Monday, June 24, 2013

Forget any talk of the north, have another sip of kool-aid and Greg Melleuish ...

The pond is the essence of patience, and so it's waiting ... waiting ... waiting ...

For an in-depth analysis of Tony Abbott's "head north pilgrims" policy adventure which landed with a resounding thud of disinterest only a few days ago ...

Better keep cultivating that patience ...

Top of the digital whirl of doom today at l'Age?

Say what?

Make that man leader at once ...

Oh wait, the review is just a leak from the other side, as you can read in Rudd to blame for Labor disaster, says Gillard poll review, and is just part of the most excellent destabilisation campaign being conducted by the "squirrel" media.

Other contributors? Well why not drag out a woman to toe l'Age's editorial line, and scribble Make a graceful exit, PM, while you still can, with the poignant sub-header Your going wouldn't, in itself, set back the cause of women.

You can tell you're off in l'Age squirrel la la land by the notion that Gillard could at this point make a graceful exit, and there'd be no blood on the floor.

As for Kaye Darveniza, a Labor MP in the Victorian government, no doubt she means well, but it turns out that she offers as much help and guidance as that prime doofus Peter Beattie suggesting that Bob Hawke should be disinterred and become the peace maker between the warring parties.

Meanwhile, the real flavour of the paper, the tone setter, the "editor's pick" so to speak, swans in from Sydney to mount yet another generally grumpy assault.

Yes that's the real tone and flavour of the reprehensible rag.

Fine company for Kaye Darveniza to keep ...

As for that profound, in depth assessment of Tony Abbott's "head north pilgrims", with Gina as our patron? In your dreams, pilgrims ...

Naturally you won't find any discussion by the reptiles at the lizard Oz. They're still baying for blood, ferreting through the entrails, casting the runes, in a way so predictable it's as tedious to go o'er as it is to return ...

Which just leaves a tasty bon-bon for devotees of Monday nausea, and thankfully Greg Melleuish is on hand to deliver up Story didn't finish in 1975 (behind the paywall so you never have to care).

Now the pond is occasionally asked the meaning and origin of "Lickspittle", and it's obvious enough that it means abject toady or sycophant, and some sources date its first use to 1741, an honourable lineage though perhaps not as lengthy as lackey, which dates from the 1520s and comes from the middle French laquais, meaning footsoldier, footman, servant. It was only in the 1930s that its use as a term of abuse by communists came to stand for "servile follower".

Just as "lickspittle" or "lick-spittle" came into its own in the days of the Red Guard, routinely denouncing people as imperialist dogs, lick-spittle capitalists, lackeys of the USA, betrayers of the people and so forth and etc.

The pond isn't sure how these words came to attract Chinese and Korean communists so much, but they often turn up in company with running dog, which is apparently to say zǒu gǒu 走狗, or lackey or lapdog.

Still, they're more attractive than other western terms of abuse, such as ass kisser, since really, what's wrong with kissing arse? Unless you happen to be an angry Sydney Anglican ...

And what's wrong with being a "yes man" or "yes woman", since the alternative is to be a Tony Abbott in the grip of nattering negativity ...

But with this sort of history, perhaps it's a little kinder to talk of kool-aid drinkers, since that only references the drinking of kool-aid at the Jonestown massacre ...

Never mind, however you cut it, no doubt you want an example, and that's where Greg Melleuish delivers the bon-bon, because he opens his piece this way:

The well-deserved success of Nick Cater's The Lucky Culture raises an important question about historical writing about Australia. 
Recently we have also had George Megalogenis's The Australian Moment and Paul Kelly's The March of Patriots. It appears that our contemporary history is being written by journalists from The Australian!

Oh yes! Well-played. What a first class example of ... (insert preferred term here).

It's the use of the exclamation mark for emphasis - The Australian! - which beguiles the pond, conjuring as it does the difference between kool-aid and kool-aid!

And that's about it, because the rest of Melleuish's piece is a thought free zone, though it does also end with another resounding bit of kool-aid! drinking:

Cater, Megalogenis and Kelly have done a sterling job in keeping the study of contemporary Australian history alive. But surely the time has come for academic historians to cast away their old prejudices and enter the 21st century.

Sterling job! First class! Top notch! Oh pick me, pick me ...

And why are these bloody historians obsessed with the past? Always yammering on about long forgotten completely useless events. Like the leadership speculation in 1940 ...

Don't they know they should be writing the history of 2024 right now?!

Along the way, Melleuish gives us an idea of his simple-minded approach to history, which is to seize on dates, as a kind of symbolism. He blathers on  about 1963, then belabours 1975, and finally settles on 1983:

...a new Australia came into being, quite different from the old one. If it has a symbolic birth date, it is 1983 and the Hawke and Keating reforms.

Yes, it's that level of fatuousness, along with the notion that there needs to be competing stories about the past fifty years, as if there aren't any already plenty of them out there ...

As a clarion call to arms for historians, it's about as resounding and exciting as the sound of a one-armed Zen buddhist monk clapping somewhere in a silent forest ... can anybody hear?

So what's it really all about?

