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Critical Cultural Foresight: Australian Futures Studies Jason D. Ensor Accepted for Masters of Arts The University of Queensland September 2001

Acknowledgments Towards Critical Cultural Foresight could not have been completed without the assistance and support of a number of people. I wish to acknowledge and thank David Bennett, Nick Caldwell, Phil Cloran, Patricia Corness, Leigh Dale, Shirley and Rawen (Chick) Davis, Sue Ellis, Donald and Kura Ensor, Carole Ferrier, John Frow, Andrew Gilbert, Geoff and Cherrie Hancock, Annette Henderson, Roni Kelly, Kerry Kilner, Robert Lucas, Felicity Meakins, Guy Redden and the M/C Team, Elizabeth Mitchell and the English Department Office Staff, Chris Rintel, Doreen Stitt, Aileen and Amanda Taylor, Greg Taylor, Chris Tiffin, Angela Voita and Drew Whitehead. Special thanks and appreciation is reserved for Richard Fotheringham and Graeme Turner who have supported this project from conception to completion. Last, this thesis could not have been attempted without the guidance, friendship and encouragement of Richard Nile, to whom I owe the greatest debt of gratitude.

Consult not your fears but your hopes and dreams. Think not about what you have tried and failed, But what is still possible for you to do. To live is to change

Statement of Purpose: The Future What is it Meant to Do? Strategic foresight is the ability to create and maintain a high quality, coherent and functional forward view, and to use the insights arising in useful organisational ways.1 Towards Critical Cultural Foresight addresses the manner in which knowledge of the future (or futurestext, information positioned and empowered as relevant to the future and significant to the construction and formation of the future subject) is created, propagated and given prominence in Australian culture and Australian studies in moving from the second to the third millennium. It argues that the future can be positioned as a text subject to various desires and uses and that from such positioning a form of apocalyptic thinking can be observed as a deep cultural process guiding interpretations of the future for Australians. Situated within the discipline of Australian studies, a field succinctly described by Ffion Murphy as a discursive formation and cluster of theoretical and methodological strategies for scholarly inquiry into Australia,2 this thesis interrogates the politics behind processes actively inventing the future. The proposition of critically approaching the future as a text rests on three major arguments. First, I use the term critical throughout this project to
1 2

Richard Slaughter, Futures for the Third Millennium: Enabling the Forward View, Ffion Murphy (ed.), Writing Australia: New Talents 21C, St Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 2000, p 11.

declare a relationship between the future and critical theory and to suggest that a reflexive sense of situatedness is needed when discussing the future. Second, the future in its various guises can be associated with the needs of relatively powerful persons or groups and can thus become skewed in favour of particular interpretations and social interests. When viewed in this manner, some futures can be identified as artificially narrowed, representing a closure rather than an expansion of options. The intention then is to bring individuals to reflect critically upon the more or less arbitrary creation of meaning in the futures around them, and the skewed power relations underlying them, in order to be able to modify them and to suggest new forms.3 Finally, while the future is of immense value in permitting a site for goals, plannings and visions which roots itself in society as a component of change and social movement, its symbolic infrastructure (its social resources of widely shared ideas, themes and concepts) remains strongly associated with a North American consciousness, particularly in the publications imported from the mid-west Bible Belt. It is therefore useful to interpret the future as a text and its selective deployment in Australia from within a tradition of enquiry grounded locally that is, Australian studies. From this perspective, a selection of deficiencies can also be identified in Australian studies and these provide a starting point for the Australian public intellectual. A related concern is to concentrate on those deficiencies which rob Australian studies of much of its contemporary effectiveness, which a more reflective approach

Slaughter, op. cit., p 218.

offered under the definition of Australian public intellectual may attempt to resolve. The major thrust is to reverse the default interpretation of the future as unworthy of critical, textual attention and to investigate the theoretical competencies required for the emerging new Australian studies scholar the public intellectual which might be further developed and applied to futures in Australian studies generally. The utility of reading the future in this way derives from moving to a position where the future may be less mythologised and more accessible. Additionally, users of the future are reflexively aware of embedded ideologies, commitments and interests. Those with ideas about what it should be like might better clarify the senses in which the future can be created or invented in some critical detail. So this argument is perhaps oriented towards an emancipation of the future using metatheoretical levels of enquiry on apocalyptic (otherwise known as doomsday) futures. From the outset, I dont suggest that apocalypse popularisation is the only alternative space of futures thinking opened up by the postmodern reconceptualisation of our historical, social and cultural practices as coded texts through which we engage in the play of writing and reading the world.4 But I do argue that apocalypse is one of the most persistent interpretative processes competing against clearly articulated and responsible vision in the Australian national imagination and Australian studies, worthy of interrogation.

Donna Haraway, A Cyborg Manifesto, Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, New York, Routledge, 1991.

This thesis then is not an exercise in forecasting, extrapolating, predicting or anticipating the near or far futures processes which stress the potential corporeality of a particular future being envisioned but which pay insufficient attention to the situatedness of both future/s-knowledge production and inscription. Instead, it is an interrogation of a selection of contemporary texts mediating foresight technologies in Australia. These texts, drawn from a literature that falls under the definition of futurestext (to be elaborated below), are linked through the word and idea future. They serve the current project as qualitative rather than quantitative forms of evidence about how Australians think about the future in the contemporary age and indicate a fraction of the entire site of futures-thinking available for interrogation. Towards Critical Cultural Foresight teases out some of the hidden processes behind this thinking. While one might sympathise with one type of future over another, we must be mindful that we are still trading in uncertain, open- ended and value-laden texts. On this point, Towards Cultural Foresight is not concerned with validating any single perspective of the future nor privileging one particular calibration or imagination of time and its unfolding over another. Rather, in perceiving the future to be structured by a set of dominant but not monolithic interests,5 it is concerned with theorising the processes of making meaning of the future and asks, when confronted with future myth, particularly western apocalyptic configurations of future myth, not is it true? but what is it meant to do?

ibid., p 211.

Chapter One Introduction Language mediates the interpretation of experience and is constitutive of understanding. It follows that normative statements about what should, or should not, be inevitably reflect the preferences and interests of those who utter them. This renders the possibility of objectivity and value-free knowledge extremely problematic, cutting the ground from under the feet of anyone who implicitly, or otherwise, assumes a superior viewpoint. More positively, it points the way to metaphors for communication that have less to do with persuasion and control than with dialogue and negotiation.6 [W]e should not speak of correct forecasts, but of useable ones.7 The future is socially constructed; it is not an element of empirical reality. As with time in general, the future is constitutive of a social and cultural order. Our conception of time and modes of time keeping are also culturally specific. For Australian society does not regard time nor keep time in the same manner or form as say Indian or Chinese cultures. How Australians reckon the pattern of passing moments is culturally specific to a western scheme of calibration. Similarly, Australian responses and reactions to
6 7

ibid., p 208. Geoffrey Fletcher, The Case Against a Science of Futurology, World Futures Society Bulletin, vol 15 no 3, 1981, pp 27-32.

patterns of time reckoning are also culturally specific. In Australia, citizens are educated to react to socio-temporal cues like, say, Australia Day on January 26th or Anzac Day on April 25th. Other cultures do not respond to these cues the same way that Australians choose and are required to. Responses to socio-temporal cues are learnt. To think about the future is to draw upon a special set of determinants related to the cultural and social construction of time. These determinants direct in what ways the future can be reflected upon, imagined, envisioned, and negotiated. Behind many visions, forecasts, warnings and predictions rest the temporal relations which structure what is spoken, heard, observed, written and read in ways seldom considered or rarely reflected upon clearly.8 The meanings and imperatives within these relations and their associated time frames condition all that is proposed and attempted.9 For example, considerable contrasts in approach, interpretation and application are observable between utilising say linear or cyclic models of time. One type of timekeeping is not always compatible with another. In contemporary daily life citizens appear to manage multiple senses of timekeeping and contrasting time-frames with fluid unconscious dexterity.10 But history suggests that the modern use of time is quite alien to what it was a century or two ago. Graeme Davisons research reveals that the act of timekeeping is governed by a particular aim which has been historically

8 9

Slaughter, op. cit., p 3. S Inayatullah, Deconstructing and Reconstructing the Future, Futures, vol 22, no 4, March 1990, pp 115-141. 10 Slaughter, op. cit., p 3.

defined by a gradual (though uneven) elaboration on that pre-eminent virtue of modern life, punctuality.11 Slaughter notes that: With the rise of mechanical clocks a variety of social inventions became universalised: schedules, timetables, the measurement and calculation of precise periodicities. Time changed from its previous organic character and became highly structured and differentiated. This, in no small way, permitted the co-ordination of increasingly complex activities and processes. Without this precision, the industrial revolution would never have happened; it was a product of the new time-sense every bit as much as it was of the new rationality of the enlightenment.12 On a social level, contemporary Australians are crossing into a new threshold of time-consciousness. If the clock-face reinforced cyclical ideas of time, then the digital clock in Australia re-presents time as a line, or, more exactly, as a numerical scale, capable of counting down as well as counting forward. The electronic scoreboard shows the number of minutes left to play, the electric oven shows the number of minutes left to bake, and the space- centre's launch control monitor shows the number of seconds left to blast- off.13 Time has taken on a distinct modern character:

Graeme Davison, The Unforgiving Minute: How Australia Learned to Tell the Time, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1993, p 2. 12 Slaughter, op. cit., pp 3-4.

Time is now money. There is a new urgency: time must be saved. There is anxiety, too, for time stretches out back and forward. It exceeds the boundaries of our own lives and may therefore appear threatening.14 This new apprehension of time as a commodity to be allotted, precision- measured, moved around, exchanged, saved and competed for, is, according to Davison, a pervasive feature of postmodern life in Australia. Notions of flexible time and competitive routines of business called just-in-time are strategies prevalent in the spheres of work and production, but these notions and routines are also diffused backward into the domestic zone, creating the techno-autoevolution of domestic products such as the kitchen microwave, the programmable video-recorder, the telephone answering machine and pre-packaged, frequently pre-cooked (just reheat) foods, to name a few.15 Equally, the social shrinking, of time and space in the domestic economy has filtered through to the hidden persuaders of Australian Society, the commercial media. Though many commercials are not national specific, that advertising mottos like Panasonic's Making the future easy or Toyota's The future is now should appear at all on Australian television serves to both reinforce Australia's ideological shift towards the certain type of futures-thinking, and stress the time-quickening/displacing or future-

13 14

ibid., p 149. Slaughter, op. cit., p 4. 15 ibid., p 147.

saving value inherent in the products these companies are selling in Australia. This might suggest that Australians think less of the future and the past as separated by the present. Such a division of time into past, present and future does not really represent any objective feature of time itself but holds for psychological time only and frequently for the convenience of tensing knowledge. But the use of particular types of futures thinking in the domestic sphere as well as within the wider operations of Australian metropolitan culture conflicts with this conventional perspective. The new conception of psychological time, where the future underwrites the present and the present is indentured to the future, has brought about a crisis of perception. A conventional ontological sense of the future may be that of a path perpetually in the process of being constructed the horizon to which all action tends but within the modus operandi of postmodern culture, where discourses attempt to annex the future on a psychological level, the future is now. Ballard characterises particular psychological fallout from this situation, which this thesis argues is part of Australia's contemporary make-up: Increasingly, our concepts of past, present and future are being forced to revise themselves. Just as the past itself, in social and psychological terms, became a casualty of Hiroshima and the nuclear age (almost by definition a period in which we were all forced to think prospectively),

so in its turn the future is ceasing to exist, devoured by the all- voracious present.16 But is the present only all-voracious? Slaughter argues that new work in science is again altering our perception of time, though not to an extent as widely acknowledged as Davisons thesis on punctuality. Rather, in a way that has obscured it from public view, a new creation of the present has implicated itself into default temporally related conceptions and concerns about time: The measurement of duration has become increasingly precise and has created a machine measure of time which falls below human perceptual thresholds For actively structuring our individual and social use of time is a default notion of the present which arguably interferes with our ability to function in a dynamically interconnected world While it may make perfect scientific sense to measure time in nano- or pico- seconds, such fragments are of no human value whatsoever.17 Following from research and interaction with students in asking how long is the present? and obtaining standard answers of fleeting and short Slaughter is referring here to the minimalist present thesis. Observing descriptions and perceptions of time as derived from machine-driven
16 17

J Ballard, Crash, New York, Vintage, 1985, p 4. Slaughter, op. cit., p 4.

metaphors that misrepresent cultural and empirical reality and are frequently exchanged between people, Slaughter calls into disrepute the default western view of the present and loads it with considerable dysfunction: If one cannot grasp the present; if one is not, in any sense, at home in it; if it is too brief to connect with wider realities, one is truly lost in a profound way. Here, then, is a hidden contribution to the profound feeling of alienation so typical of modern societies. While such alienation may spring from a variety of sources, the minimal present clearly reinforces notions of separateness and isolation.18 Clearly the minimalist present conflicts with holistic approaches to global, social, cultural and environmental problems. As Slaughter puts it, each individual and all social groupings are embedded in a vast number of interconnected processes which extend throughout time and space.19 None of these processes are static, as Charles Birch maintains in his groundbreaking work, Confronting the Future: Australia and the World the Next One Hundred Years: None of us lives in the world into which we were born. The world changes fast. We are moving from the industrial age into the post- industrial age or the age of information; from a society that is ecologically unsustainable into one that has to be ecologically
18 19

ibid. ibid.

sustainable. To live in that new world means that we need to be equipped with understanding and knowledge that changes within our generation. Life moves far more rapidly now than it ever did before. This requires a change in our attitude toward ourselves and to our relationships to the world.20 Similarly, though in darker ecologically sensitive tones, Garrett Hardin warns there is no away to throw to21 and Michael Harrington forecasts that either western man is going to choose a new society or a new society will choose and abolish him.22 Schell adds that formerly the future was given to us, now it must be achieved.23 Such insights draw our attention to Australias part within a network of relationships that involve the past, present and future and a series of dependencies (social, ecological, cultural, etc) of the future regarding choices and actions in the present, whether these involve environmental, economic or personal considerations. Slaughter argues that this interconnected reality is in fact one of the fundamental characteristics of life The decisions we make, the directions we choose, the futures we extinguish and


Charles Birch, Confronting the Future: Australia and the World the Next One Hundred Years, Victoria, Penguin, 1993, p 282. 21 Garrett Hardin, Paramount Positions in Ecological Economics, in Robert Constanza (ed.), Ecological Economics, New York, Columbia University Press, 1991, p 52. 22 Michael Harrington, The Accidental Century, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1967, p 218. 23 J Schell, The Fate of the Earth, London, Picador, 1982, p 174.

those we enable, all frame and condition the lives of our descendants.24 But these relationships have no meaning no home in a minimalist present. The interwoven nature of life is obscured from current temporal structures and thinking.25 What implications then does the minimalist present thesis hold for Australias sense of the future? It is generally acknowledged that the future is both uncertain and conditional. Its relationship to the present is complicated, sometimes frustrated by, a series of social, cultural and ideological factors. Nonetheless, as this thesis argues, the future and rhetoric of the future can be powerful tools. In western societies, future can be a powerful word. With this word, made manifest through coded messages, bits of language, thought and information that can be edited together to generate ideas, simulations, behaviours and movements, people strive to change the world. With this word leaders can design images of a different age beyond the known present and compel their followers to labour in the hope of gaining access to these images. With this word originates the intelligibility and meaning of a series of special activities including forecasting, scenario writing, and projection and trend extrapolation. With this word individuals might think a prospective world into imaginary existence and write it as an achievable reality. With this word Australians have sought to describe their nation as a becoming civilisation. Ian Turner argued in the 1960s that Australia has always been a nation primed for, perhaps consistently engaged with, ideas of the future. It is
24 25

Slaughter, op. cit., p 5. ibid.

reasonable to consider then if the contemporary representation of the time- regime in Australia is so radically different to previous period conceptions as to perhaps motivate a new critical approach to the future?26 One response is that contemporary Australian culture poses time in a new way, in that it leads the keeper of time further towards a contemplation of their actions for the future rather than, as in previous historicities, a postulation of their actions in the future. Although this phrasing may appear something of a semantic sleight-of-hand, substituting the expression for the future in favour of in the future, the ideological shift in responsibility inherent in the wording is immensely significant. It implies what feminist theorist Zoe Sofia calls the collapse of the future onto the present, where our contemporary activities and behaviours should appear to suit the future if they are to be found approving.27 In this sense, the present is transformed into the fulfilment of a future that Australians aim to aspire to. The rules of the future are beginning to unfold presently, writes Csicsery-Ronay Jr., where there are no norms sufficiently for the here and now, only perpetual starting points for the future.28 Yet, to return to the minimalist present thesis, if the present is regarded as imperceptibly short and fleeting in which users of this form of thinking are lost, never quite at home in the moment might it be argued that Australians are even less sure in their perceptions of the future? Slaughter seems to think so in arguing that a structural fault has developed in present-
26 27

Ian Turner, The Australian Dream, Melbourne, Sun, 1968, p xvi. Zoe Sofia, Exterminating Foetuses: Abortion, Disarmament and the Sexo- Semiotics of Extraterrestrialism, Diacritics, Summer 1984, p 49.

day temporal thinking, which obscures the centrality of the futures dimension and therefore impedes the young in their search for meaning and purpose.29 Davison and Ballard commentate on the cultural and social fallout of this ideological shift in practice, perception and responsibility towards futures-thinking. Though writing in 1993, prior to the widespread rise and acceptance of the Internet, palm pilots and personal wireless devices, Davison is arguably correct that the present society is organised around a conglomeration of press-button punctuality, just-in-time and flexitime. His conclusions remain valid today: Australia is caught in a time- warp of blurred boundaries between past and present, present and future. In Australia of the 1990s, Davison saw the conflation of time and the deflation of space, both characteristic of post-industrial societies, the result of a technological autoevolution:30 The communications satellite, the rapid decline in the cost of international telephone calls and the proliferation of fax machines developments, incidentally, which Australians welcomed with particular enthusiasm have rapidly shrunk international distances, and collapsed local times into a single international time-regime.31

28 29

J R Lucas, The Future, Cambridge, Basil, Blackwell, 1989, p 1 Slaughter, op. cit., p 6. 30 I Csicsery-Ronay, Futuristic Flu, or, The Revenge of the Future, Fiction 2000, 1992, pp 26-45. 31 Davison, op. cit., p 146.

Davison suggests it is this state of international, instantaneous communication, which has seen the fulfilment of a Marxist prophecy, namely the annihilation of space by time.32 Additionally, it has caused the time-gap that had long separated Australia from the rest of the world as a barrier and buffer to be attenuated and, with it, one of the protective cushions for our fragile sense of national identity.33 It is apparent that, contrary to Geoffrey Blaineys Tyranny of Distance thesis, in the first decade of the third millennium, Australia is tethered, ever more closely, to the world.34 Perhaps if we know in what ways the future is presently being invented, it is useful then to ask: is Australia any closer to understanding what the future is currently meant to be? It soon becomes clear that there is no single answer; perhaps because we dont fully understand the question what is the future?. Many answers generalise with words like change, control, choice, shape, options, progress and calls to action but these can mean many different things in different settings. Similarly, when claims to know the future embody notions of objective and value-free knowledge, they can act to obscure the political and ideological dimensions of creating meaning in the future. To understand the nature of the question what is the future? then depends upon understanding the implicit frame that is invoked by particular assumptions and invested interests. For example, though not specifically Australian in context, leaders of religious sects whose doctrinal hierarchy is based on interpretations of the

Karl Marx, Grunrisse: Foundations of a Critique of Political Economy, 1857, as quoted in Davison, ibid., p 3. 33 Davison, op. cit., p 146.

Book of Revelation understand the future within a time frame that imputes ideas of divine intervention, salvation, apocalypse and endtimes. But for those planning retirement, writing wills, buying shares or investing funds, the future and associated time frames are perceived and managed quite differently. The position of the person asking the question (and the nature of the question) is as significant as that of the one answering. This implies a notion of situatedness in which the question and respondent are aware of the processes they are embedded within. It also points to the permeability of language, of the ways it is interwoven with inherited and invested meanings, locations and contexts, of how it both reveals, obscures, exposes and conceals futures intentions. This is a potential resource of innovated meaning. Hence, by extending Slaughters minimalist present thesis to include minimal or undeveloped senses of the future in Australia, the present thesis argues that it is uncertain questions of Australias future can be properly resolved without a series of innovations based on paradigmatic and hermeneutic strategies for engaging constructions of future-sense and additionally the adoption of longer-term thinking. The question then of what is time, the future, the millennium and apocalypse? is perhaps a good way to situate a thesis that examines the contemporary and active political inventions of the future and their position(ing) in Australian society.


ibid., p 154.

Chapter Two What is time? To deny the past is to forget the future.35 During the second half of the twentieth century, it was commonly accepted that we can chart our future clearly and wisely only when we know the path which has led to the present.36 But if, as Stambaugh asserts, temporality is ... the occurrence, the taking place of thinking, where thoughts and actions in time are contextualised by a taxonomy of tense, then any meaning, significance and value ascribed to the epochal moment like say the turning of the millennium is a mere linguistic and imagined projection of our current prejudices, interests and concerns, and is in no way attached in any real sense to the advent itself.37 In the words of metaphysical philosopher J R Lucas, whereas the present and past are real, the future, as long as it is still future, is not.38 On this view, it may be reasonable to ask why it was fashionable during the late 1990s in Australia to gather futures around the number 2000? Many scholars asserted that a new form of Australian consciousness (individual and communal) as yet unrealised, though intensely speculated upon, would replace the current centre of mythology, historicities, ideologies and narratives that we now call collectively
35 36

Sorry Day Anniversary poster, 26 May 2000. A Stevenson, The Guinness Encyclopedia, Middlesex, Guinness, 1990, p 359. 37 J Stambaugh, Impermanence is Bhuddha-Nature, Honolulu, Hawaii University Press, 1990, p 130. 38 J R Lucas, The Future, Cambridge, Basil Blackwell, 1989, p 1.

Australian or Australia sometime around or just after the year 2000. Aside from theoretical speculation, the planned celebration of 0lympics 2000 in Sydney and the commemoration of 100 years since Federation in 2001 added a sense of importance to this juncture between millenniums. In either paradigm of theory and planning, the year 2000 was perceived (and to some extent still is) by most to impose a new beginning on Australian activities. Just what that new beginning should be, the possibilities arraigned at the millennial crossroads and the suggestions directed towards realising these possibilities, remains open to considerable conjecture. Many different orders of thought and conjecture claim the right to narrate the cultural production and projections of the Australian people, nation and culture(s) beyond the year 2000. We shall examine a selection of these during this investigation. But first, it is necessary to discuss the construction of time in contemporary Australia (or actual-Australia if we are to understand the meaning of the future today. Along the formulations of Robin Le Poidevin and Murray MacBeath,39 it is reasonable to maintain that time is a commonplace dimension of change. This means time is considered to be the indicator of variation, modification and growth in the ordinary properties of things, experience, behaviour and consciousness. Without this fundamental truism that we all believe about the world that change is going on constantly, that changes are caused, and that there are constraints on what changes are possible - we would have a very limited conception and experience of reality, one in which:

R Le Poidevin and M MacBeath, The Philosophy of Time, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1993, p 1.

