched disease, there was no corner left to hide
With invisible fences going up, tearing apart familial connections was hard to swallow
Technology did alleviate disconnection, but to tell a child to socialise online did seem a bit shallow

Hope is resilient and there is light at the end of this proverbial tunnel, no matter how dark
If legends are to be believed, humanity did survive a planetary flood in a wooden ark
Myths need not come into play for our hopes and heads to be held high
We have gotten through trying times, good has always prevailed, even when the end was nigh

A year of hellish misery, solitary suffering; when men cried and the nightingales forgot how to sing
Oft-forgotten is our innate resilience; we shall fight, from the streets of Morocco to Beijing
A year of pain; what was lost shall be found, and we shall clear this dark mist
Like tendrils we shall climb; here’s to a new year of growth, we must still persist

One can imagine what the world will look like when we can re-join as one, once again
If we only realise what can be achieved through cooperation, what we can attain

 

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

racist australia: the nation’s biggest secret

 

By Ella Paine

Picture this: you and your family made the move to sunny Australia 10 years ago with hopes of a better life. You came expecting nice weather, laid-back people and a multicultural society. Yet now, the media has stereotyped and persecuted your race over all news outlets and social media platforms. And since the eruption of the corona virus pandemic, things are only getting worse. Your family is viewed as unhygienic, contagious and the cause of the disease. Now, in the country that you have come to call home, some people think that you and your family deserve to die. Having already experienced three attacks this week, is the graffitied sentence ‘COVID-19 CHINA DIE’ on the door of your garage not the last straw to make you think, maybe Australia isn’t the home I was told it was?

As terrible as this scenario is, it is not a hypothetical situation. A Chinese-Australian family was sought out and attacked in April last year in Melbourne, in the exact way I have just described.

But racism doesn’t exist in Australia, right?

Hiu Yen Yong would disagree. Hiu Yen, a Chinese-Malaysian woman who has lived in Australia since she was four years old, believes not that racism has recently appeared out of nowhere, but rather that people in Australia are now ‘more comfortable showing it.’

While Hiu Yen says acquaintances have reached out to show their support following these attacks, such messages often feel like hollow platitudes…or double-edged swords.

‘People are going out of their way to show me how much they support me,’ she said.

‘It’s like they think they are being so virtuous by saying they don’t think the virus is my fault.’

In the past, Hiu Yen’s experience of racism was much more direct. She was forced to contend with consistent ‘classic school-ground taunts’ where other children would pull back their eyes, call her food ‘weird crap’, and tell her to ‘go back to [her] own country’, as well as ‘a surprising amount of ching chong bling blong.’

Nisa Raihan, an 18-year-old Malay from Singapore, echoes Hiu Yen’s sentiments, saying she has often felt uncomfortable in Australia as a hijab-wearing Muslim.

After the 2019 Christchurch bombings and the Sydney Café shootings, Nisa and her family ‘tried as much as possible (to) stay inside’ and avoided taking public transport due to the worry that ‘people would blame [them]’ or ‘confront [them]’.

‘I don’t understand how there are some people involved in politics, such as Pauline Hanson, who fuel their policies based on racial prejudice and hatred,’ Nisa said.

‘By projecting these views onto other people, a toxic and hateful environment is created. These people should not have power in society.’

Whilst Nisa says that she hasn’t experienced any racial attacks since moving to Australia some 13 years ago, she states that she thinks this is because ‘when [herself and her family] first migrated, [they] stayed in high Malay and Muslim communities like Broadmeadows and Dandenong.’

When it comes to her safety as a hijabi woman in broader Melbourne, Nisa explains that her parents are more concerned than she is.

‘When I was applying for jobs, my mum was worried I wouldn’t get past the first interview because of my hijab,’ Nisa said.

‘Racism most definitely still exists within Australia. Not only towards Asians but it also extends towards the Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Black communities, as well as other minorities.’

‘We can do so much to reduce the racism rates, but the bottom line is there will always be a small percentage that will be racist whether they’re aware of it or not.’

As Hiu Yen and Nisa have demonstrated, ingrained stereotypes and biases of this nature are damaging to people of colour. Various studies cited in a Guardian article, in fact, have indicated that unconscious racial bias can negatively lead to poor health outcomes, and create barriers that lower the quality of students’ tertiary education.

2020 has been a year of onslaught and terror for most regions of the world following the coronavirus pandemic, but nothing has caused a bigger revolutionary uprising than the Black Lives Matter movement. The Black Lives Matter campaign, often shortened to BLM or #BLM, was founded in 2013 by cofounders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. According to the official Black Lives Matter website, the three women created the political cause with hopes to spread the word about ‘violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.’ The need for justice, freedom and liberation influenced many others in the United States to stand by these women and their cause.

