Paul Keating: why the strength of the reactions?

http://www.theasianbanker.com/photogallery/summit07/leader_1356.JPGLove him or hate him . . . (when I grow up I want to be director of cliche management for Hill and Knowlton).

Anyway John Quiggin has a characteristically good post about Paul Keating, contrasting the expression ‘Howard haters’ with ‘Keating haters’.  His point is that the world was not full of people who hated Howard (in contrast to his policies) but that it was true that lots of people hated Keating (despite not strongly objecting to his policies).

Anyway reading the post it struck me how differently John and I see the world of politics.  For John, Keating lost because “[f]or the majority of Australians, Keating was tied to the recession and that was that.”  I have little doubt that Keating was tied to the recession and that that didn’t do him any good.  But the problem with this interpretation is that Keating won the election where the recession was most strongly in people’s minds.   True, they got spooked by Dr Hewson.  But that gave Keating plenty of time to get the recession out of people’s minds.  He didn’t.  Why not? Because people wanted to see a bit of contrition.

They wanted to see a bit of humility and failing that they wanted to see the common touch.  The strange and sad thing about Keating was that he had all the talent to give them what they wanted.  All he had to do was edit out a few of the less attractive features of his personality – or those that the people didn’t like.  His aggression in Parliament, his contemptuous and arrogance in dismissing contrary views. Editing our personalities for the onlooker is a skill all of us learn from primary school on.  It’s not a hard skill, though perhaps editing out the more visceral aspects of one’s persona might require a little more self discipline. But it’s not as if people weren’t giving him this advice.  But he was somewhere else.

Keating lost because of the way he presented his personality.  Of course “the recession we had to have” became one of the things onto which people focused their dislike.  And vice versa those who reacted negatively to the way he put himself over fulminated about the recession we had to have. But a few presentation skills, a bit of humility – faux or otherwise – would have given Keating a good chance at victory.

It is strange watching someone want something so much and yet be unable to hang onto what they have because they cannot yield on points of such little consequence.

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THR
THR
13 years ago

All true, but still, he’s still rather different to the most recent ex-PM, who is something you’d hurriedly scrape off your shoes should you encounter him.
Keating was deeply flawed; Howard is a piece of shit.

Don Wigan
Don Wigan
13 years ago

You’ve nailed it, Nicholas. Humility was the missing ingredient. The recent death of and the eulogies to John Button was a reminder of how important and how endearing this trait is in our leaders.

The icons of Labor history, Curtin and Chifley, possessed it in spades. Dunstan, despite a dominant personality, also had it. Even Menzies did, if the correspondence and friendship between he and Curtin is any guide.

Howard survived for many years by projecting such a persona. Jim Killen noted that Howard had always been unfailingly polite and respectful in all their communications. Whether this was the real Howard is another question, and I suspect the real one was obsessed with trying to set records, and much as THR claims.

Our most successful recent PM, Hawke, was also driven by a lot of ego and was not notably humble. However, he had a gift for negotiating and seeking consensus and for delegating. That might have amounted to much the same.

I agree about PJK. He could, in fact, be generous to erstwhile rivals, and it is always a joy to hear or read some of his thoughts. But he still lacked that humility, at least in public, which might have carried him to greatness.

Ag
Ag
13 years ago

Nick, agreed that Keating’s lack of humility and contrition, especially concerning the early 1990s recession, was a strong factor in the 1996 election loss, but wasn’t this loss also just time catching up with the ALP, which had been in government for 13 years?

Also, Keating’s national narratives, his stories of national modernisation, which had utopian (riding the ‘J-curve’) and dystopian (Banana republic) edges, became increasingly falsified (the recession) and replaced by the reactionary social and cultural narrative that Howard and his bloc articulated. Rather than Keating reforming his arrogant persona, it was the size and reach of his big picture stories rubbing up against small picture resentments that I think factored more in the 1996 loss.

On Keating v Howard. Keating did his own dirty work – publicly. Howard let his canines do it, while he appeared to be above the dirt. Also, Keating’s apprenticeship was conducted by a great Labor hater: Jack Lang. And it was Keating’s performance of ‘hate’ that so many of us on the left found pleasure in. I’m not sure if Keating could or even should have self-edited this part of his persona.

