Australian Notes

Australian Notes

3 November 2012

Ken Minogue (or if you prefer, Emeritus Professor Kenneth Minogue of the London School of Economics) left Sydney in 1951 for – via Odessa as a cabin boy on a Russian cargo boat. He was 20. Those were the days when Australians stepped off the boat at Tilbury, got a job in London, and carried on as if they were still in Sydney or Melbourne. It was bitterly cold, meat and butter were rationed, and the English patronised you (‘Colonials’). But you were young, and who cares? Minogue set out to be a writer and published a story or two. When that did not pay enough to keep body and soul together, he enrolled at the London School of Economics. He quickly made his mark, and Michael Oakeshott recruited him to his staff at the LSE. In 1961 he finished his first book, The Liberal Mind, a critique of the Left. Fifty years later he rewrote the book as The Servile Mind. Now it is coming out in paperback (Encounter Books) and Minogue is back in Sydney for the launch.

The paperback has a new preface: How Free Can A Just State Be? Minogue’s idea is that the free society and the just society may be incompatible. Our Western passion for freedom — in commerce, the sciences, the arts and the moral life — emerged in the later Middle Ages in the form of the individualist who accepts inequalities as normal. (‘Freedom, not justice, is the secret of Western dynamism.’) But freedom leaves many of us unfulfilled. We (especially feminists) now demand legislation to impose equality and justice, notably gender justice. Can we do this without undermining the freedom on which our civilisation is based? ‘If not,’ says a sceptical Minogue, ‘the future of our freedom — and our uniqueness — is distinctly bleak.’ As Sir Peregrine Worsthorne said of Minogue’s magnum opus: ‘Don’t miss it.’

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Also not to be missed is Bess Price’s maiden speech last week in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. She speaks up for ‘the proud tradition’ of Aboriginal conservatism and gets stuck into patronising lefties. ‘I am tired of being shouted at through megaphones and insulted on the internet. I am tired of young white middle-class radicals from southern cities chanting slogans in the streets of my town and insulting both Aboriginal and white Territorians. I am tired of the racist notion that Aboriginal people of remote communities cannot speak for themselves and that we should all think the same like brainless robots.’ She notes that some lefty lawyer has threatened to prosecute her under the infamous section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act — the section that bans free speech. She wants better teaching of mathematics in schools. She thanks Noel Pearson and Marcia Langton (‘true leaders’) and Jim and Irene Franklin (‘inspiring friendship’) for their ‘indispensable support’. Well worth looking up on the net.

The advertisement for the book launch at Gleebooks suggested booking ahead. There might be a rush on the night, it said, because the book takes you inside the Palestinian Occupied Territories and the Israel Defence Force (IDF). So I booked. Our Harsh Logic presents itself as an oral history by Israeli soldiers who testify that, looking back, they are disgusted by what they did or observed during their service. It is published by Breaking The Silence, a leftist organisation of Israeli ex-servicemen, largely funded by European governments to advance, they say, justice for the Palestinians. Failing to find a market in Israel (where most people have served in the IDF and defend it), the publisher took the book on a world tour. It finally turned up in Sydney last week in the English-language edition (Scribe Books) to be launched by Avner Gvuryahu, a former Israeli paratrooper, in conversation with Irving Wallach, barrister and Zionist. I need not have booked my seat. In an upstairs room often packed with close to 200 lefties, only a small crowd of 40 or 50 turned up to hear Gvuryahu — a result no doubt of a boycott by supporters of Israel and by Palestinians indifferent to any message from Israelis, however conciliatory. Gvuryahu told his listeners that he comes from a family of religious Zionists and feels unconditional love for Israel although not for ‘Bibi’ (Netanyahu). He wants to stop Israelis — and ‘armchair Zionists’ around the world — acting like the Three Wise Monkeys. If Our Harsh Logic compels them to face the truth about the IDF ‘brutality’, he says, there will be a chance for peace and reconciliation. Yet there was no discussion at the book launch of Hamas rockets on Israeli civilians, or of Palestinian terrorism, no corroboration (names, dates, locations) of the Israeli soldiers’ ‘testimonies’, and no consideration of threats to Israel’s existence from a nuclear Iran. It is impossible to doubt Gvuryahu’s sincerity, only his judgment. Outsiders like me cannot be dogmatic about these grim issues. But it is also impossible not to see Our Harsh Logic as anti-Israel propaganda like BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions). As I left the bookshop a young man was handing out leaflets advertising Free Gaza Australia’s fund-raiser at the Red Rattler in Marrickville to help Hamas build ‘Gaza’s Ark’ and beat the Israeli blockade. He wanted bookings in advance…

Where on earth is the Sydney electorate of Lindsay?
Maxine McKew (former Labor MP): In Sydney’s south.
Dennis Altman, La Trobe University: Sydney’s west.
McKew: South-west.
Altman: North-west.
McKew: OK.

— from The Conversation

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