Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The pond absolutely refuses to fawn over the abject scribbles of our very own prattling Polonius ...

(Above: by Zhang Hongtu, more at the Saatchi gallery here)

The pond is terribly excited today, what with Malcolm Turnbull announcing the coalition's plans to transform, redeem, enhance, and improve the NBN.

Of course people and elephants with long memories - if harking back to 2010 can count as a long memory - will fondly remember headlines like Abbott orders Turnbull to demolish NBN:

Tony Abbott has ordered Malcolm Turnbull to "demolish" the Government's National Broadband Network (NBN) as he today brought him back to the Coalition frontbench to head up its communications portfolio.

Oh those were the grand days, when "destroy" and "demolish" were flung around like hand grenades.

Who knew they were merely code for build more cheaply, and likely enough, fuck it up in the process if you can.

Oh yes, it'll be quicker and cheaper, a bit like getting it from a two dollar store stocked with goods made in China. What a pity we'd be better off with broadband made in China, minus that great big Conroyian filter for all that they also install as a bonus.

But that's for later in the day. Early risers like the pond have to be content with the dull grey dawn in Sydney and the dull grey thoughts of inner city Sydney elitist Gerard Henderson, the prattling ponce of tedious Polonius prose.

Now time and again, and despite a deep hostility to gambling being promoted on television, the pond has proposed to Tom Waterhouse that he open a book on Henderson's columns - guessing the number of times "inner city elite", or deviant pervert ABC cardigan wearer might turn up is surely a better bet than who might score the first try in a thugger bugger game of boofheads.

With Gillard in China, Waterhouse would have been forced to offer extremely short odds that Henderson would turn to the theme of China himself, drag the Maoists out of the cupboard and rattle the chains in a fierce and shocking manner, and sure enough there he goes in Foster ties with China, but do so in broad context. (forced video at end of link)

Of course you can't explain this sort of nuanced approach to Clive Palmer, who has just recently placed an order of 117 animatronic dinosaurs for Palmer Coolum Resort from central China, and even named the T-Rex Jeff, presumably in honour of Queensland deputy premier Jeff Seeney (Billionaire Clive Palmer orders 117 Chinese dinosaurs for Sunshine Coast resort, forced video at end of link).

Strangely, our Polonius's survey of Chinese history is strangely indecisive and inconclusive.

He does all the right things, referencing Xu Want's self-portrait in the Archibalds (why not take a look at the finalists instead of boring yourself with Henderson by trotting off here), and a briefing paper by Foreign Affairs and AG warning of the dangers for dual nationals doing business in China, and Mao's duplicity, and the folly of the famine and fifty million dead - some propose seventy million - and the purges and Sidney Rittenberg recanting and advising the world that Mao was a monster - as if the rest of the world had done a Rittenberg and failed to notice.

It's like a quick "greatest hits and memories" of fear the dangerous devious Orientals to the north, but the trouble comes when Henderson has to step from Mao to the present.

The rattling of the cages has to be cast aside, and Polonius has to adopt the guise of Machiavelli ... well at least Lord Palmerston ... to suggest a pragmatic approach to China, what with them liking Australia's iron ore, and Australia just loving the cash in the paw.

To do otherwise would put him out there with the likes of Barners.

So in a calm, measured way, Polonius urges Australia to embrace China in a pragmatic way, sounding quite Maoist in the process - the market is like water, and the iron ore is like fish.

We shouldn't forget other Asia Pacific nations and we should value the American presence and so on and so on ...

It's political correctness gone mad, but it does contain one interesting statement:

As Wang's work demonstrates, it was wrong to fawn over Mao in the 1960s and '70s. And it would be wrong for Australia to determine our contemporary policies with respect to what the Chinese leadership wants.

Yes, but that's as banal as saying

...  it would be wrong for Australia to determine our contemporary policies with respect to what Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer want, especially when it comes to China, or to determine our contemporary policies with respect to what agrarian socialists such as Barnaby Joyce want ...

