Saturday, September 13, 2008

Duffy, Abbott, Hockey, Nelson, Thatcher, Blair, Kennett and the chook driven NSW recovery

It's got to be asked. What makes the Duffster run? We know what made Sammy run, but what makes Michael Duffy, esteemed columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald, amble out into the fire and cop the flak of outraged dissidents?

Well it's all in the name. Think about it. Duffy is a time honoured Celtic name. According to the Intertubes - is there no end to the scurrilous gossip it ferments - Duffy's original meaning in its earliest variations was 'son of the black one of peace', and it was around in the original Gaelic in Scotland in the sixth century (there was even a saint and Archbishop of Armagh bearing the name that long ago). Then it spread far and wide through Ireland, the United States, and you bloody beauty, Australia itself (oi oi).

But as the name spread, so did variant nouns, and variant shortenings. Which is not to say they're connected but the similarities are ominous. Duff, it seems, came to mean something worthless. All kinds of usages hint at dissatisfaction with the world of Duff. It came to mean a peddler of cheap, flashy articles, something counterfeit, or an incompetent, ineffectual, clumsy person (so a duffer duffs a shot in golf), or worse still in Australia, a duffer meant either a complete no hoper or a cattle rustler (off to duff some cattle tonight Clem).

And when applied to food, all duff copped was the plum duff, a boiled pudding for sailors of no culinary distinction at all - merde Anglaise, the French might say. In Australia, it got worse, suddenly up the duff meant pregnant, perhaps a derivative of dough (said duff), following this line: duff to dough to pudding to penis to pregnant (just like a bun in the oven). So when it came to give a comical name to beer in the Simpsons, they called it Duff. It had to be, there could be no other name than Duff beer.

So it's likely that when at school Duffy copped a lot of ill-tempered bullying. I don't say this to gloat, I say it to sympathise. I've been tormented in the playground by vile dumb jocks, I know how they behave with their flexing of their muscles and their cocks. What are you looking at nosey Parker? And so on and on, you know all that wearing glasses don't get passes stuff. You just want to reach out and smite them, duff them in a manner of speaking. Then it's just a short quickstep to the Labor or the socialist gatherings to revile these hurtful people, and all the brutalities the powerful inflict on the powerless. Perhaps it might even be worth a try out in a rock and roll band to regain some glamor taken away by the hurtful teasing. 

But it turns out that the socialists are dumb and just as inclined to feral mind sapping games as the jocks, and girls for some reason usually favor the drummer for a night of brutal sex. The end result, confronted with life's Darwinian struggle for survival, is bleak. Socialists scratching and clawing as they try to get ahead, with a union appointment or an attachment to a politician's office, and women off with rugby league players, being glassed if they step out of line. So it's over to the right and a malcontent life, a world where a man like Gerard Henderson - a man totally devoid of humor in his writing - is honored as a sage, and an intellectual.

Now all this is totally fanciful and in a parallel universe (except for the origins of duff and Duffy, and the bit about Henderson being totally humor free), yet I won't change a word of it, since in the universe of Duffy actual facts and rational analysis are not needful. Nor is Freudian analysis. Instead, as the ever silly Duffy shows in this week's column, sometimes you have to invent your own fun when the subject of these Files writes a column of unendurable tedium and dullness.

It's tricky writing a weekly column - finding the story, then giving it an angle that makes it interesting and different, then writing it with pugnacity and style in a way that gives it a dynamic readability. This week Duffy has chosen for his story the NSW state Liberal party, the notional opposition to the mighty NSW state Labor machine. (Murphy, you there, stop nodding off, pay attention or it's paddywhack time).

Duffy's solution to the black hole of the NSW Liberals is to get such masters of the art of political chicanery as Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey and feather duster Brendan Nelson to move into state politics. What a breathtaking idea, why surely this will bring out the best in the Duffster (Murphy, one more fart in our general direction and it's paddywhack time).

Poor Duffy. Half way through his piece - in which he manages to extol Tony Blair, Jeff Kennett, Alan Stockdale, The Institute of Public Affairs (which it seems is responsible for Kennett transforming Victoria), and Margaret Thatcher - the Duffster admits his idea of people moving from the federal to the state sphere - from more power to less - might be considered eccentric.

