On wilful innocence, and hope

19 Dec
Residents look for survivors at a damaged site after what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Al-Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria September 17, 2015. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail - RTX242XG

Aleppo residents look for survivors


I’m re-reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which is, if you are unfamiliar with it, an utterly compelling account of the journey of a man and his young son across a torched and ravaged American post-nuclear landscape, inhabited by bands of cannibal survivors whose murderous violence the pair must evade in their efforts to reach the south.

The man and his child imagine the south to be warm, and more conducive to life than the freezing, ash-filled ruination through which they stoically trudge, dragging their small cart, confronted at every bend by the carnage that ensues when the thin membrane of civilisation is fatally ruptured.

McCarthy’s 2006 novel can of course be read as a metaphor, and one appropriate for the present, as a mighty struggle begins in earnest between those we describe as fascists and the rest of us, a motley and divided crew, ill-equipped to deal with what we ought to have seen coming but mostly didn’t.

So many of us blinded by a wilful innocence: a refusal to acknowledge the depths of hatred, disdain and self-interest of which humans are capable, because we want to believe that as a species, we are better than that. We aren’t. We can’t afford to lie to ourselves anymore about the extent of humanity’s destructive capacities. This is how the darkness of us triumphs: because so many of us refuse to believe that it is real.

There are places in which the post-apocalyptic world McCarthy describes are not metaphorical, but real. I’m thinking today of Aleppo. Like almost everyone else, I have no idea how to assist the children, women and men who struggle to survive the myriad ruptures that have reduced their world to smouldering devastation. We send money that we hope will be put to good use. We protest. We demand that our government take more refugees, for all the good that does.

Increasingly, I’m coming to believe that our only hope is to relinquish our wilful innocence, and find courage enough to stare into the abyss which is undoubtedly our future. We have no magical protection from it.  All the signs are there for anyone to read. The ascendance of fascism. The normalisation of a state of “post-truth.” The increasing domination of ignorance, and contemptuous rage at the expression of any loving sensibility. The mocking of concern. The violent hatred of those who wish to protect and preserve the natural world. The reduction of human beings to units of consumption. The disintegration of community.

The Road is a harrowing read. It’s an account of the author’s gaze into the abyss. Yet tenderness and love break through, frequently in the sparse dialogue between the un-named protagonists.  I can hardly imagine the courage it took to write this book. To survive such imaginings, to fully realise such a world. And then I remember there are people living this imagined narrative. Millions of them.

I can only bear witness to their anguish by refusing the selfish protection of wilful innocence. And I think that perhaps if enough of us do this, if enough of us relinquish our imagined right to turn away, there might one day be enough of us with strength to triumph. I don’t know. But I have to, like McCarthy, insist on the legitimacy of hope, and our capacity to love and nurture, as well as our capacity to destroy and hate.







81 Responses to “On wilful innocence, and hope”

  1. Stewart Hase December 19, 2016 at 9:57 am #

    You’ve said out loud what I have thought for a long time but did not say often, except to the odd like-minded person. Others just shake their heads. Not a fan of psychoanalytic stuff I quite like reading Jung. I think he got one thing right and that is the human capacity for the greatest good and the greatest evil-in the same mind. The dark and the light. But you are right, we don’t like to acknowledge, to admit to, the dark. Over and over again I saw this in my work as a therapist where you get to see the workings of the mind in detail, unfolding before you. And yes, in anticipation, there are people capable only of the dark, except perhaps to their offspring in the selfish Darwinian sense.

    The Road, 1984, Brave New World, Animal Farm, and even Mad Max are prescient. They reflect the end point of our deep narcissism as a species. I want to argue with you that we can prevent it but, sadly, I can’t. There aren’t enough of us. Most people are conservative at heart, when push comes to shove and they like the quiet assurance that the status quo is the best route. Don’t change and create potential discomfort, value the individual over the group, ignore inconvenient truths, evade ambiguity for sureness no matter how the latter is manufactured.

    As well as the narcissism, we are the victim of our cognitive biases, of which there are about 20 types. They are the way we fool ourselves into not challenging our thinking, not creating anxiety for ourselves. And I think this is at the heart of what you are saying. As a species we protect our conscious self from our darkness.

    It is our failure to mature that is the problem. Sigh!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Marilyn December 23, 2016 at 6:12 pm #

      I am just going to leave this here – apparently not climbing into the racist gutter is bad.