Following the recent breakout of protests, strikes and calls for racial equality after George Floyd’s death at the hands of the police, many Australians have taken to media platforms to voice their gratitude for not living in a racist society like America. However, multitudes of research and personal stories from people of colour living in Australia show that we also have our own issues with racism that we need to address.

In an Essential Poll conducted by The Guardian, almost 80 per cent of Australians surveyed believed that the United States’ authorities have been ‘unwilling to deal with institutional racism in the past’ which has ultimately led to incidents such as the death of George Floyd. Yet, when asked if the same institutional racism existed in the Australian police forces, only 30 per cent agreed that this type of authority-based racial hierarchy existed in their own country.

Australia’s racism towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is evident through the historical abuse and mistreatment of people and lands, demonstrated through a lack of treaty as well as the stolen generations. However, what many people are not informed about is the 432 Indigenous deaths in custody since 1991: deaths for which nobody has been convicted. The lack of awareness and accountability for this horrifying statistic affirms how relevant BLM is in Australia too.

Australia is an incredibly multicultural country. Since 1945, almost seven million people have migrated to Australia. The 2016 Census found that Australia is home to more than 1.2 million people of Chinese ancestry. Chinese Australians have done so much of building Australia into the country it is today – from the 1850s Chinese migration for the Ballarat gold rush, to Melbourne’s Chinatown existing as one of the oldest Chinatowns in the world.

So why does Australia still hold these stereotypical, prejudiced and racist views?

In a perfect world, Nisa says that ‘racism will never exist,’ but she does not believe this is realistic in Australia’s near future.

‘But hopefully, we will get to a point where everybody, regardless of their race, ethnicity or nationality, can feel safe in Australia.’

 

Photo by Gisele Diaz on Unsplash

COVID-19 Series: #7

Author: Tina Tsironis

2020, for lack of a better metaphor, is an onion. A ridiculously frustrating and repetitive onion, with craploads of layers. Yes – I kind of stole this metaphor from Shrek. Sue me. (Please don’t sue me). Honestly, though – the first few layers, as much as they elicit a sizeable sting, are relatively easy to handle. They consist, after all, of the things we’re sad about losing, but which bring with them a strange sense of novelty – novelty which, at least for me, continues to this day.

Who can say they’re mad about rolling out of bed one minute before a lecture or a workday is due to begin, after all? I’m sure some of you can. But many of us cannot.

It’s when we keep peeling, however, that we unearth the potent layers. They elicit the type of sting that feels more like a burn; immediate and forceful enough to pierce through our tear ducts with such force that we can’t help but remark, to nobody in particular, that we’re not actually crying because we’re sad. God no! It was the onion that made us do it!

But then those layers unravel and fall away, against all odds, and now we’re forced to reckon with the layers within. If the shittiness of this metaphor wasn’t immediately clear to you, it sure as hell should be by now – because there’s no onion-core in the world that can describe the feeling of being forced, against all odds, to reckon with your own mortality.

To her credit, the moment the threat of COVID-19 became clear to her, my friend Kushlani Premachandra confronted the pandemic head-on. She practiced social distancing, stayed home after being stood down from her job as a conference producer for an events company, and tried to throw herself into her first semester of postgrad study.

“Before lockdown, I had a semi-pattern of going to work, coming home, and then on Thursdays and Fridays doing my uni work,” Kush told me during a Zoom call.

During the first month of lockdown, when this routine disintegrated, Kush said she “just felt excited.”

“I wanted to go on leave anyway, so this was kind of an extended holiday, except I’m at home. So I [figured] can spend more time brainstorming and doing all this stuff, and study whenever I want.”

In reality, however, the separation from home and study was non-existent. “I was waking up at midday and staying in my pyjamas all day, and then I didn’t feel motivated to do any work…you just want to be a couch potato.”

By the time we sat down for our chat, Kush had been out of work for four months. With a large part of her role involving interstate travel across Australia, her eventual path back to normality seemed like a long way off. At this point, Kush believed she should be picking up more units as part of her course.

“It felt like this internalised pressure,” she said. I should be spending all my time writing…I should be picking up more units.”

The combination of her disintegrated routine, however, and the continued threat of COVID-19, proved to be a potent motivation-sapper. Amidst this upheaval, Kush’s uncle Sumith, a 55-year-old disability nurse, had also been diagnosed with coronavirus in March.

“I was dropping food off at my parents’ house during the week, and while I was over there my mum got a call from my aunt, and she told my mum my uncle was in hospital.”

Sumith was struck with the virus after covering a colleague’s shift at work. “He was isolating at home from the weekend, then within three days it got worse, and he was in hospital by Wednesday.”

