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              Towards  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   don’t   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  
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   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   Davison’s   research   reveals   that   the   act   of   timekeeping   is   governed   by   a   particular   aim   which   has   been   historically  

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     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-­‐

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   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   Davison’s   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  
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   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   to’21   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   Australia’s   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  Australia’s  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   Blainey’s   ‘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  don’t  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   Slaughter’s   ‘minimalist   present’   thesis   to   include   minimal   or   undeveloped   senses  of  the  future  in  Australia,  the  present  thesis  argues  that  it  is  uncertain   questions   of   Australia’s   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   Devil’s   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  Devil’s  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,  ‘Kant’s  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  text’s   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  faith’57:     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  Jehovah’s  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   Jehovah’s   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   earth’s   political   rulers   are   being   gathered   in   opposition   to   Jehovah   and   his   Kingdom   by   Jesus   Christ.    

Such   opposition   will   be   shown   by   global   action   against   Jehovah’s   servants  on  earth,  the  visible  representatives  of  God’s  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,   earth’s   invincible   empires   will   disappear   and   be   replaced   by   God’s  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   Antichrist’s   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   society’s   perception   of   the   contemporary   ‘future   landscape’   —   or   futurescape.     That   is,   it   can   guide   society’s   extrapolative   reach   into   the   new   millennium   deeper   and   further,   shifting  the  nation’s  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   don’t   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  doesn’t  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   Hayashi’s   ‘futuro-­‐epistemology-­‐conceptology-­‐engineering’,72   François   Hetman’s  ‘comprehensive  guarantism’,73  Paul  Hawken’s  ‘disintermediation’,74   Alvin  Toffler’s  ‘posumerism’75  and  Herman  Kahn’s  ‘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    François  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,   www.api-­‐     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  Birch’s  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   haven’t   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   children’s   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  ‘future’79   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  world’81  —  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   Australia’s   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   ‘Australia’s   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   one’s   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-­‐d’Aeth,  ‘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   Orwell’s   famous   and   relevant   exploration   of   the   future   in   1984   is   the   story   of   Winston   Smith’s   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   Orwell’s   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   Orwell’s   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   society’s   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  Toffler’s  Future  Shock  trilogy   (1990),   Hazel   Henderson’s   Creating   Alternative   Futures   (1978),   Lelia   Green   and  Roger  Gunery’s  Framing  Technology:  Society,  Choice  and  Change  (1994),   Oliver   Markley’s   Changing   Images   of   Man   (1974),   Birch’s   Confronting   the   Future   (1993),   Slaughter’s   Future   Concepts   and   Powerful   Ideas   (1996),   and   Lynette   Hunter’s   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  Appadurai’s  ‘mediascape’  or  Douglas  Rushkoff’s  ‘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   Anderson’s   ‘imagined   community’)   or   even   a   television   audience   (John   Hartley’s   ‘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   Adorno’s   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   project’s   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  Appadurai’s  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   Australia’s   ‘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  Ryan’s  ‘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  continent’100  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-­‐d’Aeth,  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   future’s   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   Carter’s   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   representation’102   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,  Mackay’s  ‘age   of   redefinition’,   or   Nile’s   ‘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   one’s   subjective   relation   to   any   given   futurestext,   some   constructs   of   Australia’s   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.     “It’s   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   Australia’s   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   White’s   ‘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   Anderson’s   ‘imagined   community’   and   Arjun   Appadurai’s   ‘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     Young’s   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  Moore’s  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  Australia’s  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   Australia’s   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   —   God’s   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   Jehovah’s   Kingdom   or   Awake!   magazines,   produced   by   the   Watchtower  and  Bible  Tract  Society  (official  publishing  arm  of  the  Jehovah’s   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   Jehovah’s   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  Jehovah’s  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  Jehovah’s  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   Australia’s   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.  