      Robert Manne > Marilyn Shepherd • a day ago

      Here is the true face of the indefatigably angry and self-righteous Marilyn Shepherd. Articles with which she disagrees should not be published. Her solution–open borders–has zero chance of convincing anyone in power in Canberra. Ergo, she would rather feel good about herself as a principled person ( “the warm inner glow”) than think hard and recognise the need to vacate the moral-legal high-ground and try to find an argument that might have some prospect of changing the Canberra consensus, providing the 2,500 who are now or once recently were on Nauru and Manus Island with the prospect of living human lives. Most advocates do not share her intolerance or her smouldering hatred of difference but they do share with her in my view an incapacity to see the necessity of finding arguments with an even remote chance of changing the political and public service current consensus which is presently destroying the lives of 32,000 fellow human beings.

      1 △ ▽



      • paul walter. December 23, 2016 at 8:03 pm #

        Pig headed? Yes.

        Mulish? Yes.

        But not sanctimonious..that is the genuinely serious charge and from long range, without knowing you well enough, the one that that seems wrong and dreadfully harsh to make, particularly in public.

        If he’d said you wear your heart on your sleeve, I could have agreed.

        But I think he is fundamentally wrong as to the “warm inner glow” bit.

        But I can say it because I know you and understand you (I think).
        I believe you feel deeply, perhaps too intensely for your own good, when it comes to asylum seekers and I think it comes from your own experiences as an underdog.

        Most Australlans lost the ability to identify with the battler a long time ago, And the position of you and some others take thus baffles them.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson December 24, 2016 at 8:43 am #

          I agree, I don’t think you act for a “warm inner glow” either, Marilyn.
          I’m rather astonished that Manne would write this in a presumably public forum (I don’t know where it’s published) and I’m surprised at the arrogance of his tone, and his vitriol. It does him no good, imo

          “indefatigably angry”? There are some situations that call for indefatigable anger, and refugee policy is one of them.

          Aren’t we still urged to maintain the rage about Whitlam?
          Am perplexed by this personal attack.


          • doug quixote December 25, 2016 at 10:48 pm #

            Go on, Jennifer! Marilyn would make a saint respond with vitriol.

            “Indefatigably angry and self-righteous” seems a very fair summation to me. I’ll lay odds she lambasted him for not agreeing word for word with her pie in the sky views.

            She has no acceptable solution and never has.

            Anyone who disagrees with her can expect a dose of her Tourettes vocabulary.

            Paul Walter says she is mulish and pig headed; I’ll add in self-righteous along with Manne.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Jennifer Wilson December 26, 2016 at 8:54 pm #

              No pile ons please, it’s Xmas.
              You know how I feel about Marilyn, DQ. She always has a place here and sometimes I censor her comments, except when she called Arthur something that totally upset him & I didn’t pay attention and we haven’t heard from him since.


              • Arthur Baker December 27, 2016 at 11:50 am #

                She didn’t call me anything. She called someone else a brainless cunt. The person she called a brainless cunt was indeed, and probably still is, a brainless cunt, but I, quite reasonably in my opinion, pointed out that using that term of address was hardly going to be an effective way of changing the brainless cunt’s mind. Plainly you didn’t pay attention, because I wasn’t even mildly “upset”, let alone “totally”. Nice to talk to you again. You’re welcome.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Jennifer Wilson December 27, 2016 at 1:02 pm #

                  Gawd Arthur, I had several lengthy exchanges with you on this subject.
                  I wouldn’t like to see you even mildly upset if that’s what happens when you aren’t upset at all.
                  Happy holidays. You’re welcome too.


                  • Arthur Baker December 27, 2016 at 1:36 pm #

                    Let it go, why don’t you? We’re both supposedly on the same side, and in 2017 we’ve got a lot (an unprecedentedly whole bloody lot) of people to persuade to our point of view, if we want justice for refugees, and more importantly the human race to survive to the end of this century so our grandchildren and beyond can have a life. I know where my priorities lie, and they don’t include arguing pointlessly with you.

                    Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Wilson December 24, 2016 at 8:38 am #

        Robert Manne wrote this about you Marilyn? Where?


        • paul walter. December 24, 2016 at 2:41 pm #

          Could be fb. You expect stuff in stoushes at blog sites, but it is a bit rough coming in public-public, from a public figure.

          Marilyn might have found it a surprise coming from someone she might have considered an ally and someone who projects an ambience of rational tolerance and moderation.