The family had been told that if Sumith didn’t improve, he would soon die. But by the time Kush heard from her aunt again, one week later, her uncle “had not gotten better, but he hadn’t gotten worse.” At this point, Kush and her family had no choice but to settle into a strange pattern of distorted familiarity. If you’re trying to imagine what this feels like, imagine the exhaustingly mundane, subtly unsettling “new normal” we currently experience while rolling out of bed for the 50,000th time this week, and multiply that feeling by thousands. This is a waiting game that no family should have to endure – but sadly, thousands of Australian families have.

Kush, myself and another close friend communicate primarily through a messenger group chat that we bitingly, yet somewhat accurately, have entitled Hyped Up Anxiety Corner. During this early April week, Kush stayed silent about Sumith’s illness, instead treating the chat to videos of Ina Garten making huge cocktails at 9:30AM, and WA premier Mark McGowan struggling to contain his laughter during a widely shared press conference.

Despite the seemingly insurmountable dread she must have been feeling, Kush’s warmth and quirky humour remained on-brand, serving as a wonderful source of comfort for our friend and I, who were both wading through our own isolation-driven feelings of dread. But on Monday the 6th of April, roughly two hours before my workday was due to end, Kush sent the Hyped Up Anxiety Corner a series of messages that appeared to come out of nowhere:

“So

My uncle passed away

The 38th Australian death”.

Sumith had passed away the night before.

“When I got the call from my brother I just remember asking, are you sure?” Kush recalled.

With her mind laser-focused on an assignment she had coming up, at first, all she felt was shock. “I remember it was raining that day and I went and sat outside on the back steps and just got rained on, because I didn’t know what else to do,” she explained.

“It was during stay at home orders, so it’s not like we could go and see my aunt, because she still had to be isolated…the two-week period hadn’t passed for her.”

The impact of Sumith’s passing on his loved-ones and friends, of course, cannot be overstated. Every single tribute I have come across has mentioned his kind heart, friendly nature, generous spirit, or a combination of these these qualities. When Kush spoke to me for this story, she not only echoed these sentiments – she built upon them, painting a vivid picture of a joyful man with a witty nature. Much like this niece.

“Whenever he saw you, he would just envelop you in a giant bearhug,” Kush told me. “He was so lovely, he radiated joy.”

“I remember once, he picked me up with my cousins and we went to the movies and watched Spy Kids or something. Then we had a sleepover and he made sure we had snacks and stuff like that. But I just remember at the movies, 10 minutes in, all of a sudden, we just hear snoring. I look over and he’s fast asleep in his chair, and it was loud.”

“He was snoring in the fricking cinema with his head up,” Kush continued, “and my cousins and I were like “shut up!”, and then he’d wake up and say, “I’m not snoring, I’m not snoring,” and then go back to sleep and repeat the process.”

The weekend before I interviewed my friend, she finally got to visit her aunt. Kush worries about her, as she now lives alone, and is scared to venture outdoors due to the continued spread of COVID-19 – especially because, at the time of our interview, cases had steadily been rising again in Melbourne. The family cat, Benji, provides a slight semblance of normality. The British Shorthair, in fact, is dealing with Sumith’s passing in his own unique way.

“There’s a small table in the living room where my uncle’s urn is located,” Kush told me. “[Benji] never used to go to that table, and when the ashes came home, he was really confused, like ‘what’s this?’ Then I think he realised, and now he sits next to the table.”

Sumith’s grandchildren, and Kush’s nephews, aged one and four, have also been deeply affected by his loss.

“The elder one was very close to my uncle. He will go over to my aunt’s house and hug my uncle’s clothes and cry, and say, ‘I miss papa’”, Kush said. “He loved those kids so much.”

Kush’s own semblance of normality comes from connecting with her friends, her partner Lauren, and her partner’s father, who she lives with. Though this support cannot soften the blow of losing her uncle, alongside the stability of regular life this year, it has certainly flittered sparks of comfort throughout 2020’s otherwise tough, incredibly polluted air.

Kush’s partner Lauren, who is a trauma counsellor, has been especially supportive. “She’s been giving me all the cuddles, asking if I want to be left alone, or if I want her to come and stay with me and just be quiet,” Kush explained. “She’s very intuitive. Even without her training, she’s so caring and loving.”

In an effort to deal with her grief and continued hiatus from work, my friend threw herself into her studies. She told me that when she initially found out about her uncle, she thought, “I’ve gotta push through and keep going and not say anything.”

Ultimately, and understandably, staying quiet proved impossible. “I couldn’t do it, so I had to email my tutor Jacqui [Ross],” Kush said. “She was so understanding. She responded to my email quite quickly, maybe within the hour. She was like “don’t even worry, when you’re able to, if you’re able to, you can come back to do your work.” That was great, because it was one less thing to worry about.”

