Ok, I guess you could call this a book review. I mean, it’s Sunday and that’s the day you all sit down to your lattes and the entertainment guide. But I don’t normally do book reviews so who knows how this’ll all turn out.
Anyway, I just finished reading John Safran’s new book, “Depends What You Mean By Extremist” and I thought that I should lend it to someone else to read. Unfortunately, I bought the kindle edition, so when a friend of mine told me that she’d like to read it, I was reluctant to lend her my iPad. You may remember John Safran from such things as “Race Relations” and “John Safran vs God” and, if you do, you’re probably wondering why he’s writing books instead of making films where he allows himself to be crucified. While reading it, I couldn’t help but think that the whole thing would have made quite an interesting series, but having said that, I suspect that he may not have found people quite so accessible if he’d turned up with a camera crew.
Safran certainly assembles an interesting collection of “extremists” from Avi to Hamsa to Blair Cottrell to Daniel Nalliah, there are people with strange ideas on all sides of the political spectrum. His approach doesn’t resemble the so-called objective journalism that we’ve come to know and love from people like Tracey Grimshaw and Miranda Devine; he’s more like a Hunter S. Thompson, inserting himself into the scenes and giving the reader the sense of someone who’s trying to work it out as they go along, rather than the god-like impartial observer.
While Safran manages to move between empathy and irony so that we’re never quite sure whether we should laugh at the idiocy or feel a sense of pity that people can be so deluded, he certainly can’t be accused of political correctness, whether he’s wondering why immigrants like Daniel Nalliah are starting anti-immigrant parties or talking about the Jewish nature of his suburb.
As a result, the reader may feel conflicting emotions about Safran’s ideas and conclusions. However, because he never presents himself as the all-knowing, Bolt-like expert on everything, his speculations are more part of an interesting journey than an epiphany about how we deal with extremism. For example, I’m really pleased that I now know the difference between structural and non-structural violence.
Or as Safran puts it:
“He was not a fan of my article about the Brisbane Golden Dawn rally. He reflects on my story with a snort. He felt it was a smart-arsed effort to equate far-right violence with left-wing violence, when the two couldn’t be more different. He says far-right violence is a form of ‘structural violence’ (that is, part of State, corporate and systemic violence), and left-wing violence isn’t. And furthermore, my ‘comedic’ story contributed to this ‘structural violence’ by equating the two.”
So, while I’m sure that not all left wingers would believe that violence is sometimes ok because it’s not part of the system, Safran manages to capture the inherent problem with all extremists: When we do it, it’s ok because we have a very good reason but when they do it, the act itself is unjustifiable and must be condemned.
By contrasting left and right, Muslim and Christian, Safran manages to give everyone plenty to think about. And by think, I mean, just that. The daily headlines scream at us trying to engage our emotions. We need to get very, very angry about politicians, welfare recipients, asylum seekers or the latest target. We’re rarely encouraged to actually consider anything other than how we should feel. Just as Trump refers to people who disagree with him or criticise his actions as “haters”, the media are constantly asking us to see things in terms of our feelings. You can’t have a different viewpoint without it being equated with emotions; you can’t have a different lifestyle choice without it leading us to grow angry about it.
Yep, Safran’s book is certainly worth a read.
Mm, I guess this has turned into a book review. When I read this morning’s paper, I was planning to write a satiric piece on Turnbull’s latest abuse of anybody who questions coal’s long-term economic future, calling them “delusional”, which is pretty funny coming from a man pretending that he’s actually the Liberal leader. Still with such people as Barnaby Joyce, Matt Canavan, Craig Kelly, Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison as part of the government, he should be an expert on “delusional”. I’ve recently read something about how Blockbuster* laughed Netflix out of the office when they tried to sell the company for $50 million, telling them that people like to go into the video store and they weren’t going to pay that much for a company that would never be any more than a sideline. I don’t know why that comes to mind now…
*Blockbuster was a chain of stores that used to have a product called “videos” and people would rent these and put them into a machine called a VCR which would then play them on the TV. Later, they moved to renting DVDs which wouldn’t play on DVD players owing to the fact that the previous renter had accidently left scratches in them.