Writing From Below | Symbolic acts and reactions to violence in the name of patriotism - Alex Dunkin
Writing From Below

Symbolic acts and reactions to violence in the name of patriotism

Alex Dunkin

Cannibale is an Italian literary genre that provides a method of social commentary and a critique of contemporary norms identified by the author, through depicting violent and extreme implications extrapolated from these norms. Cannibale authors have used this approach to critique widely-accepted aspects of Italian culture, such as class and gender structures and social obedience (Lucamante 2001, 98-107; Jansen & Lanslot 2007). This genre, unique to Italian literature, is intentionally restricted by the author’s own perspective, incorporating the specific background, time of writing and local colloquialisms along with the broader social context. This restriction renders the task of direct translation, while maintaining the original intent and impact, difficult to impossible (Maher 2012, 367-384). Some superficial analyses introduce “overstated” connections between cannibale and pulp in film. However, nuanced examination demonstrates separate evolutionary paths (La Porta 2001, 57-75).

Research conducted in order to produce an Australian cannibale artefact implemented linguistic analysis to produce a creative text that assessed how cannibale may be applied to the Australian context, in this case critiquing norms around journalistic approaches to race representations and acceptable levels of violence in public protests and demonstrations. The creative artefact presents a new representation of Australian cultural norms utilising the distinctive style of cannibale, a successful genre and satirical approach that currently exists in only one country. Such work provides a fresh understanding of everyday Australian experiences, particularly of divisive tropes such as “white pride”, in order to undermine representations and biases that might otherwise pass unnoticed. It is also the first creative artefact to demonstrate that the cannibale genre can be transposed to new cultural spaces without relying on direct translation.

The research demonstrates the suitability of the cannibale genre to circumvent the limitations of translation by creating new narratives that specifically mirror experiences of the target culture, in this case Australia. Utilising the structure and style of cannibale is important as it engages the reader via the inclusion of popular writing styles, recognisable brands, colloquial language and relatable characters. In doing so, it allows commentary on cultural mores and social attitudes to be disseminated to a wider audience, and therefore invites critical self-reflection on how blind adherence to socially condoned behaviour may lead to devastating outcomes.

The creative artefact was published in November 2017 through Buon-Cattivi Press.

Selected excerpts from the creative artefact, Fair Day.

Context statement: The selected scenes depict some of the final moments from Fair Day. The escalation to violence occurs following a drug-fuelled sexual interaction between two male characters who celebrate Australia Day at an exclusive beach house.

CASSANDRA

“Good evening, I’m Cassandra Cummings with your 5CCB news update.

“Founders Bay residents are being instructed to initiate their wildfire survival plan as a sudden change in gusty winds is blowing an out of control fire directly toward the town. Emergency services say the sudden change has created a larger uncontrollable front and warn everyone not to drive into smoke even if you think you know the roads. If it’s too late for you to leave, police recommend you shelter yourself indoors or make your way to the school hall where an evacuation centre is being set up.

“In more local news, a race riot has taken over the town square in Founders Bay. Early reports say that members of a non-local white pride movement have attacked a local Indigenous event chanting anti-immigration epithets. Police are making their way to the scene.

“In other news, the local hospital is reporting a record number of people presenting with burns to their feet. A local hospital nurse told 5CCB the majority of people on the beach wear thongs or create their own temporary shade but some have spent prolonged periods standing barefoot on sand at temperatures up to forty-eight degrees Celsius, causing severe burns. Alcohol consumption is believed to also be a factor.

“Rolling blackouts have been reported in the Coonawarren district with many local businesses and homes affected. People are asked to check in on any elderly or vulnerable people who might be unable to escape the heat.

“In sport, the cricket will still go ahead on schedule despite forecasts showing the current heatwave extending for an extra few days. Cricket Australia assures 5CCB that extra water, shade and ice vests will be available for all players and spectators.

“To weather and it’s not cooling down just yet with the temperature currently sitting on forty-two degrees. Hotter temperatures are expected for tomorrow.

“I’m Cassandra Cummings. Stay tuned to 5CCB for all breaking news on the wildfire emergency.”

