The Null Device
The Age ran a scathing commentary about the state funeral, and various other memorial services, held for deceased media baron Kerry Packer:
Has there been a more disgusting public spectacle in modern Australian life than the Packer memorial service? I was at the cricket on the day he died, and the ground announcer declared that a minute's silence would be observed in honour of Packer's "contributions" to cricket. My friends and I refused to stand, but everyone around us did, without a whimper of complaint, like those who are asked to march off and fight wars, and do.
So how did we come to the conclusion that a life spent turning an inherited fortune into an astronomically bigger one is a life well lived? We didn't. Rather, as Orwell showed in 1984, those who control the means of communication control the language itself, and can assert, and have a large enough number of people actually believe, that freedom is slavery, war is peace, or that a life spent gorging oneself, squandering amounts on blackjack tables that could help solve, say, the global malaria epidemic, avoiding one's civic duties and speaking to everybody with barely concealed contempt, is a life of generosity and grace.
Beazley and Hawke are both Rhodes scholars. It's more likely they know that their party now stands for nothing, and think it's better to be present at the memorial service of a devout enemy of working people (despite Packer's love of sport, pies and swear words), than risk offending the owners of a vast media conglomerate whose "opinions" hold more sway over elections than any well-formulated policy.
The memorial service was broadcast without advertisements. Thus viewers could experience, for once, what it is like to watch a program on Channel Nine for an hour without fools screaming at them for 15 minutes to buy things. The only people who protested against this disgraceful, taxpayer-funded event - four members of the noble Kerry Packer dis-memorial society - were arrested.Of course, Packer was a true-blue dinky-di Aussie, a great mate and a great Australian, and it would be shamefully un-Australian to say otherwise about the great man.
If this article is to be believed, the young people who grew up in John Howard's Australia have taken the Tory government's values wholly to heart:
The language of the Howard Government on religious minorities and refugees has resulted in a generation desensitised to the very human realities and manifestations of global inequity and ethnic difference. When Howard talks of "queue jumpers" and "illegals" to describe refugees, there is a knee-jerk tendency among young people to apportion blame rather than feel empathy. This is a state of affairs that Howard has personally overseen, a significant paradigm shift that entrenches a deep and pernicious ethos of social hierarchy and privilege.
Simultaneously, there is a tendency of young people to flock to evangelical religious movements in the past five years, particularly in the outer suburbs of our capital cities. Without wishing to speak disparagingly about young people seeking spiritual depth, we can say that within these new popular religious movements disengagement with mainstream political reality is fostered. To many of these groups, "family values" becomes a code for being anti-gay, anti-euthanasia and anti-abortion. It is alarming to hear how frequently young people today embrace this kind of neo-conservatism, almost like a race to see who can be more right-wing.
Moreover, with Howard's constant talk of a very white-bread brand of traditional family values being paramount to a good society, we have seen a sudden rush of young people to get married early, get a home loan and shift to the suburbs at the first opportunity. This obsession has even extended into the gay community, which after fighting for 30 years to keep the government out of the bedroom, now appears to be fighting for the approval of Howard for their relationships.
Coupled with this, we have witnessed in Australia a new kind of hyper-consumerism. The social centre of town on any given evening is now the local shopping centre. Young people are all too eager to get the biggest credit limits possible, and max their Visa cards out with the casualness of a walk in the park. Indeed, the Howard era has brought us closer to US style ultra-materialism, where "retail therapy" is the new buzz word. Feeling bored or depressed? Better get to Chadstone shopping centre. The so-called metrosexual male has become little more than a crass marketing ploy.The lack of empathy, hyperconsumerism and devil-take-the-hindmost mentality could be the same Hobbesian muscular nihilism witnessed in the United States. Though the rise of US-style right-wing evangelical churches and acceptance of conformistic ideas of "family values" is more alarming, especially coupled with the thread of intolerance for difference hinted at. Australia may be changing, on a deep level, into one large Red State, one in which nonconformity is something to be punished and straightened rather than embraced.