There is nothing to pick out the present now, or to give a sense of becoming, (one) in which freedom is an illusion, everything will be as it will be, and there is nothing new under the sun.40 Such a narrow understanding of time would seem out of place with our contemporary metropolitan time-orientated society, where, for example, the modern individual, full of projects is perennially up against deadlines.41 A world devoid of temporal variation would be devoid of, among other things, deadlines and change, and would have failed to view 2000AD as a potential turning/changing point. The so-called passage, flow or direction of time can be problematic. Peter Munz, a philosopher on the practice of history, writes: time is not the sort of thing that can have a definite shape and that history therefore is of necessity being constantly rewritten.42 Lucas voices a comparable difficulty in the practice of futures: We seem to be committed, if the future exists, to some sort of determinism, though of a possibly unknowable kind: so, in order to escape determinist conclusions, we feel impelled to deny existence to the future, and truth statements about it. And yet we draw back from

40 41

Lucas, op. cit., p 1. Davison, Punctuality and Progress: the Foundations of Australian Standard Time, Australian Historical Studies, vol 25, no 99, October 1992, p 172. 42 P Munz, The Shapes of Time, Connecticut, Wesleyan University Press, 1977, p 1.

denying all truth to predictions and speculations, or making out that the future is entirely unknowable.43 The debate on temporality is no less problematic. McTaggart argues that nothing existent can possess the characteristics of being in time. This doctrine rests on McTaggart's persuasive thesis that time is unreal, that the distinctions we use to articulate or codify the passage of time the tensed participles of past, present and future - are never true of reality: nothing that exists can be temporal.44 This clashes with Homi K Bhabha's notion that culture is located around temporality than about historicity.45 Additionally, Lucas refutes McTaggart's thesis by arguing that time is a perpetual becoming, a weaving rather than an unrolling [a] dynamic, in which something is always happening, [where] vague possibilities crystal(ise) out into sharp actuality. Indeed, for Lucas, reality is through and through temporal.46 Thus, while I am unable to entirely agree with McTaggart's ideas on unreal time his argument demonstrate the significance, if vagueness, of tense in the timing of thought, utterances, events and change. It reveals persuasively that tense is a social convention, in fact the beginning of a long line of socio-temporal cues. This concurs with the apparent arbitrary acts of the twentieth century in tensing 2000AD as a future loaded with cultural and social relevance. Without denying the validity of other contending
43 44

Lucas, op. cit., p 10. J M E McTaggart, The Unreality of Time, in Poidevin and MacBeath, op. cit., p 23. 45 H K Bhabba, Dissemi-nation: Time, Narrative and the Margins of the Modern Nation, Nation and Narration, London , 1990, p 292. 46 Lucas, op. cit., p 209.

theories on time, and attempting to avoid crude reductionism, this thesis agrees with Lucas theoretical scaffolding of the relation between time and change under consideration here. That is, Lucas understanding of the temporal trajectory from past to future, and vice versa, is the conceptual basis of time referred to throughout this investigation. For the purposes of interpretation in the present inquiry, when I refer to the abstraction time I shall mean the following: Time is the passage from possibility through actuality to unalterable necessity. The present is the unique and essential link between the possible and unalterable necessary. The future and the past are modally and ontologically different, and it is natural (or logical) that there should be a direction from the one to the other. There is room for agency and freedom of action. The future is not already there, waiting, like a reel of film in a cinema, to be shown: it is, (only) in part, open to our endeavours, and capable of being fashioned by our efforts into achievements, which are our own and of which we may be proud. The chance interplay of circumstance and the implementation of our designs and purposes weave together the fabric of history.47

How to Define Future? Future, n. That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured 48 Though the above quote, drawn from the ironically titled Devils Dictionary, provides an optimistic entry-point into understanding the meaning of the future, there is a need to pin down more precisely how I will use the word future or futures in the ensuing discussion. Certainly, as societies tend to anticipate the future, there exists a generally accepted understanding of the future as a time to come. Our English word future derives from the fifteenth century Latin word, futurus, which is a form of the verb esse, meaning, "about to be." In this sense, future has become a general word for the time yet to come, regardless of the particular conditions of the time in question. Future can have different meaningful qualities dependent on how it is used. It can be used to indicate: the time yet to come; undetermined events that will occur in that time; the condition of a person or thing at a later date (eg, the future of education is undecided); likelihood of later improvement or advancement (eg, they have a future as public intellectuals); from now on (eg, in future); and a tense of verbs used when the action or event described is to occur after the time of utterance; destined to become (eg, a future Australian studies scholar). It is understandable then that the word future, in its most basic usage, is applied to a period of
47 48

ibid., pp 8-9. Ambrose Bierce, 1842-1914, The Devils Dictionary.

time imagined beyond the known present about which qualitative statements can be made, open to potential verification as true or false. Raymond Williams writes: A major element of what is going to happen is the state of mind of all of us who are in a position to intervene in its complex processes, and at best to determine them for the general good.49 According to Thorstein Veblen, in less optimistic terms, our imputation of finality to the things of the world, and our teleological arguments for an intelligent cause of the world, proceed on subjective grounds entirely, and give no knowledge of objective fact, and furnish no proof that is available for establishing even a probability in favour of what is claimed.50 Williams' and Veblen's locate the ideas of the future in the persistence of particular ways of thinking. Both use the subjectivity and arbitrariness of human cognition as a vehicle for discussing the elaboration and utilisation of temporal ordering in all moment to moment activities: in intellectual analysis it is often forgotten that the most widespread and most practical thinking about the future is rooted in human and local continuities.51 Likewise, according to Veblen, objects and events in themselves have a propensity to eventuate in a given end, whether this end or objective point of the sequence (of phenomena) is conceived to be ... given or deliberately sought.52 Additionally, to situate Veblen's musings in the contemporary period, it is worth noting that the:
49 50

Williams, op. cit., p 5. T Veblen, Kants Critique of Judgement, in Leon Ardzrooni (ed.), Essays in Our Changing Order, New York, Viking, 1964, pp 175-193, 186. 51 William, op. cit., pp 4-5. 52 T Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class, New York, Macmillan, 1912, p 280.

Principles of common-sense and common information prevalent in the [last decade] of the century are of an evolutionary ... complexion, in that they hold the attention [of the people] to the changes that are going forward, rather than to focus it on that 'Natural State of Man,' as Nassua Senior called it, to which the movement of history was believed inevitably to tend.53 Veblen's theory on the subjectivity of knowledge and his work in general on civilised barbarity is useful for its clarity in thinking about the relation between the person and the world. Disputes concerning the nature of Australia's future are a matter of philosophical rather than empirical investigation. Where philosophical inquiries into the future are open to a priori argument, there is no empirical certification that the future actually exists. When the quantifiable is taken into account, usually described as the hard pole of futures research, it often overlooks crucial meanings and presuppositions deriving from cultural and disciplinary traditions. To quote Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr, We cannot know what the future will bring, but we get to pretend that we know its possibilities.54 This appears to me to be a subjective process. Hence, to appreciate the relevance of Veblen's writings in understanding the subjectivity of knowledge, one must deconstruct the concept of timekeeping in modern Australian civilisation and the knowledge generated about Australia's inexorable progress towards the presupposed

T Veblen, Economic Theory in the Calculable future, in Ardzrooni, op. cit., pp 3- 15, 8. 54 Csicsery-Ronay Jr, op. cit., p 26.

reputable future of post-2000 Anno Domini. I take Veblen's theory of knowledge as exemplary because it makes explicit the implications of timekeeping, being progressively ever-more civilised and looking to the future as merely fashionable orders of thought chosen from an indefinite number of intellectual paradigms and faiths available to Australians. We have annexed the future into our own present, writes Ballard, as merely one of the manifold alternatives open to us in a world where options multiply.55 Similarly, Chakrabarty states that time is nothing but a useful fiction, or a set of conventions, a system of representations, which becomes real (or achieves its truth-effect) only within a particular framework of perception and practice.56 On these views, in presenting this thesis use of time, I believe that timekeeping, progress and futurity are equal in status to the myths, ideologies and narratives (indeed what Kantian reason calls the 'fictions') that have invented Australia and circumscribe Australia activity. It is on this assumption in which the construction of time in Australia can be construed by this thesis as a product of culture, or as a metaphorical code part of Australia's cultural DNA, that I examine Australia's invention of the millennium, apocalypse future and turning points.
55 56

Ballard, op. cit., p 4. D Chakrabarty, Marx After Marxism; History, Subalternity and Difference, Meanjin, vol 52, no 3, Spring 1993, pp 421-434, 431.

When Did the Millennium Become Apocalyptic? Our English word millennium comes from the seventeenth century Latin words, mille and annu, which respectively mean thousand and year. Millennium has in this way become a general word for a period of one thousand years. Millennium can have different meaningful qualities dependent on how it is used: the period of one thousand years of Christ's awaited reign on earth; a cycle of one thousand years; an extended period of peace and happiness, especially in the distant future; and a thousandth anniversary. It is reasonable then that the word millennium, in its most basic usage, is applied to a period of time imagined to be equal to one thousand solar years, with no pre-determined starting point. An important question then is: if the word was invented in the seventeenth century, how did millennium today come to acquire the added meaning of biblical apocalypse? This brings us to another definition that implicates the progress of a paradise metaphor. No consideration of the millennium' is complete that does not also account for the theological and religious importance conferred on the duration of one thousand years. Primarily, the term millennium does not occur in the Bible or other related apocryphal works. But as a convenient substitute for the phrase one thousand years and as conceptual shorthand for the theocratic kingdom of God, which is supposed to reign on or above earth, the word millennium has attained the sanction of general usage for referring to the one of the closing stages of the biblical age described in the Book of Revelation. Based upon a single passage, Revelation 20: verse 1-10,

this concept has given rise to varied speculation and hopes since the first century anno Domini. According to the passage, after a seven-year tribulation and the destruction of worldly affairs, Satan would be bound for a thousand years and those who had not worshipped the beast or its image would come to life again and reign with Christ for a thousand years. Though there is considerable and intense debate between religious communities over the preferred ordering of millennial prophecies (i.e., which occurs first? Armageddon or the Second Coming? The Day of Judgement of the Earthly Paradise/Theocratic Kingdom? The Rapture or the Tribulation? etc.), the concept thousand years remains largely intact as a token of utopian symbolism and typifies the paradisaical cycles of life presupposed in the Book of Jubilees. According to this text, even the most meritable of women and men could not accede to an age of one thousand years, as expressed in the following passage from Jubilees 4: 29-30: At the end of the nineteenth jubilee, during the seventh week in its sixth year (930) Adam died. All his children buried him in the land where he had been created. He was the first to be buried in the ground. He lacked 70 years from 1000 years because 1000 years are one day in the testimony of heaven. For this reason it was written regarding the tree of knowledge: 'on the day that you eat from it you will die.' Therefore he did not complete the years of this day because he died during it.

Other passages in the Bible explain this distinction of a day for years more succinctly, for example 2 Peter 3:8: However, let this one fact not be escaping your notice that one day with Yahweh is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. The Septuagint (Greek) version of Isaiah's epistle on the holy utopia brings back the edenic tree of life as an aspect of this paradisaical distinction: The days of my people will be as the days of the tree of life. (LXX Isaiah 65:22) With the expulsion from the Garden of Eden and subsequent degeneration of the human race, no one person could attain to an age of a millennium. Psalms 90:10 qualifies that man's life expectancy was reduced to roughly threescore and ten: In themselves the days of our years are seventy years; and if because of special mightiness they are eighty years. But as the Bible's component texts and its relative versions are considered harmonious or complementary to each other in the theological community, it follows that the reference in Revelation to the thousand years' means a return to the paradisaical cycles of life. This would confirm the millennium as a restoration of the conditions of God's intended holy utopia and an apocalypse, which actually means the revealing, of God's divine plan. How has the millennium as an apocalypse then, as the completion of some divine plan, been applied? And how is it currently used? One of the fundamental doctrines in the watchwords of evangelical theology is the idea that the Bible is uniquely inspired by God. For example, the Jehovah's Witnesses have an entire book, comprising 352 pages, based on a biblical quote: All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial. The texts opening paragraph reflects a firm belief in biblical inerrancy, an

underpinning doctrine that all the sixty-six books of the contemporary Bible are literal, true and supernaturally protected from error, thus implying that scripture is entirely trustworthy and uniquely authoritative for a given community of faith57: How satisfyingly delightful the inspired Scriptures are! What an amazing fund of true knowledge they provide! They are indeed "the very knowledge of God" that has been sought after and treasured by lovers of righteousness in all ages. Thus the Jehovahs Witness book claims, like other similar publications, that God worked with the human authors so that what they wrote was his word and that it is intrinsically true in what it says, that there are no errors or doubts in what it affirms, that it's a cornerstone of contemporary religious belief. This persistence in interpreting the Bible literally or without error has encouraged evangelicals an umbrella term used here to refer broadly to christian fundamentalists and cultists, pentecostals and charismatics, who insist on some sort of spiritual rebirth as a criterion for entering the kingdom of heaven to be intrigued, even sometimes transfixed, by the prophetic writings in the Hebrew Bible and the new testament. Evangelicals are especially fixated with the Book of Revelation which, with its recurring theme of revealed secrets and divine intervention, outlines details leading to an end

Bruce M Metzger and Michael D Coogan, The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Oxford, Oxford Univeristy Press, 1993, p 302-5

of the world, a series of special signs of the times preceding this, the apokalupsis or a lifting of the veil of God as creator and the fearful day of judgement. Yet if the Bible is to be read literally by evangelicals, in what way is sense made of the prophecies that speak of a seven-headed and ten- horned dragon, a whore who sits on seven hills, the four horse-riders of the apocalypse, a mark of the beast and the charismatic Antichrist? Because of an insistence on the literal truth and veracity of the entire Bible, evangelicals have long regarded these prophecies as a road map for understanding the future called endtimes. Publications such as, Revelation: It's Grand Climax At Hand (by the Jehovah's Witnesses), Armageddon (by Marilyn Hickey), and The Prophetic Word Magazine (by the House of Yahweh), are examples of attempts to chart a sequence of events in contemporary settings leading to the end of the world. Some even claim that the prophecies refer to themselves specifically. Reasoning from the Scriptures, a door-to-door manual for Jehovahs Witnesses, implicates members into its definition of Armageddon: The Greek Har-Ma-ge-don, taken from Hebrew and rendered Armageddon by many translators means Mountain of Megiddo or Mountain of Assembly of Troops. The Bible associates the name, not with a nuclear holocaust, but with the coming universal war of the great day of God the Almighty (Rev. 16:14, 16). This name is applied specifically to the place to which earths political rulers are being gathered in opposition to Jehovah and his Kingdom by Jesus Christ.

Such opposition will be shown by global action against Jehovahs servants on earth, the visible representatives of Gods Kingdom.58 What is fascinating is the way in which these interpretations will modify and adapt themselves according to historical and contemporary circumstances. Present troubles are in fact birth pangs heralding the end. Calculations, involving the use of numerology, demonstrate that soon, very soon, earths invincible empires will disappear and be replaced by Gods eternal rule In the final battle the powers of evil, together with the evil nations they represent, will be utterly destroyed.59 The doctrine of dispensationalism, which codified interpretations of this nature as a theological movement, was formed in America during the late nineteenth century in response to the civil war and prevailing social ills. It was a belief that world history could be segmented into particular eras or dispensations. This in spurned a related belief that evangelicals were living in the last (or next-to-last) dispensation before the endtimes and the beginning of God's Kingdom. This permitted evangelicals in effect to claim control of the future; to declare that they understood the mind and purposes of God, and to see a way out of the coming end described by the prophet Daniel as a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first

Reasoning from the Scriptures, Brooklyn, New York, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1989, p 44. 59 Metzger and Coogan, op. cit., p 36.

came into existence.60 Dispensationalism argued that Christ would come quite suddenly like a thief in the night as the often-quoted text goes and that, instead of society's condition improving with progressive attitudes, society would, in fact, continue to remain bad if not becoming worse: Christ would eventually come to a very unjust society. In such beliefs evangelicals were pushed to the margins of society. Yet ideas of rapture and separation allowed them to place themselves as God's righteous and chosen people at the very centre of a divine plan. Since only the righteous possessed a future within this doctrine, everyone else, the collective unrighteous, would ultimately face the wrath of an angry God and the fate of no future during the apocalypse. In the contemporary age, similar ideas of separation, either through the rapture or through the removal of the wicked can be seen in contemporary evangelical publications. The February 1998 publication of Maranatha: Prophetic Alert, written by Don Stanton and distributed by the Maranatha Revival Crusade (MRC), based in India with evangelical communities throughout the world and locally in Australia, begins: My dear reader, loving greetings to you in the name of our Master, Y'shua the prince of Peace. Yes, He, Y'shua, Jesus, is the One who is coming soon! Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so, Amen! My regular readers are aware of current events that are pointing to the imminent Rapture the

Daniel 12:1.

catching up of all born-again believers to meet the Master in the air. Friends, the time is near. The surrounding publications in January and March equally intone that if you read the signs correctly, you will hear a thundering countdown, a countdown which is getting lower every day! and that the day of judgement is ahead! The general order of events promoted by the MRC is that after the rapture of the righteous, the world sees the emergence of a sinister global power led by a charismatic Antichrist. This Antichrist, usually identified as one who brings peace to Israel and her neighbours through a special seven-year treaty and is linked with a ten-nation European confederacy, will insist that all remaining citizens demonstrate their worldly allegiance by being marked with an indelible stamp, the Mark of the Beast. This mark, which has evolved over the ages from being an ancient roman coin through to its current incarnation a subcutaneous tracking biochip is symbolic of the number 666, a number commonly used to indicate a beastly and satanic system of enslavement as well as the personal number of the devil itself. Many have been identified with this number, from Prince Charles to Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul to Bill Gates the Third, owner of Microsoft, whose name in ascii (computer) values, adds up to 666. Those who refuse to be marked with the devil's sign face persecution and ultimately martyrdom. World Control By Injected Surveillance, a booklet promoted by the MRC at the University of Queensland Orientation Days during the early 1990s, advised of a 2000-year old prediction coming true and lives being taken by the beast:

I believe what John saw as Jesus was giving him the Book of Revelation, was a hypodermic needle, and I'll tell you why ... The whole idea behind it is identification. It is not a barcode. You can't contain enough in a barcode. I believe it is the microchip under the skin ... The Antichrist will use every bit of technology he can to keep track of you and I. Another text titled Antichrist!, anonymously distributed by an evangelical at Brisbane international airport during the late 1980s, translates contemporary manoeuvres on the political terrain and the advent of a digital economy into the vernacular of an apocalyptic scenario: In 1992, the 12 European Community trading countries will unite politically as one nation and the main office of the 666 organisation will be in Luxembourg and Brussels; these two cities are among the 12 European countries ... No one yet knows who will be the Antichrist [but] ... In Europe they are waiting for him year by year ... The Cashless Society (666) is all part of the Antichrists master plan. In Europe and America, there are books and discussions on this matter, based upon the 666 systems. When this system is fully developed and established in a few years, all money on earth will be abolished. People will be dealing and trading according to this system. This will be the only credit/trade system for anyone on earth People who are involved and working with the 666 organisation will encourage people to be stamped with this number on the forehead and/or the right

hand. This number will be invisible, not seen by the eye. No services will be available to you unless you carry this number (no shopping, no education, etc). All your transactions will be recorded in the central computer in Brussels/Luxembourg ... The people receiving this stamp (666) will automatically belong to the devil and will go to hell. Part of the system is already practised in some countries, Sweden, America and it is now newly introduced to Australia, but not many people hear about it. Similar interpretative practices are observable in Jesus Loves You!, a tract published by the religious organisation Soulwinners for Christ, based in New South Wales. With two images marked clearly as American Medical Centre offers discounts for the recipient of the Barcode and Promotional campaign for 666 Barcode, the text claims: The Lord is warning us not to receive the number, which is to be implanted in the right hand, or in the forehead for it is the Mark of the Beast, 666, as prophesied in the Bible. The Antichrist and his mark 666 are emerging as the greatest evil to mankind. Three most significantly overwhelming fulfilments of the Bible prophecies during the last 2000 years are: the coming of Jesus on earth as Messiah, Restoration of Independence to Israel and the emergence of the beast mark 666. The Antichrist shall emerge first before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ who will judge the earth with righteousness. Satan will give power to the Antichrist to control the whole world with the use of the

computerised system 666 (barcode or microchip). Bible indicates the sign of the emergence of the Antichrist as when the people fall apart from the foundation of the word of God or known as apostasy. It is quite a tragic situation to realise that many people take the meaning of seven years of great tribulation, the beast mark 666 and the 1000 year reign of Jesus on earth as symbolic. Coding of 666 has already been concealed on all consumer goods ... The last thing left to be done is for every human being to be coded with numbers on their foreheads or on their right hand. The Jehovah's Witness publication, Life: How Did It Get Here?, interweaves the two ideas of separation and Edenic restoration, incorporating a rapture- like removal of the wicked: In our day, it concludes: It is encouraging to see world events fulfilling the sign of the last days. This indicates that the time is near when God's word will have certain success. This success is certain because the all-powerful God will intervene in human affairs to see that his purposes are accomplished. Very shortly, we can expect to see the fulfilment of the prophetic psalm that says: Evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth. And just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more ... The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it. Thus, those who choose to be independent of the creator will be cut off. Those who are hoping in Jehovah will live

through the end of this system and begin the restoration of paradise. Gradually it will spread until it encompasses the entire earth. It can be observed from such texts that dispensationalism, or the expectation of the last days, retains a powerful hold over contemporary evangelicals, though the order and types of events varies from group to group as the cast of evangelicals change. These texts can be identified as apocalyptic. But, even so, granted they are derived from the dispensationalist tradition, what exactly do I mean by this categorisation as apocalyptic? Reading through the extent literature, one quickly discovers that while several definitions of apocalypse are available, two distinct strains of understanding exist. First, in biblical terminology, apocalypse is not an event. It is, according to Felix Just: A revelation that is recorded in written form: it is a piece of crisis literature that reveals truths about the past, present, and/or future in highly symbolic terms; the revelation often comes in dreams or visions, and usually needs to be interpreted with the help of an angel; it is usually intended to provide hope and encouragement for people in the midst of severe trials and tribulations.61


Apocalypse: Definitions and Related Terms, Felix Just, Loyola Marymount University, <>, 20 February 2000.

This has lead to its second, more popularly known definition in which apocalypse is taken to mean disaster or a catastrophic event. Through this usage apocalyptic has accrued associative meanings outside the scriptural exegesis of the Book of Revelation, such that, in the broad senses of being predictive, climatic, disastrous or unrestrained, the events of cyclone Tracy, the Port Arthur massacre and the Y2k millennium bug, have been variously described as apocalyptic. Taking these two understandings together then, when I use the terms Apocalypse or apocalyptic interchangeably throughout this thesis, I shall refer to the mode of thinking which expects or can be aligned with religious forms of anticipating an end of things. In addition to the context of their particular referents (personal, national or global apocalypse), these terms implicate ideas of catastrophe, tribulation, destruction and upheaval in the current order as part of a popular interpretative scheme drawn from events in the Book of Revelation, though this does not necessarily always indicate biblical usage. Information and Futures The examples given above in defining millennium and apocalypse demonstrate how types of future may be ideologically committed, articulated by and through various presuppositions and invested interests. Neither text above can substantiate a claim to stand apart from these processes since what counts as information about the future requires prior judgements and validations from wider sources. In the case of the above extracts, this gives away again to recognition of situatedness, that the future offered is not

impartial but mediated through biblical resources for creating and organising prophetic meaning. These are powerful activities and the information generated can mobilise whole communities positively and negatively. A substantial level of consensus exists regarding the critical relationship between the future and the present. This is especially apparent in ecological systems of interpretation where a flow of cause and effect is apprehended in extrapolative techniques and methodologies. But outside holistic sciences there is less agreement about apprehending the future. Information about the future according to Slaughter,62 might deliver cultural production with greater accountability to next generations. It can articulate the design of civilisation (and our personal lives) beyond the predominant short-term gaze of western industrialist, capitalist, technocratic and meritocratic systems. And it can broaden societys perception of the contemporary future landscape or futurescape. That is, it can guide societys extrapolative reach into the new millennium deeper and further, shifting the nations imaginative perception from minimalist futures to long- term futures, via an intellectual framework in tune with the dynamic and developing systems (social, ecological, etc) of which civilisation is a part. The utility here is that while the future cannot be known it can be explored more usefully and responsibly. Understanding how information about the future flows and mutates, in configuring a theory of the relationship between content about the future and human responses, between futurestext and futurescape, will be useful in enabling in Australia what Slaughter has called without evangelical

associations the forward view.63 That is, a perceptual system that aims to overcome an identifiable defective interpretive order characterising the current times. I argue defective because obscuring questions of power, value and purpose behind an impressive facade of technical wonders is particularly dysfunctional, since this closes off futures potentials from exploration by the wider public Ideological naivety actually prevents futures work from fulfilling one of its core purposes: the elaboration of alternative futures.64 It is of enormous practical value, continues Slaughter: To grasp the way futures work is grounded in practical forms of knowledge, and also to know when and how these may be legitimately applied in various contexts [T]here remains a vast and unsustainable disjuncture between the needs of all societies for conscious commitments to meaningful purposes and goals, and the so-far minimal investment in creating and applying the forward view by public bodies and leading institutions. As a result of this oversight we continue to plunge into a most unstable and difficult time without the tools of understanding that one needed to deal consciously with it.65 Why should examining theories, ideas and images of the future and human responses to these be important to contemporary Australian studies? Futures-based knowledge, I argue, can be vulnerable to less sophisticated
62 63

Slaughter, op. cit. ibid. 64 ibid., p 211.

and socially dangerous agendas or dangerous expression. If institutionalised, this type of futures-based knowledge, if not challenged critically, can destabilise sound inquiry of the future. Configured with superficial or manipulative language, futurestext can limit senses of the present in forms of anxiety about time. These forms have been variously described by Alvin Toffler as future shock,66 by Lee Quimby as terminal cynicism,67 and by John Carroll as pneuma-phobia (dread or fear of spirit),68 At some level, maintains Slaughter, people dont want to know about tomorrow; today is quite enough.69 How then do we examine ideas, images and responses to the future?

65 66

ibid., p vii. Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, Sydney, Pan, 1980. 67 Lee Quimby, Millennial Dreams 6, The Spirit of Things, Radio National, broadcast, 1 March 2000. 68 John Carroll, Re-Enchantment, The Spirit of Things, Radio National, broadcast, 11 August 1999. 69 Slaughter, op. cit., p 10.

Chapter Three Calling the Bluff of Anodyne Views of the Future70 For some reason the past doesnt radiate such immense monotony as the future does. Because of its plenitude, the future is propaganda 71 To make a closer study of how uses of texts about the future are implicated in the construction of futures knowledges and subjectivities, a metalanguage is needed to provide an analysis of futures-thinking beyond the insightful interpretation phase, a theorisation that brings Australian studies, text and future into new relations with each other under the field of AFS. Given the future is usually conceived as something which does not exist, how, it can be asked, might one study something that popularly lacks empirical certification? The first task in interrogating ideas of the future is configuring an appropriate language of engagement. In the past, scientific terminology has characterised international futurology; for example, Yujiro Hayashis futuro-epistemology-conceptology-engineering,72 Franois Hetmans comprehensive guarantism,73 Paul Hawkens disintermediation,74 Alvin Tofflers posumerism75 and Herman Kahns basic long-term multifold

70 71

ibid., p 135. Joseph Brodsky, 1940-1996. Less Than One. 72 Yujiro Hayashi, The Direction and Orientation of Futurology as a Science, International Future research Congress, Oslo, 12-15 September 1967. 73 Franois Hetman, Futuribles, no 24, 10 February, 1962. 74 Paul Hawken, The Next Economy, New York, Henry Colt, 1984. 75 Alvin Toffler, The Third Wave, London, Pan Books, 1981.

trend.76 But language of this type has been open to accusations of appropriating possession over a study of processes through exclusive language and concept ownership. French sociologist Alain Gras was inspired on this basis to condemn futurology as basically a technique of political domination ultimately linked with the policy of ruling elites because its hidden agenda is the reproduction of domination.77 It is important to avoid impenetrability in meaning. As a guide I follow the example given by the public intellectual (see definition, Australian Public Intellectual-Network, In this way following the imperative towards a democratisation of representation in which all citizens partake in a form of Australian public intellectualism78 I draw upon the fields of Australian, communication, critical futures and cultural studies and propose that an elementary framework for exploring the tensions between choice, choosing and futures responsibility, while not invulnerable to criticism, is to look at the relationship between three layers of futures flow in Australia. These three distinct layers, through which an Australian futures discourse might be developed and explored, can be termed and defined in order of importance: futurestext, futurescape and futurespeak.