Kush finished this first unit of her course and progressed to the next with the attitude that it would serve as a useful creative outlet. During our interview, she told me that study “feels like a lot sometimes, but it’s pretty motivating and exciting.”

“I’m trying to work out what to write for my next research assignment, with of everything happening with the world,” she explained. “Not just COVID, but the Black Lives Matter movement, there’s so much happening, that’s been kind of motivating and a bit inspirational, and I can use what’s happening and tie it into my fiction piece and the current climate.”

A few weeks after our interview, however, Kush let me know that she had made the decision to take a leave of absence from her studies, due to her mental health struggles. The very fact that she momentarily tried to push through her pain in order to learn and practice her craft is admirable. But ultimately, the kindness and honesty of self that Kush has exercised, by confronting her pain and grief head-on, and pausing her creative endeavours, is far more inspiring.

In fact, Kush extends this kindness to others, stressing that, “most of us have never lived through a pandemic or anything like this, so you’re allowed to be sad.”

“You might be missing a friend’s birthday, an event that might feel small,” she said. “You’ve got to be kind to yourself, but also realise that even if you’re a young, healthy person, you’ve still got to think about your neighbours and the people around you.”

Kush does not want us to forget that all the cases, and all the deaths that have now started happening again, are completely avoidable.

“My cousin [Sumith’s daughter] was supposed to have her wedding the week of my uncle’s funeral. My uncle was 55, he did not need to die. He was called into work because [a colleague] was unable to come in. He wasn’t supposed to be working. These are completely avoidable deaths. The better we all are together, contributing to the bigger picture, the easier it’ll be trying to go back to the norm.”

While returning to the norm won’t happen for a while yet, especially for us Melburnians, Kush suggested that immersing ourselves in relaxing, pressure-free hobbies can ease the blow of our continued lockdown. Her hobby of choice? Quilting.

“I have become my mother. She made me a quilt and so I decided I wanted to make one too. She gives me little tips, telling me “no, not like that,” and I’m all like ‘thanks mum’”, Kush told me, mimicking the pouty, self-deprecating tone of a child who has just been chided – the exact type of voice that I look forward to hearing in person eventually. Hopefully by the end of this year.

“I’ll chuck something on Netflix,” Kush says, “and start sewing for a couple of hours, and it feels really productive – like, look what I’ve accomplished!”

When our eventual return to normality does come, its path will be punctured with strangeness and sadness for many of us, and continued grief and anxiety for others.

Facing these feelings now, as they’re brimming above the surface, is crucial. Face them while flicking on Netflix and weaving needle through fabric, or face them while penning stories featuring shitty onion metaphors – the specifics don’t necessarily matter. Doing so won’t completely alleviate the blow that is 2020, yet it will provide us with the opportunity to take a pause.

So, before we embark on this punctured path to normality, join me in taking a pause. Shut your mouth, take a few deep breaths, and enjoy this brief moment of silence. Remind yourself of all that you’ve accomplished, simply by enduring the last nine months – strangely and sadly, sure, but hopefully with the mortality of others front of mind.

About Tina Tsironis

Tina is the 2020 editor of SWINE Magazine. If being a certified hot sauce/BoJack Horseman enthusiast was a legitimate thing, she would be it. When she’s not obsessing over intense existential cartoons and spicy condiments, Tina is a Masters of Writing student and a marketing specialist/copywriter for a software company. She currently lives in Hawthorn with her partner, and no pets . She wishes there were pets. 

COVID-19 Series: #6

Author: Andrew Dopper

“I’m not insane!” screams the hysterical man, hair plastered to his head with sweat.

A psychiatrist sits him down. Momentarily calmed, the man begins talking, recounting his return to California.

“At first glance, everything looked the same,” he says, his eyes gleaming wildly.  “It wasn’t,” he adds . “Something evil had taken possession of the town.”

This excerpt is from the opening scene of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), a science-fiction horror about people becoming “pod people” or becoming “them”. On the surface, the film is a run-of-the-mill 1950’s horror about aliens possessing people. Sounds fun, right?

In fact, it is widely regarded and almost laughably obvious, that the inspiration for the film was the fear of Communism invading America. Them are the Soviets. This era is now often referred to as “The Red Scare”. Invasion of the Body Snatchers was one of countless films inspired by Cold War paranoia. Paradoxically, half of Hollywood at the time of filming were actually Communists. The hilarity.

In the wake of the 1973 global oil crisis, which saw petrol shortages and looting across Australia, we saw a young Mel Gibson roar through lawless highways in 1979’s Mad Max. Later, in 1985’s Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Max takes out a Geiger counter to detect radiation within the stock of a junk-laden water-dealer

“What’s a little fallout, ey?” the vendor says, as Max trudges off.

