What you might call The Moment came just the other day, when the imminent arrival of guests brought the disorder of a single man’s digs into shameful focus. That cobweb by the bookcase in the kitchen, for example, a flick of the broom should get rid of it, which it did to the annoyance of a redback that reared out of its nook with front legs raised and murderous intent on 800 eyes. The creature was about the size of a five-cent piece, black as glossy sin with a broad red stripe down its carapace that was obvious as a fire engine. Quite beautiful, really, but there was no right of appeal and under the thong it went, a pancake speckle of brown sludge. That was the instant when what should have been long obvious became inescapable: the need for a top-to-bottom housecleaning was both urgent and long overdue. For the remainder of the afternoon the smell of bleach was accompanied by the resolve never again to let standards slip quite so far. If there was consolation beyond the guilt at having allowed such a sprawling chaos to engulf very nearly an entire home it was beamed direct last week from Martin Place. It seems there is a much bigger mess than my domestic tangle in need of cleaning, one that will require many hands and more than one new broom.
First, for clarity’s sake and to recognise what so many have long found it convenient to ignore, turn off the radio, especially the ABC, and notice how silence can wash away the clutter. You’ve heard it all in any case, these past few days, the babble of interchangeable voices from that small, tight, self-referential choir of mutual admirers and promoters, all singing from the hymnal they share and write themselves.
Man Monis was mad, nothing to do with Islam, not at all. And that black flag, why it was an innocent item you might find in any Muslim home. And, just for the record, are we all agreed that Monis was mad because look, over there, en entourage of imams is braving the raging rednecks with offerings of flowers and photo ops. Will someone please volunteer to escort them home? Please! Please, for pity’s sake rescue them, because Australian racism lurks at every corner….
We’ve endured the reaction and the recitations so often – 9/11, Bali and London, Madrid, after Operation Pendennis and its subsequent trials, that riot over a YouTube clip two years ago in Sydney. Now it is Martin Place where the bouquets are piling and, as always, the message stays as faithful to the script as a telephone answering machine: pay no attention to what you’ve just witnessed, folks, because a bomb plot or a shooting or some mad kid stabbing cops in a parking lot is really quite inexplicable. You simple souls who think these incidents have something to do with Islam, who interpret the Koran’s admonition to “strike at the neck” as a touchstone for terror, well how pitifully thick you bogans must be! Do we dismiss you first as racists, or do we work up to that via lots of just-us-mates celebrations of nuance and mutual confirmation on Radio National? The look-at-me advertorial of a headline #hashtag never goes astray, either.
Only fools put two and two together when the answer they don’t want is four, and these people are no fools. Academics and leader writers, politicians with an ambitious appreciation of demographics, the grievance mongers hot to fill out the forms and filings that attest how badly your feelings were hurt — no, these people are anything but stupid. They’ve built careers and profiles on a mastery of whatever sophistries lately drip from the ivory tower’ they absorbed all the nostrums traded at seminars on ethnic sensitivities and that wonderfully malleable, all-purpose “otherness”. Whenever this crew wave the hanky of distraction, kiddie-party conjurers must yearn with envy at their polished aplomb. You’re not seeing what you’re seeing, children. And just look here – Hey, Presto! – it’s our cute and cuddly bunny in a hijab.
The bigger mess has spilled and crept far and wide, up to and beyond the legal system’s steps, where long lines of learned friends cash their latest meal tickets at the courthouse cafeteria. Have you had the misfortune to be convicted of sending gloating, vile letters to the recent widows of fallen soldiers? Well here comes a posse of wigs and gowns to handle your appeal. Justice no longer droppeth as the gentle rain from Heaven but in six-figure cascades of legal aid.
And kill the volume, too, on the next press conference by some professed protector of the public safety. Once again, the coda to the latest outrage is a long tail of bland assurances that officialdom is ever on the job, investigating itself and nothing more can possibly be said until final reports see light of day, however long that might take. “Trust us,” is the po-faced edict from behind the braid and visor, “we’re the police and we know what we’re doing.” Press conference over, most likely cut off with a curt “that’s all” and no time for hacks to ask why a police commissioner pledged himself before the cameras when the siege was young his sole goal was to everyone out alive. “Well isn’t that sweet of him,” the Shotgun Sheik must have thought, “they want me out alive as well! That means I can hold these infidels as long as it is possible to milk publicity from their ordeal. And what a relief to know I won’t need to fear snipers and straying close to windows!”
Somewhere beneath this mounded detritus of po-mo rationalising, multi-culti careerists’ sideshows and the institutional imperatives that have made an art form of passing the buck and burying it, there is a recognisable and useful object, just as my sofa waited buried and neglected under the former stacks and jumbles of books and magazines that made it so much wasted space. This larger cleaning job is far more daunting, but just now, before vivid short-term memories fade, the moment to roll up the sleeves and set to work is also at its most compelling. A good many things need fixing, perhaps starting with the prominence we give to the views of those who listen only to each other. You get on with life, do your job, and who can find the time to be upset by the distant creaking of institutions falling down? The courts, the masters of the multi-culti, the scolds and silencers, the panderers on the stump — it’s been their show until now, and Martin Place is what they have wrought.
There are nasties in this much bigger mess, redbacks like the monster Monis, who found it so easy to cultivate his poison beneath a befouled system’s dead wood and tommyrot. Right now, as the wreaths wilt and the countdown begins to the next, inevitable barbarian assault, surely it is the time, finally, to break out the mop and duster and set to work. If the politicians don’t recognise as much then they really need to be reminded – reminded, perhaps, by a nation of 24 million people, many of whom stop for coffee on their way to work and know they aren’t getting their law-abiding dollars’ worth.
Roger Franklin is the editor of Quadrant online