Over 50 years ago now! I posted about the experience in 2008.
I flew to Parkes and then caught the wheat train to Trundle via Bogan Gate. There was a passenger car on the back. It was a very slow train, taking almost all day to get to the end of the line. Just how slow you may see for yourself, though this one has no passenger car on the back…
Along the way we had also stopped at Condobolin (which I’ve blogged about separately) and the wonderfully named, “Bogan Gate” made famous a couple of years in this You-Tube video.
It is hilarious and informative! Scored 95,306 views since December 16, 2015. Mitchell Coombs was around 19 at that time. He has gone on to a career in media and is a powerful advocate for acceptance and diversity. I have selected just two of his many videos that have followed that Bogan Gate tour. I strongly recommend exploring on YouTube (or Facebook) for yourself….
2021: Particularly Facebook where he posts at least one story a day! I always watch them.And if you go to the original 2020 post there is more of his work.
It appears I took a rest from blogging on 14 October 2011.
Now the big leap back to preblogging days, indeed pre-Internet for me! Michael Xu and I were living in Redfern; it was our first year together. Enjoy — but you have to go to YouTube. It is worth it! “Ross Symonds presents a weekend edition of Seven Nightly News in 1991 from the Epping, Sydney television studios of ATN-7.”
I now have a strange machine called a holter taped to me; it will record all my heart gets up to for the next 24 hours until I go back to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital to get it removed. Just outside the hospital I ran into, and spoke to, Professor Brian McCaughan, still very recognisable, who was a member of the Class of 1968 at Cronulla High, my first teaching post. I have of course heard of him, but have not seen him since 1968. That was nice. Kind of ironic though, given he is a member of the Australasian Society of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgeons, among other distinctions. Some of the most brilliant people I ever taught were at Cronulla High, but then the opposite was also true…
I started the day at Erskineville, dropping in on the ESL teachers’ Information Network meeting. Then up to Newtown where I bought a couple of books, had lunch, and a beer at the Newtown Hotel. King Street beats Oxford Street these days, no risk. There is just no comparison. King Street is a far more interesting place.
Well now, that’s my Mardi Gras event for this year
After coaching tonight I caught the slow bus from Chinatown to arrive on a cold and wet Sydney night at Newtown’s rather wonderful Courthouse Hotel for the blogger meetup. That’s not our group in the picture on the right. I was late, so I missed Marcellous.
Even before I had settled into the group for an hour I met of all people someone I had taught English with at Dapto back in 1970, one of the Spender sisters, Dale and Lynn, the former a rather well-known feminist writer, the other no slouch either. It was Lynn I saw, though initially I thought it was Dale. We both contemplated the years that had flown since then with some amazement, though I have to say I am a minnow compared with what those two have done with that time. (See also When I was a twenty-something conservative in transition…)
Back to the blogger meet: it was great to put a face to Panther at last. James O’Brien I knew instantly, though I had never met him before, and I discovered why The Other Andrew is so called.
Someone whose travels eclipse M’s trips in duration, if not quite in exotic destinations but he comes very close, is this person:
I’m an Aussie who has just spent 2 1/2yrs roaming around Europe with my dog, a very large Alaskan Malamute by the name of Bondi. Our adventure began in May 2005. So far we’ve travelled around much of UK, including a week-long walk across Scotland; spent 2 months each in Spain & Paris, plus a 5 week circuit of Ireland; done a load of family-tree research; a coast-to-coast crossing of England on foot along Hadrian’s Wall path, and a side-trip to dive wrecks in the northern part of the Red Sea. Most recently we completed a 20,000km 20-country tour of Europe by car, and 3 months in Scotland.
Check here to learn more about what this meet was and who was there. I imagine a relevant post might appear before long too. Topics as various as knitting, historical reenactments, and Number 96 — that site was especially referred to — were being talked about as I, noticing that it was getting dark out, decided I had to set off home, which I did via an excellent Chinese noodle shop in King Street.
Newtown at night is, I have to say, far more interesting and far more pleasant these days than Oxford Street.
In Newtown – same building, different feeling
Posted on by Neil
Wonderful what playing with lighting does.
Posted on by Neil
I ended February in the cardiac ward at Wollongong Hospital. A neighbour of mine who was helpful at that time was Paul the Poet, himself no stranger to the hospital as he was on renal dialysis there three times a week. Paul passed away on Saturday night. Rest in Peace.
“This guy Paul used to sit outside the 7eleven store on King Street in Newtown and for a very small consideration he would recite a little poem…. I just thought he was wonderful…. he was quite ill at the time and on some kind of benefit which really wasn’t enough to live on so when he felt up to it he would get out on the street and earn a few more dollars…. so much better than begging although it was still kind of heartbreaking that he had to do it… and yet his poems where really fabulous and it always brightened up my day to see him about….” – Juilee Pryor
So he ended his days living here at The Bates Motel.
Smith-Carr, who was featured in the March issue of the SSH, has been chosen to dance as part of the performances for Corroboree Sydney in November. A new national festival, Corroboree Sydney is for all Australians to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, and according to Sydney Opera House Chief Director Louise Herron is set to be “the largest Indigenous arts and culture festival in Australia’s history”.
Since the SSH last talked to Coby, who has achieved many sporting awards in water polo, swimming and dancing, she has been busy performing with the NSW Aboriginal Dance Company. Being one of only eight students to be selected from a number of Sydney high schools, Coby had the opportunity to learn inside tips on dance technique, performance and production from Bangarra Dance Theatre and Nederlands Dans Theater during a week-long work experience program.
