Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Past modernism

Oh for God's sake it's too hot for this kind of nonsense.

Have just seen the PM on ABC TV evening news, banging on in his Australia Day address about how Australian history, 'along with other subjects in the humanities', is being taught in that nasty amoral po-mo relativistic way and a stop ought to be put to it at once.

Now, I would be willing to bet a biggish fraction of my extremely modest assets that Howard couldn't give you an accurate and detailed definition of post-modernism even if you offered in exchange to put Costello and all the Nats on a slow boat to Easter Island. I wonder which heroic RW culture warrior wrote the speech for him, or provided the notes to his speechwriter. Whoever it was, Howard was reading very carefully from his script at this point. Postmodernism was clearly not a theme on which he felt confident to extemporise.

He is absolutely correct in his claim that history in this country, and the history of this country, should be taught better, and taught more. But he and his speechwriter are completely wrong in blaming an abstraction called 'post-modernism' for the fact that it isn't. Maybe he should, for example, have a look instead at the relative amount of funding going to private and public schools, or at the workplace conditions under which dozens if not hundreds of teachers a year collapse into an extended period of stress leave. Postmodernism is the least of anybody's problems.

Whoever wrote the speech needs a bit of a lesson in clear thinking, too: there's a doozy of a mixed metaphor in there. Australian history, said the speech, is taught as a 'fragmented stew of themes and issues'. A stew is not fragmented; on the contrary, the point of a stew is to combine things.

On the other hand, the PM obviously relished the phrase and had lots and lots of fun saying 'fragmented stew', so maybe that's the most important thing.

What the PM wants, as one exasperated-looking history teacher pointed out when asked to comment, is to wind the clock back several decades: to reinvent, as with the wheel, the time when Australian history was taught as a triumphalist grand narrative of grand middle-class white male triumphs.

Which is, after all, like, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. As everybody knows.


not waving said...


R H said...

Honestly, I've never had a clue what postmodernism means.

So what's it mean?

Pavlov's Cat said...

Try Wikipedia, RH. Blogs aren't the place for definitions of isms.

And considering how bloody insulting you've been about this Cat on other people's blogs lately, I can't think why I'm giving you helpful suggestions!

R H said...

I've deleted that insulting comment. Okay? And I agree with you about that Kofi 'joke' on L P. I didn't think it was the slightest bit funny. I thought it was tedious, the whole thing. Schoolyard humour.

So please put my two funny comments back. Poor unhappy people enjoy things like that. It gives them a lift. Okay?

(Up late tonight)

Pavlov's Cat said...

I guess we only agree sometimes about what's funny and what's not, but the comments have gone to the big trash bin in the sky, sorry.

My comments policy is that this is my blog and I get to decide what's posted on it. (Given how much you have to say, RH, I don't understand why you don't run your own!) Comments that are pertinent and civil are always welcome, but raves, insults, and silly sexist jokes about pussies and so on will be trashed without delay or regret.

R H said...

Damn right! And if I ran my own blog I'd decide what was posted on it too! And there'd only be comments saying how wonderful I am. Nothing else! And I'd be wanting donations too. Huge amounts! Especially from Miss Laura!

Helen said...

A stew is not fragmented; on the contrary, the point of a stew is to combine things.

Exactly. Also, stews are delicious!

liam said...

I tend to agree entirely and violently with everything that you've just said.
It's just as well that it's only a cynical on the part of the Office of PM&C attempt to draw attention away from the Nationals trying not to be in the Coalition anymore.
As I've said elsewhere, the general principle of this ten year-old government is always cheap Culture War stunts when in trouble.

Brownie said...

Great post, Catwoman.

comicstriphero said...

Well, I guess we should be in no doubt that his fervour for the 'culture war' (I'm not sure if I'm happy with that term - there is only one side waging war anyway) is still strong.

Keep your eye on the push and shove surrounding the appointment of a new ABC MD.

They'll also have to announce a new head for the media regulator ACMA soon - careful trawling of his/her CV will no doubt reveal a few 'gems'...

Topsest post.