The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

Clarkson’s Big Fat Mouth

So, I am given to understand that some time in the recent past, BBC presenter Jeremy Clarkson used the word N——-. Which is not a word, but a letter with some dashes after it. So why the big fuss?

I can only assume it’s because the word in question is ‘nigger’. Which is a hateful word. Insulting, degrading, breathtakingly racist and, interestingly, a common metric device in certain genres of popular music. Also, it is a word that forms part of a child’s rhyming game. Eeny Meeny Miney Mo, to be precise.

It was in this context that Clarkson apparently used it, in a not for broadcast take where he is clearly at pains to replace it with something else.

Now, I am no fan of racism. I’m also strongly against the sort of casual racism that is made up more of insensitivity than of bigotry (the recent blackface performance on a popular tv show is a good example of this kind of thing), but I am even less of a friend to reactionary hysteria.

I was taught this rhyme with ‘that word’ in it before I even knew what ‘that word’ meant. It is locked, deep in my brain, and when I find myself using the rhyme, I have to make a great mental effort to use the bowdlerised version. I can only assume that Clarkson was in the same predicament. His explanation and his actions chime nicely with this version of the facts. He made strenuous efforts to avoid using an offensive word, took several takes to make sure he didn’t, and then some puerile troublemaker decided to broadcast one of his practice takes.

This being the case, the question has to be asked. What in the actual fuck has Clarkson done wrong and why, by all that’s rational, are we all screaming at him?

It is perhaps because the progressive left, or whatever you want to call the more liberal section of society that tends to be pro fair trade, anti cruelty, anti bigotry and pro environment, would seem to have just as many pig ignorant, mindless, knee-jerk reactionaries as the right.

If true, this is regrettable, not least because it is a section of the community to which I belong. People who sit on the liberal side of the political spectrum should be about thoughtfulness, the application of context and, most importantly, deep repugnance for anything remotely resembling a witch hunt.

Sure, Clarkson has a history of ‘racist’ gaffes – in exactly the same way as my father’s dinner table conversation has. Which is unsurprising, considering that they are roughly the same age. Now, I know that my father’s problem isn’t so much racism as it is generational – he has imperfectly adapted to a world where Social Darwinism is no longer taught to school children as an immutable truth. I was able to adapt, but I think that adaptation was made somewhat easier by the fact that it happened when I was six years old.

So, bearing this in mind, I believe Clarkson’s problem isn’t so much racism as it is foolishness. Which isn’t really problem, when you think about it, because being foolish on camera is what the BBC pays him for. It’s the larger part of his market appeal.

It’s not his blood we should be baying for, but the blood of the traitor who released the clip. It is not he we should be disgusted with – our disgust should be reserved for those troglodytic members of society who seem to live in a constant state of outraged victimhood, made all the more ridiculous by the fact that it is so often vicarious.

And as for Clarkson, let’s just hope that the next time he puts his outsized foot in his larger than life mouth his sins are of a more loveable, laughable kind. And that it doesn’t involve the use of a word that is so rightly charged with such animus, and avoided with such assiduity by all right thinking folk. That is, after all, why we all liked him so much not three days ago.

Unpacking Cory Bernardi’s Dystopia – Part 2

In my last post we had a look at the opening of Cory Bernardi’s book “The Conservative Revolution”. In this opening we discovered new meanings for some very commonly used words and learnt about a crisis in our affairs that seems to have gone unnoticed by all but the conservative portion of society.

Today, I’d like to take a look at what Cory believes are the four fundamental pillars of a conservative society: Faith, Family, Flag and Free Enterprise.

Faith

Like many religious politicians, Senator Bernardi is both confused and confusing when it comes to the role of faith in politics and society. He believes that Australia is a Christian country, citing the preamble of the constitution as evidence of this. He goes on to state that being a Christian country simply means being one of those countries whose cultural, moral and legal basis derives from broader Western Judaeo-Christian roots. So far, so obvious.

Despite the fact that he spends an inordinate amount of time explaining and justifying this -an idea that is pretty well known and accepted by everyone over the age of 9 – there is nothing all that revolutionary about what he has to say so far. Unless, of course, being mind-bendingly dull can be considered revolutionary. It is at this point, however, that he begins to ramble.

Less than two hundred words into his dissertation on faith, he begins to mumble about family, which indicates a worrying inability on the part of the author to think in an orderly manner. The whole discursus on faith is a rambling, confused expedition reminiscent of the picaresque wanderings of a character in one of Sterne’s novels, only without the wit, humour or intelligence. After some careful reading and unpicking, however, I have been able to distill the essence of the ‘argument’ into the following dot points.

