Utzon suddenly left this country, and to the best of my knowledge regarding the true reason for why he left, and at such short notice, he did so in silence.
While he would never be drawn back here by provincial ‘movers and shakers’ – small-town toadies embarrassed by the departure of this architect who now had a world-wide reputation, he maintained, to my deep regret, a ‘dignified silence’ on the subject for the remainder of his life.
I process ‘deep regret’ because I am sure I and many others would have benefitted from hearing or reading ‘his side of the story.’
His justification – ‘health concerns’ – for not coming back played into the hands of the Australians who had driven him out. Narrowing the cause to the smallest point, they claimed he left because of his disputes with the NSW Minister for Public Works – ‘What a mean-spirited minister he was, but now he’s thankfully gone.’
Utzon left because of his dispute with Australian culture. I recall a video I saw of Utzon talking about his Opera House. He spoke of walking around the site and an Italian workman saying to him that it would be a beautiful building. He then repeated the words of an Aussie working on the site – ‘I’m only doing it for the money’. Utzon himself had noted the difference.
Australians have now, like the followers of Christ, taken the building ‘to their hearts.’ But not the lesson. It is still entirely lost on them.
In wanting (for me to make the best of it) to put their shame and anti-intellectual, anti-visionary, anti-cultural meanness behind them, they pretend these problems don’t exist.
I process ‘anti-cultural’ because ‘culture’ should be defined by an attitude to and an eagerness for what does not yet exist, it is not primarily the sum of what has been achieved.
The attitude to intellect, vision and culture indicates the orientation of a society – either to a craving for certainty (always backward-looking), or to the embrace of uncertainty (always looking to the future).
I am very aware that in making the criticisms I do of Australian culture, particularly in a wealthy nation dominated by the religion (and extremely powerful ideological tool) of niceness, I am immediately leaving myself open to the charge of ‘bitter and twisted’.
Firstly, I say (as do those who dominate this country), ‘Fuck niceness!’
Secondly I say ‘Look at the evidence’ (if you search for ‘Australian cringe’, ‘Australian shame’ and ‘Australian servility’ on my blog you can find a lot of references to and discussions of it), not only from my experience, but from that of many others and from Australian history.
And you will find the most powerful evidence particularly if you look at the dominant white culture’s continuing genocidal behaviour towards Australia’s indigenous. I highly recommend John Pilger’s documentary work exposing this.
Here is a ten minute interview from tonight’s ABC Radio National’s Late Night Live of Senator Nova Peris speaking passionately about the lives and experience of Australia’s indigenous people.
Sweeping problems ‘under the carpet’, hoping they will go away, is never the way for a country to develop.
Not only is that the ‘best’ way to ensure that the problems will never ‘go away’ (because there is something to be hidden, something to continue being ashamed of, whether justified or not), that a nation can look at its problems (obviously every nation has them) and deal fairly with them is a measure of its maturity.
The very denial, rejection, by Australians of the problems I point to (even as they ‘punch above their weight’ in the global arena [?!]) is evidence not only of the problems of which I process but of the degree of immaturity of this culture.
I come from a culture which provided an intermediate home in between my move from Transylvania to the UK, somewhat confronted with the same ghosts as yours. Relatively young compared to the millenia behind most Easter European nations, it suffers because its roots were lost, leaving them to guess their controversial origins. This, compared to the knowledge of your culture’s less then desirable roots, may seem different, raising nevertheless generation upon generation of vulnerable people, whose only defence is preemptive agression, an ever bleeding sense of inferiority, sadness and unwillingness to welcome anyone disturbing the little bit of rootless history they managed to amass. Unfortunately, the fate of such nations is always the same, historical oblivion, because the newer generations will rather leave, replanting themselves somewhere else, in order to provide new roots into a new, historically established soil for their children. I truly loved your statement:
“I process ‘anti-cultural’ because ‘culture’ should be defined by an attitude to and an eagerness for what does not yet exist, it is not primarily the sum of what has been achieved.”
It represents the essence of why cultures should be judged by what they gave to the universal treasure chest of achievements, which are roots to what will grow into what doesn’t exist yet, but germinates already…
When countries like Australia, the USA etc. have decided to become independent, they just cut themselves off the very root which should have sustained them until new, fresh stems would have grown naturally into autonomous entities.
