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Question time or a time to question
Soon after Latham's election as Labor leader long time Webdiarist and Sydney artist Robert Bosler wrote An artist's blueprint for a Latham win and A Webdiarist's speech for a Mark Latham address to the nation. In The power of Latham's ghost, Robert wrote of Latham "never to be Prime Minister, we know that now. Yet he was about creating a new Prime Ministership...". Can it happen? Or will John Howard's politics sustain itself through the questioning times ahead.
Question time or a time to question
by Robert Bosler
Fascinating time we live in just now. When many are publicly declaring answers to why our nation is in its current state, and a great many more privately doing the same, there seems also an undercurrent of perhaps the vast majority who though not necessarily voicing it are nevertheless also inclined to question.
Who would really know, of course. Yet for Australia to be thrust into these times of widespread talk of fear and serious threat it is fair to assume there are some serious questions on the national mind.
Events in America are equally fascinating. And we'd do well perhaps to reflect on matters there as a possible precursor to events happening here. After all, we have often as a nation found ourselves following an American trend.
How America came to be the united constitutional states they are is such a convoluted story it takes the briefest visit to even just two or three of those states to see and feel the tremendous difference between those states, and to find its convoluted historical story living still. It is as though the country doesn't yet know itself: preoccupied must it be in that task of coming to know who they are as a nation when it is so varied in culture and style, it is entirely understandable America is regarded elsewhere in the world as being self-interested and inward looking.
But one thing certainly and swiftly united America recently and that was its widely felt anger after the attacks on the twin towers.
That anger has died down, weakened by the growing weight of George W. Bush's immediate response to those attacks - once so widely applauded there - and dying in step with the steady continuance of the dying of her sons and daughters in Iraq. No longer is America the angry nation it was; rather, it appears to be undergoing some deep reflection and questioning of its own.
The talk now is whether the Presidency of George W. Bush can rise above the looming publicly-placed mantle where it will be seen as a lame duck, itself.
This gives rise to so many questions. Will America grow to reject George W. Bush outright? And who would be sought to take his place in the public heart and mind? And are those two questions linked as to provide influence on each of their answers? If there is no appealing alternative, will another form of internal anger develop? Can Bush recover? Will there be a terrorist situation in America which once again catalyses public opinion and back it goes on that united anger treadmill? If it were to happen, would American people respond differently the next time around?
But talk of terrorist attacks upon America seems to have itself altered. Now, the threat is seen in growing quarters not so much as the threat being immediate, but as the threat whose seeds have been planted or spawned to return in spades for a generation to come.
It's all very, very ugly and must be disheartening if not crippling for many of her people. The sound of pain from mothers, especially, is reaching us here regularly, in the telling of it.
Would it be fair to say, as has been said already, that for the Presidency of George W. Bush to be turned around, in public sentiment, the mess in Iraq must be turned around?
If Iraq, then, does not change quickly to become the sunny democracy promised by Bush perhaps the trend of disintegration of Bush's support will continue? We'll know, here, whichever way it goes.
Where does that leave our own John Howard?
Will he be chomping at the bit to remain in the Australian public mind as the great friend of George W. Bush?
And if the trend continues, of American trends arriving on our shores and growing here, will we see the same disintegration of support for John Howard, as Bush has undergone?
Is that fate awaiting our Prime Minister?
Is it all slowly and inexorably caving in for both men, one first, the other to follow?
These are valid questions.
Is there, already, a subliminal loss of support for John Howard happening, yet to show itself, as our notorious national way of expressing political interest occurs only at the time of an election? Is John Howard operating under the illusion that his standing in the community, to make these latest massive changes to our country, is like it was? Could it be the politics of it all is catching up with him, though has not yet been expressed by the slowly moving preoccupied mainstream?
Or will he triumph in the politics of it once again?
Will he distance himself from the American trend, as he has distanced himself from other political threat? Could he distance himself, politically, from a possible American rejection of Bush and yet maintain strong political ties with America? And not be seen as duplicitous?
Will he be around long enough for us to know?
Australia has very much less of that convoluted history of America. In comparison with America, our federation and states and territories have grown in quite a direct manner. We have pretty much catapulted into constitutional existence. There is very little difference in culture and style between our states and territories. We are, overall, much more aligned as one. Are we stronger or weaker on account of these things?
Europeans arrived, threw off the shackles, got down to business, and got to living it up. Settled Australians quickly got to know freedom. And to love it, and live it. Beach sand in the bed linen seemed about as bad as it got, in terms of our national psyche.
Written into our development as a nation, of course, are deep and powerful achievements. These achievements quickly grew to lead the world, in many challenging fields of endeavour. No one would decry those, nor the unseen achievements our folk make each day, in having grown into a largely tolerant and good willed nation. And within some of our people there has been deep suffering, as well. These are mentioned by way of acknowledgement here, lest they be forgotten, though this piece is not about that: discourse on modern Australia will necessarily include the growing cause for suffering. But this article is to say, overall and in comparison with so many other developed nations along the way, we've had it pretty easy.
"You guys are so laid back," we'd be told, by visitors, continually. Indeed, we love our freedom, and we cherish it, and we have it written into our psyche that, as Settled Australians, we are free.
We are threatened now by events of the modern developed world, and yet we are so very different in being young, in that modern world, and so very different in our unique embodiment and disposition to its complete opposite - being free.
Has our direct route to constitutional and sentimental freedom created a very different situation, then, in this modern, developed world of fear?
Are we the people for whom fear sits easily, comfortably, naturally? Are we built nationally to so readily accept fear?
Will we bow down to it? Will we rise in anger? Or will we slowly and surely come to reject it, not wanting either anger or fear?
Will the contrary thing happen? Will we slowly and surely come to live with fear? Will we come to take that new way of life on, naturally, as we did our freedom?
What has been the more powerful determinant in our making? Has our sense of freedom been stronger, so we'll end up rejecting the fearful way of life, and seek, creatively and with the good humour of larrikin tradition, to throw off the shackles and find our freedom once again? Perhaps emerge as a world leader in that field?
Or has it been that because we've had it easy, we'll buckle to the forces of fear, quickly and hopelessly, from lack of strength and experience in living daily with it?
It was a bevy of men who've brought the developed world to its current state, thrown up and flashed around latterly by the bells and whistles of a loud and hungry media. And there are many more questions than just these, right now, for which we'll find the answers.
No doubt time - and mothers - will do the telling.
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