Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Beggar's Belief Opera


Source : AP


I was just sitting here thinking - I don't feel nearly miserable enough about the dire state of our gross national psyche. What would be top of my wish list for a paradigm-shifting event designed to plunge Australia's dignity into irrecoverable depths of debasement? I know, we could offer the world's tackiest billionaire, plus three hundred favourite white goods-obsessed, triple-choc muffin-scoffing, guru-worshipping parasites, a free holiday.

Unfortunately, 'Sir' Richbastard Brandname wasn't available. Besides, he can have a free holiday in Australia whenever he likes. Apparently, we can't get enough of his loathsome airline and creepy communications systems. But Hosanna! Oprah roars into view to meet our seemingly insatiable appetite for world-class ghastliness. Yes. Australian governments, of whatever hue, have an enviable lineage in dribbling sycophancy when it comes to the legends of louche.

Visions of Dr 'Sir' Lesley Colin Patterson dance about before my eyes as I read the news that Oprah Winfrey, Queen of Crass, Empress of Excess, Duchess of Daggy, has been invited to personally introduce her highly destructive brand of extreme self-actualisation to our culture in the cause of ... well ... no one seems entirely sure what exactly.

But we do know that the hard-nosed professionals at Tourism Australia, who are seasoned in the tough art of negotiating celebrity freebies, drove a titanic bargain with Oprah. It must have been a tense twelve months in which the concept of 'complimentary' was debated to within an inch of its stretch limousineness. Obviously out-manoeuvred, Oprah capitulated with a conciliatory,

You had me at the words 'Sydney Oprah House'.

Possibly a misunderstanding.

But it's all so, gosh, thrilling. And John Travolta, bona fide QANTAS pilot and darkly weird cult follower, is going to fly them all here on his own personal 747. I have to admit, when I close my eyes, I fantasize about dodgy pop rivets, cheapskate flotation devices and corner-cutting developing-world servicing.

In many ways, Australia and Oprah are like very needy sisters, sharing an abused childhood, complicated family history and pathological ambition to be universally admired. Oprah is the better known, so I guess she's the big sister. So it's only fair that the younger sister foots the bill.

The estimated AUS$3.5m we are donating via tax revenue that might have otherwise been spent on services for, say, the desperately disadvantaged Aboriginal communities the billionaire Oprah and hangers-on are keen to gawp at, is insignificant, according to former Tourism Minister, John Brown,

'We spent hundreds of millions of dollars over 30 years without much effect, I must say that honestly.'

And that's an argument for chucking a couple of million dollars at one of the few people in the world who would regard such an amount as conceptually meaningless? Oprah's probably spent more than that on chocolates and Christian Louboutin shoes. The phrase 'good money after bad' springs to mind. Ex-minister Brown continues,

'The publicity that Oprah will bring to Australia around the world is something you couldn't buy.'

Except that we have, apparently.