material’123  that  links  together,  at  a  symbolic  level,  Australia’s  anticipation  of   the  millennium  —  the  contemporary  specificity  of  the  calendar’s  ‘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   interpretations’124   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  God’126,  and  ‘Gas  attack  cult  on   revival   trial’127.     Sometimes   this   was   through   satirical   or   tongue-­‐in-­‐cheek   example:  ‘As  it  happens’,  remarked  Phillip  Adams  January  1999,  ‘I’m  privy  to   significant   information.     Y2C   has   already   occurred,   as   evidenced   by   the   contact  I’ve  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.     What’s   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;  I’ll  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,   Jehovah’s   Witnesses,   God’s   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   Australia’s   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’,   ‘Christ’s   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  …  we’re  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  Quinby’s  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   Webster’s   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   (It’s   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   Gronen’s   Futurama   and   Arthur   C   Clarke’s   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  culture’s  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   year’s   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   hands’155   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-­‐François   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   doesn’t   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   lives’161   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  O’Dwyer,  Queensland  Times,  1  January  2000,  p  1.      Queensland  Times,  1  January  2000,  pp  10-­‐12.   157    Jean-­‐François  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   Allen’s   orgasmatron?’.163     Similarly,   Susan   Levine   offers   with   the   byline   ‘faulty   visions’  that  ‘this  was  the  future  that  isn’t:  prognostication  ain’t  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   Australia’s   futures   perspective   in   the   1990s   tends   ‘less   toward   [future]   achievement   [and   goals]   and   more   toward   avoidance’176   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   life’178   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   society’s   ‘you   are   what   you   buy’183   or   Mackay’s  ‘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  Steedman’s  re-­‐positioning  of  cultural  studies  and   pose   a   series   of   questions   directed   at   Australian   studies   around   the   above   point.184     I   don’t   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  Slaughter’s  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   society’s   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     Mackay’s   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   there’s   no   short   cut   to   depth   and   maturity.     We   are   still,   in   cultural   terms,   in   our   adolescence   …   [But]   what’s   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  Mackay’s  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   …   we’re   still   deeply   unsure   of   our   identity   and   we   don’t   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  Point’s  analysis  of  premillennial  Australia  seems  to  
190 191

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

otherwise   evoke,   Mackay’s   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   ‘Australia’s   leading   social   researcher’  providing  ‘the  definitive  analysis  of  contemporary  Australia  …  for   anyone  who  cares  about  Australia’s  future’197  —  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’   (Mackay’s   ‘Zeitgeist’)   to   pursue   Australia   along,   say,   the   lines   of   enquiry   offered   by   Elise   Boulding’s   200-­‐year   present   or   Frank   Hopkins’   150-­‐year   historical   perspective.199     In   effect,   it   doesn’t   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   didn’t   mean   to   dismiss   native   title   as   unimportant   …’202   —   subjectivity   —   ‘Unless   I’m   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   [Mackay’s   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   Mackay’s   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  Soja’s  line  of  enquiry,   concepts   such   as   reductionism,   bias   and   elitism   de-­‐focus   important   questions.    Mackay’s  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:     They’re  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  Eliot’s  ‘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   Mackay’s   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  Mackay’s  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  Hartley’s  work  on  the  imaginary  construction  of  television   audiences,209  Leigh  Dale’s  scholarship  on  ‘Mainstreaming  Australia’  and  Toby   Miller’s   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   Mackay’s   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   (Women’s)  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.  

Cook’s  location  of  Stan  Zemanek’s  ‘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   Mackay’s   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   [Mackay’s]  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  Mackay’s  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   sociology’216)   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  Australia’s  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.  

