The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

Sleaze On Our Beaches and Rocks in Our Heads

Today I want to talk about something quite big and complex. In order keep it light and easy, I plan to take a leaf out of the conservative playbook.

Basically, take any big idea and say it’s just like something else. So, when talking social policy, ethics and the law, I can say something like: “The nation: it’s like a family, right? We all just have to get along.”

This way I can not only complete two whole sentences (no mean feat for some of our public figures); I can also avoid having to discuss anything at all to do with social policy, ethics or the law. “The economy – it’s like chip-shop, yeah? And our relations with the rest of the world – well, they basically boil down to [insert sporting metaphor].”

Brilliant! It doesn’t matter that, say, a chip-shop bears about as much resemblance to the economy of a medium-sized Nation State as a cap pistol to a thermonuclear warhead, despite the fact that they can be said to do roughly the same thing. What’s important is that people know what a chip-shop is. That way, when I stop talking, they’ve understood all the words I’ve used, and therefore believe I’ve said something which sensible.

So today I want to talk about our relationship with mass media, its effect on our perception of what we know, and, more importantly, what we actually end up knowing as a result of engaging with it.

Right. Here goes.

The Entirety of the Mass Media can now be understood if we say: “It’s like the Manly Daily, isn’t it? That’s a newspaper, right?”

The People (all of them) of the Commonwealth of Australia are reducible to whoever it is that gets the Manly Daily on a regular basis. People are all the same, basically, right?

Happy? Okay, neither am I – but let’s go ahead anyway.

For those of you who ended up in the wrong parts of Sydney, The Manly Daily is the organ of communication for ‘the beaches’. Whilst it rarely goes so far as to run an actual news item, it does do an excellent job of keeping us all informed about various happenings within our community. Council meetings, house prices, art shows, gigs, locals who have done well – all of it prompt, accurate and cheerful. This is seasoned with a bare minimum of court news and the occasional opinion piece. As a means of staying connected with the wider community, it really is a publication of considerable merit (no, really – I mean it).

There are however, some things at which the Daily has always been utterly crap. Like news, for example. Or social commentary.

Case in point – yesterday’s paper carried the front page headline “Sleaze on our beaches (videos of sunbathers uploaded to social media website)”.*

What’s basically happened is that somebody’s been recording and posting videos of women on the beach. Just like those blokes in Cancun, Ibiza, Ipanema, Miami – you get the idea. The videos go up under the tag line “Sexy Girls”. Mr Kay, the man behind the copy (or at least with his name above it), is outraged. He states that it is unacceptable to ‘secretly’ film people in a state of undress and then publish that footage without their knowledge or consent. In support of this contention, he even went so far as to consult an academic specialist in the area of social ethics. Unfortunately, all that he seems to have got out of her was a quote containing the words ‘creepy’ and ‘pervy’. Equally unfortunate is this person’s apparent lack of authoritative knowledge in the areas of ICT, philosophy of technology, media law, copyright law or privacy law.

Which I guess is just as well as, for some reason, the decision was made to print three screenshots from the actual video right next to an article complaining loudly about the existence and publication of these images. Sure, the Daily has made some effort to hide faces but, considering how much else of them I can see, this makes no sense either. As far as I can tell, this journalist has ‘secretly’ surfed the net to find these images and then published them without the knowledge or consent of the people who are in them. Which is an outrage, right?

Now, Mr Kay knows his stuff. He’s put in legwork and done his diligence, researching Youtube and looking at women in bikinis in a spirit of outrage. He spoke to a lawyer, who informed him that taking pictures of people in a public space and then publishing them online is probably not illegal. He also spoke to the Department of Justice, who pointed out that there are laws against filming people’s private parts and private acts. He also pointed out that it’s difficult to call voluntarily stripping half naked in order to loll about in a public place a ‘private act’.

So the more we think about this issue, the less it seems to deserve the name. This, in fact, is exactly why asking me how I ‘feel’ about an issue will get you a five minute rant. Issues are too important – they should be thought about first.

In this instance, thinking and proper research would have raised the following three points.

