Saturday, January 19, 2013

Keep calm, the commentariat is here to ensure there's tedium and ennui ... and not even a coffee for relief ...

(Above: the pond's thought bubble for the day from a guaranteed bubble)

You know you've reached the bottom of the barrel when the commentariat start quoting the commentariat, as the tedious Christopher Pearson does in his truly tedious column Abbott cannot fight Gillard's sentimentality (inside the paywall, so you can run wild and free for the weekend).

Among the commentariat, Niki Savva has an unusual depth of political experience and nous. She has grasped, better than anyone, the nuances of the political shadow play that is now going on in Canberra with the leitmotif of sentimentality. In doing so she has discerned something the leadership group of the Coalition has yet to address: this is a battle Abbott cannot win.

Strange. The pond had always thought of "commentariat" as a whimsical, contemptuous term for a contemptible breed of leeches, but Pearson seems completely in favour of the term.

It is after all a portmanteau joining of commentary and proletariat, making the ironic point that only fools believe the proles are given the keys to scribbling in Murdoch la la land.

Never mind, the main point that Pearson makes is that Julia Gillard is a woman and that's simply not fair:

The cleverness of the Gillard campaign is not that it presents positive reasons to vote for her but that it stops many of his counter-moves dead in their tracks. When the Prime Minister talks in sentimental terms about her father, she not only expresses her softer side but stops Abbott using the term shame in relation to her government. When she calls him a misogynist and this is accepted by the majority of women in the 25-34 demographic, this neuters Abbott's paid parental leave scheme, designed to appeal to precisely this cohort. They will never accept a women-friendly policy from someone they think is a misogynist, no matter how good it is. The polls suggest Abbott's attempts to compete in the sentimentality stakes are not garnering him any support and he may as well forget them.

Oh the cruelty, oh the injustice. Bloody women, can't live with 'em and can't live without 'em.

Apparently this Gillardian treachery is a tried and true combination of sentimentality and vindictiveness specially imported from the United States by a UK political apparatchik. The deviant pervert ...

Who'd have thunk and so what's to be done?

Surely it's harden the fuck up time Tony Abbott?

Of course not. It's time for more of the apocalypse, of doom-saying and neigh-saying and hoping that everything will fuck up.

The question is, is there an effective counter to this approach? The answer is yes. Reality will still trump sentimentality. As Savva put it: "Loving families, loyal staff and lost parents are critical to leaders as are people's perceptions of them. However, the election will be determined by the policies leaders espouse." As John Howard said, it is a mistake to underestimate the common sense of the Australian voter. This is Labor's Achilles heel. No amount of fiscal juggling on the part of Wayne Swan will disguise the fact the economy is showing signs of accelerating deterioration. 

Yes, it's back to Hanrahan and "we'll all be rooned" as a political strategy. The economy's going off the cliff. Everyone be very afraid. Including Christopher ...

It seems that Pearson has caught a poll-driven whiff of the fears and the vapours, and so he wants Dr. No to return to the good old days of nattering nabob-style negativity.

Harden the fuck up Mr. Abbott. Attack, attack, attack, like the attack dog you are:

The response to all this appeal to gooey social media hype so beloved of the Twitter-addicted press gallery should be for the Coalition to go back to basics, appealing to a wide constituency with good policies. 

Damn you Canberra elites, damn you and your eggy gooeyness. What's this idle natter about "good policies"? What use of good policies when there's nattering negativity to hand:

In the meantime it can run a bit of an attack campaign of its own, showing how the government's alliance with the Greens has produced a program that will cripple the private sector and impoverish the states; after all, roughly 80 per cent of Australians work for one or other of these entities. Various groups such as the Australian Institute of Energy Policy, the Business Council and the Productivity Commission have shown how red tape is slowing investment and limiting productivity. There are plenty of examples of how environmental laws are threatening investment (Woodside's gas refinery at James Price Point is one $40 billion case among many). Many a small business is battling against insolvency as a result of the fair work laws and the Albanese transport arrangements are driving up the price of inland and coastal freight. 

