Leading article Australia
10 December 2022
It has taken three decades for The Castle chooks to finally come home to roost. The 1997 film, one of Australia’s finest comedies and a smash hit at the time, had many wonderful attributes. It cemented the idea of ‘the pool room’ in Aussie culture, and turned the typical home-loving, family-oriented, greyhound-owning ‘bogan’ into a national hero and role model – and rightly so. Darryl Kerrigan’s (Michael Caton’s) superb catch-phrase, ‘Tell ‘im he’s dreaming,’ mythologised the nature of small business and one-man entrepreneurship at the onset of the Howard years.
Today, however, it is hard to imagine young Aussies captivated by the idea of ‘living in luxury’ being housed in a fibro adjacent to an airport. The Kerrigan sense of dignity in financial independence has disappeared as today’s Aussies increasingly rely on government spending and welfare rather than their own resourcefulness.
There was, however, one disturbing theme that seems to have outlived all those other worthy notions. And this was the idea that lay at the heart of the film’s feel-good third act; the ‘vibe’. Dennis Denuto (Tiriel Mora), an incompetent local lawyer, ends up in the High Court where he chooses to argue the ‘vibe’ of the situation rather than the ‘law’. In this he is successful, which is great for the box office receipts but a dreadful forebear of what many Australians now expect of their legal system.
Indeed, the presumption of innocence has been replaced in this country in recent years with an almost medieval concept of innocence and guilt that boils down to superficial appearances and social mores.
Thus, in the aborted Higgins/Lehrmann alleged rape case the accused is left in limbo as the media and much of the legal system are clearly more influenced by emotions than cold, hard legal admissable evidence of the sort that will prove guilt or innocence beyond a reasonable doubt.
Our legal system has evolved over hundreds if not thousands of years. How strange that, in this country at least, one successful comedy film seems to have presaged it turning on its head.
A bright star gone
The saddest aspect of any editor’s role is learning of the passing of one of the writers who have meant so much to the readers of the magazine and to find the words to honour that writer, when, of course, no words will ever suffice and nothing the editor writes will do justice to or capture the spirit of the writings of that person.
Conversely, one of the great joys – perhaps the greatest -– of any editor is discovering and encouraging new writing talent. Of spotting a bright, shiny new star with a gift for words.
This week those two worlds collided, when I heard the beyond-tragic news of the death of Naimh Finneran Loader. Although the details are still not clear, it appears she died in Bali a week after undergoing dental treatment there.
I only met Niamh once by accident when introduced to her by Ron Manners of the Mannkal Foundation, where Niamh was a winner of their superb conservative scholarship program. I was on a flight to Perth and they were both returning from the Samuel Griffith Society Conference that weekend in Sydney.
Niamh’s sense of humour and passion for politics was immediately apparent. As was our mutually shared deep disdain for authoritarianism. We were the only two boarding the plane who stubbornly resisted putting on our masks.
Her first article for the Speccie, which she intentionally or otherwise submitted on April Fools’ Day of this year, was entitled ‘A right-wing pledge to stop abusing the Woke’. ‘To use ‘Woke’ as a jibe,’ she wrote, ‘to use it to mock those whose viewpoints we don’t agree with, is lazy communication. Its intention is to silence, to indicate that we disagree with a person’s politics and refuse to engage with them.’
After running through the abusive terms that others frequently used to disparage herself, Niamh concluded:
‘This is not supposed to be about me airing my political views though. This is me, admitting that I have used ‘Woke’ to describe people whose politics differ from my own. That is me being lazy. That is me adopting our contemporary Newspeak, and using language as a tool to suppress communication rather than encourage it. Orwell knew that language was important, that expression which promotes expression is powerful. Using ‘Woke’ as an insult undermines my own love of language, of conversation. So, this is me pledging to stop.
Vale, Niamh. Again, words fail me –Rowan Dean, Editor.
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