  • Every famous beach in the world has similar videos associated with them (and their women) on Youtube. In a twisted way, we could perhaps see it as a positive that we have joined a club that includes Cancun, Ibiza and Ipanema.
  • The article suggests we should ‘demand’ the removal of the material in question. This would indicate a lack of awareness with regard to what Youtube actually is. They will generally remove content on the basis of a single, pro-forma complaint. If there is to be a fight with anyone, it won’t be with them.
  • Most critically, he seems to fail to understand that the Youtuber is doing, albeit more crudely, what he himself has presumably been doing for a significant portion of his life. Getting pictures of stuff people like to look at and putting some words next to them in the hope of generating some interest.

These failures in understanding lead me to my point.

We talk airily about having ‘discussions’ and ‘conversations’ based on issues that are highlighted in the media. I contend that this simply isn’t likely, or perhaps even possible. So often, issues that arise in the media are being written about by people who don’t actually understand any more about them than you or I. And then, in order to generate interest, the tendency is to frame the entire issue, whatever it may be, in the strongest emotion possible.

Think about it – how many of us are experts on Middle Eastern power politics and history? Very few. So think about the last conversation you had about Israel. I’m willing to bet it ended in a flurry of ad-hominem insults, some very dodgy history factlets and some even dodgier statistics. And, most importantly, lots of angry shouting. Every conversation seems to end up emulating, on a very small scale, the conflict. Why?

It’s simple – the data that is coming in to us is many things: brilliant, rubbish, insightful, idiotic, accurate and ludicrous. Which means we can’t really trust it. Problem is, though, that the sheer amount of it also means we’re generally disinclined to check it. So the end result of all this information input is that we are no longer certain very much at all. What we do know, however, is exactly how we felt about stuff. In the case of Israel, the emotion that sells is generally outrage, and that’s what we end up retaining.

Is this the media’s fault? Hell no. At no point in the history of the written word has a journalist’s role been to do our thinking for us. They record and interpret, and that’s that. Is it the government then? Once again, that would be an emphatic no. They’re supposed to speak for us – enact our will, so to speak. This doesn’t really work if they’re also telling us what that will actually is. So who, in fact, is responsible for keeping us informed? Whose job is it to ensure that we actually understand the world that we live in?

Or, to put it differently, who is ultimately responsible for the shape and contents of your mind? Obviously, it’s you. Mr Bryn Kay, fearless hack for the Cumberland group, is responsible for his own failure to view his story intelligently prior to publishing it and it is my responsibility – mine alone – if I decide to react as stupidly as he did.

* http://newslocal.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx

 

 

So, We Wrote a Book About a Robot Dolphin…

0730 Sunday morning is a time when I am usually thinking about crawling home to sleep off whatever bestial excesses I have committed the night before. Last Sunday, however, was different. I found myself standing outside an office block with a crazy biologist while waiting for a bunch of women to let me in. Okay, so it wasn’t all that different apart from the fact that I was sober and ready to work.

The work in question was the Write A Book In A Day (WABIAD) Challenge. The idea is that some foundation I’ve never heard of challenges teams of writers and illustrators from around the country to write, illustrate, print and bind a children’s book in 12 hours flat. Those participating in the challenge spend a few weeks whoring around for sponsorship, then show up on the appointed day where they are given a set of parameters. If the project is completed successfully, the book goes in for awards consideration. Whether we write a damn word or not, all the money we’ve collected goes to the Westmead Children’s Hospital Cancer Unit. At 0800 sharp, the email came through with our parameters. I can’t remember them exactly, but the basic idea was that the book had to be for 13 year olds and had to include a dolphin, parliament, a waiter, an entertainer and crossing the country. We also had to use five random words. Our fearless leader, the Ditmar Award winning author Zena Shapter, has a much better idea of what the hell we were supposed to be doing, and has written about it here.