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
13 years ago

Speaking of humility, these days I find myself so far out of step with contemporary political and sociological analysis as to make me seriously doubt the worth of anything I think I think. But to me your view of humility and Keating and Howard is exactly, 100% wrong, Don. I’m a bit reminded of Golda Meir’s great riposte to some ersatz-self-effacing Knesset colleague: “Don’t be so damned humble, you’re not that great.”

I’ve always found the bolted-on ‘humility’ that drenches Australian public life nauseating. It’s a relative of the bolted-on ‘egalitarianism’ that sees PM’s riding in the front of Comcars and mate-mate-mateing their way about the joint like Paul Hogan in a US tourism ad. To me that’s the kind of transparent contrivance that really reveals contempt and lack of respect for the electorate. Paul Keating has a lot of flaws, but patronising Australians has never been one of them. Mark Latham, in a different style, likewise. On the conservative side, Tony Abbott and Bill Heffernan are two that spring equally to mind.

The populist reductionism inherent in Howardian/Ruddian leadership by public ‘role-playing’ is a form of condescension which is, in my view, far more contemptibly arrogant than the ‘so long, suckers’ cheerio of Keating legend. Contrived self-affacement is an unpleasant and downward-spiralling trend increasingly inherent right across public life, too: cock-strutting interventionist journos who spray their schoolyard speculators from the mock-humble but in reality near-unbreachable vital ground of ‘objective detachment’; writers who relentlessly posture as humble tradesmen, grafting for an honest quid from the punters; celebrities who insist they hate all that red carpet razzamatazz; iconoclasts who go all po-faced ‘what, me?’ at the results of their serial, career-cynical farting in church…like I said, I feel about as far out of step with contemporary public mores and thinking as it is possible, but I saw that lame photo of Rudd on the floor at 2020, and I was filled with the urge to stride over there, wrench him to his feet, near-strangle him with a crisp Windsor knot and hiss: ‘Listen, Noddy – I’m not paying you fatloads of tax money to indulge your fucking fantasies of Ordinary Punterhood, dickwad. You’re the fucking PM, and you get the executive jet and Kirribilli House to show for it. You’re special, elite, different and priveleged. Now grow the fuck up and act the fucking part. You wanker.”

But like I said, I’m not sure I have even a remote grasp on reality, anymore.

Rex
Rex
13 years ago

Jack, a delightful rant which I may or may not agree with (I don’t know), but delightful nonetheless.

Patrick
Patrick
13 years ago

Nick, surely this deserved a remark in itself:

the world was not full of people who hated Howard

wtf? Did he forget to specify the world apart from the left? Seriously? Cf: the first comment on this thread; the thousands of inane bumper stickers; the use of ‘rodent’; the constant whingeing about being ashamed to be Australian, the inane delusions that the ‘rest of the world’ (ie the Guardian) would think less of us…

Seriously? Is Quiggin that deep in his books?

And see Ag’s comment:

And it was Keatings performance of hate that so many of us on the left found pleasure in.

What a weird thing this left is.

But I think your theory about Paul Keating, as well as having the advantage of not proceeding from manifestly false premises, is more accurate. Viz as well Kennett.

The only part I would disagree with is your inability to understand how hard it was for him to change. I don’t think they are ‘points of so little consequence’ and I am suprised that you do. They are the way in which he had learnt to mediate between himself and the outside world – his personality – such ‘manners’ are in fact what comes to constitute our identity and changing them is incredibly hard. It requires reflection, mentoring/counselling/psychiatry and serious commitment. Very few people do ever so change.

~ ~ ~
Jack, I second Rex’s comment.

Patrick
Patrick
13 years ago

You are right that changing the presentation of ones personality is very hard.

What I meant was that ‘the presentation of one’s personality‘ = one’s personality; at least this is the case by the time one is thirty, let alone nearer fifty.

Tony T
13 years ago

Jack, agree entirely about the fvcken photo. If I’d been there, I would have kicked his legs like a school kid slumped in a corridor, and told him to get up. Would have kicked the photographer in the teeth, too.