Whilst the first two Mad Max films remain the most loved, it’s the aesthetic of Beyond Thunderdome that is still evident in post-apocalyptic fiction today. Unlike the first two films, Beyond Thunderdome was inspired by concern of the nuclear bomb, which saw people living in constant fear of Mutually Assured Destruction (aka M.A.D: They bomb us, we bomb them, repeat––until nothing’s left.) This was a very real scare leading to countless close calls, from the Cuban missile crisis to that time Boris Yeltsin nearly nuked some Norwegians studying the Northern Lights in the 90’s. Yes, that actually happened.

On the 11th of September 2001, a terrorist attack rocked not only the US, but the entire world. After a few years, the superhero genre dominated cinema across the globe. These films usually saw American heroes come out of the woodwork and save the world by stopping foreign bad guys from blowing up Manhattan. It doesn’t take a scholar to notice the inspiration there.

The influence of world events on cinema is clear. What was essentially a 50-year-long dick-measuring competition between the US and USSR inspired not films featuring Americans complaining about Communists at BBQs, but countless sci-fi horror, espionage and spy films. High petrol prices caused by political bickering gave birth to forty years of spike-studded, shotgun-wielding post-apocalyptic media, not films about people saying “jeez, bloody petrol’s expensive. And, rather than producing films about airport bag-checks, 9/11 essentially turned cinemas into superhero viewing machines.

Today, this begs the question: what will post-COVID-19 cinema look like? Since we probably can’t expect 2022’s biggest blockbuster to be Dunny Roll Hoarders II, how do we possibly predict which genres will emerge? I mean, who knew that between 2008-2012 all people wanted to watch were shiny vampires and hunky werewolves?

One way we could gauge the type of cinema this pandemic may produce, is to look at existing films relevant to our current timeframe. Yes, this means that we have to talk about 2011’s Contagion.

Admittedly, re-watching Contagion right now is a jarring experience. I found I laughed dumbly when a Dr. told a man who should know better to stop touching his face, right after informing him how quickly the virus in question could spread.

Living through a similar crisis today, however, I found myself enjoying the film far more than I did when I watched it nearly a decade ago. Contagion was ahead of its time, a quality rare in most films. No one makes a Cold War film a decade before the Cold War.

This is where science-fiction seems to set itself apart from other genres – it often stands at the forefront of a fundamental change in viewing culture.

Recently, I also re-watched one of my favorite films, 2006’s Children of Men. and it hit me harder than ever. The film presents a version of England in the midst of a societal breakdown, one that causes the slow decay of humanity. The world around these people is crumbling under a falling capitalist empire, yet they go about their day adapting to the chaos, even as it slowly sets in and reveals a grim state of world normality, where children can no longer be born.

Unlike traditional apocalyptic cinema, Children of Men does not represent spike-studded rally-drivers and zombie-infested wastelands. It simply shows us London enduring a mass extinction.

Each country is experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic differently, and it’s only  matter of time until more outbreaks occur – if they haven’t already.

Every time I watch Children of Men, consequently, I have to stretch my imagination less and less.

One prediction could be that there is a resurgence of films like Children of Men, which represent life not ­post, but during the world-ending crisis. Rather than depicting epic, country swallowing waves or Bruce Willis blowing up comets, cinema may instead represent slow yet impactful societal breakdowns. This new breed of films would provide a far slower, smaller snapshot of world crises, and in doing so, heighten the prevalence of “slow burn” cinema.

As I write this, the US is experiencing a time of civil unrest caused by police violence; unrest that has rippled across the world and is building every day. Today’s lack of trust in those who lead is a far cry from the celebrated world leaders of yesteryear.

People are seeing the cracks in the capitalist world. We’re experiencing what happens when world leaders actually have to step up and represent the people in crisis. Some countries are prevailing, while others…well, let’s not judge…

*Cough* Trump. *Cough*

In order to progress, we may not see entirely new genres come to fruition, but perhaps witness redefinitions of those we know well.

Comparing Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival (2016), we see two alien invasion films; but they are vastly different aesthetically and thematically. The former says, don’t trust anyone while the latter asks, why don’t we just trust anyone? As portrayed in 2008’s The Dark Knight, Gotham City looks a lot different than it did in 1989’s Batman. Christopher Nolan’s portrayed Gotham’s zany villains more as corrupt politicians. Conversely, the America portrayed in 1995’s Judge Dredd had a far lower crime rate than the US actually does today.

The zombie films of the 1950’s people fought zombies, yet now, the zombie hordes act as mere backdrops while people fight one another. Post-COVID, perhaps, we may see the post-apocalyptic genre become something very different, departing completely from spike-studded cars and wasteland couture and edging towards something frighteningly real.

Some of you may be screaming, “but people might want hope!”

