The lucky country: part three

Donald Horne, The Lucky Country – Australia in the Sixties, Angus and Robertson, 1965 (first published in 1964)

pp. 32-33 ‘What often perishes altogether – in the bureaucracies of business or of government or in the universities and in such intellectual communities as exist – are originality, insight and sensitivity, the creative sources of human activity. In an imitative country no one has to be creative; the creative person is likely to be confronted with distrust – not perhaps in science or the arts, but almost everywhere else…With their distrust for Australian originality and their ignorance of the world the men who run Australia often have a peculiarly narrow view of ranges of the possible…It is not the people who are stupid but their masters, who cling to power but fail to lead.’

46 ‘The official beliefs of Australians are essentially humanist’

47 ‘Anzac Day (the Australian folk festival)…The beliefs associated with Anzac are more Stoic than Christian.’

56 Horne paraphrased the diary entry of Mrs. Marcel Dekyvere, chairman of the Black and White Ball Committee (in 1964) in response to a sermon titled ‘I Have a Dream’ – ‘We must all keep our dreams, even if sometimes they don’t come true. Don’t you agree?’

Martin Luther King gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech on 28.08.1963

61 ‘discussion on Australian literature is sometimes better informed in the American universities that have taken it up than in some of the Australian universities.’

76 ‘On 27 December 1941, John Curtin made the single most significant statement ever made by an Australian Prime Minister: “Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America”.’

81 ‘Menzies was more British than the British, always running several years behind London, expressing dreams of Commonwealth that had something of the flavour of progressive discussion in 1908.’

On Australia’s relations with the U.S. Horne wrote ‘Australians are used to being insignificant and relying on the power of others.’

83 ‘it seems likely that Australia could enter into a quite massive relationship with America without generating any politically effective anti-Americanism among ordinary Australians’

Australians are suspicious of all idealism: ‘What’s in it for him?’

I would add that Australians pride themselves on their cynicism, failing to distinguish between what it is – a corrosive poison – and a healthy skepticism.

88 ‘In the past Australia has also displayed the other side of provincialism: the boastfulness and arrogance of the liberated province, parading its very provincialism as if it were homegrown.’

101 ‘Despite its internal democracy, Australia plays an aristocratic role in the society of Asia – rich, self-centred, frivolous, blind…Given the huge area it has to defend, Australia is defenceless against a major power.’

‘There is not very much real feel for Asia (in Australia).’

107 The words ‘White Australia Policy’ were removed from the Labor Party platform in 1965.

112 ‘if Australia is to play a more forceful role in Asia the change must be dramatic enough to impress Asians that it is a change. It would seem a comparatively simple method to enter into migration agreements with Asian countries that might meet any of their own fears and that would set up clear public standards of assimilability – of language, education and working capacity…My own view is that the future holds dramatic possibilities for Australia which may necessarily include racial change, that this is Australia’s ‘destiny’. It is going to happen one way or the other. It is a task that will be undertaken either by Australians, or by someone else.’

120 ‘Of the top hundred Australian firms at least two thirds are overseas controlled.’

121 ‘Not that Australia has ever spent much on research and development anyway…This indifference to research and development goes beyond the question of foreign ownership.’

122 ‘The very idea of clever, expert men thinking up new things to do is one that is repulsive to many Australian businessmen…in such matters Australian businessmen often treat their own countrymen with the scorn that the colonialists used to treat those they exploited: you can’t expect the natives to have ideas.’

125 Horne on the suspicion of Australians to original Australian ideas

130 ‘Several generations of Australians were taught to venerate not lions or eagles or other aggressive symbols of nationalism; they were taught to venerate sheep.’

136 ‘the things modern Australians are really interested in – getting homes, raising their children, going on holidays.’

Horne went on to add: ‘What one does witness in Australia is…”the institutionalisation of mediocrity”…established rhetoricians and ideology makers’

145 Australia took its federal structure from the U.S. – with a House of Representatives, a Senate and a federal court that interpreted a written constitution.

146 In certain senses, Australia is a province of two external powers (the UK and the US).

Still clutching at the skirts of Mother Britannia, Australians, in an Asian sphere, cling to the coat-tails of Uncle Sam – the latter two nations generated from the first. The pervasive shame associated with this Australian servility is the source of the projection known as ‘tall poppy syndrome’ – ‘Because I am on my knees, I will ensure that you are on yours!’

177 ‘if intellectuals wish to walk down the corridors of power in Australia they must leave their intellectuality at home. As in business, to pretend to some stupidity is safest.’