As for me, I was still disoriented by unexpected sobriety, and much of the early part of the morning is a blur. Suffice it to say that we brainstormed and came up with a kickass, knife-throwing circus grandmother, a junior hacker protagonist, a race across country pursued by sinister mercenaries dressed as waiters and the fact that ‘dolphin’, in certain circles, means underwater surveillance robot. I’ll leave you to guess where that little chestnut came from.

It was an amazing day. I’d never written collaboritively before, and it was a joyous surprise to discover that a room full of writers – arbitrary, precious, moody, self-involved and supercilious as we often are – were able to suppress ego, frustration, pride and all our other wonderful character traits in order to co-operatively create a cracking good story. It was a refreshing reminder of just what exactly this writing palaver is all about – the central goal is to create, and everything else takes a back seat, including one’s self.

It was also interesting to see other writers’ working rituals. Zoya, who was sitting opposite me, had the same habit of putting in headphones in order to blank out the world. I doubt she was listening to the same Wu Tang Clan album I was, but it’s the principle that counts. Kris, on the other hand, just went into a trance. I could see her on the other side of the room, hunched over and furiously storming at her keyboard like a mad scientist playing the pipe organ in a subterranean basement. Kylie, professional as always, leaned back ergonomically and tapped away, looking for all the world like someone who had nothing on her mind but her hair, whilst clearly punching out an astonishing volume of high quality, professional narrative. Leah, sitting over behind me, spent her time frowning intensely at her screen, clearly and inexplicably unhappy with everything appearing on it – a state of dissatisfaction that became even more mysterious when I read her pages. And let’s not forget Madi, lumped with the hardest chapter of the book – exposition – a ball of cheerfully nervous energy, cranking out the spine on which all our work would have to rest. Our fearless leader, Zena, took on the difficult and thankless task of opening the literary show with chapters 1 and 2, and sat quitely in her corner, tapping away at her laptop and patiently answering the stupid questions we would all fire at her from time to time.

Except me, of course. I was too busy bopping along to Rage Against the Machine and frantically deleting repeated occurrences of the word ‘fuck’ from my manuscript.

In the midst of all this, Mijmark, the crazy biologist, scribbled away at astonishigly good character portraits on photoshop, uncomplainingly chopping and changing as our various verbal vagaries morphed the characters miles and miles away from their initial, agreed physical descriptions. And then there was Sue, eminent art historian and academic, sketching and painting breathtakingly perfect scenes and objects, pointing at her extraordinary creations and complaining that she’d really ‘mucked’ them up. Not in any way I could detect, Sue.

So basically, I got to watch a crack team of creatives at work, united in a good cause and inexplicably taking a foul-mouthed, dissipated idiot like me along for the ride.

At the end of the day, we wrote over 12000 words and created an impressive portfolio of beautiful illustrations. Leah’s heroic work on the design software meant that we were able to submit electronic copies of the book bang on the 2000 deadline, while an elite unit of scissor wielders put the paper copy together. I was outside having a smoke.

We called it ‘A Dolphin For Naia’. It’s got car-chases, gungfu fighting, knife throwing, angsty teen psychological drama and, of course, a robot dolphin. What more could anyone ask for?

I feel privileged to have worked with so many distinguished and talented creatives, and to have been able to make my own small contribution to making the world a slightly better place. I also feel slightly astonished that I was able to put down 3300 words without a single sex scene, fatality or occurrence of the word ‘fuck’. Even if it was a very near run thing…

I want to sincerely thank all those who sponsored us for the day, and I hope this little insight into our particular madness is some small return for your investment, over and above the very real assistance and (hopefully) enjoyment you have been able to give to all the kids fighting cancer in one of Australia’s, and the world’s, best hospitals.

Big ups go to Australian Doctors International for donating their office space, and to Leah for asking them to. Equally big ups to all our anonymous sponsors – you know who you are.

I’m aware that many of you will be kicking yourselves at having missed out on the chance to chuck money at our masterpiece… I mean, Westmead. For you I have stirring and beautiful news: Sponsorship is open until the end of the month, so please feel free to jump on board this excellent cause by going to WABIAD and sponsoring us. Our team name is the Northern Beaches Writer’s Group. Every cent goes to the foundation and every little bit helps.