Australia’s  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.    Australia’s  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   Odyssey’221   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.    It’s  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   Hanson’s   One  Nation,  the  1999  failure  of  the  Republic  Referendum  and  the  continuing   disempowerment   of   Aboriginality   —   as   it   were,   David   Carter’s   ‘battle   lines   drawn  across  the  nation’228  —  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  doesn’t  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   Hebdige’s   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   Mackay’s   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.    That’s   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  Mackay’s  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  all’238  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   identity’240   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  term’s  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  Hawke’s  ‘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  Australia’s  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]   domination’245   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   Australia’s   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   Australia’s   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   bastards’247   or   ‘This   is   the   recession   Australia   had   to   have’248   before   recalling   an   Australian   equivalent   (if  any)  to  Martin  Luther  King’s  ‘I  have  a  dream  …’  or  John  F   Kennedy’s  ‘We   choose   to   go   to   the   moon   …’.     Likewise,   while   Australia’s   national   anthem   ‘Advance  Australia  Fair’  survived  New  South  Wales  premier  Bob  Carr’s  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  haven’t  been  ready  or   we  don’t  know  how,  to  defend  the  fairness  that  makes  us  Australians.     Australians  don’t  mind  change;  they  will  look  change  in  the  eye  any  day   of   the   week,   confident   that   they   have   its   measure.     What   Australians   don’t   like   is   unfairness.     And   lately   it’s   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   country’s   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   one’s   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   Nile’s   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   Foucault’s   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   Australia’s   national   possibilities.     If   this   methodology   is   taken   on   board   within   Australian   Studies,   the   ‘future’   as   Australian’s   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  I’m  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,  www.api-­‐,  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   government’s   compression   of   arts   funding   and   university   departments   during   the   year   2000.     Yet,   in   addition  to  requiring  new  research  tools  to  understand  Australia’s  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   time’s   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  Jupp’s  ‘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   cliché   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   Simmel’s   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  Vodaphone’s  ‘The  future  is  calling’  and  Toyota’s  ‘The  future  is  now’,   or  Genovis  ‘The  future  is  Genovis’  and  Galaxy  TV’s  ‘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  Haraway’s  penetrating  ‘A  Cyborg   Manifesto’,  op.  cit.   273      Adorno,  op  .cit.,  p  34.  

millennium   was   of   varying   quality   and   advanced   Adorno’s   ‘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   capitalism’s   best   invention   since   Christmas’277   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  region’s  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   nation’s   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  Kiribati’s  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   that’s   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   Australia’s   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   Jehovah’s   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   Jehovah’s   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  God’s   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,  Jehovah’s   Witnesses   are   convinced   that   the   wonderful   promises   in   connection   with   the   Millennium   will   be   fulfilled   …   Jehovah’s   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  Jehovah’s  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  Jehovah’s  Kingdom,  1  December  1999,  Watchtower  Bible  and  Tract   Society,  Denham  Court,  New  South  Wales,  p  1.  

tidings,   Jehovah’s   Witnesses   are   really   the   mouthpiece   of   a   symbolic   heavenly  messenger  whose  mission  is  also  described  in  Revelation.283     In   this   respect,   Jehovah’s   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  Jehovah’s  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   Watchtower’s,   that   push   their   products   into  the  seeker’s  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   congregation’s   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   Jehovah’s   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  Jehovah’s  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-­‐Online’s  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   Nile’s   ‘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   that’s   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   Technology’s   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   citizen’s   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   Beazley’s   dream   of   the   ‘knowledge   nation’,   or   a   contraction   of   options,   perhaps   portioning   out   shares   of   Don   Dunstan’s   ‘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   Nile’s   ‘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   Ellis’s   ‘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   country’s  soul,  then  future  generations  will  truly  be  able  to  rise  up  and  call  us   blessed’.291    Is  it  clear  in  Beazley’s  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   Beazley’s   —   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.    Beazley’s  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’.     Beazley’s   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   Adorno’s   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     Beazley’s   ‘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  Australia’s  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   Australia’s   ‘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  we’re  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   Australia’s   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   Jehovah’s   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   it’s   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  shouldn’t  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  movement’s  ‘It’s  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   Year’s   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   calendar’s   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   Australia’s   ‘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  ‘It’s  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  a’Court,  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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