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The Culture is dead, long live the Culture!”…

When I was quite young, and I heard for the first time the cry of “The King is dead, long live the King!”… I was confused … how can the king live long if he is already dead?…But of course, well … you know the logic of that old saying with out me saying it.

And just as the new King replaced that deceased King, so too must we replace the old dead Australian culture with a new one … just as a language will absorb sounds and words from another tongue and “convert” them into common words of the dominant language, so too must we allow our culture to do the same..to innovate..to change.

It is why the English language has become so flexible and widely spoken … this absorption and adoption cannot and should not be stopped..just as the death and birth of cultures ought not be stalled … to do so can see a language die … as Ancient Greek has died and so to has Latin as a spoken language. In truth, those ancient languages never were the true language of the people..most speaking a mixture of Mediterranean/Middle-Eastern/Asiatic dialects … the pure, grammatical Greek and Latin was restricted to the elite ruling classes and academics.

Nevertheless the Greek nation with all that it had possessed – with its nationality, its language, its art–belonged to the past.It was only in a comparatively narrow circle not of men of culture–for such, strictly speaking, no longer existed – but of men of erudition that the Greek literature was still cherished even when dead; that the rich inheritance which it had left was inventoried with melancholy pleasure or arid refinement of research; and that, possibly, the living sense of sympathy or the dead erudition was elevated into a semblance of productiveness. (Mommsen; The History of Rome).

The tragedy of any society is for it to lock itself into a stagnant situation of cultural growth. This happens with the creation of an “industry” around a favoured era of the nation’s history … a false reality, a twisted jingoism is created with a romantic view of what existed and of what happened in that epoch. We saw this with the Menzies era after the second world war, when conservative governments went all out promoting the “Anzac Spirit”, with special day celebrations and marches … Returned service people leagues and institutions holding a falsely elevated and powerful social position in the community and even their heads of office like Bruce Ruxton drawing up political policy for the government … When all the time the last of the old culture of the “Bronzed Anzac” had died on the brutal battlefields or prisoner of war camps in Burma, Thailand or Singapore. There is no illusion any more of the stolid, manly returned soldier … All were wounded, all were hurt … just that everything was done to hide away from the public eyes those whose wounds were so obvious or whose pain was most visible.

The notion of an Empire “on which the sun will never set” has created a romantic illusion of the Victorian era of English monarchy: A time in reality of brutal management of earlier colonisation. This illusion was formulated and maintained in Australia up to the second world war … by then, following on from the great depression, any illusion of a Greater British Empire could only be maintained with blind faith and a fiercely selective reporting of worshipping propaganda … the beast was already dead, but because of the political need for conservative dominance, a kind of bizarre “dance” was performed around regular appearances of the Royal Family in the colonies and by all those status class-leeches that depended on them … a weird dance of necromancing the ancient rites of aristocracy and class privilege. And along with this black magic of public adoration and worship, there was the Menzies era of metaphorical necrophilia with a lost cultural soul.

The literary tendency of this age was varied and could not be otherwise, for the age itself was divided between the old and the new modes. The same tendencies which came into conflict on the field of politics, the national-Italian tendency of the conservatives, the Helleno-Italian or, if the term be preferred, cosmopolitan tendency of the new monarchy, fought their battles also on the field of literature. The former attached itself to the older Latin literature, which in the theatre, in the school, and in erudite research assumed more and more the character of classical …

… the poets of the sixth century were never more vividly felt than in this epoch of thoroughly developed epigonism (an artistic or literary imitation of an artist by a later generation), which in literature as decidedly as in politics looked up to the century of the Hannibalic warriors as to the golden age that had now unhappily passed away beyond recall. No doubt there was in this admiration of the old classics no small portion of the same hollowness and hypocrisy which are characteristic of the conservatism of this age in general … (Mommsen; The History of Rome)

This obsession we had with a dead culture, the culture of “ockerism”, of a romantic construct of the “Bronzed Aussie”, with an imperial monarchy giving “cultural cred” to a coterie of anachronistic worshippers of all things regal and militaristic. But in effect, this masculine bravado, this Anzac legend had died with the dying days of the second world war … instead, where brave reality was needed to reconstruct the hurt of a generation, a phoney pastiche of “masculinity” was erected as a stop-gap until it was hoped a new wave of younger patriotic citizens could be persuaded to keep carrying the flag … but then along came the Vietnam War … and that put the kybosh on that little plan.

The world of literature of that age giving a certain credence to the myth can perhaps be best represented with the film of the Neville Shute story; “A Town like Alice” … taking us from the heroic to the horrors of war to the sentimental romanticism of a town in the centre of Australia … overlooking with suitable musical accompaniment the real-life horrors of what happened to those returned soldiers, traumatised by the brutalities they had seen. Such horrors were not allowed to be presented to the general public…instead, this cultural myth of male camaraderie and stoic, silent endurance was manufactured and maintained.

