July 12th 2003


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Will Telstra sale complete Liberals' takeover of Nationals?

EDITORIAL: The states' gambling addiction

WEST PAPUA: Rising US concern over Indonesian army killings

AGRICULTURE: Factory closure linked to stalled sugar reforms

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Counter-culture / Houses divided against themselves / Oil theories

DEFLATION: Is the world economy sailing into unchartered territory?

Partition of Kashmir? (letter)

Something rotten ... (letter)

Senate 'obstruction' (letter)

WORLD ECONOMY : The market is unpredictable

INTERVIEW: Cross-fertilisation the key to a vibrant world

SOUTH AUSTRALIA : Sex Education course leaves parents fuming

FAMILY: Tax splitting comes in from the cold

BOOKS: The West and the Rest, by Roger Scruton

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STRAWS IN THE WIND:
Counter-culture / Houses divided against themselves / Oil theories


by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, July 12, 2003
A counter-culture which isn't going away

The Harry Potter phenomenon has appeared yet again, to remind us of what children like, indeed prefer, and what values and what role models they will choose, on the rare occasions when they are offered a choice.

Once again, the lie that children don't read, because they don't want to or because their attention span has shrunk - was exposed by the sight of crowds of children, some very young, clutching their precious books, not wanting to leave but just to sit down somewhere and start reading ... now.

Rowling's first books were 250 pages or so - this one is over 700. Like a young person's Brothers Karamazov. But of course these books, their values and their role models span generational interest. Certainly the young prefer a world of heroes and heroines, and recognise the realities of wickedness, injustice and unfairness.

They do not believe these matters are relative or culturally-conditioned. They recognise the shysters and sophists and traitors in the books and understand how dangerous such people are. And, in the beginning, they can pick up these vibes from the nasties in their existential midst.

It seems to be the desire of too many adults - so-called - to condition the young to lose that ability to notice things, to perceive people, and to have the confidence to make moral judgments. Too close to home? The New Class has that monopoly - didn't they know?

No, children want to read: but too many of their teachers and parents don't.

Many of the teachers I have known closed their books after graduation - and never opened them again. But their mouths have never closed.

When this legion of the invincibly ignorant viz. our stars of the happy hour and the union meeting held total sway, many children, as we know, were quite deliberately not seriously taught to read, or to count, or to verbalise in a logical or imaginative way. Many children still suffer these engineered deprivations - and many have parents who don't read but who set the example by being the couch potato, the trivialist, the escapist ... or by being so busy with their own self-development, their brilliant careers ... and aromatherapy. The child care people will do the job - along with tellie. Such children, being hemmed in from all sides, can find it very hard to grow or mature, or to deal with the subliminal sense of rejection and marginalisation which such treatment invites. One solution is denial, by attacking their authority surrogates later on.

The Potter books, and books like them, extol qualities like courage, the endurance of setbacks; loyalty; genuine egalitarianism; and feeling responsibility towards others. Readers accept all this and will seek to internalise such qualities - or to reinforce them.

What is the opposing official counter-culture, as found in the media, or as expressed by the slovenly talk of so many of their mentors? Well ... the promotion of sportsmen as thugs, drug takers and rich louts who dispute the umpire. The media's "tut tut, but wasn't he fascinating" - this of murderers and standover sadists who sell death to the young in the form of amphetamines and speed. But a good family man. And of course, the dysfunctional, humourless bores - old and young, cartoon or real - who have taken the place on "The Box" and in politics of real people.

So one can understand the hunger, the sense of a temporary breaking of the drought experienced by the young when they escape from this adult contrived haunted house of weakness and shoddiness, and with it, the death of the heart and the withering of the imagination ... by entering another cleaner, more hopeful world.

It is a great pity then that many kids won't get to see or love such books - or have parents who will help them here. Maybe this is one of the many things John Howard has in mind with his invitation to his fellow politicians to discuss parenting and families, and some of the real rights of children. That is, if his colleagues can spare time from character assassination and endless talk about money. And the crippling anger, envy and covetousness which such talk is causing them.

This gross, gnawing, mean-spirited greed and materialism that now block out the sun in our "real world" is mercifully relegated to its proper place in the Harry Potter world. The greedy, the dishonest, the wildly ambitious, the treacherous, and the deluded are all there but they are the enemy, the despised ones, the feared ones - not the folk heroes, the celebrities, the winners.

So let our idealists (perhaps realists?), our life-lovers read on in peace and virtue.

Houses divided against themselves ...