Coby is a proud Aboriginal woman with ties to Wiradjuri Country from her family in Wellington, New South Wales. She joins the Gadigal Centre, having previously held a role within the Indigenous Recruitment Team within Sydney Future Students. Coby believes education is important for everyone, especially our Indigenous people in order to close the gap and make a difference. Students can go to Coby with any questions and support they may need, or just to catch up and have a chat.
On Facebook in July I recalled this person and place:
Looking back beyond the last five minutes, I recall many a conversation in Newtown in the 1990s with the wonderful Bob Gould, whose amazing bookshop was something of a Mecca — so long as you got over your fear of towers of books falling on you. How he ever knew where anything was I’ll never know, but he always did. I was searching out material in those pre-Google days for my book “From Yellow Earth to Eucalypt” (Longman 1995) and knew that not only was Bob’s shop a likely place to find things but that Bob himself was a living treasure on the history of Marxism(s) and the Chinese variety in particular.
Back in the day, as he says himself, he was heavily involved in the Chinese faction of Australian communism: “Just recently, under the Freedom of Information Act 30 year access rule, I squeezed my ASIO file out of the government, and was rather amused to be reminded of the fact that in the early 1960s I was a member of the Australia-China Society and participated on the side of the pro-Chinese grouping in a very intense faction fight with the pro-Russian Stalinists who were trying to hang on to control of the society after the Sino-Soviet split…. I’ll never forget until the day I die, sometime in the heady year of 1968, that enormous Falstaff of popular Australian Maoism, Albert Langer from Melbourne, sleeping on the floor of my house during some conference or other in Sydney, playing The east is red interminably on our record player, and being jumped on playfully by my seven-year old daughter.”
That is from a remarkable wide-ranging essay “Over the hills lies China” which Bob wrote in 1999. It is still very relevant as background to where we are today. Bob reviews a number of books in the essay, including the very popular (at the time) and quite dreadful “Among the Barbarians” by Paul Sheehan. He also (as he did in our conversations) commends Simon Leys/Paul Ryckmans, a critic of Maoism who punctured many an illusion about Chinese Communism, but from a great knowledge and love of Chinese history and culture. “While revelations since 1976 have shown a lot of this to be rather eccentric and sad illusion, and the more critical stance of such China scholars as Simon Leys has been proved much more correct a view of the devastating, cruel and counterproductive effect of the Cultural Revolution, nevertheless, this widespread Western enthusiasm for China and Maoism contributed substantially to a decline in the fear of China and hostility to the Chinese.”
And a bonus ABC documentary from 1995
A 25 minute documentary focusing on the characters that inhabit King Street in Newtown, Sydney – aired on ABC TV 9.2.95. I was around at the time…
So yesterday’s post led to my visiting the rest of 2001 — November and December. I am just going to cherry-pick bits to republish here. I do notice that I made a determined effort to give up my 50-a-day smoking habit! At the end of December I boasted “Oh yes: one month and four days without smoking!” Sadly I crashed soon after, only finally giving up in March 2011 in the cardiac ward at Wollongong Hospital! Yes, that worked!
One December entry relates very much to smoking, and to my brother Ian — who passed away in 2017.
14 December A long partnership over
An hour ago, Australian Eastern time, in East Devonport, Tasmania Norma, my brother’s partner of 30 years, passed away after a long battle with emphysema.
15 December: My brother.
My brother and his partner have been living in Tasmania for many years now; I am not quite sure how many, but certainly more than five. Before that they lived in various parts of Queensland.
One of the ironies of their life together was that they were both married on the same day in Sutherland, way back in 1955, but in two different churches and to two different people. My brother’s first marriage lasted ten years, and it was after the end of that that he and Norma got together. I remember once saying to them that they could have saved a lot of trouble by getting it right on that day back in 1955, to which my brother replied, “Oh well, we still celebrate our wedding anniversary.”
While my brother and I have been in regular contact by phone, especially since our mother died 1n 1996, I have not seen him for many years, and Norma even longer. Unfortunately there is no way I can go down to Tasmania either, not that I could do much.
Ian and Norma were together for over thirty years. A second attempt at partnership suited both of them. They were kindred spirits, and were very lucky to have found each other. In the past few years Norma was basically bedridden, constantly on oxygen for her emphysema. My brother could not have been more loving and more devoted. He certainly had more peace and happiness with Norma over the greater part of thirty years than he had ever had before.
He’s not a young man now; neither of us is. I am not sure what he will do eventually–stay in Tasmania or move back up north. At one time he said he might move back to Queensland, should anything happen to Norma.
My brother had four children by his first marriage, some of whom I see from time to time. Norma had at least one daughter, whom I met, by her first marriage. Ian and Norma had no children by their relationship.
And yes, I won’t harp on it, but Benson and Hedges had a hand in Norma’s suffering and death.
The deep blue skies wax dusky and the tall green trees grow dim The sward beneath me seems to heave and fall And sickly, smoky shadows through the sleepy sunlight swim And on the very sun’s face weave their pall
Let me slumber in the hollow where the wattle blossoms wave With never stone or rail to fence my bed Should the sturdy station children pull the bush flowers on my grave I may chance to hear them romping overhead.
–Adam Lindsay Gordon
Back to November
November 18: Wettish Sunday..but yesterday was fine
Now when you are reduced to talking about the weather…
But it was quite lovely yesterday, although I spent a bit of it working. At lunch I ran into a colleague, M.S., who was attending a Teachers’ Federation Council Meeting. After work (coaching in Chinatown) at the Midnight Shift (a venue I am not normally all that fond of) I saw Clive and a few others, and had a very interesting conversation with someone I had seen around for ages but rarely talked to. It concerned family dynamics among other things. It is nice when people talk about their lives with honesty and seriousness.
