Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Post#184 Lies, Damned Lies and Political Promises -Keating/Hawke is to Rudd/Gillard as...

In 1988, Paul Keating, then Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, went to see his good mate, Bob Hawke, then Pime Minister of the same venerable Commonwealth. Paul wanted to remind Bob of the deal they'd made bfore the 1983 election to transfer the leadership of the ALP and the Prime Ministership from Bob to Paul. Bob told Paul he must have imagined it all. Deal? Never heard of it. Paul and Bob had a full and frank. Plenty of the latter. It came down to a simple choice for Bob: make a deal for real or face an immediate challenge from Paul. Bob agreed to a witnessed meeting at which they would agree the terms of the arrangement.

The meeting took place at the Prime Minister's official residence in Sydney, Kirribilli House. The two seconds chosen by the contestants were: in the Keating corner, Bill Kelty, union official; in the Hawke corner, Sir Peter Abeles, prominent businessman. Those choices, alone, say quite a bit about the two men. Kelty and Abeles sipped coffee and chatted in a corner of the lounge while the two politicos thrashed it out. When the terms were agreed they witnessed the final form of what would become known as "The Kirribilli Conspiracy". Bob was to hand over to Paul in mid-1991. Of course, came June 1991 and ol' Bob found that, in the best interest of the Party and the People he couldn't keep the deal. At that point Paul did challenge, lost and went to the back bench. In the spirit of scrupulous honesty exemplified by Bob he said, "I had only one shot in the locker." He then started ruthlessly planning the next attack. In the week before Christmas he gave Bob the arse for a present, winning the second challenge by a few votes. Bob went to the back bench, promising to serve out his term to 1993 as a good constituency MP. A few months later he quit Parliament, blessing the ALP with  a by-election which was won by an independent.

This is a story which contains the template for leadership challenges. The recent vicious struggle between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard has been fashioned by Kevin on the same strategy (if it works why change it?). The second phase is now in play; the long stew on the back bench while garnering the votes to make the grade in six months. I listened to the concession speech which Kevin gave yesterday and recognised it for the fine of piece of work it was; lovingly crafted over many months and delivered with the best of Kevin's efforts in method acting. It opened with a display of masterfully confected adultness and reasonableness to show that he's not a bitter obsessive seeking revenge. Throwing himself into the part he covered the bases with glory: profusely praising the Foreign Affairs officials to show that he's not a bastard of a boss; thanking everyone in sight and out of it. This is to show that he's not a miserable ingrate. I gave up at that point. He may have gone on to thank the ants and earthworms in the grounds of Parliament House for their efforts but I turned off with the salutation, "You lying bastard."

Anyone who believes this is really over is off with the fairies. He's not going to just sit on the back bench and work for the reelection of the government. The only question is how long he will take to show his hand.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Post#183 Nazis, Burqas and Reason's Shirkers

I recently discovered that some teenage girls in Japan like to dress in facsimile SS uniforms. This is part of the same practice of costume play which sees others dressing as bobby-soxers, French maids or superheroes. The gist of it seems to be competing to come up with the cutest, most extravagant outfits within the chosen genre.

Anastasia has also recently written about the phoney furore over some people with political connections burlesqueing the Nazi gear at various events.

There seems to have been a lot of vexation about the symbolism of clothing lately. I've come to believe that this is a futile preoccupation and that the world would be better off if people could leave the overwrought arguments out of it. Particularly, they should refrain from demanding that governments do something about it. The French government has banned Muslim face-covering garments for being an affront to French cultural values and has thereby made an issue of a piece of cloth which, in itself, does no harm to society. The two objections seem to be that some women are coerced to wear them and that the idea of face-covering is an assault upon egalitarianism and social inclusiveness. It seemed to me more like muslim-bashing to buy votes and to show a gross lack of cultural memory and respect for individualism. Women who are genuinely oppressed aren't going to be allowed to take advantage of the relief that the law is supposed to provide. They'll simply be forced to wear clothing in violation of the law and suffer the penalties or will be confined to their homes and thereby deprived of a measure of liberty. Those who wish to dress in the prohibited costume are being imposed upon by the state from the other direction. And what is all this stuff about the alien culture of Islam and its weird costumiery? Don't any of these meddlers ever look into any picture-books showing antique European costume? There they will find robes and cloaks and hoods and masks worn by men and women. And the masks were not solely worn for entertainments; people at various times in various places did wear them for anonymity and in the eras when paleness of complexion was a sign of social status and female beauty (contrary to the modern fixation on tanning), aristocratic women wore them for cosmetic reasons.

The obsession with Nazi regalia also has a flaw of unselfconsciousness at its heart. No-one would make a major scandal of it if Prince Harry appeared at a party dressed as a Roman legionary or a Mongol or Hun warrior. All of these costumes are associated, indisputably, with robbery, rape, torture and mass murder. If Julius Caesar was to be available today, or Marcus Crassus (vanquisher of the Spartacist rebellion), both would be prime targets for the International Criminal Court. As for Genghis Khan or Attila...'nuff said, guv.
So why isn't there an outrage when people hire such get-ups for party-wear? Simply the caprice of human nature. The further the deeds of the past recede, the fewer can be bothered being passionate about them. This is the inevitable and necessary process of forgetting the fine detail. We couldn't remain aware of and enraged by every turn of history's pages and have time to live our own lives.

Exasperating and offensive as it is to see the emblems of evil made into toys and party-favours, we cannot prevent it and the centuries to come shall not be commanded to maintain our rage.