Culture catcher: 13

Kevin Rudd launches Tom Keneally’s Australians.
Source: The Australian, August 28, 2009

Kevin Rudd has called for a truce in the history wars, but risks opening a new front of his own by dismissing differing accounts of the nation’s past as “futile brow-beating”.

He damned “the arid intellectual debates of the history wars and the culture wars of recent years”.

“It’s time to leave behind us the polarisation that began to infect our every discussion of our nation’s past, to go beyond the so-called black armband [sic] view that refused to confront some hard truths about our past, as if our forebears were all men and women of absolute nobility, without spot or blemish,” he said.

Mark McKenna on Henry Reynolds.
Source: Australian Literary Review, March 2, 2009

The armchair is the symbol of the academic detachment that [Henry] Reynolds has always tried to overcome. His relationship with Margaret [Reynolds] gave him access to power. While he was just as committed to activism as she was, it was through her that he was able to pass notes to prime minister Paul Keating regarding native title (and his speechwriter and adviser Don Watson often made calls to Reynolds to ask for advice), to socialise with the political class, and to become immersed in the day-to-day workings of political life.

As Reynolds told me: “I wrote memorable political phrases and political slogans for Margaret. We would sit down on Sunday nights and write slogans and press releases. We were constantly asking ourselves: how can we get the media interested? In this sense my writing was always politically engaged.”

Reynolds speaks of being formed intellectually by a secular, left-wing tradition that he has now left behind. Yet he still embraces Marx’s dictum that the purpose of intellectual endeavour is not merely to understand the world, but to change it.

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