The warm weather brought out some pleasing sights for such as I. Out in the suburbs they were washing their cars and going swimming, I am told, and I am sure that would be just as pleasing.
November 19: Life changes for some…and another web page
You may recall my nephew, Warren, who is an “exhibit” at the State Library of NSW as part of the Flinders Exhibition; he is there in virtual form as a lineal descendent of the family of Bungaree, the Guringai Aborigine who sailed with Flinders in his voyages of exploration about 200 years ago. I had a call from Warren at the weekend.
He has moved, with his partner, down to the Sydney region from Queensland and is now living on Guringai traditional land, as his mother’s family has continuously since settlement. Since it is Warren’s historical research that demonstrated the continuity of the descendents of the Guringai in that area, he is about to play a rather significant political role. There is a chance you may read about him in next weekend’s Australian. You can certainly see a lot of him now in the Cadigal Room at the Museum of Sydney.
I wonder if he would like yum cha.
Father John rang also with the sad but not unexpected news that his 98 years old mother recently died. I met her years ago when she was holidaying from Bellingen, where she lived until recently, and a very feisty old lady she was. She rather enjoyed the Albury!
On this diary a little while ago I celebrated the twentieth anniversary of Neos, a magazine for young writers with which I was associated. I have now put the poems, with a few more details, on my Angelfire site*. I think I am getting better at design 😉 What do you think?
Beware of a man giving up smoking, especially in the first week or two thereof. Do not confront him with sudden change or with anything that might tip his delicate balance. The result can be messy.
Friends need to be especially tolerant of aberrant behaviour. If they have supported the man in his project of giving up, they may be regretting their decison right now. They may be tempted to say “Please, start smoking again! We can’t stand this!” Do not give in to the temptation, but think of your friend’s better moments or track record over time, and remember that before long your friend will reappear as you remember him, and not as the writhing obsessive you see right now.
Yes, a good night’s sleep has helped. But I still need to be treated with delicacy… And on the subject of sleep, I blamed the 3-4 hours only I had on Tuesday night on two things: racing thoughts and leaving a patch on. Quitnet offers this on the latter: “Sleep disturbance almost always occurs in people who use the twenty four hour patch. Since your mind is unaccustomed to receiving nicotine while asleep, it can cause strange effects, including vivid, colorful dreams and difficulty sleeping.”
My best wishes to you all 🙂
18 December: Ninglun is loved after all…and some links for you
It is Day 21 and the cravings still come, but apparently that is normal. The body/mind has learned addiction and does not easily unlearn it. So one just insists: “Hey, I am a non-smoker!” and the cravings eventually pass.
It is nice to have one’s efforts appreciated, so a card from Michael Harmey (ESL/Multicultural Consultant at our Department of Education District Office) received today was very welcome: “Many thanks for your great work this year… You are doing a fantastic job for ESL and Multicultural Education, and it is a great pleasure to work with you.” 🙂
In the current climate where, overwhelmed by a tide of jingoism and a reactionary triumphalism even the modest progressive tends to be vilified as a member of some “elite” or “chattering class”, it is salutary to turn to a site that gives an alternative, non-Eurocentric, non-USA-centred view of the world, if only for balance. Such an alternative is New Internationalist which I commend as a means to keep your views balanced in our unbalanced age.
For fun, on the other hand, try Bad English. Just look 😉
20 December. Christmas thoughts…of a naked Ninglun
Yes, it is very warm in Sydney tonight and you should be glad I don’t have web cam. Looking at myself I can have few illusions about being no longer young, despite rather nice remarks today from some female colleagues, who expressed amazement at the concept that I turn 59 next year (God willing, of course.) I told them it must be my healthy lifestyle 😉
It is that time of year, school having ended, Christmas and New Year, just around the corner; a time to take stock. So I am naked in another sense, trying here to be unpretentious and honest with myself and my readers, some of whom I know and are dear to me, others of whom are total strangers. I so love the web diary–it has helped me so many times since I started, simply in the fact that I can say and do things here in total privacy and yet I am sharing it with the world. It is quite amazing, as happens from time to time, when someone suddenly pops up from, say, Denmark or Texas, and tells me: “Thanks for that” or “Yes, I love what you said…”
A year ago I made a list which is now on on my Home Page of ten beautiful things in life. I still stand by that. But this year I will put in ascending order the year’s six greatest blessings, bearing in mind what a horrible year it has been in some ways. This is a very personal list, and are the things I thank God/fate/circumstance for in 2001.
6. Some good things professionally, targets achieved in some areas at least, and students whose difficulties I have been able to make easier.
5. The blessing of reading and our local library.
4. Being able at my age to still think new thoughts and learn new things, and to take an imprudent decision when I knew it was what I had to do.
3. My friends at yum cha and around the pubs/coffee shops for their fellowship and confirmation of one’s worth and existence.
2. Becoming a non-smoker at last.
1. Finding one is loveable after all, and seeing another find that too about themselves.
Yes, I know the grammar is not quite right in number 1, but the thought is wonderful 🙂
23 December: Almost Christmas
Yes, so close, but I still haven’t done my cards! Looks like I will be making a few phone calls, sending email or ICQ, visiting some (hopefully) and, a last resort, sending late cards.
Yesterday I went to the Green Park Hotel with Sirdan; in time PK, James, Sailor A, and a number of others, joined us. PK gave me a very nice bottle of whisky.
Today is another Christmas gathering at the Forresters Hotel, and it would appear quite a few are coming to that. The gathering there a couple of weeks ago was very pleasant indeed.