          Maybe it came at the end of a private chat that went wrong?

          Come on, Marilyn.

          Come out and give us the background. You know if you said something first he’d retaliate if it was harsh enough from you in the first place.

          Liked by 1 person

          • paul walter. December 26, 2016 at 11:29 pm #

            I agree there should be no pile ones re the Robert Manne subject

            How can I establish some sense that the actual event and possible underlying issues involved would be my main interest?

            By leaving be?

            I would have let things be, except that looking for some thing to read I came across this:


            Note the very recent date.

            It is difficult understand at worst, but Manne eventually contends that the nonsenses of the last fifteen years are obsolete and that the 30,000 should be allowed to come/stay, because “Federal group thinks fevered imagination” has it wrong as to the likelihood of people smugglers being likely to launch an armada filled with asylum seekers, given Australian naval power.

            He backgrounded this by relating the Turnbull announcement of Australian naval forces settng up a (very expensive?) “ring of steel” to prevent further arrivals as an example of what he feels to be Canberra paranoia and fantasy.

            Just fact checking to see if I have Manne’s argument right, I discover an exchange in the comments section, but will persevere in sending my post as that conversation reveals the philosophical dispute at bottom of Marilyn’s post, in view of the lack of any further clarifications from her and others since, here and elsewhere.

            Of course, I am speculating, but the issues raised in the conversation are of substance and part of the debate, and it involves us too, as part of this community, therefore and we need as much evidence as we can find, for our own peace of mind as well.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Jennifer Wilson December 27, 2016 at 9:19 am #

              Many thanks, PW, I just read that piece & some comments.
              I’m now going to take some time to read the rest of the comments and think this through.
              I still find Manne’s attack on Marilyn extraordinary, and I wonder if he isn’t sending her way much of the outrage and hurt he feels at having been criticised by many for his most recent stand.


              • paul walter. December 27, 2016 at 4:44 pm #

                Oh yes. fifty/fifty.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Jennifer Wilson December 27, 2016 at 9:46 pm #

                  PW, I think Robert Manne is dreaming.
                  He seems to be arguing that his proposed solution (turn backs continue & the 32,000 refugees/asylum seekers already in Australia, Manus & Nauru be resettled here) will be more acceptable to Canberra than the solution of open borders. I don’t believe this is the case.
                  He also seems to be saying in his comments that those who argue for open borders are making a solution impossible, which I believe is nonsense.
                  I don’t think for a minute that resettling the 32000 is an option for either major party, and Manne is being as fanciful as the open borders advocates in believing it is or can be.

                  It’s altogether wrong, IMO, to blame any refugee advocates for any governments’ hard line policies. It isn’t a failure of the advocates to assist the government towards a reasonable solution, as he claims. It’s an entirely political matter and I don’t believe any advocate has or will make any difference to politicians’ positions on this matter.
                  I don’t know when Manne got so wrong-headed.


                  • paul walter. December 27, 2016 at 11:27 pm #

                    I understand your points but think you are a bit more optimistic of human nature than is Manne,

                    I will add no more. I express the hope that your idealism has some foundation in reality.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • paul walter. December 28, 2016 at 12:41 am #

                      If Manne’s compromise is not acceptable then how on earth would you figure open borders would be?

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Jennifer Wilson December 28, 2016 at 6:01 am #

                      I don’t. That is my point. Neither are acceptable to Canberra, & Manne is deluding himself if he thinks his solution is more acceptable than Marilyn’s.


                    • Jennifer Wilson December 28, 2016 at 8:22 am #

                      PW, Interesting, I left a comment on that Manne piece which has not been published.


                    • Jennifer Wilson December 28, 2016 at 5:59 am #

                      PW I’ve not explained properly.
                      I’m saying that to Canberra, Manne’s proposal will be no more acceptable than is an open borders policy, which is Marilyn’s proposal.
                      Manne is delusional if he believes ALP or LNP will agree to resettlement of refugees currently on Manus, Nauru & in Australia.


                    • paul walter. December 28, 2016 at 6:57 pm #

                      OK, final word from me.

                      Given the way the conversation has gone and conclusions reached, what would be the point of going Manne, who is only the messenger?

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Jennifer Wilson December 28, 2016 at 7:45 pm #

                      Going Manne? I haven’t done that. Why would you think I’d done that?


                  • paul walter. December 28, 2016 at 10:47 pm #

                    That’s cute.