In contrast, we have the Richard Flannigan novel of “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” … A story close to his own knowledge of his father’s experiences on the Thai-Burma railway. He in effect buries the myth of cultural heroism:

Though there is much horror in the book, The Narrow Road to the Deep North is ultimately redemptive. By shining a light on a particularly low moment in history and coupling that with the everyday details of life, of enduring love, of the impact of time and memory on our own history and the broader history of the world, Flanagan creates a book that is at once familiar and foreign, and ultimately deeply satisfying. As Issy put it:

This world of dew
is only a world of dew —
and yet. (Magdalene Ball; A review of The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan).

There has been an attempt at resurrecting this myth of “heroic masculinity”, this white supremacy, Western Cultural supremacy over all others … It is false … it is a failure, like the proud, ancient Romans gathered in their exclusive Senate house or their expensive villas in old Pompeii and waxing lyrical in those grammatically pure languages of a culture, long dead in the streets outside.

John Howard sidled up with what was left of the monarchists in his time as Prime Minister, and they worked in-step with the Murdoch media to concoct a “new vision” of an old story of the “Anzacs of Gallipoli”, turning the faces of the youth of the nation toward their own private sunset and delivered a gross stage-set of the “heroics of war” with a emulation cringe-worthy of a modern “Biggles” or something like the wide-eyed “Brylcreme philosophy” of a Boy’s own Annual. And in gingering up an old stew, he has created, in his tin-pot middle-class manner, a farcical effigy of “Golden Aussie Youth” with his “battlers” and personal wish for such to “feel relaxed and comfortable in their own skin” … a “skin” now clothed in the Nazi uniform of our once Fascist enemy and with a face over-rouged and whored-up for Hayek’s Capitalism!

No … Just as Ancient Rome had to fall so Modern Europe could arise, so must we let our archaic Anglo-European culture die so a new Australian culture can be born into the environment it exists … into the Pacific/Indian oceans … into the region of Asia …

Into our multi-cultural, honest and honourable image.


This article was originally published on my own blog, freefall852.wordpress.com.

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  1. Phil

    the last paragraph speaks volumes Joseph – good to read you again

  2. Joe Carli

    Hello Phil…ta…yes, there has to be an inevitability to some things…when there is an imbalance toward one particular ethnicity in a culture, there will be a natural “correction”..this always happens and it all depends upon the willingness of the majority if the process is peaceful or not.

  3. Stephengb

    Great stuff Joseph,
    I have been here 40 years, and have heard it over and over again how Australia is looking for its identity

    Many times I have remarked to others that Australians should just stop trying to be old England or New America, and just concentrate on being the real Australia.

    Now we are trying to emulate a broken USA !

  4. Spindoctor

    Sadly as ScoMo rides the blue LNP bus to oblivion, (while he jets business class on his
    blatant electioneering), the self serving Murdoch empire dominates our media while shock jocks are networked nationwide to spread the Liberal gospel of ‘white’ Australia, that we are all in our proper place under the bankers, miners, corporate types continually ripping profits and dropping their breadcrumbs as we wait for trickle down economics to lift wages and conditions. So while the Libs and Nats will be turfed come election day, the propaganda apparatus remains, and while it is slowly dying it still aggresively works to delay recognition of a new culture. How do we mute that biased voice while keeping democratic fair and balanced media?

  5. Joe Carli

    Steph’…Those quotes from Mommsen give more than a clue as to where a culture will end up if it does not renew itself…the rapid influx of people into the Roman world divided the populace into many ethnicities, many languages, many ghettos…as always happens when people cluster..the primary language was butchered and changed..many dialects from many places melded into what must have been a pidgin tongue…much the same as happens in every society that becomes multicultural..So while the higher echelon kept its distance from the lower classes and spoke their treasured pure Latin or Greek, the lower classes in the streets would have communicated in a vulgar mish-mash of understanding..the same with culture..while the Upper-class retained and protected its perception of “Roman Culture” with both literature and theatre, the common folk were all the time re-structuring through street exchange, food and common mimes, music and plays, the real culture of the masses.
    So it will have to be here…the false idol of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!” has no depth of feeling beyond yobbo television..and the same with Morrison’s “Dinky-di”….WTF!…is about the only response now from ALL sides of a new culture rising..

  6. guest

    Joseph, you are right to say that we need to look for a new Oz going forward. We cannot continue with the myopic, failed policy and chaos of the past 6 years. Nor can we go back to the conservative past, such as the 1950s. What to do?

