Passing Bull 94 – A miscellany of pure bullshit – and starting on Confucius

A major Australian law firm announced a move into forensic investigation – or the like.


It brings a holistic offering to the market place in response to what we have seen over the past five years as a real client need, which we think will complement our core legal skill set. That’ll give us great ability to engage early on anti-bribery, cyber risk and fraud. Regulators across the world are getting much more sophisticated in their cross-border communications.

Dear, dear, dear – holistic and core and skill set in the one sentence.  Little Johnnie nixed core for eternity.

Your taxes help fund bullshit like that which follows.


Should they enjoy a drink or smoke while watching an arts festival on TV, they can take pleasure in knowing that their taxes are contributing significantly to it, with Australian cigarettes the most expensive in the world and alcohol taxes not far off it. Of course, the most prolific smokers are our poorest people including regional Aborigines. So much for closing the gap.

And should they speak up about the less successful aspects of multi-culturalism, they can be hauled before a bunch of antidiscrimination bodies to explain themselves.

No major political party is interested in winning the vote of Australia’s poor.

Labor is no better than the Liberals on this. They might claim to stick up for battlers, but rarely take their side on any of the issues mentioned here. This is mainly due to Labor’s relationship with the unions, which care about workers who have jobs rather than those who don’t. And Labor is also now competing with the Greens for middle-class progressive voters who couldn’t give a fig about the impact of power prices or the price of cigarettes on the poor.

In fact, every week we hear how progressives have a new idea to make life harder for poor people. Even the push to replace cage eggs with free-range eggs will lead to substantial price increases, and now they’re talking about a sugar tax.

The poor are hectored and spoken down to. They have few choices in relation to their education and health. They are told when, where and how they can drink, smoke, eat, gamble and enjoy themselves. They are told they are cruel if they enjoy greyhound racing and too ignorant, stupid or incoherent to manage their own lives. Increasingly they are considered less important than animal rights and the environment.

Our governments are elected by the middle class to serve the middle class, so it’s hard to see how any of this is going to change.

So whatever you do, try not to be poor.

The gun-happy Senator Leyonhjelm suffers from a dual disability – he fancies himself as an ideologue, and he is seriously thick.  Shame on those shameless progressives – members of the Liberal Party, the Labor Party, or both? – for making it so much harder for blackfellas to kill themselves on fags or grog.  And did you see the mandatory Murdoch Union reference to hate speech laws? This guy reminds me of a remark of the late Jim Kennan – when you meet someone from the gun lobby, you might be looking at a person that you would least want to see behind a gun.

Next, I must stop buying North American scholarship blind.  I bought a book on historians of the French Revolution by Professor Steven Kaplan of Cornell University.

This argument was quite potent and tonic when reasoned in terms of the Braudelian reading of time (and space) and of the asphyxiating intellectual consequences of a historical (and academic) periodization generated by the reification of the Revolution’s self-representation.  To fathom the causes and outcomes of the Revolution, to understand how institutions really worked and how traditions came into being, to make cogent diagnoses, historians needed to insert it in a comparative, multivariate, long run context ( a sort of Annalesization of Tocqueville).

That is extreme bullshit.  And do you notice how the computer encourages further parenthetical mutilation of the language?

I admire the work of the late François Furet.  His writing is lucid, and to the point, and he is one of the very few historians who understands just how silly it is to look only at events in France 1789 to 1793.  Here is Kaplan again.

…..Furet becomes one of Tocqueville’s abstract thinkers, unable to navigate in the real world.  Thus, for instance, Furet is interested in the people-as-concept for the role they play in legitimising the Revolution and filling the political vacuum.  But he is indifferent to the people-as-people.  The true people are those who inhabit the collective imaginary.  Language crowds out its referent – or the referent is absorbed by the concept.  The notion of the people matters, not their comportment.  The conceptual ‘reality’ takes precedence over its social counterpart, whose existence is without significance in the sense that it resides outside Furet’s semiotic circuit.  The discordance between the Revolution-as-people brandished by the leaders (and appropriated by the galactic historians) and the revolutionaries lived by the people is neither pertinent nor profound.  And as long as he defines his démarche as conceptual rather than commemorative, Furet can comfortably march to the drumbeat of the Revolutionary protagonists.  For him the Revolution has a life of its own outside the social, a discursive autonomy and a sort of anthropomorphic existence.  Thus he can write a metahistorical phrase such as the following: ‘If, as I believe, the French Revolution was really what it set out to be…’

That isn’t bullshit, it’s gibberish.

