Over the space of a decade or so, a number of young Australians managed to bring themselves forcefully to international attention. Barry Humphries, Germaine Greer, Clive James and Robert Hughes were all people I met or, in a couple of cases, came to know quite well. However, at just about the earliest moment available to them they all fled Australia’s shores more or less for good. Yet all, in a sense, managed at the same time to export the idea of a young, often contentious and attractively humorous country – an image which certainly persisted for some while.
To what extent would Australia tolerate such lively youthful manifestations today? For sure, all those I have mentioned would have fallen foul at some stage of our present, utterly humourless Australian Human Rights Commission – as did their later counterpart the similarly talented and amusing Bill Leak.
This morning on the way to coffee I turned my car radio on to learn that the day was International Women’s Day. As a special treat the ABC’s Classsical Music program decided to devote most of the day to Australian women composers introduced solely, of course, by female announcers. Purely off the cuff, how many Australian women composers can you personally name? No cheating please.
Our once bright and sparky country grows more self-satisfied and introverted by the day. In my forthcoming book about the perils of post-modernism I devote an entire chapter to feminism under the rubric Through a Glass Ceiling Darkly.
In it I take issue with current Australian notions of feminism which basically take issue themselves with the ‘strange’ idea that men and women are – or at least once were – intrinsically and thankfully rather different. My apparently outdated belief is that we were intended biologically to complement each other. No wonder I am exiled permanently from the present-day fashionable Australian press.
Almost all of the more lively and agreeable people I know seem sick to death with what has happened to Australia in recent years. Some such would probably even leave here for good if only they had access to alternative passports. At the other end of the scale, vast numbers of often entirely unsuitable-seeming people are apparently desperate to get in. Indeed, many from what I politely regard as ‘the other side’ of politics are no less keen to admit such unlimited numbers of people – a largely hidden process which, as we all ought to know, is happening covertly already.
Before coming to Australia a high percentage of the Australians I met or knew overseas played competitive sport, a habit I formerly shared myself. Without exception all were more or less ideal ambassadors for this country ranging from the late Lew Hoad at his tennis ranch in Spain to other, less well known figures I met playing cricket or squash as well as tennis. On an especially cold winter evening in remotest Cornwall, where I then lived, I encountered a wonderfully competitive opponent at squash who I felt fairly sure I had never seen before. The odd but simple reason for that was that until a week or so earlier he had been playing regularly for Port Moresby. Such Australians were once a truly excellent advertisement for this country.
Suddenly out of nowhere the cricket captain of Australia has been pilloried in our national press as a cheat. I played cricket myself in England for about 30 years at quite a high level –up to so-called Minor Counties standard – and can confirm that so-called ball tampering, if not by me, has taken place at just about every level I have seen from the idyllic English village green upwards. There is of course major and minor – often totally ineffective – tampering with the ball. I cannot believe that anyone who has played the game seriously does not know this but now Australia is back on its moral high horse as usual while letting true horrors and absurdities slip beneath its gaze. No wonder poor old Steve Smith feels confused.
The four Australians I mentioned in my first paragraph projected an idea of a lively, quirky but resourceful country. But how well would our ‘urban elites’ or armies of usually unnecessary public service employees fare if they faced even a quarter of the problems met formerly by Australia’s early settlers? ‘We’ – since I became an Australian citizen myself a decade ago – are in danger now of becoming a nation of ‘soft’ urban dopes led by people who are often hardly more adequate themselves.
The major instrument of our effective emasculation has been post-modernism in all of its shallow, stupid and self-righteous forms – none of which thankfully originated in this country.
The noose that will eventually strangle us has, however, been well-prepared. Inquire closely about what exactly is entailed the next time you renew your will or even purchase a house. A contract of sale running to 200 pages for a recently purchased small dwelling landed recently in our letterbox. Soon all signing of documents will apparently need to be recorded on video.