    What does the dominant media say. Janet Albrechtsen from the Murdoch media, writing today under the headline: ‘Trump surfing the symptoms of democracy in crisis’.

    “The West faces a subterranean, decades-old shift away from a commitment to the core tenets of a liberal democracy: a free and open marketplace of ideas, the morality of free markets, due process and rule of law, tolerance of difference and a respect for an independent judiciary and a fee press. How much healthier would our democracy be if there were bipartisan support for these values,?”

    What Albrechtsen does not see is that this ideal is not working well – and in some places the move is further to the right.

    She laments: “(Young people) have lived through unprecedented prosperity, technological advancement, great leaps in medical discoveries and tremendous government spending on health and education made possible by taxes collected from big companies. Yet a YouGov-Galaxy poll by the Centre for Independent Studies found that 58% of millennials have a favourable view of socialism, 60% think capitalism has failed and 62% think workers are worse off today than 40 years ago.”

    So how would we be better of if the Coalition’s ‘trickle-down’ no tax on big companies have helped such a program? Janet’s solution: a big dose of a core subject in schools about democracy.

    Shades of the Ramsay Western Civilisation course for universities – but only the best bits.

    And there is the problem. There is the realisation that the neo-liberal perpetual growth and wealth mantra is failing and the world is unhappy. Bring on the revolution.

  7. Joe Carli

    guest..That bloody Albrechtsen is a deluded goose if she thinks all of the above…if there is one fault inherent in the Murdoch minions it is their unfailing committed belief that they can teach their grandmothers how to suck eggs!…Just the other day we signed up for a smartphone plan and the young lady there had a cold..’You should be home” I said..: “If only I had that luxury” she replied..and it turned out she, like all the others there was on permanent/casual without those other conditions like sick-leave, holidays etc…welcome to the new economy…nah!..that Planet Janet really is full of it..but then she is only a traitor for Murdoch…one of his many who ought to face a tribunal sometime in the future.
    Everyone with a lick of sense knows the bullshit of trickle down by now..and Jesus..doesn’t she write some awful rubbish?

  8. Andrew Chambers

    While our politicians seek to divert, always, our attention toward that of their populist mythical constructs we overlook the stagnation of a critical culture, that of our politics.

    We are a qualified Democracy. The qualification is representation and the end of the age of the Party is long overdue.

    Does it not strike any of you as odd that, despite the most tumultuous changes in society bought about by the digital age of computational power and light speed bi directional communications, we are stuck with an institution that clings tenaciously to rituals that date back several centuries?

    This is an unnatural lack of evolution and a very deliberate retardation of society in one of the most audacious thefts of inter generational wealth and power in history. Every one of the traditional bulwarks against exploitation and corruption have been either bought (The Law, our parties/parliament; who can afford real representation by either?) or neutered (Guilds, unions, churches, beneficial societies..)

    Thanks to the Greeks we have one hope and that is the simple act of mass participation in a vote and the co-operative energy and action of an overwhelming majority. Democracy, an idea that has survived and driven this technological arc of development and the development of enlightened and “free” societies.

    It’s time we all started making choices rather than believing in the streaming fiction of parliamentary democracy.

  9. lawrence winder

    Ahh… Risorgimento… a lovely word and a lovlier concept…perhaps one day…one day perhaps enough of us will act it.

  10. helvityni

    “The King is dead, long live the King!”

    Hearing that I thought that the dead King was going to live forever in the Heaven.

    As we did not have Kings in Finland, I did not really care if they were dead or alive….

    Good to see you back on AIMN Joseph..

  11. Joe Carli

    Hello , helvi’…no Kings in Finland?….hang on..weren’t your mob a roaming and plunder and all that lot back in “the good ol’ days”?..or am I thinking of the Danes?….they all start to look the same from this point in time!

  12. guest

    Let us look at another Murdoch scribbler. Paul Kelly in his article “The three great lies corroding western culture’, (7/11/18), in which he takes some analysis from the USA and tries to apply it to the West generally and to Oz in particular.

    At the base of his article is the idea that “once there was a shared narrative’ but now there are ‘tribal messages’ (a bit like what you say about ancient Rome, Joseph). But when we think about the conservative Thatcherite view that there is no ‘society’, only individuals, then this ‘tribal’ idea becomes merely a simplification of the complexity of what multiculturalism really means.

    Which is further confused by the idea of Kelly’s that “the key to an inclusive community is to create the sense of a common humanity, not tribalism based on gender or race.” It seems to me that the Murdoch media is the very institution which puts people into categories and mercilessly chastises them with bile and vitriol, whether it be refugees in boats, the poor, the unemployed,unions, outspoken women or employees of the ABC.

