Monday, May 28, 2012

And now thanks to Gerard Henderson, a walk amongst modernists and philistines like Robert Gordon Menzies ...

(Above: the tweet said expand, and so the pond did).

Back in LA today!
Another mess.
Parks being closed
As counties run out of money.
School system disaster
50 per cent drop out
No revenue to fix
No taxes to hand
Republicans hate taxes
Fox News too
Met traveller from antique land
Said: Two vast and trunkless legs stone
Stand in desert. Near them, on sand,
Half sunk, shattered visage lies, frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer cold command,
Tell that sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped lifeless things,
Hand that mocked them, heart that fed:
On pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Murdoch, king of Fox News
Champion of Republicans
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing else remains.
Except twittering tweets ...

Not bad for a tweeting Rupert, though perhaps over the 140 mark, and almost worthy of Shelley.

Does Chairman Rupert have any understanding how his media empire has helped reduce civility and community and concepts of social good and comity, as in public parks and public schools paid for by taxes?

Apparently he doesn't have the first clue, and that gets the pond off to a rip-roaring start this Tuesday, refreshed and ready to deal with that other exponent of classic literature, Gerard "just call me Polonius" Henderson.

Henderson's opening gambit in Lame duck Labor likely to waddle on to term is to reference David Copperfield and Mr. Micawber, and who could argue with that.

But someone seems to have spiked his breakfast cereal, because he seems gloomy and dispirited, proposing that the dysfunctional Labor government will run to term.

He even acknowledges that the decision to allow overseas workers to be employed on remote running projects is good policy, which leads the pond to an aside.

You could see how hapless and persecuted Julia Gillard has become with her dispirited performance in parliament, tormented by such lightweight gadflies as Julie Bishop. All she had to do was turn on her and ask her "do you support this federal Labor government policy? Just answer yes or no", and repeat it over and over, like a negative mantra in some satanic Buddhist temple, but she didn't, because she's lost the fire and the plot.

Along with the rest of the caucus, which today apparently is going to censor the government for this policy, and move to amend it. Can anyone explain to the caucus that they are the government? Schizophrenia rampant.

But back to Henderson, and as always we get a history lesson, and as always, the juicy bits are left out.

Henderson, being a worshipper at the foot of Robert Gordon "Ming the Merciless" Menzies thinks Menzies did "quite well" in his first UAP government, which was supported by two independent MPs.

Not a word about Earle Page:

On Lyons's death in April 1939, the U.A.P. elected Menzies to party leadership. Sir Earle Page announced that in consequence the Country Party would no longer work in coalition with the U.A.P., and launched on Menzies an attack described by the Sydney Morning Herald as 'a violation of the decencies of debate without parallel in the annals of Federal Parliament'. Page asserted that, with war threatening, Menzies was incapable of leading the nation, because he had been disloyal to Lyons and because he had failed to serve in World War I. (the ADB here)

Now that's how to play politics in the grand style of the old days, harping on the way Menzies preferred law and student politics at the University of Melbourne to a possibly much shorter life in the trenches (and who can argue with that). It should also be noted that Menzies was inclined to appeasement, and was delusionally optimistic about the prospect of Europe - and the world - avoiding war.

Henderson spends his time worrying about how the two independents changed their allegiance to bring Menzies down, but it's worth remembering that Menzies had managed to alienate a sizeable part of the UAP:

Though the reasons for this animus are not altogether clear, Page was probably stung by the waspish comments Menzies had made about him behind his back. It is, however, extremely doubtful that—despite the failure of the promises made to him—Menzies was disloyal to Lyons, and that his behaviour was a factor in the latter's collapse. Dame Enid Lyons, whose hostility to Menzies simmered over many years, made the allegation covertly and, in the end, explicitly. Page shared her grief at Lyons's death, and believed the unproven story that Menzies was partly responsible for it. (ibid)

Poor prattling Polonius broods about the way that Oakeshoot, Wilkie and Windsor aren't likely to switch their allegiance to Abbott and the Coalition, and for comfort food, retreats to the wilder calamities of the Whitlam government, which really has very little to do with minority government, but which allows Polonius to deliver up a handsome cliche, that is to say that history rarely repeats itself ... unlike Henderson, who is inordinately fond of repeating himself.

Which provides the pond with an excuse for another distraction involving Menzies:

More personal was Menzies' embroilment in the artistic controversies of the mid-1930s when, in developing the notion that Australia needed an academy of art, he fell foul of modernist painters and their supporters, one of whom was H. V. Evatt. Contemporary critics saw Menzies' dislike of modernism as yet another expression of his conservatism, which was undoubtedly true. The claim that he was also an artistic philistine is more debatable. (ibid)

Thanks ADB. Let's debate that for a moment that's required, and here's your answer.

Menzies was an artistic philistine, as shown by his inability to adjust to modernism, now perceived as a somewhat traditional, even conservative part of antipodean art history.

Let's pause to remember the 1943 Archibald prize and the fuss surrounding Dobell's portrait:

The tensions implicit in this controversy between conservatism and modernity were exemplified in the opposed views of Bert and the conservative Prime Minister Robert Menzies: Menzies felt that modem art was 'ill-drawn' and 'unintelligible to the unilluminated mind', finding 'nothing but absurdity in much so-called "modem art'". (here)

As Victor Mature himself might say, what a woeful philistinian.

Anhyoo, back to the dispirited Henderson, and his jaundiced unhappy conclusion:

Some Coalition backers are hoping the independent Speaker Peter Slipper (ex-Liberal Party) and/or the scandal-prone independent Craig Thomson (ex-Labor) might resign and create a byelection which the Liberal Party could win. Such an eventuality is unlikely.

Oh the gloomy job of pouring cold water on the optimists:

It would be foolish to make predictions. But it is possible Labor will survive until the 2013 election, despite the dysfunction that surrounds it.
It remains to be seen whether Mr Micawber's wish fulfilment works and something turns up to save Labor.

Speaking of Micawber and wish fulfilment, could we provide an alternative variation, with the faux news that Tony Abbott's popularity fell to 37% and Gillard, despite all her woes, managed 40%, at a time when the Labor government remains firmly on the nose:

It remains to be seen whether Mr Micawber's wish fulfilment works and something turns up to convince the electorate to warm to the negative, carping, testosterone-driven angry aggressive and relentlessly negative Tony Abbott.

Sadly reading Henderson is a bit like porridge with raisins. He always leaves out the best bits ...

(Below: and here's the 1943 William Dobell painting of Joshua Smith which the philistine Menzies found so hard to handle. The original painting's now sadly lost and more on the controversy here).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments older than two days are moderated and there will be a delay in publishing them.