Instead, you have two monsters, one knowing nothing but the ruthless violence and fraud by which came into existence, and the other the perpetual guilt left by sentences never proclaimed as spent by the guards who left too early…
LikeLiked by 1 person
thank you for your comment. Just as the founding words of John Winthrop for white culture in America resonate through that culture – Kennedy for example said ’I have been guided by the standard John Winthrop set before his shipmates on the flagship Arbella three hundred and thirty-one years ago, as they, too, faced the task of building a new government on a perilous frontier. “We must always consider”, he said, “that we shall be as a city upon a hill – the eyes of all people are upon us”. Today the eyes of all people are truly upon us – and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, state and local, must be as a city upon a hill – constructed and inhabited by men aware of their great trust and their great responsibilities’, I wonder how history reflects on the founding words for white culture in Australia in the speech given by Phillip on January 26, 1788.
According to the National Library of Australia, there is no record of that speech. The website only quotes Roderick Flanagan ‘the principal officers and others assembled round the flag-staff drank the king’s health and success to the settlement’.
Best regards, Phil
LikeLiked by 1 person
Dear Phil, strange enough, my comment disappeared after attempting to upload it. After I wrote a fairly nasty review of their so called improvements, it suddenly reappeared.
On a second thought, I might need to rethink my evaluation of the usa’s pretence to be a city on the hill, blah, blah, like someone really needed them so badly to be the international bully masters, chasing nothing else but their own interests, regardless of the price…
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hi Phil, thanks for sharing with us the interesting experiences Utzon had in Australia. It is indeed a shame that he left in silence maintaining a ‘dignified silence’, and I guess the religion of ‘niceness’ does not only rule in the land of Australia. To me this niceness in Australia is a mere cover-up of a deeply oppressive culture that threatened to punish honest questionings with ostracism. People can be nice in different ways, some by being honest kind understanding and supportive, some by being denying distorting and discounting.
As with culture, my perspective is little different. Instead of seeing culture as “being defined by an attitude to and an eagerness for what does not yet exist, it is not primarily the sum of what has been achieved”, I see it as a seed to be planted and to grow into something not entirely known, yet its fruits can be nourishing to humanity. And to me culture is not a single seed, but generations of seeds planted, nurtured, grown, flourished, harvested and selected. The anti-culture attitude you have identified in Australia reflect a fear and a lack of confidence and experience to care for this seed and to face the consequence of this seed on the servile and oppressive social orders dominant in Australia. As I wonder if people in Australia were allowed to be cultural and intellectual, would the governing class who has been utilizing a genocidal approach over its subjects, capable of holding onto its power?
A government can choose to build up or beat down its people. And unfortunately in Australia there are ample examples of good people being beaten down in flesh and/or in spirit. Yet the same spirit in Plato that seeks a reality outside a dark cave, exists in all of us. Struggling to develop this spirit is a common goal of humanity, while oppression can blow off those weak in spirit, those strong in spirit will not be overcome. As Victor Frankl wrote, ‘to give light one must endure the pain of burning’. When we have nothing to fear, they will begin to fear.
Cheers and best wishes
Yi Ping Wang 🙂
As with ostracism, I found this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ostracism
“Ostracism (Greek: ὀστρακισμός, ostrakismos) was a procedure under the Athenian democracy in which any citizen could be expelled from the city-state of Athens for ten years. While some instances clearly expressed popular anger at the citizen, ostracism was often used preemptively. It was used as a way of neutralizing someone thought to be a threat to the state or potential tyrant.
Crucially, ostracism had no relation to the processes of justice. There was no charge or defense, and the exile was not in fact a penalty; it was simply a command from the Athenian people that one of their number be gone for ten years.
A modern use developed from the term is to describe informal exclusion from a group through social rejection, although the psychology of ostracism takes this further, where it has been defined as “…any behaviour in which a group or individual excludes and ignores another group or individual”. This could therefore be a conscient act or an unconscient one.”
The modern, “politically correct” version of ostracism is the tactic of isolation by ignoring…
LikeLiked by 1 person
I did a search for ‘don’t give them oxygen’ and got ‘Don’t give them the oxygen to burn your business’, ‘Can oxygen hurt?’ and ‘Don’t give them oxygen. Bullies are oxygen bandits…’ Marvellous what Google throws up.
LikeLiked by 1 person
My understanding of ostracism based on my experiences is perhaps along the line with this quote of Voltaire: It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.
LikeLiked by 2 people
I fully agree…
LikeLiked by 1 person