                    • paul walter. December 29, 2016 at 1:32 am #

                      However, I did return to Manne’s column and observed a comment from a certain ungulate. This solves a certain mystery as to a comment made by yourself here.

                      For me. the debate rests on the Marilyn proposition regarding International law

                      Eg, did Manne slip up and was merely being corrected by Marilyn, or have these issues already been examined in the High Court over time, perhaps to the point where by some grubby homeland security law is given legal precedence over International law to bolstere anti boat arrival laws, regardless of spuriousness?

                      You see, it could be important, given Marilyn’s critical response to the article and the sharp retort from Prof.Manne depending on how the laws are read.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Jennifer Wilson December 29, 2016 at 6:41 am #

                      Yes, I revisited and found the moderator had been at work.


                  • paul walter. December 29, 2016 at 1:51 am #

                    I was going to post below at the Monthly but yet more password nonsenses preclude, so we will leave it here.


                    “Am I able to comment here?

                    We’ll find out. It seems to me in the end it is going to boil down to who has the better understanding the conversation over Prof.Manne’s post and the response concerning legal precedence.

                    Mannes essay makes sense in the light of a certain reading of the law at variance with Marilyn’s, or Manne forgot international law aspreminent (?). hence Marilyn makes a point.

                    She makes a point anyway on the grade of the laws that may preclude refugees on spurious and misapplied “Nation Security” grounds, say, on the cynicism involved (or not) and whether his legal concept behind the article is validated by the courts.

                    This in no way morally validates such laws of course, but will preclude action against the govern’ment and I must admit I haven’t seen a squadron of Commonwealth police heading for Dutton’s office lately.”


                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Jennifer Wilson December 29, 2016 at 6:43 am #

                      Thanks, PW, unfortunate about the password issues, would like to have seen this on Manne’s article.


                  • paul walter. December 29, 2016 at 1:11 pm #

                    Thinking on the issue, it remains true that the issue as typified by the most recent person to die at Nauru and the enmiseration of millions and millions of others precludes people like Jennifer Wilson and Marilyn and Stephanie from taking a backward step, partly because history shows us that ill-treatment of one group sets a precedent for the universalisation of barbarity.

                    More importantly, whatever the laws of the state, many people live lives of misery right now.

                    If the laws, particularly spurious national security nonsenses, preclude improvement in the lot of the common person, regardless of race, particularly as conservative blocks to social progress, then the battle’s not won and resistance.

                    In the end, I can see the debate on this over the last few days has happened in the right way in the right sequence for the right reasons.

                    Neither Manne or the Activists have any thing to be ashamed on, the consequent discussion has been healthy and necessary and the idea that injustice can win without at least some sort of fightback, reinforced.

                    Happy New Year to you ALL!!

                    At least you are not brain dead and heartless.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Jennifer Wilson December 29, 2016 at 3:26 pm #

                      Thanks PW.
                      I agree, nobody has anything to be ashamed of in this matter, and if the worst thing Marilyn does is curse, she’s got a long way to go before she becomes the problem.


                    • paul walter. December 29, 2016 at 4:58 pm #

                      It is not lady like.

                      Liked by 1 person

  2. lindacairnes2 December 19, 2016 at 10:32 am #

    Brave words J. It is with great sorrow I have to agree with you. And hope is thin on the ground as I watch world events.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson December 19, 2016 at 1:57 pm #

      Perhaps the contrast with what we are supposed to feel at Xmas is more acute than usual, linda. Given the future we face now.


  3. Suziekue December 19, 2016 at 12:20 pm #

    I also read The Road. It was a profoundly confronting book. As a mother and grandmother, I want so much to hope that this is not their future. But I am coming to realise that we, even in the Utopia that is Australia in world terms, are not immune any more. The horror in Aleppo could easily be ours. As you say, all the signs are there. Yeats said it clearly in The Second Coming. “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? “

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson December 19, 2016 at 1:56 pm #

      “Turning and turning in the widening gyre
      The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
      Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
      Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
      The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
      The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
      The best lack all conviction, while the worst
      Are full of passionate intensity.”

      Yes, Suziekue. I think Yeats said it clearly enough for anyone to understand, who cared to listen.


  4. paul walter. December 19, 2016 at 2:29 pm #

    Beautifully put, has me in mind of the long term influence of Herbert Marcuse and “Repressive Tolerance”, through to Baudrillard and the Simulacra.

