Sunday, 9 November 2014

Australian conservatives don't do death well

Australian Financial Review 6 November 2014:

Among life’s most reliable performance indicators, when your wife screams at you for something you’ve written, you know you’ve got a problem.
That’s what happened to the News Corp blogger Andrew Bolt when he started dancing on Gough Whitlam’s grave within hours of the great man’s death. His wife yelled at him. And with good reason.
Whitlam passed away in the early morning of Tuesday, October 21. By 8.13am Bolt was attacking him, particularly the Whitlam government’s decision to “end the assimilation project, both for Aborigines and immigrants”.
Bolt thought it was more important to vent, for the 865th time, his personal obsession with race than to show respect for the Whitlam family in its moment of grief.
He thought that abusing a fallen prime minister was more important than conveying respect for the pinnacle of Australian democracy: the office of prime minister itself.
Perhaps, in her anger, Mrs Bolt is an advocate of the timeless adage, passed down by generations of Australian mothers and grandmothers, that “if you can’t say something good about someone who has just died, don’t say anything at all”.
It’s not as if her husband is short of things to say – space fillers for this role in the media. He could have published his 539th condemnation of the ABC, for instance, or his 724th denial of climate change.
But that’s the thing about fanaticism: it blurs one’s judgment. It makes political nutters regurgitate their ideological obsessions, blind to the respectful norms of the rest of society.
While 99 per cent of people lead normal, reasonably balanced lives, in which the emotions of life and death are seen as vastly more important than party politics, inside Australia’s media bubble there’s a group of activists with a different mindset. They regard all aspects of life as inherently political.
Thus for Bolt, Whitlam’s death had nothing to do with the passing of a father, a grandfather, a brother – the mournful sorrow of a grieving family. It was solely a political event, requiring a right-wing response.
But it wasn’t just Bolt. If the sounds of fury in his household had been one-off, an aberrant domestic dispute between husband and wife, it might have been possible to ignore his vindictiveness.
Regrettably, Bolt’s response was typical of the right-wing hunting pack. Like a gang of skinheads kicking over tombstones, Gerard Henderson, Greg Sheridan, Miranda Devine and Rowan Dean also rushed into print, vilifying Whitlam within days of his death.
In a piercing commentary on his own values, Henderson said that praise of the former prime minister had made him unwell, forcing him to “lie on the floor with a wet towel on his forehead”.
This is part of a pattern in our national life – an echo of Alan Jones’s slur that Julia Gillard’s father had “died of shame”.
Australian conservatives don’t do death well……

Australian Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne, House of Representatives Hansard, 21 October 2014:

All of us will remember where we were in 1975. As Barnaby Joyce has indicated what he was doing, I will just briefly say where I was—because I was only eight. My mother was ironing and I was watching Adventure Island, which many people will remember; I remember my mother was ironing and I was watching Adventure Island, and my mother started crying. I thought: ' I wonder why my mother's crying?' I have to let you in on a secret: she was not crying out of sadness when she heard the Whitlam government had been dismissed. She was crying out of joy.

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