RONALD

“Good evening. This is Ronald Ray for Today’s Affairs. We interrupt Jamie and Marge’s Cooking Juices to take you live to the scene of a race riot in the tourist town of Founders Bay. Local reporter Rachel Kind is on the scene. Rachel?”

“Watch it f****r. Thanks Ronald. This is Rachel Kind. I’m here at Founders Bay where a peaceful Australia Day celebration has turned into a race riot. Sirens are ringing out behind me. Smoke is rising all around the town square.

“The riot began when racial slurs were exchanged between Muslim immigrants to the town and the local Indigenous community. The verbal insults quickly escalated to violence that has so far left five white Australians who were caught in the crossfire dead from apparent knife wounds.

“Nowhere is safe in this town at the moment. This riot is the most violent event this town has seen in its history. It is unlikely that anyone will be safe from the impact of today’s ev—”

“Rachel? Rachel? Can you hear me? We appear to be having some technical difficulty. We will have coverage back up and running as soon as possible so that we can return to the brave reporting of Rachel live at the coastal town of Founders Bay. In the meantime, we leave you to return to Jamie and Marge’s Cooking Juices. We’ll be back breaking the news for you. Until seven-thirty or when the real news breaks, I’m Ronald Ray. Good evening.”

JACKO AND JONNO

“Fuck them. Those brown bastards up the road,” anger sparks in Jonno’s eyes. “It’s their fault I was almost no longer a man. We gotta get ’em.”

“It’s all their fault,” Jacko shouts. “I can’t believe this. We need to make sure it never happens again. This is our country. Fuck their queer shit.”

Jonno stands still and nods viciously. His head nods enthusiastically with each word from his mate. Their eyes meet each other’s in a wild stare; they are together in this moment.

“They think they can just come over here and mess with our way of life. We need to get out there and make things change in this town,” Jacko continues. “Those immigrants are to blame for everything being fucked.”

“Fuckin’ oath! Let’s go show them whose country this really is. I’m getting my flag.”

Jacko marches off with Jonno in tow, fired up as they charge out to their car and rip open the door. The sizzling of hot metal on their fingers fuels their rage. Red pulses under their skin and through the purple burns across their flesh. They snatch the flags out from under the car seats. A few empties clink as they fall off the flags and onto the torn car carpet.

The flag corners knot around their necks with ease. The red, white and blue, and the green and gold flap proudly out from their necks. Jonno and Jacko stand with fists on their hips once their costumes are complete.

They march on, down to the beach where their fellow diggers await.

“My fellow Australians!” Jacko shouts from the top of the dune. A few heads twist around from under their shade next to where the cricket wickets fell and now rest. “My fellow Australians. We are in grave danger!” More heads from their Australia Day party turn around and start sitting up. “We face a very serious threat here today. There is a cult that threatens to harm us. It promotes only death and destruction and faggots. It almost overwhelmed us today but we have seen the light,” he slaps Jonno on the back. More of their entourage turn, a few begin to stand. A drunken fire kindles in some of them. Their purple, inked skin flushes with blood, ready to fight for their nation at the drop of a hat. “These unStrayan traitors to our nation have invaded our lands. They steal our jobs. They spit on our traditions and pervert our very way of life. Those muzzos come here and try to make this land their new muzzo territory.”

“Yeah,” a couple of blokes grunt from the beach. They stumble as they step closer to Jacko and Jonno. More of their mates turn and stand to hear what Jacko has to say. Jacko’s eyes twitch fanatically at the swelling pack of deadset fair dinkum ridgy-didge true blue dinky-di Aussies. “Fuckin’ muzzos!” a few of the pack add to the chorus.

“Those fuckers can’t take our land from us. They don’t belong here. We do. This is our land!” Jacko yells over the gusts of wind. The bright red flush of his mounting rage looks like war paint. “Let’s show those fuckin’ muzzos that this is good Australian land they’ve invaded. We’ll make them too scared to bring their filthy ways here again. Who’s with me?!”

“Fuck yeah!” the building crowd shouts.

“This is our land. We need to take it back! It’s ours! Let’s go get ’em. Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!”

“Oi! Oi! Oi!” the mob shouts back.

