Parable of the Two Sons

By Christopher Bevan 
Sydney: Goanna Press, 2012

This novel, by practising Sydney barrister Christopher Bevan, is the story of two sons dealing with the death of their father and coming to terms with the possibility that his relationship with another man could have been deeper than they assumed.

Main character Ken Wainwright was Master of Classics at Sydney Grammar School with an ambition to teach classics at university. His dream was never realised due to life taking an unexpected turn when his wife was killed in a car accident along with the wife of his best friend, Brent Fiske. The accident left Ken and Brent to raise their young families alone and seek comfort in each other’s company.

The chapters of the book alternate between Ken’s sons’ points of view in the lead-up to a court case in which their father’s estate has been contested by Brent, who cared for Ken in the years before his death from emphysema. The current points ofview of the sons are mixed with their memories of events and relationships providing context and allowing the reader further insight into the details of the story.

The sons have differing perspectives on the truth of Brent’s claims regarding the nature of his relation- ship with their father. Brent maintains it was a gay relationship and this entitles him to a share of the estate. The reader is left to make up his/her own mind.

A parallel is drawn between the father and one of his sons, who both struggle to come to terms with their homosexuality in the aftermath of the death of a family member. Each discovers his true sexuality in the pain of grief for a loved one. The story is also about forgiveness and discover- ing the true character of parents only after their death, when the words and actions of a lifetime are analysed and given their true meaning while being raked over in the court proceedings. The lessons learned by the sons include tolerance and forgiveness, appreciating fairness and doing the right thing when it counts. The characters, while not always likeable, are believable and redeem themselves in the end.

The author’s familiarity with the legal system and Sydney is clearly conveyed in the story and the references to Ken’s dearly loved area of classics adds depth to his character and the novel.

This is the author’s second novel, the first being A Kinchela Boy, a fictional novel about a member of the Stolen Generation’s life in the notorious Kinchela Boys Home in the Macleay Valley, and the aftermath.

Reviewed by Mel Smith
Mel Smith is the Officer attached to GLBTI issues. 


Death of the Liberal Class

By Chris Hedges
New York: Nation Books, 2010

Chris Hedges argues that the corporate capitalist coup d’état is complete. It is now in its last savage disembowelment of society and the environment, by its excessive and addictive exploitation. Its values have corrupted democracy. No longer can the pillars of democracy, its liberal institutions the media, the church, the university, the arts and union movement moderate capitalism’s excesses.

It was the liberal class that traditionally defended society from the exploitive excesses of capitalism, but it has now been silenced, bought off, compromised and annihilated by mass propaganda, mass consumerism, and “careerism”, where if you want a good career, you do not dissent.

US democracy has been systematically undermined through deliberate, sustained and subliminal messages that frame information in terms of corporate values profitability and unlimited growth. These messages are even more powerful as we leave the print age for the visual age, in which complex information is reduced to simplistic visual emotional messages that have huge propaganda appeal. Hedges holds no hope for the current internet revolution to democratise and argues it is an even more dangerous mass propaganda tool. However, people who resist the technology will become “foreigners” in their own land.

He follows the Noam Chomsky and Ralph Nader tradition of critiquing United States’ industrial-military oligarchy criticism that is rarely reported in the mainstream media. He outlines the US history of systematic purges against dissenting voices who opposed the excesses of capitalism  particularly communists and union leaders. Without their dissenting voices democratic values have been seriously undermined.

Hedges believes the decline of liberal reform began with the entry of US in World War 1. Americans were reluctant to enter the war. However US corporations persuaded President Woodrow Wilson to declare war because they were fearful of a German victory and the subsequent loss of loans. Mass propaganda techniques were then used to persuade a reluctant America with a large German and Irish anti-English immigrant population to enter the war. Patriotism and fear of the enemy were used to mute inner and external opposition to the war. Americans

have a history of “enemies” the Germans in both world wars; the Japanese in World War 2; the Communist after World War 2 and now the Islamic extremist. All of these external enemies coincided with internal repression that consolidated power to the corporation.

The seductive propaganda techniques used to persuade the US to enter World War 1 emerged from Freudian insights about the power of appealing to emotions to manipulate behaviour. This is now the foundation of our modern advertising, marketing, consumer culture that engulfs almost all aspects of daily life.

Hedges outlines how the US labour movement was incredibly strong before World War 1 but was gutted by legislation after the war. The New Deal was a respite when capitalism collapsed bringing on the global Great Depression. In the 1950s, the Cold War brought on the Communist purges, in which artists, actors, teachers and university professors were blacklisted and lost their jobs because of their political beliefs. The 1960s civil rights movement was a reaction to this, but Hedges argues that it was flawed because it was based on the “me” generation, which is the foundation of the capitalist ethos.

The last chapter focuses on how the powerful and rich obstruct initiatives and regulations to end our fossil fuel addiction that entrench “systems of death” through climate change, species extinction and eco- logical collapse. The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is just one example. Hedges predicts that as civilisation collapses, the state will become more repressive. He argues for civil disobedience that is non-violent as, in his experience as a war correspondent, he has clearly seen how violence only unleashes more indiscriminate violence on the innocent.

Hedges argues that democracy is dead and that it is naive to believe that reforms will moderate the excesses of corporate capitalism and that the halcyon days of a progressive reformist government will one day return.

This book argues for the need for society to celebrate and nurture radical citizens as an antidote to the conservative hegemony that dominates our modern global consumer culture. Politics has now moved so far to the right, radical lefties are more important than ever to bring the debate back to the centre. People who consider themselves radicals, activists or reformers, or who aspire to the ideals of fighting against exploitation and injustices, need to read this book.

Reviewed by Janine Kitson West Ryde Public School