And for those of you who want to read the book – watch this space!

 

I Don’t Care About the Great Barrier Reef

Scrolling through my social media feeds recently, an item entitled: “If you care about the Great Barrier Reef, read this article…” popped up. I scrolled past it. This made me realise something. This was that, basically, when you get right down to it, I don’t give a flying toss about the GBR or the environment in general.

If you were to press me for an opinion, I would say that I am in favour of measures (even drastic ones) to protect, conserve and preserve. But if you were to ask me how I felt on the issue, I would honestly have to say that it leaves me cold and indifferent. It simply isn’t one of the things about which I have any deep or visceral feelings. Poverty, injustice, greed, violence, oppression – stuff that involves doing bad stuff to humans – that all makes me gut-twistingly furious. Outrage pours out of me in great, profanity riddled waves on subjects like ignorance, bigotry, racism and conservatism, reliably and instantaneously.

But I’m only one person. And one person can only truly care about so many things. By extension, then, a small group of people may be able to care about a few more things, collectively, but it’s going to be far from comprehensive.

And this is why we all need each other. If we want to live in a world that is moving as fast as it possibly can toward a solution to its many and varied burning issues, then the best likelihood for achieving this is if we all – every single one of us – participates, acts or contributes in some way to the various causes that we as individuals care about.

It is simply unacceptable to subcontract caring and activism to a few organisations and individuals. From a global point of view, we all live in the same house and it is therefore the responsibility of each and every one of us to take a hand in cleaning it. If we leave it up to just a few, things are going to get missed. This kind of communal covering of the bases is one of the key components of the grand experiment of civilisation.

This is why I find the insidious growth of slacktivism, learned helplessness or just straight up selfish apathy to be so disturbing. We can’t expect to concern ourselves only with filling our faces and pimping our investment properties and expect everything to just come up roses. Communities, cities, nations and civilisations are all made of only one tangible working part – the part that gets up off its arses and actually tries to do something to leave the world a better place than they found it.

12000 Years Without Boats

Should you ever feel sufficiently bored to pay a visit to Scott Morrison’s website you’ll notice two things. Firstly, you’ll notice that it’s time to take a good, long look at your life and, secondly, you’ll see a series of triumphal proclamations claiming that there have been x number of days without ‘boats’.

Now clearly this statement cannot be taken at face value. Simple logic begs the question – if there have been no boats, what have the Navy been turning back all this time? We therefore come to the conclusion that this statement needs to be examined. So let’s examine it.

Clearly, boats are still arriving. Sources that I am unwilling and unable to name inform me that the pace of boat interceptions hasn’t really changed since I was serving in the comparatively benign Operation Resolute. We have, however, ceased the practice of transporting asylum seekers to Christmas Island and have instead been either sending them back outside our EEZ or taking them to Manus Island. So what’s changed?

Basically, the LNP is now in a position to say that no boat arrivals set foot on Australian territory. I suppose this is a major triumph and, considering that this is done merely at the cost of turning all boat interceptions from benign to hostile, endangering the lives of asylum seekers and Navy personnel and housing people in a facility that wouldn’t pass muster as an abandoned dog shelter, it’s probably cheap at the price. Largely because the Restricted OP RESOLUTE has turned into the Secret OP SOVEREIGN BORDERS. And any price is cheap, really, if you don’t know you’re paying it.

Of course, there have been a few minor hiccups. An unintentional breach of Indonesian waters generated much derision for the Navy (I’d like to see any of those smarmy commentators navigate a boat out of the harbour, much less the open ocean) and soured not a little our relationship with our Northern neighbours. Allegations of cruelty and torture tarnished the reputation of the Navy somewhat, with a little of the mud splattering our venerable aunty – the ABC. And, of course, a large number of newspapers spent a few glorious weeks misidentifying RAN vessels and splashing pictures of ‘orange’ lifeboats, being curiously obsessed with the fact that they were orange (all lifeboats are orange).