Rudd is PM now. He can afford to drop his nauseating “I’m one of you” shtick. The cycle will get him like it got Hawke, Howard and Keating, so he may as well be himself for his alloted time in the job.

Into you list of condescending swine, I would chuck sporties who are forced into a professional apologies or pretend they respect opposition and fans.

Don Wigan
Don Wigan
13 years ago

I agree with Rex re Jack. I’m sorry to be ‘100% at odds’ with you Jack, since Ive always enjoyed your rants. I’m hoping that either Ive expressed my view loosely, or that you’ve misunderstood me.

In no way do I approve of professed humility, which I think is what Howard tried to portray. I still shudder a bit at his ‘Gee Whiz’ public statements after being in Washington at the time of 9/11.

Nor would I have hoped for Keating to put on some phony humility. But after the amazing win in 93, a statement to the effect that “… we’ve heeded the warning that we’re on notice…” might have gone down better than an air of invincibility. Caesar’s generosity to Pompey after defeating him seems to me a better way of ensuring stability.

Of course, your general point (if I have read it correctly) is true. Real humility is how you treat others in private rather than what you profess in public. There is a bit of evidence to suggest that Keating was in fact kind and loyal to those around him. I don’t think it is hypocritical to occasionally show this publicly. It didn’t do Hawke any harm to admit his failings on drinking and womanising.

Ag
Ag
13 years ago

The pleasure of Keating’s demonizing, of Hewson for example, who PJK was going to do slowly, was in hindsight a pleasure in a unified left: unified because you felt that there was a shared enemy and pleasurable because in summoning up some of the ghosts of a residual labourism Keating could make you feel as though the culture and principles of Labourism were not being dismantled by the ascendance of neoliberalism.

The Keating-haters, just as much, are involved in a fantasy.

Downer the Opera would be a hoot.

Amanda
13 years ago

What’s lame about the Rudd pic is the way people have fallen over themselves to loudly denounce it and demand everyone recognise their utter iconoclastic genius in being able to sniff out a pollie in a photo op. By golly no, you can’t fool them! Keep speaking truth to power, kids.

Even if it was (not convinced, don’t care) completely staged to project an air of ordinaryness at least the bloke should get kudos for finding a novel way to do it. I’ve never seen the sitting on the floor in a crowd angle worked before, and it sure beats yet another shot of them in an apron turning over a snag on the BBQ or having tea down at the RSL or donning an akubra to better commune with Our Rural and Regional Australians. Or making sure there are cameras in your residence at 3am to capture you in a trackie cheering on the Footballroos.

If this is the level of inventiveness in cynical photo ops we can expect of our new overlords, I say hoofrackingray.

Patrick
Patrick
13 years ago

in summoning up some of the ghosts of a residual labourism Keating could make you feel as though the culture and principles of Labourism were not being dismantled by the ascendance of neoliberalism.

Whilst, of course, he was doing exactly that. Sharp as tacks, this kind of left. Which is exactly why, on a another thread,

I actually think that all governments should spend their first year (here) or eighteen months (in eg France with 5 year Presidential terms) combining caring and sharing speak with sharp cuts to structural barriers

.

Ag
Ag
13 years ago

Jeez, thanks Patrick. Your 3-year plan (what does etc. mean BTW?) carries a whiff of sadism in its initial lashings of neoliberal reform : pain now for pleasure later? Sharp cuts, sharp tacks – Oh ah!

Tony T
13 years ago

Amanda: Boooooooo!!

That is all.

Pavlov's Cat
13 years ago

What Amanda said.

That is all.

Actually, no it isn’t; I’d just like to add that I’ve never seen a photo divide opinion so crisply by gender before. I’ve not spoken to one woman, on or offline, who didn’t find that photo totally endearing, whether it was staged or not (Amanda’s ‘Not convinced, don’t care’ response is typical).

Most women despise strutting, standover and bluster no matter who does it, but I think some blokes expect and welcome those things from the alpha bloke, and get very anxious and insecure when the alpha bloke so egregiously fails to do any of them and opts instead to look relaxed, absorbed, self-contained and harmless (hah). Dudes, he is messing with your heads.

