Sunday, June 10, 2012

Paradise found at Sydney Writers’ Festival

Sydney Writers’ Festival 2012 took place over a week in May and since I am an avid fan of the written word I was compelled to attend this festival of books and big ideas.

Even though it meant taking an overnight flight from Perth to Sydney, I soon realised that it was going to be a weekend to remember.

Not only did I get to spend 3 days in one of the most wonderful cities on the face of the planet but I also was able to attend talks on a whole range books and topics. I was also looking forward to being challenged and exposed to many new ideas.

The first session of the Weekend in Paradise was on Capitalism where Italian Economist Loretta Nappleoni was interviewed by the ABC’s Alan Kohler.

After giving a brief overview of economic history, Nappleoni articulated many of today’s economic ideas and problems including how to address youth unemployment and the lack of economic instruments available to governments to protect their national economy.

She also compared the economic growth of China with that of the West. One interesting point that she made that while Reagan and Thatcher were  making economic decisions for the 3 or 4 year election cycle, Deng Xiaoping developed economic plans for the next 30 years. 
Nappleoni also spoke about Europe and how monetary union will not be effective if there isn’t a strong unified fiscal policy in place. This makes sense that if there is a common currency as well as budgets covering foreign aid, EU infrastructure and a common agricultural policy, there should be an effective common method of collecting taxes to support the EU’s work.

She pointed out that the mobilisation of labour isn’t as easy as it is thought due to the lack of a common language. Nappleoni also warns the Australian Federal Government to look towards 2050 and be wise in its management of natural resources.

The next session was with two pretty young things - Benjamin Law and Marieke Hardy who gave a funny account of writing autobiographies and how they handled the interpretation of personal and family stories. 

After a Long Mac, my sister Jacques and I moseyed on across to Sydney Theatre where we ushered into this dark auditorium (this is very bad for anyone who has been up all night, let me tell you) for a discussion between Annabel Crab and Joe McGuiness on Ex Vice President nominee Sarah Palin. While I do not share her views, it is still fascinating to try and understand why on earth she almost became vice leader of the world’s most powerful nations.

Here is to not being married and having kids
Looking back, I wish I had attended ‘why get married when you can be happy’. It was interesting to find that, on posting the info about this session on my facebook page, several of my West Australian Baptist friends immediately reverted back to their default position in promoting marriage as the ultimate way of being.

Pity they discussed this podcast without actually realising that the session was about “the diversity of life styles offered to gay people”. If marriage is so wonderful, how about we allow gay people to participate?   

After a wonderful day on the harbour, beers with a friend in Newtown were scheduled.

Sunday at the festival started off with two writers discussing some of Sydney’s famous cases. These cases were about the Judge who tried to avoid paying a speeding fine and the other was about a murder on a cruise liner. I’m not sure that they warranted having a book written about them but it was interesting all the same and shows the dramas that humans can’t seem to avoid.

Next was a panel discussion about bullying and how though it can be as well as how it can impact the choices that you make throughout your life. Someone once said that those who are bullied at school end up having the most interesting lives and the panellists were testament to this.

Mid afternoon saw a saunter back to the Sydney Theatre, Queensland Independent MP Bob Katter was interviewed by former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.  Katter was promoting his new book initialled ‘An Incredible Race of People.

The review in The Australian Newspaper states that 'it seems to destined to baffle rather than enlighten' and I tend to agree with this because, as an Anglo Swiss Australian who came to the country as a teenager, sweeping and general statements about what it means to be Australian seems to be way off the mark.   

I don’t believe in the overarching narrative/national identity that the media and politician always seem to go for.

Especially when the author states that he is just offering up his opinion but stating fact that this is the way Australians are. 

It was defiantly an interesting session with quite a lot of instant audience feedback. Although it some of them started to ask him about politics, his party and ideology which wound him up a fair bit.  This isn’t that hard to do given his recent performance on The Circle.

The final session was with Eric Knight who is a ‘Brilliant Young Thing’, Rhodes Scholar and looks about 15 years old. But once he started talking it became obvious that he is incredibly smart as well as has an amazing understanding of the world that we live in.  He is defiantly a kind of person that we want running the country. He was interviewed about his book called Reframe which is an attempt to change the current narratives on international politics and social issues. I brought the book but haven’t read it yet but I am sure it will be a great read.

It was after this event that I had to leave the Sydney Writers’ Festival 2012 and I am so glad that I was able to attend and experience paradise for the weekend.

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