Run a bit of an attack campaign of its own? We're all going to be crippled and impoverished, we're all going to be rooned? That's the best advice Pearson has to offer?

Yes, we'll all be ruined, and it's no, no, no, and neigh, neigh, neigh, and luckily Pearson is to hand to point out how Australians only work for the private sector or the states (and let us not forget, as we right that ship of state, that Australia itself is a body politic, one constituting a nation, and so indeed a state).

Amazing, when you think about it, that Australians either work in the private or the government sector. Now there's a first class insight. (Even if it doesn't take into account the .01% working for the forthcoming alien invasion).

And so let's move forward with some nattering negativity:

An ageing population is placing enormous pressure on state-based services just at a time when the Gillard government wants the states to pick up half the tab for expensive changes. 

Is it at last time to implement the ultimate policy as this aging population tortures the politicians? Soylent green ....

Well it's a positive angle, a positive policy moving forward, as we must.

This must mean shrinking state government activities elsewhere, predominantly in infrastructure, which will have a negative impact on productivity and fewer jobs in areas such as construction. 

Yes, shrink, like they've shrunk in Queensland, turfed out on their ear, and what a happy state it is.

The alternative is wholesale reform of government designed to get it off the backs of the private sector and the states, improvements in public-sector productivity and innovation in the delivery of services such as the NDIS and education so they become more affordable. 

And how about requiring that members of the commentariat be sent to rural regions for self-criticism, reform, and some useful work, like fruit picking?

You don't get that with hearts and flowers and wishful thinking.

Indeed, indeed, but you do get to heaven with hearts and flowers and wishful thinking and a godly amount of flesh and blood, thanks to the wondrous concept of transubstantiation.

God help Tony Abbott, if She feels so inclined, if he pays any attention to all to Pearson as a political strategist.

But hold on, the editor of the lizard Oz, and the pond don't want you to go away feeling dudded, feeling addled brained and empty handed, and so there's a bonus this morning, in the form of Angela Shanahan going on a rant about Canberra in Coffee-crazed sophisticates desperate to 'transform' Canberra (hidden behind the paywall so you can drink your coffee in peace).

You can usually find this sort of tosh being written about the forgotten charms of Hobart, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin, and yes, even Brisbane, and as always there needs to be enemies to froth and foam at (eastern staters, northerners, southerners, and so on).

Canberra is the best kept secret in Australia, and it is about time that the coffee-swilling, faux sophisticates of the major cities realised that the capital of our country is the most liveable city in the world. Canberra has problems, mostly caused by its terrible government, but for quality of life for the largest proportion of the citizenry no place can touch it.

Uh huh. It's the usual mind-glazing, numbing display of parochial stupidity and defensiveness, flinging around a faux or two.

Now all we need is a bunch of cliches, stereotypes and mind-numbingly banal observations to round out the picture. By golly, does the defensive Shanahan deliver in spades:

This, of course, engenders plain old jealousy and negativity: a great sheep paddock, no culture, no night life, too clean. And, from Sydney relatives, the ultimate insult: no beach! This despite the fact that most Sydney dwellers spend as long driving to the beach as I do to the pristine south coast. 

Yes Sydney. Canberra is young and alive!

It is highly multicultural, but not in a self-conscious way that needs a built "Italian" precinct, as in Sydney's Leichhardt, even though the Italians moved out years ago. It has a highly cultivated mixed population. It has all the great national institutions, so ordinary Canberra folk can go to a Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition from Paris one day and scream at the Raiders football game the next.

Without apparently understanding either the implications of Toulouse-Lautrec or "stick a finger up your opponent's bum" boofhead rugby league. But do go on:

Canberrans enjoy the bush like nowhere else in a city deliberately planned around it. It was the first place I ever saw kangaroos in the wild, 1km from the town centre - rus in urbis indeed. 

