The God Squad Has the Crayon

Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021

Other people’s fairy stories have never bothered me. We’re all entitled to a little fantasy. It’s polite, too, to keep one’s own counsel on the sublime veracities that other people like to claim illuminate the liturgies with which humankind’s need for fiction has underpinned their lives. It is no moment, to most, that these have almost all been created by hierarchies to bolster their social, economic and political control systems. Anyone heard from Ra lately, or Osiris? No, didn’t think so. Just thought I’d ask. Though Seth might still be around, in many of his profoundly split personalities, or under an alias, at least.

But look, I’m only joking. Anyone with a working intellect, a functioning moral compass, and an ethical balance (these are not elite attributes) surely reveres – and reveres is the word, I use it deliberately – the faith that others display and which they use in their lives for the good of all. I have known many religious in my now seven decades on the third rock from the sun, and I would say this: it is the Jesuits who most attract me, for their gentle humour and the intellectual facility with which they balance science (and scientific fact) with ineffable religious faith. As with Groucho Marx and clubs, I wouldn’t join a church that asked me to. I said that once to a priest (a Jesuit, again) and he beamed. He then allowed himself a far from mild guffaw when I added that, as far as I knew, that was my original sin. 

All that is by the by. It demonstrates, to my own satisfaction at least, though perhaps not to the present government’s informal groups of rough-riders and (at this point metaphorical) lynch-squads that what I shall now write is informed and objective. I await advice on this, gratuitous or otherwise. 

I do not believe that it should be seen as just an anti-religious, anti-establishment rant, though some who don the bother-bootees may see it that way. It goes instead to the issue of what sort of country Australia is and should aspire to be. This behavioural mediation in favour of advancing sentience has never pleased the Flashhearts of the Anglosphere, but you wouldn’t expect it to. It’s just a shame, from the standpoint of human progress, that they seem to be charge hereabouts.

We commence, then, with a statement: There are several things wrong with the promotion of Margaret Court to the rank of Companion in the Order of Australia. Her original honour, in 2007, was as Officer of the Order, and it was awarded for her long-past tennis prowess. The fact that Rod Laver, also an Australian tennis great, later got an AC for achievements valued as equal, is one for the Fates. It’s really not an issue of gender balance, as the Council of the Order of Australia now suggests, since the common herd has had the temerity to inquire. He got one so she should have one is a ridiculous argument in the context of awards for merit. For clarity, it would be just as ridiculous (in this context) if the genders were reversed.

Because the Order of Australia is organised in a monarchical-at-one-remove courtier manner, wherein things should not be made known to the general public (for fear of what, one wonders, civil commotion, insurrection, lese-majesty, also at one remove?) we do not know who nominated the Rev. Margaret Court, former tennis player and present mentor, for promotion to the highest rank of our country’s honours system. It is this left-over from history that offends our democracy, much more than the giving of an even better gong to some woman whose mad god-bothering views about sexuality would otherwise reduce her social relevance to zilch. Australia’s all-time great female tennis player believes that homosexuality is a sin and that lesbian couples shouldn’t contrive to raise children, because these young individuals won’t have a dad. Give us a break. It is now 2021. 

She also apparently believes and wishes to promote her view – yes, this is where it gets really scary – that the only permissible position in which to have sex is the missionary one. Eat your heart out, Kama Sutra. Oops, that must be No. 65. Yes, missionary works. If you work at it, it can even be fun sometimes (though it shouldn’t be, we gather, since sex is ordained by god for purposes of procreation and isn’t a recreational pursuit; so sayeth the Rev). And she and her Pentecostal congregation are fully entitled to believe that, and clap about it to their hearts’ content. Along with any other adherents to the theory that social and sexual licence has gone far too far, god what, and all sorts of impulses, social and political as well, should be reined in forthwith, the better to secure heaven for the moneyed clappers. Yeah, well. Pass.

Kerry O’Brien, whose gimlet glare on national TV froze far better leaders than the present crop of complacent dissemblers will ever be, refused to accept his AO announced in the 2021 Australia Day Honours List, after initially accepting nomination, because of the promotion given to Margaret Court. So did an artist and a transgender doctor. 

The Order of Australia Council and the Governor-General, and the prime minister and assorted other social recidivists, should hear that message. Margaret Court is entitled to hold her abominable views. It is not the place of the Commonwealth of Australia to endorse these by default.

The same collective of guardians should also look at how Australian honours are organised. It mightn’t matter too much at the lower end – the OAMs and the AMs – but at the AO and, crucially, the AC level, we need to know who has nominated whom and upon what justification. This would assist the people, who are sovereign in our Commonwealth, to make their own informed judgments on the merits or otherwise of proposed recipients. Otherwise, as in this instance, we must assume that the god squad has requisitioned the crayon.

Here’s Mud in Your Boots! Cheers!

Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021

This week we will be marking our first Australia Day in country in fifteen years. Throughout the decade and a half that preceded April 2, 2020, when we were FIFOing as a lifestyle, we always managed to be absent for the rounds of increasingly strident and mawkish flag-waving and gong-giving that takes place every year on January 26, or has, at least, nationally, since 1994. It wasn’t until 1935 that all Australian states and territories even used the name “Australia Day” to mark that date. 

Some Australians prefer to call it Invasion Day – including from this year the national broadcaster, though the ABC would be wiser to stick to its charter and the official name and refer as necessary to other preferences – and from an Aboriginal perspective you can hardly argue. First British Boots in the Mud Day was precisely that: an invasive act of imperial requisition. Never mind the natives, they don’t matter: that was the soupçon du jour in 1788.

There is a lot to celebrate about modern Australia, and we’d be better doing that than continuing to argue by implication that the natives don’t matter. Aside from anything else, such as comprehension, for example, or conscience, or an appreciation of the nuances of history, we are all natives now; of Australia. 

Some of the more primitive Birther types among us like to pretend that no one’s a true-blue Aussie unless born within the special biosphere, that bit of the globe that’s both the world’s largest inhabited island and its smallest continent, the bit that’s girt by sea. It’s a fundamentally proto-fascist point of view rather than risible, picture-book nationalism, and it goes well with boots, muddy or otherwise, and a preference for hagiography because it tells the right fairy stories. 

But in the context of modern Australia, it’s bullshit, to use a vintage Australianism. The country has been built on constant flows of migration. Over time, it has factually ceased to be the last white colony in Asia, though not yet functionally. It’s worrying that some of its leaders seem still to want to perpetuate that long form of suicide as national policy.

So, we’ll be sitting quietly at home on the big day. We don’t have a flag to wave, or an overwhelming need to chug-a-lug, or a set of corks to sew around our hats, or a sausage sizzle to attend. You go to Bunnings for sizzles these days, anyway.

I might instead revisit the story of Woollarawarre Bennelong, a senior man of the Eora people, who made a name for himself in 1788 and is far more worthy of remembrance than the booted, plumed and beribboned Brit who became the First Jailer of New South Wales.