76 77

Herman Kahn and Anthony Wiener, The Year 2000, New York, Macmillan, 1967. quoted in Dublin, op. cit., p 112.

Futurestext By futurestext, I mean any media, practice or discourse that registers, refers to and/or encourages thought along the idea of future. The possible type of futurestext can range from an evangelical tract about the endtimes (such as the Jesus Loves You example in the introduction) to an advertisement on television in 1999 claiming that if you drive a Toyota car then the future is now. I use the suffix text to indicate that a futurestext typically has a material existence, though not necessarily limited to written form but inclusive of speeches, pamphlets, architecture, broadcasts and commercial. In this respect, futurestext can include epistemological futures studies such as Charles Birchs Confronting the Future (1993) and the Commission for the Future series and at the same time contemporary advertising and broadcast programming in which the future is often mobile and, as the late 1990s demonstrated, quite millennial: Next Stop: The Future, Queensland Rail; Job Access: Your ticket to a better future, Queensland Government; As we race for the future, we havent forgotten the past, Garuda International Airlines; The Future is Genovis, Genovis Sewing Machines; If you thought the past was great, stay tuned for the future, ABC Promotion (1998); Trust an unknown future in a known God, Taringa Baptist Church; Welcome to the future, Ron Casey launching Galaxy TV; Protecting our childrens future, Sunsmart; Gold Medal 2000, Energiser Drink; Spirit 2000: Olympic


Alison Lee, Discourse Analysis and Cultural (re)Writing, in Alison Lee and Cate Poynton (eds), Culture and Text, Allen and Unwin, St Leonards, 2000, p 194.

Dreaming, TV Special on ABC; Shape up for the future, Shape Milk; and The future is calling, Vodaphone. But a futurestext can also be understood in addition to being textual as a product of imaginative social and fiction mapping, as part of an imaginative (sometimes national) resource. It can be an object located in a framework of concepts and propositions situated around the idea future79 and as such can become a perspectival construct informed by the historical, linguistic, political and cultural situatedness of different types of writers.80 Such writers might be managers, academics, politicians, citizens, issue- activists, journalists, or even endtimers. There are, of course, other levels of meaning to the construction of text (and writer) within the term futurestext. Futurestext and Authentication In not being persuaded that authors of futurestext are somehow independent of subjective factors and of social and cultural influences, permitting unembroidered conceptions of the future, many of the matters raised in the discussion below on futurestext take what is commonly called the textual turn, engaging in questions of creating meaning and writing and representation both inside and outside the production of futurestext. Such questions are questions of power of who it is that produces which


M Mulkay, Science and the Sociology of Knowledge, New South Wales, Allen and Unwin, 1979, p 34. 80 Appadurai, op. cit., pp 221-2.

account of the [future] social world81 questions of pleasure and desire of which futurestexts persuade and convince, of whom they persuade and convince and to what desired ends, of who such a futurestext will be talking to in its production and its eventual distribution?82 and questions of social action what material change is the futurestext intended to produce in the writer and reader? Futurestext and Power: Plan or Be Planned For!83 Paul Longley Arthur writes significantly on the power of pre-colonisation antipodean fantasies to influence the formation of Australias historical consciousness over the past half millennia: [H]ypothetical space was utilised as a setting for European utopian fiction long before there was any concrete empirical knowledge of the region in Europe, Arthur claims. Visions of the Antipodes in literature formed a pre-text that greatly influenced (and effectively limited) the reality that Europeans found when they finally arrived in Australia. To Europeans landing in the uncharted Antipodes, it was as though they were playing out a colonial drama that had already been rehearsed on the stage of the European imagination.84
81 82

Lee, op. cit., pp 189-90. ibid. 83 Russell Ackoof, Creating the Corporate Future: Plan or Be Planned For, New York, Wiley, 1981. 84 Longley Arthur, in Barcan and Buchanan, op. cit., p 37.

Hypothetical space, or what Simon Ryan has called blank space, worked semiotically to form the antipodal landmass as empty, unsettled and inviting European inscription.85 Exploration played a critical part in Australias coming-into-being as a place in which Europeans could be situated imaginatively. As Paul Carter has investigated elsewhere in The Road to Botany Bay, exploration effected a transformation of [hypothetical] space into [real] place.86 Exploring the fantasy was both an influential and transformative process in the creation of Australia. What is revealing of the power behind such fantasies and fictions of the future and their eventual exploration? Power is an important issue because futurestext can structure the self-constitution or imaginations of ones own future reality if not that of an entire community, sect, class, or nation. As the European fiction of blank space sanctioned a future policy of terra nullius (since Australia was effectively empty in their imagination, awaiting inscription), it can be maintained that images of the future can act (and have acted) in the service of social control. This is neither a recent observation nor a novel development in human relations. The ideological bias of projected vision is not unusual in futurology, remarks Max Dublin87 and has considerable history.


Simon Ryan, The Cartographic Eye: How Explorers Saw Australia, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996, p 105. 86 Tony Hughes-dAeth, A Prospect of Future Regularity: Spatial Technologies in Colonial Australia, in Ruth Barcan and Ian Buchanan (eds), Imagining Australian Space: Cultural Studies and Spatial Inquiry, University of Western Australia Press, 1999, p 48-9. 87 Dublin, op. cit., p 100.

For example, in 1798, English economist Thomas Malthus published the treatise An Essay on the Principle of Population As it Affects the Future Improvement of Society that revealed the cheerless future of overpopulation and widespread famine awaiting the citizens of industrial societies. Malthusian calculus made the world familiar with the practice of prediction and in so doing ignited a debate over the limits to growth, not unlike the discussions found in the Club of Rome publications produced during the 1970s. Malthus used mathematics to predict that a looming imbalance between population growth and food supply would lead to the eventual starvation of England. But the solution prescribed by Malthus that the lower classes should inhibit their rate of reproduction served less as futurestext imbued with the ethical and moral intelligence of say the biblical prophets and more the self-righteous intervention of a threatened elite: It is conventional wisdom among historians, offers Max Dublin, that this prescription vindicated the prejudices of the dominant elite of the society in which Malthus live who wanted to blame the poor for their misery rather than take some of the responsibility for this situation on themselves.88 Nearly two centuries later, George Orwells famous and relevant exploration of the future in 1984 is the story of Winston Smiths rebellion against the Party, of his hatred towards Big Brother and thoughtcrime. Early into this fictional exploration, Winston reflects on the perpetual state of war that has existed between Oceania and Eurasia: The Party said that Oceania

ibid., p 99. See also Annie Vinokor, Malthusian Ideology and the Crisis of the Welfare State and John Sherwood, Engels, Marx, Malthus and the Machine, in American Historical Review, vol 90, no 4, 1985.

had never been in alliance with Eurasia ... But where did that knowledge exist? Only in his own consciousness ... if all the others accepted the lie that the party imposed if all records told the same tale, then the lie passed into history and became truth. "Who controls the past," ran the Party slogan, "controls the future: who controls the present controls the past." It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. "Reality control," they called it; in Newspeak, "doublethink.89 Transposing the direction of Orwells commentary, from a control of knowledge about the past to a control of future mythology, provides more than just an occasional point. To paraphrase, a modern re-configuration of Orwells argument might suggest that who controls the future controls the present, and that all is required is an unending series of victories over your imagination. Troubled by societys overwhelming willingness to be guided by futurologists (as some scientific workers of futures ideas are known as) with what he identified to be selfish goals, Max Dublin wrote in Futurehype: A well-articulated vision of the future is the natural centrepiece of most ideological systems, especially those on the farther ends of the political spectrum. He explains, extreme ideologies all envision the playing out of a great drama over time, and the final [dramatic] climax be it the withering of the state if it is an ideology of the Left, or some sort of breathtaking apocalypse in which the world will be destroyed and/or renewed if it is one on the Right is always played out at some, usually


George Orwell, 1984, p 34.

unspecified, period in the future.90 Behind contemporary new age enthusiasm, Slaughter identifies atavistic conceptions of futures involving territoriality, domination and conquest, prompting him to conclude having traced the military and strategic roots of American futurism: behind every large-scale project of the future lie interests that are served in the present.91 Ivan Illich argued in 1971 that futurology promoted cultural contraction along technocratic lines. He remarked in Deschooling Society that research now going on about the future tends to advocate further increases in the institutionalisation of values.92 Works such as Tofflers Future Shock trilogy (1990), Hazel Hendersons Creating Alternative Futures (1978), Lelia Green and Roger Gunerys Framing Technology: Society, Choice and Change (1994), Oliver Markleys Changing Images of Man (1974), Birchs Confronting the Future (1993), Slaughters Future Concepts and Powerful Ideas (1996), and Lynette Hunters Critiques of Knowing: Situated Textualities in Science, Computing and the Arts (1999), represent attempts to locate technocratic and meritocratic values within society and to distinguish which inherited meanings from the industrial era have gone sour.93 Taken together, they mark a growing widespread movement of retreat from history, culture and tradition in the reconceptualisation of meaning in the future. Primarily the central process at work within the social sciences (which these texts are products of) is the growing distrust of objectivity. Post-positivist,
90 91

Max Dublin, Futurehype, Victoria, Penguin, 1989, p 104. Slaughter, op. cit., p 228. 92 Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society, New York, Harper and Row, 1971, p 2.

postmodernism, feminist, poststructuralist and interpretivist critiques have eroded the basis on which the social sciences once claimed certainty about what was being studied and said. In reopening the Australian civilisation debate in his book of the same name, Nile noted a similar retreat, that the present argument was informed by the fin de siecle and fin de millennium, a period of extraordinary change and great communal soul-searching. We are caught in the midst of tremendous upheavals in our social, cultural and personal relationships, he wrote six years prior to the turn of the millennium, in an age when time- honoured intellectual, emotional and economic assumptions neither sustain nor comfort us. Nile saw the complexion of the country to be transforming before our eyes, more than lightly encouraged by the twin group fantasies of fin de siecle and fin de millennium.94 It is useful then to speak of the future as a situated textuality with specific invested interests and a power to transform and control. In this view, it is possible to describe the purpose of futurestext in media and media practice as intending to produce some form of material change, as elicited by the more powerful members of a society, a community or a collective.
93 94

Slaughter, op. cit., p 226. Richard Nile, Australian Civilisation, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1994, p vii.

Futurestext and the Consumption of Performative Transformational Rituals Futurestext can be dispersed along different modes of communication through Arjun Appadurais mediascape or Douglas Rushkoffs datasphere. Consumption of a futurestext can be quite widespread and diverse as futures are exportable between individuals, groups and nations. The future is like a sign, or a nation (Benedict Andersons imagined community) or even a television audience (John Hartleys invisible fiction) a construct of particular institutions which, when linked to the means of both producing and organising meaning in social contexts, can be internalised widely by an audience that Toby Miller has defined to be composed of well-tempered citizens.95 This socialisation of a thing produced (that is, a futurestext) has associations with Horkheimer and Adornos theorisation of the culture industry. In a modern setting, their argument refers to the power of radio, cinema and television (and the related if less sophisticated output of advertising) to transform value into a product (or lifestyle) exchanged within a capitalist system. This account does not assume that the individual is a passive subject in the sequence of cultural administration. Yet, on terms of this projects investigation, the cultural production of a futurestext (say, the iconic 2000) at the level of mass dispersion and consumption can both embrace and constrain all humans subject to its influence. As an illustration, although celebrating millennial eve on the Sydney Harbour may benefit status from obtaining expensively priced (and therefore rare) seating at a restaurant, they were in fact as powerless before the

textual politics of 2000 as non-celebrating citizens. Neither group could effect any change on the imminence of 2000 as an event. Why not? Because, 2000 had become more than another date on the anno Domini calendar. It had become both a transnational and translational (to appropriate Arjun Appadurais terminology) product toward the close of the 1990s. It was transnational because viewing the dawn of 2000 as it moved across the face of the planet (and therefore across national boundaries, as if through a form of international turnstiles) during the 24-hour live telecast perhaps best described as a moment of the millennial tuned-in planet confirmed the spatialisation of millennial appearance. A non-existence of national limits was made viewable by global media technologies: the millennium seemingly travelled everywhere. No nation could hide from it. In a collusion of different rituals of celebration and perhaps instances of what might be called temporal cross-dressing millions watched and celebrated on the night of 31 December 1999 as representatives of native epistemologies (for example, the Maori in New Zealand) welcomed in the year 2000 (which is fundamentally a western site of meaning and not Maori ritual) alongside the competition of conspicuous consumption in fireworks between western subjects (say, Sydney Harbour and Thames River, London). The year 2000 was translational because it became a broadly disseminated discourse in which the particularities of a culture were subsumed to celebrating the millennium in a global framework. Though the social specificity of producing meaning in 2000 was tied at times to western contextual locations and social systems of value (Big Ben, Sydney Harbour

Miller, op. cit.

Bridge, Times Square, fireworks, dance and drink), 2000 was also translated into non-western (other) sites of culture, often with the invention of a new tradition (celebrating 2000 was not an activity usually coded within society). In other words, celebrating 2000 became a global rite de passage which marked both a transition from one stage of life to another (from the second millennium to the third) and the submission of individual societies to the collective requirements of ritualising 2000 as an event. Primetime television certainly broadcast this sense of celebratory cohesion; as a unity through incorporation of the diverse practices commemorating the year 2000. Futurestext and the Western Inscription of Time: Temporal Nullius In the closing year of the twentieth century, the world appeared, for all intents and purposes, to be engaged in anticipating the future at a millennial turning point. Yet, Australian faith in 2000AD was constituted as pre- thematic, pre-theoretical and culturally imported: pre-theoretical in that popular awareness of an imminent millennium was not largely nor actively informed by the cognitive interests of an academic discipline; pre-thematic in that 2000AD assumed a position of commonplace involvement in contemporary public dialogue; and culturally imported as belief in 2000AD was not exclusive nor indigenous to Australia. Curious questions arise as to the nature of belief in this futurestext. What did contemporary society believe in the year 2000 and why? In what way did Australian television networks and media impute the potential of 2000AD? Did the urge towards global chronometric cohesion insist (and here the project of politicising time

extends beyond national boundaries) that other cultures use this form of counting and think about the year 2000 in the same regard that western societies did? We might recognise that cultural uses of time are never for minor effects. Gaynor Macdonald argues that notions of time and timelessness and the related phenomena of stasis, tradition, history and change have always been a part of the politics of constructing Aboriginalities in Australia.96 Exploring the intersection between concepts of time and political power within Aboriginal contexts, Macdonald continues: Employed as means of inclusion and exclusion, notions of time have been an effective medium of governance. More recently they have become part of Aboriginal strategies for negotiating access to resources. Concepts of time have been politicised and contested, for instance, in recent native title and stolen generation debates.97 When we use the calendar medium non-reflexively, we accept and reinscribe the belief and Williams has argued that it is nothing more or less than an arbitrary collective act of faith that it is our cultural practice of anno Domini computation that literally makes possible continuity into the secular millennium. Yet the act of arriving at the millennium is a triumph of collective awareness in which a series of narratives around a structured and fictional object of time (the millennium) converge. Media heraldry of pre- and post-millennial activism facilitates this semantic innovation and the

Gaynor Macdonald, Time and the creation of Aboriginalities, In/Between, < /history/conferences/inbetween/>. 97 ibid.

new temporal locus (2000AD plus) is brought into the world by means of language. In synthesising the heterogenous, dissimilar content within the numerous millennial narratives (including their story-tellers and audiences) is gathered together and harmonised. With print and electronic modes of communication eliciting dramatic responses of celebration, the multiplicity of events and structural features of the immediate future are seized all at once by the authorial overview of 2000AD.15 In other words, there arose a formal agreement among the communities that produce and maintain Australias timing that the millennium should assert symbolic power in various culturally accepted and novel forms. How these powers (or themes of celebration, transformation, etc) are written into the symbolic and actual life-space of our lives, how ideas, ideologies, commitments and particular ways of construing the future world are signified, legitimised and communicated, how mainstream definitions of millennium, for example, are imputed in the processes of cultural editing and social and cultural change, is worthy of serious enquiry.98 New images, admits Elise Boulding, generate new behaviour possibilities. Particular images like the millennium as signified by the symbol 2000, used often during the 1990s to structure possibilities of historical transformation (moving from the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century) are selectively empowered and explode later into the realised future. She concludes, in any cultural epoch, only certain images of the future out of a much wider pool develop enough cultural resonance to affect process,


Slaughter, op. cit., p 95.

and to move toward actualisation.99 In what way do certain images become selected and written into the contemporary cultural code? How is one future certified over another? Perhaps, as a theoretical extension of Ryans blank space, there exists in the post industrialised imagination a blank time that invites (along with potent imperialist associations) a form of western inscription: a temporal nullius as it were, a time existing in a blank state as a precondition to exploration, that is ours for colonising. Certainly, exploring the millennium prior to its televised revelation seemed to be something of a national obsession in Australia during the 1990s. For a short time, dramas imaging the twenty-first century, popular science docutainments on the future of the human species, social commentators forecasting Australia twenty-years ahead, endtimers heralding an impending apocalypse, shops marketing year 2000 merchandise (from spectacles to boxers), advertisements using 2000 or apocalyptic signifiers to bolster sales all these things became centred in popular and public consciousness. How was this possible? Much like explorers (re)spatialised the Australian continent100 at the time of colonisation, their activities bridging the gap between Australia as it was imagined and Australia as it was discovered,101 narratives of exploration are frequently deployed to re-temporalise the future around moments of implied public significance. Towards 2000 (also a title of one such published narrative), descriptive accounts and imaginative fictions produced by pop

Elise Boulding, The Dynamics of Imaging Futures, World Future Society Bulletin, 1978, vol 12, no 5, pp 1-8. 100 Hughes-dAeth, op. cit., p 48.

futurists and vocal social elites (scientists, commentators, politicians, sporting figures, academics, etc) followed an imperative to know the future surrounding the turn of the millennium and beyond. Their fictions were implemented and recycled via newspapers, dramatic displays, television and radio broadcasts, publications, symposia and conferences (those mechanisms that Benedict Anderson identifies for providing imaginary links between citizens). As an example, the Australian television program Beyond 2000 (formerly Towards 2000) achieved a similar aim through a discourse of scientific edutainment. Throughout each weekly episode, it sustained an evolving relationship between the fictional object (future) and a new human-centred temporal fact (controllable and thereby knowable), contrary to the futures otherwise naturalised state (unknowable). Texts like this direct their audiences away from considering that what is written or spoken about the future is a human product or political fiction supported by social convention. This creates a site of textual contestation in which futurestexts are authenticated by their authors that is, environmental warnings are proved by scientists, horoscopes are foreseen by astrologists and even signs of the times tracts are revealed by believers. These fictions and others like them contribute to the way Australians collectively constru(ct)ed a sense of the time in which they live. In this manner, the future around 2000 was situated in the Australian imagination and moved from being unknown to known in a process of possessing time.

Longley Arthur, op. cit., p 45.

Futurestext and Writing In terms of Paul Carters classic investigation of exploration texts and Cartesian techniques of apprehending space, the millennium was explored, colonised and then exploited. It was written into being and the future moved from temporal nullius to a landscape of futurestexts, a futurescape. The notion of writing and signification used here are understood as processes of transformation rather than representation102 and, in this sense, it is argued that futurestext act, that they produce and position the future as a social process or discrete detail to which citizens respond accordingly.103 Anne Game, in her 1991 work Undoing the Social: Towards a Deconstructive Sociology, begins with the basic semiotic assumption that culture or the social is written, that there is no extra-discursive real outside cultural systems.104 In other words, the way an author conceptualises the future creates (writes) the text that is disseminated. There are no real futures (text) apart from what is perceived that way. Cultural innovation or transformation can be closely related in this manner with the production, combination and utilisation of selected, arguably real, futures images. Slaughter makes significant claims for the power of futures work in analysing transformation: By understanding the present cultural transition
102 103

Ann Game and Andrew Metcalfe, Passionate Sociology, London, Sage, 1996, p 91. Paul Rabinow, Representations are Social Facts: Modernity and Postmodernity in Anthropology, in James Clifford and George Marcus (eds), Writing Culture: the Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, Berkeley, University of California Press, pp 234-61. 104 Anne Game, Undoing the Social: Towards a Deconstructive Sociology, Milton Keynes, Open University Press, 1991, p 4.

less in terms of the external regulation or control of techniques and technologies, than as a transformative process involving breakdowns and renewals of meanings, we penetrate to the core of all our major concerns.105 This has a certain resonance with discussions on culture shift, Mackays age of redefinition, or Niles becoming civilisation thesis. Australia may very well be a text itself, still in the process of being (re)written by authors whom we only occasionally get glimpses of. Australia, it can be argued, is an example of what post-structuralists envisage as the subject-in-process. That is, one subject out of many dispersed over a range of multiple positions, sites of struggle and discourses, which defying what has been called the master narrative nonetheless becomes an optional (and often dominant, as times of war or the Olympics would indicate) construct of national identity out of various signifying codes and practices. The move from monoculture to multicultural and back during the 1990s reveals that this is an ongoing process Yet within the expanded definition that futurestext might indicate all forms of textual and discursive practice involving futures thinking, questions of power and desire in (futures) textual production inevitably connect with questions of public accountability and the material effects of (futures) texts. Depending on ones subjective relation to any given futurestext, some constructs of Australias future appear more real or carry greater meaning than others: not all futures are created equal.

Slaughter, op. cit., p 228.

Futurestext and the Subjectivity / Objectivity Dichotomies Critical discourse analysis has in part been formative of my own understandings of the situatedness of futures thinking and futurestext. Within feminist postructuralist accounts of cultural studies and critical discourse analysis, a special reading of the term method is available through the work of Alison Lee, Cate Poynton, Sandra Harding, Patti Lather and Cleo Cherryholmes. In drawing on poststructuralist understandings of method, Lee and Poynton provide a useful metaphor for the power relations involved in textual inscription which can be applied to and instructive in describing uses of futurestext: [P]oststructuralist readings, write the editors of Culture and Text, view research and knowledge production as always and inevitably an enactment of power relations.106 Research practices viewed in this way can be construed more as: Inscriptions of legitimation than procedures [which] help us get closer to some truth that is capturable via language [This] allows an understanding of the force of textuality, its formalised strategies for convincingness, its speech acts.107 But this is not to concede the form of textualisation that Marxism and socialist feminists disapprove of in its disregard for the lived relations of

106 107

Lee and Poynton, op. cit., p 198. ibid.

domination that ground the play of arbitrary reading.108 As a site of epistemological struggle, what is at stake in deconstructing futurestext is the capacity to depose default definitions and ideological functions of the future that is, given static conceptions versus alternative dynamic perceptions, business as usual versus strategic realignment, industrial epistemologies versus critical futures methodologies. It is to problematise the understandings, concepts and values of the future that are mistaken as given and theoretically neutral. It is to gain access to meanings and commitments that tend to be hidden precisely because they frame our world. The reader becomes not a passive observer but a co-author, fully capable of calling forth meaning, purpose and intention.109 Futurestext and the Theorisation of Futures Positions The theorisation of situated/positional futures in Australia and Australian studies requires a metalanguage concerning the future for revealing the potential usefulness of fine-grained futures description and an account that attends to the connections between political, social, cultural, linguistic, institutional and theoretical dimensions of futures-thinking. The type of conception of textual and cultural practice informing this theorisation derives principally from intersections between cultural studies accounts of situated knowledges, intertextuality and culture and Australian studies accounts of civilisation, becoming and writing.
108 109

Haraway, op. cit., p 274. Slaughter, op. cit., p 228.