I received a lovely card from “Master Fu”, an ex-student (class of 2000) who has been doing well in Advanced Mathematics at Sydney University. He has a delightful way of expressing himself:
There are many thanks for many things, none of them comes easily with words, for gratitude is the heart’s memory: thank you for everything you have done. Yours, Xiang
If yours is a family Christmas today, have a really good one; treasure those times, as they do pass.
The Forresters offered T-bone and mash as their $5 grill today, and it is so long since I have indulged in something so decadently Western; it was delicious. Company comprised Sirdan, James, Malcolm, the Empress, Bruce, Sailor A, Dark Cloud (a rare manifestation) and myself. The cuteness index at the Forresters was definitely near 9/10 today as well. (Elki, a very attractive ex-student who must be about 22 now, was there with his girlfriend; his noticing me was noted by the assembly and brought credit on my white beard!) So a good time was had. The Crown Prince had requested his greetings be passed on and it was done.
Meanwhile I have been reading an absolutely fascinating book on a cross-cultural phenomenon very few of us would have known of before: Martin Palmer, The Jesus Sutras (2001), about a thriving Christian movement in China during the 7th and 8th centuries AD. Have a look at that review and you will get the gist.
… Last night I called into the Albury Hotel for the very last time; it was the last day the grand/jaded/notorious old watering hole to the gay community was open to the public. There is a private farewell party today, but 1) I am not sure I was invited and 2) I am all farewelled out. So I am giving it a miss. There was quite a good crowd there last night including a few faces I have not seen for a while.
Sirdan, Malcolm, the Empress (who was not there, but see below for what he was doing) and I will probably pass our time in future at another venue where cider is served, along with various Irish ales.
I may call in later to St Vincents Hospital to see how my friend Father John is getting on. He had his operation on Friday. John is an interesting character, a man of 70 whose life has been in the service of the Anglican Church, much of it in Islamic countries as chaplain to British Embassies. His insight into the Islamic world is deep and charitable; in fact when asked at the hospital what his religion is, he said “monotheist”. When they said, “The computer does not have that; do you mean Methodist?” he replied “Definitely not: you can put ‘Islam’ if you like.”
Speaking of hospitals, the Empress had a very interesting courier job last night, taking a sample of a certain exotic but well-publicised disease* to the lab for analysis. The person involved had been on holiday in the USA recently.
28 Oct 2001
I went and saw Father John in hospital and he has come through well; indeed he expects to go home tomorrow.
After that I decided to drop in on the Albury’s final party. There was an invitation list; I was never sure I was on it, as I am in some ways a rather anonymous person there. It turned out someone of my first name was on the list, albeit apparently associated with the Bayswater Fitness Centre. Despite my denying any association with fitness centres, they let me in anyway; not sure what happens if the other N. turns up!
Sirdan, the Empress and Malcolm were there, with many a person I didn’t know and some I did. “Hugh La Rue” whose caberet act I have described in an earlier entry was there, but not performing, and recognised me. It was nice to see him again. I didn’t stay all that long–the free punch was dangerous I suspect. I saw a fair bit of the final “Pollie’s Follies” drag show and some of the acts were very good; one even actually sang. Miss Lucy was the first number after Pollie and did “The Lonely Goatherd” from The Sound of Music, with some quite remarkable leaps (in high heels) for such a large person.
A. was there. Not quite at war yet, but hoping; very much at home at a drag show.
So, there goes an association (with The Albury) going back about thirteen years–longer with a few visits when I was still living in Chippendale, so it must be sixteen years since I first went to the long-defunct piano bar.
The crowd today was still not as big as when the pub was at its height, but big enough. The Empress, of course, was at The Albury’s opening night as a gay bar–I am not sure how many centuries that is–and was determined to see through the last night. When I saw him last someone had given him a schooner of punch. I do hope we see him again…
Was that the beginning of the decline of Oxford Street?
Here is a retrospect from 2019 looking back twenty years — and more!
Second — regarding the 2001 election October-November 2001
November 5: Priorities…getting them right.
With carpet bombing starting in Afghanistan, and an upcoming election here (both pretty depressing), I thought I should mention that Mitchell’s famous Melbourne Cup Tips are now up. You only have a few hours to make use of them!
5 November 2001
It’s that time of the year again! Well, the election also… but, more importantly, the Melbourne Cup. My tips for this year:
1. Curata Storm 2. Marienbard 3. Hill of Grace
Mitchie told you so.
Very busy but satisfying day at the University of Technology Sydney, as a result of which I am quite excited about possibilities for the ESL research project Phase 2 next year.
November 7: Australian elections on 10th… and I am praying for a change of government
I have had the vote now for 37 years.
For the first half (approximately) of that time, being of mainly Scots/Ulster Protestant background, I voted Liberal, as did my parents and grandparents before me. For most of the second half I have voted Labor, except in the Senate where I have favoured one or other of the minor parties. For the first time ever I will not be voting for either major party in either House.
As Ian McPhee rightly observed today, there are no Liberals left in the Liberal Party. What we have are conservatives (like Costello) and reactionaries (like the Prime Minister). Of course there are precious few Labor politicians in the Labor Party either, and the crunch issue separating me from them, and the government, has been the obscene asylum-seekers “crisis”. I have canvassed that issue before on this diary, so do not propose to do so again tonight.
Further, while not excusing those responsible for the attacks of September 11, I find myself increasingly appalled by the crudeness of the response by the United States and by our government’s alacrity (supported by Labor) to leap into the action. (Of course I also wish our ADF members well.) Our “non-evil” weapons, to paraphrase George Bush, are likely directly and indirectly to exact a human cost far in excess of the 6000 in the twin towers. I just hope the causes of terrorism are addressed by the world community more effectively at some time in the future. I fear the present course will in sum probably increase the appeal of terrorism in those parts of the world that currently feel, for whatever reasons, obliged to take that path.
