The joy of Gnomespeak

27 Sep

“Gnomespeak” is the characteristic style and thought-patterns of the Great Grey Garden Gnome of Kirribilli House, aka “The Prime Minister”. It is remarkable how thoroughly this has permeated our culture in recent years. Like “Newspeak”, its purpose is to render dissent unutterable. We were told, and by “we” I mean ESL teachers at a meeting I attended around 1998, that the words “multiculturalism”, “equity”, and “disadvantaged” were from now on to be avoided. In their place we were to speak of “integration”, “cohesion”, “harmony”, “incentives” and “Australian values”.

The process goes on.

The Gnome is “on message” in his Canberra speech reported in Shared values beat terrorism: Howard this morning. Apparently the values of the Exclusive Brethren are OK though, and aside from the Four Corners episode I mentioned on Monday, see When I hear the word “culture” I reach for my kool-aid by Arthur Vandelay (not a religious person) and brethren in Jan’s Shalom blog (a religious person). In passing, I really did blush when I read Ahmad Shuja’s riposte to my (borrowed) one-liner on the Brethren making the Taliban look liberal: “Wow! What a perfect example of relativity. Reminds me of what my teacher once told us: Nothing is absolute; everything is relative!” Young Ahmad, of course, knows the Taliban up close and personal.

So what did the Gnome say about our shining representatives of core Aussie values, the Brethren?

…yesterday Mr Howard admitted for the first time that he had met members of the fundamentalist Christian sect the Exclusive Brethren, AAP reports.

The secretive group, which boasts 40,000 members worldwide – many in New Zealand and Australia – has been accused of underhanded campaigning against the Greens at the 2004 federal election and in state polls.

“They are not breaking the law [and], like any other group, they are entitled to put their views to the Government,” he said.

How magnanimous! Of course they can put their point of view to the Government, as can the Spartacists, the representatives of Hezbollah, naturists, vegetarians, and anyone else, so long as those viewpoints don’t also get you charged with sedition. But guess whose views are more likely to be listened to?

In the speech The Gnome had said:

SOCIAL cohesion would be Australia’s biggest challenge, the Prime Minister, John Howard, warned yesterday, citing a controversial writer who questions the future willingness of developed countries to accept new arrivals.

In a speech in Canberra to a security conference, Mr Howard left the audience in no doubt that he was linking concerns about a lack of shared values in a more diverse community to fears of so-called “home grown” Islamic terrorism in Australia.

David Goodhart, the editor of Britain’s Prospect magazine, has stated: “To put it bluntly – most of us prefer our own kind.”

Goodhart has pointed to immigration and refugee flows eroding “collective norms and identities” and producing conflicts of values.

In a speech to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Global Forces 2006 conference, Mr Howard preceded a reference to Goodhart’s views with one to Muslim militancy.

“The battle against Islamic extremism in Australia will only be won with a strong combination of accurate intelligence, effective law enforcement and, crucially, a commitment to certain shared values across the whole of our society,” he said.

“Liberal democracies around the world are having to face challenges at the point where questions of citizenship, immigration, culture and national security intersect – what the British writer David Goodhart has labelled ‘security and identity issues’.

“The maintenance of social cohesion in Australia is both our greatest national achievement and our greatest national challenge for the future.”

Yesterday Mr Howard heralded a “more assertive strategic posture” in place of “benign abstinence” by successive Australian governments. And he referred to a “framework of international norms” conducive to individual freedom, economic development and liberal democracy.

Which one in that final trinity is the real story? You work it out…

I have in fact read Goodhart’s articles: see [no longer online]:

…The second article was “Fear and Loathing on the Left” by Prospect editor David Goodhart, whose exploration of the limits of cultural diversity, first published in Prospect, led to much controversy. “Discomfort of strangers” by Goodhart in The Guardian (Tuesday February 24, 2004) says pretty much the same, so go there. He is also worth taking seriously, and I did so myself when I read the original Prospect articles. My view is that cultural diversity is simply a fact, like the earth not being flat; the question is how to enable a functioning, harmonious society which also gives due justice to the subcultures that compose it. That’s where we get problems on all sides. Yes, integration is necessary and achievable; no, monoculturalism is not desirable, and assimilation is not usually just or practicable either.

I take Goodhart seriously, but in Gnomespeak his articles are appropriated to fit the Gnome worldview. As is just about everything else that goes through the Gnome’s filtration device. You could argue that is how we ended up following George Bush up the Euphrates.

“Cultural diversity” is like gravel in the Gnome filter, I’m afraid. It gets through if it is sufficiently pulverised; otherwise, it just gets spat out.

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One response to “The joy of Gnomespeak

  1. Owner

    September 28, 2006 at 8:54 am

    On Howard and the Brethren, see Planet Out: Aussie prime minister defends anti-gay sect.

    …While the exact figures of the sect’s spending to prevent same-sex marriage and civil unions while promoting conservative policies in Australia is still unknown, the Brethren spent hundreds of thousands of dollars during the U.S. elections in 2004, buying ads backing President Bush and U.S. Senate candidate Mel Martinez, who is opposed to same-sex marriage and who won his Florida race. The sect also spent almost another million in an attempt to quash candidates supporting gay rights in the last New Zealand election (namely the Greens). Following that election, it then spent a considerable amount of money equating a vote for the Greens with a vote for same-sex marriage in March elections in the Australian state of Tasmania.

    This summer, Australia’s federal government — on Howard’s strong urging — overturned a law passed in Australia’s Capital Territory to legalize same-sex unions. When asked about the cult’s activities, Howard told reporters, “I’ve met a lot more fanatical people in my life than the Exclusive Brethren.”

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