But more to the point who did the fawning?

Oh sure there were the deluded Maoists, lick spittle fellow travellers blind to the sociopathic ways of Mao.

But was Nixon wrong to go to China?

Was Whitlam wrong to normalise relationships with China?

It might stick in the craw of Henderson to acknowledge it - how he dislikes the Whitlam era - but the slow steady dragging of China towards a market economy and greater domestic freedom began with that normalisation. It might be called fawning, but it might also be called simply pragmatic, and it's better if it continues.

Mao died, and the people he repressed replaced him, and China kept changing.

Contrast what the ongoing demonisation, alienation and exclusion of North Korea has wrought - a truly sociopathic and erratic state.

It reminds the pond of one of Marshall McLuhan's better insights, as presented in Understanding Media, though it came via another dictator, Sukarno (who developed a theory of guided democracy to disguise his autocracy):

Since the best way to get to the core of a form is to study its effect in some unfamiliar setting, let us note what President Sukarno of Indonesia announced in 1956 to a large group of Hollywood executives. He said that he regarded them as political radicals and revolutionaries who had greatly hastened political change in the East. What the Orient saw in a Hollywood movie was a world in which all the ordinary people had cars and electric stoves and refrigerators. So the Oriental now regards himself as an ordinary person who has been deprived of the ordinary man's birthright. That is another way of getting a view of the film medium as monster ad for consumer goods. In America this major aspect of film is merely subliminal. Far from regarding our pictures as incentives to mayhem and revolution, we take them as solace and compensation, or as a form of deferred payment by daydreaming. But the Oriental is right, and we are wrong about this In fact the movie is a mighty limb of the industrial giant. That it is being amputated by the TV image reflects a still greater revolution going on at the center of American life. It is natural that the ancient East should feel the political pull and industrial challenge of our movie industry. The movie, as much as the alphabet and the printed word, is an aggressive and imperial form that explodes outward into other cultures.

The wording reads quaint these days, but the heart of the idea stays in place.

Gillard, in her current bout of speech-making, was also on about the implications of materialism:

"So in the decade ahead, I want China to find in Australia a welcome friend rich in the skills and knowledge which underpin civic life: from regulatory and legal standards for urban planning and construction, to health and welfare services, to complex infrastructure like water management and sanitation." 
 Throughout this trip to China the Prime Minister has been keen to emphasise not just the economic connections between the two countries, but also the potential for social connections. (Gillard to outline regional vision in Beijing speech).

Remarkably Chinese Australians now make up 4-5% of Australia's population (Chinese Australian), a long way from the days of the White Australia policy, and it is on this level of interaction that further changes will happen, and who knows, conservative commentators might then be able to reference the work of a Chinese Australian artist turning up in the Archibalds.

Take a simple comparison. Does anyone these days refract the relationship of Australia with Cambodia through the history of Pol Pot?

There's no doubt that the shadow of Pol Pot and the camps looms large in the mind of a pond acquaintance who emerged from them to carve out a life in Australia. But in a larger sense that country now has very different issues from the days of the killing fields ...

Surely it's about time the rattling of the cage in relation to Mao is replaced by an understanding of some of the current predicaments facing China and its leaders, not least the way that managing such a large population leads to continuing abuse, not just of the people and their rights, but of the environment in which the people live ...

If a car in every home is a human right, how to avoid the toxic air that comes with it?

There are bigger issues than Polonius dreams of with his nostalgic chatter about fawning over Mao and his fond memories of the righteous bamboo curtain ...

(Below: and while we're in the arts sphere, the pond liked the wilful classicism smack-down of DJ Koons v DJ Carravagio in Michael Zavros's Bad Dad)

Zavros at one point made a poignant comment on the crisis in capitalism and Gerard Henderson's mind by observing an interior in Milan:

We keed, we keed. More Zavros here.

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