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September 22nd 2015 print

Merv Bendle

A Man of Our Times Indeed!

Our modern age, the one Malcolm Turnbull finds such an enticing topic for self-promoting homilies, is actually one of desperate mediocrity, cynicism, opportunism, and alienation in which all credible leadership is lacking. No wonder he finds it so very exciting

turnbull thin-lipped smileMalcolm Turnbull’s pretentious vacuity is nowhere better illustrated than in the rhetoric surrounding the cabinet he has installed to lead his new progressivist junta. This, he insists is required to form “a government for the 21st century” to ensure that “Australia seizes the opportunities of these, the most exciting times in human history.”

Is he serious, are these really the most exciting times in human history? By what measure can such a claim be made — apart from the fact that this era has been blessed with the advent of Malcolm Turnbull? In fact, by any objective historical criteria, the present period is one of decadence and decline, perhaps exemplified above all by Turnbull’s own ascendency.

In terms of politics the present era is not one of excitement. Instead it is characterised by desperate mediocrity, cynicism, opportunism, and alienation in which all credible leadership is lacking. In which countries of the world can be found politicians who could be ranked with the even the second-string figures of the past, much less the great leaders whose exploits have inspired their people and shifted history onto a different path? Turnbull? Merkel? Cameron? Obama?! Are these third-raters and frauds the agents of excitement that Malcolm is getting worked up about? Or perhaps he only sees the world through the cynical prism of Game of Thrones, or House of Cards, which has itself drawn the connection between its fantasy world and Malcolm’s.

In terms of economics the period is also hardly exciting. The USA, China, Europe and Australia are struggling while the world staggers along under a $200 trillion burden of debt. This is a crippling encumbrance that has increased by $57 trillion since the GFC  in 2007, when governments and consumers were meant to have learnt their lesson about unsustainable borrowing. Is this mortgaging of the future a source of excitement for Malcolm? Perhaps it might be for an extremely wealthy merchant banker able to leverage profit even in a time of financial crisis. But for the rest of us? Is excitement the right word, or are “desperation” and “dread” better descriptions?

Technology, perhaps there is excitement there? Maybe, if one focuses on the digital revolution spearheaded by (of all things) the mobile phone (which, of course, makes plotting and conniving so much easier). But beyond that there is very little presently going on that compares to the upheavals and transformations in human society occasioned by the first or second industrial revolutions, the discovery of electricity, the invention of the railway, the telegraph and telephone, radio, cinema and television, aviation and the motorcar, etc., etc.  In fact, the present time pales into abject insignificance in terms of technological advancement compared with a century ago, when the impact of most of these inventions was first being felt throughout society – now that was an exciting time.

And, of course, Turnbull’s own hybrid NBN is turning out to be a mismanaged, vastly over-expensive white elephant. But perhaps he is just excited that he can portray himself as a ‘Hi-tech PM’ and has been able to get out from under the NBN debacle before it becomes really, thoroughly and personally embarrassing.

Culture? Perhaps this is the area the Malcolm is getting excited about?  Perhaps he enjoys being feted by the facile and gay artistic glitterati in Sydney, but once again it is impossible to find evidence that the present era can even remotely compare with periods of cultural magnificence from the past. For example, are we in an era of intellectual and spiritual revolution and rebirth comparable to the Enlightenment? The Renaissance? The Reformation? The Scientific Revolution? In the creative arts is there music being presently produced that can be even remotely compared to that of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Wagner, Mahler, or even Stravinsky and Shostakovich? The same question can be asked about painting and sculpture: where are the present artists who can be compared to greats of the past? Perhaps Malcolm is inspired by Piss Christ or by the cavernous halls but sparsely populated walls of the National Gallery? Few other people are.

And education! How exciting is that? Perhaps the best measure of the cultural poverty of the present is that despite the billions poured every year into our education system few students at any level would have a clue about the periods and the names mentioned above. Regrettably, the ascendency of Malcolm’s flaccid form of soft leftism/moderate liberalism means that vacuous, politically correct drivel will continue to be taught, while education ministers front for rent-seeking unions and bloated institutions.

The breathtaking hubris of Turnbull’s insistence that we live in “the most exciting times in human history” has so far gone unchallenged precisely because of the ignorance and complacency that this cultural impoverishment promotes and sustains, especially in the media. Cushioned by a personal fortune of some $200 million he sees little to worry about in the present world. For example, he is on record as constantly downplaying the threat of Islamic State (which he always refers to by its politically correct name as Daesh). This despite the fact that it has seized a substantial and strategic part of the Middle East, has galvanized and trained murderous jihadists around the world, and has been the catalyst for the largest barbarian invasion of Europe for nearly a millennium.

A far more accurate assessment of the present times would suggest that they are becoming appallingly dangerous, precisely because governance in the West has fallen into the hands of people like Turnbull, the hollow men with little or no understanding or commitment to the values and conventions of Western Civilization.

Comments [13]

  1. Hoppy says:

    Merv, seems you’re a grumpy old man hell bent on displaying the cynicism of which you complain. You have no hope for the future, it would seem. Younger people will largely dismiss your opinions because they have to believe in their future, even if you don’t.
    I suggest you vacate the soapbox for a while. Take a rest, smell the roses, go for a walk in the country, enjoy our clean environment for once, and give thanks. You live in one of the greatest countries on earth, that in itself should excite you.

