Saturday, June 15, 2013

Some mots juste and experiencing nausea with a medieval nobleman ...

Usually on a Saturday, it was the habit of the pond - the long absent lord and the completely stuffed "broadband" of Optus willing - to drop in on the thoughts of Christopher Pearson in the lizard Oz.

Such a loose connection. "Broadband" and Optus ...

Never mind, those days are gone, just as many other days go... but thanks to Guy Rundle, we now have some mot juste notions to send Pearson on his way, chief amongst them that he turned into God's Maoist.

When the pond first knew Pearson he was a delusional Adelaide Maoist, who could stop anyone on the way to a wedding and explain to them the virtues of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot.

Now enough was known at the time of Pol Pot and his works to understand that this was a form of madness. But you couldn't talk any sense with Pearson or the Adelaide University mob (okay, the pond was Flinders, want to make something of it?)

There's none so deluded as those who will not see or listen ...

Unless you happen to think that it would be a good idea to ship the city elites, the Pearsons, the Nick Caters, and all the other reptiles at the lizard Oz out to Barraba to become farm workers and tend the wheat fields, so they could learn to be upright peasant citizens.

Hey, maybe there's something to be said for that ideology.

It was entirely possible at the time to think the Vietnam war was wrong, and to think that United States' policies had helped spawn the perverted rule of the Khmer Rouge, without at the same time thinking that persecution of intellectuals and innocents was the way forward (or the persecution of the poor bloody conscripts sent to the war by conservative politicians of the cowardly kind).

It truly was astonishing to see alleged intellectuals roaming around Adelaide in Maoist guise, worshipping the thoughts of a mass murderer, when Mao would have had them for breakfast …

But there's something about extremists and fundamentalists that always yearns for the extremes, and it's very easy to flip their polarity, reverse them, with one fundie form of thought replaced by another equally fundie strain.

The pond is reminded of a recent story in Harpers of a woman who started out a vagrant hippie flower child, and then ended up a fundamentalist prejudiced American Christian. (Blinded by the Right? by T. M. Luhrmann, but if you don't have a Harper's sub, you can find a few quotes here in How hippie Christians became evangelical conservatives)

So it was with Pearson, who flipped and ended up a more extreme Pellist than Pell, what with his idle talking up of the Latin mass and his infatuation with the more bizarre antics of fundie extremists within the Catholic church.

Two lines of a Yeats' poem always springs to mind when thinking of Pearson.

The worst are full of passionate intensity and the centre will not hold.

Pearson knew little of balance or the centre, which is why Rundle's analysis is more than a clever turn of phrase in vale Christopher Pearson, God's Maoist (behind the paywall):

Like many of that movement, Pearson began to depart the Left when the Left began to depart from a "Promethean" vision -- that communism would be achieved by the total domination of external nature, and the total freedom of humanity -- and became a Left of limits: environmental, social, cultural. By the late '70s, it was all over bar a hard slog, less the God That Failed than the God That Lost. Pearson settled into what could well be regarded as the world's longest lunch. After John Bray's death in the '90s, he moved gradually towards the light and was received by Mother Church in 1999. Inevitably, he went to the ultramontane Tridentine, Latin mass end of things. Yes, he became God's Maoist. 

The only variant allowable? Perhaps God's Adelaide Maoist in recognition of the fetid atmosphere when Pearson began to flower, and learn the art of screwing contributors to his publication (a technique still on view many years later at the Huffington Post).

The most disturbing aspect of Pearson's legacy? Well you could take his acceptance by John Howard and Tony Abbott as indicating their flexibility and generosity.

Or you could take it as a sign of their ideological rigidity and inflexibility and their willingness to deal with a fellow traveller who was as crazed when worshipping in Pell's church as he was when he worshipped in Pol Pot's cadre.

Or perhaps it's the same sort of flexibility that allowed Howard to trawl for the votes of the Exclusive Brethren, and never mind dealing with a cult.

What makes a form of fundamentalist acceptable to political parties? How can a leopard change their spots? Well they don't, they simply switch polarities. That's not to say that travelling through life it's necessary to start out with a set of ideas, and never adjust or modify or change them.

But there's something about cults and extremism and fundamentalism that appeals to certain people and it crosses party, ideological, philosophical and religious lines. The pond trawls the crazies of the right, but there are ratbags of the left (think the attention-seeking Paul Howes or Gra Gra Richardson).

They often start out in student politics, flexing their muscles, pounding the walls, playing theoretical rugger bugger games with the other side, seeking an inside edge.

Generally it involves a deluded capacity to think that they are the ones who should be blessed with power, that they are the ones who know what is best for others. Inevitably at one point or another they'll start setting it all down in the pages of the lizard Oz ...

Which is perhaps why the reptiles at the lizard Oz should be turned into farm workers. It couldn't harm them could it?

Why it might even make them shut up about intellectuals and latte elites and what a fine cultural and intellectual titan, if Latin mass barking mad fundie, Pearson was, and never mind that he helped in the degutting and destruction of SBS, and in the management of perhaps the most risible Howard legacy of all, the so-called national museum.

And at this point, Optus permitting, the pond was going to move on to other topics, other writers, since the reptiles at the wizard Oz will simply fragment and multiply, a bit like the brooms in that Mickey Mouse cartoon celebrating classical music.

But what do you know, the brooms are already out in force.

Like this:

More humbug and nausea than anyone should feel entitled to on a Saturday.

For the decade that I contributed to The Adelaide Review, Christopher was an impresario of ideas, a rigorous editor and a generous paymaster. I came to rely on him almost as a medieval nobleman might rely on his food taster. 

A medieval nobleman!? A bloody Maoist Pol Pot loving food taster ...

Dear sweet absent lord, think about what you're scribbling as a metaphor man!