Which is as it should be, I suppose. The task of the military is to enforce and facilitate government policy and, I guess, to absorb the blame along with the hard knocks.  But it’s okay, because it’s been 180 days without boats. Which means what, exactly?

What it means is that due to the population voting for a policy of deliberately treating people so badly that they don’t attempt to seek refuge with us, the government has been able to combine xenophobia with the official secrets act to produce a situation where they can say ‘there are no boats’, when the truth is that there are boats, just not in our troglodytic, provincial, goldfish-brained and fucking stupid backyard. So, the number of boats hasn’t changed. We’ve just misused the military and the secrecy provisions designed to protect the nation in such a way that different rhetoric is now possible. And tapped into poisonous xenophobia in order to secure public buy-in. Which is a tactic as old as civilisation.

So considering that nothing has really changed, why not go the whole hog? The situation we’re in is as old as civilisation so I think that we can justly claim that it has now been 12000 years without boats.

Left or Right? I’ll Go With Clever, Thankyou…

The relatively recent extreme polarisation of American politics has revealed some disturbing things about Middle America, the influence of evangelical Christianity and End-Times thinking and the ease with which fringe elements can gain traction in a democracy.

One of the most disturbing facts of American politics is the Tea Party – not so much its influence, which I think is a little bit overblown by a panicky liberal media, but rather the very fact of its existence. It is difficult to understand how we can live in a world where ideas like Libertarianism cause any reaction other than incredulous laughter, but the bare fact of it remains, staring us in the face every time we see a poorly spelt banner demanding that some federal government personage be banished from some room in the banner-holder’s house.

But it’s not just the right who appear to have been infected with this particular brand of stupidity. The partisans of the left have begun to show a worrying tendency to look and sound rather like their Tea Party opponents, right down to the poorly spelt, practically meaningless banners being waved about. It’s a phenomenon that has been aptly described as ‘shouting past each other’, where both sides of the political debate take such extreme positions that there are no grounds for discussion on any issue. Which is the opposite of what adversarial politics is supposed to be about.

But only in America, right? Why does any of this matter to us?

Well, you’ll be pleased to know that Australia has caught up with it’s bigger, older cousin and developed a Tea Party all of its very own. And not just that, we have managed to elect one of the most divisive PM’s in our brief history, beginning the alarmingly rapid process of similarly polarising our own political debate.

And here, as in the US, the left is beginning to sound as shrill and loony as the right.

I understand the rationale. The fringe right uses bully-boy tactics, rank and obvious populism and catchy slogans. It must therefore be necessary for the left to do the same, to avoid losing ground, no?

NO!

Our position is always going to be more complex, more subtle, less packagable than the right’s for the simple fact that it is always and without exception a more intelligent and considered position. Okay, so we seem academic and distant by comparison, but this is what happens when you throw away the comforting certainty of thousands of years of prejudice and superstition and attempt to solve problems using the intellect as the primary tool. This is why most Western democracies have become more or less progressive. This is why humanist ideas have so quickly found their way into law and into popular morality, a bare century after their conception. It is because in the real world – the real, complex, difficult world that we live in, cleverness is what is required to make things actually work.

We cannot, on the left, lose even the superficial imprimatur of that cleverness. It may be very appealing to put on the warpaint and shout back at the idiots on the other side, but it cannot be done without causing severe damage. Looking and sounding like the Tea Party is not going to convert people of the right – they are largely intransigent. All it will achieve is the alienation of supporters and partisans we already have.

In short – stay classy, progressive left-wingers. It works better in the long run, believe me.

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.

 

Unpacking Cory Bernardi’s Dystopia – Part 1

You may or may not be aware, but Senator Cory Bernardi has written a book. He has called it ‘The Conservative Revolution’. The fact that the title appears to be an oxymoron, and that the Senator appears to be just a plain moron, were sufficient to inspire me to read it from cover to cover. And what did I find between the economically elegant, flimsy black covers? Well, I’ll tell you.

