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  • Pratika Talegaonkar

Posters of Public Dissent

The following is a Poetry I wrote when I was confronted with far-left, anti-capitalist posters displayed across the public domains of North Melbourne: on walls, poles, construction fences, pavements, public toilets, furniture and much more.

A social justice stand against the conservative political climate appeared timidly to me through these posters, making a bold statement about why this is an unjust city; a city of urban fringes. The following is a personal excerpt and does not extend support to any political groups, beliefs or agendas within Australia and it's global extensions. It merely shows one of million ways I experienced highly politicised posters and graffiti tags placed within the urban realm. Have these served their purpose of revealing, enraging, entangling, and disrupting the minds of the everyday passerby?

Cut the crap, we know the world is run by a select rich so here we are trying to rebel and collectivise while you walk your ass to the train station every day.

You catch that train to your job, earn a living, you believe your life is worth all this. You're good if you pay the bank an interest on a loan that will take half your adult life to pay. You are rewarded, if you pay your taxes at least a few different times a year so they can build you a perfect system in a perfect city.

Somehow still, you believe all this is fair; and that you are living in a just world and will have some monetary savings someday, that you will then use to buy a holiday or a dream wedding, maybe even have that house with a backyard all Aussies used to dream about back in the day. You've long forgotten that dream now; since the gates became flooded with foreign investment and doggy trade like that monopoly game.

You see the data on the tele, showing you the tip of the iceberg, a guise for all those rigged government schemes making you choose between better public transport and keeping the borders safe. You don't understand why they make you pick, but you need that public transport to operate. So you voted for a different guy this time but somehow still, the same social system of paying loans, taxes, bricks, and discrimination perpetuates.

While other humans such as yourself with eyes, toes, and sometimes a different faith, become circumstantially displaced from other lands far far away. They come to your country for help, disillusioned by some tall, cliched white blonde babe running on some surf beach as a quintessential "Aussie identity", a rescuer at bay, so far away from the way you look and a vision out-of-date.

They remain shunned away in those inhuman detention camps, stunned by how reptilian humans can be, violent and shady; silently standing the test of time in someone's political meme against someone else’s fight for sovereign fate.

"This is not even your land!" you think or even the so-called Queen's commonwealth state. "Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land! Sovereignty was never ceded" you are reminded everyday, with every direction you take. The traditional owners are prosecuted for saving the sacredness of this land; the birthing, the dancing, the dreaming - all becoming distantly softened hums against the roaring of machines that excavate. Beeping to the sounds of that development money. Keep it coming, keep it coming, beep, beep, more profit to be made on someone else's land, like it's a damn piece of cake . You walk on this land, and take the route you take, thinking about all the history there is, blood and bones, and stories they don't deserve to scrape.

Your ancestors too arrived not too long ago you think, from another colonised land and it's new-found neoliberal distaste. They weren't that dissimilar either to the 'boat people' every politician fear-mongers these days. Using that good-old Machiavellian divide-and-conquer trick on those who commute, toot, and hoot at those delayed trains. So much so you don't see, so much so is still at stake.

You were made to believe you fulfilled the bread and butter of living the best life; taking this train, eating right - progress, climate justice, sustainable transport, smart city, livability, resilience and all-that-jazz. Yet you looked behind and wondered at those walls. Don’t be fooled, your life is not yours to live but certainly not theirs to take.

It's never as fair as it is cut out to be; someone out there is getting richer, born racially privileged, settler mentality or not, but radically vile in a dog-eat-dog world, legally evading the same taxes you pay, earning the interest you entrust the bank with; rich enough to feed the planet, powerful enough to sway the politician this way and that way, affording to lose a few bets or two; but never needing to take the very route you take to get to the damn train.

He maneuvers out, cutting corners, taking advantage of your lived experiences, turning a blind eye to the injustices you face; the one funding the very election campaign that pedestrianised the politicians you voted for, shocked by what the results were, the train approaches, the driver promptly brakes.

The rich bugger gets richer, sustains his relative privilege. You walk to the train, he talks the talk, walks the boy's club walk, gets richer by every step you take. You sit by the window and the train departs, ideas drifting about that poster you just saw and the thoughts it made you take .

By the time you get to your job, the rich man just bought couple more shares in that latest disruptive ‘ride’ tech you read about the other day; the fad on taking the train just got meager, maybe take that Lime bike instead? Guilt takes over; one more little addition to the rich man's estate.

You may not be of the greens, anarchists, redies, greenies or some mixed-up socialist, labour kind; hell, you may as well be the right liberal variety with a few cryptocurrencies, a start-up and a dice. Somehow we all have some hidden stake in this invisible global trade, earning a little here and little there; carrying the same burden of time, unethical shopping sprees, ignorance of this and unfairness of that. Too unconditioned to see a complex ecosystem, but instead, you visualise a radically simplified version of the animal kingdom <<cue in Lion King's circle of life>>.

So much of it is just a wildly simulated 'humanised' experience, a monologue made to resemble a lesson taught in the yesteryear's innocent days at school in biology class or was it economics? One where the lion is at the top of food chain and the rabbit somewhere at the bottom. Perhaps a pyramid scheme or just an early childhood subliminal messaging done right to help us cope with what's yet to come. "Who do you want to become when you are older, child? The lion or the rabbit?"


Words and photos by Prat Talegaonkar

I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of this land called Australia. I pay my respects to First Nations elders past, present and emerging. Sovereignty was never ceded.

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