Indeed, hope is something Hollywood, and indeed publishers, always seem to advocate for. As a writer, I have been turned down many times for that reason. Positive narratives and happy endings sell. And I do think we will see a feel-good movie resurgence in the wake of this pandemic. Honestly, if the world was on fire, there would still be Pixarfilms about animals embarking on fulfilling journeys with satisfying conclusions.

But audiences are smarter than that. McDonalds might be cheap and tasty, but people still go to 5-star restaurants.

People want hope, yes, but hope comes in many forms. Cinema, like most art, is often a reflection of culture, of the contemporary. Invasion of the Body Snatchers worries, Mad Max observes, Arrival questions, Children of Men warns. Right now, people protest for a better future, not because they have no hope, but because they do have hope.

Could we see films born not from fear of the future but from a reaction to our time in isolation? A resurgence of the frontier film, perhaps – films about exploration and discovery and the natural world. Will we see people moving to more rural areas, wanting to re-connect with the natural world, escaping the rat race? Has capitalism been exposed for its impact on lower classes? Will we see a new genre of “revolution” films?

I could go on.

The reality is, we do not know exactly what film within a post-COVID world will look like. The last six months alone could very well create a new breed of consumer––one that filmmakers will respond to in kind. Remember, an oil crisis in the 70’s eventually lead to whatever the fuck 2018’s Bird Box was.

What I am suggesting, is to watch the screens and take note.

History, after all, shows that it often takes only one or two films to start a genre or film resurgence that takes over the world’s screens for years.

Post-pandemic, let’s hope it’s not shiny vampires again.

About Andrew Dopper

Andrew Dopper is a final year writing and cinema studies student. His short story Dog’s Bend was previously published in SWINE’s 2020 Representation issue. He is currently working on his third novel.

COVID-19 Series: #5

Author: Jananie Pathiraja

Content Warning: This article references eating disorders and homophobia. 

In the event of a great disaster, humans go through five stages of grief. With denial comes the ignorance of the ongoing global change – until it is shoved right under our nose. With anger comes the silent outcry and resistance to social distancing – yes I’m looking at you, Karens of the world rallying for your precious haircuts). With bargaining comes hope, and with depression comes isolation, loneliness and a craving for human closeness and touch that we may have never realised the importance of, until now.

Finally, with acceptance comes the understanding that as it difficult as this disaster may have been, we have given it our own personal best.

For some Swinburne students, the lifestyle upheaval caused by COVID has even served as a blessing in disguise.

Chamath, a Bachelor of Arts student I spoke to, said the extra time he spent with his family has proved invaluable. Growing up as gay in a traditional Asian family has been far from easy for Chamath. Upon breaking the news to his parents? Dishonour! Dishonour on you! Dishonour on your cow! Dishonour on your whole family! (Please tell me you got the Mulan reference?). Naturally, wearing a mask is a heavy burden, especially when you’re afraid that the homophobia will spring from your own parent’s disapproval – sometimes it’s  easier not to say anything. After all, how can you accept not being accepted?

Yet lockdown has allowed Chamath to establish some middle ground between who his family want him to be, and who he actually is. While this middle ground may not be his complete self, it is still a part of him, and has enabled him to get along with his family, without feeling forced to be a whole other person.

“It made me realise my family wasn’t that bad,” he said, telling me that he appreciated this time because, after having surrounded himself with predominantly Western friends for so long, he was able to “reconnect with [his] brown.”

“I reconnected with Sri Lankan cultures, not just family, but the culture that I’m part of that I’ve been pushing away.”

For Ariel, a Science student, her family life has worsened. “Before we were coexisting, and now I’m like, I wanna kill these people,” she said. “It’s like having a favourite song and then hearing the song on repeat everywhere, and you start to hate it. Not ‘cause of anything being wrong with the song, it’s just you’re sick of it.”

Other students, however, have enjoyed the family time they got out of this, despite the distractions they tend to bring. Yes, I am as shocked as you are that their families aren’t completely annoying…maybe it’s just mine and Ariel’s who become the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard given enough time to do so.

Braden Grady, who is studying Secondary Education and Science, has spent  lockdown with his younger sisters, aged two and four months. He told me that at times, they have interfered with peace and quiet, explaining that at one point, his younger sister “found staples, tipped them all over the floor and started playing with them”, requiring Braden to abandon his work in order to remove the sharp objects from the indignant baby.

Though his siblings can be “small and annoying and loud”, in their own cute way of course, Braden has valued the time he has been able to spend with them during such an important, formative stage of their lives. “I can see them and play with them more, there’s been more cuddle time and time for bonding. I’ve had a bit more of a part in them growing up,” he said.

