Sir: It takes a foreign-born academic, an outsider writer, to point out the absurdities in the local cultural landscape. These social eyesores exist in plain sight.
In his article “The Great Awokening and the Tyranny of the Minority” (December 2022), Salvatore Babones, born in America but with x-ray vision, exposes “virtue signalling”, with all due respect to Australian Aborigines, as that earnest public prayer of “Always was, always will be”. There are usually some added extras to spice up proceedings.
Babones believes the recitation of these public prayers at nearly every event, from the opening of shopping centres and even cinemas all over Australia, and perhaps the opening of refrigerators, are empty gestures, devoid of meaning and relevance.
Boomers will remember at picture theatres, in city and country, we stood at rigid attention for the short film of the Queen on horseback inspecting the Scots Guards, as we impatiently sang the national anthem in stops and starts at forgotten words, sitting down gratefully before the black-and-white newsreel and double feature shone through the haze of cigarette smoke hovering like clouds above our heads.
All things pass. Now we have the lighting of small fires of twigs, the blowing of inhaled smoke through a shortened didgeridoo, accompanied sometimes with a brief dance, mostly and fervently, at its loudest in the migrant suburbs. The performance embeds itself in the homes of stakeholders in the Australian dream and dreamtime. It echoes the observation of the Canadian speaker damning the Qantas “propaganda” prayers upon landing, imposing the moral lessons of indigenous history. Peterson suggested the corporate behemoth stick to the knitting of flying and profits.
As an Associate Professor at Sydney University in Sociology and Criminology, Babones is understandably reluctant to be cancelled. He was publicly commenting on the young law student named Freya, and her outrage at a criminal law exam mirroring her Christian (?) name as a fictional character in a question contained in a criminal law exam. The fictional character involved herself in much malarky. The practice of criminal law in the field involves the ugliest aspects of human behaviour, outside the Family Court. An investigation by the university authorities revealed the use of “Freya” was completely arbitrary, a random but useful tool in identifying fictional players in a complex of examination facts. The student’s sensitivity to such intense torture, triggering unknown emotions and responses, resulted in that exam and all exams in that subject being totally abandoned. The 400 students had to sit a further exam, and the passive Chancellor apologised and promised never to use first names in future exams. Freya’s pain was palpable.
The claim that Aborigines were indeed the first humans to reach Australia was questioned in Science, a respected online journal, in an article by Traci Watson, revealing recent research that perhaps 3000 South-East Asians were the first humans to reach Australia. “The study is among the first to specify just how many adventurers weathered the trip to become the original Aussies.” She opines that Australia’s first colonisers left because of competition for resources. In science, old faiths, facts and theories are constantly replaced. Change is indeed the only constant. Everything passes. “Always was, always will be” does not accord with the histories of other cultures and countries upon the earth.
Babones explores Calvinist roots for the origins of virtue signalling, that the appearance of things is the penultimate display of virtue, from the lapel ribbons, the coloured wristbands, the block writing on T-shirts, the emblazoned baseball caps, the necklaces worn deliberately over the shirts and blouses, and the first trip overseas to Asia, the sayings and symbols in tattoos, the numerology in Asian languages that could be meaningless at home but meaningful to the wearer. As the tattoos of first loves follow the passing of relationships, laser removal is a growth industry. Everything passes.
Mill is called in aid to back up the prediction of the tyrannical minority, the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling. The tyrannical dictatorial demands of the minority of the mainstream left, the MAGA of a once liberal society’s middle ground, has splintered social identities into block letters, the likes and dislikes on dating sites, LGBTQIA+ of the keyboard warriors of early Facebook exposure, growing as the nuances of human sexuality and identity are dusted off microscopically at universities. It’s not that easy, beds need sleepers, lecture halls need students.
The Western certainties of individualism as the pinnacle of democracy are in a battle with Chinese theory of all for one, like any colonies. The inventors of age groupings from Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z, pose the question as to where we go now? The Dewey system might suggest GenAA applied to the under-age, another political minority in charge of the algorithm that replaces the alphabet soup of sexuality.
Charles C. Waterstreet
Save Australia with Bumper Stickers
Sir: I wish to thank all those Quadrant readers who have purchased bumper stickers since the publication of my satirical story “Saving Australia, One Bumper Sticker at a Time” (October 2022). Fiction has become fact and Josie’s stickers are now festooning vehicles, letterboxes and noticeboards from one side of Australia to the other. My long-suffering husband now answers to the name of Annie and has been elevated to the position of secretary.
The emails from our supporters have made one fact very clear. Many Australians feel they have no voice, few politicians speak for them, and nobody listens to them. We are angry, fed up, and saddened at what our once-great and beloved country has become. Some who fought for this country now wonder why they bothered. I suggest that our politicians and businesspeople ignore this disgruntled group at their peril, for their pent-up rage simmers. Displaying a meaningful bumper sticker gives many the only opportunity they have of expressing their feelings.
