New books

Having achieved the biblical age, at which all judges must be younger than me, I have decided to release a book a day over the last three days – partly to keep the house in order, and partly in case God takes a different view about departure times.  The three books just released are, like the recent one on Summers in Oxford and Cambridge, collections of notes and essays previously released.  I would hope that they might all suit the general reader.  The collection on legal history might be reserved for lawyers, but it should be mandatory for all of them.

There is plenty of choice for Christmas shopping.

There is a mighty footy match tonight – may peace be upon the Wallabies.  They have nearly restored my faith in sport.


Summers in Oxford and Cambridge and Elsewhere

A traveller’s reflections on history and philosophy – and place

Geoffrey Gibson




Reflections on Prague, Oxford, and the Cavalry and Guards Club


The philosophy of religion at Oxford


Berlin, Dresden, Paris, Oxford (Great Opera Singers), London, Cavalry and Guards and RAF Clubs


Oxford (Hume and Kant) and Cambridge (Post-Modernism – playing tennis with the net down)


Berlin and the World Cup


Wittgenstein at Oxford and Bach at Cambridge


Course taught by Dr David Smith


Touring the Highlands


Not keeping the peace at Cambridge and Chaucer at Oxford


This book is a collection of memoires or essays that were written in the course of travels to Oxford or Cambridge or both to attend summer schools.  There is a note on the philosophy of religion and a note on Cromwell, but otherwise the notes consist of anecdotes and reflections more on the places visited and the people I met there than on the subjects that were taught.

I am fortunate to have been able to make these excursions, and I hope that others may be encouraged to do the same.

Geoffrey Gibson


September 2015

41,000 words


Tilting at windmills

Geoffrey Gibson





Adolph and Richard

Meditating upon evil – Richard III (Shakespeare) and Adolf Hitler


Anna and Penny

A note on Anna Karenin and Penelope Cruz – mainly the former


Big Four of Shakespeare

My problems

A personal miscellany on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth


Chaucer and hierarchy

The medieval hierarchy of Chaucer


Courtliness and Courtesy

The role of courtliness and courtesy in Shakespeare


Covert acts in Hamlet

Mystery within mystery in Hamlet


Crime and Punishment

A note on the Dostoevsky novel


Crime Fiction

A note on the novels of Donna Leon


Dead Proud Heroes

The argument, as Milton used to call it, is that the heroes of our two great epics, The Iliad and Paradise Lost, fell through pride.  We have grown out of heroes who seek honour through valour and we have grown out of the myth that a woman was the author of our original sin.  We look to our epics for heroes for our times.  The hero of The Iliad is Priam.  He declares that he is human by breaking free of the cycle of revenge.  The hero of Paradise Lost is Satan.  He has the courage to defy authority and to break the ties that stopped our becoming human.  Our epics still show us what we are.


Doctor Zhivago

The great novel of Boris Pasternak


Falstaff, Tchaikovsky, and Gatsby

Serendipity, theatre, concert hall and the Storm


Four pilgrims in Chaucer

Four pilgrims in the Prologue for Oxford Summer School


Henry IV at the Globe

A great play in a great theatre


Imagination, snobbery, and enlightenment

The place of snobbery and meaning in literature



A note on the novel by D H Lawrence


Pasternak on Shakespeare

Thoughts of Pasternak on Shakespeare from two works


Poets in prose; and the First Fleet

Tony and Betty! Rope and Pulley!



Provincial Cooking

The art of prose of Elizabeth David


Rich and Will

Richard Burton on William Shakespeare


Riders in the Chariot

A great novel pf Patrick White


The novel as opera: dramatic truth

Thoughts on literary and historical meaning


Two big novels

Middlemarch and Les Miserables


Two novelists on Shakespeare

Tolstoy and Flaubert

24 Shakespeare’s Fan

John Keats idolised Shakespeare


Sons and Lovers – A Little Touch of Hamlet in the Night

D H Lawrence and Hamlet



The lines in Shakespeare that come from nowhere out of nothing


Who is that can tell me who I am?

The bottomless depth of King Lear


These essays and notes come from the last five years or so.  They come from a lawyer and they do not claim to be works of scholarship.  I have written elsewhere about Shakespeare, great writing in history, and our great novels.  About half of the present pieces relate to Shakespeare, some in an anecdotal manner, although the grip of the Big Four goes on.  Most of these have been published by the Melbourne Shakespeare Society.  The other pieces relate to other kinds of writing, from cooking to crime, but with a few on novels.  The two substantive essays deal with great peaks in our literature – the role of Achilles and Satan in our two greatest epics, and our two greatest characters, Falstaff and Don Quixote.  If you said that the whole book was Quixotic, I would he happy.

Geoffrey Gibson



Reformation Day (Martin Luther Day)


The 70th birthday of the author.

80,000 words


Papers on legal history

Geoffrey Gibson





1689 and 1789

Aide Memoire on Terminology

Different phases of constitutional change in England, France, and Russia


God Save Our Anglican Queen

Our Constitution is religiously biased in a way that is beyond us


Blackstone’s Magna Carta

A view of Magna Carta from the author of the American legal bible


The Role of Contract in the English Constitution

Why are English historians so coy about contract in their constitution?


The Dragon in the Cave

How America lost the War of Independence

As America continues to deal with the lesion of slavery and the separateness of black and white, its continuing fascination with God and guns means that it has not lived up to its revolutionary promise. The Americans do not understand the history of the English Constitution.  The decision of the Supreme Court in Heller is a throwback that puts into relief the failure of the nation to grow up.


English Serfs

What did serfdom mean in England?


Free Speech: Am I Free to Insult or Offend You?

The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely.

A look at some of the nonsense about ‘freedom of speech.’


Hampden: A Note

A first look at Ship Money


How Moses v Macferlan Enriched Our Law –

 Lord Mansfield’s Heresy

The origin of our law of Unjust Enrichment


Jury and Parliament

From adviser to the Crown to the protector of the people.  We have not done enough to recognise how the jury and the parliament are there to protect us.



How Do Public Servants Punish Us?


Positions of Trust: A Duty of Integrity

That we should know and respect our history does not entail that we should stay locked in jails built for other purposes.  The word ‘fiduciary’ causes people to go round in circles.


Sir Paul

The juristic work of Vinogradoff


The Ship Money Case

The case that stopped a nation: the biggest case ever?


The Trial of the Seven Bishops

Another case that stopped the nation – litigation as sport.


The Tyrannicide Brief

A review of The Tyrannicide Brief, Geoffrey Robertson, Vintage, 2006, PB $35.00 (429 pages).  (Written in 2006)


Three slippery words – liberty, freedom and prerogative

The ancients too were seduced by labels


800 Years On

Outlawry was a form of process, or unprocess, developed by Anglo-Saxons in the Dark Age when the notion of a judiciary was not known and when the only choice above this world was between God and Satan.  In the year of Our Lord 2015, the closest Australian advisers of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – still the Supreme Governor of the Church of England but not the Empress of India – are conducting an audible debate about reintroducing a form of outlawry by depriving people of their rights as citizens of the Commonwealth without any judgment of their peers.  If they persuade the parliament and Her Majesty to make a law to that effect, they will risk going back more than 800 years and breaking a promise made by the English Crown that it would not go or send against any free man except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.

It took the English about seven centuries to build the rule of law and the Westminster system, with a little help from the Americans at the end.  It will take only a fraction of that time to lose both.  We have already given up two essential parts: that the executive should be run by an apolitical civil service with secure tenure, and that ministers should be responsible to the parliament for the failings of that civil service.  There has been an obvious and sustained decline in the quality of people attracted to the parliament or the executive.  That decline has not yet substantially damaged the judiciary, but there is little ground to hope that the decline will be reversed, or that the judiciary will remain untainted.

In a real sense, a lot of our legal process goes back to Magna Carta, given, it is thought, on 15 June 2015.  English philosophers have ignored it.  English legal historians and too many judges have just got it wrong, including some who should have known better.  Curiously, it is better known and better understood in places like the U S and Australia that are used to working under a written compact that separates powers and that has the force of binding and supreme law.

Magna Carta is one of the title deeds of Western civilisation, and the most significant tablet of the law in our history.  It is worth celebrating its 800th birthday.


Some tips for young advocates


A great English judge, Lord Devlin, said that the ‘English jury is not what it is because some lawgiver so decreed, but because that is the way it has grown up’.  That is so true of almost every part of our law.  Our law is its history.

This is why anyone claiming to be a real lawyer, and not just a bean-counter or meter-watcher, needs to get hand to hand with our legal history.  It is a rollicking story going for more than a thousand years of a people with a genius for law-making while pretending that they were doing no such thing.  It is the story of how the world got its only workable way of protecting people against bullies and each other – whether in the form of government or at large.

That which took a millennium to construct could be washed down the drain in a generation.  We have already trashed two vital parts of our governance – responsible government, and an independent civil service – and we have been scandalously weak in standing up for juries.  These failings come in large part because we have chosen to forget and then betray our heritage.  Sadly, I see no prospect of that decline being reversed.

Geoffrey Gibson




31 October 2015

70 years to the day from his birth.

95,000 words


Essays on Modern History in England and Europe

Geoffrey Gibson

Melbourne, Australia, 2




1 A Remarkable Politician- Joseph Fouché

The life of Fouché, terrorist in the Revolution, who survived Robespierre and then Napoleon – a cold blooded killer who became the ultimate survivor.

2 A Secular State

A look at the impact of the Reformation on the rule of law and the secular state in England and France compared to Spain under Franco.

3 A C Grayling

The Philosophy of a Man and the Atom Bomb

A detailed study of the arguments about bombing cities and civilians.

4 Cromwell

A short analysis of Cromwell as dictator following a Summer School at Cambridge taught by Dr David Smith.

5 Foretelling Armageddon

The Two Books that Predicted the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

(With note on the Rise and Fall as they happened)

An essay on how Keynes and Hitler wrote books that predicted in detail the Second World War plus a summary of events as they unfolded.

6 La patrie violente

A detailed view of the century of unrest and violence that followed the outset of the French Revolution and reflections on the notion of historical truth.

7.Money and Politics

American gridlock and the refusal of supply – a failure in governance.

8 Napoleon and Hitler

Meditating upon Evil

A detailed comparison of the lives of Napoleon and Hitler and of the deaths they caused.

9 Oxford Essays on the Stuarts

The Anti-Catholic Tradition in late Stuart Society

Two essays about the Stuarts and the Constitution for an Oxford Summer School.

