March 22nd 2003


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: The future ... after Iraq

CANBERRA OBSERVED: After Iraq: the challenge facing John Howard

MEDICINE: Leading specialists reject destructive embryo research

BIOETHICS: Embryo research and state laws

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Bazaar politics/Sponsors/Beautiful People socialism

COMMENT: The real culprits in the internet porn scandal

FAMILY: Youth legal guide alarms families

MEDIA: Accord strikes a chord / 'Australian' shake-up a matter of opinion

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Deregulation and water could be a tragedy for National Party

LETTERS: Foreign debt (letter)

LETTERS: The vision thing (letter)

How Australian support is rebuilding East Timor

WATER: Towards healthier river systems: a flawed process

NUCLEAR WEAPONS: The future of non-proliferation treaties

BOOKS: Life, Liberty and the Defence of Dignity, by Leon Kass

BOOKS: Australia And Israel: An Ambiguous Relationship, by Chanan Reich

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STRAWS IN THE WIND:
Bazaar politics/Sponsors/Beautiful People socialism


by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, March 22, 2003
Bazaar politics

Many months have been spent planning the schoolchildren's and uni students' protests and marches against "The War". The schools demo went off this past week - with a whimper - which the public media had wired themselves up to report as a "Bang", and ran as their top stories.

Dr Mark Lopez, who is my eyes and ears on this matter, along with his camera, counted 2200 protestors in toto in Melbourne. The police estimated 2000. SBS, which has its own counting methods - which it does also for its opinion polls - said 4000.

The ABC, possibly having learnt from experience (a first?) said 3000. A schoolgirl Lysistrata announced to the crowd, "We've done a head count and there are 7000." Either she should consider studying arithmetic, or we had here the first demonstration of people with two heads (or was it three?). 76,000 took the VCE last year - so, you get the picture. Vox Absentia.

And by no means were all those present school students; nor were there many uni students - but lots of young professional activists. At Melbourne Uni, preparations for the outbreak of war started even before exams finished last year. But there weren't many uni students preparing for the cataclysm. These spent the vacation putting up posters, telling us to meet at the State Library - no, not to read a book, silly! - when Bush went berserk.

The posters steadily dated, so had to keep being replaced. No sweat; these activists have no other interests so happily occupied the three months doing this. A group of academic nostalgics was there in the background to guide them, with the help of their extensive Vietnam background. (Funny, I don't remember any of them.)

Reliving Vietnam acts like monkey glands for the politically and emotionally senile, whose watches stopped many years ago. But don't hold your breath for the Big Bang by the unis.

Trades Hall Secretary Leigh Hubbard had mentioned the approaching political orgy of the schoolchildren at the earlier adults demonstration and was on hand to harangue the excited students. The excitement resembled that on school sports days, but was certainly better than the leaden apathy of the earlier adult togetherness.

Hubbard was on safe ground, using a double-headed appeal to vanity. So ... "In Vietnam it was the students who led the way; the unions and others followed. You must do the same. And, many of your parents will remember marching for peace as you are now doing."

This is seductive for many young people, as those who organised the komsomols and the Hitler Youth would tell you. If your parents (or teachers) tell you to stop larking around and do some study, they become the wrinklies - the timid, repressed and repressive old, who had lost their ideals.

Thus the Hubbards and von Schirachs of this world split the young from the parents, the students from the teachers and, by implication, from what they teach. But if the parents had been retailing their past radical exploits, bringing out their peace medals so to speak, to your secret envy and irritation, it is now your turn. They had to shut up and listen to you. Aaah ... the games people play.

Then there are the more sympathetic and sad cases of kids who want to be like their parents, to do what they did, and get their praise.

They can waste their time or get into trouble through loyalty, not rebelliousness. Then, peer group pressure and mob psychology often impel young people to march off to war, or for peace, or to save the trees. But this contagion was not greatly in evidence at the recent youth march.

The largest number wearing their school uniform from any one school was ten - only a fraction of a full yearly intake. This was not one of those days when a full class, let alone a whole school headed by teachers, appeared on the streets to chant defiance.

Sponsors

On the other hand, the number of organisations appearing as sponsors was very long, with very nearly the same organisations or kindred ones, which supported the S11 events and the smashing of the Pauline Hanson meetings. Overwhelmingly on the far Left, there was a sprinkling of churches, some now with quite small and declining memberships; names of green groups, students bodies, public servants unions, teacher unions, the Trade Halls Council!