It has been written that Muslim political systems have always swung between despotism - or a variety thereof - and chaos - or a structured version thereof. Normally resolved by a new despot or an invader occupier. Of course one can think of exceptions in the very long and variegated historical experiences of Islamic societies, but they missed the liberal moment, and the spirit of the Enlightenment, and don't seem to feel a great loss.

Democracy, at least as the West understands it, is not often practised, or else fitfully; and often bears the opprobrium of foreign origins or imposition - like Weimar democracy for many Germans.

The British and now the Americans are among the few who assume that Islam must be panting for Western liberal democracy and its accompanying culture; but so long as it doesn't harm their essential interests.

So they're only half serious - but perhaps just as well, for the full bottle can produce chaos or civil/religious wars. And a new anti-Western nationalism - yes, another one.

Funded by European political crooks wanting to drive the imperial wagon; Iran who hoped to preside over Iraq's disintegration and create a Greater Iran and save the Mullah's mutton in Teheran. All cheered on by the Anglo-Saxon Left, who are occupied at the moment in rehabilitating the Cambridge Spies.

Traitors to their country, supposedly anti-fascist but continuing their work under the Nazi-Soviet pact, and sending to their deaths hundreds of Western agents and contacts whose only crime was that they feared and hated Communism and fought Nazism, which the Cambridge Spies kind of scrubbed around. But the spies' justification was that they hated the injustice of unemployment in England. Yeah!

Rehabilitation

But it is interesting that our left media are trying to rehabilitate these people while attempting to run the usual poison campaign against Orwell, who understood them only too well.

Are they wanting to send us an unconscious signal - that they are all brothers under the skin? In word and - at least in fantasy - in deed? Sigmund Freud might throw some light here.

But the US was always walking on eggs in Iraq. A hundred thousand criminals had been sprung from the jails. Arms were distributed just before the final collapse.

Saddam's great mass of ex-soldiers, apparatchiki, police bullies and Ba'ath members are circulating freely. Every attack any of these make on British or American soldiers, or Iraqis helping them, is discreetly cheered on by our Anglo-Saxon medias and seized upon by Western opposition parties, really devoted to forcing their way back to the swill buckets in Washington, Westminster and - alas - Canberra.

I say "alas" because John Howard saw this coming and is now busy fixing up the Solomons. It was to be the next pretext for waves of boat people, now that the Middle East is going sour. Vale the Tampa.

But Blair is being incessantly undermined - a new poll gave the Tories 37 per cent and Labour 34 per cent. Chirac and his party got just over 20 per cent in the first Presidential count, by the way. But Blair is not going to give up easily.

The situation for the coalition in Iraq is like - at the end of of World War II - allowing the Nazi Party to disperse with their weapons, watching the arming of the whole German population, and then refusing to act decisively as pro-Nazi or anti-Allied Germans began revolting ... because Western journalists, churches and various aid organisations objected.

What do you think would have been the situation in immediate post-War Germany? But of course the Russians would have fixed things up - smartly. This is America's present problem in Iraq.

Things most likely to keep the US momentum flowing, would be forcing peace on the Israelis and the Palestinian terror groups. This is starting to look feasible - and, forcing Teheran further and further into a corner until the secular Iranians can take over.

They have no interest in a Greater Iran, in Shi'ite mullahs (either side of the border), in nuclear arsenals or in anti-Westernism. They learned their lesson by supporting Khomeini and Co. against the West earlier on.

So the next few months could be riveting.

Oil theories

Conspiracy wise, Iraqi oil is scarcely a good reason for the coalition being there. Little new exploration has occurred since 1970, the network is large, vulnerable, almost breaking down, and unlikely to be a major player for years.

More important, world oil production is rising, while estimates of global demand growth have now been cut from two million barrels a day to one million for the rest of the decade.

Moves to alternate fuels, energy conservation and weak world economic prospects are the reasons. And, non-OPEC producers - e.g. Norway, Russia, Canada - are taking more and more trade from OPEC, which could finish in crisis.

America's task is really to revive enough oil production in Iraq just to allow that country to trade itself out of penury and dependence. There are no big prizes here for quite some time.

George W. Bush could face some very nasty opposition in the US if he were to push for a real Middle Eastern settlement, one not to the taste of some right-wing Zionists in the US and elsewhere. New York state is already jumping, and Hillary Clinton, being backed by Bill, is being fast forwarded. The BBC, etc, will do all it can to help.

But George Jnr is a risk-taker, and almost daring his American opponents to come out from the shadows.

They may well oblige him.




























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