There is a lot of discussion about the hate, disinformation, misinformation, lies and prejudice which have characterised the Voice debate.
But there is an additional response which is odd – the sneering at the proposal.
Some years ago the blog was at a function at the Melbourne Club. It is not a member needless to say, although was once asked if they wanted to join but passed for a variety of reasons including that it would probably be blackballed.
On the fringe of a group the blog listened to their braying conversation, which was not about the topic about to be discussed at the function, but rather the Rudd Government’s proposed NBN.
What was striking was that they didn’t discuss the merits or otherwise of the plan but rather sneered at the very idea. One woman in the group, an occasional News Limited columnist, sneered about the NBN saying it would no doubt be used for brain surgery. Everyone guffawed. Guffawing is a noted characteristic of reactionaries of a certain age – particularly the male ones.
In 1993 Susan Sontag’s plan to bring a production of Waiting for Godot to Sarajevo during the war met the same response. The sneers were about the pointlessness of culture in a war (lucky Homer didn’t know that) and the pretentiousness of imagining that it might make a difference. Needless to say it had an audience and achieved some resonance among those who saw it. We see a similar spirit in Ukraine today.
Exactly the same responses to the NBN and Waiting for Godot are being manifested in the No campaign with the addition of some very nasty, dishonest claims and tactics.
First Nations Australians have been, like Godot and the characters in Casablanca waiting, waiting and waiting for recognition and a voice in what happens to them.
Instead, they have been confronted by the most vicious and dishonest campaign in Australian history marked by many such campaigns. After all we were told in the 18th century that the French were coming (in fact they had already been – making them the second by some 60,000 years.)
Then it was the Russians which got us the Portsea barracks in Victoria. Then it was the Chinese and we showed our gratitude to their gold mining efforts by rioting against them. After that it was just about anyone of colour with some short-term exceptions when labour was needed in tropical agriculture.
The Russian and Chinese threat got reprised regularly with the famous DLP ads of big red arrows thrusting out of a map of China towards Australia. Any modern-day versions of the same map would feature the arrow going the opposite way as it recorded our trade flows. Sadly anti-China warmongers want us to still believe the opposite.
But this latest outbreak of hate, racism and sneering is about us and how the world will see us. It also about the Americanisation of Australian political campaigning with the tactics of the Trumpist right being used again and again in Australian political campaigns and now in the No campaign.
One of the ironies of it all is the long-term damage it might do to Australia’s right-wing parties – damage indicated by the huge divide in opinions of the Voice and support for respective political parties.
The 2022 election revealed historic changes in voting behaviour. The Liberals lost seats in heavily Chinese populated areas after they continued the anti-Chinese rhetoric of the 1950s and 1960s. The Liberal Party share of the female vote – a share which was important to Robert Menzies’ long rule – was the lowest in Liberal Party history.
Young voters have also deserted the Liberals. The old saw about being a communist at 20 and a conservative at 40 has many authors and versions but whichever it was it was treated as reality for a long time despite no longer being accurate.
But the difference today, in terms of attitudes to First Nations people, may be the nature of Australian education where knowledge of First Nations culture and history is imbued from the earliest days.
The blog is fond of recounting the time at the World Heritage site Budj Bim in south-western Victoria when the First Nations guide asked the group what the colours of the First Nations flag stood for. Immediately the arm of a boy who might have been a pre-schooler or a bit older shot up his hand and gave the correct answer. In the not to distant future he will be voting.
Ditto the women who deserted the Liberal Party in droves in 2022, particularly in formerly safe seats, and their daughters. Women, the young and others don’t sneer at the aggressive and dishonest tactics of the Morrison and Dutton form of leadership. They despise, resent and reject it.
It now looks likely that, barring last minutes shifts which sadly rarely occur in that magnitude, the evening of October 14 will probably see the blog and many others grieving while Dutton et al are celebrating, sneering and braying.
They should savour the moment as demography is against them. Indeed, it may well be that the ultimate outcome will be similar to that experienced by King Pyrrhus of Epirus 2302 years ago.
And according to a few reports in the media this week a few Press Gallery journalists are detecting a slight awareness of that among some Liberals.
On the subject of sneering, by the way, many politicians have sneered at Greta Thunberg. Now, a study by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), reported in Nature Briefing (13/9), shows that almost a third of Swiss people changed their daily habits as a result of the five years of Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future climate strikes by making changes to their transportation, buying and recycling habits in the wake of the protests.