Evidently Tony Abbott and John Howard feel western civilisation is under threat. Actually they’d be right about that, at least regarding the image of it they seem to hold.
They wanted to set up a big new teaching program at the Australian National University, funded by the Ramsay Centre, even though ANU already has many courses on the topic. As Tony Abbott wrote in Quadrant magazine, the program was to be not so much about western civilisation as in favour it.
Ultimately the ANU withdrew from negotiations because of the unprecedented level of micromanagement demanded by the Ramsay Centre, a level the ANU saw as inconsistent with its core value of academic freedom. This has triggered another fierce round of culture wars.
Andrew Fisher, first majority Prime Minister 1910-1913, and twice more PM
[Published 30 April on Independent Australia, with informative comments.]
With the last of the centenary Anzac commemorations behind us, perhaps we can look more closely at the source of some current attitudes.
For nearly two decades government agencies have been quietly filling our kids’ heads with right-wing propaganda. Not only was the Australian nation allegedly forged in the crucible of Gallipoli, but our noble and gallant boys were fighting for democracy and freedom. The ‘Anzac spirit’, also born at Gallipoli, has infused every great thing we have done ever since.
The claims are fiction, one long-standing, the others rather newer.
[Published 18 April in the Braidwood Times and Goulburn Post. Others pending?]
Nothing that follows is to dishonour the bravery and sacrifice of the young Australians who suffered and died in World War I.
However if we are to avoid repeating such disasters we need a larger and clearer perspective than we have been getting from much of the commentary, official and unofficial, marking the centenary of the war.
The Australian nation was not forged at Gallipoli or any other foreign battlefield. There was already a vigorous nation by 1913.
[Now on Independent Australia, 15 Mar]
Australia can choose not to be ‘big’ if it wants. Both our material income and our quality of life would benefit.
It’s good that the ABC’s Four Corners has provoked a debate on immigration, and it’s good that it avoided racist, xenophobic or xenophilic claims, but still so many of the arguments presented are ill-informed or self-serving.
[Published 7 Feb at Pearls and Irritations, though with the irritation that ‘lies’ was replaced by ‘untruths’.]
Australian politics is a culture of lies. Australia’s governments are facades erected to obscure the nefarious activities of those who really wield power.
So the pathetic little Turnbull Cabinet is upset because some of its secrets are outed through incompetence. The filing cabinet papers so far reveal some hypocrisy and lies of Government Ministers past and present.
If you want to see some rather more consequential challenges to government secrecy go and see the movie The Post, which is about how in 1971 Daniel Ellsberg and the Washington Post revealed the history of US interference in Vietnam through the 1950s and 60s. The so-called Pentagon Papers revealed that successive US administrations had systematically lied to Congress and the public about their activities and goals in Vietnam.
For decades the US knew it could not win. It continued mainly to try to save face. In the end it suffered the humiliating defeat it feared. Tens of thousands of US young men, hundreds of Australians and many more Vietnamese died for that vain folly.
[This was written November 2017. I was in a dark mood and needed to unload some of it. Having done that, I felt better and left it. However the dark mood has been returning. Twice now I’ve been triggered by being taken back in time, as you’ll see in this and the next post. The previous post, To Armageddon on Automatic, was on a topic long brewing that I struggled to find words for. There may be more. These are not bright times.]
Reading a collection of essays by author Rosie Scott* has taken me back to the early nineties. Those times were far from idyllic, but how much lower we have sunk since then.
That was before we turned decisively to the dark side, before we learnt to stumble through the gritty, coal-dusted moral gloom, mocked by boofhead bully politicians, conditioned to fear others and to destroy innocent lives, cloyed by Big Brother in our pockets and purses, taunted by visions of robot workers, android dreams and a baking planet. That was before the colours faded.
[As usual the MSM and even The Conversation can’t be bothered looking at actual thoughts. So this will soon be on my old faithful, Independent Australia. Good, but a wider audience would be nice. Also, been working on a new MS, so there hasn’t been much here for a while.]
Perhaps the Aussie summer pause is a chance to ask a really basic question.
Do we have any say in the human future? Are there any human beings anywhere who have any say in how our future unfolds? Do the political leaders, the billionaires, the giant corporations?
Or is our children’s future ruled by inexorable laws of economics, or of society, or of flawed human psychology. Is it in the hands of the gods or of God? Is it determined by Fate?
Judging by what is written and said you’d have to conclude that most people think it’s all out of our hands.