10 Some historians

An essay about great British and European historians, and Pieter Geyl.

11 The Have-nots are Going Down

A brief note on the rising problem of inequality.

12 The Last Two Samurai

An essay on how Lloyd George and Winston Churchill led a social revolution and brought in the Welfare State.

13 Faust and Perfidy in Albion

The Treaty of Dover 1670

How a King Sold his Soul – Or Did He?

An essay about a king selling out a country for God and gold.

14 Why the French Revolution was not English

An essay on the differences in revolutions in France and England.

15 Witchhunts, Holy Wars, and Failures of the Mind

An essay on witchhunts and holy wars from Salem to McCarthy; consideration of relations between Church and State.


These papers were written between 2008 and 2015.  They relate to what we call the modern history of Europe and Britain.  Some were written in or as a result of Summer Schools at Cambridge and Oxford.  For example, the two pieces headed Foretelling Armageddon were first written as course notes at Clare College Cambridge, and now can be found in the fifth volume of A History of the West.

Five of the essays deal with the two big questions that have followed me for fifty years – how did France and Germany, two of the most civilised nations on earth, succumb to their total moral collapses, and with such frightful consequences for the rest of the world?  If you are being raped or killed by a soldier, do you care about the motives of those who sent him.

Three of the pieces deal with issues in Stuart England, and all come from Summer Schools.  My notes on Cromwell come from a remarkable weekender at Cambridge taught by Dr David Smith; those on the Stuart parliaments come from a week at Oxford taught by Dr Andrew Lacey.  The story of the Treaty of Dover should be told in a play or film.

There is a long look at the very flawed views on the bomb of A C Grayling, who might just be too busy to be able to indulge in scholarship, and a piece on the great story of Lloyd George and Winston Churchill on the People’s Budget – at a time when politics had real leaders.  The piece on witchhunts is the oldest, but the bullying of the majority is still just as threatening.

These are contributions by a lawyer and a legal historian whose professional training teaches him to proceed by example, and to look at what goes on elsewhere.  I hope that you enjoy them.

Geoffrey Gibson



Melbourne Cup Day, 2015.

128,000 words.

Up Your North – Parts 10 to 13


The trip from Kununurra to Katherine is about 500ks.  It takes about five hours and there is a one and a half hour time change from Western to Central Australia.  I had originally planned to break the trip with a night at Timber Creek or Victoria River, but I changed my mind to have more night in Katherine.

It was just as well – these places have roadhouse accommodation, and not much else.  They are not as depressing as Halls Creek, but nothing to write home about either.  There is some very attractive escarpment country around those two stops, and some big river views, but otherwise the trip is uneventful.

I was finishing off the Iliad read by Anton Lesser.  Since I also have him reading Paradise Lost and this was the Cowper translation, I could easily get the two epics confused – there are plenty of battles and ‘consults’.  I forget how Cowper translates the part where Priam, the father of the Trojan warrior Hector seeks out that outrageous sulk Achilles to reclaim the slain body of his son, but I recall Peter O’Toole in a frightful film saying:

I have done what no man before me has done

I have kissed the hand of the man who killed my son.

We find it remarkable that those lines were written between two and three thousand years ago.  The Bungles were being formed hundreds of millions of years ago.  God knows how long the blackfellas have been there – somewhere well beyond 40,000 years, possibly as much as twenty times the period between Homer and us.

Some people do not speak well of Katherine, but I saw nothing untoward – at least in comparison to what I had seen elsewhere.  The aborigines can get raucous at night, and I saw hardly any assimilation, but the parties appear to have achieved a kind of modus vivendi.  There is a strong police presence – and I do mean presence – and the liquor restrictions are different.  I was told that extra police were in town to crack down on those restrictions.

Sure enough, when I went to a bottle shop, there was a copper just standing outside, and casting a benign eye on some blackfellas kicking up a small ruckus down the road.  Chris at the Pine Tree Motel had told me I would be asked to produce my licence, and evidence of my accommodation.  I just bought some beer and wine and the young lady who served me waved aside my licence and room-key – she said I would have needed that for cask wine or fortified wine but not for what I had bought.  Since the copper was only ten feet away, I think she was probably right.  I could recall Frank saying that they had stopped cask wine in Broome, but that this had upset the grey nomads and done little for the blackfellas.

When I drove out to Katherine Gorge, I passed a stern sign: ‘Keep out – community access only.’  I take it that ‘community’ meant the local indigenous tribes.  If so, it really means ‘Whites keep out,’ a kind of reverse apartheid.  Putting to one side questions of legality, I could not help wondering about the wisdom of this policy.  Ironically, an ambulance was going in as I passed, and I assumed that the signed prohibition would not have extended to white ambulance officers called to attend to sick aborigines.  I daresay that if a pub put up a sign ‘Blackfellas keep out,’ we would hear a different level of noise.

Depending on your direction of travel, you might be about gorged out by the time that you get to the Katherine Gorge.  It is a short drive on a sealed road and there are quite adequate amenities – including helicopters, canoes, cruise boats, and a good café and shop.  The daily weather sign said: ‘38 and humid.  Start walks early.’  After ten minutes in the sun, I knew what they meant and started to feel signs of distress.  I retreated to the shop and museum and took in the sights by a slide show.  It featured very large and nasty snakes as well as crocs, and killed any idea I might have had of a longer walk.  I took tea in the café served by a Frenchman and a blackfella.  I even got in a gag.

I cased a ‘Happy’ takeaway joint just around the corner from the Pine Tree Motel.  I observed that it was being patronised by black locals and white copper (in a lethal looking Monaro) and that people of Chinese extraction were working the kitchen.  By the time I got there for dinner, the Chinese food was off the menu, and for the first time in my life I ate Barramundi, which is everywhere up here – with a load of batter that would bring tears to the eyes of the heart surgeon whose opinion I am waiting on.

On the first night at the Pine Tree, I had had a choose-your-own hamburger with other guests around the barbecue beside the pool.  This becomes a social hub, as at the Ibis in Kununurra.  This motel is very well and happily run, and it is a good place to stay in Katherine.  The staff are very friendly, and I like a place where the staff can take the mickey out of the boss –who is patiently used to switching on wifi into the iphones of idiots like me.

For the first time in ten days I bought a newspaper.  That was a mistake.  Then I made a bigger mistake.  I switched on the TV – and to an Australian news service.  There I saw film of two oafs – Abbott and Dutton – standing before God knows how many of our silly imperial flags and devoutly singing the national anthem as they launched a group pf Blackshirts who had sworn, apparently, a kind of oath of fealty to their uniform.  This film was being shown because that day these blackshirted clowns had already revealed themselves as serious Keystone Cops by threatening to arrest the City of Melbourne.

The road from Katherine to Kakadu is not of much interest.  There was a venerable old store called Ah Toy’s at pine Creek that somehow reminded me of Cannery Row.  There is a further roadhouse at Mount Mary, but I would not advise staying at any of these places, like Halls Creek, Timber Creek, or Victoria River, except in emergency.  The services are better in the bigger towns, and in some of these places, it is the white people who look scratchy.  The Mount Mary roadhouse featured a large set of photos of ugly looking snakes.  I bought a black long-sleeved T with a croc on it.  It should be well received when the bikies are in town.  This Mount Mary is very different to the home of those distinguished Victorian reds.

The whole road from there into Jabiluka is burnt out.  At one time, I drove through heavy smoke, and in clear sight of an unattended blaze.  That can be unsettling to survivors of Black Saturday in Victoria.


Cooinda Lodge is about 50 ks south of the main tourist centre of Jabiluka.  It is very modern and swish.  At $300+ a night, it bloody well ought to be.  It is light years away from my accommodation for the previous Saturday, the famous Bungles Caravan Park, and I planned to savour the difference after an easy three hour drive, starting with a slap-up lunch.  It is only about 290 ks to Darwin from here, and I was checked in early, by a young French man and American woman, while a Russian maid called Emily finished servicing my room or cabin.

There is a cosmopolitan feeling all along the route, but one thing that you notice in the Kimberley is the genuine pride of the locals in what they have to offer.  You get it all the time, and I did not feel it as much in Kakadu.  As I remarked to Maria at Cathedral Gorge, I could recall going up through the centre in 1964 via Alice Springs, Tenant Creek and Mount Isa, and hitch-hiking back from Townsville.  I was struck by the number of people who would point out the window, and say: ‘Do you see that country there?  That is God’s country, mate.’  I thought that this was bonzer – until I found out about their politics

One thing I noticed immediately about my room – or suite – at Cooinda – beautifully built as it was (and opened by Clyde Holding) – is that it does not have a welcome book showing the services of the establishment, a phone, a writing desk, or even a chair inside – they are all outside, on your own portico, but not so easy to put inside.  Nor does the Lodge offer wifi.  The Pine Tree Lodge offered all this and more – at about one third of the cost.  Even the humble Derby Lodge Motel had a phone and wifi.  The upshot is that I am for the first time out of touch on-line – and in the dearest place.  We are I fear in rip-off territory.

The lunch was mostly self-serve and not air-conditioned.  The restaurant was said to be closed for a private function – for the whole of my stay, as I would discover.  The couple beside me had to clear their own table.

I had seen enough to cancel the third night.  I am very much in favour of the Scottish – it may be British – system of accredited ratings to tourist accommodation, where you have to offer certain facilities to get so many stars.  Since tourism is a real part of our economy, this is a matter of national interest.  I am wondering if the Territory does as good a job as W A.  Nor do I think that we as a nation have any interest in offering up products to people from our major trading partners that make us look like Hicks – or crooks.

You do not need a Harvard MBA to know that in hospitality, first impressions count.  If a relationship starts badly, because something obvious is missing, it may never recover.  Some people have no sense of business at all.  I was reminded of a Shell servo 300 meters off the highway as you come into Kununurra from the west.  It is invisible from the highway, but it has a car-wash that I later heard of by accident.  While I was getting change for the car-wash from the nice Asian man at the counter, a wizened local was giving him a razz about his boss.  It looked to me like she lets a large part of the population of Australia just cruise by without even knowing that she is there.

Well, what man has left out, God might put together.  As you come up from Katherine, there are the Edith Falls which are part of the Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge), and in the Kakadu N P, there is Maguk (Barramundi Gorge) before you reach Cooinda.  I had been there before, so from now on I was on ground that was not new.  They say that you can get a swim up there.