Niall
13 years ago

Paul Keating did what he believed was right, and damn the consequences. That he failed to read the political consequences of his actions, to me, says a lot about the naivety of the man’s personality, not the fact that he failed to change it to suit the issues. In fact, I’d challenge anyone – even Patrick – to change their personality to meet a given situation. It’s not possible. We are what we are. Lies will always be seen as what they are. John Howard found that out, even though he claimed not to be the accomplished liar he surely is.

Keating’s actions in government, and as Treasurer prior, placed Australia on the road to economic strength. Something which the Howard govt failed to recognise and exacerbated with glad-handed tax cut after tax cut simply to ensure their political longevity. That leaves us today in a blended economic situation, somewhere between boom and bust, with financial distrust among major institutions hurting us all, just as the boom from increasing commodity prices and consumer ignorance adds to inflation, and by definition, interest rates.

Frankly, despite his all to blatant personality flaws, I’d much rather have Paul Keating as Treasurer today than Wayne Swan. Keating understands economics. Swan doesn’t appear to understand squat.

Patrick
Patrick
13 years ago

In fact, Id challenge anyone – even Patrick – to change their personality to meet a given situation

Twat. I’m the one saying how hard it is.

Niall
13 years ago

You’re doing a good impression of not saying so.

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
13 years ago

Rex, Patrick, ta. I’m one of those blog-commenters with only a few vaguely functioning gears. Of ‘rant’, ‘labored quip’ and ‘earnest clunk’…the rant tends to be my comfort blog-default. (Say…is that some blank space I spy below…)

Nicholas, I think your 1st Law is elegant and deft and boy, is it apt in PJK’s case! Oft-remarked, he’d have been better as a Napoleonic general, a Romantic conductor, a Lutherian apostate, a Celtic Knight, a fighter pilot in May ’40…one of the little remarked tensions inherent in human leadership in the Age of Democracy is the mismatch b/w the romantic narcissism (still) necessary to fuel the personal ambition underpinning the former, and the banal grind of consensus and policy-implementation that is the latter. Even on the global stage of US and UN politics incumbents are now largely administrative instruments, at best primus inter pares facilitators. But humility as a genuine trait demands that true power be truly relinquished, voluntarily, otherwise it’s mere personal piety, or disguised necessity, or a shallow pose.

So…what modern democratic politician anywhere is individually powerful enough to be humble, thus? None, I reckon.

When it comes to local would-be Charlemagnes like Keating – Gareth Evans, Whitlam, Turnbull – stuck in a provincial leadership backwater like Oz, in a ‘leadership backwater’ profession like politics…all that redundant Great Man energy must turn inward, eventually. Or fuel a ridiculous self-parody…look at Evans, FFS: flailing about on the quasi-global stage of a parallel UN like a spare rampant prong going at a closed quilt circle that’s steadfastly ignoring all the puppy-dog thrusting. From the sound of what you say Dunstan’s was a fair resolution of those tensions, between infinite political vision and the necessarily limited realm of the do-able-in-one-lifetime. I wonder, without being fey or flippant, how much his sexuality, and the mildly-amused Vidalian detachment with which it seemed to suffuse his public self, helped him reconcile that divide.

As a complete nobody (and increasingly experienced failure) duly free to indulge all manner of dewey-eyed, moon-batty dreamings I do pity those of our leaders who have a go at shackling their personal engine room to the ponderous giant piston that is the Art of the Possible. Gruen’s 1st Law be buggered, let’s have a Romantic go, anyway! I watched my dad grind himself and his idealism to bits just thus, across three unwinnable elections, tactically, for the sake of party strategy, the main game, perhaps the private recognition that even provincial politics needs to keep pretending that it’s worthy of Shakespearean selflessness and sacrifice…lest achieved reality turn really bad! In truth it wasn’t the leaders that got small, it was the art of leadership itself. Democracy’s now the proper business of grafters, hackers, spot-welders…bitsers and nudgers and inch-by-inchers. A good thing, too – thank you Adolph, thank you Joseph, thank you Mao. And Our Rudd’s nothing if not ‘of his time’; a paragon of the natural born plodocrat.

