I ended the last post praying for serenity, courage and wisdom – and promptly failed at each, trapped in a caffeinated bender of anxious nights and long, slow days. I have slept with a black dog.

But wasn’t it enough to drive anyone to ketamine, that gaudy procession of electoral pundits barfed from the gratest nation in the world?*

Sure… it’s fun watching news anchors try to whip the presidential equivalent of wheat juice into an olympian fistfuck (or at least some ominous portent of Australian politics yet to come – anything but the turd sandwich of indifference and bleak inevitability the foreign correspondents must have phoned in) but it probably doesn’t matter who won the election.

Obligatory liberal disclaimer: Romney showed all the charm and patience of a Victorian dildo (basically a wooden dick for the upper crust).

It’s just hard to rekindle the kind of post-Bush relief that flickered around Obama after the last election. On the international stage – where American excess is most likely to ruin my day – both shared a pathological need to condemn and control the sprawling march of human history now uneasily defined as “the situation in the middle east.”

Actually understanding that situation – much less articulating it meaningfully – appears a Sisyphean task best left to universities. After all, it’s exactly the kind of political-religious-ethnic-economic-historical-demographic clusterfuck that’s always kept academics in Moleskins and comfortable shoes: basically the Nazis without having to learn German or collect such incriminating books.

Israel-Palestine are just the bupkes drizzled on top.

Luckily for politicians, understanding is always less important than (the appearance of) acting – remember the primary debates? Romney’s healthy will to power eclipsed even basic geography, happily talking tough on Syria while also claiming they were “Iran’s route to the sea”.

When can we start the war on maps?

I spent nine days in a Georgian hotel with a cold and cavernous lobby on the outskirts of the capital, Tbilisi. A piano man played all the latest hits: ABBA, The Eagles, even some of that classy stuff you hear on hold.

Jet lagged volunteers shuffled through the disorientation program while nurturing a fragile Stockholm Syndrome for our new captors. There was safety advice for the young ladies (don’t be either) as well as a crash course in post-Soviet road rules and daily, incredibly basic Georgian lessons.

“What do you call Russians?” asked one of the TEFL veterans, a classically American DJ just out of Seoul. “You must have some names for them.”

The instructor stiffened; I shifted uncomfortably in the silence.

“Why would we have names for them? My grandmother was Russian.”

Joseph Stalin was actually born in Gori, just over an hour from Tbilisi, with the typically Georgian surname of Dzhugashvili (ჯუღაშვილი). Austere marble columns now cradle the cobbler’s house he was raised in, part of an an unflinchingly revisionist tourist trap pushing kitschy mugs and shirts – the hipster’s natural playground.

Russian fighter planes dropped irony-seeking munitions on the city in 2008. Cluster bombs peppered Stalin’s birthplace with shrapnel and fire while pro-Russian militia torched cars and kidnapped villagers, barbarians at the gates.

I travelled Georgia from Black Sea to the snowy, backwoodsy tips of the Caucasus Mountains, where nights (just possibly) crawl with Spetnaz and shotguns from across the border.

Not once did I find any hatred of the Russians. What can you do? Putin may be a bad man… but Russians?

Such grand pragmatism has a transcendental quality somewhat humbling – it is a negative capability.

The term stems from Romantic and serial muser John Keats:

… several things dove-tailed in my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.

Yes! We reach for fact and reason, at worst a lazy, basically religious idea that the world makes sense. Everything is controlled – for understanding is really an attempt to stand over – but what if we’re wrong?

Keats’ negative capability refuses to silence the unknown, gazing into the abyss with a grin and a strong gin.

But politicians seem to have forgotten their borders, obsessed with venturing into the wilds and bringing sense to the world – bludgeoning history into shape, killing uncomfortable thoughts before they have a chance to arise.

We’ve had the first black president; perhaps we need the first dead one: Keats-Wilde in 2016!


* I may also have developed an unhealthy symbiotic relationship with ABC24’s Planet America, strangely drawn to all those awful graphs…