John Quiggin, Jim Belshaw and Bruce on the culture wars

19 Nov

First came John Quiggin on 15 November, then Jim Belshaw on 17 November, and then Bruce on 17 November. There is considerable comment on the first of those entries. I do not propose to examine those posts in depth, but do ask that you read them all. Each in its own way is very good.

Now you will gather from my post tags that I have a position on this; in fact this post will be the 349th under that tag! Over on Oz Politics and Big Archive you will find 326 more! There is also a page on a rather specialised aspect of all this: Revision or Ideological Makeover? HREOC’s “Face the Facts” Rejigged which traces the evolution of changes of attitude and policy — not as successful as the government planned, I would say because HREOC has not been totally abject — that I encountered as an ESL teacher from 1996 onwards.

I find Jim’s analysis — he is more left-brained than I am! — persuasive in teasing out the major social and economic changes that have been happening over the past thirty years.  What Jim says provides important context and that matters because too often we focus on some (to us) quite outrageous comment by someone like Piers Akerman and go feral about it without examining our own assumptions carefully enough. Not that I am suggesting any similarity between Jim’s position and people like Akerman.

But there is something I once called “the Howard syndrome” which afflicts too many still and has become institutionalised through appointments of afflicted persons to influential cultural positions, something I hope a Rudd government — if we are to have one — will begin to address. I did not regard Pauline Hanson as an aberration, by the way; I think “abomination” was closer. What she started the sufferers from Howard Syndrome have appropriated and enshrined. That fear and anxiety brought on by social change is an element in their success I do not doubt, but much has been marginalised, even destroyed, in the process. Perhaps we will be given a chance to get our national psyche back on track. I do hope so. I find much encouragement in the pages of The Monthly and do believe that Rudd will be more prepared to listen than Howard has been. I also hope this will happen in a civilised manner; that much of “culture war” I do deplore, though it seems to me that the Akermans and Blairs in our media have played fast, loose and dirty in the last decade or two.

Back in the 60s, as I recall from my own relatives on the land, changes in the economics of farming and grazing and in world markets encouraged a great interest in international Jewish conspiracy theories and bat-crazy right-wing populism. I could understand the motivation and even sympathise, but I sure didn’t buy the alternative packages some of my rellies thought worthy of attention. Similarly with Pauline, who of course has moved on to feral Anti-Muslim-ism as an update on Aboriginal cannibals and swamping Asians, but is a dead duck anyway now…

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3 responses to “John Quiggin, Jim Belshaw and Bruce on the culture wars

  1. Jim Belshaw

    November 19, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    Oddly, Neil, on the same test I come out as right brain!

  2. ninglun

    November 19, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    Well, Jim, despite the test I have to admit that there have been times in my personal relationships that I have been rather too analytical (left-brained) about certain things, usually to the detriment of the relationship. Stiil, in broad terms I think I am right-brained… To be analytical about it though, the whole thing really is more than a bit simplistic, isn’t it?

    Perhaps you are a right-brained person who has been rewired a bit through training, education, and experience? 😉 You certainly are more analytical than I am — in a good way…

  3. Jim Belshaw

    November 19, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    You may well be right Neil, on your last point. I seem to be left brain in some of my thinking, right brain in the way I can make links. All very strange.

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