Friday, October 12, 2012

Biffo Nation

Kanga biffo (2012) by Pants

When I returned to the birth-mother country four years ago, after spending nearly three decades in Europe, I had a mission. That mission was personal reconciliation. I left Australia in 1982. I fled with a bad case of cultural cringe congesting my emotional well-being. I was ashamed of my country in the way one might be ashamed of a dishevelled, racist uncle who had a bad habit of exposing himself. It seemed to me that Barry Humphries' self-styling as 'Sir' Les Patterson was closer to gritty realism than comic satire. 

Repatriating with some optimism, I was determined to make peace with this country. Having been born of it, I reasoned that I contained something of its crude brutality within me. Rather like infecting oneself with a small dose of smallpox to create immunity to the disease, I plunged headlong into a kill or cure experiment. It hasn't gone well. All the things that made me cringe about Australia in my youth were not only still resolutely there but amplified. It seemed a hideous parody constructed out of jaded travelogue clich├ęs, with a population colluding in the fantasy via comatose self-delusion, believing itself to be a paradise of egalitarianism and the originator of everything worthwhile. In short, a bastion of innovation and jolly-goodfellowness. Events of the last couple of weeks render this delusion untenable.

You frequently hear the self-generated claim, 'Australia punches above its weight'. Australia punches nothing except itself. It should hang its self-harming, punch-drunk head in shame. Julia Gillard's latent world fame as the Prime Minister who finally stood up to the narcissistic idiot-bully who heads Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition should not inspire pride. Today, one's adored Guardian praises her in editorial for the delivery of the long overdue slap. I'm glad she did it too. It's certainly better than doing nothing. But let's not call it great. 

Great would have been if Julia Gillard had defeated her opponent with a convincing and reasoned argument instead of a mad-as-hell rant. I understand that debating a half-witted megalomaniac is not the easiest thing to do, but he's not the only audience. A prime minister should address herself beyond the benches and beyond the press gallery. She should be talking to all of us and not just the bonehead opposite her. I'm sorry that she's never thought to do this because, if she did, she'd destroy him. Sadly, the only way she felt she could get the better of him was to descend to the level of a brawling banshee so that she could at least give him a taste of his own name-calling medicine in doses that make sense to a blood-lusting populace. In that, she managed a technical KO.

The event that set this ball a-rolling, the vile comments by the Sydney radio shock jock Alan Jones about the PM's recently deceased father having 'died of shame' due to her supposed lies, seems to have inadvertently advanced his target. Jones, who has his own issues, was thought to be invincible. And yet, a petition initiated by demanding that Jones be sacked has already succeeded in persuading many advertisers to pull away. Radio station 2GB, of which Jones is part-owner, has instituted the damage-control strategy of putting the show to air minus ads. It will be interesting to see how long they can keep that revenue-losing position going. You can help save the dignity of our nation by signing the petition. 

Despite the Neanderthal grunts that have brought us to this place, I can't help detecting a chink of light. Is it possible that the so-far invisible 'decent' Australians have finally had enough? I had previously believed that Australians were interested only in the appearance of decency, not its actuality. I suspected that there were many who would feign outrage at Jones and his ilk for 'going too far' while quietly believing that these rabid, self-serving attack dogs were what was needed to keep those untrustworthy bastards, which they'd incidentally elected via a free-and-fair voting system, honest.

And now there's some new pressure on Alan Jones via  a social media campaign demanding that he read this pledge on his radio show,

'I want an Australia where girls and women, where men and boys, can take part in our society without enduring discrimination, sexism and violence.'

'I want an Australia where we respect each other; an Australia where no person experiences hate because of their gender, race, religion or sexuality.'

International readers may not be aware that the man in question is a gay man who is 'out' to everyone but himself. 'Elephant in the room' seems inadequate to describe what goes on here. His racist, misogynist and even homophobic outbursts are often perceived as self-deprecating, given the 'big secret' that everyone knows about. And he's managed to appear harmless in his buffoonery, much like a certain little Austrian corporal in denial of his Jewishness did a few years ago. A man whose own life is based on a lie is not fit to be lecturing the rest of us on how to live a good life. Yet, somehow his poison has been not only been accepted into our cultural vacuum, but welcomed. 

In a country where only a few big fish get to thrive in a very small, stagnant pond, I'm hoping that the oxygen Alan Jones monopolises will be denied him. I'm also hoping that Julia Gillard will seize the tank at last and give us all some much-needed fresh air.  

There have been plenty of times, especially in the last year, when I've wanted to pack up and head off back to Europe. I've despaired, thinking I'll never come to grips with the damage here. But, amazingly, in this bottom-trawl of a sequence of human events, I find hope. Surely, the only direction from here can be up? I'm in for my bent penny now. I'll stick around for a bit and see how it works out. Wish me luck...