Busy Going Backwards Narrative Essay

What are some books or movies where the story is essentially told backwards? Ideally, ones that put a big initial event at the end of the narrative.


Technically it would be reverse chronology, but most of these examples seem to put a big final event at the beginning, then work their way toward it in normal linear sequence.

I'm looking for stories that would start with a bang, if told in chronological order, but instead work toward (or back to) this event over the course of the narrative, so they end with a bang instead, in a more standard rising action-climax-denouement dramatic arc.

Memento is an obvious example, but that's a little more gimmicky than what I have in mind. Are there any examples of not-so-contrived ways to do this?

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Humankind went backwards in 2015 - and I'm part of the problem

Updated December 17, 2015 16:43:11

Tony Abbott's proclamation that "cultures are not all equal" illustrates how far humankind slipped backwards in 2015, but it also made me realise my own shortcomings and how I was complicit in the problem, writes Michael Bradley.

I cannot escape the conclusion that, in 2015, humankind went backwards.

The positive has been rare. The small ways in which people displayed their humanity - #illridewithyou; the post-Sydney Siege floral sea in Martin Place; the resilience of Parisians against a double dose of horrific terrorist violence; Melbourne's facing down of the arrant Border Force police-state overreach; some parts of Europe's response to the Syrian exodus - were exclusively reactive, responding to and ameliorating the worst of terrorism, governmental excess or xenophobia.

In the overwhelming sea of awfulness that people and governments inflicted on each other this year, these green buds of progressive thought and empathic action barely registered beyond the social media ripple. And they didn't impede the carnage or the erosion of human rights one bit.

Other than cataloguing the whole mess, how do we measure our regressive slide? Each of us must find our own points of reflection; I've settled on a single public statement of trans-generational significance, and an unsettling personal realisation.

2015 produced much language that I never thought I'd read outside of history books. The nastiest rhetorical excesses of the 1930s, even the extremes of Orwell's dystopian imagination, were matched, and not just from the unelectable fringe. Words do change the world, even those of Donald Trump.

But it was Tony Abbott's proclamation last week which for me best exemplified where the human conversation now sits. "Cultures are not all equal," he wrote. He has said many other things this year, but those five words sum up both his personal world view and how far we have drifted from the 1949 Universal Declaration of Human Rights with which the world sought to bury the horrors of two world wars and the bigotry, nationalism and assertions of racial and cultural superiority which had spawned them. I don't agree that Abbott is now a historical relic. He is a former prime minister; his words have heft.

I keep replaying those words - cultures are not all equal. Nothing but harm ever came from that belief. Nothing but harm ever will.

A deep irony rests in the fact that it's Abbott who gives voice to the resurgent forces of reaction against the principle of equality. He was, after all, the self-described "prime minister for Indigenous affairs". If he feels that his culture is superior to those of the Islamic world (I'm not sure Abbott knows there is more than one), one can only imagine his view on the relative merits of Indigenous culture (the oldest continuing culture on Earth). Actually we know - in 2014 he said in a speech that "it's hard to think that back in 1788 (Sydney) was nothing but bush".

In this respect, however, Abbott truly speaks for Australia. Which brings me to my own disquiet. Not that I share his opinions on anything, really. But I should face up.

We wear a stain, and I now know that I'm complicit. I have a lot to learn, about our Indigenous peoples, their cultures, needs and aspirations.

Last week I met a young Indigenous businesswoman at a conference - she was smart, engaging and inspiring. In two short but penetrating conversations, she taught me a few profound things I didn't know. I walked away with two strong appreciations: that, in my whole life lived in Australia, this was the first fully engaged conversation I had ever had with an Indigenous Australian; and that I know almost nothing.

This isn't about indulging some comfortable hand-wringing over my ignorance and privilege. What I feel is more a sense of unpleasant marvel that my life inexperience has been even possible, let alone the norm that it is. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians make up about 3 per cent of the Australian population and occupy leading positions in many sectors of our community, yet the only thing that will stop me getting through my entire life without having any material engagement with them will be my own conscious choice.

How is it that I only recently recognised any relevance in the Welcome to Country that I now believe should properly precede any gathering of significance on this land? I'm far stupider than I thought if it had never earlier occurred to me that the ritual isn't tokenism, but the recognition of a spiritual connection which predates European settlement by 40,000+ years and rests on a belief system totally foreign to the understanding of any European or Asian culture.

I can blame my education, teaching us that our history began in 1770, that the prior inhabitants were culturally homogenous with no concept of territorial ownership, and that the genocides inflicted on them were a regrettable by-product of civilisation. I can blame successive generations of governmental action and inaction, all of the dreadful indignities heaped on Indigenous peoples along with the blame for their failure to assimilate, integrate or just get on. I can blame institutionalised racism, discrimination, the fact that when I was born they weren't even counted in the population. I can blame lack of opportunity; there were no self-identified Indigenous Australians in my neighbourhood, schools, university classes or workplaces. Or maybe there were and I didn't notice.

Doesn't matter. As Justin Trudeau responded when asked why his cabinet was 50 per cent female, "it's 2015". I should not be so ignorant of what it means to be an Indigenous Australian. I am feeling keenly that gaping hole in my knowledge and capability as an educated member of this nation. How can I pretend to participate in the conversation that is desperately needed so that all of the wrongs can be righted; so that the historical record is corrected; so that this First World country provides First World health, education, opportunity and living conditions to its first peoples. I realise I have no idea how that will be. I realise that most us are in the same boat.

This has been a very bad year for the world; there are ample reasons to fear that the gathering storm of 100 years ago is finding its historical peer. Of course we must fight these darker depths of human nature; assert human dignity and defend the rights our earlier generations gained; argue, push and shove for equality in all its forms.

If we are to fulfil Australia's promise, so prominent in 1949 and mostly since, as a nation in the forefront of the fight for humanity's soul, then we must confront our own heart of darkness. We wear a stain, and I now know that I'm complicit. I have a lot to learn, about our Indigenous peoples, their cultures, needs and aspirations. Until I make some personal progress, I'll continue to be part of the problem.

Michael Bradley is the managing partner of Marque Lawyers, a Sydney law firm, and writes a weekly column for The Drum. Follow him on Twitter @marquelawyers

Topics:government-and-politics, race-relations, community-and-society

First posted December 17, 2015 09:24:44

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