I hope that liberal and secularist religionists of all faiths will become stronger in their opposition to fundamentalism and fanaticism.
Back home again, I am impressed with much of the argument in Quarterly Essay 3:2001: “The Opportunist: John Howard and the Triumph of Reaction” by Guy Rundle. If you want an image of the kind of prat the Liberal Party throws up (and in this case out, after he fell on his face) look no further than Jonathan Shier. He embodied the mindset beautifully. He was just too nakedly prattish to succeed, but he was their man, very much their man.
You are free to disagree with any of the above.
I do lean more towards the Labor Party in certain policy areas, especially social welfare, health and education. I feel they could form quite a respectable government, if not an adventurous one. I also feel they will be quite conservative in terms of economic management this time around; their options are limited there anyway.
M, who experiences nausea everytime he sees John Howard, asks: “Why does Australia want tough leaders? What Australia needs is wise leaders, compassionate leaders.” Amen to that–but I can’t recall many: John Curtin maybe? Gough Whitlam? Not wise. Paul Keating? Flashes of wisdom but too much folly. Malcolm Fraser? Only since he retired. Who? Menzies? No, too deep a concept to sum him up, but he was much more of a Liberal than the current crop. Bob Hawke? Plenty of compassion, less wisdom. It’s a lot to ask, M. Depressing isn’t it?
If you want some idea of what wisdom looks like, revisit the International Declaration on Human Rights.
November 8: Responding to P P McGuiness
According to P P McGuiness, those eminent Australians (“elites”) who have expressed disagreement with the majority view (“out-of-touch”) on Australia’s current migration and refugee policies are, at heart, worshippers of Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Mao “and assorted other mass murderers”.
It is always a bit rich when McGuiness attacks the “self-described intellectuals” and the “chattering classes”, as the Chairman of Free Balmain is all of the above himself. He was also in his youth strangely attracted to “assorted other mass murderers”, but in seeing the light he has adopted another -ism, populism and a species of ultra-libertarianism (pace Bernard Crick) that borders, in my view, on irresponsible government and social anarchy.
I am not looking for a man with a white horse, nor do I seriously see myself as an intellectual. As an ESL teacher who lives with a Chinese who would, had the populace been asked back in 1990, probably not now be an Australian citizen, I may be biassed.
Populism sounds like democracy, but is in fact as old as the hills and refers either to demagoguery or, more honourably, to the utopian concept of “direct democracy”. “Direct democracy” is another of those shattered myths of the hippy era, along with worship of Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh. When we elect a government we choose a set of elites (elected and non-elected) who we hope will serve the long-term interests of the nation. I see nothing wrong with that.
If elites and intellectuals are a critical presence, a conscience, in an otherwise ill-informed populace, they are merely fulfilling their proper function. It is because writers and such are articulate that we value them, though we all need to take what they say critically. If judges from time to time act on principle rather than political expediency, then cheer them on! Many of those who have spoken out on the boat people/asylum seekers are those who really are in a position to know what they are talking about–people with experience of the highest levels of diplomacy, the military and government. They are not mere journalists–or even ESL teachers.
In such ways we progress; but then progress is something else McGuinness would not believe in. Disillusion as an ideal is very romantic, but where does it leave us?
McGuinness actually writes well. Sometimes he writes good things well. Too often he writes seductive nonsense well. The latter is, in my view, what he has done today.
November 9: ..the case of David Flint
Professor David Flint has an opinion piece in The Australian today. It is worth a read; Flint gets a guernsey from his old school mate P P McGuinness in the Sydney High Old Boys’ Bulletin for October, incidentally.
Now I actually know Professor Flint. I have wined and dined with him and been a passenger in his car. He is a charming fellow. I really mean that. There is much else one could say about him, but one won’t. I even agree with some of what he says, but it is interesting how his hobby-horse infects all he says; he is a classic instance of the old school where the Church of England (especially the High Church variety) has been described as “the Tory Party at prayer”. He is almost a Dickensian character sprung to life, and in his own way another anti-elite elite, for he is elite (and dare I say a crashing snob to boot) as any elite could be! Perhaps we all become caricatures of ourselves in time.
Few people I have met so thoroughly inhabit a fantasy world, I really must say. It is a charming and cosy world, but it does not really exist outside his somewhat rarefied circle. It did once, perhaps, in England many decades ago, but bears no relationship to the Australia most of us live in. And yet his constitutional arguments are worth more than a passing glance at times, as he is a learned man, simply one who has devoted his learning to shoring up the essentially aristocratic world he has fantasised himself into. Such is my impression having observed him on several occasions.
I have also taken the opportunity to correct a spelling mistake in yesterday’s, and to clarify the notion of populism.
November 10: Australia votes…and so does Ninglun
So, I have just recently done my democratic duty. Now we wait. I am not optimistic about the outcome, though I do hope we may achieve the minor change that a Labor victory would bring, including (among other things) a somewhat harder ride for the present government’s rich and powerful friends–though they will continue to do very well I am sure– and a more liberal (in the true sense) approach to issues of multiculturalism, national identity, indigenous issues and social issues generally. I’ll stop boring you now.
