Flat White

The Sydney Writers’ Festival: so woke you want to call for blood tests

3 May 2021

12:10 PM

3 May 2021

12:10 PM

The guest list for the Sydney Writers’ Festival reads like a roll call for the Spanish Inquisition. Sure, there are plenty of names there, but I guarantee no one has come there to have a good time. 

Far from the festival’s claims of being, ‘Australia’s most beloved celebration of writing and ideas’ it falls somewhere between ‘unknown’ and ‘ridiculous’. 

Locals rarely engage with the Australian literary scene since it swan dived off into hardcore racism right around the time the government started throwing millions of dollars at it with no interest in the quality of its investment. 

It is an open secret that arts funding is political, bestowed upon creators who uphold the preferred outrage rather than being genuinely talented or interesting. The result is a pile of well-funded political dogma masquerading as culture. 

Naturally, the wider community shun the hundreds of authors who play a ‘Marco Polo’ game of screeching, calling to each other for affirmation across the abyss between the pages of their books. 

I have curated a selection of this year’s offerings. 

“Why is it that white people get more hurt about the fiction of white people getting hurt rather than non-white people actually getting hurt?” — Michael Mohammed Ahmad on criticism of the After Australia book cover with scribbled out white faces. “The future of Australia can only be different if we think of our past differently.” 

This might sound horrifically racist and a tad revisionist, but I assure you that Michael is a celebrated author with awards to legitimise his rhetoric. 

“We are 100 years away from gender equality … and I for one am not going to wait for that.” — Mehreen Faruqi. 

Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi appears to be speaking to us from an alternate reality. While it is true that her native Pakistan has a shocking record when it comes to women’s rights, Australian women have been enjoying equality for quite some time. Although, she may be referring to the quota system, which grants women an unfair advantage over men during the selection process. Remember kids, systemic female supremacy is not the same as gender equality. 

“How about we move away from the conversation we’ve been having for decades about quotas and targets and actually just accept you need to put in place structure reform to bring in more women?” — Kate Ellis. 

Did anyone at the festival ask Kate Ellis, a former Labor politician, if she believed that part of this structural reform should include pushing women into garbage collection and other undesirable jobs where Australian men are over-represented? Ellis could campaign to kick women out of the education industry since 76% of public school teachers are female. That is a clear over-representation if your goal is equality. 

“As people of colour, we need to be the best writers we can be, because we can’t wait for white people to catch up and realise.” — Winnie Dunn 

Raise your hand if you pick up a book, squint at the name, and chuck it out if you suspect the author is ‘non-white’. No one? The weird thing about books, Dunn, is that they are already colour blind. That said, most readers don’t like being referred to as ‘white’, so maybe tone down the racism a little if you’re worried about success 

“Wonderful time at the launch of RACISM at the Sydney Writers’ Festival today and proud to have a piece of writing in this anthology by Michael Mohammed Ahmad.” — Amani Haydar. 

Launching racism? I guess that event is subtitled, ‘Tips on how to start a race war in a peaceful, democratic nation’. 

“The parliaments are overstocked with both male and pale, what’s worse is it’s the direct inverse of who dies in our jails.” – Annabel Crabb 

Says ABC presenter Annabel Crabb, in a racist and sexist remark. Don’t worry though, there is no chance whatsoever that our taxpayer-funded ABC is pushing fringe agendas for political activists. 

“’Senate’ is from a Latin word that means ‘old man’.” — Mehreen Faruqi with Osman Faruqi. 

Indeed, and thanks to those old men of the ancient world who began humanity’s path toward democracy, people like Mehreen can represent the people and be paid handsomely for her work – which appears to involve an endless tirade on Twitter about how much she hates Australia its democracy. A little gratitude for her historical betters might do Mehreen some good. 

“You must dismantle the master’s house, but you have to use tools that are different to theirs.” Mehreen Faruqi and Osam Faruqi. 

Perhaps this mother and son duo can take a chance with 18C and explain why they think it is acceptable to call Australians ‘masters’ when they were themselves largely brought to this nation as convicts and poor migrants escaping starvation? 

“The white gatekeepers who have shut us out are experiencing a world where they’re being held accountable.” – Randa Abdel-Fattah 

Randa Abdel-Fattah describes herself as Palestinian Egyptian Muslim, but if this comment is anything to go by, she has majored in race-bait phrasing. 

“This collective fury is so bright, so full so possibility, it feels as though freedom is within reach.” — Sisonke Msimang 

Collective fury. Now, where have I heard that before? Socialism? Communism? Marxism? National Socialism? Fascism? It’ll come to me. 

The one thing that is clear from glancing at the content of The Sydney Writers’ Festival, is that everyone thinks they are oppressed while at the same time being adorned with money, awards, and fame for doing whatever they want. 

It is an incredible type of ‘oppression’ to have a whinge platform sponsored by the New South Wales government, the City of Sydney, and the Australia Council for the Arts. Not to mention the accompanying list of ambassadors, champion patrons, platinum patrons, gold patrons, silver patrons, normal patrons, festival supporters, the board and staff. 

The nonsense content makes a bit more sense when you realise that the festival CEO is Chrissy Sharp, (no, not the ex-Green politician, although this lot live in an odd little ecosphere where they spend their days scratching each other’s backs). She has previously served as General Manager of the Sydney Festival, Head of Policy SBS, and the Executive Director of the Australian Writers’ Guild. 

The theme this year was ‘Within Reach’ and was meant to be a celebration of astonishing authors. The only thing astonishing is that our money is being used to pay for what can only be described is institutionalised racism. 

Meanwhile, their conservative literary peers are nowhere to be seen – shunned and silenced by the same community that preaches tolerance in print while creating a regime of ideological intolerance. 

The only thing that these writers are qualified to lecture us on is hypocrisy

Alexandra Marshall is an independent writer. If you would like to support her work, shout her a coffee over at Ko-Fi.


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