At Cooinda, there is the Yellow Water, and you are not far from the Jim Jim Falls turn-off, another 50+ks of brutal road, and Noarlangie Rock, which is a far more accessible site, even for wheelchairs, and which features some rock art.  I had previously gone up to the aboriginal settlement at Oenpelli where all grog is banned, and I had seen a footy match where the blackfellas were running around in bare feet kicking goals from all angles, while some white boys waddled round to make up the numbers.  The one thing that tourists should do here is to take a fixed wing flight to get a view of the escarpment, and a sense of what Arnhem Land is like.  It is as if you are seeing it as God made it.  The aerial view of the crocs in the Gulph is, for the want of a better word, impressive.

The lodge redeemed itself a little at dinner when it offered a lamb shank.  The shank was on the bar before the drink I ordered – which was a shiraz from a chilled bottle into a chilled glass, poured by a young woman from Melbourne to go with a shank ordered from a young man from Indiana.  We had quite a chat about Lincoln.  It was not until the next night that I learned that I could get a red unchilled, and a full bottle of it – after I had been unable to buy a bottle in Jabiluka – and there is not much more reason to go in there.

Breakfast was fair, but at $300+ a night, I do not expect to have to get salt and pepper in packets to apply to food on a bare unset table.  It was not nearly as good as the breakfast at Pine Tree Motel, which served the best bacon I have eaten in Australia.

After I revisited some sites, I took a pleasant buffet lunch.  When I asked the man at the bar the temperature, he consulted his iphone.  He said he was on Telstra and that they had their own signal station.  I then got reception to fix mine – something about data usage – and I was back in touch.  This is the kind of thing that should be dealt with in the introduction book, but I did notice then that they had a sign apologising for not having wifi.  And I found out that at this location they were not offering half hour flights – that is a shame, because you can see a lot in 30 minutes, and I doubt whether the extra expense is worth it.

While out, I picked up two backpackers from France, Toulouse and Lyon.  I was a little surprised that they did not know what had happened to Lyon during the Terror, or the identity of the man responsible.

There was a very scenic billabong with a jetty at the end of the path outside my cabin.  It is sternly guarded with warnings, this time in at least some other languages, about the capacity of salt-water crocs to kill people.  The nice young French man at reception told me that they used to fish off that jetty, but had lost some enthusiasm when they kept catching the eye of a seven meter croc who looked unhappy.


The bad news for the AFL is that the footy grounds from Katherine to Jabiluka are for rugby.  They only get to AFL at about Darwin, and the road into there from Kakadu is what a Danish prince called ‘weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable.’  That citation seems hardly apt since on my way in I was listening to Dylan Thomas sounding like an inflated Welsh cantor with a bad hangover.

The road is not in good nick, and for about 20ks I was locked between two four-unit road trains because there was no overtaking lane – which did not stop two presumably local maniacs whistling past the three of us, and the Welsh poet, when they could not possibly have known if it was safe to do so.  I recalled that Bob from Albany had given another reason for leaving driving up to the pros – ‘You never what kind of stuff some idiot coming the other way may be on.’  The risk of hoons rises as you get near a city – I did not see any dangerous driving in the outback.

Darwin is bigger than I recall it, an odd kind of cosmopolitan kitsch and tropical drop-out zone.  The main issue is the temperature – it is either uncomfortable or unbearable.

I discussed this and other things at the drop-off point for the Nissan.  I told the very relaxed and amiable guys there that it had not missed a beat, but that the launch had been at best farcical.  I noticed their eyes dilate on a couple of issues, and they had a firm view about the superiority of the Toyota.  (The precise phrase was ‘a shitload of difference.’)  We also discussed the weather conditions.  I thought I should have come earlier; they said it would be more dry, but it is hard to imagine it drier than I saw it.  The Wetlands coming into Darwin were bone dry and scarred by fire.  But if you go in the wet, the heat gets much worse, and you risk roads, including major roads becoming impassable.  I said that I did not fancy stalling in a stream and looking out for crocs.  They said that on the road to Oenpelli, which I had passed that morning, and driven through some years ago, you could see crocodile tracks getting closer to the road as the water rose to cover it.  That is the sort of thing that you would rather hear at the end a trip than at the beginning.  It would not be pleasant to become a person of interest to a croc in a place like that.

I took pot luck on the Novotel in town.  It was more than adequate and a about half the price and much better appointed than my lodging the night before.

Before dinner, I watched a documentary on NITV about an aborigine who had been very badly on the grog for many years.  He had got off it, and now holds a solo pilot’s licence.  That seemed to me to be a very large achievement.  He spoke very movingly.  The young people need to learn their culture ‘because that is their life.’  The risk is that they end up between cultures and with no tribe.  No wonder so many succumb to the empty darkness of the bottle.

I took dinner at the hotel outside on the most balmy evening I had felt the whole time away.  I joined an Irish environmental scientist from Limerick.  He was very interesting on the economic recovery of Ireland and the reversal of the great migration that is now happening – he and his New Zealand wife will certainly stay here.

Later we invited Heinz, a German from Frankfurt not far south of me in years.  Heinz had just spent about two weeks in the middle of nowhere – Arnhem Land – with some colleagues and a guide.  He regularly comes here or goes to Africa to hunt.  Hunting in Germany is much, much more upmarket than here.  It is obviously a lifelong passion for Heinz.  You could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice.  His specialty – if that is the term: ‘party trick’ would be tart – is that he uses what is called a flintlock rifle.  It is a replica of a muzzle loaded rifle in use about 250 years ago.  It is literally ‘powder and shot’ – but you only get one shot.  You need to be within 50 yards to kill one of those big bullocks, so you need to have a steady nerve, and a back-up, who presumably knows how to operate a weapon with a lot bigger calibre than my 30.06 Steyr (made in Austria, and used by Australian infantry).  I forget the calibre of the shot that Heinz uses, but I think it was at least of the order of the biggest used in orthodox bolt action rifles made today.

This was a really compelling discussion – with photos.  I have only seen passion and acquired skill like that in fly fishermen.  I remember a discussion at the Ballarat Fly Fishers’ Club when I was discussing shooting.  The guy I was talking to pointed to a member who was on the land.  He said: ‘Do you see that guy – he hunts like he fishes.  Just bloody deadly.’  You come across it in all sports.  At one casting lesson, I said ‘Who’s that old bugger over there trying his hand’.  ‘A former Australian champion, you bloody idiot.’  That’s the bloody trouble – they make it look so bloody easy.

We discussed the different kinds of lightning in Europe, Africa, and Australia.  I was amazed by it in Africa, and Heinz was attracted to it here.  Lightning is likely to be of interest to white hunters and blackfellas.  The one I had seen on TV earlier had spoken of how the land is renewed in the wet, our word for the monsoon.  He referred to the thunderstorm ‘the giver of life, the mover of clouds – it gives you life back.’  It called to mind the music of Richard Wagner in Das Rheingold for the entry of the gods into Valhalla – a dazzling invocation of tribal rite and faith.


When I did bankruptcy cases, more than forty years ago, the late Mr Justice Sweeney, with the inevitable politesse of a knight of the church, said to me on more than occasion: ‘Mr Gibson, you are too young to have seen this, but during the war, the trains used to carry a sign, ‘Is this journey really necessary?’’  The great German philosopher Wittgenstein had a recollection to the same effect in his common-place book – he thought that most bad thinking came from asking the wrong question.

You learn more from a journey than a book, and it does not make much sense to ask whether my journey from Broome to Darwin was really necessary.  (It was originally planned in the other direction, but Australian 4WD said that I could avoid the return fee of one thousand dollars if I reversed it.)  I wanted to do this trip, and I am glad that I have.  I have now travelled overland over most of Oz.  I had seen Kakadu and the West Kimberley before, but I wanted to traverse the lot.  The Bungles were a prime objective and duly became the highpoint.

But, as I heard a lady say after a walk, ‘I am glad that I did it, but I feel no need to do it again in the near future, if at all.’

Let us put to one side cruising the coast, which is very expensive, or doing an air safari, which is even more expensive.  Let us put to one side big bus tours.  Let us also put to one side those who pull vans or camp – they do it because they like it and it suits them.  From my observation, the range of sorts of people travelling this way is as wide as the range of means to do so.  For example, the bigger new vans come with all facilities, and you can get home units built into the vehicle – I am told that there is a growing trend here to follow the US model of using one of these and pulling a small 4WD behind for travel at the destination.  These people have access to social life – a communal drink – in the evenings that motels are learning to seek to emulate with the barbecue and pool.

Let us look at my model – driving yourself across the region, and staying in reasonable or better fixed accommodation.  You will be told, or should be warned, that you will need the biggest and best 4WD at least for the Jim Jim Falls, the Bungles, and the gorges off the Gibb River Road.  That raises the cost of the exercise, and what for at least some will be the worry of driving through hazards.  The rough roads also increase the risk of breaking down – I met a guy at Darwin airport who had blown two tyres on one trip to Jim Jim Falls; the second one led to a long delay while they brought in the replacement.

My base costing is shown in the original itinerary set out at the end of this book.  I varied this by reducing the stays at the Bungles and Kakadu for the reasons I have stated.  The fuel costs (diesel) were about $760.  The two flights into the Bungles cost about $1400 between them.  If you add the Itinerary costs of $6692, you get about $8800 without meals.  That is a lot of money, but a lot of it is the cost of travelling alone – the accommodation and land travel costs would be the same for a couple.

An alternative would be to base your trip around one or more hubs, and hire professionals to do the hard and dirty bits.  You could then just relax, whether at your base or on the move, and come out much better informed – and, as like as not, much more relaxed.

One variation would be to fly to Darwin and hire a cheap orthodox car to go to and from Kakadu for say three nights, and then fly to Kununurra for say four nights and then fly to Broome for say five nights – allowing for say a two night tour into the West Kimberley, and possibly a flight to the Horizontal Falls.  You would want at least a full day tour in Kakadu, and the fly-drive tour to the Bungles.  I also wanted to do the flight to the coast and Mitchell Falls, but the one day a week this was on did not fit my schedule.  You might also consider something like that schedule with a train trip from Adelaide to Katherine or Darwin, or from Perth to Sydney.

If you pursued an option like that, you would have as good a notion of the vastness of it all as someone who has driven all the way.  The roadhouses are not worth stopping at; a lot of the scenery is tedious; and you do not have to go up every gorge, or gaze upon every waterfall.

