January 10, 2004


Geoff Kitney waxes lame in the Sydney Morning Herald on the subjects of Prime Minister John Howard, individualism, and the hateful Australian population:

Letting people say what was on their minds fitted well with the big idea that is at the heart of Howard's political philosophy: individual freedom. Howard's lifelong core belief has been in the power of the individual. It is the inspiration for his commitment to free market economics.

Sounds fine, yes? You know, people saying whatever they want. Individuals empowered and all. But NO! NO! NO! Individuals are bad, as Kitney explains:

In these hedonistic and self-focused times, broader issues of community interest, equity and minority rights are sidelined or given lower priority. The environment, for instance. Australians are less fussed now about the threat of global warming than they used to be and the Howard Government has not paid any significant political price for playing a leading role in wrecking the Kyoto Treaty.

The government would have paid a massive price had it agreed with Kyoto. And how would Kitney earn a living once his tree-munching newspaper was closed down?

Australians are much more concerned about the threat of terrorism than the risk of rare animals and plants becoming extinct as the climate changes.

The notion that people are more concerned about an immediate deadly threat rather than a theoretical problem that might kill a few dumb bugs 20,000 years from now seems alien to Kitney.

While individualism has flourished we, in our debt-laden castles and our fear of the unknown which the new world order of global terrorism has created, have become more selfish and less tolerant.

Name names, Geoff. Name one person you know who has become more selfish and less tolerant. Identify them and their crimes!

The most conspicuous victims of this are asylum seekers, the vast majority of them desperate people who have fled the threat of persecution and death but have been met with flint-faced determination to punish them for not following proper procedures in seeking to enter Australia, a shameful and immoral absurdity about which few Australians have the slightest pang of conscience.

Those proper procedures ensure two things: one, that people with genuine claims to asylum are admitted to Australia; and two, that there is not seen to be a reward for the risks involved in people-smuggling. Which causes people to die. Australians would rather not have dead bodies piled up on our shores. (By the way, those asylum seekers made their decisions individually.)

Kitney’s dismissal of most Australians as conscienceless is sickening. He despises his own readers.

I also believe that the power of individualism is breaking down a sense of community and community responsibility which will have long-term consequences for cohesion and ethical standards.

And Kitney’s evidence of this?

Social workers and parents say there are clear signs of this in youth behaviour, with crumbling respect and civility as a "me first" culture grows.

Kitney sounds like one of those 1950s conservatives complaining about Elvis and Jerry Lee. The teenagers, they have no respect! They misbehave! Ban dancing! Restore civility!

Posted by Tim Blair at January 10, 2004 03:23 AM

Wasn't it Aristotle who complained about the failure of the youth and how things were going down the pottyokolos due to increasingly poor morals and a sudden diminishment of values from those held by the older generation? I bet Bush had something to do with that too, the cunning bastard.

Posted by: WrongWright at January 10, 2004 at 03:59 AM

Kitney's claim that individual freedom is corrupting us from the higher good of community interest brings him dangerously close to the slogan used by the Nazis to justify the suppression of hedonistic individualism: "Du bist nichts; dein Volk ist alles" - "You are nothing; your people is everything".

"Gemeinnutz geht vor Eigennutz" - "The common good comes before private good", is another Nazi slogan that Kitney would apparently agree with.

Posted by: Tim Shell at January 10, 2004 at 04:19 AM

Ban dancing!

No, card playing poses a more serious threat to those juvenile deliquents' respect for civility and community. Dancing is generally performed with a partner, only rarely is performed as a competition, and even when performed with out a partner, is generally performed in a community setting. Card playing, on the other hand, is the work of selfish, individualist, capitalist devils. Oh sure, bridge does promote the fine art of hand and foot communication, as well the peaceful resolution of strategy disagreements (wouldn't want the other team to witness a full-out brawl and lose respect for you). But the lower forms of card playing - hearts, old maid and UNO -- oh, don't get me started on UNO, that hellish tribute to Hobbes. And solitaire -- well, that's just anti-social...

Ban card-playing -- the next anti-globalist meme...

Posted by: Tongue Boy at January 10, 2004 at 04:29 AM

Sorry Geoff. My fear is not of the unknown. It is that anyone with such deluded thoughts as yours might come to power and place the priorities of a few bugs ahead of terrorism.