190 Exposing the often repeated excuse – that ‘we are only a small nation’:

Horne, quoting Irving Kristol’s review of the first edition of The Lucky Country, emphasised the importance of leadership that could enable a people to create ‘better than they know’ and of appreciating their creation, without which that people would not only be far poorer in their self-definition but would be blissfully unaware of their poverty. Leadership enables the discernment of a promise and a potentiality that becomes integral to their way of life.

Part three/to be continued…

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The lucky country: part two

Donald Horne, The Lucky Country – Australia in the Sixties, Angus and Robertson, 1965 (first published in 1964)

p.1 ‘The Australian Dream: Innocent happiness’

2 ‘Life assumes meaning in the weekends and on holidays.’

4 ‘Australians are too easy-going to become fanatics and they do not crave great men.’

5 ‘A cult of informality derived from a deep belief in the essential sameness and ordinariness of mankind’

‘Anzac Day is the Festival of the Ordinary Man; Christmas the Festival of Family; New Year the Festival of the Good Time.’

‘the appeal of Anzac Day is as an expression of the commonness of man (even death is a leveller).’

‘Australia is not a country of great political dialogue or intense searching after problems (or recognition of problems that exist).’

6 In 1886, J.A. Froude said of Australians: ‘It is hard to quarrel with men who only wish to be innocently happy.’

Horne wrote that Australia is strongly inimical to ideas.

7 ‘Throughout the world the basis of material prosperity in the future is likely to lie, for the first time in history, with clever, educated people.’ Horne added that in Australia cleverness can be considered un-Australian.

14 ‘Australians love a “battler”, an underdog who is fighting the top dog, although their veneration for him is likely to pass if he comes out from under. At work – among the unambitious – the feeling for underdogs runs very strong.’

18 ‘Australians like people to be ordinary…To be different is considered an affectation.’

18-19 Horne believes that Australians embody ‘a complex of resentments against difference…It is only when a difference stares them in the face that ordinary Australians become truculent; and then only in a personal way.’

26-27 ‘This cynicism beneath purpose feeds our notorious philistinism…the Australian is cynical and self-denigratory towards himself as well as towards the world he sees around him…This deeply inlaid scepticism is a genuine philosophy of life, a national style determining individual and group actions. Its influence can be detected throughout Australian society. It may be the most pervasive single influence operating on Australians.’

‘What they find it difficult to do is to imagine the new for themselves.’

32 ‘The passion for egalitarianism may combine with the passion for scepticism to hide and often frustrate talent.’

‘Much energy is wasted in pretending to be stupid. To appear ordinary, just like everybody else, is sometimes a necessary condition for success in Australia.’

Part two/to be continued…

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Welcome to Australia, mate!

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Charlotte Grieve, ‘Behind every number is a student’: survey finds widespread racism in schools’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 27.08.19

One in five African students has been threatened by another student and almost half of East Asian students have been called names, according to a survey of 4600 state school pupils across Victoria and NSW.

Racism and religious intolerance remain widespread in Australia’s primary and secondary schools, researchers from Australian National University have found, with discrimination coming from both students and teachers.

Tanzanian Year 11 student Emmanuel Asante was threatened on the grounds of his south Sydney school by another student, who called him a “black monkey” and ordered him to get off the soccer pitch.

“I felt sad and I felt that I wasn’t welcome. I didn’t play soccer again. Never again,” he says now, one year after finishing high school.

Mr Asante became depressed during school, and said that while family and relationship issues were the main causes, “being racist to me added oil to the flames”.

This form of bullying can have serious lifelong consequences, according to lead researcher Associate Professor Naomi Priest, contributing to mental and physical health problems and even undermining future employment opportunities as students become discouraged and disengaged.

“We talk about the numbers of students who experience racism and we look at the percentages. But it’s important to remember that behind every number is a student, a family, a community.”

The researchers found that one third of students had been subjected to racism from other students – from teasing to physical violence – and six in 10 witnessed it. Professor Priest said she was not surprised by the results.

“Schools are a microcosm of wider society,” she said. “We know racism is a major issue in our community, we’re seeing the rise of the far right and white nationalism around the globe.”

Religious intolerance was also found to be rife, with one in four students surveyed reporting they’d been bullied because of their faith.

While only 2.35 per cent of the students surveyed said they were Muslim, more than half of them said they’d been bullied for their faith.

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Throughout her schooling in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, Sundus Ibrahim was bullied for wearing the hijab – other children yanked at her head scarf, asked why she wore it or screamed “I hate you” while pointing at her head.