So all those movies showing Skippy in the streets really are true. Oh Australia hurrah.

What is more, unlike opinion writers, ordinary Australians come from everywhere to see their capital and are very proud of it. 
 But none of this is good enough for the Canberra knockers. 

Standing by. Surely Shanahan is about to turn into a Canberra knocker. But not just yet, first there's Melbourne to knock:

For people, usually from Melbourne, whose sophistication centres around a coffee fetish, the bush, the wildlife, the friendliness and politeness of the people, the community spirit and, in particular, the ease of life is just confirmation of what a hick town Canberra is instead of being the hallmark of a really civilised place. 

Yes, that's the soggiest, sorriest, bunch of defensive cliches the pond has come across in quite awhile. Are we ready to start the knocking?

 These people are under the illusion city life should be tough. However, what the silly perpetual knocking of the "Canberra is a joke variety" has done is to cover up the things that really are going wrong with the city. In fact, the very things the faux sophisticates think are good about cities, particularly urban density, is, perversely, precisely what is wrong for Canberra.

Yes, we are and that's the funniest thing of all.

After all that defensive tripe, Shanahan spends the rest of the column bagging Canberra up hill and down dale in a way that will strike any outsider as slightly mad, and way worse than any faux coffee-addicted sophisticate could manage.

It's a rant about high-density development, and chaotic city planning, and self-government, and the Greens, and the number of public servants in town (something is not right about this), and lavish expenditure, and lordy lordy, by the end of it,your average faux sophisticate from Sydney or Melbourne is marvelling at the fear and loathing on view.

Now it's true these sorts of rants are a dime a dozen. You can find any number explaining how the north shore of Sydney is being ruined by the influx of people. Or Adelaide ... or Hobart ... though few with such a nakedly silly juxtaposition of 'roos in the street with coffee drinkers, and suck it up Melbourne and Sydney.

Which leads the pond to think that the very worst problem Canberra faces, the real existential crisis to its ability to continue to run wild - free of faux coffee and faux sophistication - and upwardly striving and boldly moving forward - without actually changing in any way - is that Angela Shanahan lives in the town.

Get rid of Shanahan and the problem's solved. People will discover the hidden secret that Canberra is a great town, and people will flock there, fleeing their trendy inner urban enclaves, and there will come a need for high density development, and people will be huddled together like sardines ...

Oops ...

Yes, it's just another day of fuzzy thinking in Murdoch la la land.

And now, since the pond is developing and expanding the theory that reading the commentariat is an activity that usually ranges from the tedious to the mega-boring, there's time for a mention of Francis Alÿs, who has a wiki here.

The pond caught a couple of favourite old Alÿs' videos at the Melbourne rust bucket (as we fondly think of the ACCA exhibition building) over the break, and the exhibition is continuing on through to early March.

However some might argue that visiting Melbourne to see old video art is a concept that ranges from the tedious to boring.

The good news is that Alÿs has put some of his videos up online, and they can be found here, including samples of the Alÿs' Railings series, in which a man drums a stick against buildings, railings, whatever, as he walks the streets. It drives some people mad, others will find the percussive effect pleasing.

Unfortunately, the online samples don't include the pond's favourites - one features Alÿs charging into dust devils with a camera, and another follows a bunch of the Queen's Guard marching through the streets of London, joining together to form a large marching mass of men, before abruptly stopping and disbanding. This isn't so much video art - there's so much video art to loathe in the world - as an actual film, nicely shot and cut, with a beginning, middle and end (and as Godard didn't say, in the right order).

Now you might love or loathe Francis Alÿs already, but it's the pond's contention that there's more to life than reading a self-satisfied commentariat scribbling about the mindset of the commentariat, which perforce is reflexively noted by the pond here, as if somehow it's important ...

Realistically picking the wings off flies would be more meaningful ... and make for better performance art ...

(Below: and now in the spirit of Alÿs, the pond offers its very own observation of Melbourne).

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