  • Australia is a Christian country.
  • People get their faith from their families.
  • It doesn’t matter if your values derive from Christianity or some other source.
  • Only Christian values are acceptable so you should derive your values from Christianity.
  • ADHD is not a real medical condition.
  • Abortion will infallibly lead to state sanctioned mass murder.
  • Islam is an evil cult that is not, in fact, a religion, but a conspiracy to take over the world.

He also points to some trends in modern thought that he describes as ‘alarming’. These include pathology based medicine, secular ethics, pro-choice advocacy and, weirdly, Islam. I, however, think that the most alarming thing about this whole section is the fact that he believes Mosaic law is an appropriate standard by which to order a modern society.

Family

Senator Bernardi believes in the nuclear family. He believes so strongly in it that he feels that the increasing prevalence of ‘unconventional’ family units will eventually spell the end of society as we know it. His belief is so strong, in fact, that it blinds him to the distinction between the nuclear family, extended family groups and tribal clan networks. He cites disparate and questionably relevant authorities with gay abandon – no, strike that. There’s nothing gay about the Senator’s vision for the future. It is painfully obvious that, to his mind, anything gay is to be considered an unfortunate anomaly that should be tolerated with Christian fortitude. And possibly eradicated by some humane means that he leaves unspecified.

He trots out the old tired arguments about marriage being the exclusive property of the Church (without specifying one) with the difference that it is unclear whether he is sufficiently intelligent to be deliberately disingenuous about blurring the line between sacrament and legal contract.

If we ignore the strange byways that he wanders down in order to rail at leftists, cultural Marxists, progressives, homosexuals and, weirdly again, Islam, we are left with a sad and simple truth. Cory Bernardi believes that we should all go back to living in a Norman Rockwell painting. He feels that we should go back to a sort of rustic, nuclear family based paradise where the strong, breadwinning father rules a household of compliant women and children, regardless of the fact that such an ideal very probably never existed outside the pages of a Victorian novel. It would appear that, on this front at least, the ‘conservative revolution’ involves the systematic fictionalisation of the entire country’s home and family life. In support of this he cites some very suspect statistics that would seem to indicate that divorce and single parent families are the root cause of all crime and suicide in Australian society.

Flag

I agree with almost everything Cory says in this section. He says that Australia is a great country and that we should be proud of it. Agreed. He says that modern nation states need to be robustly defended. Agreed. He says that trade is the lifeblood of a modern state. Agreed.

My agreement stems partially from the fact that I am a patriot, and partly because disagreeing with truisms is very difficult.

The rest of this section is devoted to an explanation of Australia’s constitutional structure at a primary school level, which is worrying, considering that the author is, in fact, one of our lawmakers.

This is by far the shortest section of the book, which is a shame as it is also the least loopy. It can be summed up as follows.

  • Australia is a democracy.
  • The constitution is important.
  • Diversity should be celebrated.
  • People from diverse backgrounds should assimilate.
  • John Howard was right about everything.

Free Enterprise

This entire section is devoted to an explanation of what free enterprise actually is. Cory painstakingly explains, in terms that are calculated to be understandable to any mentally impaired child, that trade involves the exchange of money for goods and services and that Adam Smith was an economist. He posits the idea that capitalism is essentially a benevolent undertaking, and that we should cease regulating against greed and corruption and allow this benevolence to operate freely at all levels of society.

Breathtakingly stupid as this is, it does pose a few key questions.

  1. Is the Senator using primary school economic theory because he believes it fits the intellectual level of his readers, or because it represents the level of his own understanding?
  2. Is the Senator aware that nearly two centuries of economic history have consistently disproved the notion that laissez faire capitalism will result in a self-regulating market that benefits all through enlightened self interest?
  3. Does the Senator seriously believe that a single employee negotiating with an employer is in a position to bargain on equal terms and therefore gain an equitable outcome?
  4. When the Senator talks about ‘over-regulation’, does he, in fact, have any sort of concrete benchmark that represents an ideal level of regulation or does he, like all other neo-cons, believe that the slogan ‘small government’ is sufficient unto itself?

If my analysis of the meat of Cory’s book has seemed scatter-gun, disordered and fragmentary, I apologise. In my defence, I can only say that one is generally limited by the material that one is given to work with. Reading this book reveals no new information, no new ideas and certainly, no coherent arguments supporting the conservative cause.

The most revealing aspect of this book is the insight that it gives into the confused self-deception of the author’s mental processes. His is the sort of mind that starts with a given set of prejudices and disguises their nature by attaching to them the labels ‘natural law’, ‘custom’ and ‘tradition’. In this respect, I believe the book actually does serve a useful purpose. It lays out clearly, and unmistakeably, the actual mental framework that is operative in the worst and stupidest of reactionary conservatives. If you ever see a conservative saying or doing something unutterably stupid and wonder, “what was he/she actually thinking?”, I would suggest that ‘The Conservative Revolution’ is an excellent place to go in order to discover the answer to that very question.