    I add, I am no expert on these things, But all the comments, including “Things Fall Apart”, Stewart Hase’s list of dystopian prophetics (add Attwood’s Handmaids Tale”), make it very difficult to avoid the poison of paralysing fatalism and this sense depression is itself the enemy.

    Yet, as Stewart adds, given the realities, where is the escape..back to Sartre and “Nausea”?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson December 19, 2016 at 6:24 pm #

      My hope is, PW, that there are more of us who are alert to the potential dangers we face than there were in, say 1930s.
      Enough, perhaps, to recognise what is happening and take steps to intervene?
      If not, then fatalism is justified and we are doomed.


    • Jennifer Wilson December 19, 2016 at 6:25 pm #

      See, we have evolved, we’d never use those Xmas cards these days 🙂

      Evolution at a glacial pace…


      • paul walter. December 20, 2016 at 12:31 am #

        Given the US now, it could even become a reversal.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. paul walter. December 19, 2016 at 2:37 pm #

    Now for a musical interlude, this one in memory of the (now late)Greg Palmer:

    Liked by 1 person

    • paul walter. December 19, 2016 at 2:38 pm #

      Sorry Greg Lake..tis the seasons of good cheer, of course.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Marilyn December 19, 2016 at 5:16 pm #

        This is my preference for Lake, didn’t like the ELP incarnation at all.

        Liked by 1 person

        • paul walter. December 19, 2016 at 5:31 pm #

          Quite agree. This has been “disappeared at Utube”, like a lot of other things.

          Knife Edge appealed because I felt it fitted in with a Trump election aftermath, just when you don’t think it can worse, why lookee there!

          King Crimson are also gloomy and it can’t be a coincidence that Greg Lake was involved with both groups.

          I actually have a hunch that we are in the midst of a fin de siecle moment as happened around 1970.

          Catch allthumbs below.

          all thumbs is into this year’s Xmas spirit also…

          Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson December 19, 2016 at 6:39 pm #

          That image is freaking me out


        • doug quixote December 20, 2016 at 9:25 am #

          You’re a King Crimson fan, Marilyn? Wonderful!


          • Marilyn December 20, 2016 at 11:30 pm #

            And Pavlov’s dog. Rodriguez. It’s a beautiful day.

            Liked by 1 person

        • Havana Liedown December 20, 2016 at 9:37 am #

          Liked by 1 person

  6. paul walter. December 19, 2016 at 2:42 pm #

    Could have added “Take a Pebble” from the same album, but not too much of a good thing, eh?


  7. allthumbs December 19, 2016 at 4:19 pm #

    It didn’t take or hasn’t taken an Aleppo to force me to stare into the Abyss and realize the shortcomings of the species that allows the species to wreak an Aleppo upon the world and to promote it, revel in it, enjoy it, prolong it.

    We are in the abyss, we are the abyss, the abyss stares into us with pen and paper at hand making copious notes to learn how to become a better abyss.

    Misery and depravity are not natural talents, they take some learnin’.

    Merry Christmas to all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marilyn December 19, 2016 at 5:18 pm #

      The terrible thing about Aleppo is the lies told by western media when they pretend the ”rebels” are good guys instead of US funded, trained and armed Al Quaida and other splinter salafists and murderers. The west will tut tut and then build more walls to keep out the victims.

      Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter. December 19, 2016 at 5:41 pm #

        That has been the most pitiful thing, watching the Left spat over who is responsible for Aleppo.

        The Americans have realised they were outflanked by Trump and are looking for a last ditch excuse to get rid of him by linking him with the Russians, but the smoking gun is still missing, although it is more than possible that people as unscrupulous as Trump and Putin could have linked up in some sense.

        In the end they have ALL been proven dislocated, unscrupulous manglers, a bit like the idiots who started WW1.

        But as ever, it will be the third world that cops the consequences.

        BTW, am brought to recollection of an SBS doco last night about Marijuana as a fringe cash crop in the Congo, but really, what this doco demonstrated to me was the absolute breakdown of civilisation there, the poverty and dysfunction.

        The people think weed solves the problem, but I have an unhappy feeling it may only exacerbate the unhappiness.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson December 19, 2016 at 6:30 pm #

          I agree, PW, it has been a sickening disgrace, watching this left brawl.

          The Congo has had diamonds, that mineral everyone needs in their phones, I think, why should weed be a saviour I wonder?