On the way back from the polling booth I saw the almost terminally cute recent vice-captain of our school setting off to make his first vote. I urged him to vote the right way, which he said of course he would do. We did not actually discuss what the right way might be. (I do hope he did not misinterpret my words.) Another new voter of my acquaintance is in another electorate, in fact the same electorate, curiously enough, in which I voted Liberal on a number of occasions. (Come to think of it, even before I had the vote I scrutineered for the bastards–sorry!–in a local election; it was interesting, but I am not sure if it was legal, but the candidate wanted bodies on the tally room floor.) He was a local developer–you know the scene–and my father was a real estate agent in Jannali.
Curiouser still is that my old Presbyterian Church is a polling booth in that electorate.
With respect to yesterday’s diary, which may have seemed uncharitable, I should point out that I actually quite like Prof. Flint as a conversation partner and fellow-guest at a dinner. Pompous, indeed, but not without humour. I even agree with him that the Westminster system of government is better than the American model. However, while he seemed yesterday to rejoice in the fact that the American system stymied “elites” (or “pointy-headed intellectuals”/”eggheads” and other delightful American expressions), I actually think that is one of the things wrong with it.
I also do not want Australia to have an elected president; in fact I don’t want Australia to have any kind of president with the powers of an American one. If we become a republic (and there are still good symbolic reasons for that, even practical ones further down the track) I hope it is a minimalist model that gets up. Prime Minister Costello would probably see us right on that one 😉
Imagine what I might have said about Prof. Flint if I didn’t like him!
Finally, I decided to cheer myself and others up by buying a car. It had to be within budget, and although I won’t be driving it myself (though I may be allowed to use it), it had to be something a bit classic, I felt, and expressive of machismo. I think I have succeeded, and got change out of a ten-note too!
It is beside me as I write 🙂
November 11: Howard wins…wish the Melbourne Cup tips had been as good! Oh yes: 1815 Hansard!
Well, you can look forward to me getting back to book reviews rather than political rants now.
It’s over, but life goes on. The Senate could prove interesting with an increased Green presence.
I saw on NineMSN that there was in the New York Times some fairly scandalous reporting of our virtual reassertion of a White Australia Policy; I have looked, but all I get is this. And it isn’t too shocking. I do think we are going to regret the smarty-pants “solution” to the asylum seekers situation. (NB change of terminology, Mitchell.) There is the cost, the fact that they will not be able to stay forever in Nauru etc. and will probably end up, many of them, back here, and the fact that we will run out of viable dumping grounds.
Pauline Hanson is down and out at least. Bliss, joy!
Still, a government that brought us some honour over East Timor is not all bad. Let’s hope they respond to some of the serious criticism, especially that from eminent community members of whom many have been members of or supporters of the governing party in the past.
Kim Beazely, the Labor leader, has just conceded and spoke very well.
The car* is a success I feel. Sirdan thought it looked nice. (See last entry.)
*2021 — I have no idea now what this was about!
All examinees–good luck over the next few weeks….
I left out the bit about the 1815 Hansard — it was a reference to a funny incident at the Green Park Hotel concerning myself, Sirdan, and another friend — a rather opinionated one at times — PK.
It has taken something really good (for a change!) to make me interrupt my break from this diary.
1. My nephew, who in an immaculate piece of historical research has demonstrated his descent on his mother’s side from Bungaree, who sailed with the explorer Matthew Flinders almost 200 years ago, has been honoured by having some of his research displayed in a Matthew Flinders exhibition at the State Library of NSW. He has also been interviewed on video, and that interview, along with some other things, will become part of the exhibit at the Museum of Sydney devoted to evidence of continuity of Aboriginal presence in the Sydney Region since European settlement.
2. Cafe Max was particularly lovely this afternoon….
04 Oct 2001
..house and site
M got into tidying yesterday, and became a bit…well…
Today I am on my way to coaching and called into Global Gossip Internet Cafe (of which I am now a member) in order to start the process of deleting the archives (except one or two) on Diary-X. (Internet Cafe saves hassles, is cheap, and makes a nice outing.)
I do this purge on Diary-X every few months, but in some ways it was nice to delete September! However, you can still read it on the Angelfire archive. That gives you September, but all the rest back to late 1999 can be found on that archive, for which see Diary Key below.
Really looking forward to after coaching. I have a book complete with proclamation (correctly spelt) 😉 Max is wonderful….
05 Oct 2001
…but I’ll rave quietly 😉
Our Prime Minister has called an election for November 10, nothing to do (of course) with his popularity going through the roof right now due to one rather dishonourable set of circumstances, and one other–the international situation. It’s not too hard to see the second one, but what of the first? I refer to a series of carefully targetted policy backflips, the cynicism of which even some of his supporters have noted. I also refer to the exquisitely absurd Tampa crisis, a mobilisation of moral panic and xenophobia which is simply breathtaking. In cost terms, we may as well have hired the QE2 and sent all the asylum seekers on a long cruise, but people really don’t seem to care. I’ve argued this one before (see September 2001 diary) and others have argued it better. So I’ll leave it there right now. Except to say I think Malcolm Fraser (ex-Prime Minister and Liberal Party one at that) has generally been quite right in his criticism of his ideological successor over the past few years.
J W Howard won’t be getting my vote–but I guess you knew that; then, neither will the Opposition unless they look a whole lot better. Yes, I will vote: it is compulsory to do so, but I will be studying the alternatives very carefully.
06 Oct 2001
A petition signed by many eminent Australians
In The Australian today there appeared a petition signed by two broadsheet pages worth of eminent and less well-known Australians, including a number I know, such as Nicholas Jose, William Yang, Helmut Bakaitis, Professor Ros Arnold of Sydney University, and of course Malcolm Fraser, ex-Prime Minister (same party as the present one). M. and I agreed we would have signed it ourselves had we had the chance, so here it is:
Australia and the Refugee Crisis
In today’s world, left shaken and uncertain by the terrorist acts of 11 September, it is more imperative than ever that Australia find just and humanitarian ways to respond to the growing refugee crisis.
