Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Is John Howard an Enlightened Man?

"In our rich and beautiful country, there are children living out a Hobbesian nightmare of violence, abuse and neglect. Many are in remote indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. To recognise this is not racist. It's simply an empirical fact."
John Howard

Then there was his own description of himself as a Voltairian.

Are we all detecting a little Condorcet in Howard's solution to a "Hobbesian nightmare"?

White House or Ivory Tower? Have your say.


Samuel Douglas said...

Considering the Marquis de Condorcet's involvement in the revolution, and his support for public education, I would say I was detecting very little of him in the PM.

I'm not sure if it is 'White House' or 'Ivory Tower' (if only it were the latter!). I'm not sure that this question is the most relevant one a thinking citizen could be asking. Timing is everything, and if the situation was so bad, what changed in the past few weeks that precipitated this action, when details of the 'Hobbesian Nightmare' have been known by most ABC viewers for 6 months?

In true Howard style, it's a complex strategy of spin, conservative paternalism, hidden agendas and dog-whistle politics, all wrapped up in a healthy dose of
"you can't say no". White House? As if GWB could ever craft such a devious plan.

MH said...

Was anyone else inspired to revisist Foucault's discussion of Hobbes' 'state of nature' in 'Society Must Be Defended', and ask does the Prime Minister know anything about Hobbes than the sound-bite?

Rowan Blyth said...

Menzies; Fearless Leader’s hero was also pro-education. Does that mean that there is nothing of Menzies in Howard?

Howard relates to Condorcet the same way Blink 182 does to the Clash. It is easy to be precious of Condorcet even though if he were alive today and thinking exactly the way Condorcet did in the 18th century, he would have been riding to glory in Iraq alongside George Bush Junior who from now on will be referred to as Bu-Ju. Condorcet did see colonization as advancing all the world towards the greater common good of education, even enlightenment through accelerating the colonized’s movement through history by giving them good gifts (such as democracy now that we have freed them and they need to embrace their freedom). There does seem something racist enough in all this to satisfy my comparison.

Now that the man of the people has become the Man of the People, he seems to have grown a social conscience. The question is a little stronger than I think you are giving it credit for as it is a question of Howard’s rhetoric and his adoption of American style appeals to lofty ideals which is mostly absent in the Australian politics. The White House is like the high church of the Enlightenment (in its French form, which is what I suspect is the reason for the American enmity towards the French). Howard has been trying his hand at American style rallying calls for some time now under his apprenticeship to Bu-Ju, whose own speeches are as drenched in early liberal doctrine as any president before him. It is very possible that Howard understands what he reads in the same way Mussolini and Hitler understood Nietzsche. It is also possible that he interprets it as it should be, he just doesn’t realize the dangers of appealing to philosophy two to four centuries old and predating the modern methods of academic rigour. In any case I doubt Australians will be very moved by the American style.

Just to be pedantic, ABC watchers should have known about this over a year ago when Lateline broke the story about paedophiles in Mutitjulu. I have no doubt this issue has been groomed by the Liberals as they would have picked Clare Martin as easily demonizable even as she instigated the report. I suspect Howard has underestimated Peter Beattie in his ‘fight the states’ strategy however.