Daily Archives: January 20, 2009

We would all do well to read this

opendtheme2_logo Via Arts & Letters Daily just now comes The politics of ME, ME, ME by Keith Kahn-Harris and David Hayes.

This is not just a question of people with too much time on their hands beavering away at the keyboard on controversies that affect nothing – if it were “only” this, there would be little to worry about. The problem goes deeper. It is partly that so much of this activity is harmful and wasteful, in a context where intelligent citizens working in a spirit of constructive dialogue could in principle perform a useful role in clarifying issues and arguments and offering usable ideas to those seeking solutions to the conflicts concerned.

Even worse, this kind of internet politics is also engaged in by opinion-formers, major institutions and “the brightest and best” more generally. In the Jewish community – a world with which one of us is very familiar – those who are most committed and influential in what they view as the defence of Israel have, over the last few years, increasingly come to adopt the same style of politics and mode of address. They include (in the United States) high-profile intellectuals such as Alan Dershowitz and lobbying organisations such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) and (in Britain) organisations such as Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre (Bicom). Pro-Palestinian activists, while usually less organised, also engage in these struggles with just as much fervid and driven commitment…

At root, these struggles can involve vital issues, but in the hothouse of the internet, they so often disintegrate into thousands of fragments – from the interpretation of an ambiguous phrase to the reliability of a single news item. The result of an internet war of attrition that produces an impenetrable fog of confusion – and must reinforce the indifference and alienation of the non-involved.

The latter point is vital, even though it may be of sublime indifference to the super-motivated partisans. The ultimate puerility of internet combat over the middle east means that the larger and most important issues – and the possibility of keeping in sight the big picture, a vision of a better future for the region – fade from view…

Don’t be satisfied with that gobbet. Read the whole essay.

The tools for a different kind of politics exist. What is needed is the will to turn away from self-obsessed and point-scoring politics to a politics that is actually about something. What is needed is a politics that reconnects individuals with each other, a politics that looks outwards as well as inwards, a politics that is not all about "ME".


Yes, I have noted the cognitive dissonance on many a left/secularist site, as has Atheists and Secularists for Gaza. I can think of one utterly egregious example, but I never link there any more…

Worth a look at that post though.

Everyone, myself included, needs, however, to mull over the main post above before next committing themselves to print on the matter.


Posted by on January 20, 2009 in blogging, Israel, Middle East, politics


1949: I was there and even remember it!

king_george_vi_small Such was my response as I watched Episode 2 of The House Of Windsor: A Royal Dynasty on ABC the other night. The episode dealt with George VI, with the embarrassing Edward VIII and his American wife walking on here and there from time to time. The link takes you to the gloriously eccentric Professor David Flint’s account of the series for Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy. I have even so found the series interesting and I certainly have nothing against George VI. But oh my, how patronising were those old newsreel voice-overs!

I notice my parents became “Australian citizens” in January 1949 – not that they had come here from anywhere else. But before that they were just British Subjects, for all practical purposes, such as passports. They still were, but now they were hyphenated: British Subject: Australian Citizen. (See Australian nationality law.)

We still had a Labor government: Chifley. Later in the year we got to know a lot about candles and kerosene lamps, and fuel stoves. We had such a stove in the kitchen at 61 Auburn Street Sutherland. It was to be a year of coal strikes and blackouts. At the end of the year the Reign of Menzies began.

Consider the things we didn’t have: TV, coffee (or anything we would now call coffee), hamburgers, wine – unless you were a wino or in a somewhat different social circle to that which we inhabited, Aborigines, Asians, even Italians – I speak of Auburn Street Sutherland there. Italians, Greeks and so on were just over the horizon, but hadn’t disturbed our world yet, and Asians, apart from market gardeners in some nearby suburbs, were not part of our scene, while Aborigines were to be visited at La Perouse on a Sunday afternoon, should one want some different entertainment. Salami, pizzas and garlic were totally unknown. As was green tea. Tea was always black, and in two main varieties: Ceylon and Chinese. The latter (Lan-Choo) was a minority taste. Biscuits, like just about everything else, came in brown paper bags, weighed out from bulk tins by the grocer. There were no supermarkets, none. Not such a bad thing that…

We didn’t have preschools either. I had just started at Kindergarten, but was already reading – Felix the Cat among other things.

We did have the Sutherland Odeon for the flicks or, more formally, “the pictures” — or perhaps “the pitchers”. No-one talked of “movies” and only the pretentious said “cinema”. At the flicks we all stood to attention as God Save the King was played. No-one I knew questioned that. We were all very much Union Jack people.

My first students at Cronulla High in 1966 were being born too, or some of them…

I grow old.

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Posted by on January 20, 2009 in Australia, Australia and Australian, best viewing 2009, History, memory, nostalgia, personal, reminiscences, reminiscing