Ms Ibrahim, who graduated two years ago, describes herself as having a “big personality” but “at school I felt small”.

She tried to brush it off but grew so anxious she now feels afraid when alone in public.

Teachers can also be racist, the students told researchers: one in 10 said their teachers was racist towards them and nearly half said they had seen teachers racially discriminating against other students.

Braybrook VCE student Praise Morris said her friend was barred from her economics class because there were “too many black students” and they would “turn the class into a party”.

The students wrote a letter to the principal complaining about the incident but Ms Morris said the teachers tried to downplay the event, rather than deal with it.

“Instead of just taking ownership of what happened, they said you might have perceived it wrong…It really discourages you from even trying in school. What’s the point of trying to prove something if they already have the perception that I’m going to fail?”

The researchers hope to repeat the survey so they can track changing attitudes in schools.

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Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange — Desultory Heroics

By Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Source: Medium I know, you may think I am deluded. How could life in an Embassy with a cat and a skateboard ever amount to torture? That’s exactly what I thought, too, when Assange first appealed to my office for protection. Like most of the public, I […]

via Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange — Desultory Heroics

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More Police Raids As War On Journalism Escalates Worldwide — Desultory Heroics

By Caitlin Johnstone Source: CaitlinJohnstone.com The Australian Federal Police have conducted two raids on journalists and seized documents in purportedly unrelated incidents in the span of just two days. Yesterday the AFP raided the home of News Corp Australia journalist Annika Smethurst, seeking information related to her investigative report last year which exposed the fact that the […]

via More Police Raids As War On Journalism Escalates Worldwide — Desultory Heroics

THIS is the REAL Australia – no ‘laid-back’ bullshit but deeply authoritarian and deeply servile. The Australian Federal Police are and always were, from their inception, the Australian Political Police.

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As I predicted…with a lot more of this to come

Julian-Assange

Assange makes a statement outside the High Court in London in February 2016, when he had already spent three years holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy.

Suelette Dreyfus, ‘EU hails Assange while Australia does nothing’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 18.04.19

The European Parliament passed a law this week to protect whistleblowers across 28 countries, with support from 591 MEPs to just 29 against, while some abstained and some were absent. This new EU “directive” may have been inspired in part by WikiLeaks’ reporting, but it will not help its founder, Julian Assange, who is already sitting in a British high-security prison, Belmarsh, under harsh conditions.

Assange faces a UK charge of skipping bail. He always said he skipped bail because the US government wanted to put him in a US prison. He was correct.

Now the US is attempting to extradite Assange to face criminal proceedings. Its single charge against him is about an event that happened nearly a decade ago – and it is a serious threat to media freedom.

This was the view of many in the meeting rooms at the European Parliament in Strasbourg this week. On Monday night the Parliament’s plenary passed a motion to discuss Assange’s plight. A stream of MEPs from different countries told the chamber of their worry for his safety, proposed giving him asylum in Europe, and insisted he not be extradited to the US.

A few journalists have claimed US criminal proceedings are not a threat to press freedom because “Assange isn’t a journalist”. Why? Because he “just dumped” US military documents, the “War Logs”, in an unredacted form. This is inaccurate.

When WikiLeaks published the Afghanistan War Logs, it withheld more than 15,000 records. Its next major publication, the Iraq War Logs, was more heavily redacted – so much so that other media outlets complained.

Assange is both a journalist and a publisher; he has led fearless news reporting over more than a decade. His digital media outlet has worked like a wire service: it publishes straight, fact-based news pieces, supported by data sets of redacted original material. Media around the globe have taken these news pieces and expanded them by enhancing the stories with local content, as they might with an AP news story.

Traditional media outlets have now copied many innovations by Assange. These include installing anonymous digital drop boxes, publishing large redacted data sets in support of investigative news stories, hiring data science journalists, and encouraging reporters to improve their cybersecurity to protect sources.

I previously worked with Assange, writing the book Underground, and other journalism. What I witnessed was an investigative journalist at work. He had a strong news sense, sought to report the facts accurately, was a good writer, and believed in reporting news in the public interest. Since 2007, he has been a member of the journalists’ trade union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance.

That the EU Parliament is moving to protect whistleblowers, and many of its members are so concerned about Assange, begs the question: why isn’t the Australian government using its special relationship with Britain to ask for its own citizen to be sent safely home? Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s throw-away lines about Assange’s case raises questions about whether he is a leader who will look after Australians in strife overseas. This is one of the roles of a government.