Taking key writers in turn to define each of these terms, Lee and Poynton, in their work Culture and Text, focus on a poststructuralist understanding of text: Situated knowledges offers a way to think about the circumstances in which texts arise and how they are used and mean [These] knowledges are distributed through assemblages of texts situated in appropriate contexts, where text may involve various forms of semiosis, not just language, and where setting both is and is not context and certainly involves institution [I]ndividuals come to speak as particular kinds of subjects to speak themselves into being through speaking the discourses that enable the particular institution.110 John Frow and Meaghan Morris, following the work of Raymond Williams, cite culture as a way of life: the whole way of life of a social group as it is structured by representation and by power a network of representations texts, images, talk, codes of behaviour, and the narrative structures organising these which shapes every aspect of social life.111 Nile constructs the notion of Australian civilisation as a text written in lies. A book on civilisation should very likely be full of wonderful lies, opens Australian Civilisation, and a book on Australia would seem to require, almost as a matter of course, that lies be told. This much, at least, those two marvellously loaded words Australia and civilisation appear to share in common. Its all lies.112 Yet with these lies comes an inevitable tension with truth and legitimacy: At the heart of settler Australian anxieties are
110 111

Lee and Poynton, op. cit., p 5. John Frow and Meaghan Morris (eds), Australian Cultural Studies: a reader, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, p viii.

deep seeded feelings of illegitimacy Australia is a tension pulling in two directions simultaneously, of a civilisation that has not yet arrived but just about to end and the end of civilisation, as much as Australias unconventional beginnings, are with Australia much of the time.113 Similarly puzzled by what Ffion Murphy calls one of the most persistent questions connected to the study of Australia: does Australia have a unique culture in any sense of the word that may, for whatever reason, be worthy of study?, Cameron Richards searched for a methodological framework for celebrating and critiquing Australia and was compelled ultimately to make sense of Richard Whites brilliant if undeveloped and contradictory insight that it is not so important whether the images of Australia are true or false, but how they are used [It seemed] that the paradox of Australian Studies is largely a result of critics approaching the forms and discourse of Australian cultural history as if they were either literally true of false.114 With the publication of Writing Australia: New Talents 21C, Murphy responds to the 1990s silencing of the knowledge class and argues for a renewal of the public intellectual debate and a (re)writing of Australian studies. Concerned with the practices and politics of representation within Australian studies and the public sphere, Murphy problematises the active citizenship of intellectuals and mobilises a re-invigoration of the public intellectual voice:

112 113

Richard Nile (ed.), Australian Civilisation, op. cit., p 1. Richard Nile, Civilisation, in Richard Nile (ed.), The Australian Legend and its Discontents, University of Queensland Press, 2000.

With breathtaking simplicity, just about any suggestion of detailed cultural analysis could be swept aside on the basis that the questions raised were too academic, merely hypothetical, overly partisan, not dignified, lacking common sense or outside the bounds of reasonableness Linguistically, Australia moved from

reconciliation to the black armband view of history, from multiculturalism to the mainstream, from tolerance to un- Australian, and from the republic to the monarchy. Arguably, societies most need their public intellectuals when circumstances do not favour them.115 In closing the introduction, Murphy challengingly lays out the new canvas of Australian studies, moving away from nationalistic forms of Australian studies enquiry to a more critical, dynamic, pro-active frame of discussion: Writing Australia suggests that public intellectual inquiry is in very capable hands. Next generation researchers and writers are more than able to assume responsibilities for maintaining and extending studies into Australia Australian studies may now mean something quite different to traditional practices and the various attempts made in the 1970s and 1980s to establish Australian studies as a discreet and identifiable academic discipline. It may also mean something quite

Cameron Richards, The Australian Paradox(es) Revisited, in Ffion Murphy (ed.), Writing Australia: New Talents 21C, St Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 2000, p 175.

different to the classic divide and territorial disputes between Australian and cultural studies referred to by Cameron Richards.116 Futurescape This brings us to the second term of reference: futurescape. Futurestexts are the building blocks of to extend Benedict Andersons imagined community and Arjun Appadurais imagined worlds what I call the futurescape. What is a futurescape? It can be reasonably argued that we live within societies that increasingly value information, data, images and ideologies; that increasingly places emphasis on colonising intellectual territory through various novel forms of media; that seeks to empower those possessing the greater territory of knowledge; and which promotes the acquisition of information for its own sake. Social stature today is measured by how much access an individual has to the datasphere, how much interaction an individual has with differing and competing forms of data. The Internet has contributed to eroding maps and boundaries, to eroding territorial frontiers. Little space remains to conquer. One of the last places left for our societies to explore perhaps a frontier is time itself: namely the future. It might be argued that power today has very little to do with material possessions and financial assets acquired in a lifetime; power, it might be suggested, is

115 116

Murphy, op. cit., pp 3-4. ibid., p 11.

instead determined by the amount of control an individual can exercise over the(ir) future and the(ir) concept of the future. By this, I mean the politics of actively inventing the future and the politics of promoting a dominant future that includes one set and excludes another set of beliefs. To reason along these lines requires an examination of the link between citizen and society in the cultural construction of futures and facing some questions about the nature of belief in the social fantasy of futures. In the contemporary context of approaching the third millennium we might ask about this future: what is our relationship its conceptualisation? Which individuals have a voice in select or prominent visualisations of the future? In what way do particular groups control or influence the expression of the future? Which individuals of these groups create the icons and symbols of the future? Are these icons subject to modification? Society's perspective of the future has expanded into a true region of prime socio-temporal territory a millennium, a place of time seemingly as real and open as the world was half a millennium ago, with unknowable, unstable and dangerously competitive elements. This new space I call the futurescape. It is not an objectively defined space that appears the same from every angle of vision. Rather, the futurescape is the site of human intellectual endeavour, economic extrapolation, social trending, and political invention. As a matter of form, there are at least two distinct futurescapes at work within Australian society, though in describing them their boundaries are by no means definite. They are the theological futurescape and the secular futurescape.

Theological Futurescapes Youngs argument that the gazer into the future has never yet found a really comfortable intellectual position, and perhaps never should unless, that is, he is a preacher, has wide applicability in the theological futurescape which is replete with preachers of all types promulgating a future.117 The theological futurescape is characterised by four primary features. First, it is a thematic area that anticipates the future in light of biblical prophecy, especially the key text, Revelation. Introduced in its first chapter as 'the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him to show his servants things which must occur shortly come to pass', at the cusp of 2000 years of the Common Era, evangelical groups are still proclaiming shortly but with ever greater conviction. It is of scholarly interest that evangelist groups mediate the book of Revelation often through complicated, sometimes unrecognised links to the secular world - and shape the communication of this text to Christian readers in a way that no two Christian groups connect us to the text in the same process. Yet all claim that their reading of Revelation and contemporary times is true and accurate. Hence, the theological futurescape is competitive where the prime currency is membership numbers, adherents to prophetic doctrine. Second, modern-day evangelist groups tend to make distinctions between scholarly and faithful approaches to biblical prophecy. The scholarly approach does not view biblical prophecy as self-contained or self-

M Young, Forecasting and the Social Sciences, Heinnemann, 1968, as quoted in Slaughter, op. cit., p 212.

authenticating. Contemporary evangelist groups are aware of this and so seek to uncover the connections in prophecy that are not apparent on the surface, the latent connections, the hidden structures and the invisible systems of biblical prophecy of which the secular world is a part. In this sense, theological chronologies that 'prove' the prophetic faculty of biblical prophecy, that 'prove' the end of the world is tomorrow, have become a fad of our age. Considerable effort is expended in establishing the truth behind a chronology and the identification of Endtime signs alongside the legitimisation of biblical codes of conduct. In effect, the theological futurescape is prophecy-driven. Third, in present-day evangelism, biblical prophecy takes on distinctive hues, shapes and qualities reflective of the contemporary society the evangelist inhabits. The approach of the year 2000 seems to evoke excess response from evangelist groups throughout the world and such communities respond strongly to new technologies, political patterns and manoeuvring on the global stage, and the turn of the millennium. Whereas the secular futurescape, it can be said, is being funnelled down to a key calendar point, that is the turning of the millennium, the sheer inability to pinpoint biblical prophecy to a specific timeline that every evangelist group agrees upon has cultivated a theological futurescape of competing chronologies and contested Endtime interpretations. The Theological Futurescape is conspicuous for its lack in homogeneity. Finally, the Futurescape is inhabited by evangelists, an umbrella term used here to refer broadly to Christian fundamentalists, evangelicals, Pentecostals, charismatics and Christian cultist who insist on some sort of spiritual rebirth

as a criterion for entering the kingdom of heaven, who often impose exacting behavioural standards on the faithful and intense pondering on the outworking of prophecy in our time, and whose doctrines, organisations, publications and activities comprise the theological futurescape. Secular Futurescapes The concerns and inhabitants of the Secular Futurescape are politically different to those of the theological persuasion. For example, within the Australian secular futurescape, probing questions flourish about our collective national direction, questions posed by, for example, politicians, social commentators, secularists, academics, and issue-activists: What will be Australia's orientation within the proposed new international order? Will Australia in the twenty-first century still be responsible for its own well-being and self-reliant development based upon national sovereignty and the creative utilisation of its resources? What role will ecological sustainability play in the make-up of future Australian society? Will Australia have self- assured and self-confident control over its own destiny? Or will Australia's development as an autonomous entity be jeopardised by other nation's decisions? Will the international forces that have to date greatly influenced Australian politics, economic development, foreign policy and cultural tastes, take over completely? For the Australian seeking to colonise the futurescape with their own intellectual flag, exploration of these questions involves reconsideration of what it means to be "Australian" today and consideration of the alternative

scenarios for future Australia which have emerged in recent years (of which the Ecologically Sustainable Society and the Multicultural Republic are the most controversial, ambitious and far-reaching). In a substantial respect, there is a growing, albeit intensifying, call for a millennial dimension, or at any rate some millennial potential, to such scenarios (a quick example would be that Australia should be a Republic for the Sydney 2000 Olympics) and within secular futures-thinking itself, moreso than any corresponding period of prospective thought that has gone before. Such intersections between Australian-futures rhetoric and the millennial motif repertoire are enhanced by the chronological "fact" of the secular millennium "being so close". Among the projections and planning of future Australia, 2000AD is so charged with profound symbolic connotations that it has become the cornerstone of both our signifying practices of futurity and our chronological framework for the future. From this vantage point, popular and "official" futurists seek to identify the images of post-2000AD Australia that are "possible", "desirable" or "necessary" and outline the current objectives under way to achieve and relate the future image of society to the present. However, these explorations and scenarios do not exist as pure abstract imaginings or in an ideological vacuum totally disassociated from contemporary culture and the rhythms of civilisation. Instead, they are anchored quite strongly within: a generated context of great communal anticipation towards this moment named the turn(ing) of the millennium; for example, the Australian newspapers running articles that ask, how will you celebrate 2000AD? on the assumption that Australians will or should; a manufactured context of importance about our modes of signification and

identification in the future through invalidating current symbols; for example, those with a public voice seek to ask Does the Australian flag adequately represent our future identity? (But what are the cultural implications of throwing Australia's symbols and identity into question, specifically when related to the necessity and practicability of shaping the future?); and an existing hierarchy of political power where those who seek and are able to influence the direction of our culture do so by infusing and grafting new ideas onto our chronological framework (for example, prime minister Paul Keating often linked the political call for an Australian republic with the year 2000. Like any landscape, it has different features that arouse our attention and distract us: these range from mainstream representations of the secular futurescape, particularly those sci-fi entertainments exported to Australia from America, to home-grown advertisements which market the future as a flexible but attainable commodity. Futurespeak Futurespeak is the language and discursive strategies used to talk and think about the future. Typically, there are three primary metaphoric paradigms for sensing/tensing the future: the future as where; the future as when; and the future as what. The future as where or elsewhere began with Thomas Moores Utopia. Speculation about a more just society and sensational fabulations about unusual peoples and cultures, tended for a considerable period to be set on remote islands and great southern continents, presented as hearsay,

dialogues or traveller's tales. The grand archetype of traveller's tales is Gulliver's Travels by virtue of Gulliver's voyages to places where he has encounters with strange creatures. In contemporary times, the spatial metaphor of where, as some kind of place, had the effect of locating the future in some direction forwards, as derived from the scouting party or the ship of traveller's tales. Such metaphors of where' and its rhetorical answer forwards as the direction in which we would like to encounter the future, condition people to think time in terms of a linear direction, with the future down the track, and implies that we are advancing towards it. Certainly, visions of the near future, authenticated by the secular mythology of physical and social progress forward, are pervasive in contemporary futurestext. Second, metaphors implying that the future is in some manner forward sense the future simply at a later and somewhat flexible date. In this sense, the future is located in some future time, and in the conversion of elsewhere to elsewhen, contemporary futurespeak locates the future at some forward date like, say, the twenty-first century. And third, there is the future as what. In this framework, the future may be understood in terms of metaphors deriving from conditions, values, beliefs, the governing order, etc. In the contemporary society this can include the exchange of references to the new world order, the ecologically sustainable society, the pacific century, the multicultural republic of Australia, a return to a prior golden age, and a theocratic kingdom.

Chapter Four Against the Mainstream: Alternative (Pre-Apocalypse) Styles of Futures- thinking Through this investigation of contemporary futurestext I argue that fragmentation of Australias future perspective along apocalyptic fault lines is most visible during the last decade of the twentieth century. Indeed, apocalyptic subjects exercise a strong influence over Australias internal styles of thinking about the future towards the close of the 1990s. During this period, many religious organisations through their publishing arms provided an intellectual justification and articulated account of their apocalyptic and endist positions that usually always opposed dominant cultural values of progress. The default view is to regard their accounts as positioned on the margins of society. Yet their styles of futures-thinking which suggested a form of apocalyptic anticipation towards the times ahead were produced and expressed within a specific historical, cultural and symbolic conjuncture of late twentieth century globalisation, postmodernism and pre-millennial apocalyptic expectation inclusive of society. Richard Landes, director of the Centre for Millennial Studies in Boston and close observer of millennial movements and moments in recent American history, has explored uses of the relationship between the first apocalypse (1000 anno Domini) and contemporary millennium activities around 2000AD for understanding approaches to the third millennium. Drawing on the social effects of the calendar shift in the year 1000, he argues that although apocalyptic, millennial discourse is usually studied as a marginal occurrence,

staying at the fringes of mainstream society, producing minor, mostly ineffectual communities that attract small numbers of adherents and occasionally arouse wider public attention in their habits of setting a date for the end of the world, it can occupy positions of centrality in society from time to time. Landes calls the infrequent but nonetheless intense instances of public curiosity around announced dates of Armageddon as media apocalypses. Media apocalypses are unique events in which the brief public broadcast of marginal styles of apocalyptic thinking can galvanise the appeal of an end-of the-world-as-we-know-it (shorthanded in internet circles as teotwawki) date on a broader, less marginal scale, albeit until the customary prophetic no show. In general terms, this configuration between apocalyptic margin and secular centre is reproduced quite significantly within Australian media and scholarship. Australia has not been immune from short-lived but intense moments of media apocalypse in an otherwise secularised journey through time. On 19 January 1976, the preferred place to be in Australia was anywhere but Adelaide, which was prophesied by a housepainter to be washed away by a tsunami Gods watery revenge on Adelaide for becoming a sin city. It made local headlines and popular history: Hamish Robertson: Good morning. I'm Hamish Robertson, this is AM. And first, let's say a cheery Good Morning, Adelaide, nice to see you're still with us. Today of course is The Day, January 19th, which if an Adelaide housepainter-cum-clairvoyant can be believed, is the day the city could meet its doom. There's to be an earthquake and tidal wave.

No hard, or even soft, scientific facts mind you, just a feeling. But Adelaide has taken heed, it seems, and their King Canute, Premier Don Dunstan, is down at Glenelg Jetty today to prove there's nothing to worry about. Also watching the water lap around the jetty is Jim Bonner. Jim Bonner: The Glenelg Jetty at this moment probably looks the same as it does at this time of the day every summer, with the first few tourists and would-be swimmers just starting to turn up. I don't know if any of them are taking the day off work, but they might be here for the party that is meant to get under way soon. A pastry-cook is going to sell pasties and orange juice in anticipation of a big crowd. He'll be dressed for the occasion in case anything unusual occurs: in a bow tie, bathers, flippers and snorkel. There's also a report of insurance company employees walking to work wearing wetsuits and underwater diving gear. But job absenteeism is one of the big worries as a result of what Mr Dunstan describes as the 'quite nonsensical hysteria arising from the earthquake and tidal wave prediction.' Don Dunstan: There is absolutely no basis for it at all. And I would not make a statement about it because I think it's such nonsense, but for the fact that it has already caused a very great deal of community damage, and is likely to cause more from the reports and complaints that have been made to me. There have been families that have put themselves into debt to move out of South Australia at that time, there

are other families who have sold their houses when they couldn't afford to do so. That sort of thing has happened amongst some poorer sections of the community. I'm trying to see to it that there is no more damage, and trying to reassure people that there is absolutely nothing in this at all.118 In Australian scholarship, apocalyptic styles of approaching the future are conventionally read as strategies of individuation (expecting an end of things) resisting dominant, mainstream forms of futures thinking (anticipating a progress of things). That is, users of apocalyptic styles are commonly situated at the margins of society; they are seen to resist a centre of social-humanist ideas including notions of progress, secularism, technophilia and scientific extrapolation; and their associated literature, usually apocalyptic in nature, both arises from and continues the situation of struggle between margin and centre. For example, texts like the Watchtower Announcing Jehovahs Kingdom or Awake! magazines, produced by the Watchtower and Bible Tract Society (official publishing arm of the Jehovahs Witnesses sect), were the objects of 10,279,163 hours of home-based tutoring and door-knocking activities. These texts were the required reading in 19,368 separate Jehovahs Witness-led Bible-study sessions in Australia 1998, an increase of 1 per cent over 1997.119 These texts give voice


Re-aired 23 January 2000 in Millennial Dreams Four, Rachael Kohn, The Spirit of Things, Radio National. 119 1999 Yearbook of Jehovahs Witnesses, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Philadelphia, 1999, pp 32-3.

to the combination of Watchtower millennial dreams and apocalyptic expectation. Such literatures serve to maintain sectarian communitarian (as an illustration, all Jehovahs Witnesses congregations throughout the world are synchronised to study the same weekly tract at the same time) and doctrinal cohesion. Additionally, in filtering mainstream news and events through a signs of the endtimes sieve, magazines like the Watchtower examples, assist in framing strategies of interpretation and resistance. At least, this is the conventional view that apocalyptic literature is mostly something external to the truths of society that can be studied outside mainstream concepts of the Australian nation. Yet this view denies I think the power of apocalypse styles of interpretation and disallows recognising their wider hold over and distribution throughout the Australian national imagination. Granted, as discussed below, Australians are encouraged by mainstream media and social elites to conceptualise apocalyptic anticipation in contemporary society as fundamentally a misreading of the future; that is, a form of sacred thinking lacking the Enlightenment-based non-apocalyptic century consciousness that situates the citizen as a subject within a specific secular history and identity (say, for example, the construction of the 19th Century as Victorian or the 20th century as barbaric). Apocalypse then, associated more with fin de millennium than fin de siecle, is regarded as the intellectual home of marginal thinkers who position themselves in relation to a deity or sacred history but who are positioned separate from the larger society in thought and practice like goats from sheep. But curiously, as Landes observes, millennial moments are moments where this stuff [sacred history, apocalyptic

expectation, etc] moves to the centre of the culture and one of the things that we want to do at the centre is follow the path.120 Did Australia experience such a millennial moment in 1999? Is it indeed relevant to ask whether a millennial moment existed in Australia around the late 1990s? To what uses were such a moment put to? Is there a history or sequence to the moment? Did Australia move from a possessive form of century-consciousness (our century type television shows and newspaper lift-outs) to an apocalyptic awareness (Y2K gloom and doom publications, broadcasts, warnings)? Was there a symbiotic relationship between the two? I think it is possible to argue that apocalypse occupies a less marginal position in Australia today than usually thought but I wonder if it has ever occupied a marginal position? If Australians might think ourselves into the place,121 in what way did we think ourselves into the (apocalyptic) future? If, according to Nile, Australian civilisation does not go that way, which way in fact does (or did) it go?122 In discovering some of the paths into Australias sense of the future, I examine whether apocalyptic styles of futures thinking represent, within a responsive differentiated form of signification, a particular set of circumstances for all Australians around the millennial moment that Mackay has defined as turning point. I argue, for these reasons, that the raw


Richard Landes, interview by Rachael Kohn, in Millennial Dreams One, The Spirit of Things, Radio National, 4 April 1999. 121 Richard Nile, Civilisation in Richard Nile (ed.), The Australian Legend and Its Discontents, op. cit. 122 Richard Nile, Introduction, in Richard Nile (ed.), Australian Civilisation, op. cit., p 3.

material123 that links together, at a symbolic level, Australias anticipation of the millennium the contemporary specificity of the calendars countup to 2000, the unprecedented (r)evolution within all social and cultural strata, the historical momentum of millennial prognostication frames countercultural pictures of the future as much as it does mainstream. In this respect, it can be maintained that countercultural senses of the future do not affirm only those blocked readings excluded from the airwaves and the newspapers they also articulate, to a greater or lesser extent, some of the preferred meanings and interpretations124 available to Australians. The apocalyptic styles, though not privileged forms, can serve contradictory purposes, finding both a marginalising voice and an echo in the signifying practices of Australian media. The Socially Cohesive Future On the one hand, a credible broadcast image of social cohesion about what the millennium really should mean to Australia was manufactured through the media appropriation of countercultural subjects awaiting apocalypse (say, Y2K survivalists) and redefining them as extremists as The Today Show, A Current Affair, and Sixty Minutes frequently expressed in their journalistic rhetoric. Newspapers similarly would print investigative exposes of socially dangerous activities within cults, emphasising their difference:

Dick Hebdige, The Function of Subculture, in Subculture: The Meaning of Style, London, Methuen, 1979p 448. 124 ibid., p 449.

Preying on the innocent,125 In the hands of God126, and Gas attack cult on revival trial127. Sometimes this was through satirical or tongue-in-cheek example: As it happens, remarked Phillip Adams January 1999, Im privy to significant information. Y2C has already occurred, as evidenced by the contact Ive had with no less than three Christs. Two of them in Australia one in Queensland and one in Tasmania and another turned up in France wearing long white robes. He was accompanied by a bimbo-style Mary, Magdalene rather than Virgin. Whats a young columnist to do in such circumstances? How was I to pick the right Saviour? Will the real one please stand up? I chose to tell about the others and asked them to sort it out among themselves issuing an invitation to the surviving Saviour to give me a call. Nothing has happened so far; Ill keep you posted.128 Leading up to the turn of the millennium, mainstream media presented Australians with images of other groups (eg, Magnificat Meal Movement, Jehovahs Witnesses, Gods Executioners) and differentiated them as unstable and irrational while relaying back an image of the national (celebratory) expectation in our lives, framed ideologically as safe, secular and rational. The millennium became not only an (epochal) element in chronological time as the many media countdowns implicated, but it was also thought of as a plunge into a field of social relations within which the turn

125 126

John Beveridge, Courier Mail, 2 October 1999, p 30. Graham Lloyd, Courier mail, 5 June 1999, p 27. 127 Peter Hadfield, Sunday Mail, 5 April 1998, p 91. 128 Phillip Adams, Millennium, Weekend Australian, 2-3 January 1999.

of the millennium brought about some specific effects.129 In a sense the rituals of observing the passing of time, especially celebrations involving the millennial moment, are unremarkable, except that the millennium has acted not as a formative influence on humans. This millennial moment permitted moderated eulogies of the twentieth century and a modicum of secular visionary engagement, neither of which rose above being more than analogous commentary but which paid rhetorical service to notions of change, transformation and inevitability. Examples include: A prophetic rivalry: from prediction to truth,130 The vision splendid: the world is on the brink of a new millennium, and Queensland has to take its place on the starting blocks,131 Dark Reflections on screen: facing our fears ,132 and Year of the high-flying porker: nothing is more certain than change.133 On the other hand, apocalyptic senses of the future can be observed manifesting a broader (and perhaps stronger) ideological effect as well in various mediums within Australia, progressively colonising the cultural and ideological sphere of Australias future perspective.134 This intensified around closer to the millennial turn. In 1999, network television broadcast peak-hour contemplative programming such as Doomsday: What Can We Do?, Prophecies of the Millennium, Signs from God, Christs Second

Michel Foucault, Space, Power and Knowledge, an interview with Paul Rabinow, translated by Christian Hubert, in Paul Rabinow (ed.), The Foucault Reader, New York, Pantheon, 1984. 130 Polly Wilson, Weekend Review, 14-15 September 1996, p 4. 131 Dennis Atkins, Courier Mail, 5 June 1999, p 30. 132 Calvin Wilson, Courier Mail, 29 may 1999, p 12. 133 David Bentley, Courier Mail, 31 December 1998, p 9+. 134 Hebdige, op. cit., p 448.

