Journal of a Futurist - 23 May 2005
JOHN HOWARDS UNDERPANTS
Shocking pictures have come to hand of the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, clad in his underpants. The images appear to be genuine. A media firestorm is sweeping the nation and scores of citizens are assembling outside Parliament House, demanding an explanation. This morning, Mr Howard issued a terse statement: George Bush made me do it.
These sad images could not have been created without the co-operation of the Prime Minister, which has ignited speculation about the circumstances behind their release. Our Special Correspondent tries to unravel the clues:
On the surface, John Howard has every reason to feel on top of the world, or at least on top of Australia. Employment is booming, interest rates are on hold, the bulk of the electorate is unperturbed by the Iraqi bloodbath. The countrys major media are in the hands of pro war, anti Kyoto billionaires who share John Howards view of the world, which boils down to the ends justifies the means. In the case of Iraq, the end is glorified as freedom (acquisition of oil fields, industries, military bases), while the means (mass murder of civilians) is sanitised by mainstream media into precision bombing and propaganda images of marine sergeants weeping as they cradle wounded Iraqi children. Never mind that tens of thousands of women and children have been killed and mutilated as a result of the invasion the pictorial evidence of which is excluded from view so as not to prick the conscience of conservatives. It is here, as elsewhere, that the interests of Howard and the media combine.
DEATH OF THE LUCKY COUNTRY
Whatever doubts the Prime Minister may harbour about the justness of sending our soldiers to kill Iraqis, it is unlikely that these alone inspired his meek disrobing. What else could it be? Fear that the furtive brutalities of his immigration policies are coming back to haunt him? Hardly. When Howard told his big fat famous lie about the boatload of asylum seekers who threw their children overboard in order to gain admission to Australia, he romped home in the 2001 election. On the other hand, the public mood has since shifted. What started at the doctors wives syndrome, groups of do-gooding retirees befriending the victims of Howards scare-mongering, has flowered into a mass movement, uniting noisy students and dogged vicars . The immigration departments serial of thuggery fans the flames of public outrage. Each new revelation strips another shred from Howards carefully crafted cloak of compassion, spoiling his pose of a decent leader who takes tough decisions for the good of his country. At last, mainstream Australia is sensing a whiff of the jackboot.
John Howards choice of the new ambassador to Washington confirms his penchant for secrecy, control, deceit and, yes, cruelty. Dennis Richardson is Australias top spook. As head of the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation, Richardson has rolled back civil liberties in the wake of 9/11, and is pressing for even greater powers to detain, interrogate and prosecute in secret. Richardson has introduced ludicrous limits on press freedom in Australia. Journalists can be jailed for 5 years for disclosing operational information, even if it has been provided by an ASIO officer. (The officer only risks 2 years jail). The spy we are sending to Washington is so enthralled by secret policing, that he proudly displays on his Canberra desk a souvenir baseball cap from that notorious interrogators brothel, Guantanamo Bay.
This country is paying dearly for the PMs eagerness to fall in line with George Bushs war on terror. At least the United States had an excuse for its vicious response, a lust for revenge. All we had was the lust of a groupie. A lifetime spent on the fringe of power, pampered travel and media focus, this small-time solicitor was thrust onto the world stage with Sheriff Bush against the flames of the WTO and a bruised nation anxious to round up a lynch mob. Howard rushed in. Two Great Nations together again, just like in Vietnam, but without a vigorous anti war movement to mess it up.
At first it seemd to go okay. The mass media climbed into bed with the troops, snuggling under the doona of patriotism. The reportage of hiccups, like Raytheon missiles exploding on crowded market places and wedding parties, the cluster bombings of children, etc, were confined to left leaning British media, SBS and the bloggers, so could be ignored. Rupert Murdoch assumed the role of Joseph Goebbels , turning his media empire into a global cheering squad for the Bush White House, thus shielding the under educated from the overkill horrors of what was being done in their name. The lack of honest coverage served to perpetrate the atrocities and fuel the rise of alternative media. The rest is history. From Abu Ghraib onwards its been a dark day for warmongers, however much they keep whistling in the dark. You may have noticed a flurry of media think pieces on why radicals are fading away. Fading away from the Fox News, maybe, but mightily active in the arts, on the air waves, in docos, on the web, at bookshops, at the pub. Now theres annother desperate slogan, its cool to be conservative, which is like saying its smart to be dumb.
Okay, so no human shredding machines, no WMDs, no Saddam/Al Qaeda links, no Iraq reconstruction worth a damn, no reliable water supply, no electricity, sewage, jobs, no peace, no sense; only brutality, bombings, torture, lies, sadism and as yet other unknown horrors that will haunt the West for years to come. Tony Blair keeps jumping up and down, squealing, I was right. Id do it all again. We got rid of Saddam Hussein. Sure but we also got rid of a 100,000 Iraqis, and our nations honour.
THE LYNCH MOB LOOKS IN THE MIRROR
To achieve the end of Saddam we aligned ourselves with yet another torturing dictator, Islam Karimov, who at this very moment is supervising the murder of hundreds of his own citizens.
And so we arrive at a point where Mission Accomplished becomes Mission Impossible, a place where the lynch mob realises they screwed it up. Perhaps Tony Blair will find a way to reconcile the blood on his hands with the Christ in his heart. Perhaps George Bush will keep to his program of closing his eyes to bad news, blocking his ears with his I-Pod and wheeling in Billy Graham junior. Perhaps John Howard is a little more complicated. Neither dumb, nor driven to wrestle with the tenets of his faith, he now finds himself in a pickle. While taking credit for commercialising Australia, he knows the price has been high. Too high? Just as his own Treasurer delivered his recent budget to a country in the throes of a drought, without actually being aware of the drought, Howard must now suspect he spent too much time reading the polls and too little time reading the weather. Too much time speaking on TV, too little time listening to the grass roots. Too much time shaping his legacy, too little time trying to rescue the future. In the blink of an eye, everything has changed. Global Warming rolls in faster than feared. As the ice caps melt, so does John Howards reputation. Just thinking of global warming makes him sweat, so he takes off his drab suit and regimental tie. The public conscience is finally stirring over crimes in the war zones, so he flings off his shoes and socks. The UN Commissioner of Human rights, church leaders, mainstream Australia, even business types and members of his own party now condemn his cruelty to refugees. Off with his shirt and singlet. John Howard suddenly feels all forlorn. He stands alone like Saddam Hussein, a prisoner of his illusions, suffering a rare dark night of the soul, a moment captured by spycam and revealed to the world. If only.
Update 21 March 2005
(image from The Guardian, 22 September 04)