Initially, Braden thought the new distractions in his life would impact his time management – both loud siblings, and “all the extra time I [had to] spend on Netflix.” Lockdown presented a battle between his identities as “procrastinator and perfectionist,” but ultimately, his perfectionist side has actually won out. “My time management has gotten better,” Braden said. “Though I had to adjust to a whole new study schedule, I have not submitted an assignment late, and have kept my work to a high standard.”

Many students, Braden included, have also adjusted to this lifestyle shift by taking up a new hobby or reconnecting with an old one. Personally, I realised that my suburb is its own little community – I made friends with the old cat lady across the street and found out she was a complete badass who brought feminism to New Guinea decades ago.

Braden and Chamath, on the other hand, have allowed their creativity to bloom. Braden took up the flute, and Chamath has been documenting his isolation experience on camera. “Before lockdown, productivity was focused on physical things. Creating something was centred around my uni studies, which closed borders for me,” Chamtah said.

Now, Chamath wakes up, showers, and documents his life on camera. Pre-lockdown, “life was stagnating,” he added. “I had so many plans. Internships, job placements, etcetera. All that changed in 2020, but I’ve made something out of this [lifestyle change] and preserved memories through my disposable camera. After all, this is as much a year of my life as all the others, best not write it off and pretend it never happened.”

Chamath believes that a “new dimension” has been opened during lockdown, without the threat of external distractions. “I just used to make TikToks,” he told me. “Now I’m taking it to the next level.” He finds joy in doing this for himself, minus any pressure of disapproval.

Lockdown has also been a useful time for self-reflection, especially for Hannah*.

She explained to me that “staying home all the time made problems outside life seem surreal and allowed for some mental peace, even with the problems still existing.” Having lost her job amidst the pandemic, she added that “the time to kick back despite the lack of money and income, really makes you question the value of trading money for time. A lack of daily expenses means you no longer count your pennies.”

“It’s like a storm, the winds of change are upon us – if we stay stiff to the change and don’t bend, we will break,” she said. “That being said, we do need to change certain things. People aren’t getting paid as easily, they have to withhold work for payment and then release the work. This shows us how little control we really have in our lives. Being aware of this may be the first step to taking the control back.”

A lot of students have struggled to gain control during lockdown, with some struggling with body-image issues they did not have at the beginning of this crisis. This may have been triggered by the decrease in exercise spurred by lockdown, along with Melbourne’s many gyms closing. However, Ariel’s experience has made me understand that this has also been triggered by a change in our own perceptions. She told me she is keen to get outside again and see “normal bodies”, because the time spent at home with only herself and Netflix for company meant all she witnessed was the media’s portrayal of “sexy”.

Yes, Hollywood may be getting better at their “all body types are beautiful” campaign, but they’re certainly not there yet. Centuries of beauty culture has conditioned us to think we’re not good enough, so, for most of us, going outside and seeing someone we think is beautiful despite their non-conformity to society’s superficial standards can subconsciously reinforce our own positive perception of ourselves. Feeling comfortable in our own skin presents as much a cultural shift as it does an individual one, so for Ariel, who has been stuck at home in her sweatpants watching seemingly perfect Gucci clad supermodels trapped within a glass screen, she needed a reminder that this was not the real world. In the real world, you are beautiful because you are you.

Evidently, social distancing has also led to social isolation, and although we have had more time to catch up with old friends online or over the phone, the lack of physical interaction has nonetheless felt trying for most of us. However, social interaction is multi-dimensional and while we might have lost some of the magic of face-to-face social interaction, it hasn’t all been bad.

Lockdown has been a period of self-growth for many of us, including Chamath. He told me that staying home has forced him to get his “pandemic priorities straight.”

“I’ve saved money and not spent it on unnecessary things like drinks and drugs. I’ve been able to deal with my depression head on, without [these distractions],” he explained.

“There’s no need to get laid all the time, ‘cause I don’t really need it. A lot of things became background noise against the backdrop of ‘I matter more’.”

While everyone has worked through this pandemic at different paces and in slightly different ways, COVID-19 has allowed us to share more than a few undeniable commonalities. Case in point: the complete lifestyle change required in each and every one of us a change in mindsets, time commitments, and in our travel and sense of sociability. While COVID has (thankfully) not been as dramatic as the Black Plague of 1665 (during which Sir Isaac Newton basically invented physics because he was bored – thanks for that, Isaac) the pandemic has definitely shaken up our lives.

No matter what 2020 looks like for you, one thing is clear: it has marked a turning point in our lives. COVID-19 has meant that some of us have reconnected with our families, while others have reduced their vices, found inner peace, and developed a deeper understanding of the world. While we may be glad to go back to normal life, these lessons have the potential to shape our future for the better – depending on how we choose to perceive and view them, of course.