We are outraged and ashamed at this country’s contemptible treatment of men, women and children seeking asylum in Australia, a country which has given a new home and new life to countless thousands of immigrants.
We are outraged and ashamed that our hard-won international reputation as a decent and tolerant democracy has been severely damaged.
We must not allow the events of 11 September and their aftermath to erode the principles of humanitarianism and justice that underpin our society. Rather, we must reaffirm those principles as essential to our democracy.
Confronted by a situation that is challenging for community and government alike, we call for Australia to abide by both the spirit and the letter of its international treaty obligations in offering sanctuary to victims of persecution who have fled the tyranny of their governments.
We call for a multi-partisan approach to address the global refugee crisis. We call for Australia to show regional and international leadership in developing a worldwide and long-term solution to this problem. This is one way Australia can act constructively in this volatile time.
Finally, we call for all Australians to draw strength and direction from the rich humanitarian heritage of our country, especially the value of the fair go.
I would sign that gladly, and I add that one reason I will not vote for either major party is that the current government has cynically manipulated the situation for supposed electoral advantage (that is, winning the One Nation vote for itself) and the Labor Party has connived in an unprincipled manner for the same purpose. Both stink, in my view, at least on this issue.
The 2000+ people who signed the above petition are not just ratbags, radicals or trendies, but include some of the most eminent and respected in the land.
I had an interesting discussion tonight with a military man who before long will be a lot closer to the action overseas than I am, and he agreed with this assessment of the current government’s handling of the so-called “queue-jumpers” 100%, I am pleased to say.
For further reading, see Peter Mares, Borderline, UNSW Press 2001. This book is excellent, and actually quite charitable towards Mr Ruddock, the current Immigration Minister, but gives inconvenient fact after inconvenient fact to expose the hollowness of the government line, made even worse by the manipulation since the book was written of the so-called crisis over the Tampa. (See September diary for more.)
But I promised not to rave too much…
[What follows] is from “Spectrum” in The Sydney Morning Herald 6 October 2001:
By Ruth Wajnryb
Be honest. Can anyone truly look at a picture of a refugee family from the Tampa and still see these people as people? I can’t. I now see them in the terms in which they have been newly constructed in the language.
I try not to. I remind myself: these are people. They’re not refugees or asylum seekers or desperadoes or illegals or queuejumpers or boat people. They’re not cargo or contraband or human flotsam or victims of people-trading. They’re not part of a flood or a deluge that needs to be contained. They’re people.
It’s not easy. Over the past few weeks they’ve been languaged – packaged and presented up to us. Sometimes as deserving objects of our compassion. Sometimes as targets of our contempt. Somehow, along the way, they stopped being people.
They are the new dark hordes, a not-too-distant cousin of the yellow variety. They’re Middle Eastern, Afghans, Muslims (variously pronounced Mozlem, Muzlem, Moozlem. I am reminded that Churchill persistently mispronounced “Nazis” as “Narzies”. This allowed him to drag out the first vowel – one can only speculate why. I suspect that talkback radio’s “Moozlem” serves a similar purpose.)
How do you make a villain? Insanely, it helps to equate those-who-flee with the government-being-fled – a formula that would turn Einstein into a Nazi. It’s a peculiar way of thinking that serves only the one making the equation.
And what about us? We’ve constructed ourselves into a land on the brink of being deluged. Overcome by a tidal wave, a plague, disease. We have no will or power of our own; the pestilence will happen to us because illegal asylum-seekers will cause it to happen. Unless we act decisively, close the floodgates, send in the SAS. Make ourselves Tampa-proof. This is what we’ve been told.
This crisis seemed to be about 460 people, a ship, an island, a continent and a prime minister. But it’s not. It’s about language. The language we use to talk about these people has started to construct our attitude towards them. When and how and why did these people stop being people? How and when did these people become “illegals”? How did “illegals” come into the language as a plural countable noun? These are not people who have done, or might have done, or have yet to have it proved that they have done, illegal things. All these categories have been collapsed into one: “illegals”. Their entire identity – a wailing baby, an exhausted mother, a father trying to hold it all together, where they’ve come from, their memories, what fears they’ve had and still have, what hopes they hardly dare to have – all of this has been leaked out of the picture. Now they’re three illegals.
So it’s no longer possible to look at a picture of a refugee family without thinking: aren’t you just an illegal alien, a queuejumper, an economic refugee? Those clothes don’t look too bad. That haircut looks recent. Under the new rhetoric, there’s no neutral term for who they are.
The spotlight turned the people-who-have-been-smuggled into contraband. They’re like drugs, or weapons. They’re cargo. Stop the people transporting the cargo. Stop the governments making life such hell that people willingly become illegal cargo. Now they’re illegal cargo. They’re illegals.
Humankind has a long and colourful history of demonising, of stripping the other of their humanity, seeing them as animals or objects or vermin. (We needed a song, remember, to remind us that the Russians love their children.) Historian Colin Tatz says that atrocious acts such as genocide can happen only because the pathways to extermination have been made possible through language. Step 1 is to create “the other”. Step 2 places that other outside the human membrane. That’s what we’re up to.
I know they’ve been languaged because it has worked on me.
07 Oct 2001
More food for thought
The column above expresses some ideas that I have some sympathy with, in a mode I relate to professionally.
Ruth Wajnryb is an ESL teacher with considerable expertise in migration and cross-cultural communication.
Her analysis of the discourse in which controversy over “illegal immigrants” occurs is well worth noting.