Well right at the bottom there's a mention of Melleuish's new book, in which he tries to do a Cater ... and did we mention that it's published by Connor Court?

Indeed. Nothing like sucking up while trying to draw attention to yourself ...

Meanwhile, where's Melleuish when it comes to looking at the mythologies of the northern food bowl, which has a long and splendid history?

Right at this moment this history needs to be dusted off, brushed up, and led out into the light of day ...

A history full of moonshine and delusions that was added to recently by kool-aid swilling Andrew Robb in Food bowl within reach (paywall affected).

Well if you want useful history and discussion, forget Melleuish, forget the mainstream media, forget the squirrels, forget the current idle chatter about leadership, and head off to The Conversation back in March, The only way is up? The northern Australian food bowl fantasy, which contains handy links, perhaps the most handy one to a short history of land use in northern Australia, in pdf form here.

Allow the pond to borrow a few key points:

1. Outside of eastern coastal Queensland, cropping has largely failed to establish in northern Australia despite many pioneering efforts and a long history of government subsidisation and agricultural research. Northern Australian history has many examples of failed agricultural developments that typically relied on profits from tax concessions and increasing land and share values rather than sale of agricultural products. 
2. Arable soils have been scarce in northern Australia and have not occurred in extensive contiguous areas. The arable soils themselves are typically of low fertility, low water holding capacity, highly erodible and prone to surface crusting. The climate is harsh with fluctuations between the wet and dry seasons causing numerous agronomic difficulties. 
3. Much of the motivation to develop agriculture in the north has been driven by pressures external to the region, and particularly by the defence imperative. For most of the past century, Indigenous interests, long term sustainability, economic viability, and environmental and ecological consequences of northern agricultural development have been ignored by researchers. 
4. In the absence of successful pioneering efforts at agricultural development, agronomic science was relied upon to lead the way for farmers. Despite many decades of intensive effort, it largely failed to achieve its goals. 
5. For northern Australia to meet the competing demands of society, food security, climate change and development pressure it will require research that is better able to integrate the agronomic, environmental and social sciences, with particular emphasis on economics and governance.

Amazingly, while writing this history, Garry Cook takes the story up to 2005, thereby confounding Greg Melleuish who seems to think it's all about 1983, though only the long absent god knows why...

Now is there any chance that the mainstream media will begin a major discussion of the new northern policy promoted by Abbott? Thus far not costed, not driven by markets, bearing no signs of any consideration of pragmatic policies ... thus far showing all the substance of fairy floss or gossamer, and with way less substance than the much reviled NBN.

Fat chance.


Not to worry, with a bit of luck and a good wind, and due course and thanks to leader Abbott, we can make life hell for New Zealanders, in the way that Indonesia has been making life difficult for Singaporeans these past few days ...

(Below: the good old days, found here at the Batchelor museum).


  1. Please Dorothy do not be such a stick in the mud you never know Tony might find he can use one of those super cane toads I spoke of the other day to tow the cropping machinery and have the Simpson desert bloom with canola.
    You must not forget he was given a scholarship by Rhode and must have learned something of value while cramped together with all those other wondrous clever dicks.

  2. How come no-one seems to recall the CSIRO review in 2009 on Sustainable Development in Northern Australia, which found that we might be able to increase grain production by a whopping 2% if we were to spend enough money and destroy enough of the environment? There are a few little problems with the dreams, like evaporation rates, the fact that most of the agriculture would be on flat land not suitable for dams. But I'm sure a quality farmer like Bill Heffernan would be able to tame the wild north.

  3. Dorothy, I must quibble (my inner pedant demands it).
    "Drinking the kool-aid" references San Francisco, not Jonestown. Its origin was reported in "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" by the redoubtable Tom Wolfe.
    Drinking the kool-aid in question would bring about not death (mores the pity), but hallucinations such as those recorded by the reptiles in the pages of the lizard Oz.

  4. Now Zoot the pond has no quibbles with inner or outer pedantry, and especially with a pedant with a love of Tom Wolfe, or even white suits, or even Ken Kesey and the merry pranksters, but Mr Wolfe and the pranksters were supplanted by Jonestown in the popular imagination.

    Now it's true that the liquid in question wasn't kool-aid, it was reportedly a Flavor aid liquid, but there were several tests at Jonestown which saw people drink a kind of kool-aid as a test:
    Such that there is an entire wiki piece on "drinking the kool-aid"

    These days of course it's gone beyond all that to become a cliche of the first water, and therefore embedded in the mind of the pond:

    In February 2012, "Drinking the Kool-Aid" won first place in an online poll by Forbes Magazine as "the single most annoying example of business jargon".

    So the pond will allow you Tom Wolfe, but alas and alack must insist you must allow Jonestown ...especially for use in water cooler conversations in your office.

    And yes Russ, is the pond tired that Abbott has been allowed all sorts of stupidities and policy nonsense, or what? And was Bill Heffernan on the ABC explaining how he'd turn the northern wilderness into a farm that the tidy Dutch would find beyond belief ...

    Now the pond must toddle off for another quaffing of the kool aid ...


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