Coming, Nostradamus, Miracles and Visions and Prophecy: Threat or Warning?. These entertainment products doubled as vehicles of apocalyptic civil values because their context of reception was that of a more widespread millennial expectation. While in the service of broadcast capital that is, ratings these presentations provided opportunities for alternative readings (or apocalyptic decoding) and were packaged with an ideological warning in fine print: The following program is based on speculation and conjecture. Viewers should explore all sources of information before reaching their own conclusions. But real life is increasingly indistinguishable from representations of real life and it is argued that apocalyptic senses of the future were consumed through the conjectural filter of 45-90 minute programs such as these with little space for reflection. Considering television is pitched to mainstream audiences, with mainstream readings and warnings, the implied social effect apocalyptic thinking is exclusive to none but is shared by all alike.135 In like manner, a seemingly obsessive but packaged courtship exists with disaster-related, mini-apocalyptic docutainment, where as one advertisement goes we witness mass destruction and awesome terror via graphic and dramatic footage (Storm Warning, 3 Minutes to Impact, etc). Likewise, in registering the consumption of a millennial future teetering on the Y2K technological collapse, newspaper articles were replete with


Theodor Adorno and Max Horkhiemer, The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception, Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans John Cumming, New York, Seabury Press, 1972.

endtimes-related headlines: Apocalypse ... soon,136 Apocalypse now(ish): Why are we all being so good, so correct, so righteous, so healthy? Is it a form of repentance for our '80s sins? Do we know subconsciously, as Shane Danielsen does, that the end is nigh?,137 Global leaders brace for casualties: millennium bug, a special report,138 Children of the Apocalypse: The approach of the new century is filling many of us with great fear for the economy, Australia's social fabric and the environment. But what do the children foresee? Paola Totaro asked a group of 11-year-olds and got some surprising answers,139 Apocalypse next week,140 Apocalypse soon, say forecasters,141 and Apocalypse Now (-ish): The visionary position ... down under,142 No need to panic just yet, but were all doomed!,143 and Is the end nigh?.144 Religious or alternative spirituality movements spread their apocalyptic messages via, for example, printed matter,145 mail-order videos,146 conferences and tours,147 and electronic publications.148

136 137

Sydney Morning Herald, 10 October 1992, p 39. Shane Danielsen, Sydney Morning Herald Metro, 2 October 1992, pp 1-2. 138 Mark Hollands (ed.), Australian, 7 April 1998, p 1+. 139 Paola Totaro, Sydney Morning Herald, 29 December 1990, p 29. 140 Sun-Herald Sunday Life!, 20 December 1998, p 34. 141 Sydney Morning Herald, 28 October 1995, p 1. 142 Agenda, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 October 1994, p 15. 143 Rodney Chester, Courier Mail, 13 March 1998, p 5. 144 Tom Skotnicki, News Extra, Sunday Mail, 15 march 1998, p 14. 145 For example, A New World Order Is Coming! A expose of covert moves toward a new world order and the destruction of our freedoms, The Sunday Law Times: An Australasian Publication in Defence of Our Freedoms, Strathpine, Queensland, Patriotic Christian Distributors, circa 1991; or Antichrist and the Battle of Armageddon, The Second Coming of Christ, Signs of the Times, Turkey, Russia and

Apocalypse as a Way of Life? Lee Quinby, feminist author of Millennial Seduction: A Sceptic Confronts Apocalyptic Culture, observed the emergence of apocalyptic groups in the late twentieth century as necessarily dividing and sub-dividing, becoming more profuse closer to the turn of the millennium. Implicit in Quinbys work is the contemporary notion that people are reporting identification with apocalyptic thought and groups more and more: Some are very diluted in their form, others are much more focused and geared toward political change themselves.149 The persistence of apocalypse as a significant interpretative practice within Australian culture is not generally acknowledged. Yet an Australian history of apocalypse is possible. Judith Webster at the department of history, University of Adelaide, addressed the shape and multiplicities of apocalyptic narratives in post-war Australian

the Time of the End, to name a few booklets from the local Christadelphian/Gospel Furtherance Committee library. 146 For example, 1999: The Rapture, the Meltdown and the Coming World War; The Day God Shakes the Heavens and the Earth; The Coming World Economic Crash; Countdown to the New World Order and the Mark of the Beast, titles available from Maranatha Revival Crusade, Nanango, Queensland; or Countdown to Armageddon and Beyond: Astonishing Predictions of the Future, Charmhaven, New South Wales, The Family, Aurora Productions, 1996. 147 For example, 1996 Australian International UFO Symposium, Queensland UFO Network; Benny Hinn Prophecy Tour and Conference 1998, Inner-Faith Propriety Limited, Nerang, Queensland; World in Crisis, Endtimes Ministries Seventh Seminar, Landsborough, Queensland, 1996. 148 The Magnificat Meal Movement, Toowoomba, Queensland, < /~magnific/>. 149 Interview with Lee Quinby by Rachel Kohn, Millennial Dreams 6, The Spirit of Things, Radio National, 6 February 2000.

society in the search for a definition: how did Australia imagine the apocalypse in the new atomic era? Optimism for the peaceful development of atomic technology and the benefits it would bring coexisted with fears of nihilistic self-destruction Christian writers incorporated both the new atomic threat and the massive destruction of world war two into their warnings about the apocalypse. [Secondly], secular discourse, from politicians and scientists, to writers and artists , while at odds with Christian views that the fate of the world was preordained by biblical prophecy, appropriated aspects of Judeo-Christian mythology, most importantly the themes of survival, rebirth and regeneration of society. At the same time, another strain [of secular discourse] used these eschatological images while uncharacteristically positing an end to all earthly life, without rebirth or renewal, something that the arrival of nuclear weapons had recently made a real possibility for the first time.150 An assumption underpinning Websters examination is that Australian life outside the religious frame can be affected by the mixing of nonetheless religious apocalyptic thought and images with contemporary social, cultural and technological development. This suggests that Australian national

Judith Webster, A Man-Made Apocalypse?, How Australians imagined the end of the world in the new atomic era, In/Between: Negotiating Time and Space, < /inbetween/>.

culture and apocalypse can, in some way, be linked. This connection may at first seem tenuous, but there is more to it than symbolism. Endtime expectants are tied to doctrines of theology that define the end in very specialised terms. These terms can be contradictory across theologica one spiritual movement may understand Sunday worship to mark a sign of the end whereas another religious organisation might perceive something more immediate and apocalyptic in the ascendancy of smart cards but for endtimes believers their interpretative home resides along a single intellectual path: the end of the future is theological. The apparent explosion of apocalyptic thinking about the future during the 1990s did encourage other writers to talk of the countercultural agents of apocalyptic concepts as being like a new Australian class of undifferentiated consumers of doom. Responding to a poster that appeared throughout major Australian towns in 1992 The Final Warning of God: Jesus is Coming 1am 29th October 1992, in the air (Its the Rapture) David Bennett from the Bible Society, an interdenominational agency in Brisbane, was prompted to ask whether the end of the is world is near, or is it?. Bennett concluded that apocalypse was not in fact imminent but (reiterating the misreading argument) was rather another misinterpreted theological narrative motivated by misguided characters unfamiliar with sound scriptural inquiry. With the layperson in mind, Bennett marked out the theological landscape used to represent and define the apocalypse in Australia in his 1996 publication The End of the World is Near.151 However, in a paper written two

David Bennett, The End of the World or Is It?, Boolarong Press, Camp Hill, Queensland, 1996.

months before the turn of the millennium, Bennett introduced a hidden class of character in the armageddon script, the Endtimer, and argued that prophecy popularisation in Australia, if less visible than our western counterparts, remained alive and well in 1999.152 Rehabilitating the Future I have seen the future and it was being repaired.153 He is a bad man who does not pay to the future at least as much as he has received from the past.154 The politics of applying and interpreting the future are subject to an expanding range of social, cultural and economic factors. Efforts to recalculate the future anew, beyond the reach of apocalypse, exist but appear minimal and stretched. Recent examples are distinctly non-Australian Matt Gronens Futurama and Arthur C Clarkes 3001: The Final Odyssey evidently shift conceptions of the future from 2000AD to 3000AD. Collections of conferences have considered how the intersections between Australian culture, history, time and millennium should invite (in an critical sense) a more articulated and institutionalised shaping of futures thinking.

David Bennett, That Year 2000: The End or a Beginning? , in Jason Ensor and Felicity Meakins (eds), End M/C: A Journal of Media and Culture, vol 2, no 8, 8 December 1999, <>. 153 Mel Calman, 1931-94, cartoon caption in The Times, 30 December 1986. 154 A W Pollard, 1859-1944, Observer, Sayings of the Week, 31 July 1927.

The 1997 Start Trek and Endgame: Millennial / Politics / Narratives/Images conference encouraged papers with the blurb: As we move toward the millennium, some consideration of its cultural significance and its possible effects is not only relevant but also timely. Does the year 2000 signal the end of (a) tradition? The beginning of a new one? In what ways might the cultures own projects be seen to be transforming themselves? What continuities from one millennium to the next might there be? What, if anything, might postmodernity hail? [poster]. Millennial Encounters: Time, Millennia and Futurity conference in Victoria 1998 repeated a like-minded concern examining a variety of cultural and epochal responses to millennia in a panel format since the approach of a millennium inevitably generates discussions, visions and negotiations of time, past, and the possibilities of futurity. In similar fashion, articles in Australian newspapers published post-Y2K new years eve reinforce the original projected meaning of millennium as hopeful but tend to draw on technological, celebratory, revisionist and spatial metaphors, language that is inspirational but when viewed from within the emerging field of futures studies are somewhat impractical. As an illustration, Queensland Times triumphant Future in our hands155 implies that we have relations of power over the future the future as an object is graspable. Yet the special section in the same paper, titled Into tomorrow:

how your life will change in the new millennium,156 shifts readers front page hold on the future away from any discourse of control: life will be changed radically by the autonomous forces (technological, social, scientific) of tomorrow, external forces that leave individuals amazed. Jean-Franois Lyotard wrote about this technological modern neurosis in his discussions of postmodernism: [w]e can no longer call this development by the old name of progress. This development seems to be taking place by itself, by an autonomous force or motricity. It doesnt respond to a demand coming from human needs. His work contained a warning that human entities, individual or social, seem always to be destabilised by the results of this development.157 And about time: Welcome to the start of the new millennium or is it? What can history, other cultures and the role of the new decade (the noughties) add to this passage of time?158 broods on the problem of millennial calibration and the arbitrary activity of celebration. A thousand memories,159 A new era dawns,160 and The time of our lives161 all mix century-nostalgia with Y2K-partying. The latter article begins a metaphor of spatialisation in describing the millennium, as if one was looking across an unviolated, virgin scape. This follows three other metaphors: one, a minimal measure of the present (imperceptibly short, fleeting, below
155 156

Erin ODwyer, Queensland Times, 1 January 2000, p 1. Queensland Times, 1 January 2000, pp 10-12. 157 Jean-Franois Lyotard, Defining the Postmodern, in During, op. cit., p 144-5. 158 Ron Brunton, Weekend, Courier Mail, 1 January 2000, p 1+. 159 Hedley Thomas, Courier Mail, 31 December 1999, p 1. 160 front page, Sunday Mail, 2 January 2000. 161 Wayne Smith, Courier Mail, 1 January 2000.

human perceptual thresholds, nano-like162); two, a veiled reference to the conspicuous consumption of blatant million-dollar cash investments in fireworks celebrations; and three, an implication of unparalleled historical rupture: In the blink of an eye, in a blaze of colour, the 20th century passed into history last night, giving way to a new year, a new century, a new millennium, unspoiled and sparkling with hope and promise. International writers, however, (in the world sections of Australian media) mediate western disappointment with our imaginative capacity (or rather lack of) for critical futures thinking. For example, Boris Johnson labels expectants of negative trends as gloomadon-poppers and contests: So here it is, the New Millennium, and I have to tell you it is not what we were led to expect The future has turned out to be a lot less futuristic than we once imagined is it conceivable that people will stick to the old ways, and that your vision [of the future] will remain as ludicrous as Woody Allens orgasmatron?.163 Similarly, Susan Levine offers with the byline faulty visions that this was the future that isnt: prognostication aint what it used to be, which is why Boswash was hogwash.164 Clear vision, it seems, is the most impermanent of imaginative forms. Contemporary apocalyptic conceptions and uses of endism permeate Australian secular society quite significantly by 1999 and remain effective combatants against disciplined futures study within Australian psyche beyond

162 163

Slaughter, op. cit. Boris Johnson, In Our Fantasies and Prophesies We Overlook Human Nature: Still Waiting, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 January 2000, p 19. 164 Susan Levine, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 January 2000, p 19.

January 2000.165 It is usually the extreme, argue the editors in the December 1999 End issue of M/C: Journal of media and Culture Studies: Often-dangerous forms of endist belief that the media popularly exploit to define other forms of endist fundamentalism. Reading about the apocacidal (suicides for the apocalypse) tendencies of various cults and sects horrifies us in their acts of forcible manipulation. Yet apocaholicism (a mental state of intoxication on the endtimes) cannot be limited to the extra-societal gathering in the outer suburbs that awaits an end with grim but enthusiastic anticipation and which makes the occasional evening news headline or Sixty Minutes exposure. Nor can a keen sense of apocalypse be situated as being primarily a characteristic of religious fundamentalism. [Australian] Secular society itself is drunk on different meditations of the end.166 This spread of apocalyptic epistemology throughout the 1990s universalised a view within secular and religious Australia that the approach of the third millennium involved an ending of the world, be it a technological or Christian Armageddon. With the benefit of hindsight, writing in January 2000, it is true that none of the doomsday scenarios then held proved to be

Douglas Rushkoff, Media Virus: Hidden Agendas in Popular Culture, Sydney, Random House, 1994. 166 Jason Ensor and Felicity Meakins, Editorial: End, in Jason Ensor and Felicity Meakins (eds), End M/C: A Journal of Media and Culture, vol 2, no 8, 8 December 1999, < edit.html>, bit 1.

valid and the non-event of a Y2K date-verification crisis has undermined the world of apocalyptic certainty that many newspaper reports implied at the time: 1998, 99, countdown to chaos,167 The birth of a computer catastrophe,168 Computer bug may bite early,169 City gets taste of Y2K chaos,170 The day the world shuts down,171 Computers in trouble: stop the millennium bug before it stops your business,172 Shutdown offers a taste of 2000 havoc,173 Y2k bill doubles to $10 billion,174 and The bug that ate business: a 2000 horror story.175 Realising that Australias futures perspective in the 1990s tends less toward [future] achievement [and goals] and more toward avoidance176 is to begin examining the theories, ideas and images of the future and the effectual life of Australian responses to them. This is an important and worthwhile activity. Defective, impractical senses and visions of the future lock-up the human perceptual system in closed, unproductive loops, leading ever further [away] from an active engagement with the world.177 By contrast, properly implemented critical futures inquiry can prefigure more

167 168

NZ Herald, 23 November 1996. Larry Gonick, Bulletin, 3 June 1998, p 71. 169 Sonia Madigan, Sunday Mail, 11 October 1998, p 26. 170 Chris Newton, Australian, 6 October 1998, computer supplement, p 5. 171 Steven Levy and Katie Hafner, Bulletin, 3 June 1997, p 73. 172 National Australia Bank pamphlet. 173 John MacLeay, Australian, 29 September 1998, p 8. 174 Sue Ashton-Davies, Australian, 22 September 1998, p33. 175 Sally Jackson and John MacLeay, Australian, 31 December 1997, p 1. 176 Slaughter, op. cit., p 57. 177 ibid., p 53.

advanced stages of civilised life178 to which we can productively work towards. A Lifestyle of Becomings Australian studies scholars and mainstream commentators agree that there is an urge for culture shift in Australia. But how the nation arrives at this and what kind of culture shift should be encouraged is the subject of intense debate. For Hugh Mackay, a widely-read commentator for the mainstream, the postmodernism argument subspeciates into either an argument about the diversity of choices or an argument about the difficulty of choosing: We construct our social reality and then operate as if it is the reality. Some want to make us feel uncomfortable about that, as if every reality we construct is a mere delusion that will somehow limit and constrict us; others are perfectly content for us to adopt our reality and stick with it [The] crucial point is that we have to choose. But how do we choose?.179 Mackay ties the value of choice to the relationship between cultural heterogenisation / synthesis or postmodernist relativism (which he collectively describes as shopping at the cultural bazaar) and absolutes: It might be possible to be open to all kinds of new ideas, new fashions, new constructs, yet remain grounded in a core belief or a core system of thought that sustains us. It might be possible, after all, to shop at the cultural bazaar and even to
178 179

ibid., p viii. Hugh Mackay, Turning Point: Australians Choosing Their Future, Sydney, Macmillan, 1999, p 171.

pluck bits and pieces from a wide range of stalls while still operating within a serviceable framework of enduring attitudes, values and beliefs that we have discovered, from our own experience, will give meaning and purpose to our lives Acting as if you believe in something is the first step towards believing it, and once you believe it, you are on the way to a sense of purpose.180 But what these arguments fail to consider is the temporally- related concerns structuring the outcome of choice and determining positive options from negative directions: the decisions we make, the directions we choose, the futures we extinguish and those we enable, all frame and condition the lives of our descendants.181 Slaughter calls this tension between choice, choosing and futures responsibility the civilisational challenge that confronts the world of nations and not just Australia alone. The dynamics of these tensions have begun to be explored in a sophisticated manner as a critical field of enquiry within the emerging discipline of futures studies. But in Australian studies, much needs to be done to situate futures as providing both a viable framework forward and a real ground for hope, insight, empowerment and social and organisational innovations of many kinds.182 For the moment, however, let us note the current problems in Australia and Australian studies as the You Are What You Foresee dynamic (from the same family as the popularised you are what you eat, consumer societys you are what you buy183 or Mackays you are what you believe). From this point, we can acknowledge
180 181

ibid., p 180. Slaughter, op. cit., p 5. 182 ibid., p x.

an Australian cultural industry of prognostication that through a combination of commercial appropriation and consumption of futures metaphors, a minimalist perceptual apparatus of time, and a postmodern rupture in absolutes and tradition promotes less a particular direction to a viable future and more a consciousness or lifestyle of becomings. Futures in Australian Studies I take my lead from Carolyn Steedmans re-positioning of cultural studies and pose a series of questions directed at Australian studies around the above point.184 I dont propose to address all these but the activity of asking has directed my line of enquiry significantly. The questions are by no means exhaustive but they cover sufficient ground to encourage a model of critical thinking about Australian studies and its relation to the future and, perhaps in considering possible answers, attempt to increase the critical power of the field. My additional guide has been an extract from Slaughters work which, though applied elsewhere, is relevant to the utility of Australian studies and the notion of public intellectualism: To be more effective [Australian studies might] begin to clarify its use of guiding concepts and metaphors, relating these to cultural presuppositions and traditions of inquiry that can be easily mistaken as
183 184

Charlene Spretnak, States of Grace, San Francisco, Harper, 1993. Carolyn Steedman, Culture, Cultural Studies and the Historians, in Lawrence Grossberg et al, eds, Cultural Studies, New York, Routledge, 1992.

inevitable, neutral and value free. One result will be a more accessible style of discourse. In this regard, it should emphatically disown the hectoring, insistent tone adopted by some in the past and consciously develop strategies of communication based more on dialogue and negotiation. It should also seek a more credible balance between stability and change, recognising the mutual existence of each other rather than tending to overstress the latter. Above all, it must seek to develop a better understanding of its own, often obscured, ideological commitments.185 How futurical then is Australian studies? If it is futurical, what futures methodologies does it use? Can it take account of futures-related text (information positioned and empowered as relevant to the future or representative of future reality) and language (or futurespeak, metaphorical frameworks, closed and open visionary structures)? Is it possible to construct a national picture of the future that does not resort to metaphors involving human life-cycles (adolescent, maturing, growing, evolving) and technology? Is the problem in creating a coherent and intelligent national conception of the future related to political, contradictory uses of futurespeak? Can Australian studies in its current form take issue with the governance of epochal futures (say 2000AD) over the national imaginary? Can it critically investigate the political renderings of time and change through which the millennium (as an example) was deployed and prefigured as an intervention into, and a revolution of, contemporary Australian history?

Slaughter, op. cit., p 212.

What other tropes of temporal transformation have punctuated Australian futures? Would the move to a new form of critical engagement with Australian culture, involving critical futures in the theory and action of its imagining, mediate the tensions between choice and responsibility? Is Australian studies extrapolative narrativisation of the present a sign that the field is methodologically crippled in futures, with uneven investment in consciousness-raising rather than in truth-telling?186 Can Australian studies adequately consider the current poverty of national foresight and the rise of surrogate apocalyptic thinking as part of the underlying systems of value and meaning (reductionism, industrial epistemology, instrumental rationalism, etc) circulating within Australian society? How today should critical futures engage the present and vice versa in productive, sensitive ways? What has futures to do with Australian studies? It is in this particular historical moment at the turn of the millennium, given the destabilising conditions of the last century and the problematic outlook of the early twenty-first century, that Australian studies requires a critical futures sense to respond to the contemporary civilisational challenge ahead. A new body of enquiry, I argue, integrating the methodologies of critical futures and Australian studies Australian futures studies (AFS) would equip substantively the (political, cultural and social) struggle to find, defend and enable optimistic and responsible futures against the superficial and destabilising futures seducing the national imagination. That is, Australian futures studies would be sensitive to the flows, ruptures and effectual life of, and responses to, futures thinking.

During, op. cit., p 46.

Chapter Five Turning the Point: New Ways and Becomings One would expect people to remember the past and to imagine the future. But in fact they imagine [history] in terms of their own experience, and when trying to gauge the future they cite supposed analogies from the past; till, by a double process of repetition, they imagine the past and remember the future.187 Hugh Mackay in Turning Point: Australians Choosing Their Future (1999) writes that Attitudes are the symptoms of a societys state of mind. They reveal our responses to the things that have happened to us and, occasionally, they offer a glimpse of the kind of future we are hoping for.188 Using a selection of personal interviews and group discussions which form the 1994 edition of The Mackay Report as representations of these attitudes and interests of society, Mackay explores the notion that contemporary Australians are participants within a radical form of culture shift, one that amounts to the discovery of a new way of thinking about Australia.189 Mackays identification and use of contradiction within these collective beliefs and evaluations of Australian citizens develops the theme of a turning point, that the dissonance existing between our value judgements about Australian socialisation articulates an emergent cultural identification with
187 188

Lewis Namier, 1888-1969, Conflicts, pp 69-70. Mackay, op. cit., p vii. 189 ibid.

resolution or turning point. Such a turning point is enacted by active citizenship: This is the time, Mackay writes in an inspirational tone, for setting our goals and directions, but theres no short cut to depth and maturity. We are still, in cultural terms, in our adolescence [But] whats wrong with being young? Why not relish the chance to shape our future; to create this Australia in our own image?.190 Australian culture is not easily defined and located and Mackay admits this later in chapter twenty-five, Young and Free: Give Us Time, as a consequence of adolescent political and societal immaturity having more energy than focus.191 The sense that Australian maturity is analogous to the maturity of an individual permits easy comparisons to adolescence, that biological period characterised (in Mackays terms) by a tumult of turbulent emotions and conflicting goals.192 In this way, it is possible (and maybe useful) to define the logics and structures underpinning popular ideas of Australian culture as insecure, slippery and open to radical, emotional (as opposed to its antithesis: mature and rational) modification. Turning Point subjects Australian attitudes to considerable scrutiny to draw out this point. Mackay surmises that although Australians have created something wonderfully robust, diverse and vibrant were still deeply unsure of our identity and we dont yet have a clear vision of who or what we want to be.193 Contrary to the senses of cultural fragmentation and social disharmony that Turning Points analysis of premillennial Australia seems to
190 191

ibid., pp 298-9. ibid., p 298. 192 ibid., p 299.

otherwise evoke, Mackays dominant theme is that this amounts to the discovery of a new way of thinking about Australia.194 His We are at a turning point thesis has a certain resonance with tropes of hope and escape from the present environment. Does it make sense to speak about our contemporary cultural and social environment, as Mackay and other commentators do, that a new way of imagining Australia is being formed at the cusp of an identifiable turning point? What in fact is this new way being presented as different and desirable to the present way? Is this turning point the source or respondent or both to an emerging conceptual apparatus? Dancing with the Devil: Mainstreaming the Future [There are] those who claim to have particular or special understanding of the national psyche, those who claim the authority of the ethnographer in speaking for all of us This claim to be able to represent the nation, even to be emblematic of Australianness, rests on a claim to knowledge of real values, attitudes and experience [But] any acknowledgment of cultural diversity is quickly countered by a firm emphasis on the rights and needs of the mainstream, a tidal surge of opinion and belief that brings the ordinary to the centre of

193 194

ibid., pp 298-9. ibid., p vii.

social and cultural life and sweeps aside the ugly debris of difference.195 To write convincingly about futures we must know who we are, where we are from and whose interests we are pursuing.196 A feature of contemporary public dialogue that flows directly from a loss of objectivity and critical engagement is the invested nature of much privileged modern-day social analysis. By this I mean that some cultural observations or analyses, given a position of centrality in the arguments of Australia, are necessarily popularised, reflecting shrewd insight and marketing know-how. Mackay whose credentials are adduced alongside reflective interpretation in his 1999 publication which describes him as Australias leading social researcher providing the definitive analysis of contemporary Australia for anyone who cares about Australias future197 suggests that: Times of uncertainty especially when linked with a half-formed sense of expectancy have, in the past, been fertile breeding grounds for religious revivals though that seems unlikely in our case Is there going to be a mass movement of some other kind, in which we will define ourselves by some new-found sense of purpose?198
195 196

Leigh Dale, Mainstreaming Australia, JAS, no 53, 1997, pp 1-2. Richard Slaughter, Futures for the Third Millennium, p 227. 197 Mackay, op. cit., back cover blurb.