Labor leader Bill Shorten could easily follow the lead of his British Labour counterpart, Jeremy Corbin, who stated he does not think Assange should be extradited to the US. But he hasn’t yet.

The US criminal charge puts at risk the public interest chain of investigative journalism: the information path of whistleblower from journalist to publisher to the public. This chain depends on technology, particularly for security and anonymity protections. An attack on any part of this chain will weaken this corrective mechanism that exposes corruption in our society.

Whether you agree or disagree with Assange, he has transformed journalism, and turned whistleblowing from a corruption issue into a freedom-of-expression issue. If this extradition goes forward, expect the chill of a coming winter in media freedom.

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Two letters to the editor: on the servility and racism of a fearful nation

Prime-Minister-Harold-Holt-and-President-Johnson

Prime Minister Harold Holt and President Johnson

Two letters to the editor, The Sydney Morning Herald, 27.03.19

Memorial a sham that glorifies wars fought for other countries

I’m looking for a letter which says “don’t extend the Australian War Memorial, demolish it”.

None of the Australian personnel who served, suffered and died in World War I, and subsequent wars, made their sacrifice for Australia.

It was all for the Mother Country, or to keep sweet with the US.

Everybody remembers Menzies saying: “It is my melancholy duty to inform you officially that, in consequence of the persistence of Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her, and that, as a result, Australia is also at war”.

Everybody remembers Holt’s “all the way with LBJ”.

Everybody remembers Hasluck pressuring the Americans to request an Australian battalion to join US combat troops in South Vietnam.

I except the 624 regular army and Citizen Military Forces members killed on the Kokoda track while defending Australia against the Japanese.

I also except the tens of thousands of unknown partisans who were hunted and shot down defending their homeland in the bitter guerrilla war fought on Australian soil from 1788 to 1928.

The present war glorification park is a joke.

It is a sham hatched by John Howard and Professor Geoffrey Blainey and about to be brought to fruition by Dr Brendan Nelson.

Kenneth Griffiths, O’Connor

Face up to early conflict

Brendan Nelson (“Indigenous gargoyles to stay at Australian War Memorial”, canberratimes.com.au, June 4, 2015) said the AWM did not have the resources to deal with the armed conflict between Indigenous and white Australians.

However, $350 million was spent on the Anzac Centenary and $485 million allocated for memorial expansion.

There are still no plans to memorialise the Frontier Wars. The director’s argument is surely not sustainable.

The AWM, or the director, have also argued from time to time that war was never declared against Indigenous Australia, nor were the Frontier Wars fought overseas.

Once again these are weak arguments as we never declared war on North Vietnam but we rightly memorialise the conflict.

The AWM seems also to have overlooked that significant armed conflict occurred on Australian soil in Darwin in World War II. This is dealt with appropriately in the galleries.

One can conclude that our past is just too grim and we haven’t matured enough to acknowledge these wars.

But we must.

Germany has been able to face its Nazi past and emerged stronger as it faces the future.

We cannot grow as a nation until we have come to grips with the blood that was spilt in the Frontier Wars; wars that may have taken more Australian lives than World Wars I and II combined, and wars that shaped our nation.

Digby Habel, Cook

***

To illustrate the depth of Australian servility to their latest anglophone bully-boy-on-the-block-master, I add a quotation from the Australian War Memorial website which addresses the ‘award’ as a ‘battle honour’ of an American word to the name for the Track on which approximately 625 Australian soldiers died and on which no American soldiers fought (If you search the War Memorial website for ‘Kokoda Track’ up will come links to ‘Kokoda Trail’. Do you think the Americans would re-name any of their trails ‘track’, let alone one on which so many of their citizens had died fighting for their country?):

From: http://www.awm.gov.au/units/event_291.asp

“Kokoda Trail” and “Kokoda Track” have been used interchangeably since the Second World War and the former was adopted by the Battles Nomenclature Committee as the official British Commonwealth battle honour in October 1957.

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Ozzies find their meaning and worth in acting for their masters

Australia, the 51st state

Jennifer Duke, ‘Huawei executive hits out at Turnbull’ The Sydney Morning Herald 14.03.19

‘A senior Australian Huawei executive has hit back at former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull for urging the UK to ban the Chinese telecommunications equipment giant for its future mobile networks.

Last week, Mr Turnbull told prominent British MPs at a London think tank event that a recent hack of Australian political parties proved agile responses were need to counter growing cyber threats and urged them not to allow companies like Huawei to participate in building the ultra-fast 5G mobile networks.