Which is why attempts at humility on his part – that silly photo – ain’t gunna wash. Nor Howard’s constant self-advertising of his own unimportance. Ha! My arse he was humble, too. Because our pollies just don’t have enough greatness for humility. They can’t – not if they’re doing their job well. So, sorry, Amanda, but you and I will have to differ on the whole photo-op thing: a la Meir, Rudd simply hasn’t got (can’t have) the stature in the first place to render his choosing to sit down on the job an act of secular-holy self-mortification. It matters that he doesn’t forget it, too; that we elected him because he is boring and efficient and incremental and non-descript and personality-free, by nature. He doesn’t need to lay it on with a trowel. He hasn’t got the chops for any kind of messiah shit, including and especially the terrified, anti-elitist, ‘I’m not the messiah’ brand so favoured by the mass-media-intimidated modern populist. But paradoxically and counter-intuitively it’s precisely that moment that a Rudd – oany holder of modern High Office – allows the mere reflected glow of incumbency to dupe them into thinking they need to remind their citizens how ‘ordinary’ they too are, that reveals how they’ve stopped thinking so, privately. Next thing you know, Your Humble Democratic Leader will be singing Kumbayah and invading Iran in the name of the Poor Darkie Kiddies, or some or other such cock-eyed, humanist, rational, Tony Blairian grand folly.

And boy – talk about the tragic arc of Gruen’s 1st Law personified, right there. Just empiricisin’.

To be honest though, Nick, I’m not sure that even religion remains a viable relief valve/hallelujah whistleblast option for the pent-up pressure that is Humanity’s perpetual hunger for Triumph Through Glorious Failure, anyway. Even an alleged Rotty of the Infallible Abstract like Benedict has taken to tap-dancing to the cadence of the materialist straighteners and workaday literalists of Plodostan. As for the big swinging dicks of the City…they’re even more hog-tied in biege – by Boards, by the tyranny of popular consumption, by the phantasmagorical complexity of international financial interdependency, etc, etc. Even Murdoch can barely buy a packet of Juicy Fruit these days without some Arcane Financial Product screen-nerd waggling a finger and telling him he better not, lest Brazil’s GDP disappear in a puff of prematurely clipped hedges, or what have youse…

Me, I just don’t think anyone on any material power stage is…erm, powerful enough to apply humility convincingly. M-a-y-b-e martyrdom in Art still offers a legitimate whiff of Nobility Through Self-Abasement, at an individual level. And any of us DWM’s who hanker for the good old days, when boys were forged into men in the foundries of humiliating defeat and grand cosmic reckoning…well, we can still rent some slapper to noose our balls with fishing line and paddle our bums with a willow blade, wot-ho! Genuine humility realised? Lasting grace? Possibly not. Better that than invading Iraq to get our psychological come-uppance, but.

And now, inevitably, I’m gushing nonsense. You really shouldn’t encourage me, Troppo. Tony T and Don, I’d best wave my willy your way a little later. Unless I’m run out of town first.

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
13 years ago

Oooh, my coment crossed with a few others.

Is this is stoush, then?

Laura
13 years ago

Well Pav, I thought the photo of Rudd sitting on the floor was a horribly disappointing piece of naffery. It was the unbearably self-satisfied look on his face that did it for me.

Jack said it beautifully: there is too much phony condescension in Australian politcal life and it’s not just aesthetically unpleasing, it’s gotten us into serious trouble on occasion. What I loved (not too strong a word) about Keating was that he didn’t suffer fools. A Prime Minister who does otherwise is a liability to the nation, no matter whether it’s good for his own political career.

Laura
13 years ago

Keating lost an election to Howard and that was regrettable, but otherwise, I can’t agree that he was a failure as a leader….unless in the sense that Beckett points to in describing the ambition to ‘fail better.’

Ingolf Eide
Ingolf Eide(@ingolf)
13 years ago

Beautiful, Jack, bloody beautiful. I don’t even really want to figure out if I agree with you. Far too lovely a rant to quibble over such details.

