Non-freedom to the Western mind is inevitably linked with images of backwardness – Soviet tractors, East German Trabants, Kim Jong Il’s haircut. But non-freedom these days is also iPads, iPhones and a dazzling array of less iconic but ubiquitous consumer goods that flood our stores, our homes and which increasingly are used to define our ideas of worth and happiness. It is a full-lipped smile achieved with the aid of collagen made from skin flensed from dead Chinese convicts.
The Australian Disease is Richard Flanagan’s perceptive, hilarious, searing exposé of the conformity that afflicts our public life. From Weary Dunlop to Vassily Grossman, from David Hicks to Craig Thomson, Flanagan takes us on a wildly entertaining and unsettling trip. If we are to find hope, he says, we must take our compass more from ourselves and less from the powerful.