No, no, cries the Duffy. "It's been said federal politicians talk while their state counterparts do."
Which is why he's nominated the two federal politicians - Hockey and Abbott - who have so far shown that their best skill is endless talking, selling snake oil to suckers, as the best people to make the jump? No, no, cries the Duffy. There's an opportunity to make a real difference. "Maybe a move from Capital Hill to Macquarie Street should be seen as a step up, not down." Why there's a budget of some A$50 billion to play with (and hell, that puts the chicken shit A$1.1 trillion Australian national economy and the chance to strut the international stage well into the shade, doesn't it? Like chalk and cheese, or the Duffy and thinking).

Thank the Lord. We can now look forward to a fervent campaign by Duffy to persuade Sarah Palin to stay in Alaska where she'll be most useful, or better still head back to Wasilla, where she can really make a difference and do something constructive by banning books.

It seems the state Liberals won't listen to outside opinion or develop a policy development process or pay Duffy's chums to dig over the entrails of Tony Blair's regime - a virtual laboratory for reform of the government sector, and a man so hated in the end by the general population that his own people voted him out of the leadership. So what's a man to suggest in the face of this policy vacuum? Well conscription is always a good conservative answer in war or peace. Conscript a few brave federal souls, send them into the state salt mines, and they'll know the way forward is to generate lots and lots of policy papers, not written by those phonies on the left, but by real people, people from the right who saved Victoria. 

And what's left after these profound insights and incisive flourishes? Well, the Duffster takes a cheap shot at Reba Meagher (though she deserves a cheap shot), quotes Greg Craven about feeding state politicians chicken feed and ending up with chooks (what was that someone said about feeding academics chicken feed and ending up with gobblededook), and manages a sideswipe at everything by quoting one of Malcolm Turnbull's idle speculations - that we'd be better off throwing away the entire current Australia constitution and embracing the American system so that people outside parliament could stand for premier and if elected select their ministry from the whole population (I hear that both Herr Schikelgruber and Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili are very excited by the idea, and are considering making comebacks, standing against Malcolm to see who will become the first leader of the new thousand year empire of the Wallaby which will flow from this profound insight into real world politics - my tip is Malcolm can take down those two phonies easily).

Well at least now it's clear that the Herald pays its columnists chicken feed, because we surely get chooks for columnists.

Yep, that's it from the Duffster. His concluding words? "These proposals deserve consideration. But it would be far easier if some of the of the former ministers of the last federal government made the move into state politics and got things moving".

That's it from the Duffster? That's all? Yep, that's all there is my friends (Murphy, stop snoring, or its paddywhack time). It's like the eccentric musings of an absent minded abacus trying to tally up past glories of the neo con or conservative or new Labor causes and roll them all up into one feeble idea - shift Nelson and Hockey and Abbott into the state parliament and hand out some consultancies to my Institute of Public Affairs mates. 

Well, on the up side, it's another column done and dusted, the search for story and insight shafted for another week. On the down side, perhaps it's a fit of pique by the Duffster at the loss of his favorite politician - one Morris Iemma - political reformer of the century, and the possible - well almost certain - elevation of Barry O'Farrell to the throne (a man who ignores policy and merely presents a small target, moans the Duffster, code for a man who sensibly ignores Duffy and the Institute of Public Affairs).

But it's all such a small teabag in a teapot, whacky in a parochial way column that it's hard to get excited. In fact, it's hard not to roll over and go back to sleep. If the way forward in NSW to embrace new ideas and new policies - as espoused and enunciated by the Duffy - then we are all doomed. What better response than a snooze? Wake me up when it's time to read the next column.

Meantime, on to the score:

Excitement level induced by Duffy's wildly right field but exciting ideas: 0
Excitement level induced by hostility to Duffy's wild rantings and right field ideas: 0
Newly induced belief that Brendan Nelson, Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey hold the key to restoring New South Wales to being a state of excitement: 0
Blessed memories of living in a state run by Jeff Kennett and the Institute of Public Affairs (where was Duffy when the chips were down?): 0
Sense of existential tedium and futility induced by reading Duffy: 11
Improvement in ability to catnap while reading a Duffy column: 11

I guess we can't complain. Duffy oscillates wildly - last week a genius, this week an eccentric uncle driving all the guests away from the party. But we have to take the rough with the smooth, the sweet three wood with the duffed two iron, and look forward to a birdie rather than a bogey. With the Duffster, we can never be sure, and surely therein lies the joy of anticipation, and sadly, sometimes the dull pain of actually arriving.

No comments: