Writing Politics | Q&A | ABC TV last night was pretty good.
The show features author and academic, Germaine Greer, former NSW premier and author of My Reading Life, Bob Carr, deputy opposition leader Julie Bishop, The Australian newspaper’s foreign editor, Greg Sheridan and curator and critic, Marcus Westbury.
What I find interesting is the way this show causes some people to out themselves, Greg Sheridan being a case in point last night in response to Germaine Greer’s forthright characterisation of both the Qu’ran and the Bible as pernicious bullshit. On the subject of her recent book — see the link to her name above — Greer’s passion was palpable and in its way admirable. Dessicated she certainly is not. Greer “outed” herself as a Marxist, by which she meant that for her reality precedes ideology. I would agree that reality precedes language, and ideology no doubt is a language phenomenon, but I would not agree that material conditions are all. My feeling is that Marxists oversimplify the world as surely as fundamentalists of all kinds do. I cannot imagine, by the way, Greer being comfortable in any political party, let alone a Marxist one. The view of most panellists that revolution is often disappointing, too, is one I share. And I hate to admit that Julie Bishop comes across in circumstances like these as considerably brighter and more appealing than her politics, and many of her past political actions, might make her seem. Bob Carr I find an enigma for all sorts of reasons… Marcus Westbury really had little to say.
Westbury aside, as he did not have the chance to shine, I also began thinking in a terribly Leavisite fashion — my lit crit 1960s version dies hard — about first and second rate minds. There was only one first-rate mind on that panel: Germaine Greer — love her or hate her.
That accolade I would also award to George Monbiot and George Lakoff, to name two I have blogged about lately. I would not award the medal to Barbara Victor, whose The Last Crusade: Religion and the Politics of Misdirection (London: Constable, 2005) I have been reading lately. In fact, I think the book is a “liberal” mirror-image of the genre of Melanie Phillips’ Londonistan — probably sure to please those who like its thesis already, but really rather shallow. Yes, it contains some great vignettes of fundies at their most stupid and/or dangerous, but its historical survey of the rise of fundamentalism in the USA is both jejune and inaccurate. As Richard Bartholomew notes in the review I have linked to:
The Last Crusade gives the distinct impression of being a journalistic potboiler knocked off in a hurry, which is a great shame, as it could have been a significant contribution. I found it contained a lot of useful information, but I kept wondering about the accuracy of the material I was reading.
Much more satisfactory is, just to cite one example, British Catholic writer Clifford Longley’s Chosen People: the big idea that shapes England and America (Hodder and Stoughton 2002) — which is all the better, I might say, for not being Marxist.
That brings me to an article in the UK journal Prospect, offered today by the Arts & Letters Daily. When I first saw Edward Luttwak’s “A Truman for Our Times” and read its intro — The received wisdom is that President Bush has been a foreign policy disaster, and that America is threatened by the rise of Asia. Both claims are wrong—Bush has successfully rolled back jihadism, and the US will benefit from Asian growth — I thought “Oh noes!!! Greg Sheridan in disguise!” But then I read the whole thing, and I think I was wrong. I am still not sure I would go along with the thesis, but I do have to respect much of the argument…
You may read a PDF of Luttwak’s article, should the Prospect link not work: A Truman for Our Times.