What will life look like for us post-lockdown? Personally, in the short term, I’m excited to go to restaurants with my friends again and eat good food, and hug people! I am definitely going to become a hugger.

While all of us have lost touch with the external, mundane parts of life, most of us have learned their true value. We had to lose these things to realise we loved them. Perhaps we can take this as a call to start taking life by the horns rather than for granted? It is equally important that when we resume classes on-campus, Swinburne does not take us for granted, and introduces measures designed to help students feel safe.

It is also important that we accept the diversity of change that may occur post-lockdown. The integration of the online world into the workforce may result in a better or worse work-life balance. A lot of people who were on a nosedive to ruin their lives, may struggle to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Some people may go straight back to their vices, while others will emerge with a new hobby and solid body of work that they’ve created.

As it does now, this will all serve to demonstrate that change on its own, in the context of a forced lockdown, is never really good or bad. More often than not, it’s entirely up to us what we make of it.

While I can’t say for sure what a post-COVID world will look like, one thing is clear. A lot of people are going to rediscover the world – and when they do, it may just transform their lives for the better.

If you are struggling with your mental health, Wellbeing at Swinburne can help – they  offer free psychological support services for Swinburne students. Please phone (03) 9214 8483 for more information.

If you need a more informal group of friends to support you through this crisis, hop onto Swinburne’s H.squad Instagram @h.squad_swinburne  and take part in the numerous activities they run throughout the semester, designed to alleviate the burden on mental, sexual and nutritional health. 

*This student wishes to remain anonymous.

About Jananie Pathiraja

Jananie Pathiraja, better known as Jan like January, is a student at Swinburne University about to complete her Bachelor of Health Science majoring in Biomedical Science. She is a major health buff and a complete science nerd (yes, chemistry included).

She is a part of several Swinburne initiatives and clubs, including toastmasters, and loves writing for SWINE. This ice-cream biting almost-psychopath is passionate about a career in health and in her spare time is an avid reader (currently devouring the pages of the count of Monte Cristo which she assures us, is a must-read – fair warning, she says this about 90% of the books she reads). You can connect with Jan via her LinkedIn here.

Iso Pet Peeves: Lockdown 2.0

Author: Grace Ashford

By now, I’m sure everyone has experienced their fair share of frustration regarding all things corona. But is there anything more irritating, blood boiling and hair-pullingly exasperating than having to go back into lockdown because a security guard couldn’t keep it in his pants?

We’re back for a Lockdown 2.0 edition of Iso Peeves – this time, focusing on our favourite variety of aggravating personalities, all of whom played a role in The End of the World: Part Two.

“I just needed to see my gals!”

I hope that ‘last hoorah’ with the squad was worth Grandpa getting sick, Tiffany! Just a quick reminder: our mate COVID-19 doesn’t pick and choose when it will be highly infectious. It’s the night before lockdown, not the night before you’re most likely to contribute to the spread.

In a single night, you and your girls jeopardised the health of everyone you came into contact with afterwards! I trust you found the perfect Snapchat filter to hide the shame. ♥

“Pete Evans is my god.”

5G conspiracists, please leave the chat. It’s really cute how you think you can fight science – oh, wait! It’s actually not, because people are dying. Take off your tinfoil hat and read the stats.  It seems you haven’t allowed yourself time to process the severity of the global pandemic we are amidst. Once you’ve come to terms with your denial, please kindly buy some hand sanitiser and stay the fuck home.

“Wearing a mask doesn’t actually do anything.”

Out of everything to complain about, you lot are choosing to get strung up over a piece of fabric. (And you were likely the same people to blame the BLM protests for the outbreak while simultaneously hanging out at Chaddy with your other 7000 pals every weekend). Fact check: you’re wrong. While wearing a mask doesn’t stop you from contracting anything, data from the World Health Organisation states it severely reduces the spread of oral and sinus droplet transmission via breathing, coughing, and even talking by 95%. That’s a serious statistic, and if you feel the need to take issue with attempts to reduce the spread of a disease with a global death toll of more than eight hundred and twenty-nine thousand (as of 27/8/20), you need to check yourself.

“Just one last stop at Woolies on my way home from getting tested.”

Congratulations Patricia, you are literally doing the opposite of what has been so clearly reinforced since the beginning of this sh*t show! While our everyday supermarket workers are putting their lives at risk for minimum wage before our economy comes crashing down, you thought you’d quickly nip in for some quarantine supplies. And yet, you’ve not even had the respect to place actual necessities into your basket. Instead, you’ve had the audacity to snatch up a family size bag of Maltesers and a nice big tub of iso ice cream. Hope you ate up your chocolatey treats along with your words when you saw the news announcing Stage 4 restrictions.

Featured image by Tom Radetzki, via Unsplash