Firstly, it took me a very long time to work out exactly what the book was trying to be. It started out like a treatise, with Cory helpfully defining terms that he intended using and laying out a few heads of what he was pleased to call arguments. The problem with this was that there simply wasn’t enough evidence or reasoning to make it anything near a fully-fledged treatise. Also, but not quite so critically, he never once descended from the broadest generalities into anything approaching the specific.

Then I thought it might be a manifesto, but in this I was also mistaken. Out of 162 pages, a bare 16 pages are devoted to positive statements of position, belief and intention. And not just this, a good portion of this 16 pages is devoted to repeating negative or antagonistic ideas mentioned ad infinitum throughout the rest of the book. Most of the remaining 146 pages is overwhelmingly devoted to describing and debunking ideas that the author doesn’t believe in.

It was not, in fact, until I arrived at the final 16 pages that I finally realised what, in fact, this book is. It’s a paean to the faithful – an attempt to clarify opinions, ideas and prejudices which he assumes his readers already hold, presumably with the intention of giving them ammunition they can use when arguing with ‘leftists’ and ‘radicals’.

And what, pray tell, are ‘leftists’ and ‘radicals’? You might think you know, but Cory knows better and has helpfully defined these terms for us.

Leftist: “…left and leftist will be used to make general reference to those political and social forces that are opposed to the traditional principles outlined through this volume.”

Radical: “…ideas that are promoted by these people are fundamentally at odds with natural law, the traditions and cultural wealth that we have inherited from our forefathers, and are therefore diametrically in opposition to what is best for society and the individual.”

and

“[People]…who are constantly trying to tear down our institutions and diminish our historical values because these don’t fit with their own view of how the world should function.”

So, that’s that settled then. And a good thing too, because I would have thought that ‘left’ and ‘leftist’ referred to something entirely different (and less vague) and that a ‘radical’ might be considered to be anyone calling for a revolution. Which would have been very confusing, given the title and thesis of the book.

Reading on, we discover that Cory and his Conservative friends (conservatives are people who “seek to protect and defend the structures and values that have allowed our nation to achieve the traditional freedoms and prosperity that we enjoy today“) live in a terrifying world. Apparently, a social revolution occurred in the sixties that has seen the entrenchment of ideas that are threatening to tear Western society apart. Some of these dangerous ideas include secularism, same-sex marriage, legal abortions and, weirdly, Islam. It is the good Senator’s belief that what is needed is for ‘Conservative Warriors’ to bring about a  ‘Conservative Revolution’, which he goes on to explain (none too clearly) should be seen as a ‘counter-revolution’. Fortunately, he uses someone else’s definition of this term so yes, in this book, counter-revolution means exactly what you think it means.

What will happen if we don’t have this counter-revolution tout suite? Cory paints a chilling picture. Society will be atomised, but power will be concentrated in ‘big government’. Secularism will run rampant, causing depression, dislocation, suicide and mass alienation. Also, something about Sharia law which, for the life of me, I cannot make sense of. Especially in the context of rampant secularism. The free market will cease to operate and laissez faire capitalism’s tender mercies will therefore be denied to the poor and industrious. We will lose the respect of our neighbours and, he implies, end up in another world war.

He cites as evidence his assertion that ‘leftism’, consisting in this case of over-regulation and nationalisation of the market, caused the GFC and that if we don’t immediately cede more control of the market to big corporate, we are due for another one. I don’t believe I need do more than just mention that particular nugget.

The Senator then goes on to cite various authorities to back up the following ideas:

  • Society is not perfectible
  • Order is required for a functional society
  • Custom and convention make up a significant part of law
  • The use of past knowledge makes for better forecasting
  • Prudence is prudent (which seems a wasteful way to use a citation from Plato)
  • Diversity is important
  • Power should be limited
  • Private property is a cornerstone of society

Which is nice, but completely unnecessary, seeing that none of these ideas are really in dispute.

All of this seemingly random, muddled intellectual flailing leads up to what might be termed the res: Senator Bernardi’s grand plan (?) vision (?) program for revolution (?). Whatever the hell it is, it is made up of three pillars – namely, Faith, Family and Flag.