If you wanted to go that way, and narrow the focus, I would suggest cutting out Kakadu and concentrating on the Kimberley and the two main towns.  They are much, much better served for accommodation and other amenities and chances for tourists – the prices and services are so much better because of the competition – and they are in no way deficient for things to do and see.  Broome of course is a beach resort in its own right, but Kununurra struck me as being surprisingly amenable for tourists, and if you shout yourself a stay at something like the Kimberley Grand – which is much cheaper than Cooinda Lodge and much better appointed – you will have a very comfortable and relaxing stay.

If you would prefer to drive all the way, and include the Bungle Bungles or Jim Jim Falls, you will need the big 4WD with snorkel.  You should then do the following.  Work out what car you want.  I believe that the big Toyota enjoys the best reputation, but you can make your own inquiries.  Work out which company you want to hire the vehicle from.  Before booking anything, ask if they have a slot where you will not have to pay the return fee.  Hire a satellite phone for the time you will be in charge of the vehicle.  You should require instruction of at least one hour on the controls of the vehicle, the use of 4WD, and driving on the roads that you will encounter.  You should also require a demonstration of a change of tyre on your vehicle to ensure that you and the equipment on the vehicle are up to it.  Unless you go through these procedures you will not have sufficient confidence in the vehicle or yourself fully to enjoy the majesty that awaits you.  I of course did none of them.

My own view, which is that of Bob from Albany, is that there is a lot to be said for people over sixty from the city leaving at least the hard bits to the experts.  I repeat that I am glad that I did what I did, but I am also glad that I made it – and I will not be doing it again.  If you do not come to terms with the facts of life in this country – for example when swimming in the surf or driving in the outback – you might easily be worse than a bloody idiot – you might be a dead bloody idiot.  And those forms of death are not attractive.

The highlights of my trip?  The putti outside the IGA at Derby; 180 ks up the road, mate, if you want a bottle of grog; and, above all, the unexampled glory of the Bungles.  If I can convey one thing to you, it would be this – before you quit this earth, go to the Bungles.  Go right into them – I should know, I have made three bloody trips in or over them.  Go down to the bottom, where it gets like Arizona.  Go to where they made that Qantas ad.  Go up the Picaninny trail and into the Cathedral Gorge.  And just drink in the wonder of it all, and, yes, the Australianness of it all.

If you are Australian and you shuffle off this mortal coil without having gone into the Bungles, you might end up being a lot worse off than a bloody idiot – you might go out as a dead-set bludger.


18/8 Melbourne – Broome (Tuesday)

18-20 Broome (Tues –Wednesday nights) Ochre Moon B&B $320

20-21 Derby (Thursday night) Derby Lodge Motel $160 (222 ks from Broome)

21-22 Fitzroy Crossing (Friday night) Fitzroy Crossing River Lodge $220 (293 ks from Derby)

22-24 Bungle Bungles (Saturday, Sunday nights) Bungle Bungle Tourist Park (En suite) $450 (468 ks from Fitzroy Crossing)

24-27 Kununurra (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday nights) Ibis Styles Hotel $400 (304 ks from Bungle Bungles)

27-28 Timber Creek (Thursday night) Victoria River R’house (Motel) $150 (226 ks from Kununurra)

28-29 Katherine (Friday night) Pine Tree Lodge $120 (286 ks from Timber Creek)

29- 1 Kakadu (Saturday, Sunday, Monday nights) Cooinda Lodge $1042 (258 ks from Katherine)

1/9 Darwin – Melbourne (Tuesday) (285 ks from Cooinda/Kakadu)

Road distance about: 2342 ks.

Accommodation about: $2862

4WD (return fee waived, unlimited ks): $3000

Airfares Melbourne – Broome, Darwin –Melbourne: $830

Total cost about $6692 – without sight-seeing flights and fuel, and meals

Passing bull 19 – Tribalism

A generation or so ago, it was the Looney Tunes on the Left that disfigured politics and sought to make one party unelectable.  Now we see it on the Right, alarmingly so in the U S, although Labour in the U K has suffered a remarkable reversion to form.

The following are my drafts relating to the problem for a book I am writing with another on logic and language.

10 Tribalism

We started this chapter on the subject of prejudice as the main corrupter of thought, and near the end of it we come to a common source of prejudice – you might call it tribalism or clannishness, or just the herd instinct.  It is our tendency to surrender our judgment, and therefore our dignity, to the crowd, or the mob.  In its most terrifying form, it is the lynch mob, which the French reached on a national scale during the Great Terror of the French Revolution in 1793.  The surrender was more complete, and the consequences more severe, during the Great Crash in 1929, but we see it all round us every day, and as often as not we do not notice when we have switched into the mode of group control.

A harmless form is the one-eyed Collingwood supporter.  Indeed, one reason why people enjoy that part of the entertainment industry called sport is that this is just the area, either in the stands or on the terraces or around the firm’s coffee machine, where independent judgment may be suspended and blind prejudice masquerading as loyalty can be safely put on show.  (You might from time to time graciously applaud someone from the other side, but you may want to watch who you do that in front of.)  You can even blow the ref a raspberry without going to the slammer.

One worrying form of clannishness is the tendency of some groups to form their own language, and retreat behind it when they come under attack or when they feel insecure or when they just feel like being pompous.  Lawyers and doctors used to be notorious for this, but both have improved.  It is no longer smart or clever to be obscure; the contrary is the case.

This kind of corruption of thought is dangerous because it obscures meaning – it makes the author harder to pin down – and it masks a crude self-interest in protecting the relevant group as the proper or even the sole repository of truth – which is very worrying when they are unable to spell out a verifiable meaning for the benefit of the uninitiated.  Secular thinkers for many centuries have accused priests of doing just this – of denying ordinary people access to the truth, or, if you prefer, the light, by refusing to give them the keys to the codes.  You might recall that before the Reformation, you could be burnt at the stake in England if you dared to translate the Bible into the native language of the believers.  That must be the ultimate example of people being asked to take articles of faith on trust.

We see examples of this form of clannish or tribal protectionism, and the consequent mutilation of language and logic, in the newer social sciences – which some think is a phrase that contradicts itself – and in marketing, ideologues, especially think tanks and their acolytes, political advisers, and some parts of academe.  We tend to see the problem at its worst with the think tanks and political ideologues – the political advisers tend to be more hard-headed people who hardly believe anything, whereas the ideologues bring commitment and passion and are likely to invoke that most dangerous ingredient in rational discussion called sincerity.  (We will come back to sincerity in the next section.)

The problem now is that you are dealing with people with a position and with a patch to defend.  Helen Garner referred to people who have an agenda.  You are dealing with someone who subscribes to articles of faith, and they may not realise or accept that articles of faith lie outside the borders of rational debate.  You might therefore be talking to a zealot.  Zealots are people whose zeal has infected their judgment.  They become like one-eyed Collingwood supporters, but much, much worse because they believe that the stakes are so big.  In the language of the stock market, they have their own skin in the game.

They become unable to see the world from the other person’s point of view.  They are very likely to think that they have uncovered the logical answer – that is, the answer, and there can only be one of those.  They become progressively less able to see that reasonable people might differ on almost any question relating to human behaviour or belief.  That is to say, they get more and more intolerant, and intolerance is the cancer of sensible discussion.  If you think, if you feel, that your position is superior to that of others, the corollary is as unattractive as it is unavoidable.

They tend to look on disputes not as disputes about ideas but as conflicts between the kinds of people who hold various ideas.  They become emotionally attached to their own side and emotionally opposed to the others.  Their judgment goes clean out the window.  They are ready to argue about things that they know little or nothing about, and that must end up in bullshit.  They then get ready to attack almost anything said by the other side, and to defend almost anything that has come out of their side.  They become driven by and to conflict.

They therefore pick fights that they do not have to, and so they ignore the first rule of advocacy – if you have a good point, make it, and don’t bugger it up with a dud; if you don’t have a good point, shut up.

They are heavily into mockery, and into nodding and winking among themselves.  They are not beyond sneering, and they may have an obsession about sneering that is one of those cases where they project their own feelings and reactions on to their opponents.  They often accuse others of being dogmatic or feeling morally or intellectually superior because they have right on their side.  Their essential sin is to feel that they are superior.  It follows that others must be inferior.  This is certainly the case for some of different faith or ethnic background, but their righteous indignation knows no bounds when the implications of this position are spelled out.  Their besetting vice is to deny that every person has their own worth or dignity – this is why they react so much against the word ‘equality’.  This ‘extremism’ is now seen mainly on the Right and is given political expression by demands on government to be hard (‘tough’) on inferiors like refugees and Muslims.  The capacity of the Left to blow itself is in remission.

They are long on conspiracies, especially when it comes to the newspapers or television consulted by the other side.  They stereotype people by reference to their chosen media – readers of Fairfax or viewers of the ABC must be different to readers of The New York Times or The Guardian or the Murdoch press or Fox News.  (Would you be insulted if described as a typical Age reader or adherent to Fox News?  Or would you just think that the author of the remark was both thick and presumptuous?)  They speak of ‘the love media’ and twitterati, even when they thrive on social media(What is the opposite of the love media?)  Their media affiliations are the very essence of tribalism.  If you are not into these nuances, a word that people known as culture warriors may be fond of, you are not part of the game.  Indeed, there are times when they seem unable to choose their cheerleader – the Famous Five or Kim, Enid Blighton or Rudyard Kipling.

They are very defensive about their own culture or faith – words broad enough to mean or contain what they want them to mean or contain – and very suspicious of those who want to share the good life, or who threaten to change its underlying fabric.  For this purpose, they may allow a shock jock or some other gutter-rat to put up kites for them, but the sensible ones always preserve deniability and a distance from the overtly vulgar.  (These gradations were very carefully measured during the French Revolution.  The punctilious Robespierre could benefit from the work of Marat in stirring people up without adopting his squalid venom.)

Their arguments are mainly aimed at the man – ad hominem – in part because of their innate or acquired hostility, and in part because they tend not to play by the rules, and in part because they have lost control of their moral or intellectual compass.  They always accuse the other side of hypocrisy, of which they are World’s Best Practice exponents, and of utter indifference to the consequences of their ideology – which they are past noticing in themselves.  Even when they set out their own contradictions in black and white, they cannot see them for what they are.  They are not just biased or unbalanced – they are wilfully beyond persuasion.  In ordinary terms, they are crippled by the chips on their shoulders.