This position implies a certain rhetorical foresight about what is likely to happen but rejects other possibilities and ignores the considerable pentecostal, charismatic and millennial religious revivals that have already occurred in Australia in favour of an anonymous, unanchored but self- defining movement. It is an example of inspirational futurism, never quite freeing itself from the temporal provincialism of the spirit of [our] times (Mackays Zeitgeist) to pursue Australia along, say, the lines of enquiry offered by Elise Bouldings 200-year present or Frank Hopkins 150-year historical perspective.199 In effect, it doesnt extend a sense of the present beyond a minimalist setting. That which is just beyond the minimal present the uncertain is instead to be embraced as a conventional feature of modern life. This is an example of profundity as an illusion of particular language uses and appeals to powerful institutions: Social theories that merely rationalise existing conditions and thereby serve to promote repetitive behaviour, the continuous reproduction of established social practices, do not fit the definition of critical theory. They may be no less accurate with respect to what they are describing, but their rationality (or irrationality, for that matter) is likely to be

198 199

ibid., p 302. Frank Hopkins, The Senior Citizen as Futurist, in F Feather (ed.), Through the 80s, World Futures Society, 1980, p 388.

mechanical, normative, scientific, or instrumental rather than critical.200 At the heart of Turning Point, without adequately defining who we, our and us, there are incidents of reductionism All we have to remember is that each of us wants to be taken seriously. Each of us wants to be heard. Each of us wants our needs, our values, and our points of view to be taken into account. That is all reconciliation has ever been about. The challenge is actually tiny and it has little to do with past generations 201 bias Was John Howard sensing this mood when he suggested in 1997 that most people simply wanted the native title debate off the agenda? It sounded heartless at the time, but perhaps it was just another sign of our desire to retreat, to disengage, and to regroup. Perhaps we needed a break from issue: we didnt mean to dismiss native title as unimportant 202 subjectivity Unless Im misreading the signs 203 and elitism The issue of reconciliation needs to be understood in the context of the demographic fact that Aborigines represent about two per cent [Mackays emphasis] of the Australian population. This is not America. We do not have a race problem that is numerically large. Aborigines are one of the smallest cultural and ethnic minorities in our society.204 These deny Mackays work a

Edward Soja, History: Geography: Modernity, Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory, London, Verso, 1989, as extracted in During, op. cit., p 117. 201 Mackay, op. cit., p 130. 202 ibid., p 30. 203 ibid., p 300. 204 ibid., p 129.

sense of proper critical engagement along the Edward Sojas line of enquiry, concepts such as reductionism, bias and elitism de-focus important questions. Mackays recent work seems committed to maintaining the status quo. Arguably written in the mode of pop futurist enquiry in which existing social relations are taken as given, support is given for the status quo and the future appears externally constructed via technology, overall tending to be diversionary tract205 Turning Point avoids epistemological questions over power relationships, ideology, transformation and the reconceptualising of meanings. As David Tacey describes: Theyre in touch with the breakdown, the destruction, the sense of an ending, but they are not especially good on the other aspect, which has to do with re-enchantment, renewal. Maybe they are not post- Modern at all, in the sense that they have gone beyond, or post, the modern logic of modernity. They are merely extending the disenchanted logic of modernity into its late phase [As most modernists] they have turned breakdown and destruction into an art form. The myths, legends and religions of the past are all blown to smithereens, deconstructed in an atmosphere of frenzy. An the deconstructionalist looks for, and finds, historical prejudices, political values and out of date attitudes at the centre of these exploded myths, T S Eliots heap of broken images.206
205 206

Slaughter, op. cit., pp145-6. David Tacey, Re-enchantment, The Spirit of Things, Radio National, broadcast, 11 August 1999.

Why quote Mackay in a thesis interrogating present-day constructs of the future and generally advocating the formation of a public intellectual line of interrogation? Certainly, other names associated more deeply with futures thinking invite analysis of the type suggested by this thesis. Barry Jones would be a candidate, given his early work in the Commission for the Future. But, in the contemporary age, Jones is not as massively consumed by the media and public as Mackay. Considered widely as having a finger on the pulse of Australia, Mackay is the first port of call for social attitudes. In this respect, there is a consumption component involved in selecting Mackays work over say Jones. The work of Mackay promotes collaboration and dialogue with an abstract, imagined institution called the mainstream while at the same time attempting to embody notions of objective and value free ethnographic knowledge: as a social researcher who has spent his life listening to Australians talking about life in Australia, boasts Mackay when discussing reconciliation, I have been driven to an additional conclusion about the matter.207 Authority here resides in the apparently humble act of listening, in which the object of discussion (that is, the group consensus of ordinary mainstream Australians) follows a text-commentary relation of speaking for itself during Mackays play of ethnomethodological indifference motivated


Mackay, op. cit., p 124.

by the implied mass of opinion driving him.208 But the mainstream in keeping with John Hartleys work on the imaginary construction of television audiences,209 Leigh Dales scholarship on Mainstreaming Australia and Toby Millers analysis of the well-tempered citizen is perhaps a citizen- audience imagined empirically, theoretically and politically to be the dominating form of citizenship in Australia. It is assumed to be privileged through sheer numerical mass and vocality or opinion. Yet this citizen-audience is an invisible fiction that serves the need of the imagining institution, in this instance, Hatzimanolis assimilationist liberalism: others must become like us, my present is your future.210 At no point of this discussion is the audience real or external to its discursive construction. It does not lie beyond its production as a category, which is merely to say that audiences are only ever encountered per se as representations.211 In this view, Mackay is correct (without realising it I think in this sense) when he admits in a chapter on diversity that to talk of the mainstream misses the point.212 It can be argued that Mackays text is a representation of the Australian mainstream and not in fact mainstream itself. Hence, the commentarial domination of Mackay (akin to Jackie


see Gillian Fuller, The Textual Politics of Good Intentions: Critical theory and Semiotics, in Lee and Poynton, op. cit., pp 81-98. 209 John Hartley, in Frow and Morris, op. cit. 210 Efi Hatzimanolis, Timing Differences and Investing in Futures in Multicultural (Womens) Writing, in Sneja Gunew and Anna Yeatman (eds), Feminism and the Politics of Difference, Sydney, Allen and Unwin, 1993, p 128. 211 Hartley , op. cit., p 166. 212 Mackay, op. cit., p 35.

Cooks location of Stan Zemaneks talk in talkback radio213) as coloniser of the object-text (in this instance, the opinions of ordinary Australians) is displaced but not in any sense removed. It is perhaps instructive then to examine Mackays Turning Point as a futurestext itself. This is to suggest ways in which the consumption of his angle on the future and others might be directed more reflexively towards [Mackays] representational practices of the mainstream future, including his will to truth or to mastery.214 Ann Game, for example, contends that sociological works produce sociological fictions rather than analysing what actually occurs in society.215 Thus, to use Mackays contemporary writing on the future is not an attempt to incorporate distinctly mainstream, motivated-by-market cultural research (what von Wright has otherwise called non-intrusive sociology216) into a comprehensive and unified theory of how the nation perceives the future. Rather, the work of Mackay and other commentators who have appropriated speaking positions of national and cultural significance as ethnographers (though how much ethnographer exists in practices of ethnography has been intensely debated by James Clifford, Kevin Dwyer, Allan Luke, Robert Hodge and Alec McHoul) is to briefly stage some public voices and/or fictions directing Australias modern- day mainstreamed vision quest as massively consumed by the Australian public.


see Jackie Cook, Dangerously Radioactive: the Plural Vocalities of Radio Talk in Lee and Poynton, op. cit., pp 59-80. 214 Lee, op. cit., pp 194-5. 215 Game, op. cit., pp 3-5.

Australias Continuing Vision Quest: What Kind of Fiction is the Future Imagined to Be? The Australian land mass was an alluring enigma in the European imagination centuries before its discovery and colonisation. So when British settlers finally arrived in 1788, they brought with them a vast store of prior expectations and images, based both on actual reports of explorers and on historical myths, which persuasively moulded their way of seeing the unfamiliar land and its people. Australias nebulous reality began to be formed and measured against these powerful historical images and they continue to have a clear bearing on perceptions of Australia even now.217 Mackay presents his sense of late twentieth-century Australian cultural dissonance not simply as contemporary social phenomenon but also as a matter of cultural identity which, on account of various disintegrations within social, financial, and political relations and institutions, implies a near-future and necessary transformation to a more sophisticated, harmonised society: At the turn of the century, Australians believe that our potential as a prosperous, fair and decent society has not yet been realised, and they hope that, like an awkward adolescent on the verge of adulthood, Australia might


quoted in Robert Hodge and Alec McHoul, The Politics of Text and Commentary, Textual Practice, vol 6, no 2, pp 189-209, 194. 217 Paul Longley Arthur, Fantasies of the Antipodes, op. cit., p 37.

be about to discover its destiny.218 Mackay suggests that we each know Australia, in the end, will come good.219 Similarly, David Carter in Becoming Australia: The Woodford Forum argues that recent developments in fashioning Australian history reveal shifting attitudes to Australia and being Australian, to ways of being at home here and situating ourselves in time and place.220 These are not isolated views. During the 1990s, commercial and popular media often enunciated an effect of millennial time on cultural life, from colour-spreads of 2001 Fashion Odyssey221 through picking the Name of the Millennium,222 to 2000: Date with Destiny.223 Increasingly, millennial time mixed politics with the betterment of cultural identity: The celebrations for the millennium and the centenary of Federation should be the culmination of a giant corporate plan. Its the perfect opportunity to recognise the dreams and aspirations of all of us for a better understanding of what it means to be Australian.224 Halfway through the last year of the twentieth century, the Courier Mail printed: Something inevitable is that as the world faces a new millennium, there will be an unending parade of vision Queensland Premier
218 219

Mackay, op. cit., p ix. ibid., p xix. 220 David Carter, Working on the Past, Working on the Future, in Richard Nile and Michael Peterson, Becoming Australia: The Woodford Forum, University of Queensland Press, 1998, pp 6-25, 7. 221 Courier Mail, 12 March 1999. 222 Courier Mail, 9 June 1999. 223 Courier Mail, 7 March 1998.

[Peter Beattie] reckons there has been a huge change in political and social attitudes in recent years as people reject negativity in public life. People want a vision, they want a future, he says. Beattie is joined by a band of optimists who have a shared vision for Queensland. Like a civic cheer squad, they are cheering on the new and urging through persuasion and direct action new players on to the field instilled with a will to win The consensus about the future is that one big transformation is needed.225 Even Mackay in an earlier work, Reinventing Australia, embraces this future as the dream of a third chance: A sure sign of millennium madness was the inability to come up with at least one substantial dream of the future. All the emphasis in the interpretation of dreams was placed on catching a glimpse of the third Chance as the new millennium was coming to be called.226 However, within Australian studies there is a characteristic awkwardness towards the future social imaginary. The space for opening up new forms of identification which often typifies contemporary Australian studies especially those examinations that mix the temporal opportunism of end of century revisionism with utopian metaphors can confuse the continuity of historical temporalities, confound the ordering of cultural symbols, [and]

224 225

Wendy McCarthy, Summer Agenda, Sydney Morning Herald, 5-8 January 1993. The Vision Splendid, Courier Mail, 5 June 1999. 226 Reinventing Australia, Pymble, Angus and Robertson, 1993.

traumatise tradition.227 Vision may abound with inspirational language and uplifting prediction within our popular publications (which peaked the days following 31 December 1999) but this is not to be confused with sound methodological inquiry into the future. Australian studies present-day internal struggle with, for example, the political logics of Pauline Hansons One Nation, the 1999 failure of the Republic Referendum and the continuing disempowerment of Aboriginality as it were, David Carters battle lines drawn across the nation228 these events or non-eventualities contest the conclusion of the present way and block the progress of a new way to perceive, interrogate and respond to the future. At the conclusion of Turning Point, Mackay retreats significantly from the methodological implications of the adolescent association, qualifying it with the properties of a rough kind of sense that is not an absolutely valid analogy and which doesnt amount to self-criticism.229 Yet it positions his argument within the useful context that Australia is still growing up. In examining the deficiencies of the historical consciousness surrounding the 1950s and 1960s, David Carter warns that we need to commit ourselves to an interesting history in the future, however dangerous and difficult that might prove to be.230 By bringing these two studies together, the question is: in what way could the future be dangerous and difficult and is Australian studies grown-up enough to deal with this apparent new uncertainty of the

Homi K Bhabha, The Postcolonial and the Postmodern: The Question of Agency, The Location of Culture, New York, Routledge, 1994, extracted in During, op. cit., p 196. 228 Carter, op. cit., p 8. 229 Mackay, op. cit., p 296.

future? To resituate Dick Hebdiges question to the study of youth subculture as a question put to the quality and character of contemporary Australian studies, is there something historically specific missing from present-day accounts of Australian society, perhaps an explanation of why certain forms of cultural myopia (Hansonism, Republic non-vote, etc) should occur at this particular time, a moment positioned as a special turning point but which in practice seems to act less significantly on the civic body as an agent of change?231 In Mackays analysis, the term new way signals a move away from the model of conceiving Australia as set and instead a shift towards sites of cultural creation which embrace uncertainty: Australia is becoming a truly postmodern society a place where we are learning to incorporate uncertainty into our view of the world. The absolute is giving way to the relative; objectivity to subjectivity; function to form. In the modern worldview of the twentieth century, seeing was believing; in the postmodern world of the turn of the century, believing is seeing. Conviction yields to speculation; prejudice to a new open-mindedness; religious dogma to a more intuitive, inclusive spirituality.232

230 231

Carter, op. cit., p 25. Hebdige, op. cit. 232 Mackay, op. cit., pp xix-xx.

According to Mackay, the old order was theorised as a practice of cultural relations within which differences of opinion were triggers for conflict: in the new way of Australia, differences of opinion are accepted as part of the richness of our social, cultural, intellectual and religious tapestry.233 But this, it might be argued, is a linguistic slight of hand, presupposing as it does that the new way is in fact new for Australia. The formation of the new way, Mackay recognises, can be traced essentially to particular conceptions made by the Europeans and their descendants about Australia, first clearly evident during the discovery and colonisation period of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Australia is still the New World, Mackay asserts: The place where the mistakes of the past might be corrected; where ancient hostilities might finally be forgotten; where class divisions might yet be realised So we still believe that the faith invested in us by those who came here by choice will ultimately be justified. Thats the bedrock truth about Australia at the turn of the century: we believe that, given time, we will become what the European dream always said we would become a kind of antipodean utopia.234

233 234

ibid., p xxi. ibid., xviii.

This visionary theatre for manifesting Australia as a culture of collective becoming,235 it would seem from Mackays disclosure, is in fact an old way, a theoretical hidden imperative that is now after 30 years of confusion and uncertainty reasserting itself as a cultural enunciative within Australian studies and socialisation.236 Can what mainstream commentators like Mackay and Australian studies scholars propose as the new way within postmodernism transformation and sophistication at the site of Australian cultural creation be really understood theoretically as a return to the old way, unlocking the perceived immobility of the present way? Philosophically, the answer actually is no. Michel Foucault has denied return, arguing that history preserves us from the ideology of return, that it is impossible to go back to the very circumstances culture, society and politics are escaping: ie, the past.237 Granted, some Australian politicians such as John Howard or Pauline Hanson do seek out cheap form[s] of archaism or some imaginary past forms of happiness that people did not, in fact, have at all238 to add a mythologised sense of returning to an Australian Eden (often located in the 1950s) in their speeches and policies Foucault identifies this as a facile tendency.239 But current Australian studies argue that it has no courtship with archaisms or falsehood. However, this new way remains not so new.


Michael Peterson, Introduction, in Richard Nile and Michael Peterson, Becoming Australia: The Woodford Forum, University of Queensland Press, 1998, p 4. 236 Mackay, op. cit., p xviii. 237 Foucault, op. cit. 238 ibid. 239 ibid.

Perhaps then the new way that Mackay speaks of is more properly understood in the direction opposite to return: as an referent to the form of cultural experience and identity240 envisaged in the contemporary theoretical description of Australian social experience as becoming? Though the theory of a coming Australia is a solidly observed tradition, from the works of Manning Clark to Richard White, Becoming is gaining new theoretical status for articulating the nation as a continuous site of emergent cultural identity. It is a term that represents Australia as just beyond immediate cultural authorisation. In this usage, Australia is to (eventually) become the culture it is currently meant to be. Contingent on perceiving a lack in contemporary social experience, becoming permits viable contestation, revision and new vision within Australian studies analyses. Australian civilisation, advances Nile in his account on the terms sometimes oxymoronic status (are Australian and civilisation compatible terms?), is never quite an achieved state it is always developing but not quite yet developed but a primary process towards achievable and practical goals.241 This constant state of creation is given a particular edge and focus on account of the turn of the millennium or for that fact any turning point. For Mackay, this implicates or invites a new way to conceive ourselves a primary process that has perhaps always been the way, I suspect, of Australia for over two centuries but which has appeared in different guises and political forms reflective of the times. As an illustration, on 2 October
240 241

Bhabha, op. cit., p 196. Richard Nile (ed.), Australian Civilisation, op. cit., p 6.

1911, Joseph McCabe writes in The Lone Hand, under the heading, Australia as a Forecast of the Future: From the biological point of view Australia is a medieval paradise, a dip into the earth of at least five million years ago; from the human point of view it is a dip into the future, an illustration of a stage in the history of men which Europe and America will reach to-morrow, and Asia and Africa the day after. That is the profound and supreme interest of Australia'.242 Move forward nearly nine decades and, for Nile and Michael Peterson in Becoming Australia, this continuing creative process of actively conceiving Australia as a site or experiment of the future sews the thread of an evolving consciousness throughout (post) modern Australian studies, weaving a fabric of cultural analysis orientated towards becoming. The problem of the becoming thesis, it would seem, is the problem of immateriality in the sense that it cannot be easily charted or empirically related. Images of the future tend to be visual or abstractly symbolic.243 Consider Bob Hawkes clever country or no child will live in poverty speech, or The Lucky Country from the book of the same name.244 These have focused Australias collective attention on the type of country it aspires to be. First, imagining a nation where distributive injustice gives way to wisdom within the then emerging information age; and second, in face of an adversarial natural environment, a nation in which the politics of surviving the sentence of history from convicts to farmers, from displacement,


Joseph McCabe, Australia as a Forecast of the Future, The Lone Hand, 2 October 1911, pp 483-9. 243 Slaughter, op. cit., p 57. 244 Donald Horne, The Lucky Country, Ringwood, Victoria, Penguin, 1964.

subjugation, [and] domination245 to homeland, independence and diversity confer a self-certainty about our fate as lucky and Australian individuation as country. In the particular case of The Lucky Country, though the book was an ironic comment on Australias development as involving more luck than design, the entrance of the title into the Australian vernacular is indicative of a community willing to misconstrue the phrase in its favour. Grand visions of the type described above, which have often evoked active and proud citizenship, are steadily fading from Australias national imagination. The transmission of a culture of becoming rarely occurs in Australian national politics and claims of moving towards a living future, to borrow an organicist term, hardly figure in the public imagination beyond infrequent calls for an ecologically sustainable society. Commentators tend to remember Well may we say God save the queen because nothing will save the governor-general,246 or Run over the bastards247 or This is the recession Australia had to have248 before recalling an Australian equivalent (if any) to Martin Luther Kings I have a dream or John F Kennedys We choose to go to the moon . Likewise, while Australias national anthem Advance Australia Fair survived New South Wales premier Bob Carrs 1996 attempt to replace it, Australians retain an affinity for Waltzing Matilda, a national song about an unemployed, suicidal sheepstealer.249 Contrary to

245 246

Bhabha, op. cit., p 190. Gough Whitlam, 11 November 1975. 247 Sir Robert Askin on anti-Vietnam war protestors, 1967. 248 Paul Keating, 1991. 249 Mackay, op. cit., pp 293-4.

the dawn of new era rhetoric splashed across the front pages of all Australian newspapers on 1 January 2000, vision is waning and imprecise. Could the question be put then, not controversially or blasphemously but rather critically, that contemporary Australian studies does not adequately represent the triumphant expression or confident statement of a clear, articulated vision but rather a desperate, even manic, attempt at reassurance?250 Is Australia indeed a culture of becoming in spite of inadequate planning, incompetent leadership and uncommitted populace. Or is this, as MacKay quietly poses before a wave of positivist reappraisal, an empty hope?251 Perhaps a definitive answer is still not yet possible but it is inventible: Where it has come from and where, if anywhere, [Australia] is going [b]ecoming Australia is challenging and, frequently, exhilarating. And not entirely without hope. Perhaps, despite all the evidence of disintegration, including the recent outbursts of bigotry, we are still involved in nation building.252
250 251

Slaughter, op. cit., p 57. Mackay, op. cit., p xvi. 252 Philip Adams, Becoming Australia, foreword.

A Role for Australian futures studies and the Re-enchantment of the Cultural Imagination And yet we suffer, as so many former colonies do, from feelings of smallness. We believe, somehow, that real life, the life that really counts, is happening elsewhere We are buffeted now by new and frightening forces we do not understand. Globalisation. New ways of selling. Ravenous corporate imperialism. The death of small town life. The competition of Asian wage slaves. The jobs lost to computers. The feeling daily that each day of paid work may be our last. A generation of university graduates who can look forward at best to lives of busking, market research or waiting on tables. A feeling that our competitors may be too big and wealthy, and we are in a race we are losing. How much of this is colonial cringe and how much is realism is hard to say. But we do not seem to be thinking of the future any more, just sharing out what the dying Don Dunstan called the spoils of defeat.253 [H]ardness is creeping into our soul, because we havent been ready or we dont know how, to defend the fairness that makes us Australians. Australians dont mind change; they will look change in the eye any day of the week, confident that they have its measure. What Australians dont like is unfairness. And lately its been hard to tell what is


Bob Ellis, Visions of Australia, Weekend Courier Mail, 22 January 2000, pp 1-4

inevitable change and what is plain unfair. A lot of things have been called inevitable when they are really negotiable.254 A new generation of Weet-Bix kids are on the move. Full of energy, and vitality, our countrys future is written in their faces. Fuelled on Weet-Bix goodness they are set to lead Australia into a new Millennium. Our kids are Weet-Bix kids and our future is off to a great start.255 It is a reasonable claim that behind futures thinking and its related material and symbolic output, futurestext and futurespeak are authors. People invent futures and, on terms of the thesis, this is considered an act of authorship. Such an approach has a two-fold investigative angle: it seeks to assess the worth of futurestexts in not breaking from the evaluative models of traditional literary criticism and authorial intention; and it seeks to understand the processes through which futurestext become socially meaningful, variously interpreted and politically used. This approach to the subject characterises futures as purely human constructs and works through not only the relationship of text to objects (or imagined objects) but also through the relations of class and political struggle. For although all members of a society might share in moments of history common senses of the future, different classes will appropriate signs and languages of futures to

Kim Beazley, Ashfield United Church, Sydney, 11 December 1999, reported in John Cleary, Millennial Visions, The Religion Report, Radio National, 15 December 1999.

different political uses. Culturally specific evaluations of the future can be associated with the distribution of power within society, so that, in the two following examples say, the association of control in the term choice with vision, goals and aims is indicative of a secular democratic society whereas the linking of providence in the term prophecy with religion, scriptural writings and God indicates a theocratic (ruled by a deity) community. In practice, no sign or text of the future is apolitical. To choose to communicate a vision of, say, goal rather than aim places a small but significant distinction on what is written or spoken about that future. Likewise, a trajectory of religious politics is discernible in the theological example of preaching salvation by work as opposed to salvation by faith. In the first, a future safe from the tribulations prophesied to descend upon the world is secured through the efforts of improving the conditions of ones fellow neighbours in the second, it is granted through belief alone. Uses of futurestext and futurespeak thus call forth the value-system of the culture or community within which the text is used and interpreted. On this account, futures mythology grows out of a need to define goals and desires, to explain perhaps restraining behaviours today for the hope of gain tomorrow, to distribute relations of power over activities of organisation, planning and internal social structures of the nation, and to account for directions of progress or egress. This view draws its strength from decentralising the position of futures in western and Australian temporal thinking. It moves towards an

Weet-Bix 750g box, Sanitarium

epistemological break with the various kinds of naturalised, mythologised and commonsense forms of futures-thinking which pass themselves off as true but which in fact encode the cultural values of a socio-political order. That is to say, in order for the future to be defined from the outside, its commandeering of the national imagination through short-term paradigms needs to be competently disengaged to make such a perspective assignable the future can be grasped through its defamiliarisation. Post-mythological and post-structural models are suggested by this angle of investigation though these are not easily reached and can become untenable if poorly implemented. Models of enquiry into the future and about the future must take account of the inter-relatedness of all subject positions regarding the future in question. The text, its author, the analyst, the culture, the audience, the citizen all provide a colour within envisaging the future as a subject in process, as important parts of the becoming thesis. Public Becoming: Planned Obsolescence and (Re)Discovery For the future has been habitually confused with being a denotable construct about which true or false statements could these be in the family of Niles national lies? can be made rather than as a connotative artefact of human thought dependent upon widely accepted interpretative practices. To consider the future as an artificial social product with constructed cultural intention is to open a way beyond this current temporal thought. Much influenced by Michel Foucaults argument that truth is always and everywhere an element of vested power-interests, by redefining its

contemporary categories, concepts and applications as perhaps social control in action, the future can be reconceived, recovered and re-explained in radically different ways from conventional reasoning. This can lead to the creation of a new intellectual site a public intellectual network to rethink Australias national possibilities. If this methodology is taken on board within Australian Studies, the future as Australians know it in the early twenty-first century might be significantly questioned and may become obsolete. And the subject-position of futurists within society might be re- evaluated or at least re-placed and recast to responsibly and socially accountable positions. Granted, in attributing considerable power to the media and complementarily presupposing the well-tempered citizen audience to be active, engaging receivers of the messages directed at it,256 fictions of the future in Australian society are frequently mapped through advertising and popular publication by various types of futurists. Business as usual, progress is profit, time is short, the future is now, embrace uncertainty, live for the moment these compact forms of ideological code or philosophy (conceptual equivalents to what genetic research calls the meme), conflate senses of the future to profit-delimited patterns of capitalism and industrialism and dominate common dialogues within twenty- first century society. Yet it is these same conceptual memes that, under the diagnosis available to what I have called Australian futures studies, require a rethinking of the future and a dispossession of present-day imaginary mis- recognitions. That is, there is a need to unmask social futures mapping of

this kind and other kinds as products of specific forward-thinking enterprises. In this way, to return to the above-mentioned ideological memes, it can be alternatively conceived that business is not in fact usual and progress is not always profitable when environmental discourse (with its warnings of ecological collapse) is incorporated into commercial tropes of industrialism. Likewise, time is not short and the future is not actually now if citizens extend their sense of the present beyond entrenched short-sightedness. And embracing uncertainty encourages anxiety rather than contentment, but living for life not merely the moment may prove to be more fulfilling. Here then, I suggest, is a pressing intellectual agenda for Australian studies. Unless Australianists257 probe our (historical and contemporary) attempts to harness the future to social ends, the theorisation of Australia as a becoming culture will be inadequate to the task of Australian studies and will lack the methodological support through which Australian scholars seek theoretical validation and approval. After all, as Roland Barthes puts it, method certifies.258 But this is not in any way to concede a new form of Australian studies orthodoxy within which alternative futures are (re)packaged or recycled in safe academic forms. Nor is it to argue that a privileged discourse of Australian futures studies could somehow speak the truth of the future and rank other interests in the future on a specific scale of priority. Indeed, the challenge Im suggesting is not entirely academic; it