There could have been 50 or 60 groups. Why then so few people appearing? The answers, I suppose, are that many groups are simply part-time front organisations, many have few members, many activists "belong" to four or five organisations, and many bodies are fractions of what are much larger groups which were not involved. A familiar story.

I think the small student turnout was not an indication of how many students dislike the idea of war, including this one. I would think that most do dislike it, but want to make up their own minds. They see through the peace racketeers just as they are now fed up with the "Say Sorry" brigade.

Their own attitudes on these and many subjects upon which ideologues and free loaders purport to speak on their behalf, are very often quite liberal, even radical - but they don't want to be seen in the same street as these careerists and flat-earthers.

More schoolchildren were observed shopping in the streets around the meeting than were at the meeting. Nor do our young enjoy the continuous attempts at conversion and political manipulation by many of their more impertinent teachers. They want education - not a cavalcade of tired cliches.

The same applies to relations between most university students and the handfuls of politicised clowns squatting in the student union offices helping to eat up the union fees. The case for compulsory union fees has never been weaker.

So when the ABC and our journos produce lead stories and deliberately misleading beat-ups on contrived, ephemeral gatherings, they are simply wasting public resources in the hope of deceiving the general public.

Our society has moved on from the 1960s and is looking for different messages, and messengers quite unlike the rancorous time warps who won't get out of the way.

Beautiful People socialism

Some years ago Melbourne began to become infested with festivals, and cultural happenings of every kind. We were the Festival Capital, the Conference Capital, the Cultural Capital, the High-Rollers Capital of Australia, our government PR people kept telling us. These events brought hosts of tourists, we were also told. New buildings and changes to existing buildings broke out everywhere.

Masses of people were employed to discharge vaguely defined functions and hundreds of millions of tax revenue have been expended to create the image of a city resounding with culture and vibrant intellectual life. After all, the workers have their pokies, their TAB and their alcohol, their fast foods and their obesity.

Sports stadia have been shooting up like magic mushrooms to service the new billion dollar spectator sports industries; others have their semi-unsupervised dope taking and chroming, so why shouldn't the art and culture lovers be served?

They have been, but more and more of our artistic enterprises are looking like the morning after the night before. As Tom Berry wrote last November 4 (Herald Sun):

"Another Melbourne festival has come and gone, but did anyone notice apart from the tightly-knit, almost claustrophobic arts community? ... Each year much noise is made in such circles about this supposedly great cultural event. But the wider community of Melbourne is hardly aware of its existence."

Berry said the festival is shrinking. There were far fewer sell-out performances. The audiences came from a small minority of the populace making multiple visits, rather than a broadening of community support. Elitism, that label which the arts community stridently rejects, was alive and thriving.

The Festival Family, the regular contributor/attenders, fell from 210 in 1995 to 121 this year. Berry wonders whether the statement in an interview, by Robyn Archer, the Festival Director, that the "performance is all and that art does not need an audience" might not be self-fulfilling. And the recycling of withering, oft-deflated political illusions of the pre-War European Left is only going to attract the living dead of the Old Left. The sub-text of this last festival was "alienation".

A few points before moving on:

1. The steeple-high admission fees for this and all state-supported as well as many private cultural happenings necessary to maintain the enormous new class of cultural bureaucrats, keeps most Melburnians at bay, from the Opera, to the Museum, special art exhibitions, even the Aquarium. All things many people could go to during the Depression by saving their pennies - but no way now. This is the era of Beautiful People Socialism.

2. The virtual barring of the young from the best and the authentic parts of art, literature, literacy, cultural history - in fact, all history - over 30 years, at school, has dried up the supply of new patrons, new readers of serious literature. What kind of art and drama was there in Fahrenheit 451?

3. Then there is Melbourne's new museum, whose attendances have dropped to half, with a shortfall of $6 million. It is now talking of voluntary redundancies. Over the last three years, the State pumped in an extra $20 million. Only now, when there is talk of a $290 million white elephant are things being said that were said in this journal eons ago.

Admission costs too much - how about abolishing it . "The displays were disappointing and not enough to see," said Professor Miles Lewis. Yes - and the aboriginal agitprop was a disgrace and an insult to the Aborigines' intelligence. They actually might prefer to know their real history.

I'm told the new Canberra museum is preparing to go down the same Gadarene slope of bad taste, yobbo left disinformation, and bogus nationalism. But I think Melbourne's museum is irreparable.




























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