You will recognise many of the attributes of a bush lawyer and far too many of our politicians.  It will only get worse – as people subscribe to Internet sites for the true believers, and commune in language-killing terms on what are preposterously described as social media – the first and last resort of the intellectually challenged – and banish the anxiety that comes with uncertainty by cocooning themselves in their own echo chambers.  But the tribalists also understand that populism depends on outraging people – the more outrageous a man of the people is, the better are his ratings.  Shock jocks know this instinctively – so did Hitler and Mussolini – but they are apoplectic at the suggestion that they are appealing to the gutter.  That has been the position of the gutter press through the ages – power without responsibility.

11 Bullshit

There might be a residue of categories of falsity which are commonly described, and not just in Australia, as bullshit.  Lest it be thought that that word is too common for a book directed to professional people, let us refer you to a priceless little monograph by Professor Harry Frankfurt of Princeton University, On Bullshit.  The professor said

It is just this lack of a connection to a concern with truth – this indifference to how things really are – that I regard as of the essence of bullshit…..Bullshit is unavoidable wherever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about.  The essence of bullshit is not that it is false but that it is phony.

Being fake does not of itself mean that you are wrong.  Since we have referred to politicians, we may add that Professor Frankfurt cites a remark that is the credo of politicians: ‘Never tell a lie when you can bullshit your way through.’  The professor says that bullshitting involves a kind of bluff, and that it is understood by everyone in a bull session that the statements that people make do not necessarily reveal what they in fact believe of feel.  And since it may be objected that we have taken objection to things done in all sincerity, especially the ideologues referred to in the last section, we may say that Professor Frankfurt also says at the very end of this little book, ‘Our natures are, indeed, elusively insubstantial – notoriously less stable and less inherent than the natures of other things.  And insofar as this is the case, sincerity itself is bullshit.’

The emphases on people being unconstrained by a concern with truth and on bullshit being phony rather than merely false are important in this book.  They are also very instructive on the links between bluff merchants, bull artists, and con men.  We will come back to the subject of bullshit later in this book.  It is a proper subject of study, and a reminder that the headings for the ways we can go off the rails in this chapter are not terms of art, and are very far from being a comprehensive account of how we can go wrong in fact.  It is the same for the failures of logic described in the next chapter that are commonly called fallacies.


The Four Ages of Man (Supernatural Songs)

He with body waged a fight,

But body won; it walks upright.

Then he struggled with the heart;

Innocence and peace depart.

Then he struggled with the mind;

His proud heart he left behind.

Now his wars on God begin;

At stroke of midnight God shall win.

Passing Bull 18 – The Dean’s Wake Syndrome

....unlike progressives, conservative commentators tend to stand on principle rather than indulge in partisan or personal cheerleading….

Chris Kenny, The Saturday Australian, 17-18 October, 2015.

On any given Saturday you can get about five whoppers like this from that newspaper as the ‘conservatives’ make faces at the ‘progressives’, like little girls to little boys behind the shelter-shed.  What was the context?

Rowan Dean, the editor of the Oz Spectator, and the leader of the unattractive pack described in Passing Bull 15, threw a wake for the former PM.  We are told that Dean was smarting if not seething.  The usual idolaters were there – Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine and Paul Murray (who has been inconsolable on Sky ever since, routinely throwing objects as well as tantrums, and imploring the new PM to be tough on Muslims).

Mr Kenny, another idolater in his time, says he knows how these people feel.  He does so in terms that contradict point blank the silly boast set out above, and which show why Australians are revolted by the cabal of politicians and journalists that have dragged us down to our present level, on both sides of politics, and where all except the addicts, or those who profit from or traffic in the addiction, are praying for relief, if not enlightenment from a mix of the Wars of the Roses and a New Dark Age.

After years of sneering at the poll-driven, media-grovelling superficiality of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Labor years, the Liberals have descended into the same sand-pit.

And with the ABC, Fairfax Media Newspapers, Canberra press gallery, academe and sundry other elements of the love media and political/media class railing against their version of the anti-Christ – a socially conservative prime minister – a great opportunity to prove them all wrong has been frittered away.

Most of us with a view to the structural ebbs and flows of politics could see that despite the antipathy directed at Abbott, some obvious failings and poor poll ratings, the Coalition was most likely to be re-elected next year.

This would have confounded the love media and twittersphere, and confirmed the good sense of mainstream voters.

In Abbott’s failure were strong policy settings (border protection, climate change, and attempted budget repair), the escalating issue of union power and corruption being teased out in the royal commission he established, and how all this had rendered Bill Shorten nigh-on unelectable.

When an impatient Turnbull launched his challenge the week before the Canning by-election he not only robbed Abbott of a chance for recovery but denied many true believers the pleasure of this social-political experiment – this vindication.

It passes belief.  If you did not know that you were the victim of an experiment, at least you know it is not one that will be repeated.  Here is why politics presently revolt Australians.  There is hardly any reference to principle, but just a focus on partisan political cheerleading.  And do you know why?  The people and their representatives do not know as much as Messrs Kenny or Bolt.  They cannot be trusted.

As usual, the crucial partyroom votes were exercised by inexperienced, impressionable and self-interested MPs, many of whom would not have entered parliament if not for Abbott’s campaigning skills and who might have been less than helpful in briefing journalists and voicing disharmony as they fretted over the polls.

In the next post, I will try to spell out this disease of the mind, but Mr Kenny does offer one frightening thought:

I sense the republican cause may be at the heart of much conservative antipathy.

These embittered relics of Plato’s Republic and the Split are not just harmless Looney Tunes.  They are intent on not allowing us to break with the Mother Country and become self-governing without support from the Anglican Crown.  Bring back 1788 – and the lash.  They are Monarchists envenomed.  Don’t they know about 1789?

Poet of the month: Yeats

The Choice

The intellect of man is forced to choose

Perfection of the life, or of the work,

And if it take the second must refuse

A heavenly mansion raging in the dark.

When all that story’s finished, what’s the news?

In luck or out the toil has left its mark:

That old perplexity and empty purse,

Or the day’s vanity, the night’s remorse.

Passing Bull 17 – Ripe Post-Modernist tripe

Fredric Jameson (born 14 April 1934) is an American literary critic and Marxist political theorist. He is best known for his analysis of contemporary cultural trends. He once described postmodernism as the spatialization of culture under the pressure of organized capitalism.

The beginning of this Wikipedia entry suggests that Frederic Jameson might be a mine of premium grade bullshit and a recent London Review of Books critique by Jameson of a book by David Wittenberg Time Travel: The Popular Philosophy of Narrative (which itself suggests ripe bullshit) does not let us down.

It is probably not immediately obvious what interest a new theoretical study of science fiction holds for the mainstream adepts of literary theory; and no doubt it is just as perplexing to SF scholars, for whom this particular sub-genre of the sub-genre, is as exceptional and uncharacteristic of their major texts as SF itself is with regard to official Literature.  To be sure so-called alternative or counter-factual histories have gained popularity and a certain respectability…..

But where did the genre come from?  My own hypothesis is a very general one: namely, that the late 19th century invention of SF correlates to Walter Scott’s invention of the modern historical novel Waverley (1814), marking the emergence of a second – industrial – stage of historical consciousness after the first dawning sense of historicity so rudely awakened by the French Revolution.


I want to reinsert this problem into a philosophical context of far greater consequence, which is that of representation as such.  Increasingly, in the late 19th century, writers became aware that the world of newly emergent capitalism was an unrepresentable totality which it was nonetheless their duty and vocation to represent.  The great moderns – Mallarmé, Joyce, Musil et al – achieved this impossible and double-binding imperative by representing their inability to represent.  They earned their right to sublimity by using ‘picture-thinking’ against itself, and for them failure was success.  The postmoderns seem to have renounced this agonising mission by taking the impossibility of representation for granted and revelling in it (you will say that by now we know what the totality of capitalism is anyhow, representation or no representation).

But science fiction was not crippled by such representational doubts and scruples; or rather, it emerged as a genre at the very moment in which the representational dilemma began to make inroads into literature, and it was able to do so owing to its possession of a representational instrument rather different from those faltering in the hands of traditional realists.  Kant distinguished between two kinds of non-conceptual language: the symbol and the schema.  Traditional literature cleaved to the symbol and its ‘picture-thinking’ (thereby allowing Hegel to pronounce its supercession by philosophy as such, in his theory of the ‘end of art’).  But science fiction had the schema; and it is what we have been calling literality, the use of visual materials not to represent the world but to represent our thoughts about the world.  It is no accident that Deleuze celebrated Foucault’s work in terms of its schematism, something which in his own writing he called ‘the image of thought’ – as opposed, clearly, to its referential content. Virtually everything designated as structuralism and poststructuralism is marked, in its so-called spatial turn – indeed, in its synchronic tendencies – by schematism.  This is a kind of ‘picture-thinking’ very different from what Hegel understood as Vorstellung; nor does it fall under the anathema of representation since it does not represent.


History is then also a text, and we are its readers.  But to introduce the reader at this point will have even more momentous consequences.  Wittenberg, now following Shklovsky closely, has done what none of the currently fashionable celebrants of ‘reading’ have dared to do: he has theorised its structure, which consists in the positing (as Hegel might say) of fabula over syuzhet, that is, in the necessity of some prior ‘belief’ in the fabula which can alone enable our reception of the syuzhet.  ‘Reading for the referent’, the structuralists contemptuously called this; but it is surely true, and a better way of saying it than ‘suspension of disbelief’ or other ingenious attempts to ensure the difference of fiction from fact, to hold on to the old conventional notion of reality while ensuring a momentary grace period for the consumption of literary narrative.  But if everything is narrative, as we seem nowadays to believe, then this division no longer holds; and as for belief or disbelief, Rodney Needham long ago demonstrated the incoherence of this pseudo-concept in Belief, Language and Experience (1973) – though nobody believed him.  If, however, you like the word, let’s keep it (if only provisionally): so the new Wittenberg/ Shklovsky doctrine maintains the priority of a ‘belief’ in the fabula over the syuzhet (which nobody believes, it is nothing but literature).  Reading then involves what Wittenberg (following Kant’s example) will ingeniously and pertinently call ‘the fabula a priori’.  Even when reading those patently false narratives called novels, we still believe in something, namely the fabula; and this holds, as he demonstrates, for the so-called experimental or modernist novel fully as much as for the allegedly traditional kind.  But in that case, there is at least one term we can get rid of for good, and that is the word ‘fiction’: fiction is a fiction, if you prefer, and in a world where everything is narrative, we can eliminate it.  ‘Fiction’ was the now discarded theory that the fabula could be either true or false; whereas, if you want to put it that way, the fabula is always true.