  2. Jody says:

    Merv Bendle’s position is rusted on big “C” Conservative and all the reasons spelled out here are the reasons many people turn away from right wing ideologies; they perceive that everything is wrong with every aspect of society and that only the past provides the really good lessons.

    I don’t like so-called “progressive” politics because these are one step forward/two steps backwards paradigms. But a place must be found for people in the middle of the political firmament because those are the voters who decide government.not

    Turnbull is hubristic, but not more so than Ma-Obama and, in the Australian orbit, Hawke, Keating and the pathological Rudd. Labor was lead by other pathological types like Latham, so we must be glad we only have a vainglorious leader in the present incarnation.

    I’m prepared to give him a go and I think Morrison will keep Turnbull’s feet firmly planted on the ground if I know anything at all (and I do, as it happens).

  3. Bill Martin says:

    Hurrah for grumpy old conservatives! Hope for the future is a commendable attitude but blind hope is a fools paradise. Look at the result of “hope and change” promised by Obama and enthusiastically embraced by the youth of America. From being an undisputed supreme world power, both economically and militarily, one that was hated by many but feared and respected by most, it is now a shadow of its former self, having next to no sway in key happenings all over the world. Never mind all that though, as long as political correctness rules, “black lives matter”, gay marriage is mandated by the highest court, any and all forms of deviant sexuality is equally acceptable, everything is somebody else’s fault, the government dictates and supervises all aspects of daily life, personal success is demonised, poverty is a virtue, all is perfect in the land of the free. If only those pesky old conservatives would go away.

  4. Trevor Bailey says:

    Throwing epithets at Merv Bendle instead of refuting the arguments he makes, supported as they are by facts and figures, rather goes to prove his point.
    Commentators who diagnose social ills and suicidal tendencies are then required to identify solutions. Conservatives prescribe prudence, humility and restraint in moral & economic behaviours.

    But the patient will have none of it. Denial?

    Of mortal fear generally, Larkin in ‘Aubade’ observed “This is a special way of being afraid / No trick dispels…”

  5. Bran Dee says:

    Whenever I read Merv Bendle I am impressed by his deep analysis. In this article I particularly liked his reference to the Turnbull NBN. On the subject of art I could not but think of the Turnbull controversy over his Bill Henson pubescent female nudes.

    However I am much in sympathy with Hoppy, Jody, and Bill martin for their defense of the present and I would rather be living now than in previous times where the life span was usually much less than three score years and ten and this note would be a sequel written by another.
    My children are better off than me and I am much better off than any of my antecedents.

    Unfortunately many of the criticisms of left wing frolics levelled at Malcolm can equally be levelled at the previous incumbent. To balance Australia’s budget and eliminate the debt and the one billion a month interest payment did the seminary trained PM think that there was no need to reduce spending and in our extremity the Lord would provide.

  6. Bill Martin says:

    Brian, I’m affraid you mistakenly lumped me with the previous two commenters. Your comment also seems to support Merv’s article while approving those who dispute it. Somewhat confusing, my friend.

  7. Jody says:

    And now we have the warring shock-jock syndrome; Andrew Bolt has gone feral. People must be absolutely shaking their heads about Conservatives from the far right and finding that the better angels have taken flight. The left is having a field day on “The Guardian” and “SMH” because of all this huffing and puffing.

    Who cares about the Bill Henson photograph of a 14y/o. It reminds me of the post-modern loathing of the film “Gigi” because a man falls in love with a 17 or 18 year old girl. That’s just as bad as the faux outrage about Henson, particularly when we are daily exposed to the commercial and casual sexualisation of very young girls and nobody bats an eyelid.

    This is all terribly reactionary stuff you’re complaining about. If and when Turnbull fails, as you assert, then that will be the time for invective.

    • Bill Martin says:

      Because nobody bats an eyelid at the sexualisation of very young girls, then it’s all right, is it? Is that not just another regrettable sign of the decline in public morality? Thank God for the stuffy, old genuine conservatives, even if some are not very old at all.

    • PT says:

      Jody, you’re worried about your super. I don’t blame you. But remember what Turncoat is. He’s a “progressive” and wants to be hailed by other “progressives”. He will be kept under some sort of control until he wins an election: then he’s off the leash!

      • Rob Brighton says:

        If that is true then what is stopping the party from rolling him? He did it to a first term PM, he cant claim a mandate unless he chooses to run with lefty policies and that would doom him as conservatives vote with their feet.

        Yes it is a more feral politics heading our way but sauce for the goose…..

    • PT says:

      The man was taken around a primary school to look for more subjects. Come on Jody.

  8. Tezza says:

    Merve may indeed be a grumpy old man, as I certainly am. But where are the facts against his arguments? If you re-read Turnbull’s claim and Merv’s comparisons, Merv’s is right on every point.

  9. Davidovich says:

    Good article, Merv. I am with you all the way. However, reality means we have to endure Turnbull and his overweening arrogance in order to ensure the vandals of Labor and Greens are kept out of power until such time as they come to their senses and bring forth policies of benefit to the country. Thank God also for the Nationals who have helped to kerb some of Turnbull’s left-wing tendencies.