In next week’s episode, I will examine the author’s interpretation of these three F’s and what it reveals about this statesman’s vision for and of Australia.

Stupid is as Stupid Does

Is it possible to sack a politician for being stupid? I don’t mean for the odd slip of the tongue or ill-considered gaffe – I mean for actually lacking an acceptable level of intelligence.

I understand that politicians, our representatives, need to be chosen by the people. We can’t have a pure meritocracy because it’s simply impossible to ensure that the way in which merit is calculated is kept fair. Having said that, however, can we not find some better way to find those candidates we do put in front of the people?

Being a politician these days is a demanding and complex job. Not only do they bear a magnitude of responsibility unprecedented in all of human history – they are also required, more or less as the case may be, to operate a machine that appears to insert thoughts directly into the minds of staggering numbers of people. I refer, of course, to the machinery of mass media.

If a politician says something stupid in a forest and everyone hears it, does it really matter in any way whatsoever? I’m usually inclined to say no. But then my friend Tim drew my attention to a passage from an apparently widely sold book by Senator Cory Bernardi. I quote:

“Islam and the Quran are a blueprint for an idealogy that seeks to create an Islamic super-state and dominate every detail of life in an Islamic society.”

I don’t know if it’s Tim or the Senator who’s forgotten how to spell ‘ideology’, but as Tim and I were educated in the same place, I’m afraid it’s the Senator who misses out on the benefit of the doubt.

The comment above is stupid, ill-informed and almost certainly based on the best efforts of the Senator’s Lilliputian mind to understand whatever little information it has been able to process. None of this, however, presents me with any problem. The problem arises from the fact that this kind of broadcast stupidity is dangerous. At best it sits in the public mind like a boil, ready to burst into pustulent violence at the slightest heightening of social tensions. At worst, it’s deliberately inflammatory bullshit.

So this is why I wonder: Is it possible to somehow remove a person from a position of power on the grounds of intellectual incapability? Both Cory and Tony better hope that it isn’t.

STRAYA!!!

I love Australia Day. Not only is it a guaranteed public holiday on which I can get pissed to celebrate my naturalisation 34 years ago, it is also a day that, through its significance, is pregnant with all sorts of other excellent memories – of friends and family, of other naturalisation ceremonies, of friends in the Navy. I’m not going to pretend that it’s a day when my heart swells with any particular patriotic fervour because, let’s face it, it’s mainly about kiddie pools full of ice, beer and, eventually, your guests.

That’s not to say that the day is entirely frivolous – far from it – it’s just a lot less overstated than, say, the 4th of July in the USA. The flyover, the cricket, the harbour full of white boats and tinnies – all these things enter the consciousness and make me pause at odd moments during the day and reflect on just how damn proud and fortunate I am to be an Australian living in Australia.

And then it happens.

Out come the retards believing that a chain email talking about ‘Citizen’s Day’ has the same weight as a government proposal (such a proposal does not exist). Apocryphal immigrants on the internet telling anyone they can find that when they landed here they didn’t get any handouts (If they arrived between 1945 and 1959, or immediately post Vietnam War, that simply isn’t true). People who are unable to understand that Islam is not a race, yet insist on yammering on about Moslems as if they were an ethnicity. And of course, the endless, endless stream of poorly spelt, grammatically challenged, cognitively dissonant statements starting: I’m not racist, but…”

These idiots talk about “Political Correctness gone mad” when the simple, logical truth of the matter is that, if it had, then they would by now be facing prosecution for being so “Politically Incorrect”. Their continued freedom, in fact, has more to do with the fact that ugly-minded stupidity is not a crime in this excellent, free and diverse country.

Legal or not, however, I have a message for the ridiculously vocal minority that represents this part of Australia.

Dear Mindless Bogans,

Until you have managed to read something other than the Telegraph and inflammatory Facebook statuses, kindly stop spoiling one of our favourite days with your mindless, ill-conceived, poorly-reasoned, toxic bullshit.

Yours Very Sincerely,

 

The rest of the best country in the world that you insist on embarrassing.