Pavlov's Cat
13 years ago

Laura — alas, yes, I admit that my sample was on the small side.

I’m starting to wonder whether that photo might not be a highly unstable (semiotically speaking) image. He didn’t look self-satisfied to me at all — I read that expression quite differently.

Does anyone know who the photographer was or whether s/he has said anything about it?

rog
rog
13 years ago

PJK was uncomfortable in shopping centres, the pressing of the flesh was not to his taste. Far better to be building fantabulous castles in the air than dealing with mundane everyday issues like the cost of a loaf of bread.

The voters sensed his rejection of them and repaid the compliment, in spades.

Robert
Robert
13 years ago

That photo certainly polarises. Overfed on a bloated diet of photo ops, and used to (though fairly rare) candid photos revealing either close ups or situation but always with a PM in authority mode, young Kevin the relaxachamp, or CL’s ‘fakir’, or Jack’s ‘falsity’, Laura’s ‘naffery’, Amanda’s ‘novel’ and many more, was something of a shock.

Every commented view is compelling.

It could be pulled apart forever. And the context, too: a young PM both fresh and tired from a (long dreamed of?) world tour of and amongst the heavyweights, bought with countryfolk credit, back home (71%!) amongst his_brightest_and_best, a new nation as thoughtform shouting and jostling and singing in the great halls. Exorcism and Ecstasy, on a stick.

Or maybe he was buggered a mo’ and the seats just there were taken up.

Not only does it strike to gender, experience, faux or flourish, it strikes to age. What would your grandmother and grandfather think? Your teenage child?

Unsettlingly, and interestingly, this could well be Rudd not tamed by time. Hawke had the matey thing to the end, Howard the hard-done john.. Rudd, what, impromptu breakdancing somewhere a decade on? A browneye? “It was a joke”. Five days aloft at 40,000 feet with Branson: “Helps the nation for the PM to get a new perspective”.

Or maybe he’ll grow out of it.

A further question is: would he have done sat down if he were not Prime Minister?

On Howard and Keating. The pain of Howard’s actions and words and intentions from so many ‘hating’ accounts was for the nation, for people. These were born of so much one man’s objectives, and Howard rightfully copped it as progenitor of the crock. My bobs is that Howard himself was not hated, other than he was the natural focus for the reasons for the hurt; no, he was regarded with deep, deep sadness. Sadness on top of sadness, this precluded Howard’s good work from acknowledgement.

Keating was more than has been presented here. Clearly this blog post and thread is not an environment for his vision to be properly respected, or that what he did was to lay a visionary foundation upon which the future Australia will be and is being built. In so many ways. Hawke was matey, could mould one part with another, and from that less intrusive and confrontational, and hollow from more than one account by those who walked the walk with him, but Keating had prescience, and he had real, not manufactured, power.

Of course he failed, but failure does not define him.

For certain, like him or loathe him, what he did will play a role in structuring your thinking when holding in mind, even heart, what Australia is, what Australia could be, where Australia is going, and from whence it came – and howsoever that plays out a long time from now in your daily life or career.

This is not to defend the Keating failings, and they’ve here been fairly placed. But this is not a ‘centrism’ post and follow up by any means, other than it diminishes Keating as it does Howard. Nor is it a criticism of what makes that diminishment happen.

Maybe that’s an essential difference between Keating and Howard. Howard threw away the chance of better regarding his good work, whereas Keating’s good work lives on, through and beyond Howard.

Keating was PM for a very short time, and, for that effect, thankfully so. By the resolution of the Australian people, who’ve either forgiven or forgotten, or who’ve seen (for them) the greater evil (against the Keating background), the Australian future includes his effect. Howard vs Keating. It’s Keating, so far.