That bullshit is unbeatable – and some taxpayers in the U S are funding it.

Poet of the Month: Yeats


This night has been so strange that it seemed

As if the hair stood upon my head.

From going-down of the sun I have dreamed

That women laughing or timid or wild,

In rustle of lace or silken stuff,

Climbed up my creaking stair.  They had read

All I had rhymed of that monstrous thing

Returned and yet unrequited love.

They stood in the door and stood between

My great wood lectern and the fire

Till I could hear their hearts beating:

One is a harlot, and one a child

That never looked upon man with desire,

And one, it may be, a queen.

That is nothing if not Celtic, but its mystery and magic remind me of the movie The Russian Ark.

Passing bull 16 – the omitted poetry

At the first opportunity, I omitted to add to this Passing Bull item an extract from the poet of the month, Yeats.  I had promised not use his best known lines, but the revival of Sodom and Gomorrah really makes me now do so.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

A propos of another form of trading in sex, Playboy is going clothed.  Do you remember the time when some diffident younger or older men said that they bought Playboy for the articles?  Now, I can warrant you that some will say that they watch Nigella to learn how to cook.

Travelling North – Parts 8 and 9


The Kimberley Grand reception was the scene of a minor tremor on the Sunday.  Exultant in the level of luxury I was now in, I went back to reception to find out how to equip myself to celebrate.  There was a most charming, if slightly austere, lady of Chinese extraction behind the desk.

Does this noble establishment come to a bottle shop?

I am afraid not, Sir.

Well, can you point me to the nearest?

There may not be mush point in that, Sir?

Why not?

They are closed all Sunday.  You cannot buy alcohol in containers on Sundays in Kununurra.

Well, well, well.  Let us now be crystal clear on one thing.  These are licensed premises and I can get a drink here as a guest whenever I want to – even on Sunday.

The good lady confirmed this with a sunny smile, and Mafeking had been relieved.  But what if some bunny in a group had found themselves in the position that I had been in and had been despatched up here on a mercy mission – and arrived on a dry Sunday – and had to go back empty-handed to the parched troops by then under a tree inscribed ‘DIG HERE’?

The Kimberley Grand had in its reception area two large paintings purportedly by aboriginal artists whose work I have versions of at home.  I say ‘purportedly by’ because there was no signature or ascription of the painter, but they were identifiably in the style of each of those artists.  I am not an expert, but I had the clear view that at least one of them was not the real deal.  This form of copy-catting may not be too bad, but it shows the kind of problem these people may have in marketing their art, the best of which has commanded very high prices in Paris and New York.  Over breakfast, Trevor told me that for much of the day at Warmun, I could see a blackfella sitting outside the community shop under a stockman’s hat whose work sold for $20K.  This is why I queried what would happen to the purchase price of the two little paintings by children that I bought at the Mowanjan Gallery at Derby.

Two of my favourite aboriginal paintings are by Freddie Timms, a former stockman from around Broome.  They are like the aerial views of Rover Thomas, but in thrillingly bright colours.  When I first went to Broome about fifteen years ago, I only had one, and I told the agent that I might run into Freddie at Broome.  The reply was that Freddie might well be in the Broome slammer as we spoke.  You always seem to run into these contradictions – if that is the word.

Something quite remarkable happened when I got to my previously booked accommodation at Kununurra.  I was served from behind the counter by someone who was Australian born, and it started to happen more often, although the French presence remains strong.  The Ibis Styles is what I think is called budget accommodation, but it is very adequate and very well managed by young and keen staff, with the capacity to eat around the pool when it got cooler.  I met a guy there named Don who was a painter from Geelong, and who was a dead ringer for Roman Polanski.  His wife Wala was from Germany with a Russian mother – or vice versa – and we shot the breeze over two evenings.

I had decided almost immediately on getting into my room at the prior establishment to book a fly and drive tour into the Bungles, and I had booked and paid for this on the Sunday.  It was a bit more than $800, but this was really the focal point of the trip, and the marred visit of the Saturday, even with the helicopter flight, now hardly looked adequate, and it would have been something that I would have come to regret if I had left it at that.

This town is far more settled and green and orderly than others that I have been to up here.  Perhaps it goes back to the wealth created by the Ord River Dam and the miners.  The town has a sense of confidence and purpose that I did not see elsewhere – except perhaps in Broome, which is also a tourist hub, and more of a venue in its own right, and with access to mining and other wealth.  Diamonds and pearls can do wonders for a town.

But a sense of confidence or purpose is not something that I saw in the first inhabitants of this land.  I can hardly recall seeing many such people doing a job with a sense of purpose or at all.  The contrast with the young Europeans and Australians in work is as marked as it is depressing.  What you do see everywhere is groups of indigenous people sitting in public places in the shade of a tree – you never see white people meeting like that.  Or you see people on their own flip-flopping about aimlessly, and in a dishevelled fashion.  We know that these people can rise very high in art and sport, but we have a lot of trouble helping them out in other ways.  It is very sad.

One way to see the Kimberley would be to use this town and Broome, or possibly just one of them for the base for tours.  You could visit a lot of places around both in cheap orthodox vehicles and get professional operators to traverse the hard parts by 4WD, air, or water.

Lake Argyle, including the Ord River Dam, is most imposing from any perspective.  It is set deep in a dry and craggy landscape – like a sand-blasted loch in the Highlands.  You can take a tour by catamaran.  I was told that in some places you are out of sight of land.  People swim there all the time – they do not worry about the fresh-water crocs.  There is a division of view about the salties there – they are the local Loch Ness Monster.  Either category was enough for me to keep my togs dry, and keep the swimming to the pool; I also inclined to the view that I would require something in the nature of the Dreadnought to go out in a boat.  On my last trip to Kakadu, I heard on the radio of two blokes fishing in a tinnie – that tipped over – obliging them to test the world record for the 50 meter freestyle sprint to save their skins.

Wyndham, if you look at the map, is the end of the line – and it bloody well feels like it.  It is at one degree of separation from Halls Creek, but there is somehow a more stately and historical feel to its sense of decay.  You feel like you could make a film about the end of the world there.  It has a racetrack, a footy ground (that bristles with signs banning booze), and three cemeteries – including one for the Afghans, comfortably off limits, thank you.

It also has a sparkling police station and courthouse.  God knows what you have to do to get sent to the former, or to get taken to the latter; God only knows the troubles they see there.  Yet you go into places and meet people who are surprisingly normal and sane.  I even managed to buy an HB pencil in the Post Office and the affable young man in the bottle shop – yes, a bottle shop – was at least part aboriginal.  But Wyndham was also about three degrees hotter.  The heat now is a matter to think of when touring – these temperatures make any kind of sustained exercise tricky – as I would find out.

El Questro offers walks, gorges and swimming about 50 ks off the Wyndham Road, and accommodation which ranges from the merely expensive, as everything is up here, to the utterly fabulous.

When I got back to my comfortable budget hotel, and went to check out dinner prospects, I came across a blackfella in the middle of town flopping aimlessly around in the middle of the road, and shouting obscenities into the dusky sky.  But for his anguish, he might have been baying at the moon.


The words ‘sacred’ and ‘spiritual’ may not stand for much in our culture now – nor, for that matter, may the word ‘culture’ in a realm of selfies.  White people up north, especially those with roles for tourists, tend to refer to the culture of the indigenous people.  This is I think a handy way of saying that they have different ways and customs to ours – although many of their customs will I think be much older than ours.

You will see admonitions at tourist sites to protect the culture of the indigenous people.  This, too, I think is right.  So when I flew over the Bungles in the chopper with Ben, he pointed to an area that I think was called Horseshoe Valley, and said that they were precluded from flying over that area out of respect for the religious beliefs of the aborigines.  I was not clear what kind of preclusion he was referring to.  Was it illegal to fly over there?  I think not.  Certain gorges could only be entered with an elder.  Is it illegal to go in without one?  I thought of this when a guy said that at Kakadu, you can be fined up to $50K for disturbing crocodile eggs.  I doubt whether anyone will get fined that amount for disturbing the religious sensibility of anyone, let alone that of a blackfella.  It is curious how we sometimes put animals above humans.

On Tuesday, I was mighty glad that I had decided to take the fly/drive trip back to the Bungles, and into Cathedral Gorge.  This was to be the highpoint – the grail of the quest.

A bus picked me up at the Ibis at 8.15am and dropped me back at about 5.30pm.  The staff at Aviair were assured and professional.  The flight down in a single engine Cessna took about an hour.  There were about eight of us on board, although two Swiss people were just doing the two hour return trip – I would run into them later at Kakadu; I noticed that they held hands during take-off – and the ground tour would take others from another airline.

The pilot, Michael, gave a very good commentary on the way down.  We learned all about the Ord River Dam and Lake Argyle.  The idea was to water our food basket.  We instead flew over plantations of sandalwood and pumpkins.  The sandalwood is used for perfume, and that is a good business to get into, but you have to have the right strain – like grapes for wine, I suppose, and heaven knows that they depend on terroir – but it takes about fifteen years for these trees to mature.  Then when you look at the size of the cattle stations, you get an idea of what is meant by the word capital.  And you certainly get that idea on the way back when you fly over the diamond mine – which I and the lady across the aisle were happy to hear was owned by Rio Tinto, a company we held shares in.  That is a good business to be in too, but the undertaking is truly immense.  There is a huge inverted ziggurat carved out of the earth, which is worked from a large village, and the labour is flown in by jet to a privately owned two kilometre long bitumen airstrip – capital, indeed.  The miners are flown for two shifts of seven days, one of night shift, and the other of day shift.

We collected on the ground and about eight of us proceeded on a trip in a ten passenger 4WD with Bruce, a very experienced and professional guide.  We would spend about an hour on the bus to and from the south of the Bungles, and have about two hours down there for a short walk and the lunch that had been packed.

Bruce filled us in about the basics of the geology, fauna and flora and the local aboriginal customs.  For example, because local aboriginal men tended to marry much younger women, a custom had grown up that a married man would not look his mother-in-law in the eye; to this day, they do not like to ride in the same vehicle: then we got the guide’s gag about the similarities to white culture.  Bruce told me that he had tread Darwin’s Origin of Species, and I believed him.  I also inferred that he had been mangled in the Palm-tree Palace.  I asked what he did during the wet, and he said he just enjoyed being a tourist.

