Saturday, July 2, 2011

Making trouble on the Australian political scene - Robert Manne collection worth a look

If I had to cite an Australian whose profile most fits the job description of an intellectual, it would have to be Robert Manne. I've had a look at his recent collection of essays, and I've found it compelling reading. This collection covers some areas that I've written about in this blog, such as Kevin Rudd's term as a Prime Minister and that other fascinating Australian individual Julian Assange. The revised version of Manne's essay about Assange which was first published in The Monthly is included in this book. Shortly after the essay was published earlier this year, Manne made amendments "in light of a lengthy email exchange initiated by Julian Assange". I think this shows what kind of intellectual Manne is. For those interested in Kevin Rudd and the Rudd Government, there is a section of seven essays about "the rise and fall of Kevin Rudd". None of these essays are dated after the date of the coup that toppled Rudd as PM. One is dated June 16th 2010. It is nice for a change to read stuff about Rudd and his government that is not inspired by an irrational personal hatred of the man.

I was surprised that one essay that most grabbed and held my attention was the detailed account of "the strange case of Cornelia Rau". When government bodies and government employees act to strip a vulnerable individual so completely of their basic human rights and needs, we should all be most alarmed. I realised that the idea that her case was the result of institutional neglect was nonsense when I read the bit about Rau being hurriedly plucked out of a shower at Baxter Detention Centre and sent off to a mental institution as soon as it was known that the media had gotten onto the story. I'm pleased that Manne took such care to put names to the players (the good guys and the bad guys) in this disgusting episode of Australian history.

One thing about Rau's case that I hadn't known before was that she was a victim of the vile Australian Kenja aka Kenja Communication mind-control cult. I wrote about this exploitative and highly harmful cult way back in 2008 at my other blog Incorrect Pleasures. In 2008 the ABCTV show Compass broadcast a fascinating and disturbing story about Kenja. Why are our governments not doing more to stop or curtail mind-controlling cults and religious organizations that exercise an excessive degree of control over their members? If politicians took a few moments to reflect on the amount of social disruption and trouble that even the smallest of these sick-f***er groups can cause in Australian society, surely they'd do more. If we had no Kenja, the Cornelia Rau case might never have embarassed the Howard Government, because poor Rau might have been able to stay on the more functional side of the borderline between sanity and madness. If the childhood of Julian Asssange hadn't been so thoroughly insecure and unsettled due to his mother's fear of another dangerous Australian cult The Family, he might possibly not have grown up to be the international troublemaker outsider genius that he is.

I am sure you will find much in Robert Manne's new book of essays to provoke thought. I recommend.

Some quotes from the book:

"The distasteful and dangerous mood of complacency which was imported into Australia from right-wing American political culture during the period of the Howard government took the form of what I call populist conservatism."

"To compete with the Coalition, Labor did not oppose but rather absorbed and moderated the mood of populist conservatism."

"Interest in how this situation has come about explains both my deepening detestation for Rupert Murdoch and my admiration of and fascination with Julian Assange, the only person in recent times who has thought of a political means to discomfit the increasingly irresponsible and impudent Western elites."

"Whatever his faults, one thing that differentiated Latham from other political insiders was his unwillingness to play by the rules."

"John Howard is one of the most unscrupulous but effective politicians in our history."

"To judge by the initial response to the Rudd essay, among the Australian neo-liberal commentariat and political class that often painful process known as thought has not yet even begun."

Manne, Robert (2011) Making Trouble: Essays Against the New Australian Complacency.
Black Inc Agenda, 2011.

Manne, Robert (2011) The Cypherpunk Revolutionary: Julian Assange. The Monthly. March 2011.
[The full revised essay can be read here.]

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