The Australian government imposed a ban on Huawei’s involvement in 5G in August on security grounds, shortly before Mr Turnbull was replaced as prime minister by Scott Morrison.

In a lengthy response provided to this masthead before publication on the Huawei website, the telco’s director of corporate affairs, Jeremy Mitchell, under the title “Australia pays for Malcolm’s 5G muddle”, criticised the former PM for swallowing “hook, line and sinker” a “myth” there was bigger security risk in a 5G network.

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The Mongolian Octopus: his grip on Australia 1886

He said the “myth was born after [Mr Turnbull’s] visit to the US in February 2018” and said Huawei knew “more about 5G networks than any agency would, or could”.

Mr Mitchell argued Huawei was willing to share information and work with governments to ensure privacy and security but”[u]nfortunately, under Mr Turnbull’s watch this didn’t happen”.

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“Now that Huawei is excluded from the Australian 5G mix, telco operators will be paying around 30 per cent more for the second-best technology,” he said.

…Mr Turnbull was approached for comment.’

Australian servility 4

Ex- prime minister Julia Gillard, The Sydney Morning Herald n.d.

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Australia Day 2016 – a servile, shame-based culture

Cringe on the beach

Whoever made this image has a feeling for dialectics.

A castle on the beach (white Australia’s holy of holies), topped by the white Australian flag, itself topped by the flag of its parent nation and first master.

A vertical red strip from the cross of England’s patron saint balances on a white Antipodean star. The emphatic rays of the former drown those twinkling from the latter.

A block of monochrome certainty, a fortress sans entrance floats on a pale yellow expanse, equally uncertain.

The ideal sands of laid-back, nature-loving egalitarianism? Or indistinguishable hovering hordes eyeing paradise at the arse-end of the earth?

The castle, clearly a symbol in its simplified starkness appears to utterly contrast with its ground, yet it is built from it. Moisture maintains its fragile form.

What appears most certain is threatened, even in its building, with uncertainty and destruction.

Will it be kicked down and disappear, or will the next tide (of whom? from where?) wash it away?

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Image: The Sydney Morning Herald 26.01.16

Shame and the need to shame – a nation of little spirits

In the mid-1990s, Ansett painted a Waltzing Matilda mural on the side of one of its Boeing 737-300s

In the mid-1990s, Ansett painted a Waltzing Matilda mural on the side of one of its Boeing 737-300s

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Email sent to Phillip Adams 02.12.04

Dear Mr. Adams,

I listened to your interview of Peter Conrad a couple of weeks ago with interest. I particularly appreciated not only his dismissal of ‘Gerald’ Henderson, but the way in which he did it, making it perfectly clear that for Conrad, Henderson’s sufficient descriptor is ‘pompous non-entity’ – and I would add, ‘in a provincial pond’. That Henderson should be given regular airings in the Herald and particularly on the ABC’s Radio National is sad evidence for the second part of my assertion.

I have also read the text of Conrad’s first three Boyer lectures. And they are, as I expected from an academic in the humanities, very frustrating. They barely move beyond a cascading display of learning, a preening of feathers, facilitated by a telling of tales, through the soft-focus of history. Charming and informative anecdotes follow upon each other. Bitterness – yes, material to work with – yes, but Conrad has so far given no indication of engaging with the depth of meaning and content that exists in the subject. His lectures sketch an interesting stream leading to our provincial pond, but the exposure and analysis of the destructiveness of the pond and how that destructiveness functions runs very weakly.

Nothing that Conrad has said so far can explain, e.g., the depth of cultural sickness in this country as displayed in that part of the closing ceremony of the 2000 Olympics when a song ‘celebrating’ the suicide by drowning of a failed petty thief, as he ran from authority, was sung by ‘candlelight’ by a packed stadium – as a hymn. Contrast this song with that of ‘John Brown’s Body’, a song of the U.S. Civil War which justifiably celebrates the courage of a man who stood against both authority and prejudice in the defence of black rights and was hung.

When one speaks of ‘Australia’ rhyming with ‘failure’ one speaks, essentially, not of what others have done to us and have told us about ourselves, but of what we have done and continue to do to ourselves and to each other. Although progress has been made and is being made, particularly as a result of immigration, Australian culture has shame and therefore the need to shame – this is where ‘tall poppy syndrome’, ‘nation of knockers’ come in – at its heart and coursing through its veins.