We were right in the middle of the famed bee-hive domes, and very near the site where they shot that ad with the schoolchildren choir for Qantas to that awful song by Peter Allen.  We were to walk along the Picaninny track to the Cathedral Gorge, which is one of the famous spots in the Bungles.  We passed a sign offering a quick 400 meter round trip and I nearly told Bruce that that would do me.  We had lots of water, but I soon felt drained, and then distressed.  I was struggling.  It was 35 and very humid.  It felt intimidatingly hot.  When we got within the cool of the Gorge, in a protected wadi, I was glad to be able to sit down in the shade and tell Bruce that he and the others could go on the extra two hundred meters or so and pick me up one way back.  It was an interesting if unsettling lesson in the brutality of the bush – and the frailty that comes with age.

That incident in no way detracted from what I got out of that whole visit.  We were astounded.  I spoke to a number of people, from here and Europe, and they were all entranced – entranced is I think the word, because where we were had a certain magic about it.  It is definitively Australian magic, although I was again in part reminded of the Grampians in Victoria and Table Mountain in Cape Town.  In addition, there were aspects down there that reminded me of Arizona – sharp, deeply coloured escarpments etched into the skyline with promontories broken off like charred icebergs.  This is elemental territory.

I asked Bruce about sealing the road in.  He said that those who controlled the area commercially were in favour of it, but it would have to be a major government initiative.  Controlling the resulting human flood will take care.  One thing I appreciated at the Grand Canyon was how unspoiled it was.  The tourist hub is more than 20ks away, and there is very little on the rim itself.  If tour operators get a free run here, there could be mayhem.  I spoke to a young couple from Zurich.  They were quite carried away in an un-Swiss manner.  They had seen where we had just been on TV and decided that they just had to come here.  When I was fading on the walk, I was helped an encouraged by a woman of Italian heritage half my age and with a religious name who spoke in the same terms.

It is very odd that this substantial jewel in our tourist crown was only ‘discovered’ about thirty years ago.  A Channel 9 crew went into do a story on a cattle station, and the resulting documentaries started a tourist trickle that just keeps growing.  It is a natural asset that is part of the world’s heritage, and I suspect that it may come to have a kind sacred value even to God-doubting white people, and even without the lachrymose ad.  And even to those who can’t leave their iphone alone, but just keep taking selfies.

These small group tours in people-carriers are very different from big bus tours – in both numbers and duration.  They are therefore easier to handle and much less risky in whom you draw.  There was a farmer from Albany named Bob, I think, in our group who was five years older than me – and fitter on the walk (although I incline to the view that he cheated by firming up with a Mars Bar before we started.)  Bob was travelling with his wife – they said something about hay – and both had that weathered face of people on the land.  Bob had quietly dancing eyes, and his wife’s face was suffused with a kind of permanent youth.  Bob said that he had been on the land all his life and that he would not mind having a go at the Canning stock Route for what he called historical purposes.  But for going to major attractions off the better roads, he much preferred to leave all the worry and the risk to experts, and travel in the way that he and I and his wife and Maria and the Swiss couple were.  Bob and his wife were being picked up at 6.30 the next morning to go to El Questro, and Maria was giving his wife the heads up on a hard gorge walk there.

For myself, Bob’s view has a lot to be said for it, especially for people getting on and who have less mechanical skill or knowledge of the bush than Bob.  He looked at me – in that kindly way that he shared with his wife – and said: ‘Geoff, this is a big country, a bloody big country, and a lot of people lie dead out there because they just did not see how bloody big it is.’

You know exactly what Bob meant if you have just got into trouble after only half an hour in walking over sand under a brutal and unforgiving sun.

Passing bull 16 – Excess breeds excess: Dolce and Gabbana at Portofino

If you want to know why Communism flourished and IS is threatening, consider the workings of Dolce and Gabbana revealed in a piece by Rebecca Mead in the New Yorker headed ‘The Couture Club’ (21 September).  But don’t read it too soon after breakfast.

Each year, Dolce and Gabbana throw a weekender for their better patrons from, say, Japan, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, and Russia – all the corruption capitals of the world – who do not mind $40K for a frock.  (A Hamburg client said her D&G collection took up twenty-six feet in her wardrobe.)  They present their Alta Modo collection which, says Mead, consists of ‘one-of-a-kind made-to-measure pieces; virtuoso demonstrations of what can be achieved sartorially when the imagination of the designer and the spending power of his patron are given unconstrained expression.’

This year’s event was held at Portofino, and it looks like there was no one there who would not make you vomit.  The hosts were their model, modest selves.  The show would be a triple collaboration: ‘Homer, the visionary; Dante, the poet of Purgatory and Paradise, with Beatrice la bellezza; and Shakespeare, with crazy humour.’  Why not rope in God and all his gang?

The hosts, we are told, were once an item.  We are not told whether they had a family, but we are told that ‘they maintain an affectionate bond that is augmented by the presence of handsome younger partners.’  One of those has inspired this collection by the 1999 movie of the Dream.  Enthusiasm for this Italian dream was not dampened by the climax of the Greek tragedy next door.  That may as well have been on Mars – like wedded bliss, or just plain sanity.

The guests are people of frightful taste who cannot be seen without their iPhone so that they can link to Instagram and text orders from the catwalk.  It must be like taking candy from a baby.  The wife of a gun English entrepreneur (who is ‘tan, slim, and silver-haired’) stepped out of a changing room ‘this time wearing the black dress, over a very visible pair of co-ordinating gold hot pants.  She locked eyes with her husband.  ‘It’s very me’ she said with delight.  ‘When it’s right, I know it’s right, right away.’

Security guards were everywhere, but the models were unfazed.  Each of the ninety-four of them would only model one couture outfit.  The hand-written invitations said ‘We look forward to revealing the Alta Moda Summer Night’s Dream in our fairy garden under the moonlight.’  Gabbana was dressed in shorts and a tank-top that showed his tattoos (a scorpion, darling, and his name).  Dolce said that ‘Disney is the best teacher for life.’

Liveried footmen of amazingly unguessable sexuality – in case, I suppose, some of the entrepreneurs were broad minded – held up gilded mirrors so that the chatelaines ready to expire from Botox overdoses could justify being robbed.  There were eighty footmen and on the second night they became Roman centurions and Renaissance swains, with floral bowers to form an entrance of pink and blue.  Three bare-chested acrobats wore velvet bloomers with feathery wings.  A string quintet played (in jock-straps and thongs?)  A young woman in glittery tunics and gladiator sandals spread rose petals.  The supper was of course gilt-edged.

There had, sadly, been a spat in what might be called the community.  Dolce had been quoted as saying that children born by IVF or surrogacy were ‘synthetic’.  I wonder what he meant – he would be a world authority on synthetics, but he would know nothing about children or parenthood, and he would not get any help from his handsome younger partner.  However, Elton John was upset.  He has two children born through surrogacy.  (Spare a thought at least for them.)  He urged a ‘celebrity boycott’ – not just an ordinary boycott.  He was immediately supported by such nice down-to-earth people as Victoria Beckham and Madonna.  Gabbana called John a ‘fascist’ and posted an image ‘Je suis D&G.’ Dolce apologised and John rescinded the boycott.  Wasn’t that handsome, if not downright sweet, of E J?  We are not told what the children said.

One real charmer from Brooklyn said: ‘You know the Burlington Arcade?  That’s ours….You know the controversy over Coney Island?  We were the controversy.’  A maîtresse from Lebanon said ‘I’m Miss Perfect in Beirut.’  They all thought the tax charges against the hosts were an outrage and that their hosts had been ‘vindicated for their honesty and integrity.’  The ending of the tax charges shows why Italy is busted.

The final party was in gold.  Guests were encouraged to show ‘eccentricity’, ‘ostentation’, and ‘elegance’.  For that, they got the last word in kitsch – the songless, soulless, and tasteless Kylie Minogue in a gold mini and a towering gold headdress.  She was accompanied by male burlesque dancers in spiked heels.  Huge cut-out hearts were passed among the guests, who waved them aloft, and a cannon shot thousands of scraps of metallic paper so that it rained gold.

Well, it may remind some of Nero, and others of Hitler, especially the Knight of the Long Knives, but you would not trust one of them – not one – to mind your dog even for an instant.  Haut couture is complete bullshit by which crooks relieve fools of their money.

Fear in faith

Australia is not alone in having a problem with young people wanting to kill other people in the name of their faith.  We got frightful warnings of this kind of problem from murderous attacks in Paris and London over many years.  People in the West have had to come to grips with what is called home-grown terrorism.

The relevant faith is Islam and its followers are called Muslims.  These killings are called acts of terrorism.  But none of those labels alters the fact that we are talking about crime – specifically the crime of murder, the most serious crime in our law.  We should not allow any of those labels, or their connotations, which will vary greatly depending on the audience, to obscure that we are talking not just of a moral or political issue, but the most serious crime that we know.

In the ordinary course, the parents of a child are responsible for both the welfare and conduct of that child until the child comes of age, whenever that may be.  I am talking of moral not legal responsibility, and of a responsibility not just to the child but to others who may be affected by the conduct of the child.  Have the parents of these young killers done their duty to bring children up as members of our community?  When some of these children want to leave the country to fight elsewhere, when they and their parents know or might fairly be taken to know that their death is almost inevitable, have the parents done enough to provide for the welfare of their children?

In the ordinary course, when some of those who subscribe to a faith want to kill those who do not, the members of the faith as a whole will have to accept some responsibility – at least where there is an identified pattern of conduct of people wishing to kill others because of their religion – that is, the religion of the would be killer.  I am speaking now of a responsibility that is morally based but which extends across a community.

If we have a problem, either in ourselves or as a group, the first thing that we have to do is to admit the problem and then accept our responsibility to do something about it.

I am a distant and casual observer, but I have not seen this acknowledgment of a problem of their young would-be killers or an acceptance of responsibility for it from either Muslim parents or religious leaders.  Indeed, it has been hard in the past to find a Muslim religious leader who is responsible for anything.

Some of the labels used are unhelpful if not silly.  (I will deal at another rime with the problems in the notions of ‘terrorism’ and ‘extremism’.)  We are told Muslims are ‘marginalised’.  They need to ask if they can complain of being outside a home if they have not made a decent effort to join in the home.