256 257

Miller, op. cit. A term describing Australian studies scholars as used by Maynard in an Australian Public Intellectual Network chat forum, Next Generation Postgraduate Australian Studies,, 24 May 2000.

can be political as well. For the call to a reinvigorated form of Australian studies assuredly finds no allegiance in the liberal governments compression of arts funding and university departments during the year 2000. Yet, in addition to requiring new research tools to understand Australias conception and uses of the future in the past and present and in approaching the future as itself becoming, Australia needs to create a new knowledge institution Australian futures studies, perhaps for guaranteeing that these tools are implemented and these questions are investigated. Australia needs, from the perspective offered by public intellectualism, an ombudsperson of temporal fiction mapping who, in effect, can act at times as a liberator of the national imagination from politicised, religious or other totalising forms of futures-thinking. It requires a democratisation of futures as it were, a way of seeing the future as a subject mobilised by humans over a progression of multiple situations, sites of contestation, discourses and desires, with little certainly no master narrative that would justify any single claim to be mediating the future on behalf of particular interest- groups, communities or societies. It requires recognition that some narratives, which recommend a future, are frequently aligned with profitable, political and commercial interests rather than responsible and reasoned critical inquiry on the fate of the human experiment and the projects of civilisation. Assuredly, in western societies a basic criterion for filtering out certain futures and applying others remains economic profitability. The implications of a close relationship between futures-related activities and

Roland Barthes, Image, Music, Text, trans by Stephen Heath, Oxford, Fontana, 1977, p 196.

the existing centres of social and economic power are an area of concern.259 Significantly then, Australian studies requires a multiaccentuated sense of futures to balance the more base elements of popular, corporate and political futurism. What is at issue is not necessarily diffusion but discovery, not application but invention, not vision but critical foresight. One of the tasks of next generation Australian studies scholars, I argue, will be to create the new public intellectual technologies for reflexively understanding cultural uses of the future and to involve society as a collective in the working out of these processes. The features that will ground these technologies in culture exist already as natural elements of higher-order human capacities for speculation, foresight, modelling and choice. Slaughter describes the elegant, complex ways in which human beings are fundamentally capable of applied foresight, forward thinking and responsible behaviour mindful of potential long-term consequences: [H]uman beings are able to think not only about the future but futures plural. Unlike the human body, which is necessarily constrained in time by the close coordination of biology (respiration, digestion, protein synthesis), the human mind, imagination and spirit are free to roam at will among a stunning array of different worlds and world-views, past, present and future Crudely put, the wiring of the brain/mind system is sufficiently complex and inclusive to permit consideration of past environments that the body and perceptual

Slaughter, op. cit., p 215.

apparatus were never present to experience directly. It supports knowledge and understanding of significant contexts in the historical present that are displaced in space (for example, Chernobyl, Bosnia, Okalahoma City), and it enables the forward view a potentially panoramic outlook on a vast span of alternative futures.260 Can we theorise the group consciousness and fantasies of our Australian cultures as equally adaptive? Does the Australian national imagination roam consciously throughout a rich, complex extended present, to understand responsibilities and consequences, and to speculate on futures to come?261 Where do we locate the common dreams of the nation? Ombudsperson of Fiction Mapping This thesis has established the link between text and time in defining the essential elements of futurestext. Text can be a powerful conveyer of time and our relationship to times unfolding. Text in this role can perform interesting functions. For example, text can capture time. In her paper Diaries, Time and Subjectivity, Julia Martin reasons that particular texts like the diary relate special and unique senses of being in time from one day to the next. Diaries speak of a subject that is fragmented, secretive and discontinuous, yet they enable a complicated weaving of available narratives. For this reason, argues Martin, the diary is simultaneously
260 261

ibid, p 307. ibid.

representative and non-representative of the time in which it is written and explores whether it is possible to access real life [experience] through narrative.262 On the point of this thesis, texts can also create time and it is these particular texts that have concerned the present Australian studies analysis. Certain texts, like the religious and secular examples discussed above, do claim to access future life through narrative. I have argued that Australian studies might become engaged not only with the assemblage of these futures within the target society but also in reflexive discussions about its own futures knowledge-producing and representational practices within social, political, cultural and imaginative contexts. Couched within the writing Australia debate enjoined by Ffion Murphy and next generation scholars in New Talents, I have speculated that the Australian studies commentator might consider their practices of speaking about Australia to a community of other commentators and question the positionality of such analysis indeed, the writing of Australia studies in relation to the meaning of representation: interpretation, communication, visualisation, translation and advocacy.263 The production and reception of Australian studies may be innovated in this way and resituated in the public domain. The producer of Australia studies the scholar, the writer, the researcher, the advocate might no longer be an insider or practitioner of field-building, comfortable in the lofty white towers of James Jupps Chardonnay socialism, but instead a


Julia Martin, Diaries, Time and Subjectivity, In/Between: Negotiating Time and Space, < /inbetween/>.

citizen democratised as public intellectual, a voice that speaks in circumstances which do not favour them.264 The call for the public intellectual as a type of ombudsperson of the future and culture has prominent supporters. From the pulpit of the Ashfield Uniting Church in Sydney, mixing state and religious concerns in a presentation overlooked by the media of the day, Kim Beazley redirected a question posed by Mark in the new testament what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul?265 from citizen to society to fellow citizens: What does it profit a nation if it gains the whole world but loses its soul? I worry that ideas like the knowledge nation, ideas I see as essential to the future, have become a clich at the very time we most need them to mean something to people. Changing that is a job for me, but it is also a job for those who believe in a fair future for our country ... Ultimately and appropriately for today, this is a question of belief. Do we really believe in fairness in this country? Not just the word, but for what it demands of us all. Are we really prepared to make the investment in our fellow citizens that is needed?266

Alison James, Jenny Hockey and Andrew Dawson (eds), After Writing Culture, London, Routledge, 1997, p 2. 264 Murphy, op. cit. 265 Gospel of Mark 8:36. 266 Beazley, op. cit.

Adaptive Value in Australian futures studies I have suggested that this emerging breed of Australian studies scholar, perhaps equipped with the tools available under Australian futures studies or public intellectualism, might better account for the set of relationships and dialogues between futures, text and culture. In accounting reflexively for the textuality of their own texts, Australian public intellectuals would be situated self-consciously in the relations of power operating about, within and around (futures) text. In engaging histories of debates concerning the politics of representing and signifying the future, Australian futures studies might become a project that focuses significantly on the making, the becomings of Australian society, on the generative nature of the meaning of [Australian] texts, the process and the metaphor of performativity.267 In reviewing the active political invention of the future, the notion of advocacy in this way would be placed alongside the issue of agency, the politics and poetics of speaking for, about and to, others; that is, the question of addressivity in relation to [Australian studies] disciplinary formation.268 In drawing the threads of this discussion together then, the search for responsibility and methodology in Australian futures brings a corresponding set of arguably important questions to the fore. When confronted with future mythology whether this takes the form of an image or vision of the future, an advertisement marketing futures alongside the pursuit of

Alison Lee, Discourse Analysis and Cultural (Re)Writing, in Lee and Poynton, op. cit., p 200. 268 ibid., p 202.

consumption (where citizens exchange capital for a consumable promising shares in a future), a sectarian community sermonising salvation and redemption from the apocalypse via a franchise of commitment, or political elites seeking to re-enchant their electorates with visionary speech acts we need to be more critically aware of our invention. As I opened this project, we must ask ourselves not is it true? but what is it meant to do? This approach to futures recognises the textual element inherent in constructing the future. Such a mode of analysis is clearly complex when considered in terms of exposing the penetration of particular types of futures thinking into culture and social life but it is a move towards proposing more positive, critically self-aware forms of realistically and practically approaching the future. In this respect, an ideology of futures-thinking may be analysed, where the writing of futures and the consumption of futures representations are perceived as meaningful practices locating cultural strategies of foresight in action. There is value in this kind of analysis. Different patterns of futures construction and reception convey distinctive styles of thought and distribution. Some represent an attraction to exotic, strange and new re- conceptions of present-day social relations; some create an opportunity to renegotiate, even re-evaluate or ridicule, the choices of the past (and thereby recast choices of the present in a different perspective). Edelman distinguishes the adaptive value of these kinds of activity: The freeing of parts of conscious thought from the constraints of an immediate present and the increased richness of social communication allow for the anticipation of future states and for planned behaviour.

With that ability comes the abilities to model the world, to make explicit comparisons and to weigh outcomes; through such comparisons comes the possibility of reorganising plans.269 Slaughter describes a responsible interpretation and use of the present in relation to understanding the past and future, though not without a warning: There is no past in the sense of a completed totality, split off from the present. Equally, there is no future that stands alone, unaffected by what has gone before. Both are constitutive of the present in a process of unending mediation and change. It follows that, to the extent such mediation becomes increasingly conscious, and motivated by the highest (emancipatory) interests, we may indeed aspire to an ethic of improvement and human fulfilment. Equally, by adhering uncritically to understandings, ideologies and commitments of earlier periods, and therefore failing to engage in this process, we may miss the chance to counteract the forces that lead to dystopian futures and the end of the human experiment.270

G Edelman, Bright Air, Brilliant Fire, Basic Books, New York, 1992, as quoted in Slaughter, ibid., p 307. 270 Slaughter, op. cit., p 220-221.

Sham Futures As with Georg Simmels analysis of the manner by which conspicuous consumption cultivates sham individuality, other futurestext can express status (a promising future, your ticket to better future) and fashionability which can be accounted for (if left unchallenged) as containing a Simmellian sham value on the basis of their artificiality.271 These futures, implying status, often have their origins in the same language and conceptual apparatus, marketed as distinctive only in brand. The sophisticated, even saturated, advertisement of one future containing a greater degree of cultural capital or competence over another future is not perhaps to distinguish genuine, viable futures from impractical, critically-unworthy futures but is rather one salvo among many in a border war between choice and restriction for the average citizen.272 For example, the difference between Vodaphones The future is calling and Toyotas The future is now, or Genovis The future is Genovis and Galaxy TVs Welcome to the future, reflect marketing practices invoking a common, fashionable metaphor rather than useful commentary on the future per se: status is conferred on the innovated product possessing an innovated future. Similarly, the quarrels in which the citizen becomes involved in with government, institute, organisation, council or committee over a future going beyond the bounds of acceptability (for example, a proposed highway cutting through ones


Georg Simmel, Essays on Culture: Selected Writings, D Frisby and M Fetherstone (eds), London, Sage, 1997.

property to cater to anticipated increased traffic flow) are evidence not so much of an internal conceptual tension about the future (traffic flow will likely increase) as of a divergence of interests between choice and restriction (the proposed highway, argue the directly affected, should cut through somewhere else). Even the activities of recognising the advertised millennium were itself part of a unified project encouraging and harmonising fashionabilities associated with forms, styles and content of celebration. The differentiation of celebrating the millennium into activities such as viewing the 25-hour television broadcast, participating in the Woodford Festival, taking the family to the Southbank fireworks spectacular, raving in millennium parties, booking tickets at an expensive restaurant or picking a spot for first dawn watching, to name a few was marketed quite broadly. The distinctions between choices were emphasised. On a surface level, this was due to their ranging content and the opportunities opened up by popular and official culture for all kinds of individual and social creativity and decoding of the idea millennium. But in another sense, the differentiation between choices reflected the classification, organisation and categorisation of citizens within a collective conceived to consume the millennium fiction at a specified time (new years eve). As Theodor Adorno argued on the culture industry in a different tense, something was provided for everyone so that none would escape.273 Certainly, the hierarchical range of patterns for celebrating the

The term border war is borrowed from Donna Haraways penetrating A Cyborg Manifesto, op. cit. 273 Adorno, op .cit., p 34.

millennium was of varying quality and advanced Adornos rule of complete quantification. Everybody must behave (as if spontaneously) in accordance with [their] previous determined and indexed level, and choose the category of mass product turned out for [their] type differentiated products prove to be all alike in the end.274 Thus in the lead up to 2000AD Australian newspapers ran articles that asked, How will you celebrate 2000AD? on the basic assumption that Australians would or should. Where the market failed to locally finance the celebration of the future, tropes of transaction between investment, profit and millennial moments appeared in advertisements inviting capital within the promise of profitable return. The business community of Mallacoota argued that it was among the prestigious locations in Australia to receive first dawn light from the rising 1 January 2000 sun. Why light from that particular sunrise and not any other should be prestigious was not taken up in significant debate but the potential profit of capitalising on this event through those persons who understood first dawn to be important was, as evidenced by the Mallacoota First Dawn internet home page: You can sponsor the Sunrise and Virtual Celebrations by purchasing banner ads that link back to your web site. With the immense

exposure that Virtual First Dawn in Mallacoota is receiving from National and International media outlets, television, cable and radio as well as thousands of hits on a daily basis, your web site will be in a position to harvest all those visitors. Please use the contact form to express your interest in advertising your business on the very popular First Dawn Mallacoota On-Line multimedia web site. There are several sponsorship packages available.275 Commercially Opportunistic Futures Consumerisms and addictions are the tragic symptoms of unlived spiritual life. When we are connected to spirit through public enchantment, spirit has a creative outlet. But when this outlet is blocked, or lost then we become enslaved to what I would call fake questing for spiritual fulfilment. When our public spirit is broken down and offers no enchantment, there is a terrible, mad and destructive rush towards private or [purchasable] personal enchantments. And countless predatorial industries and businesses arise to supply us with the goods and services to help us fill the void that we sense at the heart of our lives.276

274 275

ibid. First Dawn Mallacoota, <> 276 Tacey, op. cit.

What is remarkable about this millennial urge to commercial opportunism? In a consumer world, the preaching of millennial prosperity finds enthusiastic ears and the moral argument of reaping what society has sown finds it sponsors not necessarily in social fabric but in profit, a sentiment well exploited. Hawking preferred forms of recognising and celebrating the millennium, businesses, councils, governments and organisations clamoured for millennial attention. The Millennium Society boasted that the Big 2000 might be capitalisms best invention since Christmas277 and Fortune magazine, writing on the merchandising of the millennium, claimed that undoubtedly, the turning of the millennium will be one of the largest commercial events of our lifetime.278 Political jousting for the most profitable event was a feature of the 1990s and characterised millennial planning. Perceiving a commercial opportunity in first light of the millennium prominence, thirteen pacific island nations including Samoa, Fiji, Kiribati, Tonga and the Cook Islands formed in 1996 a joint planning and marketing alliance called the South Pacific Millennium Consortium. This consortium was established for coordinating millennial celebrations, maximising promotional exposure and augmenting the influx of tourist capital. It was an attempt to avoid any clashes and rivalries between pacific states likely to undermine promotional hopes while at the same time capitalising on their claims to being the first locations in the world to greet the year 2000. A number of significant developments arose from this arrangement. Proposals were put forth to boost coconut economies with
277 278

Tom Huth, on the merchandising of the millennium in Fortune magazine. Millennium Society cochairperson Cathleen Magennis Wyatt.

capital drawn from tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of visitors intent on being members of the exclusive, apparently prestigious, millennial first dawn club. Several pitches used the regions bisection by the dateline as a ploy to market dual New Year celebrations. In this scenario, a millennial tourist would celebrate first dawn in Fiji just west of the dateline and then fly east 620 miles to Samoa where it would still be 31 December 1999 and welcome in a second new year. Other motions were legislated by respective government cabinets. In 1997, Kiribati President Teburoro Tito moved the international dateline from central Kiribati (otherwise known as Christmas Island) to the pacific nations far eastern border. In this way Kiribati was under one time regime when the millennium arrived previously the dateline had divided the island into two different time zones. Caroline Island, southeast of Hawaii and a member of Kiribatis Line Islands, was officially renamed Millennium Island to promote a series of events planned to mark 2000 and to invite both development and population of the uninhabited island. Yet despite much vaunting, the consortium collapsed in November 1998 after a series of disputes regarding inadequate tourist infrastructure and continuing rivalry over third millennium prominence. But efforts to capitalise on the conjuncture between geographical location and millennial appearance continued in diverse, sometimes extravagant ways. While the exclusive island resort of Vatulele in Fiji offered an ultimate millennium holiday package for US $500 000, other pacific states looked to the guarantee of global television exposure during a planned 25-hour third millennium broadcast organised by the British Broadcasting Corp, Cable News Network

and thirty-eight additional television networks. In the mobilisation of human resources, the millennial turn in its secular tropes of New Years Eve countdown and first dawn viewing was conceived as a moment primed with capital-raising opportunities. The businesses that owned the rights to claim elements of the millennium as their own maintained the competitive edge in the transaction of cash for memorable millennial time. The Salvation Franchise Lord we pray that Jesus will be exalted today. Lord we pray for Australia. Lord we do believe in the potential of this nation. Lord we see you as being the hope for this nation. Lord I pray in the name of Jesus that the cause of Christ will continue to go forward in our country and the unifying gospel of Jesus is the answer for the nation, and we speak your name again over Australia today. We thank you Lord that our hope is in you and I pray father that people can finance us in Jesus Christ in your precious name.279 A politics of business can be sensed too within many forms of religious differentiation, as in the above prayer by Brian Houston spoken at the launch of a coalition of pentecostal churches the Australian Christian Church. It is no accident that the narrower the definition of salvation, the more specialised the rituals for attaining it, the qualifications for distributing it and

Brian Houston, at the launch of the Australian Christian Church, New Beginnings, The Spirit of Things, Radio National, broadcast, 23 February 2000.

the exclusivity for keeping it. Such restrictions place the power of salvation into the hands of a small number of people who make available upon specialised or ritualised request the means to lease it. I use the word 'lease' because salvation is never fully settled. Instead, a symbolic contract is achieved between the franchise and the seeker in which salvation is conveyed to the seeker for a specified period but usually in exchange for membership and often mental and financial obligation. If the seeker breaks the contract, salvation is lost. Jehovah's Witnesses call this act of severance 'disfellowshipping' and the seeker is designated by continuing followers of Watchtower as an 'apostate', a term redeployed to mean an individual who has lost the faith and is additionally against the almighty creator. Many ex- witnesses are emotionally scarred by this devastating, violent act of seemingly removing salvation and have setup international support services. In this sense, a small elite using exclusive language and narrow definitions and who therefore monopolise the forms and the senses of achieving salvation habitually frames salvation and the rituals of being saved from a monstrous future. Who benefits and who is disempowered by the agenda being set in this manner? Why are only selected people able to lease directions to the road of salvation with maps that periodically imply the master planner has changed compass, be it the secular salvation from ecological doom or theological salvation from the damnable mark of the beast? Saving a person from the antichrist has become a robust industry. Religious entrepreneurs proliferate their scriptural shandies and spiritual quick fixes to the middle-class disheartened with the expertise of

experienced confidence tricksters and the finesse of door-to-door salespeople. Subscribe to a local salvation franchise of the gospel of wealth variety found marketing in the early morning hours of Australian televangelism and a continual stream of ministrations will arrive in the mail replete with US postage markings and external messages warning you and your postie: This envelope contains important information the devil hopes you will never find out!, Eight things you need to know before the new millennium, Has Y2K plunged us into a countdown to chaos? Don't panic prepare and trust God! or Unleash the power of your faith!. Content will vary across a range of marketable approaches. Two recent postings I received from the same franchise respectively presented a 4-5 page personalised letter requesting I purchase dynamic ministry materials like Your Y2K New Millennium Survival Personal Library Kit for an appropriate seed harvest of $165.99. This reflected fair market value on powerful items including The Antichrist: 666 video, a three audio tape set called End Time Signs and the Book of Revelation Comic Book. An explanation sheet was also included for explaining the rituals required to activate an enclosed miracle touch 2-inch square cloth, apparently anointed touched in a supernatural way by a special class of persons self-identified as prayer warriors. Some packages have reflected telegram-style formatting to emphasise the great URGENCY felt by a pastor that many of you may be on the verge of falling apart or feeling absolutely overwhelmed by fear, anger, depression, rejection, worry and who desperately require a newly-released powerful book of wisdom to overcome personal tribulation and to successfully rebuke the devil. Often, correspondence signed from the

pastor displays these excesses of individual concern, claims of divine new revelation blended with unbiblical doses of numerological deduction, and a persistent problem with capitalisation. The accompanying letter to the Y2K Personal Request Sheet begins with direct address, encouraging its reader to perceive the year ahead in the interpretative scheme suggested by the pastor understanding the year in this way would bring status and benefit: Dear Jason, you are now reading a letter that HAD TO BE sent to you. From the moment I felt prompted to begin, I knew in my heart, I HAD NO OTHER CHOICE ... Yes, the Lord told me to prepare this ... He gave me a vivid, supernatural glimpse of the miracle difference this one letter could make in your life ... especially in this year of 1999 ...You and I are now living in the year 1999. When you study Biblical numbers and their significance in end-time prophecy, patterns and plans ... you quickly learn that the NUMBER 9 is the number which signifies FRUITFULNESS! Jason, God wants you to see your year of 99 ... in a special way. 99 ... {NINE NINE} SEE it as your YEAR OF DOUBLE FRUITFULNESS. Clearly subscribing to a future thats perceived to promise more choice and less restriction (while entailing risk) permits the citizen (or governments, nations, businesses, and communities) to differentiate themselves from their fellow citizens whom they identify with less choice and more restriction in other futures.

Loading the Future with Symbolic Software As with the case with the Millennium Consortium, future-conscious citizens often consolidate their membership to a particular future as they distinguish themselves from the mass. The form this takes is not limited to the example provided by the above-mentioned pact of pacific islands. Some consolidations are new and expect to wield political power: Australian Christian Churches really wants to impact the fibre of the country, the heart of Australia. I genuinely believe that the church is the answer of the nation in the future. I think Australias got a great future and I think the church has got a great part to play in it.280 Others are quite long-lived and doctrinally deep. As an illustration, Australian Jehovahs Witnesses demonstrate a pronounced satisfaction and sense of organisational structure in a future grounded on the impending theocracy of their god while displaying a clear avoidance of tainted worldliness outside their respective congregations: Why, though, does the Society construct new buildings when the world is in such an uncertain state? Brother Barry explained that Jehovah's organisation expects to survive these troubled times. God's people are getting equipped and organised to give the greatest witness possible in these final years before Armageddon brings an end to this system of

things. And they hope that many of their new facilities will be used in the great post-Armageddon reorganisation work.281 The Watchtower Society characterises present-day Jehovahs Witnesses activities as formative of a supreme mission implicated in a hope for the future: The purpose of The Watchtower is to exalt Jehovah God as Sovereign Lord of the universe. It keeps watch on world events as these fulfil Bible prophecy. It comforts all peoples with the good news that Gods kingdom will soon destroy those who oppress their fellowmen and that it will turn the earth into a paradise It adheres to the Bible as authority.282 The wonderful apocalypse hope is still alive! For their part, Jehovahs Witnesses are convinced that the wonderful promises in connection with the Millennium will be fulfilled Jehovahs Witnesses are engaged in a worldwide Bible educational work to enable as many people as possible to embrace this hope As heralds of these glad

280 281

ibid. You CAN take it with you (Organisation survive), in The Watchtower: Announcing Jehovahs Kingdom, 1 November 1983, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Denham Court, New South Wales, p 30. 282 Inside cover statement in its current form as it appears in The Watchtower: Announcing Jehovahs Kingdom, 1 December 1999, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Denham Court, New South Wales, p 1.

tidings, Jehovahs Witnesses are really the mouthpiece of a symbolic heavenly messenger whose mission is also described in Revelation.283 In this respect, Jehovahs Witnesses amalgamate around the creeds and doctrines of the Watchtower Society by observing proper conduct and directing their thinking along a required, arguably inflexible pattern: Fight against independent thinking! As we study the Bible we learn that Jehovah has always guided his servants in an organised way. And just as in the first century there was only one true Christian organisation, so today Jehovah is using only one organisation. (Ephesians 4:4, 5; Matthew 24:45-47) If we get to thinking that we know better than the organisation, we should ask ourselves: "Where did we learn Bible truth in the first place? Would we know the way of the truth if it had not been for guidance from the organisation? Really, can we get along without the direction of God's organisation?" No, we cannot! (Compare Acts 15:2, 28, 29;16:4, 5) When we consider the mighty spirit forces that are fighting against us, we must acknowledge that on our own we could not possibly win. Yet with God's backing, and with the help and support of his organisation our worldwide


The Apocalypse To be Feared or Hoped For? and Glad Tidings from the Apocalypse, in The Watchtower: Announcing Jehovahs Kingdom, 1 December 1999, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Denham Court, New South Wales, pp 5-8, 9-14.

association of brothers we cannot lose. (Psalm 118:6-12; 1 Peter 5:9)284 Indeed, from one end of Australia to the other, a theological tug-or-war today pits the mainstream manufacturers of Christian salvation like Catholicism and Anglicanism, once the apex rivals of the religious hierarchy, against the less historically-entrenched franchises, lead by charismatic ego- theologists I am/You are God like Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland or ruling councils of elders such as Watchtowers, that push their products into the seekers homes. Fought at the television set, the Internet browser (a new Bible-highway), the front gate or door and every Queen Street corner in Australian cities, it is a battle of abstractions. The emerging heavy-weights of salvation, for example The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, send their thousands across Australia each congregations house-to-house pattern administered by the resident map-servant to call on locals and push their current book, pamphlet, and magazines relevant to the degree of invitation. Each day, negotiations in theological abstractions for Jehovahs Witnesses and their listeners takes place on a scale of hundreds of thousands in Australia alone.

