The Null Device

Punishers and straighteners

Dispatches from the Culture War: Intoxicated with their triumph, the Tories are blaming the legacy of the "permissive 1960s" for Australia's social ills, and implying that, had this decade of godless liberalism never happened, Australia would be a much better place. But what would Deputy PM John Anderson's ideal Australia look like?
We may have been serene but we were not widely read - more than 1000 books had been placed on the banned list. In the Western world, only Ireland, still straining under the power of the Catholic clergy, could boast a more rigorous record of prohibition.
The great American satirist Tom Lehrer also felt the lash of our moral arbiters. A ditty that exhorted a Boy Scout to "be prepared" upon meeting a Girl Guide was deemed too risque for our sensitive ears and thus found itself on the taboo list.

Well, the Howard government has already moved in that direction, with tightening of film censorship. Notwithstanding high-profile cases like Baise-Moi, many films shown in Australia are a few minutes shorter than their overseas releases because of cuts made by the OFLC. And book censorship is still around; the 18th-century bawdy novel Fanny Hill is among the books still banned in Australia.

That year the White Australia Policy was still the go, though the ALP federal conference insisted that in no way did it "represent racial prejudice". A further example of our enlightenment on such matters came from South Africa's Prime Minister Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid, who claimed that Australia was "the best friend South Africa had". And this not a year after the Sharpeville massacre.
And we were four years away from the death of a young Lutheran, Errol Noack, who lost a bizarre lottery and became the first National Serviceman to die in Vietnam. He didn't want to go but he perceived a duty. He died months before we were to go "all the way with LBJ".

Again, we could very well see the return of national service before the next election. If the US brings in conscription (not unlikely, especially if the alternative is surrendering Iraq to become al-Zarqawi's personal jihad-state; after all, unmanned drones, satellite intelligence and high-tech communications can only make up so much for lack of troops on the ground) and requests more troops from Australia, it is inconceivable that the Howard administration would knock them back. And they'd have an argument for it, even if it does hinge on the circularity of Howard having made this "our fight" in the first place.

Fortunately a considerable part of the '60s generation understood that traditional values were worthless without coherence and that authority needed a core of integrity. The racism, censorship and aggression of the '60s was rightfully challenged and, to a considerable degree, overcome.
The brave took bus rides to the outback and organised lonely vigils on street corners, paving the way to mass protest.
Perhaps that's the real concern of social conservatives like John Anderson. It's not so much the sex, drugs and Pink Floyd that they fear, though these types certainly aren't much into fun. It's the challenge to orthodoxy and conformity. They are frightened of an outbreak of contrary thought, of debate beyond the set margins. Be they within government or without, they wish to determine what we think, say, write and do.

There are 4 comments on "Punishers and straighteners":

Posted by: Andrew Mon Nov 8 02:25:17 2004

What is the typical political climate of a country after conscription and many deaths in war? Do the parents of the dead rebel against the government, or is the balance kept by so many voters going to die?

Part of me thinks if conscription was brought into Australia there would be massive rioting... but after this election I'm not so sure.

Posted by: Graham Mon Nov 8 12:52:28 2004

I'm pretty sure it'd piss off a lot of people. Most people are going along with the Howard warmonging thing as the economy is wonderful and all that, and Howard hasn't really made any sacrifice - I mean, we've got, what, 250 soldiers over there at the moment, and career volunteers at that. It's fuck-all! Whereas 10,000 would be more proportional to the US's current involvement. It depends on how the January elections go, I guess.

It'd be a hard sell and it would kill Howard's so-called grand legacy. Basically, he's managed to sweep a lot of things like detention camps under the carpet, because it's easy to make them sound like the indulgent concerns of bleeding-hearts. Hard to do that with the issue of sending kids of aspirationals to a far away war to face a fate they mightn't have dreamed of, especially with Vietnam still in the memories of many.

Now to see if your bloody annoying comment cropping thing kicks in...

Posted by: Tory Ben http:// Thu Nov 11 00:18:08 2004

They'd just tell the scumbag electorate that as well as the draft they are going to legalise marijuana and give cheaper homeloans to married couples. The brain-damaged scumbags who make up most of the electorate probably don't understand what conscription is, let alone spell it. If people riot they will simply break their heads (or shoot them) and lock up any survivors, a tactic that has worked well for thousands of years.

Posted by: dj Fri Nov 12 00:32:29 2004

Yeah, worked heaps well with the Poll Tax.