Lifters and leaners

I have a piece up at The Guardian looking at Hockey’s adaptation of the “47 per cent” line made famous by Mitt Romney. The focus is not so much on demolishing the claim (Greg Jericho did a more comprehensive job on this) but on the state of delusion that would allow Hockey to think that this kind of claim would be favorably received. After all, even Romney didn’t use the 47 per cent line in public: he was caught on video talking to rightwing donors.

33 thoughts on “Lifters and leaners

  1. Ah, The Sandpit is currently closed so I’ll proceed here at risk of being off topic although I reckon I could make a case for the topicality of my argument.

    JD: you didn’t actually follow up my reference to the Jindyworobak Movement, did you? Had you done so another entirely honourable meaning of the term ‘nativist’ would be apparent to you. YouI’might also also care to read the family history of Henry Reynolds to better understand what I’m talking about:

    It is a not uncommon story.

    The issue of authenticity has been brought into sharp focus for me by the irritating habit of my local Federal Liberal member, another ten pound pom, issuing glossy ANZAC day commemorative material every year and then standing around sniveling about the ANZAC sacrifice as if he has a personal investment in the matter. He doesn’t; it is mere populism just the same as Abbott’s and Gillard’s for that matter.

    Do you know any First Australians? What about people with Aboriginal heritage who don’t identify? I’d warrant not because you don’t have the family connections to inform you of who came from where in this country. There’s more to being Australian than either ‘Man From the Snowy River’ romanticism or meaningless cosmopolitanism.

    As a matter of active identification, which is what counts, when was the last time, if ever, you took a stand against the despoliation of our national estate other than giving a few bob to someone in a koala suit? Locating yourself within an historical landscape counts, as any Englishman or Irishman would tell you. Have you been to the Myall Creek Massacre Memorial? If so, what did you feel when there? If you haven’t been there, why not? You’ll have been to St Paul’s Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower, I guess, so why not Myall Creek? Does the bush scare you, leave you unmoved, does it have no history for you, is there not a presence you can feel?

  2. @jungney

    I already admitted my inferiority. I even tugged my forelock. Was that not grovelling enough? Is there some more profound abasement I should properly submit myself to?

  3. @J-D
    JD, your readiness to ‘tug the forelock’ and admit your inferiority illustrates the difference between true born Australian native sons and daughters and tourists.

  4. @jungney

    I think it’s unfair to attribute an arrogant incapacity to admit inferiority to true-born Australian native sons and daughters and also unfair to attribute it to tourists.

  5. I suppose it might seem unfair. My point, though, is that there is a strong ‘nativist’ tradition in Australia which was profoundly informed by engagement between Aboriginal Australians and non-Aboriginal radicals, non-conformists, members of the IWW, communists, socialists and others.

    People like Brian Manning ( showed younger Australians how to fight; his love of country reflected Aboriginal sensitivities and his desire for justice remains emblematic.

    There are many other such ‘nativists’, quite a few not born here, whose work and lives embodied a distinctively Australian egalitarianism combined with a passion and deep respect for the landscape. There are some, like the artist Ian Fairweather, born in Scotland, who deserve recognition as a nativist because such love for the landscape and his engagement with Aboriginal art forms. I’d also mention Roland Robinson, a man of my acquaintance who lived in a hut on Lake Macquarie with a dingo, whose poetry and other works introduced me and many others to a specifically Australian aesthetic of the bush along with a fiery contempt for all those Australians who looked the other way or otherwise failed to take up the injustices served up to Aboriginal people.

    What I’m getting at is that there is a strong Australian nativist tradition that derives from a deep love of the bush and an engagement with Aboriginal culture. People within that tradition are standard bearers of an older democratic impulse than most recent immigrants are even aware of. I’d put good money on Gillard never having heard of the Jindyworobaks, mores the pity.

    As an aside, I’m delighted that both my kids will next week attend an environmental conference in Canberra during which time they will stay as guests of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy on the front lawn of the old Parliament House. Now, there’s continuity of nativism for you.

  6. @jungney

    Engagement with Aboriginal culture and deep love of the bush are both things I have no wish to disrespect. I see, however, that you now acknowledge that those traditions are accessible to migrants (at least some of them) just as they are to children of migrants, grandchildren of migrants, great-grandchildren of migrants, and so on.

    Your earlier remarks gave the impression (whether you intended it or not) that there is an automatic correlation between openness to the traditions under discussion and ‘generation time’ in Australia. You can see that I’m not the only person who took exception to that.

    I expect you’re right that most recent immigrants have never heard of the Jindyworobaks, but I submit that’s because most Australians have never heard of the Jindyworobaks, independently of how long their families have been in the country. Conversely, I suspect that traditions that are familiar to most Australians (but which are those? is Anzac one?) are also familiar to most recent immigrants.

    If you had written ‘it would be a good thing if more people in this country were more familiar with some of our nativist Australian traditions, including engagement with Aboriginal culture and love of the bush’, you wouldn’t have received the sort of reaction you did (at least, not from me, and probably not from anybody else). What raises hackles (as it should) is the apparent suggestion that having grandparents born here (or is it great-grandparents?) automatically puts that sensitivity ‘in the blood’, and nothing else can do the job.

    And it doesn’t help when your first response to me is to construct an imaginary version of me, one that you can’t support with evidence, just so you can knock it down again. That really does make you look like somebody whose first concern is a demonstration of personal superiority.

  7. Graeme Innes on lifters and leaners

    Disability is a normal part of the diversity of the human experience, and the life of our community. But it’s not viewed that way. Fuelled by sensationalist journalism such as that of the Daily Telegraph, running front pages comparing slackers (disability support pensioners) to slouch hats (soldiers), calling us shirkers and rorters, we are demonised and diminished. The pictures of so-called slackers were actually South American backpackers on holiday, and of the 45,000 “slouch hats” who returned to Australia, 20% experience mental illness. The Tele gets it wrong on so many counts, and trashes the disability brand, but people with disabilities are the ones who pay the price and wear the damage. The Tele pushes us back into the leaners corner, despite our best efforts to leave it.

  8. More from Graeme Innes

    Mr Innes rejected as ”facile” the Abbott government’s use of the ”Ming Dynasty concept” of ”lifters” and ”leaners” to describe those who contribute to the economy and those who depend upon the state.”We all move from one role to the other dozens of times a day,”

    In various ways we all start and end life as a “leaners” – excepting those that believe in the delusion that they are warriors.

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