Monday, January 30, 2006

Slow Day at Spleenville

It looks like Tim Blair found himself stuck for material Sunday morning - how else do we explain his decision to get stuck into this Australia Day column by Christopher Bantick?

Bantick is one of those "Melbourne writers" who turn up in the op-ed pages of The Age from time to time and, three days after its publication, Tim decided to set Bantick straight on a few issues and provide a bit of historic perspective:
Back then [in Bantick's youth], there were no wire fences in the desert keeping new arrivals from the rest of Australian society.

“New arrivals”? He’s talking about illegal arrivals, who tend to turn up without passports or any other supporting documents. By the way, Australia’s enlightened post-war Labor government tried to ship refugees home. Here’s what went on in 1949: “The Chifley Government passes the War-time Refugees Removal Act in July, with a view to forcibly repatriating approximately 900 non-Europeans who had been admitted temporarily during the war. They had declined to be repatriated, wishing to settle in Australia.”

Never did I think I would have to explain to my young son why people were locked up in camps.
Did Bantick’s own parents ever explain to him anything about 1950s refugee camps?

Tim describes this, accurately enough, as perverse nostalgia; the same perverse nostalgia Bantick displays in this December 2005 article, where he gets all gooey about the loss of childhood wonder since cyberspace came along. So far, so good - give or take the opposing twists in our funny bones, I might concede that Tim has point - Bantick is running a "We used to live in old shoe box in middle-o-road" number on us. Again. But then he blows it (guess he can't help himself) with this update, linking to one last article by Bantick. One from June 2000, for crying out loud:

More from Bantick: “Every faceless junkie has a name.” Yes. And also your DVD player.

The linked article recounts Bantick's encounter with one of his former students, now begging for spare change outside Melbourne University. I can see the humour in that final quip from Tim - it's funny the same way that kicking someone's teeth out and then calling them "Fang" is funny.

Over at Surfdom Tim Dunlop has also picked up on Timbo's post (OK, so it was before I did) and would like to know, if not even John Howard wants to return to the sort of monoculture Bantick describes in his Australia Day article, just what sort of monoculture Howard does want to return to. I think the answer might be in Howard's Australia Day address to the National Press Club:

Most nations experience some level of cultural diversity while also having a dominant cultural pattern running through them. In Australia’s case, that dominant pattern comprises Judeo-Christian ethics, the progressive spirit of the Enlightenment and the institutions and values of British political culture. Its democratic and egalitarian temper also bears the imprint of distinct Irish and non-conformist traditions.

That is, Bantick's nostalgia and Howard's conservatism bordering on reactionism, point to the same place - not a monoculture but one where the Judaeo-Christian ethic and the institutions and values of British political culture are very much in the ascendant. Forget the progressive spirit of the Enlightenment - recent actions of the Howard government speak a lot louder than the words on that point. Bantick's better age when we were much kinder to newcomers is the same as John Howard's better age when we were all much more in touch with our British heritage and it was no shame for an Australian Prime Minister to be British to his bootstraps.

Incidentally, checking the 23 links Timbo included in his Sunday posts, I found 13 to external sources and 10 back to his own blog. Looks like he was having a bit of a head up his own arse day as well. But we all have those from time to time.

Finally, while I'm having a bit of dangerous fun dissing RWDBs, I can't resist linking to this guest post by Antony Carr at Evil Pundit's:

It's a regrettable but now proven fact that Australian lefties lack both wit and humour.

Naturally, all thinking people would agree that it is quite inappropriate that a prime minister, especially a right-wing one such as John Howard, should display any wit or humour at all. Hence, this statement in his speech to the National Press Club in the Great Hall of Parliament House on January 25 was entirely uncalled for:
The strength and vitality of Australian democracy rests on three great institutional pillars: our parliament with its tradition of robust debate; the rule of law upheld by an independent and admirably incorruptible judiciary; and a free and sceptical press of the sort that we politicians simply adore.
So there you go - all this lefty agonising over Howard's speech, his historical agenda, and what it portends for the future has been a waste of time. The whole thing was a bloody great piss-take: Iron John fooled the lot of us.

Now it's time for me to kick back, relax and stay off-line for at least 24 hours, leaving whatever happens to just happen.

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