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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Burchell's tedious cliches « Previous | |Next »
July 19, 2010

The cultural war run by The Australian in its partisan fashion over the last decade look as if it has run out of puff. This has been a culture war against Aboriginal self-determination, multiculturalism, postmodernism in education, the non-nuclear family and the environmental movement.

Maybe Mitchell and co think that, as conservatism is alive and well and thriving, they can just leave it to their odd commentator--such as David Burchell--- to pursue. To give credit where credit is due Burchell endeavors to do his best in fulfilling Murdoch's job requirements. The trouble is Burchell's best is not very good.

In his latest op-ed on the election ---Underwhelming war of words could get tedious ---he continues to play off healthy suburban and provincial Australians against the effete (or sickly ) inner city professionals in the classical culture wars style.

In the outer-urban and provincial Australia in which I live, there are hundreds of thousands, or perhaps millions, of people whose tenor of life has not altered to any remarkable degree since their parents' days. They treasure their ageing V8 utes and winter dinners of fibrous roast beef served with Yorkshire pudding. They know in their hearts that Australia is God's own country, even if they've never left its shores. They still fondly imagine a trade apprenticeship to be a passport to a solid 50 years of the good life, in a cosy life-niche. And they nurture the comfortable conviction that just about everybody else in the country - aside from a few mildly amusing egg-heads who drive through their towns in Audis, Saabs and Subarus - feels more or less the same.

Oh dear, Burchell's forgotten about a plate of Tim-Tams arranged artfully on a white napkin! Seriously though he would have us believe that the working class in western Sydney (and Townsville?) has not changed since the 1980s, despite Australia's opening to the global economy and the emergence of 24/7 news.

Burchell's outer-urban and provincial Australians live in a time warp in poorly serviced regions without the internet, smart phones, McMansions, making the transition from tradie to self-employed, maxing out their credit cards, watching reality television, or exporting their products overseas. They live in the old local economy and the global economy has no effect on their daily lives including China. Nothing about being effected by a two speed economy (booming minerals depressed manufacturing). Let us call this Burchell's fiction.

Then we have Burchell's characterization of the inner city professionals in the global economy who drive through through the provincial towns in their Audis, Saabs and Subarus:

Contrariwise, in the bustling, cosmopolitan and yet still strangely lonely and characterless neighbourhoods of our inner cities, there are tens of thousands of earnest, highly strung folks whose work-lives are their avocation; whose "politics" stem from the innermost sanctum of their souls; and for whom the private economy is not the engine of prosperity, but a moral abomination on the scale of the slave trade.

The characterisation of former--the outer-urban and provincial Australians---is positive; whilst the characterisation of the latter--the inner city professionals--- is negative. The implication is that they are unAustralian because they do not share the values of old Australia. "UnAustralian" means subversive in the sense of undermining tradition, Western civilization and family values.

It's another of Burchell's fictions. The upwardly mobile are are in safe Labor and Liberal seats in the inner cities. A large part of the political class in the Liberal and Labor parties are inner city professionals; therefore their politics stems from he innermost sanctum of their souls and they see the economy as a moral abomination. The inner city IT professionals working in the global economy would not see their business as a moral abomination. Nor would they be anti-capitalist.

Yet this partisan rhetoric is what Burchell has been writing for The Australian for some time. His intellectual credibility has nosedived as a result. To his credit Burchell, in this op-ed, undercuts the standard duality of the cultural war by acknowledging that the great majority of Australians clearly do not fit either of these opposed pictures very closely:

Rather, they're in that vast, uncharted space between these extremes, a space suffused with vaguely nostalgic images of a kinder, simpler nation from a lost era, as well as with the sundry appurtenances of our imagined future - obscure Asian condiments in the kitchen, snatches of modernist decor, a TV the size of a ping-pong table that transmits the world news 24/7. In many respects, indeed, they hanker most of all to be told that these two aspects of our imagination are compatible - that we can remain tied to kith and kin, and to many of the values of our parents and ancestors, all the while cleaving to the promise of a new world that feeds on personal re-invention, endless self-adaption, and only half-glimpsed opportunities.

This, presumably is middle Australia, which is indifferent to the new values of sustainability in a world of climate change. Burchell wants us to believe that they so tied many of the values of our parents and ancestors that they have turned their back on, or are blind to, the new values of sustainability in the postmodern world of personal re-invention, endless self-adaption, and half-glimpsed opportunities.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:29 AM | | Comments (9)


Millions of Australians love 'fibrous roast beef' and own 'ageing V8 utes'? Whereas tens of thousands believe the private economy (whatever that is) is 'a moral abomination on the scale of the slave trade'? Good god, why would anyone pay someone to write such tripe? More to the point, why TF would anyone one read it? You obviously need to get a life Gary.

Never mind Tim Tams on a white napkin...don't forget the Iced Vo-Vo's and the tea thermos on the way out to the footy.
Is there a false dichotomy to which we are being alerted to, here?
You somehow can't be faithful to the values and people you were brought up with, yet also adapt to changing circumstances, wtf?

I agree. I just wanted to point out how bad this commentary in The Australian is. But I guess that people already knew that. That is why they are not bothering to read it.I also wanted to point out how Burchill is rejecting a central tenet of the cultural wars-----the idea of two warring groups, defined primarily not by nominal religion, ethnicity, social class, or even political affiliation, but rather by ideological world views.

The truth of the matter is that Australian society is probably deeply divided on some moral issues--eg., traditional Christian values versus progressive secularism.

I sympathise Gary. Better to get some thoughts down as it helps to take your mind off the nausea.

And does he seriously think that the working class in the 80's voted for the Coalition?

goodness what he thinks. Maybe he thought that Hawke and Keating sold out the working class and trashed the traditions of the ALP as a result?

The Australian - the world's most expensive and well distributed zine? Outer suburban/blue-collar Australia - apparently lacking the agency, curiosity, flexibility or intellectual capacity to engage at all reflexively with the past 30 years - merely exists as a tired rhetorical prop for an uninspiring Burchell.

Is he trying to tell us that the Saab-driving eggheads are trying to outlaw roast beef, V8 utes and trade apprenticeships? Are these pillars of Aussie life under threat by the effete elitists? Is THAT what he's worried about???

Oh, and those limp-wristed city folk are responsible for the summer bush fires too!!!!

For the NSW Right the inner city professionals are effete folks who frequent cafes, rather than Sunday lawn-mowing fair dinkum “middle Australians” of suburbia (Western Sydney). The seat of Lindsay is the heart of the nation. Where western Sydney goes so goes Sydney etc etc