          • paul walter. December 20, 2016 at 12:28 am #


            Yes, they had adequate footage of people in the mud and slush trying to dig them out, but it was for the benefit of the main rebel militia group or the government and its backers.

            Some parts of the country have smoked the stuff and used it for medicine for centuries, but in today’s squalid conditions in the slums of big towns, it is used to kill emotional pain and make a few dollars to avoid starving or in women’s cases, working the streets. Of course, it is arguable that that employed to kill pain actually maintains it, as with the bottle, or ice or crack in the West.

            Naturally, the corruption/protection chain involves lower level police, soldiers and civil servants, Buy you are right in assuming that that it is a side show against minerals wars and control of mineral rich areas.

            Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson December 19, 2016 at 6:26 pm #

      Cheers, allthumbs.


  8. paul walter. December 19, 2016 at 6:00 pm #

    Got curious about the book- Bob Ellis always reckoned don’t comment unless you have seen the film or book up for discussion.

    But it does come across as something John Wyndham might have written, say Day of the Triffids or Chysalids and as dark as Handmaid’s Tale. Here is the Wiki:


    ‘What does come across from it is a sense of an underlying theme of the need for the human to reconnect with him or herself and with others.

    Must see if I can hunt it down, going to be v hot from Xmas Eve and it would be the go as the heat arrives on schedule.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson December 19, 2016 at 6:35 pm #

      Bob Ellis was right.
      McCarthy is a unique voice, & a far better writer than Wyndham. The book has a hypnotic quality and leaves one in turmoil with its juxtaposition of unimaginable evil and heartbreaking humanity.
      He also wrote No Country for Old Men, a very different style and voice.


      • paul walter. December 21, 2016 at 1:50 pm #

        God bless ya..hope your xmas is excellent.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson December 22, 2016 at 9:04 pm #

          PW, I hope your Xmas is as well.
          It’s not a season I care for, but one does what one can….


  9. doug quixote December 20, 2016 at 9:21 am #

    What a depressing read that must have been. I wonder if the suicide rate went up as a result?

    I have my moments of doubt and fear, but remain optimistic about humanity’s prospects.

    The only way forward to the dawn is through the dark of night.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson December 20, 2016 at 3:26 pm #

      It isn’t at all a depressing read, DQ!
      It’s pretty much the same as your last sentence….


  10. Gilbert Mcinnes December 20, 2016 at 10:55 pm #

    another american of letters , once wrote “Who can be innocent again on this mountain of skulls?”

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Stephanie Cornwallis December 22, 2016 at 1:14 pm #

    Jennifer, your article reminded me to go and re-read Professor William Maley’s very fine chapter on Australian refugee policy in “The Howard Years”, a collection of essays edited by Robert Manne, Black Inc, 2004.

    It reminded me for two reasons: (1) Maley’s expression, not unlike yours, of disappointment with an Australian population immersed in wilful innocence; and (2) Your mention of the abyss.

    A couple of quotes to illustrate.

    … a mass population in a state of substantial (although not total) denial. Time and again I have found Australian citizens unable to credit what refugee policy actually entails, even when detailed in statements of fact from judgements delivered in the highest courts of the land. Denial is altogether easier: denial that what is happening could be happening, denial that anything can be done, denial that the treatment of refugees is any kind of issue. This of course had much to do with the fog of half-truths and misinformation spread by ministers and officials to mask the reality of the government’s treatment of refugees. Not for nothing were new detention centres located in remote and inhospitable venues such as Woomera: the very fact of remoteness meant that ordinary Australians could concentrate on other issues. None of this should be the least surprising. The incentives to deny uncomfortable realities can be compelling. Hansonites, of course, understood pretty clearly what was happening, and on the whole loved it. But many ordinary people did no more than give effect to a wish to be dwelling in a somewhat gentler world than that actually around them. Unfortunately, this can play right into the hands of manipulative politicians.

    Mr Howard, Mr Ruddock and the new Immigration Minister, Senator Vanstone, should pause for a moment to think about the places they will most likely occupy in the history o our country. In the long run – after ‘cash for comment’ shock-jocks have ceased to influence popular opinion – governments are evaluated not for their performance in industrial relations and macroeconomic management, but according to how they responded to the great moral challenges of our time. In the area of refugee policy, history will show no mercy to ministers and officials who spurned the cries of the wretched, the desperate, the oppressed, the victims of horrific regimes such as Saddam Hussein’s and the Taliban’s. Future generations will find their inhumanity impossible to fathom. To make sense of it, we may need to revert to the awful warning voiced by Friedrich Nietzsche in ‘Beyond Good and Evil’: “when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you”.

