Thursday, July 17, 2003

Word of the Day: Community

The Macquarie Dictionary records several usages of this word, but there's one in particular that seems to get Shadow Prime Minister Peter Costello's goat:

3. a group of people within a society with a shared ethnic or cultural background, especially within a larger society: Sydney's Chinese community.

Here's what he had to say on this usage of the word "community" in his recent speech to the Sydney Institute:

In 1987 Margaret Thatcher famously declared: "There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families."

This is an extremely individualistic view of the world. And she received a lot of criticism over this statement.

At the other end of the spectrum are the collective views of the world usually held by politicians of the left who want to submerge individuals into groups of one kind or another. One clear giveaway is the tendency to put the word "community" after everything. Joan Kirner was a classic example of this. She was forever talking about the "Victorian community", the "artistic community", the "ethnic community", the "Greek community", the "business community" etc., etc. In this view of the world there are no longer individuals who are artists or Greeks or businessmen. There are a series of groups into which individuals are divided and treated together. It is assumed that they have a uniformity of opinion because they share a particular characteristic even though they might never have met, have no desire to do so, and have very different perspectives.

You'll note that the habit Mr Costello objects to is that of putting the word "community" after everything. There's one significant exception, which the following examples ought to illustrate:

JOHN HOWARD: Well that's just Peter Beattie. I mean, Peter Beattie is running a very political campaign on this. Let's call a spade a spade. I mean, I don't, I mean, Peter Beattie, that's, he's running a political game on this. It's an appointment made by the government of another political stripe. He really is running a very political game on this, and using parliamentary privilege to attack Dr Hollingworth.

I'm not going to get into that game. Dr Hollingworth has given an enormous amount to the underprivileged in the Australian community and I think people like Peter Beattie forget that in their zeal to traduce the reputation of a person who has in the past given a great deal.
[my emphasis]
John Howard talking on AM, May 14 2003.

The Government strongly believes that the decision it's taken is right, it is legal, it is directed towards the protection of the Australian national interest, and [I] ask the Australian community to support it. [my emphasis]
John Howard again, this time announcing his decision to deploy Australian forces in Iraq.

Did I say one significant exception? Here's another:

I wish her well, I thank her for all the joy and thrills she's brought to her sport and to Australia and particularly the credit that her dignified performances have brought to the indigenous community of our country.
John Howard again, commenting on Cathy Freeman's retirement.

Bugger me, here's another:

JOHN HOWARD: The threat of North Korea is real, but like all threats it has to be dealt with in a careful and sober fashion, through a combination of steady diplomacy, and those nations that can most influence the behaviour of North Korea are speaking with a common voice, expressing a common view and a common exhortation to North Korea that her best interests lie in returning to the world community and to an acceptable mode of behaviour so far as nuclear weaponry is concerned.
John Howard on PM, 16 July.

Could John Howard be a closet lefty, a fellow traveller with Joan Kirner? Or is Peter Costello talking through his fundament? Tough call, isn't it?

No comments: