SIR: I have read Nick Cater’s recent book, The Lucky Culture. I have read Greg Melleuish’s Australian Intellectuals: Their Strange History and Pathological Tendencies. Now I have read your Chronicle in the June Quadrant.
I can’t help thinking that all these works are too generous to the “elite” classes. It takes real malevolence to accuse your own countrymen of genocide and then fabricate the evidence to support it. It takes real malevolence to dream up a climate scare and then fabricate the evidence to support it. The identification of this deep malevolent intent, and its origins, are completely missing from these texts. There are references to the left leanings of this group, but the description of the radical environmentalists who support the global warming scare as “watermelons” is now too widespread to need explanation. Your own scholarship of the “Stolen Generations” traces the origins of the myth to the Victorian Communist Party in the 1930s. The fact that the activities of the new “elites” and the Gramscian agenda run parallel suggests to me that this may be no coincidence and that this left leaning requires much more exploration.
Peter Saunders, looking at the “elite’s” push for same-sex marriage, sums up my concerns:
gay marriage will not bring the bourgeois social order crashing down, but it is one more step in Antonio Gramsci’s call in the 1930s for a revolutionary “march through the institutions”. Gramsci, an Italian Marxist, realised that Western capitalism would not be destroyed by economic class struggle, for it is good at meeting people’s material needs. What was needed, therefore, was a long-term campaign against the core institutions through which bourgeois culture is transmitted to each generation. Break the hold of the churches, take over the media, subvert the schools and universities, and chip away at the heart of the citadel, the bourgeois family, and eventually, the whole system will fall.
While describing the natural history of the “elites” in these recent publications, an analysis of their tools of trade, their principal weapons—“political correctness”, “critical theory” and “cultural relativism”—should never have been left out. This may not be economic Marxism or political Marxism, but it is certainly cultural Marxism.
Clearly, not all of the new “elite class” are self-identified Marxists, but they are arguably remnants of Joseph Stalin’s “useful idiots” and fellow travellers, still engaged in Mao’s “Long March”, but without a Mao to bring it to an end.
The Propriety of Legal Advice
SIR: I thank J.B. Paul for his response (“The Reserve Powers and the Judiciary”, June 2013) to my article on that subject (May 2013), but with respect, and without engaging in a lengthy rejoinder (which I am sure would test the limits of editorial indulgence), I remain of the same views I have earlier expressed.
I seek only one concession in order to reply to John Paul’s reference to the occasions when other High Court judges had provided legal advice to earlier governors-general, quoting Professor Don Markwell in support of his contention that it was not improper for Justices Barwick and Mason to have done likewise for Sir John Kerr (that being the central issue of my contrary position).
The point to note is that in every such other case the circumstances did not involve a critical political and constitutional crisis of the magnitude with which the nation was faced in 1975 where acutely contentious issues seemed destined to be the subject of a High Court challenge, and so contemplated at the time by those concerned. In that situation one might have expected the Chief Justice to hold his counsel and for Justice Mason not to draft the letter of dismissal.
I had the opportunity to discuss the events and surrounding issues of these tumultuous times with Sir John Kerr on an informal occasion in February 1981. It was a private talk but what little more he revealed would add nothing to the saga. By then Sir John had left office and was a rather sad and disconsolate figure: maligned by the media, largely shunned by many of his former colleagues, disowned and damned by his former political mates. He was hurt. Deeply hurt.
He had saved the nation from a political stalemate and from potential anarchy, and yet he was being treated as a pompous fool and an inebriated joke figure. But he demonstrated the essential purpose of the office he held, saved the monarchy from being embroiled in a local constitutional dilemma, and restored order to our political system.
No doubt the controversy will go on for many years to come. It can only be hoped that history will treat Sir John more kindly, and respectfully, than it has to date.
John de Meyrick
St Ives, NSW
SIR: There can be no doubt Mr de Meyrick (May 2013) is correct in saying Sir John Kerr should not have consulted Sir Garfield Barwick in 1975. Asking Justice Barwick for a written opinion was even more inappropriate.
I would, however, like to hear from Mr de Meyrick further on the issue. Imagine the governor-general at the time was, say, Michael Jeffery, a military man without legal expertise. To whom could Mr Jeffery have turned to obtain advice on how best to deal with the situation? The idea of obtaining opinions (whether in writing or not) from legal experts would seem entirely natural for someone in Mr Jeffery’s position. With the universal politicisation of judicial appointments (well practised by our current Prime Minister), did Sir John Kerr, at the end of the day, do anything which would not be expected of any other governor-general in Kerr’s position?
The possibility that Sir John Kerr himself, without influence from others, might have known what he could and should do at the time, I believe to be not really relevant. With such a grave problem before him, it would have been the height of arrogance to have acted entirely alone and without taking advice. Canvassing opinions from other respected lawyers seems to have been an entirely predictable part of the deliberation process, even if the close link between the law and politics invariably contaminates the process and, sometimes, the outcome. It always will.
Grandfathers, Take Care
SIR: The beautiful poem by Andrew Lansdown, “Us2”, in the May issue stands a world away from some of the other stories about children scattered throughout the same and other recent issues.
It is a simple yet powerful argument for the maintenance of our traditional concept of marriage and the nuclear family. It is hard to imagine the poem’s Zachariah ever turning to petrol sniffing or petty crime or drug addiction or child abuse or youth suicide or being forced into foster care or adoption when his formative years included such a healthy close relationship with his grandfather and, by extension, his parents.
But Grandpa must warily carry out his frolicking with youngsters outside the gaze of meddlesome informers lest he find himself in an unsympathetic sceptical courthouse desperately protesting his innocence.
L. Peter Ryan
A Good School
SIR: In the vein of Peter Ryan’s column (June 2013) my case might be instructive. I was attending a co-educational boarding school in occupied north China at the time of Pearl Harbor. We immediately became prisoners of the Japanese. After about eight months we were moved into mission houses in guarded compounds. We thus lost the use of our science labs and our desks and sporting facilities. We had to sit on beds, which in the main were trunks with bedding on top. Later we were moved to another camp where the beds were infested with bedbugs.
In winter we were so cold we had to wrap a blanket around us and go for a run around the buil-ding between classes to keep warm. We were perpetually hungry, often having bread porridge, which at any other meal became bread pudding. We also had some eggs, fish, meat and vegetables; obesity was unknown.
The kids in my class and above were deemed to be big enough to engage in chores around the camp. In our case this was pumping water up to a water tower in shifts. This wrote off half a day’s schooling per day. Our class had seven boys and a girl, all sitting on beds with a teacher out front with a blackboard and easel. In typical boy fashion I haven’t a clue what Estelle, “the lonely little petunia in the onion patch”, did for a camp chore.
When we entered Sixth Form it was about January 1945, about four months later than normal. We now luxuriated in lecture-type benches with the enlarged arms on which to rest our books. Because of the lack of any sort of laboratory we had to shift from General Science to Biology. So we went on with our studies for the Oxford School Certificate at final year level.
Thus we maintained the even tenor of our ways till the bomb dropped, when we were caught up in the celebrations. After a week or so Pa Bruce, the Headmaster, called our form together. He pointed out that if we left as we were we would have no qualifications. He had kept sets of exam papers from pre-war years, which had never been disclosed. So he gave us one week to swot and the following week we would do the lot! Our stay had been prolonged by communist guerrillas insisting on blowing up the railway that could get us out of there.
A bit over a week later we sat eight exams: English, English Literature, French, Latin, Biology, Maths, History and Human Geography. The Oxford system required a pass in all subjects, however if you got credit passes in five subjects, which had to include English, a second language, Science and Maths, you qualified for Matriculation Exemption. Pa bundled up our papers and took them to Oxford, where they accepted them and marked them.
The result was three Matriculation Exemptions, four passes and one fail. Normally about five would have matriculated; the one fail was only the eighth in about sixty-six years. The top of the class retired as the manager of R&D at Decca; the fail retired as the general manager of a machine tool importer.
When Pa dropped it on us he said it was not an ideal situation. We were doing our final exams about eight weeks later than if there had not been a war. There were only two things that mattered: the rigour of the course and the teachers. Other than the textbooks and exercise books there was no money involved!
Henry Moore’s Sculptures
SIR: Christopher Heathcote’s lucid essay on Kenneth Clark (June 2013) raised reminders of what I have long believed to be the inspirations for Henry Moore’s reclining-figure sculptures, and for the presence of the holes which often pierce their abstracted bodies.
In 1987, one year after Moore’s death and four years after Clark’s, I was in northern France, on the Somme and in Nord/Pas-de-Calais. I watched a number of items on regional television about the forthcoming seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Cambrai and, since my father had fought there, I made it my business to be in the town on what turned out to be a bitterly cold and steely grey Saturday afternoon in November.
To mark the event, Cambrai’s city fathers had renamed a park in the town centre in honour of two of the most famous men who’d fought (on opposite sides) during that battle—Henry Moore and the German war hero and celebrated author Ernst Jünger. A new monument was erected to mark the re-dedication. This took the form of a massive granite plinth, on which was carved a lengthy quote from Jünger’s war novel The Storm of Steel. On top of the plinth lay one of Moore’s abstracted reclining nudes (complete with body hole) donated by Moore himself.
Other than their status as cultural leaders there was little, on the surface, to link these two men. In November 1917, Moore had been a reluctant eighteen-year-old conscript facing his baptism of fire; the twenty-three-year-old Jünger was already a decorated veteran of three years battle experience. Moore was gassed at Cambrai, but what he saw marked him for life and inspired his most famous sculptures; he’d been horrified by the spectacle of bodies ripped apart by shell fire or left, almost intact, apart from the gaping wounds. While Jünger throughout the interwar years wrote of war in the Nietzschean sense of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, Moore became a pacifist.
Based on interviews Moore gave at the end of his life, the above raison d’être for his sculptures was acknowledged on French television and certainly by the mayor of Cambrai in his moving address on that cold November afternoon.