I have received various suggestions as to how I could extend the sticker range. Some are very funny, some clever and some (both funny and clever) are unfortunately inappropriate for public display. Western Australia is the most common address of those buying stickers, and the most popular sticker is “Don’t Welcome Me to My Own Country”. The phony welcome-to-country ceremony infuriates almost all of us. Several people mentioned their determination to respond verbally—and very loudly—when subjected to these performances. Many were unaware that those conducting the ceremonies are paid substantial sums to do so. The recent budget (in which over $216 million was promised to push the Yes vote, and not a brass razoo for the No vote) caused a rush of sticker orders from angry and disbelieving Australians.
The business Brisbane Custom Signs made some excellent stickers for us initially. They then decided they had a “policy against printing anything that could be considered racism, hate speech or any other forms of discrimination”. Despite polite discussion with them, they refused to budge. We felt very discriminated against, and Annie, who was not happy to be jerked around by culture cancellers, gave them the boot. We took our not-insignificant orders elsewhere. This new mob are efficient professionals and run a real business.
There is now a push to rein in debate for the No side on the grounds that it will result in offence or even harm to Aborigines. We heard similar nonsense during the same-sex-marriage “debate”, when we were told that negative discussion would traumatise LGBT+ people and possibly result in suicides. Recently, there has been talk of Aboriginal souls being “broken” if the Voice referendum fails, a fantasy roundly ridiculed by Senator Jacinta Price. Our Prime Minister has said it was just “simple courtesy, it is common decency” to vote Yes. Nice people will vote Yes and they will be on the right side of history. Albo also says we are all diminished when First Nations (sic) people are denied their right to a happy and fulfilling life. So get with the program, be a good little Aussie and vote Yes for Aboriginal happiness and fulfilment. Spare me this sanctimonious poppycock.
Dr Nina Lansbury is using her position as Senior Lecturer in Planetary Health, School of Public Health, at the University of Queensland, to advise of the “significant public health benefits to the country” of a Yes vote. Vote Yes for First Nations (sic) to have good health and well-being. Vote No and you will be condemning Aborigines to racism and other prejudices, lack of respect and denial of human rights. She is saying: If you vote No, Aboriginal health is at risk; if you vote Yes, the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people will improve.
Notwithstanding the highly dubious nature of her statements, Dr Lansbury is threatening the Australian voter, just as we were threatened during the same-sex-marriage “debate”. “Vote as I say, or else …” She is even giving away T-shirts to her supporters, with detailed instructions as to where and how often they should wear them just in case they are unable to decide this on their own. The beneficiaries of her largesse are requested to wear their T-shirts at least twice a month in the lead-up to the referendum, in public places, walking the dog, when mixing in big crowds, at the supermarket, picking up the kids from school and so on. Perhaps the commonsense-o-meter within the hallowed grounds of our universities is running at an all-time low.
Personally, I find Dr Lansbury’s remarks outrageous and misleading. She is in a position of some authority. Using UQ for a partisan political campaign is surely improper, and an abuse of this authority. We might well ask, with justified trepidation, how many other educators are busily indoctrinating and bribing their students and colleagues.
If someone began producing “Vote No” T-shirts, I’m sure there would be a good market, particularly if the purchasers were free to wear them whenever and wherever they chose.
Becoming quite unexpectedly a purveyor of political bumper stickers has made me aware of a worrying result. There is a concern, held by many, that if they advertise their beliefs by displaying a sticker, their property may be targeted, their car may be keyed, or they may be in some physical danger. We all have to make our own choices about this. How big is the risk to our house, or car? How big is the risk to our country if we do nothing? You may rationalise your desire for anonymity by telling yourself that one little sticker won’t make a difference anyway. I remind readers that 1600 stickers have been distributed already. Together we can make a difference.
Australians were known for their gutsy bravery in the past. Let us not now be cowed into submission by the possibility of trouble before the referendum has even been announced. My two cars, my letterbox, my front door and the power pole in front of my home have stickers. There has been no backlash. If any readers need further encouragement to join this debate, study the nauseatingly unctuous words of our Prime Minister in his address to the 2022 Garma Festival.
We No voters are facing a well-financed, well-supported and determined army that has invested years of its time and thousands of (our) taxpayer dollars into winning this referendum. Do not treat them lightly, for they mean business. Gird your loins and prepare for battle, or at the very least buy and display a bumper sticker!
Annie and I will continue to distribute bumper stickers at cost to publicise the No side of the debate as long as there is a need. Please continue to support us.
China’s Bloody Nose
Sir: Frank Mount in his article “How Xi Misreads the Taiwan Battlefield” (November 2022) says that Alan Dupont, in an article in the Weekend Australian of October 9-10, 2021, “thought that China taught Vietnam ‘a lesson’ when it invaded Vietnam with 200,000 troops in 1979”. This is incorrect. Dupont actually said that “Beijing sent an estimated 200,000-strong force into northern Vietnam in 1979 before the People’s Liberation Army withdrew after receiving a bloody nose from Vietnam’s battle-hardened regulars.”