Posted by: Chrees at January 10, 2004 at 05:17 AM

Those asylum seekers with their 'Me, me, me' attitudes and their intolerance of following procedures.

Posted by: LB at January 10, 2004 at 05:41 AM

I seem to remember an inscription taken from an Egyptian tomb of about 4500 years ago to the effect that civilization was going to Hell in a bucket, carried by the behavior of the young.

On the other hand, lefties are all in favor of individualism when that individualism agrees with the lefty's mind set. It's just when individuals do things they don't like that the lefties get all agitate.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at January 10, 2004 at 05:43 AM

"shameful and immoral"
Again and again, the commentariat seem like fiery priests as they castigate their readers/congregations. Phillip Adams even dresses in clerical black to make his sermons more dire.
It really worries me that these people are building up a climate of national self-hatred, characterised by the IamashamedtobeanAustraian mantra.

Posted by: David at January 10, 2004 at 05:56 AM

You got trouble, folks, right here in River City with a capital "t" and that rhymes with "p" and that stands for pool.

Posted by: Steve in Houston at January 10, 2004 at 06:48 AM

Why are some people in Australia so keen to have organised crime running our immigration department. I always thought they were agaist privatisation.

What if we sold Telstra to the Triads, gave the Mafia control of hospitals, etc..

Posted by: Quentin George at January 10, 2004 at 07:02 AM

JorgXMcKie has it right. The left complains about the individualism of the right, but conveniently ignores its own even greater individualism. Do lefties feel comfortable about giving allegiance to their own collective national tradition? No, they trash it. Do they support a stable family life? No, they fear it and talk sneeringly of white picket fences. The left criticises the right for its economic individualism, whilst overlooking its own social individualism.

Posted by: Mark Richardson at January 10, 2004 at 07:48 AM

A first class Fisking. PIP PIP!!!

Have a good weekend all. Unless you're Margo.

Posted by: matt at January 10, 2004 at 07:48 AM

Damn punk kids nowadays got no respect for their elders. I remember back in aught-one before those damn 9/11 terrorist attacks children were well behaved. You asked them to do something and they'd do it without any sass. Back then if a neighbor was a little down on his luck we'd all get together and raise a barn for him. Not no more! You're lucky if you can get a shed-raising going these days. Dadgum kids and their newfangled "individualism."

Hey, you got off my lawn you little yard apes!

Posted by: Randal Robinson at January 10, 2004 at 09:14 AM

I am not an individual.

Posted by: the dolebludger at January 10, 2004 at 09:38 AM

I am not an individual.

Posted by: dolebludger at January 10, 2004 at 09:39 AM

Mabye Kitney could set a moral example by inviting a few asylum seekers to live in his house with his family for a while.

Posted by: jay at January 10, 2004 at 10:23 AM

I am not an individual. -- dolebludger

Dammit, I'm a number. I said I'm a number. -- Bob Seger.

Posted by: Angie Schultz at January 10, 2004 at 10:51 AM

Kitney makes a common mistake of many fans of socialist theory - that a philosophy based on the primacy of personal freedom and the importance of personal responsibility is somehow incompatible with an enlightened concern for the welfare of other people. It's not and never has been.

As for these "asylum seekers" who pass through any number of countries in which they could safely seek asylum in order to try to establish themselves in Australia - I don't blame them for trying. It's perfectly understandable. However, I don't support them risking their lives and those of their children, paying thousands of dollars to criminal gangs, or taking the place in a generous but limited capacity resettlement program of *genuinely* needy and deserving refugees awaiting resettlement from all around the world.

I understand why they try, and I don't "fear" or hate them. But I *do* expect my government to prevent them from succeeding, except in cases where their need is comparable to those whom they are displacing. And I *do* expect my government to do everything it can to discourage them from trying in the first place. As most other Australians do as well, I am happy to say.

Where do these lefties get off with all this "we" business, about how racist and fearful and ignorant and manipulated "we" are? Speak for yourself, Kitney. That's not me or any of the people I know.

Posted by: Bob Bunnett at January 10, 2004 at 11:46 AM

"Social workers and parents say there are clear signs of this in youth behaviour, with crumbling respect and civility as a "me first" culture grows."

Oh,silly me! Here I thought it was the job of social workers and parents to teach "respect and civility" to the youth!

Posted by: rinardman at January 10, 2004 at 01:36 PM

Speaking as a psychologist, I can unequivocally state that the "social worker" premise is, technically and clinically speaking, utter bullshit.

Posted by: Jerry at January 10, 2004 at 02:14 PM

Back in about 1960 there was a US musical "Bye Bye Birdie".

Some lyrics from one of its songs:
"Kids, they a disobedient, disrespectful oafs!
Noisy, crazy, dirty, lazy, loafers!
Why can't they be like we were,
Perfect in every way?"

I wonder how old Geoff Kitney was in 1960.

Posted by: Peggy Sue at January 10, 2004 at 02:58 PM

"I'm not..."

Posted by: Patrick Chester at January 10, 2004 at 06:44 PM

"Dean is a liberal Democrat, a Carmen Lawrence-like centre-leftie"

Carmen Lawrence is a centre leftie??

Posted by: robbo at January 10, 2004 at 07:34 PM

In my day, social workers were the natural enemy of parents. 'Respect' had to be earned and 'civility' was a bourgeois construct. As for 'cohesion', and 'responsibility', well that could only be sneered at. But that was in Gough Whitlam's 'glorious' "Its Time" 70's, before John Howard ruined everthing.

Posted by: Softly at January 10, 2004 at 07:37 PM


Posted by: Sissy Willis at January 11, 2004 at 01:21 AM

"Australians are much more concerned about the threat of terrorism than the risk of rare animals and plants becoming extinct as the climate changes."

Couple of decades or so back, the puma was believed to be extinct in Virginia, Maryland, et al., due to the depredations of we greedy humans, with our superhighways and our tract housing and our shopping malls.

Now, mysteriously, they're back, having somehow adapted to our cruel ways. The local Virginia paper suggested last week that we remember the puma kill fewer housepets than dogs each year.

I'm just sayin', is all.

Posted by: ushie at January 11, 2004 at 03:30 AM

"Australians are much more concerned about the threat of terrorism than the risk of rare animals and plants becoming extinct as the climate changes."

He's damn right. It may be difficult for the left to understand, but yes, I place my own life and the lives of my friends and family above all cuddly animals.

Posted by: Quentin George at January 11, 2004 at 08:51 AM

Geoff Kitney seems to be channelling the departed spirit of Hugh McKay.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at January 11, 2004 at 02:22 PM

I come from Asia. I became an Australian citizen in 1994. I first voted in 1996 for the much hated Johnny Howard and have continued to cast my vote for him and his government. Why? During Hawkie and Keating's time my husband was paid an old age pension and I as his 44 (then) year old spouse was also put on the dole despite the university education I had. Fortunately, I saw the light, got a decent job and the entire family moved out of the deadly welfare.
As for kid's respect for the society and the community, Howard sets the example with the way he has brought up his family. My children are being taught to work hard, respect the society they live in and give a hand to the less fortunate. I could not believe my eyes when I read how Kitney tied Howard to selfish individualism. Howard did not send his public servants to schools asking the 18 year old kids to leave home to be 'individuals' and be independent of their families and to enjoy the government handout. This was vote buying from 18 year olds if anything. Howard is saying we should be responsible for our families' welfare and not the government. We created the children so we should care for them.
On the other hand, Mr Kitney, the more you condemn Howard, the more votes he will get. Keep up the electioneering on his behalf.

As for me, I value the social conservatism and economic rationalism John Howard provides. Go John.

Posted by: re at January 11, 2004 at 05:40 PM

Leftism = elitism

" Democracy would be a great thing if only everyone would agree with me and my clever university educated friends at the SMH, the ABC and the local university sociology faculty.

The problem comes when they let just ANYONE vote - even people who put more importance on the economy that a rare species of slug which nobody even noticed anyway. And we all know that all the refugees who arrive here illegally can go stay at that nice Senator Bob Brown's house until they get sorted out.

Perhaps we could make it so that only "selected" people were allowed to vote - then John Howard wouldn't stand a chance, Carmen Lawrence would be prime minister and ... [contact lost with planet Kitney - no point trying to re-establish the link]."


Posted by: The_GOP_Elephant at January 11, 2004 at 07:27 PM