Finally, there was a piece in the weekend press that shows why people are being turned off the big political parties.  This one was about the Liberal Party in Victoria.  A young whizz kid called Bastiaan is apparently getting on people’s nerves.  He is described by The Age, in a piece that looks to have been legalled with caution, as 27-year-old former ‘bellicose Brighton Grammar debater’.  He has the same old mantra.  The party has been overrun by ‘lobbyists, political staffers or people who have worked in government the entirety of their careers.’  Does he too want to drain the swamp?  What is the life experience of this 27 year old public school boy debater that enables him to offer this world view on his elders?  According to The Age:

A three-time university dropout, Bastiaan got into business with the aid of his father, dabbling in an antiques dealership while at university, before moving into a software design business.

He now spends his time leaping between an e-commerce start-up and politics.

The comparison with Trump gets closer.  But the politics get even denser.  His partner is a 25-year-old woman who challenged for a seat in State Parliament. She has apparently firm religious views, and she believes that women who have been raped, according to The Age, should be denied an abortion.  ‘Like Bastiaan, she claims to be focused on returning the party to its members and challenging a Parliamentary team that has abandoned its values and lost touch.’  They are like broken records.  Her partner had invoked Menzies in support of his brand of reaction, and as we were reminded in another piece on the weekend, Menzies deliberately chose the word Liberal because he did not wish the party to be seen as conservative.

But the partner of Bastiaan is, apparently, the complete reactionary.  The Safe Schools program teaches ‘radical gender theory and warped graphic sex education centred around promiscuity…’  We are ‘seeing the destruction of religious freedom, free speech, a push towards gay marriage (which won’t stop there!)  and euthanasia.’  She sees a state/nation-wide push to bring ‘conservative’ politics back into fashion.  She likes people like Cory Bernardi, Andrew Hastie, George Christensen, and Kevin Andrews.  Last year, she hosted a gala fundraiser for Andrews where the main attraction was Tony Abbott.  In the name of God – perhaps literally – the ‘Bulleen dinner featured a Latin grace and a rendition of God Save the Queen’.  (Did they offer a salute?) According to the paper, ultraconservative churches and the Mormons are fertile recruiting grounds.

What sane person could think of joining an outfit that engages in bullshit like this? It reminds me of my childhood and youth, a period of say twenty years, where this country had an opposition party that completely failed to discharge its function in opposition because it was hopelessly split by factions and dragged down by selfish idiots who cared more for ideological purity than the prospects of their party ever getting into government.  (As it happens, the split was engineered by the same denomination that this young woman adheres to.) In a way, my generation was disenfranchised, and it looks like the Liberal Party in Victoria may go the same way if these fanatics get what the press calls traction.

I have long been of the view that we should have a legal mechanism by which Opposition parties can be subjected to a form of impeachment for failing in their function.  Just look at the mess that the English Labour Party has got into with their fanatics.

Poet of the Month: Dante, Inferno, Canto 1.

When I beheld him in the desert vast,
“Have pity on me,” unto him I cried,
“Whiche’er thou art, or shade or real man!”

He answered me: “Not man; man once I was,
And both my parents were of Lombardy,
And Mantuans by country both of them.

Sub Julio was I born, though it was late,
And lived at Rome under the good Augustus,
During the time of false and lying gods.

A poet was I, and I sang that just
Son of Anchises, who came forth from Troy,
After that Ilion the superb was burned

But thou, why goest thou back to such annoyance?
Why climb’st thou not the Mount Delectable
Which is the source and cause of every joy?”

“Now, art thou that Virgilius and that fountain
Which spreads abroad so wide a river of speech?
I made response to him with bashful forehead.

“O, of the other poets honour and light,
Avail me the long study and great love
That have impelled me to explore thy volume!

Thou art my master, and my author thou,
Thou art alone the one from whom I took
The beautiful style that has done honour to me.

Behold the beast, for which I have turned back;
Do thou protect me from her, famous Sage,
For she doth make my veins and pulses tremble.’

Confucius says

There is a nasty false form of what is said to be ‘conservatism’ that claims to identify with something called ‘western civilisation.’  It’s as if we are meant to think that there is something inferior about the civilisation of the East.  Such a suggestion would be at best hilarious and at worst outrageous to the substantial part of the world’s population who live in China, India, and Japan, for example.  You might wonder if ‘western civilisation’ is code for white supremacy, but to confront this narky parochialism, we will replace for the foreseeable future what has been the ‘Poet of the month’ with ‘Confucius says’.  The context is that these sayings of Confucius were uttered about a century before the death of Socrates, and about five centuries before the Jew called Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount – in Asia.

Tzu-kung asked the Master about what a man must be like before he can be said truly to be a Gentleman.  There followed a discussion about degrees of Gentlemen.

‘What about men who are in public life in the present day?’

The Master said, ‘Oh, they are of such limited capacity that they hardly count.’

Analects, 13.20.

Two and a half millennia ago. In the boondocks of China.

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