And you want more humbug and hypocrisy? A refusal to acknowledge anything, a desire to airbrush the past, much like an airbrush artist at work in Playboy?

Cop this:

To some of his former allies and friends on the Left, Christopher's evolution was simply inauthentic. A better interpretation, I think, is that he had summoned up the courage to choose one way of life over another. His view was that he had surrendered some instincts to realise deeper ones. 

Uh huh, because well you know to be gay is just to be so shallow ... to be gay is to indulge in base basic instincts.

You know bias is so ingrained in Abbott, such deep prejudice, that he simply doesn't begin to understand how offensive he sounds. Or how offensive Pearson's self-loathing was ...

Again, he wasn't the first person to find the spirit more compelling than the flesh as he became older. He could, of course, simply have lived with contradiction. Ultimately, he opted for what he considered the more honourable course for him. He made what he thought was the best choice in his particular circumstances and stayed true to it. 

By golly they must have packed a lot of spirit into the food and the drink ... because it seems to the pond he didn't leave the flesh as he became older, he catered to the flesh, and in the usual way, if you abandon one part of the body, another part of the body will attempt to compensate.

To know Christopher well was to have a grandstand seat at the clash of mighty emotions as well as to have the benefit of a fine mind and a good heart. As his readers know, he was often hard on people but he was rarely harder on others than he was on himself. The Christian virtue he most struggled with was forgiveness; especially self-forgiveness. 

Oh dear sweet absent lord ..

 In his writings, as in his life, Christopher opened windows for people through which they could see into different worlds. He had an extraordinarily broad taste for life and a gift for sharing it. He was a complex man, in some ways a torn character, but to be at all close to him was to receive a practical education in the human condition. 

 Thanks to Christopher, people have insights they would not have had and wouldn't even have known they were missing. For many, certainly for me, the world is now painted in richer, truer colours. 

The richer truer colours of a man given to self-loathing and fundamentalism.

And now you can see why Rundle's thoughts are mots justes, and why we now have a beast, tinged with fundamentalism, slouching towards Bethlehem ... or perhaps Canberra.

So it goes, but it turns out that something is seriously wrong on the intertubes and so the pond will now head off to spend a couple of hours arguing with Optus, leaving you with these thoughts ...

The Optus The, or if you speak German, Die Optus Die

The Malcolm Turnbull copper loving broadband plan The - go on, translate it into German ...

The Tony Abbott luddite understanding of the intertubes and crazed religious fundies The ...

Sprechen ze Deutsche, silver plate? Should it be Optus Die, or Opus Dei?

Meanwhile, be careful of ideology and ideologues and the religious and religiosity and the extremes, when live and let live is such a simple philosophy and so hard to carry out with style ...

(Below: the pond being trampled by new members of the lizard Oz commentariat. Off to the wheat fields with them).  


  1. There seems to some sort of biological imperative that erstwhile lefties turn to the far right in their dotage. Another case in point is Brendan O'Neill.


  2. Coming from Adelaide and observing that unbelievable dichotomy between humanity and dogma first hand among those of the Maoist, Trotskyist, Stalinist and the Che Guevara lot there I know exactly what you mean. They were ideologues of the first order and so it didn't surprise me to see Pearson, one among a multitude, swing from far left to far right. Ideology is paramount, the heart is irrelevant. Moderation is not a trait of the ideologue.

    One of the most revealing things I can remember about that time is sitting between and avowed Marxist and and avowed Nazi (the non violent type and a decent bloke other than for his politics) at one of the bars near Adelaide University and listening to them arguing over the 'purity' of their philosophy. All I could see was a mountain of skulls, something that was denied by both. It appeared that both lacked empathy, a sure sign of the the ideologue, something which I would accuse most of our parliamentarians of as well.

    PS. Love your blog, it's one of the first things I read in the morning.

  3. Age and alcohol generally I think. Really, moving from Maoism to Neo-Nazism or Objectivism is not much of a step, and at least Pearson became more of a moderate than that in his dotage. However it with be a cold day in hell before I forgive any of the old Maoists out there. Once an evil crank, always an evil crank... Glen H

  4. As for the polarity flip,from what I've observed,it's nothing more than the good old 'quid'.Money seems to have the kool aid effect and from there on in the brain ceases to have any empathy for anyone without any of that money/power.Richarson is a nice easy example.When you put Rundle's piece next to Abbott's you really do want to scratch your head or maybe even poke yourself in the eye with a stick.God help us all if Abbott becomes PM,although I think your bet that he will be flicked before the end of his second term is a good bet.
    At the rate journo's are currently being flipped onto the scrapheap we may well see them out there in the fields yet,and the shovel can be very therapeutic for an overactive and unempathetic mind sometimes.

  5. (The original Anon)

    I think it's something to do with the lust for power and control. As it slips away from you, so you seek another incarnation. You see it in Abbott. "I'll do anything but sell my arse". That quote alone should condemn him for all eternity for any right-minded person.

  6. Ah. So O'Neill is yet another Marxist who swapped one form of extremism for another. Interesting. I suppose I should google to find out a bit more about him, but frankly I can't be arsed.

    I thought Rundle's obituary was fascinating. I loved where he said he once asked Pearson (over the phone) if he actually believed the stuff he came out with. Rundle said he could almost hear him grinning over the phone. I can imagine it. Pearson really was like the Cheshire Cat. He even looked like him.

    The few columns by Pearson that I read were tiresome, self-satisfied drivel, but I did really enjoy one where he wrote about what he did for Christmas. Pate-de-Foi-Gras, flambe quail, Krug champagne, lobsters, gifts for himself of leather bound volumes of Shakespeare, Cuban cigars... all topped off with a few days break on Norfolk Island, "which you can probably pay for with your Frequent Flyer points..." You can almost hear him grinning in that column too.


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