As I write rain is absolutely bucketing down in the form of what is commonly known in the UK as ‘stair-rods’. Watching it I am in fact strongly reminded of the torrential, vertical rain which formed a prelude to the infamous UK hurricane of 1987 which flattened some 15 million trees and was the worst such great storm to hit the UK since the distant days of 1703. Every local bank and most London streets were closed the following day which was a touch inconvenient as I was due to fly to Spain that afternoon to play in an international tennis tournament.
In Australia as a whole at the moment an utterly contrasting series of fires in Queensland seriously threatens towns, dwellings, lives and livelihoods. Why won’t God recognise that fashionable reductions in bush clearance programs, say, should never be seen as an invitation to any form of incendiary mischief? After all we are living in ‘fortunate’ Australia rather than ‘unfortunate’ California where the large-scale breaking of age-old fire safety rules have recently incurred a most terrible cost. Is God incapable of understanding ‘green’ issues and ‘climate change’ edicts properly? Although so many of us earthlings style ourselves as all-knowing greenies perhaps God still prefers – understandably – simply to remain Almighty God. He, at least, may have a clue what He is doing.
My wife and I lived in outer London from 2009 to 2014 when we returned to Australia largely because Tony Abbott had been elected and the LNP had been returned to power fairly strongly. Little did we know then what was in store for us or for Australia. We had even emailed Tony Abbott from London with a suggestion about a means of reducing national debt through a nationwide series of voluntary, money-raising events which would have had the added bonus of helping to bring previously fragmented communities together. Call us conservative weirdos if you like but in view of the subsequent backstabbing behaviour of the LNP ours formed a pretty mild form of eccentricity. Having been involved in front-line military service myself in Germany at the height of the Cold War, I had also picked Tony Abbott out as a potentially first-rate battlefield officer – a quality I could not necessarily associate either with his successor nor, say, with Mr Pyne. A few of us still possibly know about such matters – or at least did in the days of largely binary genders. I still cannot credit, in fact, that a once fine nation such as Australia has voluntarily become so incredibly and hopelessly wet.
One factor which might surely help the situation here would be the existence of a tough, intelligent, properly conservative broadsheet somewhat like Britain’s Daily Telegraph. Sadly, the Australian has always had a serious identity problem in the quarter century I have known it – usually beginning at the top. Indeed, in the distant days when I worked there I found myself hauled before the then editor-in-chief for describing intellectual life here as ‘rather less than effervescent’ in an article in The Speccie. Although I was probably just having a bit of fun an abject apology was nevertheless demanded.
Perhaps when every last Australian university has finally rejected the Ramsay Centre’s initiatives some of those funds could be set aside to start a genuine centre-right daily broadsheet? Another proposal might be to open a lending library composed of the best recent books by conservative intellectuals such as Douglas Murray, Roger Scruton, Roger Kimball and Paul Kengor. When I have ordered books by, say, Kevin Donnelly or Jordan Peterson at my otherwise admirable local bookshop I always seem to be asked ‘Isn’t he terribly right wing?’. Why has intelligent, democratic conservatism allowed itself to be backed into a seemingly hopeless corner in Australia? Today a ‘strike’ in favour of greater climate change awareness has even been called – supposedly by Australia’s schoolchildren. Any who have read my recent piece on teaching in this journal will not be entirely surprised. At what precise age would such children be able even to read – let alone understand – Professor Ian Plimer’s Heaven and Earth: Global Warming – The Missing Science? Even more appropriately one might ask the same question of their teachers.
As Plimer remarks in his book: ‘Despite our comfortable materialistic lives in the Western world there are many who ask: is this all? They want a meaning to life and yearn for a spiritual life… a new religion has been invented to fulfill this need: extreme environmentalism. It is an urban atheistic religion disconnected from the environment’. The fact that ‘global warming’ caused by human CO2 emissions is a scientifically demonstrable myth has no bearing on the tenacity of beliefs which simply replace earlier forms of primitive or extreme religiosity. Plimer very aptly quotes Jonathan Swift (1667-1745): ‘It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he never reasoned into’.
As a minor epitaph for a recent prime minister do you recall those grossly misshapen light-bulbs we were all supposed to buy some years ago in our supposed life-and-death struggle with ‘global warming’? Those with even average memories may remember a particular Australian who was once a most ardent advocate of their use. I recently saw one such bulb in a run-down Sydney apartment and remembered the atrocious grey light such bulbs emitted which would have made any desire to own decent paintings a thing of the past. Sic transit gloria mundi – how much better off our more intelligent children might be learning Latin than baseless scientific myths.
Or, as John Dryden (1631-1700) so memorably put it: ‘Nor is the people’s judgement always true/ The most may err as grossly as the few’. Could he – miraculously perhaps – have somehow foreseen the present sorry condition of Australia?