Our culture is built around the ‘celebration’ of (‘nobility’ in the face of) loss, failure and defeat. You are one of the very few people I have heard raise this and show interest in examples: Burke and Wills, Kelly, Breaker Morant, Dad and Dave, the heroes of Paterson and Lawson, Lasseter, Phar Lap, Les Darcy, Haines and Whitlam. Roy and HG’s savagely titled ‘The Dream’ (as Doyle said ‘If it rises above a blade of grass, cut it down.), the ABC’s Australian Story…

And in particular, Gallipoli. In 1990, when the inevitable letters from Private Jones to his mother began appearing in the papers, ex-pat Phillip Knightley argued that if we, as Australians, are going to ‘celebrate’ our involvement in the First World War (the first capitalist world war over areas of exploitation), rather than celebrating a defeat experienced on behalf of a dominant power, we should celebrate the victories of the Australian troops, e.g. on the Western Front. The ABC’s Richard Glover responded with a most bizarre article in the Sydney Morning Herald ‘Bruce Ruxton is right: we should embrace the legends of defeat’, (SMH 20.04.90 – I emailed him about this) arguing that we celebrate Gallipoli, as with our other failures, precisely because it was a defeat.

What is the sickness that runs through the above? More than that they focus on defeats and failures, it is that these are made a cause for celebration. The message in these ‘celebrations’ is the dark side of the myth of Australian egalitarianism, a myth cultivated in affluence and sunlight – the cultural imperatives ‘Thou shalt be laid back!’ and ‘Thus far and no further!’ Dream to (or worse) go beyond the cultural limits and you will be broken.

And the cultural limits are those of capital (I understand the words of Waltzing Matilda were shaped by the requirements of advertising) – you can dream, but only the small dreams of consumption – 1/4 acre block, $60,000 + p.a., 2 and 1/2 kids etc. The celebration of defeat is still not the fundamental issue, it is the celebration of a lesson. Will Conrad address this basic issue of shame as a means of class control. I doubt it increasingly as his lectures progress. He is too much the comfortable gentleman.

On the global stage we relate shame-based – both servile to a dominant power – first England, now the US (cultural imperialism only partially explains our dilemma) – and bullying in our region (Asia and the Pacific). That the ‘Deputy sheriff’ won’t sign a non-aggression pact with ASEAN is entirely consistent. What is not licked should be kicked. Our need for approval has led us into a closeness of relationship with the US as a result of which, I believe, serious consequences for this country are yet to happen.

The same need for approval (this time, awarded by ourselves) has been used by the government to cover its purpose for ‘going to the aid of’ the East Timorese – after 25 years of silence by Liberal and Labor governments and the deaths of 400,000. What else could explain such sickening, back-slapping hypocrisy, so many white, beaming faces, such an absence of geopolitical and economic analysis? The on-going corporate attempt to rape this poorest nation, even as it was declared a nation is the clearest pointer to the reality of Australia’s ‘rescue’ of East Timor.

Our self-loathing lies at the heart of the kicking Hanson got, and continues to get, even after she departed from politics. That those competing to sink the boot into Hanson the hardest were, without exception, the ‘educated’ middle-classes indicates how deeply shame and self-loathing run in our culture. Hanson was a test of how successfully we have dealt with our shame and the need to shame – and we failed that test – spectacularly. Her treatment by our ‘intelligentsia’ shows how deep and powerfully the current I write about flows. It is to her credit that Kingston showed Hanson some understanding.

That this nation has failed the test of national confidence, both internally and internationally is proven by Howard. He is in no way an aberration. He has risen from the heart of our culture and understands its meanness, shame and therefore the need to shame, intimately and instinctively. He has exploited this with absolute consistency to win four elections in a row. There could never be a clearer pointer, despite all assertions to the opposite, to how little this country has progressed in dealing with its cringe than this man and his government. Even Bush bases his meanness and aggression on his perception of the greatness of his nation, on its ‘right’ to impose itself on the world.

The greater one’s perceived capacity to achieve intellectual excellence and particularly one’s commitment to intellectual excellence, the greater the determination in our society that you should be broken, the more subtle, insidious and poisonous will be the range of devices employed against you – by family and friends. Ian Thorpe, recognising this, has assiduously (and successfully) cultivated a persona that bows to this Australian viciousness.

White, too, saw this nastiness and destructiveness – and to disguise the hurt of one who both loved and loathed what he saw and experienced, specialised in paying that nastiness back in kind. I don’t think he ever rose above that fundamental tension.

Australia will always be a servile nation until the shame – and the need to shame – that lie at its heart are named, focussed on and rooted out.

Phil Stanfield

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