John Greenfield
John Greenfield
13 years ago

Seriously one has to ask just how many of those Labor voters who switched to the Libs from 1996 to 2007, Luvvie Quiggin actually knows or has ever met, let alone discussed their motivations with. ;)

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
13 years ago

Laura – and Nick – yes, I didn’t mean to give quite the impression that I regard Keating as a ‘failure’ as a politician. Almost by definition all political careers end in ‘failure’ – the loss (removal or surrender) of political power before an incumbent’s death. This is still a pretty novel idea in historical terms. In Shakespearian tragedy Great Men and Women…either die, or stay Great (if doomed, damned, cursed, insane). That – or so I presume(d) – is what Nick’s Law is getting at: we live in such a buttoned-down, process-driven, rational, materialist age – generally for the good, in admin & governance terms – that the knowingly metaphysical realms of human activity (he reckons God, I’d add Art and Scholarship)- are likely the only ones in which the idea of human ‘Greatness’ – and its companion human ‘Tragedy’ – are still meaningful. Big Ideas – we do hunger for them, we do crave the swoon and sweep of them, life without them feels dull and vapid and small and bloodless. And I’ve always reckoned that the two primary jobs of those who opt for the life of the mind is a) to proselytise (with good humour and wit) the primacy of such a life, over all other human lots; but also b) to ensure, both defensively and aggressively, that said ‘Big Ideas’ remain the sole business of said-same life of the mindery. For safety’s sake, and all that. One of the compensations for the lousy pay and career-insecurity of artists, scholars and priests is – used to be, ought to be – the freedom we grant them from the tyrannical shackles of utilitarian applicability of their toil. Ivory Tower shouldn’t be a pejorative.

As Nick suggests (re: Dunstan) it’s a rare individual who can splice the Grand and the Mundane successfully for any length of time. I do think that Treasurer Keating managed to do so – thrive in grinding legacy-policy terms but also, thrillingly, in an aesthetic sense – because of the element of Tragicke/Masochistic Destiny inherent in his banal task: wrenching the Australian economy (with the weighty millstone of ALP ismic and cultural history attached) into the modern era. Keating sank his teeth into selling us that transformation, via the journalists (to whom the sacrificial quest element also appealed, I think), with the kind of death-grin hellfire-relish that knights once went after dragons. I think the task of fitting up the True Believer in a silk pinstripe appealed to the god-fearing bog-Mick in him: talk about a penance! And such is his elan, his zest, his rich humanitry and humour, the joyful ferocity of his intellect, that he not only sold the unsellable, he even made Economics sexy. With luck a decade of Costello followed up by a few years of Swan will kill off that bit of PJK’s legacy, but.

I think Pavlov’s Cat is right about that photo being unstable. You’ve probably got a point about Rudd being the source of many a masculine confusion just now too, Doc. Let’s call it the sour grapes of the loser. Still – does Rudd really have to be the next New Man template against which the rest of us poor aging white bastards have to measure ourselves? Man, I was just getting the hang of fucking Metrosexual Man, now it’s Technocrat Man? C’arn, Pav, play fair. How on earth do you reconcile your hots for Tex Perkins with a penchant for a zooby like Kev? Hmmmm? Talk about him messing with our heads…Oh, look, Kev’s PM and I’m a mite on a grub in the bit of poo on the shoe of one of his bag carriers. He’s Alpha, I’m one of those squiggly never-used symbols six function-presses on past Z. I’m entitled to be rude and sour and sulky and petulant. And to me, in that snap, he looks like Kermit the Frog: smug, superior, loathsomely passive-aggressive, the little smart-arse teachy’s pet who’ll snatch the smoking Peter Jacko back from that stooge prep kids’ hand the moment Miss Trigge’s moved on. Not half as smart as he thinks he is, the little bastard. Go on, get up off the ground, Noddy…sitting on your little log with your little banjo and your little certitudes, wooing your Miss Piggy with your platitudes about your Rainbow Connections…I never liked that frog. Never did. No I did not.

Is it a sickness to fume about a muppet?

Caroline
13 years ago

I think more is revealed about the level of cynicism in our society by the suggestion that the photograph of Rudd on floor at Summmit was nowt but a cynical photo op–an attempt to make him look like an ‘everyday’ bloke. I’m with Amanda on it as a hitherto unexplored and interesting angle, and I liked it precisely for its anarchic suggestion in that its not the sort of thing ‘one does’ in certain company. All the photos I saw of the 2020 summit made it look like an extremely casual affair. e.g, Cate Blanchett’s bare feet with baby slung over shoulder, also not how one generally is encouarged to behave in public. I read Rudd’s expression as one of weariness, wonder and the body language clearly spoke of a feeling of being ‘at home’.