Some young Muslims are said to have been ‘radicalised’.  You cannot excuse murder by saying that some evil demon got into your head and gave you bad ideas.  Adolf Hitler got into the heads of the Nazi Party and a large part of the German nation, the first to engage in the annihilation of a race, and the second to follow him in a war that killed fifty million people.  Hitler could mesmerise people, but that power, and that history, do not of themselves absolve those who succumbed to his power.  And if you want to know what it feels like to be ‘marginalised’, ask a Catholic priest – ask any Christian cleric in this country – or a Catholic parent whose son wants to be an altar boy.

It may be – I do not know – that government and the community may seek to deal with the problem of this kind of serious crime by looking at how these people are got at by those who want to put them to evil, but using a weasel term like ‘radicalisation’ – I do not think ‘extremism’ is any better – might just offer a shield to hide behind to those who are or who should be held responsible.  Law enforcement will take its course, but the answer to the real problem must come from within the Muslim community itself.

Take the example of another cause of crimes of violence – drugs.  The law and the community as a whole may wish to try to prevent these crimes by seeking to contain drugs, but the use of drugs does not of itself come even close to diminishing the responsibility of the affected criminal in the eye of the law.  And if the criminal is not of age, the intervention of drugs does not affect the responsibility of the parents of the criminal for the relevant conduct.  One of the first duties of parents nowadays is to do their best to protect their children from contamination by drugs.  I know this from personal experience.  It is now a paramount duty of Muslim parents to do their best to protect their children from contamination by false prophets.

It is hard to see any answer to this problem until the Muslim community as a whole accepts what most here would see as these facts of life. There is plenty of scope for argument at the edges, but it is very hard to suggest that we might have these problems even though Muslim parents and religious leaders have done their jobs well and have nothing to answer for.

It is wrong to say that every Muslim is tainted by or responsible for the actions of a few murderers.  But it is in my view just as wrong to say that the Muslim community as a whole has no responsibility for its part in this problem – at least insofar as these criminals purport to act in the cause of Islam.  It is not enough for those in the community to shrug their shoulders, and blame the internet and the gullibility of youth – or to put some anaemic label on the pathway to murder.

In my view, the comments of Hannah Arendt on the political responsibility of nations are analogous to the issues of the moral and social responsibility of communities for the failings of individual members.

Many people today would agree that there is no such thing as collective guilt, or, for that matter, collective innocence, and that if there were, no one person could ever be guilty or innocent.  This of course is not to deny that there is such a thing as political responsibility which however exists quite apart from what the individual member of the group has done and therefore can neither be judged in moral terms or brought before a criminal court.  Every government assumes political responsibility for the deeds and misdeeds of its predecessor and every nation for the deeds and misdeeds of the past.  When Napoleon….said: I shall assume responsibility for everything France ever did…., he was only stating somewhat emphatically one of the basic facts of all political life.  It means hardly more, generally speaking, than that every generation, by virtue of being born into a historical continuum, is burdened by the sins of the fathers as it is blessed with the deeds of the ancestors.

We Australians have been two faced on this –we are much quicker to bask in the sun of Bradman standing up to Bodyline than we are to own up to our murder and rape of the first inhabitants, but like it or not, it is a basic fact of political life that the Muslim community will have to account to others for crimes committed in its name by its own people.

If on the other hand, Muslims find that their faith makes it too hard to come to terms with the way that the rest of Australia lives, they should go to a place where they are more at home.  There will be a price for that, a heavy one, but Australians are not prepared to pay the equally heavy price of their living with the alternative.

The evidence suggests that while the Muslim community is not doing enough, the problem just gets worse.  Islam is not alone in having evil-doers on the fringe.  We have ours in the gutter and on the radio, and if you want to talk about people being marginalised and then radicalised, there are plenty of drop-outs out there who are only too willing to accommodate their soul-mates in violence on the other side.  We have already had frightening insight into these violent radicals at Cronulla and Bendigo.

We now face the nightmare of the migrant nation of migrants importing violence from their past and bringing out the worst in those who are already here.  It is the first duty of government is to keep the peace.  Unless this is done, and the problem is resolved, the end outcome is a form of civil war.  The courses therefore left open to government unless the Muslim community takes responsibility do not look attractive for anyone.

Finally, another bad word is Islamophobia.  A phobia is an irrational fear.  The apprehension that is felt across the western world at the killing that is coming out of Islam is anything but irrational.  You would have to be bloody mad not to be afraid.

Passing Bull 15 – Knights and Dames and Bad Sports – Very Bad Sports

The Australian Spectator greatly admired and strongly supported Tony Abbott as PM.  Its writers were very rude about people they saw as ‘Abbott-haters’ – a term they had to share with shock jocks and The Australian about the ABC and the Fairfax press and others.  It was therefore natural that the fall of Mr Abbott would cause as much pain to The Spectator as it did to Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones.  And the pain really shows.

The cover for 26 September has a crude cartoon of the new PM with some waffles.  The editorial refers to the ‘excruciating love-in’ with Leigh Sales on the ABC – Anti-Christ at home in Hades.

Mr Turnbull’s entire 22 minutes of verbiage could be summed up in half a dozen slogans: Terrorists are bad.  War is dangerous.  Governments must work.  And so on.  His lengthy interview with David Speers on Sky News was more of the same with a bit of ‘innovation’ thrown in.  The art of communications – and leadership – is to simply express single-minded core ideas and more importantly, to clearly convey goals your government can be measured by, such as ‘stopping the boats’ or ‘scrapping the carbon tax.’  Mr Turnbull’s banal, patronising platitudes seek to obscure the tough decision-making required of government under a fluffy blanket of cheeky smiles and good intentions.  This is government for the asinine twitter generation.  As we saw back in the days of ‘programmatic specificity’, its charm soon wears thin.

Well, let us put to one side the murder of the English language, and the dynamiting of infinitives – we now know that the Bolt poster-boy is one who has ‘single-minded core ideas.’  Mr Abbott qualifies there – he was not capable of anything else.  You think that Syria is tricky?  Not on your Nelly.  Just pick out a ‘death cult’, keep repeating that ‘single-minded core idea’, and bomb them.  But Mr Abbott was fired not because he was beyond ‘the tough decision-making required of government’, but because he had lost the nerve to make any decision at all.

Mr James Allen is in a more mortal form of agony.  ‘But why are we Abbott supporters now supposed to help Turnbull.’  It would I suppose be damned silly to respond: ‘Perhaps because you are Australians?’  Mr Allen contemplates what might be called the Japanese gambit of hara-kiri:

It’s better sometimes to blow the whole thing up and –let’s be honest – lose to the other team.  Why?  Because you’ll have sent a message that loyalty ‘and no white anting’ and giving us support when things are a bit tough are the price they have to pay, not just that you have to pay.  Reciprocity baby.  Signal-sending my friend.

This sulking really is selfish.  Political parties are what used to carry the system.  The failure of the system comes in large part from the failure of the parties.

Can Mr Turnbull redeem himself?  Yes.  How?  ‘Bring back the pre-election promise to repeal most (or better yet all) of the ghastly 18C.’  Here you have precise insight into the doctrinal purity, so removed from the sense of the nation, which saw our last PM hit the fence with such vigour.

Mr Philip Murphy likes the kitchen sink in the gutter.  The reference to King Cnut is a reference to the crude abuse of an Abbott staffer to the new PM, in itself a golden reminder of the failure of that part of our constitution that said an impartial civil service was essential to our system.  Apart from puerile vulgarity, we know that we are again lost in intellectual abstractions and labels by the sub-heading: ‘Will Malcolm Turnbull be able to hold back the rising tide of illiberalism.’  If you are too liberal, you become illiberal.

Poor Mr Murphy also got Leigh Sales.  Why do these people torture themselves acquiring the stigmata of Antichrist from the ABC and Fairfax?  What really scares Mr Murphy?  Mr Turnbull’s

….following the pattern of others who have been involved in creeping republicanism.  The mooted execution of Knights and Dames is no doubt on top of such a list.

The disease of eternal irrelevance extends to the once respectable parent.  It says that Pope Francis ‘has become the darling of the international left’ and ‘an engaging chatterbox’, but that he should spend less time on the environmental crisis – where his view is ‘alarmist’ ‘and whose scale he may be exaggerating’ – and more time worrying about Christians in the Middle East.

You must feel sorry for these people, eternal victims not just of Fairfax and the ABC, but of Islam, and now the Holy Father and the Supreme Court of the USA.  They have to carry the whole Christian world on their shoulders surrounded by all those demons.

But they are so removed from the rest of the nation that they are political poison.  Australians distrust political theories and ideologies and people who claim to have the answer and look down on others.  We look for something that works, not for doctrinal correctness.  Since we get that from the English, it is curious that people who treat English as a comfy rug do not get it.  Make no mistake – these are the people who brought Abbott down.

Just ask Mark Textor, the man who got him the job.  (Peta says she got it for him, but Mark’s is the stronger claim.)

Nothing says more about the reality marginalisation of shock-jocks and news columnists than their misinterpretation of the decency of middle Australia over Goodes.  Most want media-fuelled division to end.

If I may say so, that was exactly my sense of the reaction of most Australians, and it was an occasion of an appalling lack of leadership on the part of the then P M.  He was the victim of ideologically induced gutlessness.  It used to happen all the time.

And he is now just a bad loser.  As is Mr Campbell Newman.  According to the AFR, he is publishing a memoir Can Do which includes the following:

They [journalists] are not interested in the government or reform or the reasons behind the decisions we made.  They are only interested in the tactical, the here and now, they only ever look for short-term politics and gossip.  And they have got a nerve to ridicule people like me who tried to actually get things done.  And they have always ridiculed and sneered.

Failed politicians are desperately unattractive people.  They and their failed fan clubs are very bad sports.

And we beat the Poms in the World Cup.  On their own turf.  And one of the princes was there.  Barracking for the wrong side.

Poet of the Month: Yeats.

I propose to add to the bullshit column, when I remember, an extract from a poet of the month.  The poet for October is Yeats.  The poetry will not relate to the bullshit, but hopefully provide some respite from a tedious world.  The following extract is from A Prayer for my Daughter.

And may her bridegroom bring her to a house

Where all’s accustomed, ceremonious;

For arrogance and hatred are the wares

Peddled in the thoroughfares.

How but in custom and in ceremony

Are innocence and beauty born?