Please consider it carefully. It is very sound linguistically.
Meanwhile today was quite delightful.
Yum Cha at the Emperor’s Garden was attended by the Empress, Sirdan, Malcolm, Mitchell and myself. Food was good, and conversation that continued in two other places was really good.
Mitchell got to hear Sirdan speak Afrikaans, and both Mitchell and I learned more about Sirdan than we had known before. His is an interesting story, from Zimbabwe to South Africa to London to New Zealand to Australia.
Malcolm and the Empress went to see a recent Australian film, The Bank, and loved it so much that they propose seeing it again at 11.45 next Sunday! I, and perhaps Mitchell (who is invited) may join them.
Conversation resumed with Sirdan, the Empress, Malcolm and myself at the Albury (where my drinking was modest and not all alcoholic–so I did know the way to Surry Hills!).
It should be added that a slight poetic licence may apply to Malcolm’s stories; I really did know the way home.
More food for thought
This link to an article in The Atlantic Monthly is worth a look. Harking back to Karl Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies, originally written during World War II, the writer, from a moderate conservative perspective, brings us back to core problems confronting the existence of liberal democracy when faced with closed minds or societies both within and without. I find the ideas presented must be taken into account when thinking of the current world situation.
There has been a disturbing report of the latest boatload of asylum seekers, turned back to Indonesia by the Australian Navy–in itself arguably the right or wrong thing to do. The report claims that some of the people on the boat began to throw their children over the side. This is very emotive stuff. You know my interest in the topic, and I now include a link to Robert Manne’s latest column on it. I share his perception that public debate on issues such as multiculturalism has soured, and fear too that the present major parties–both of them–have contributed to this display of Hansonism.
I said to Ian Smith last night that I suspect my core ideas are actually Dickensian, by which I mean that the spirit in which Dickens viewed both religion and society is congenial to me. In fact I suspect I imbibed it at my grandfather’s knee–the same grandfather who counselled me when young to watch for the knife concealed behind the back when you saw people praying!
However, that does not mean I won’t get on my soap box at some stage in the future.
While I was at the doctor’s surgery the other day I picked up a little book called Brief encounters: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Associated Therapies for General Practitioners by Alex Tahmindjis, and was interested having had a little experience in this area, directly as a client, and indirectly with others.
The book gave a good summary of depression, anxiety disorders, seretonin levels, and so on.
Improving one’s seretonin levels is one element in treating depression and anxiety. Tahmindjis discusses the role of such medication as Zoloft (which did not work well for me), exercise (which I should do more of), cognitive behaviour therapy (which I have had some experience of), setting achievable tasks (which I sometimes have problems with!) and touching.
“Holding hands boosts feelings of comfort and happiness. If you have a partner, start touching more… No partner? Well, how about friends…” True, isn’t it? Also, one can in such a situation hug in the mind, if you know what I mean; the book does not say so, but I suspect thinking about such a person probably affects seretonin levels too.
Now isn’t it nicer sometimes to think of things like this instead of politics, world problems and matters of intellect? It could be that such a grounding for oneself actually helps when it comes to dealing with other things. What do you think?
Much nicer than politics or the state of the world.
18 Oct 2001
Empress sends naked men…and other mysteries and ruminations
A few days ago the Empress, whose hard disk must be rather like a nudist colony, sent me some not unattractive images (three in fact) that purport to be Ian Thorpe in the nude, and in varying degrees of excitement. The other variation is in his body, which either is very changeable, or the images are fakes. I await the chance to have them authenticated by someone who may know 😉
Our friend A., a sailor, is among those going off to war. At first I wondered how he knew this two weeks ago, but probably he is on the ship that was going to the Gulf anyway to replace one that is coming home. The deployment of Australian forces in the War on Terrorism has bipartisan support here, although two of the minor parties, the Greens and the Democrats, have reservations. Some military experts also question the open-ended nature of the commitment, given that the Australian Defence Forces, while very good, are also very small. The question then is how long we can maintain a commitment, how many can be spared (given the Government still continues its rather odd policy on asylum seekers, the true cost of which is now emerging), and whether (though all deny it) conscription is further down the track.
Naturally we wish the men and women who go all the best and hope they all come back. Unlike the USA, it should be noted, gay men and women are officially among those serving–A. is one of them, and an outspoken one at that.
University exams loom. At the same stage, when I was seventeen and three months, I was a nervous wreck, absolutely convinced I would fail Ancient History (I didn’t) and having completed less than the whole of my Latin course. I passed Latin, but was told if the rest of my paper had been the same standard as my Horace, I most certainly would not have. I did not achieve the Distinction level in English I had hoped for, despite my tutor having encouraged me to consider Honours. I almost gave up on the idea, and was very flattered when the tutor rang me at home after the results came out, telling me to ignore them and do Honours anyway. I did–and got through.
At nineteen and three months (being born in July) I was in Third Year, doing the Honours English Course (I got a Distinction) and, despite again being convinced I would fail (Asian) History, I actually came first! Much to my surprise.
The following year I spent working in an Insurance Company, due to family finances going belly-up. But that’s another story.
What a conservative, straight young man I was in those years. I would have run a mile from someone like me if I had ever met such a person. Not that I had much idea such people existed. I just alternated wanking, working and praying and hoped for the best, finding solace with my Christian friends at university and at church, questioning very little politically, and reading my Bible every day. I was a sweet, if naive, young person: cute too? Well, I’m not so sure about that…
Oh my –– the things I put online twenty years ago, eh!
Update: on Children Overboard and the 2001 Election.
#Strongwomen. "I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful - for all of it." Kristin Armstrong