Deciding for Yourself What You Want to Believe is PRIDE!, in The Watchtower: Announcing Jehovahs Kingdom, 15 January 1983, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Denham Court, New South Wales, p 27.

Explore / Choose Your Future: Choice and Restriction It is not problematic, however, to argue that sites dealing with futures in the secular domain work through a similar play between consolidation, distribution, differentiation, pride, inflexibility and avoidance. For example, how formalised is the differentiation of options in the future within, say, contemporary meanings of employment? Citizens I argue are encouraged at various stages of interaction with society that not every future should be perceived equal. Australian business Careers-Onlines presents employment as an open landscape awaiting a type of exploration with its leading motto, explore your future. The University of Queensland, in a tone less exploratory and more selective, promotes on its student website the imperative choose your future. What temporal relations between the citizen and future can it be asked are being de-focused or directed in this manner? Here I would consider that the possibility of dialogue between citizens and their futures as respectively job-seekers and students in the Careers-online and the University of Queensland examples is pre-empted by framing and presenting (perhaps wholly unproblematic) options as preordained alternatives. These alternatives offered at face value invite selection based on (implicit) pride and (avoiding) restriction but not revision, re-creation or reinterpretation. The debate over which future best suits the job seeker or the student, in appraising their respective skills and talents, perpetuates a semblance of competition and the range of choice.

Not all contemporary futures avoid a full consciousness of responsibility. In Niles becoming thesis, the national conception of the future often promises to make or reveal Australia as the nation it is conceptually meant to be and the strive in the emerging new talents of Australian studies is to become aware of this very trope of becoming. Yet other futures are less sophisticated and baser in their outcomes. Some may be interpreted as an ideological distraction from contemporary social tensions or at least a manifestation of unfulfilment in the mental life of citizens. These types of invention find an echo in the marketing of purchasable enchantments like crystals, stones, self-help publications, tapes and new age sacralised paraphernalia. A similarity in purpose is also found in the theological architecture of salvation franchises that offer solutions to the discontents, decisional stresses and cognitive overloads of (present and future) life via an escape route common to the apocalyptic Christian mindset: [V]irtually every person who comes with some sort of message of imminent redemption of the world makes it clear to his audience that there is still just at least a little bit of time left. And they would like to use that little bit of time thats left in order to encourage as many people as possible to make the commitment to join their community so that they will be ready when the end of days, which is near at hand, actually unfolds.285

Al Baumgarten, Millennial Dreams One, The Spirit of Things, Radio National broadcast, 4 April 1999.

As might be evident from the present enquiry, there is a temptation to reduce the aims of this project to simply a matter of acquiring the appropriate language or terminology to describe the features of futures thinking commonly at play. This might be a valid criticism but there is more at stake than the work of excavating a grammar for describing contemporary futures mythology, perhaps I would characterise a more ambitious duty. Language after all does not bear a clear and unambiguous relationship to the real world, though frequently institutions have tried to capitalise on promoting such a link (for example, the Queensland University of Technologys motto, a university for the real world).286 But to redirect a lateral glance made by Foucault at the projects of spacialisation and history, what is crucial is to begin writing the story of futures (or temporal relations), which would concurrently be about a story of forward-thinking power: from the political strategies of visionary speech, through the invested capital interests of salvation franchises, to the cultural creation of the national future.287 Within Australian futures studies, commissioned with writing the near and far histories of becoming, we might probe the social, ethical, political, commercial and vocational levels of the various futures that populate a citizens relationship to the future with a variety of images, meanings and possibilities. Of these acts in imaginative invention, we might ask several questions.
286 287

Slaughter, op. cit., p 207. Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge, New York, Pantheon, 1980, p 149.

Twenty-Four Questions Does the futurestext serve the community or the community serve the futurestext? What aspects of society and its relation to time does it reflect or invent? Are there identifiable trajectories of temporal thinking that it mirrors (cyclical, linear, minimalist, cosmic, spiritual, determinist, prophetic, timeless)? Does it privilege one sense of time over the erasing of another? Does it serve to commodify time, knowledge and relationships for some form of profit? Does the text empower community members and, if so, whom does it benefit and what is its purpose? What kind of constitutive interests are embodied in the futurestext? Does the futurestext enhance or depress cultural life? Does it concentrate, centralise or equalise the power of choice? How does the futurestext affect the perception of our needs and social relations? What does it persuade citizens to ignore? Is it consistent with the creation of responsible, critical options in the future? What are its effects on relationships within and without the community? Does it foster a diversity of forms of knowledge, perhaps keeping in tune with Kim Beazleys dream of the knowledge nation, or a contraction of options, perhaps portioning out shares of Don Dunstans spoils of defeat? Is this future a desirable place, even in imagination? Does it create or institute a knowledge elite? Is this elite required for its perpetuation? What beliefs does its use foster and encourage? Can its value system be directly apprehended or are its ideologies and commitments implicit and submerged? Is the futurestext totalitarian? Has it been objectified and made viable before debate over it (if any) begins? Does it invigorate, reform, weaken or deaden human creativity?

What kind of capital (for example, labour, sacrifice, profit) does it require for its social or individual activation and realisation? What cultural resources is a reader of the futurestext required to utilise? And does it contribute to (de)mystifying the public, confusing purpose or inhibiting progress toward greater effectiveness?

Conclusion Unfinished Optimism? King Solomon once wrote that where there is no vision the people perish.288 It is arguable that vision is a strong and necessary foundation stone in the building up of society, its members and the projects of civilisation. From this viewpoint it is not unreasonable to say that the future envisioned differentiates the citizen, community or society from its peers. Different visions modify emotion, intellect, politics, vocation, ethics and behaviour in different ways. To act as an ombudsperson of these processes of modification to ensure an expansion of options rather than an artificial narrowing is an ambitious task. It is prudent then to expect generalisations of many kinds collecting around vision and future where critical and reflexive thinking of the kind described in previous chapters is not utilised. For example, statements of the nature below gather much attention in newspapers, radio broadcasts and publications. Inspirational opinionising of this kind and its related call to action is well known, often well received and widely consumed: [W]hen the present flawed unfinished adventure began [a] day of invasion for some of us it might have been, the start of a brutal conquest it certainly was [But] from brutal beginnings, the


Proverbs 29:18.

experiment, with great sad gaps, has worked. There is much to rejoice in. And, of course, much to do. Let us do it, in good heart.289 Like others, the above excerpt reflects perhaps a sense of the unfinished optimism (or Niles perpetual provisionality) central to the becoming thesis.290 But how useful is this attitude really when the call to action might be under-developed or vague? In digesting Bob Elliss Visions of Australia on 22 January 2000, we might ask how do Australians actually (re)invent a future in good heart? And what is it that according to Ellis needs much doing? Kim Beazley, in a parallel sermon of optimism, articulates the widely shared pre-millennial vision that if we as a generation can use our voice, a voice accepting responsibility, responsibility to protect the fairness that is this countrys soul, then future generations will truly be able to rise up and call us blessed.291 Is it clear in Beazleys extract from the pulpit how, or in exactly what sense, the Australian citizen might begin to accept responsibility or protect fairness? Perhaps not. I would argue that under closer consideration, of the kind advocated by the present thesis, commentaries of this nature contain some significant deficiencies that can be identified as starting points for enquiry. As an illustration, statements like Beazleys when set up against a contemporary social stage of tribulation may stir our sympathies. This is
289 290

Ellis, op. cit. Richard Nile, Civilisation, The Australian Legend and its Discontents, University of Queensland Press, forthcoming, 2000.

not without intention. Beazleys speech forms part of the political strategy to renegotiate local electoral allegiance with a Labour party that promises what Beazley envisions to be a fair future. To achieve this, Beazley relates contemporary Australian experience not with essential criterions of identifying who is Australian but with his use of the collective we and its connection with national knowledge: We have known war and peace, poverty and plenty, drought and flood; we have known all these things.292 This experience becomes a potent political fiction, a myth, in which the shared nouns of catastrophe (war, poverty, drought, and flood) motivate identification in this collectivity. Who counts as we in this rhetoric? It is the we who have knowledge (though not necessarily direct experience) of these things. Fairness rests on the construction of the consciousness, the imaginative apprehension, of present existing plain unfairness within this experience and therefore of possibilities beyond unfairness. Beazleys speech is then a border war between inevitable and negotiable in which the fair future is represented as seductively and realistically as possible. The stakes in this battle are choice and restriction, in which the desired choice a responsible selection of the Labor party for re-election is presented as the option of less restriction, less unfairness in the future. But, to resituate Theodor Adornos famous phrase, these are two halves of a whole that do not add up.293 There is, it would seem, a need for conceptual explicitness

291 292

Beazley, op. cit. ibid. 293 Adorno, op. cit.

and practical clarity in these self-effacing approaches to the future. Slaughter continues: Regardless of whether the view expressed is optimistic or pessimistic, whether the task is to create utopia or merely to avoid dystopia, something is missing. People who are deeply involved in particular ways of life, values, logics-in-use, traditions, and so on people whose world-views differ in many substantial ways from those quoted are being asked to co-operate from a great distance in a demanding series of more or less well-define tasks that lack historical precedent, or, so far as they are concerned, contemporary sanction. Thus, generalised calls to action may be a very ineffective way of communicating [a change in the] substance of social life and social being.294 Wholeness Hunger Beazleys call is not without merit nor isolated. But in this peculiar era of contradictions and broken images,295 in which Australians simultaneously hold profound doomsday views and millennial notions of a complete change, it seeks a problematic engagement redefinition and recuperation:296
294 295

Slaughter, op. cit., p 206. Tacey, ibid. 296 Quimby, op. cit.

[O]ne idea has held true for Australians: it is the idea we like to think defines the soul of our nation. It is the idea that each of us is valued, that we each have a right to our own dreams for the future, and especially in a country like this one, an equal chance to fulfil them. In other words, it is fairness.297 To mobilise the fair future to the centre of culture requires a sensitive, critically self-aware reworking of Australias connection with time and citizen, a recuperation as it were of a new dreaming which breeds the connected self.298 The world comes into being through this web of connections which sustain life; that our origins and our future are within this web; that the meaning of our lives is within this web; that the histories of our bodies and our minds are within this web; that the meaning of death is here too; that the generations on which we ride the waves of time are of and in this web the world is not in need of a new story, it is we who are in need.299 This should invite both a ruthless, penetrating practicality in reinvigorating Australias soul and the humility to undo the self-interest which has till
297 298

Beazley, op. cit. John Cleary, Re-enchantment, The Spirit of Things, Radio National, broadcast, 11 August 1999. 299 Deborah Rose Bird, Re-enchantment, The Spirit of Things, Radio National, broadcast, 11 August 1999.

now only rewarded the isolated and competitive and dominating self.300 It calls for a rupture with existing epistemological structures of meaning. Without fetishising other cultures of connection such as indigenous (or the popularly labelled wisdom) cultures, it invites Australian society to break down the proverbial unfair future, question its nature, unmask its implicit investments and flaws, and remake a site for fair futures. There is value in this process. Our connections with the world outside will be more evident, sustainable, real and responsible. But there is resistance too. The current industrial and capital forms of social relations and imaginings continue to work against diversification, enchantment and connection: For settler descendants connections are ruptured almost daily. Towns are flooded, suburban streets erased, farms repossessed, pastures blown away, forests stripped, historical sites bulldozed, relationships of care subverted to the rule of profit. Here in Australia, and around the world, economic rationalism, global economic treaties and a culture of social worth defined by consumer power, reward the isolated and dominating self. So it seems that despair often appears before us as our destiny, as well as being a daily temptation.301 These destructive forces are not abstract nor without perpetrators. Deborah Rose Bird suggests that our common dreams are losing to the same destructive forces that have worked their violence on Aboriginal culture. We
300 301

ibid. ibid.

know violence under the name of colonisation and we know it under the name of development. Today were learning to know it under the name of globalisation.302 Argues Rose Bird: Wholeness hunger is itself part of modernity and it slips into longing for a world that one can only encounter in dreams. Here in Australia and in other settler societies one form of wholeness hunger manifests itself as the desire to attribute to indigenous people a reality that conforms to the very dreams of wholeness that are themselves brought into being by our own fragmentation. So these dreams get framed by reversals. Modernity fragments, therefore indigenous reality must be whole. Modernity destroys, indigenous people must conserve. Modernity impels us towards instrumental relationships with others and requires of us an extreme callousness; indigenous people must be kind, thoughtful and knowing. In this kind of reversal, indigenous people are configured as a sort of us as we dream of being, when we recoil from the pitiless alienation that is the experience of modernity.303
302 303

ibid. ibid.

Apocalypse Is a Way of Western Life! Themes of apocalypse then (multiple) destruction, destinies of despair, increasing disconnection, disenchantment and impending collapse are working their corrosive way through Australias social order in many forms. This has been the concern of the present project over the past three years, respectively pre and post millennium apocalyptic senses.304 At the time of writing this closing chapter, I must conclude that apocalypse remains a significant, if largely unacknowledged, interpretative practice of contemporary Australian mental life. On 23 April 2000, when Sixty Minutes promoted its lead article, The Doomsday Machine, with graphic title splashes of Armageddon: Cold War Chills, it continued in a mainstream channel of communication the formal, almost mechanical relationship that exists between apocalypse and Australian society.305 When considered on the terns of this thesis, it is an unusual headline to appear in mainstreamed presentations and invites questioning of the type encouraged under Australian futures studies or public intellectualism. That typologies of armageddon should be perceived in the contemporary events of history is common to religions like Jehovahs Witnesses, the Maranatha Revival Crusade and the Christadelphians but just how resonate theologically, socially and politically are such ideas in the climate of secular Australia today? What audience does the Sixty Minutes headline appear to be talking
304 305

ibid. Armageddon: Cold War Chills, Dan Rather (reporter), 60 Minutes, George Crile (producer), CBS, aired channel nine, 23 April 2000.

to? What are the assumptions made by its producer and their itinerary of meaning in constructing this particular headline as it relates to the continuing nuclear proliferation between nations? In the programming of the Sixty Minutes lead article, it is not unreasonable to conclude that the imagined identity of the target television audience is tied up in the expectation of climatic ends to civilisation? How so? Television current affairs are more than a representational text broadcast among other productions via a technology of delivery.306 Current affairs programming has developed strategies which can simultaneously familiarise and defamiliarise its subject content in ways not always immediately perceptible.307 Over the course of twenty-one years, Sixty Minutes has tested and proven distinctive techniques for selection, regulation and transformation of its subject. Simultaneously, it has constructed myths about its own internal processes as according to current promotional material Australia's most successful current affairs television program, which continues a tradition of excellence in reporting, camerawork and editing, that presents a mixture of headline-grabbing investigative reports, interviews, profiles and stories on the issues facing Australians and relates stories through the eyes of those involved by writing in a relaxed, contemporary fashion.308 It is these dimensions of current affairs as a consistent and coherent practice bring[ing] the world back home in techniques of production publicly

306 307

Cook, op. cit., p 61. ibid.

deployed as fair, truthfully representative and astutely aware of the real story that Sixty Minutes invites approval of its continued broadcast. That is, Sixty Minutes is a multilayered textual structure, continuous with those broader social discursive patterns which Fairclough identifies as contributing to the establishment and maintenance of specific orders of discourse,309 whose effectivity is intensified by publicly advised (and sanctioned by ratings) processes of broadcasting production. Or on terms of Sixty Minutes investigative imperative which curiously relies upon some knowledge of ancient biblical history in its public relations don't cover the Great Flood, interview Noah!310 This is mind, what contemporary fashion or order of discourse is being related by The doomsday machine or Armageddon: Cold War Chills? It is the aforementioned sense of apocalypse that is particularly manifest in the Sixty Minutes article as well as Australian society and culture at the turn of the millennium.

The Team, Sixty Minutes, website, <>, accessed 25 April 2000. 309 Cook, op. cit., p 61.

The Twenty-Fifth Question: How Do We Depoliticise Australian Futures? unless every present reworks its own archetypes, its own sacred stories, brings them alive in terms that speak to the new times, then its going to find itself in deep trouble, as is the case in the modern west.311 That to find the grand meta-narrative or the common dream of a culture which allows that culture to give itself universals by which it operates, to have shared dreams, is distinctly what the entire project of the moment is not about. It is saying that common dreams, shared dreams, tend to be impositions of power elites and potentially totalitarian and we shouldnt have them.312 As noted earlier, newspapers frequently use metaphors of shift and change and re-placement in time when reporting millennial activities during the 1990s and early 2000. Commercial and popular media often mixes political innovation with visions of a better cultural life. The unstated assumption behind this political rhetoric, then and now, is that we cannot understand the forces and necessity of cultural change unless we appreciate the special significance of certain (powerful) moments in and generations of time.
310 311

The Team, Sixty Minutes, op. cit. Carroll, op. cit. 312 Cleary, op. cit.

This suggests that Australian national culture and polity is, in some important way, linked to time. This connection might seem obvious in the coverage given to the 1999 Republican movements Its time for a change campaign or in the celebration of national and popular events as they relate to time passed (Australia Day, Anzac Day, New Years Day), but there is more to it than this. When the 31 October 1999 Sunday Show program attempted to manufacture opinion in favour of the republican president model through a 2005 hypothetical scenario, the connection between polity and time is not just a matter of rhetoric or linguistic innovation. It actually describes a key feature of the way culture and cultural change is created, propagated, enjoyed and modified. National forms of time, and the opportunities they create, help shape the culture that is produced. And national politics plays its part in this process, by the support given and the opportunities denied in manufacturing cultural time and change and in the sites allowed for civic response. If experienced time is public, then cultural time is political. The formation and deployment of cultural time acts as a technology of change over a civic body. Australian futures studies would be concerned with what relations of power operate to manufacture millennial polity and culture. In the close of 1999, capital-industrialist ideas of time and tropes of political innovation converged to influence the production, distribution and consumption of culture and polity and cultural and political change in Australia. How does time politicised as millennial affect what is seen and heard, what is composed and created? How do Australian political ideas and values, institutions and interests, interact with notions of time through

mainstream and popular media to manufacture cultural shift and opinion? What networks operate to form millennial anticipation? Can we theorise cultural time in 1999 as Australian millennial time? Is it possible to theorise the political conditions that exercise this formation of Australian millennial time? And did the millennium-future exist before Australian polity certified the fact? These questions like the others are important because of the implications they have for the role of time in the quality and character of Australian cultural life and for the use of cultural time in politics. To understand the ways in which the millennial cultural time of 1999 and contemporary Australian politics converged in an effort to reshape cultural life and polity is to understand in what way the nation builds and rebuilds itself. It has been commonplace to locate responsibility for western cultural time in the date appearing on a calendar because of the associated tendency to decipher the place of temporal meaning as contained in the calendars systemised logic and a popular willingness to view such configuration as sequentially sound and socially relevant. But this tends to downgrade other forces shaping and generating authentic time. If time is thought to be the product of time- keeping practices, it is easy to see how cultural uses of time (in this instance, millennial) come to be viewed as being pre-thematic and pre-theoretical backgrounds to cultural life rather than agencies of it pre-thematic in that the future sense of 2000ad assumed a position of commonplace involvement in contemporary public dialogue and pre-theoretical in that popular

awareness of an imminent millennium was not largely nor actively informed by the cognitive interests of an academic discipline.313 But cultural uses of time are never for minor effects. For example, the act of arriving at the millennium was a triumph of collective awareness whereby a series of narratives around a structured and fictional event converged. Media heraldry of pre- and post-millennial activism facilitated this semantic innovation and the new temporal locus (2000AD plus) was brought into the world by means of language. In synthesising the heterogeneous, dissimilar content within the numerous millennial narratives (including their story- tellers and audiences) was gathered together and harmonised. With print and electronic modes of communication eliciting dramatic responses of celebration, the multiplicity of events and structural features of the immediate future were seized all at once by the authorial overview of 2000AD. In other words, there arose a formal agreement among the cultural and political bodies that produce and maintain Australias timing that the millennium should assert symbolic power in various culturally accepted forms. In interrogating the religious and secular politics used within this millennial semantic shelter, consider the ways in which politicised time can indeed have a profound impact upon the cultural life of a nation. Why do political authorities become involved in the organisation of cultural time, such as: the encouragement of millennium celebrations or festivals by local and federal councils; the push for a millennial republic because Its time for a change; the production of policy papers like the SEQ2001 Project; or the

David Carr, Time, Narrative and History, Indianapolis, Indianapolis University Press, 1986, p 18.

creation of a Millennium Office within the Department of Internal Affairs? In what way did the 31 October 1999 Sunday Show broadcast of a hypothetical future in 2005 serve political interests? The answer does not lie simply with the political will of individual politicians; it lies both with the changing political economy of culture and time and with the cultural exchange and politicised uses of time. How useful then is it to link millennial apocalyptic time to Australian culture and to make political and media practice the engine of such connections? And in theorising this apocalyptic millennial subjectivity as Australian time, what might be recuperated, re-enchanted, reconciled, reinvigorated and recovered? Australia, the Foresight-Driven Culture? [Each citizen should] participate in the process of taking the[ir] vulnerability into a direction of enhanced activism about creating [their] own history in a just society use the millennium for that kind of opportunity.314 More and more people see the need to talk, to act, in order to create a sustainably better quality of life, not only for ourselves but for our children and our grandchildren. I am constantly talking to people now who are asking not How do we meet our material needs? but rather How do we arrange our activities so that our quality of life improves, rather than just our material wealth? I think the world is moving

towards a new set of social, political and economic realities, and I think we need to be much better prepared to face this radically different future. We have to shift our emphasis from economic efficiency and materialism towards a sustainable quality of life and to healing of our society, of our people and our ecological systems.315 Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind.316 What role does 'future-thinking' play in Australian hope and expectation? Can we establish a discourse of ethics regarding the use or misuse of future mythology? And how might we engage studies of the future in the historical and sociological disciplines that would see the future as itself a theory with very particular ideological and metaphysical investments, an address to the present, transforming it into the fulfilment of the future we aim to aspire to? This thesis has raised a number of questions about the nature, direction and control of futures thinking and it may seem unorthodox to close this project with more questions. Yet it is problematic I think to offer complete closure where little is perhaps available. For this thesis has addressed the manner in which futures knowledge is created, propagated and given prominence in Australian culture, that is, symbolic processes of meaning- making which have been deeply ingrained over generations. As I opened this
314 315

Quimby, op. cit. Janet Holmes aCourt, Sambell Oration, The Republican Prophet: John Dunmore Lang, The Spirit of Things, Radio National, broadcast, 25 August 1999.

thesis, we must be mindful that we are dealing with uncertain, open-ended and value-laden texts. This requires a qualitative examination rather than a quantitative analysis. The task at hand is to become critically suspicious of futures thinking and to acknowledge that there are no simple answers. In this sense, I have declared throughout the thesis a relationship between the future and critical theory and to suggest that a reflexive sense of situatedness is needed when discussing the future. When investigated in this manner, some futures can be usefully identified as artificially narrowed, representing a closure rather than an expansion of options. Reversing default interpretations of the future is to invite critical and textual attention. I have argued this is a worthy activity. Considerable utility can be derived from positioning the future as a text subject to various desires and uses. In the case of the present study, from such positioning a form of apocalyptic thinking can be observed as a deep cultural process guiding interpretations of the future for Australians. This springs from the view that apocalypse is a persistent interpretative process competing against clearly articulated and responsible vision within the Australian national imagination. In conclusion, to answer any question about the future requires the analysts to place themselves in a position to see something of the design and construction of contemporary futures. In effect, the analyst must probe beneath the surface of hidden ideologies, commitments and interests and unravel popularly consumed futures and their futurespeak like future, 2000, 2001, and millennium from their contemporary frames of expression with full consciousness of being participants in the same cultural

Romans 12:2.

processes creating them. What this means in practice is paying careful attention to internalised and external processes of socio-cultural framing and editing, inherited world-views, invested meanings, unquestioned assumptions, habits of perception and embedded presuppositions which obscure fuller accounts of social reality, social change and, more importantly, social potential. This is not an unambiguous activity but rather a deep epistemological play in the fields of culture and time.317 It is, in effect, a pursuit of the critically aware, foresight-driven society that is not merely past-driven but reflexively aware of its becoming.


Slaughter, op. cit., p 367.

Primary Sources 20 Volumes of contemporary theological futurestext comprising 2500+ pages collected from throughout Australia and New Zealand. 4 Volumes of newspaper clippings: secular futurestext comprising 250+ pages. Complete contemporary library of Jehovah's Witnesses publications from 1966-2000 including in-house material not publicly available [200+]. Complete contemporary library of Maranatha Revival Crusade (MRC) publications from 1985-200 [100+]. Complete contemporary library of Christadelphian publications from 1980- 2000 [100+]. Complete contemporary library of Word-faith publications from 1990-2000 [including Benny Hinn, Marilyn Hickey, Kenneth Copeland, Crystal Palace Ministries, Joyce Meyer]. Complete contemporary library of House of Yahweh publications from 1995- 2000.

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