On Peter Coleman

Kenneth Minogue reviewed Peter Coleman’s The Last Intellectuals (Quadrant Books) in The Salisbury Review:

Multiculturalism added to the emotions of this curious and depressing response to a great success story. As Coleman writes: ‘What began as a benign programme to ensure opportunity for Asian immigrants, to excise any Anglo-Saxon sense of superiority and to demystify the British entailment, soon became an official campaign to present the old Australians as contemptible quasi-totalitarian racists.’

It is the rhetoric of this remarkable distortion of Australian realities that must command our interest. If people speak badly of themselves, one tends to believe them. It sounds like honesty — at last! But here is a strange kind of self-denigration which reveals itself, on examination, as a perverse form of self-congratulation by people who are flattering themselves as purveyors of hard truths. Self-denigrators who include themselves in the indictment as Australians are not confessing a fault, but merely making a claim to superior critical honesty. Australian intellectual life is riddled with this strange self-congratulatory self-hatred. It is the direct source of a great deal of dishonesty and lying in academic life. There may be little sense of class superiority in Australia, but there is a power of intellectual contempt felt by an elite for the average Australian. The novelist Xavier Herbert’s remark ‘I loathe and despise my countrymen’ was far from untypical.

Coleman is too tolerant and balanced a character to spend much time dissecting this curious modern intellectual pathology, but he has certainly played a notable role in elucidating its international role.

One central theme of these essays is his disillusionment with politics as an activity and as a way of life. He describes it as a ‘virus’ which he must have picked up early in life, and from which he took a long time to recover.

Read Kenneth Minogue’s review at The Salisbury Review here…

Buy The Last Intellectuals here…

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