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June 13, 2003

That white picket fence

Public opinion has taken some flack for suggesting that John Howard's social conservatism is constructed around the image of the white picket fence. That imagery from the 1988 Future Directions document does not accord with lived political reality thunder the emails. Nobody is living in the suburban 1950s, with a working dad, a stay-at home mum and two children, thunder others.

According to this article by Dennis Shanahan Howard retains the imagery of the suburban white fence and just modifies it. Instead of a working dad, a stay-at home mum we have a lower middle class dad (a policeman working full time) and his wife working as a casual sales assistant for around 10 hours per week).

Why hang onto the white picket fence in a globalized world? As Shanahan suggests the white picket fence signifies an imagery of security in an insecure world that embodies specific suburban values. It is Howard's modern equivalent of Robert Menzies' forgotten people and is tacitly counterpoised to the trendy, full time highly-paid, tertiary-educated professionals living in their town house in the inner city. Those to whom Howard's use of the imagery of the white picket fence appeals are aspiring (they want to climb up the ladder), they believe in equity and choice, hard work in being responsible for themselves and in community.

But they live in a globalised world of rapid change. They fear having their hours cut and not being able to keep up with the mortgage repayments. The do not feel too comfortable and relaxed because they are too busy trying to stay afloat in a deregulated economy and educating their kids. They fear falling down the ladder, given the job losses, cost cutting and the shift to casual employment with no paid sick leave, holiday or redundancy pay. What is called wage flexibility means insecurity in a market economy.

The image of the clean white picket fence is where society meets the market economy. This suburbia is a world away from the city and its holes in the welfare net, homelessness and emergency social services provided by the church charities. It's resonance is premised on an urban/suburban divide.

Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at June 13, 2003 12:15 PM

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Love it when you lefties air your patronising opinions about the middle classes and the suburbs. Maybe some of us like to know we won't be spending our entire lives paying mortgages; maybe we like having a competitive, safe shopping centre nearby; maybe we like living near our kids schools, so we can play a role in the school community; maybe we like the community spirit and microcosm of society found in the suburbs and regional towns; and most of all maybe we like the contentment that seeps along the streets and over the back fences. The only thing spoiling it is the emergence of fucking chardonnay bars and latte lounges in the main street. Fuck, I even saw a bogan in the mall the other day dressed all in black and carrying a Penguin Kerouac. Send the bastard back where he came from, I say.

Posted by: slatts at June 16, 2003 11:59 PM

Hey Bernard,
that's a bit rough.I was defending Howard's political use of the white picket fence in a globalised world.

I'm saying that it makes sense in terms of lived political reality. And I used a right wing pro-Howard journalist to do it.

I'm not knocking suburbia. My roots are in suburbia I grew up there. When you move to the inner city you lose community.

But I am critical of the extreme urban/suburban divide that shapes the way we think about social life.

Posted by: Gary Sauer-Thompson at June 17, 2003 09:14 AM

And whose creating the divide with their snobbery, demands for middle class welfare, political correctness, health and safety fascism, dumbing down of public education, anti-individualism, moral equivalence, derision of respect and fucking chardonnay bars on every corner where fine old pubs stood for decades? Not that many in the burbs worry too much about the copy cat inner city po-mo rats. But I do because the stand-for-nothing bastards are educating my kids.

Posted by: slatts at June 17, 2003 11:11 PM

My argument is that the urban/suburban divide is a part of Australian culture. It's a template that shapes the thinking of those on both sides of the divide.

And it has done so for a long time--since 1945 when the garden suburb city came into being as a 50 year flight from the unclean inner city.

(Your langauge of 'rats' is an apt expression of how the inner city is unconsciously seen by the suburban side of the divide).

Now there is the flight from the suburbs back into the inner city as well as the seachange transforming the coastal towns into suburbs.

Hard to blame all that on a bunch of postmodern urban lefties ensnarred in political correctness who are corrupting the young.

Time we started deconstructing the divide and started thinking about cities as places to live.

As for the inner city pubs---they continue to decline in Adelaide because everybody went to live in the suburbs. Those that remained became venues for the pokies that fostered a gambling habit that is currently destroying families and individuals.

I guess in your black and white scheme of things the pokies are the work of your enemy: copy cat, inner city, po-mo rats who are stand-for-nothing bastards.

Posted by: Gary Sauer-Thompson at June 18, 2003 12:36 AM

The family centric focus is passed job on to every product the company job makes. The guy is a former marketing direct tv executive from Laycos, where he loan was one of the prime movers in creating insurance the corn chips over 30 years ago directv by combining regional corn brands dish network into one national brand. relocated mortgage to Pierce County 18 years ago from satellite tv

Posted by: credit card at July 26, 2004 11:03 AM

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