    The first quote reinforces your timely point about wilful innocence. The second, I take as an encouraging sign that time will eventually prove to be on our side – but its mention of the abyss should act as a warning that the struggle will be long, hard and challenging, that we cannot afford to take our foot off the gas pedal, and that we should be prepared for many confronting experiences along the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson December 22, 2016 at 9:04 pm #

      Great post, thanks Stephanie.

      I had thought of that Nietzsche quote when writing the piece. It’s a useful warning.


  12. doug quixote December 23, 2016 at 8:53 am #

    A message for the Liberal Party staffers monitoring this blog:

    Pull Christensen and Bernardi into line, note their refusals, and then look to exclude them from the Party. Even deselecting them is too late now to be an option.

    The tail wagging the dog is not a good look and not a vote winner, or a vote-keeper for that matter.

    Happy New Year. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson December 23, 2016 at 5:15 pm #

      They monitor Sheep?


      • doug quixote December 24, 2016 at 12:41 am #

        You may think that the Nationals have more to do with buggering sheep, but give a Looters Party right-winger a free go . . .

        I had to laugh at Pauline Hanson bewailing her deranged colleague. It can hardly be surprising that fucking morons behave like fucking morons – don’t preselect fucking morons. They can get elected.

        BTW, Trump thought he’d use a word not in the 4th grade dictionary, declaring that something or other was “unpresidented” – surely a first. He should stick to his 3rd grade primer.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson December 24, 2016 at 8:45 am #

          Then there came ACL’s Lyle Shelton claiming persecution because apparently a poor soul attempted to incinerate himself outside the ACL offices.
          Police declared there was no religious, political or ideological motivation for the man exploding his van with him in it, yet Lyle clings desperately to the opportunity for martyrdom.


          • paul walter. December 24, 2016 at 11:07 am #

            Perhaps someone else will help him at a later date.

            Liked by 1 person

          • doug quixote December 25, 2016 at 10:53 pm #

            Man in hospital: “What the fuck is an ACL?? My anterior cruciate ligament was removed years ago!”

            Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter. December 24, 2016 at 5:53 pm #

        They monitor everyone.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Havana Liedown December 24, 2016 at 2:26 pm #

      Perhaps the Russians monitor this blog; they are being widely blamed for giving Trump an election-winning edge. If there is any “LNP staffer monitoring”, it is for purely entertainment purposes only – but the laughs here are miniscule compared to those at the then Bob Ellis Blog. A statement there reads: “Ellistabletalk has suffered some kind of hack”… I’m not sure who would benefit by attacking a dead blog , and why anyone would target it since he departed this mortal interweb – for some reason he was progressively deleting his articles, which is a shame as it was full of some very funny stuff, mostly courtesy of Phill and Frank. Oh and Bob too, of course.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Stephanie Cornwallis December 26, 2016 at 4:14 pm #

        Side-splittingly funny, Havana. Especially since you waste your time commenting on this blog, where you are spectacularly unlikely to change anyone’s mind. About anything. Why don’t you go and have a lie down? And a Bex, if you can still buy them anywhere.

        Liked by 1 person

        • paul walter. December 26, 2016 at 4:44 pm #

          Bex, or Vincents powders. My old Nanna swore by them…one a day, more if she had a headache, but never ovedosed on them.
          Maybe she was right. They’ve since discovered that aspirin can help alleviate heart conditions, operating as blood thinners. She lived to a ripe old age, despite the odd tipple or three..

          Liked by 1 person

          • Jennifer Wilson December 26, 2016 at 8:57 pm #

            Better than Valium I suppose.


            • paul walter. December 27, 2016 at 12:10 am #

              I’ve run across someone just recently with a valium habit amongst several just recently.

              Like so many other addictions it is fearful to witness for the observer, not least for what it says about human nature, the human mind and the human capacity for self deception.

              I suspect you have studied the mind body problem far more deeply than I, I will be adding nothing to your sum of human knowledge here.



              In the end, what do we really know?


          • doug quixote December 27, 2016 at 7:48 pm #

            The problem with Bex and Vincents was the phenacetin component, which causes cancers.

            Aspirin would still be rated the wonder drug of the century if they could make any money out of it . . .


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