“Fuckin’ oath, let’s get ’em,” Jonno shouts, his chest filling with pride.

Jonno and Jacko take the lead. They kick through the sand heading in the direction of the town square. A mob of thirty patriots follow their lead. Australian flags worn as capes flutter behind them, chasing them into their just cause.

Timmo looks up from where he’s bobbing in the shallows of the sea. His arse bounces roughly on the sand as each wave draws back out to sea. Tamie lies back next to him, her body moving serenely in time with the water. Behind them on a beach a crowd gathers in front of the toilet block. The people chant and punch their fists into the air.

Timmo looks amongst the crowd and spots Jonno and Jacko at the helm. They shout into the crowd, their faces wild for war. A glimmer of concern emerges in Timmo’s eyes. Tamie glances up at Timmo, blissfully ignorant of the commotion beyond the lapping waves.

“What are you thinking about?” Tamie flirts.

Timmo nods towards the beach. Tamie pulls herself up, her bikini dragging across the wet sand. She jerks around and plants herself cross-legged facing the seething throng.

“I see Jacko and Jonno finally got their clothes back on,” Tamie laughs. “I didn’t realise fucking would be such a big high five moment for them.”

“I don’t think it’s funny,” Timmo stands up. Water drains noisily from his boardies. “It looks like a lynch mob. All they’re missing is pitchforks.”

“What? Why the hell would you say that?”

‘Because they’re cranked up. I’ve seen Jacko and Jonno get into all kinds of shit when they’re like this. And now they’ve got a crowd cheering them on.’

Timmo kicks through the water—and the sand and the flies—as he makes his way up to the group. Movement ripples out from the crowd as it parts like a bogan red sea to allow their two leaders to head the march along the beach. Timmo sprints across the hard, wet sand. His chest heaves in his rush to get in front of the crowd, gritting his teeth through the pain of exertion. The sand flicks about wildly as he runs directly for his two friends.

“Jacko, Jonno, hold up,” he says out of breath. He holds his arms out to stop the leaders’ march.

“What is it?” Jacko barks. “We’ve got some illegals to bash.”

“Wait, what? Why?” Timmo puffs back.

“They’re over here taking all our jobs. They’re ruining our culture, they’re ruining our country.”

“Yeah fuckin’ muzzos!” the crowd shouts back.

“Come off it, man. You’ve never applied for a job in your life,” Timmo replies.

“Yeah, well why the fuck should I?!”

“Are you seriously going to do this? Do you really think this is a good idea?” Timmo asks, straightening up.

“Absolutely!” Jonno retorts, his eyes wide with mania. “We need to protect what’s ours. We created this country from nothing and we made this country awesome! We need to fight to keep it that way. Come on guys. Let’s get ’em!”

“Wait, stop! That wasn’t even a Muslim celebration we went past before,” Timmo pleads futilely. “You’re heading for an Aboriginal event!”

“Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!” the crowd chants. “Oi! Oi! Oi!”

Jacko and Jonno are gone, the chanting of the crowd drowning out Timmo’s cries as it flows forward like a river around a boulder. No one touches Timmo as they trek by.

“What’s all that about?” Tamie asks once she catches up to Timmo.

“They’re starting a riot. They’re totally wasted, they have no idea what’s going on, and they don’t know who they’re about to beat into.”

“Shit. What can we do?”

“We can’t stop this from happening.” Timmo says. “All we can do is call the police. I’m dead if they find out, but we can’t do nothing. Come on, let’s get to our phones and warn them a fight is about to break out.”

“Go back to where you came from!” Jacko chants into the incited mob.

Jeers shout back at Jacko over the scuffles in the town square. Jonno bounces nearby, each drop-kick he unleashes smashes into the brown bastard that lies unmoving on the ground.

Jacko shivers with the tight little thrill of destruction. The urge to hurt them more dances in the forefront of his mind. His eyes dart around in search of a target. He spots groups of patriots punching into a muzzo they’ve singled out. But that’s no good to him—that situation is already sorted and there’s nothing more for him to contribute. His mind races with the possibilities of how he can further their cause.