    In other words, the Murdoch media illustrates what Kelly claims is the first of the three lies, that dispute have become battle between good and evil, oppressor and the oppressed. And he gives the example of Climate Change, which is a strange topic to choose because it seems as if he categorises Climate Change as a totally moral issue and not a matter of science. (There are others of the denier persuasion who will talk about the matter in purely economic or political terms – as if those terms justify the denial. Another example he gives is of the gender pay gap which some see as men oppressing women. Kelly suggests we should take into account “other explanations at work”, but what they are he does not say.)

    The second “lie” is that if people are challenged they will be weakened. This is about “identity politics” which the Murdoch media likes to vilify and ridicule, but in fat the media itself is a champion of “identity politics” and also of “virtue signalling”. But Kelly sees it as ‘dangerous because it is seen as ‘personal’ – the logic hard to follow, but of course he refers to section 18C which is s favourite whipping post for Murdoch and the IPA. He also mentions the same-sex marriage plebiscite – as it continues to fight Safe Schools because the Right is still fighting because it fears the program will try to convert children to be gay, whereas the program sets out to help lGBTIQ students to avoid bullying which the critics claim can be avoided by simply toughening up. Thank you very much.

    The third “lie” is the “untruth of emotional reasoning”. Kelly claims: “The oppressor-oppressed mentality largely thrives on emotion at the cost of reason.” Kelly claims politics is an intersection of emotion and reason, which explains the success of Trump. apparently. Whereas social media, according to Kelly, is a “mob mentality based on emotion”. Yet we know that there is widely spread in media writing and political action the use of fear and false news and intimidation and hatred and insult to deride and vilify and suppress views which are opposed to the neo-liberal conservative Right wing view of those who are born to rule.

    It is a view that does not suffer criticism lightly and come out blazing with irrational argument and histrionic hysteria dressed up in a pseudo-academic palaver in imitation of academics they accuse of being ‘elites’ – an attempt to look academic without being academics or elites.

    So Kelly asks whether Oz is tribal or civilised. Do the Murdoch opinionistas have any idea?

  13. Joe Carli

    guest…I would interpret Kelly and his corp’ shelter as “control central”…those quotes you place above (I have long refused to read the predictable rants of those Murdoshians) are the laments of one who has lost the ears of those he would suppress…What he scorns as ‘tribalism’ as against ‘centralism’ is no more than what I would call ; ‘neighbourism’..where one shares a common boundary or fence with a neighbour that may be of a different ethnic group than your own…a vastly different culture than your own..and how many of us have?..,,heaps! heaps!..in all places in Australia these days..I don’t need to extrapolate..yet, in the most cases, we get on, we respect each other, we don’t demand adherence to OUR particular sport, food, religion or music..we go and vote as we wish…in short, we get on ok..

    Paul Kelly would have otherwise..HE would demand change from whatever cultural familiarities THEY had to HIS cultural dominance..HIS taste in politics, food and culture…he insinuates this in his hidden meanings..This is the attempt to stop cultural change..he can dominate and try to force one family to change or two or a couple more through bullying by his media dominance…But he presumes..the culture of those “others” immediately goes underground and grows stronger and more determined until a time arrives and it surfaces in surprising strength and, like the Germanic tribes under Alaric, comes to conquer the oppressor..

    Better to understand at the “neighbourly fence” stage to live and let live and perhaps those strangers with their strange language and unique culture have hit upon something with their unique foods…after all, I remember the time when we here in Oz couldn’t for the life of us think of squid as ANYTHING but fish-bait…Calamari!!?? WTF!!

  14. helvityni

    …I attended a Melbourne Cup lunch at hubby’s Bowling Club, all of them (hubby included) went for the prawns; I must have been the only one who was happy with some spicy Thai….

    I think my example says more about old men who bowl, rather than about anything else…

    The best wood-fired Pizzas I find at one our local pubs, never mind if they are made by a young true-blue Aussie or an olive-hued Chef of Italian background…perfetto!

  15. johno

    Gidday Joe, I had a vegan pizza some weeks ago. Just wanted to mention I rekon vegan cheese is now way better than cow cheese in taste. In other words the vegan pizza was perfecto.

  16. paul walter

    Late to this; glad I caught up with it.

  17. Joe Carli

    The Ant.
    The ant, in silence, goes about
    It’s ordered business,
    It builds nests,
    And it knows.
    The worm, in depths of dark, damp Earth,
    Tunnels and turns,
    In silence,
    And it knows.
    Humanity, goes about its intent,
    With all the noise and rancour
    Of accrued wisdom,
    But it knows not.

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