I like the way Keating didn’t do the common touch willingly and I agree with Jack that the matey mate thing is naff because it is often a hypocritical load of old cobblers. (Nicholas, I want a CEO role in cliche management or is that mismanagement?)

The Lord hates the arrogant, so we are told, (even though he’s not supposed to hate anyone), but isn’t it generally the single-minded individual with the strength of personality to see his vision realised who actually succeeds and is able to make lasting changes in the world? Often such a person is I’d guess, accused of arch arrogance. Perhaps he needs to be. It does not seem to be the populist, trying to be all things to all people, or in Howard’s case all things to the ‘right’ people who generally manages to succeed in achieving anything of lasting worth.

Keating made no bones about wanting to leave the Bankstown mileu behind as far as his social/intellectual aspirations went, and I think that was honest and as such, commendable. Insulting for some perhaps, but honest. I think Rudd sitting on the floor was honest too, but he’d never have done it were there anyone there he felt he needed to impress, (besides Cate) so maybe it was contemptible too?

Pavlov's Cat
13 years ago

How on earth do you reconcile your hots for Tex Perkins with a penchant for a zooby like Kev? Hmmmm?

I have catholic tastes.

John Greenfield
John Greenfield
13 years ago

Caroline

Like the craven fawning MSM during the Keating years, this photo was not a concoction of Rudd or his people. It has been seized on by The Luvvies as a visual oracle from the Messiah that Rudd is in fact “one of them!” Gawd, the puking has begun already. :(

Nabakov
Nabakov
13 years ago

I bet I’m not the only person to note that John Greenluvvie’s online behaviour pretty much parallels at least one generally accepted definition of “luvvie”. The terms “pathological” and “self-loathing” also now spring to mind for some reason.

Look Luvvie John, just fuck off. You’ve completely worn out your welcome just about everywhere online, except among your clique of “Harried Hermonine”, “Kage”, “Leftist Queers” and all your other imaginary friends.

The best of the blogosphere is based on people who steadily acquire attention and respect by being consistently interesting and entertaining posters, commentators and conversationalist.s

As opposed to the dull and disruptive like you who think they’re entitled to a large audience just because they exist. With nothing to offer beyond their own heavily self-stroked solipsism. Just like a classic luvvie basically.

Nabakov
Nabakov
13 years ago

“and conversationalist.s”

hmm…

“conversationalists”

and shit hot belle-lettrists too.

Patricia WA
Patricia WA
13 years ago

The old cliche about beauty being in the eye of the beholder comes to mind here.
Howard Hater that I was I always saw the “little man” no matter what he did – even in his so called “courageous” stand on guns. Remember that picture of him fronting the shooters wearing his flak jacket? So, was he scared and therefore brave, or just looking for a photo op? Did he really enjoy that daily walk or was he trying to cultivate an image? Haven’t seen any recent photos, particularly on his trip to the US where there used to be such unflattering pictures of our track suited PM. Imagine Kevin in shorts or a track suit? If Rudd’s photos really are staged I’m glad he’s going for the “I’m just one of you” image because it suits him and our times. I just think he’ll do whatever it takes to do his job well and a media image is part of that. He can’t do a Hawkie and hide his intellect behind an ocker irreverence, so he’s just going to be Kevin from Queensland, and a nerd? who has somehow become a fluent Mandarin speaker, able to address assemblies in Peking, and disagree with and yet not offend leaders of both China and the U.S. I wonder what Jack Robertson would have said if Rudd had stayed all weekend in the Lodge while our brightest and best brain-stormed in Parliament House. I’m sure he would have had a few buckets of verbal vomit to throw at our Kev who would have simply been having a longer than usual kip. I’m with Caroline and Amanda on this. I bet he really was weary, but being Rudd he didn’t want to miss a minute so he showed and sat in on discussions where and as he could. And photo-journalists looking for an angle got quite a few good shots.

Patrick
Patrick
13 years ago

aaah, the left…they are like the magic pudding!