Then, before him, he sees three flagpoles rise like monumental pillars against the dark sky. In the centre stands a symbol he recognises. The Australian flag flickers like a beacon, but is under siege by two other flags, a green and blue eyesore grasps at the edge of the Southern Cross while some red, black and yellow abomination obscures the Union Jack.

Jacko marches towards the flag poles with an insatiable feeling of strength. A flying brick that slams into the side of his leg doesn’t penetrate the patriotic determination controlling his thoughts. He lines up the nearest pole, grabs onto the rope and untangles the knot that fastens the flag in place. The flag steadily descends as Jacko tugs the rope, and as soon as the blue and green flag hits the ground Jacko unclips it. Jacko repeats this feat on the opposite side and pulls the flag to the ground with little difficulty.

With two flags clumped under his arm Jacko strides out into an open patch within the town square, empty except for a limp bouncy castle and a pine tree. He dumps the fabric onto the ground in an awkward clash of colours and spits on them in contempt. He rips on the velcro in his pants and pulls out his cock to complete the insult to these migrant invaders. He pisses on the flags, the colours darkening with the yellow stream of liquid.

“What the hell are you doing man?” Jezza asks from behind Jacko. Jacko snaps his head around. Derek stands next to him rubbing a fresh bruise on his face. Jonno spots the fresh cuts on Jezza’s face too and bounds over to inspect the war wounds.

“I’m fighting against the migrants’ fuckin’ attempt to invade our country with their halal and bullshit religions. Women should wear as little as they want!” Jacko says.

“And how is pissing on the Aboriginal flag helping you to do that?” Jezza wonders aloud.

“Nah mate,” Jacko insists. “They’re muzzo flags.”

“Nope. You fucking idiot.”

“Yeah, well they’re still not Australian flags, are they?” Derek points out. “Let’s burn the bastards anyway.”

Jacko’s eyes light up with an intense joy.

“You got a fuckin’ lighter?” he asks. His eyes bulge with mania.

“Nope,” Derek answers. “Hold on.” Derek turns to the pursuing mob of proud Australians. “Oi! We need a lighter!” he shouts.

Three small coloured tubes are hurled at them on command. Derek picks one up and sparks a flame.

“I have one now. You got any petrol?”

“Shit,” Jacko says. “Who the freakin’ hell has petrol round here.”

The wind howls over their yells. The smoke embellishes the sky with another smother of grey soot. Gusts drive through the town square in a fury of heat and despair. A hollow crack startles the trio.

“What the fuck was that?” Jacko asks.

The aged pine tree fails under the constant beating of the hot wind. The branches cast a dull shadow across the square on its descent toward the sea. Jezza looks up and points uselessly at the tree. The weight of the trunk crashes down on the group holding the piss-stained flags. The smaller branches snap under the force of the fall; the thicker branches hold their own, skewering their soft flesh in multiple places.

Jonno looks up at the pandemonium of the fallen tree. Somewhere in all of that he thought he heard his name. He picks his way through the smoke across the town square. He can’t make out much among the tangle, until some movement catches his eye. Among the branches, suspended like bloody puppets, hang Jacko, Jezza and Derek.

“Holy fuck.”

Works Cited

Jansen, M. and Lanslot, I. (2007). Ten years of Gioventú Cannibale: Reflections on the anthology as a vehicle for literary change. In Trends in Contemporary Italian Narrative 1980-2007. United Kingdom: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

La Porta, F. (2001). The Horror Picture Show and the very real horrors: About the Italian Pulp. In Italian Pulp Fiction: the new narratives of Gioventú Cannibali. London: Associate University Press.

Lucamante, S. (2001). Everyday consumerism and pornography “above the pulp line”. In Italian Pulp Fiction: the new narratives of Gioventú Cannibali. London: Associate University Press.

Maher, B. (2012). Taboo or not taboo: swearing, satire, irony, and the grotesque in the English translation of Niccolò Ammaniti’s Ti Prendo e Ti Porto Via. The Italianist 32 (3): 367-384.



 

Facebook: Follow us on FacebookTwitter: @WritingBelow

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License.

ISSN: 2202-2546

© Copyright 2015 La Trobe University. All rights reserved.

CRICOS Provider Code: VIC 00115M, NSW 02218K