Saturday, November 1, 2008

Duffy, Conroy, the Intertubes, the Catholics, the Baptists, the Presbyterians, and the Harmony of the West

Have I mentioned lately that Senator the Honourable (I use the term loosely) Stephen Conroy, Senator for Victoria, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, is a knave or a fool, or both?

His plan to filter the Internet will see this new and wondrous beast run in Australia as it runs in Iran or China, or even worse. His profoundly stupid plan is naturally opposed by the industry and by any sensible adult with an interest in their right to interact with the world on a level playing field. The ponderous and bureaucratic plan he proposes in effect shows a desire by government to reduce the Internet to the level of an innocent ten year old's view of the world, stripped of piracy and pornography and all evil things that the government of the day might determine is evil (such as my liking to visit Comedy Central to view, gasp, left wing comedy).

His plan is so much worse than anything the Howard government threw up that it makes me profoundly glad I didn't vote for Labor, and now can only slobber at the bit waiting for the chance to express a view about State Labor. The rumor is that Conroy - a minor Rooster with no native intelligence or wit - is beavering away at his plan to please almighty Chairman and Christian Rudd, who apart from being plainly scared by Bill Henson's photography, has expressed even less interest in or understanding of the arts than John Howard - and that takes some doing. For Rudd, the Internet is probably some unruly Sendakian wild thing that must be tamed, and taught to like beer and football like any decent Queenslander.

The further rumor is that the hapless, hopeless Conroy is beavering away in a desire to please Senator Steve Fielding (let's forget the term Honourable), the leader of Family First in the Senate, a lobbyist for hard right Christian fundamentalist values who picked up under 2% of the vote in Victoria and still got into the Senate courtesy of Labor's strategic bungling and perfidy. Now he's an albatross around their necks and around every living soul in Australia because of his balance of power vote.

Hence the Conroy plan - block everything bad on the Internet, slow the devil tubes down, fill it full of Christian goodness - and the jolly Fielding will be more likely to help us out in the Senate. God knows, Conroy might even be dumb enough to believe in what he's doing. What a dumb Rooster. 

Of course the industry has to show a kinder public face, but behind the scenes people are fuming at the folly. Labor is already on the downhill slide towards being a one term government, and this kind of nonsense fuels an interest in the inestimable ego of Malcolm Turnbull, who's shown an interest in selling out everything and anything in his bid for power, but who has never shown much interest in kowtowing to Christian lobbyists and fundamentalists. And who, having been around in the early days and made a killing with OzEmail, is likely to be a little more sane about the way the Internet should function in Australia.

Which brings us to the esteemed (let's forget the term honourable) Michael Duffy, columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald, who somehow by chance has this week jumped the Christian shark, or more likely, nuked the fridge by doing a Spielberg and raping the minds of his readers.

His column is poignantly entitled "A place where religion, harmony and vitality can be found", which is devoted to establishing just how wonderful the outer west is because of the tremendous job that three churches are doing in helping immigrants settle in Sydney. And just to be fair, he covers Catholics, Baptists and Presbyterians, and leaves out the Islamics and other ratbags who might spoil his vision of harmonious bliss.

Let's forget for a moment that Duffy is opposed to immigration of this kind, and that he doesn't believe in public transport which might connect the outer west to the rest of Sydney - his mates in Labor have just dumped the north west metro, as long predicted, and not a word from the Duffster.

No, let's accept the visionary dream, as far reaching and wondrous as Rosseau's romantic vision of nature - but wait, scrub that, in his Social Contract, Rosseau argued that followers of Jesus would not make good citizens, thereby alienating the Calvinists and the Catholics, and copping the usual bucketing from the Papists, who've always been happy to abuse their power in pursuit of mindless conformity. Stupid enlightenment philosopher.

No, in Duffy's dreaming, all is good and Catholic in the outer west of Sydney. Could this be the same church as ruled over by the reactionary Pell, a man so problematic that Melbourne was pleased to see the back of him? You see, there's barely a need to think about actual religion in Duffy's dreaming. It's all about being multi-cultural - 45 different national flags in the one church! - and having international nights and people bringing along their own national food. It's like an old fashioned bowling club, without the bowls - just a crazed and vengeful god lurking in the corner.

It seems the main achievement of the Catholic Church in this far flung outpost was to send more busloads of pilgrims to the World Youth Day (13) than any other Parish, so they could hear the words of Pope Ratzinger, former member of Hitler Youth, anti-aircraft gunner, and deserter (in America and Britain they shoot deserters and traitors to the motherland). 

And if it's not the Catholics being so harmonious, it's the Baptists, who just want play groups and bible studies and programs for drug addicts and victims of sex abuse. Or the Presbyterians who hold services in Mandarin, and can get toilets fixed in big public housing estates with a phone call or two.

Duffy's final heart warming wrap up quotes Nick Lalich, the Mayor of Fairfield, as saying "Mate, there's 12 places of worship within two square kilometres. All these communities live next to each other with absolutely no problems. If you could bottle what we've got here and export it, you'd save so much trouble in the world."

Sure, where drive by shootings are a way of life, and they even managed to assassinate - the first such in Australia history - John Paul Newman, member for the seat of Cabramatta, and former acting mayor for Fairfield (despite appeals, Phuong Ngo, a political rival of Newman's, remains locked up for the killing). You can go for a celebratory, multi-ethnic, peace and harmony swim in the local swimming pool named after Newman.

In our local area, we have the same peace and harmony. In the square at night, peaceful hordes gather to lick up the lentils doled out in thoughtful packets by the Hare Krishnas, while just up the road, a school peacefully indoctrinates its young in the thoughts of L. Ron Hubbard, helpfully aided by Government grants dedicated to furthering the cause of non-government and non-systemic educationists. The kids seem normal and cheerful, though if you do shout out Xenu, they jump a little and their eyes dart about wildly.

You see, however you cut it, they're cults. That people believe in Scientology as a religion is one of the great conundrums of the modern age, though it helps explain how eccentricities like Mormonism got started, and it also helps explain how long enduring cults like the Catholic church, with its gobbledegook transubstantiation stuff, keep attracting an audience (presumably lured on by the cannibalistic notion of having a munch on Christ's body and a sip of his blood). 

The Baptists are no better, long removed from their Anabaptist origins (which had a few good philosophical points, including living apart from the rest of the world). Now they're a disorganised grouping without any central leadership and a tendency towards Pentecostalism.

Well here's a thought - a pox on Duffy, Conroy, Fielding, and all the lickspittle Christians who seek to do down the calm and even life of the sensible atheist. What this country needs is a Christopher Hitchens, a tool when it comes to the Iraq war because of his fear of Mesopotamia, that figment of the colonial mind, but ever willing to wield the scalpel when it comes to the nonsense the Christian churches trot out as they try to stay relevant in an increasingly secular world (well increasingly secular in the sensible non-Duffy bits, like Europe and China). 

I can accept that deluded fools will seek to persuade others to be as deluded as they are. It's in their nature and they think they do it for a good cause, in much the same way as the Inquisition thought it was carving out a better world from the blood of disbelievers. But to have this nonsense aided and abetted by Duffy, with his 'pie in the sky by and by' romanticism, and  his infatuation with the outer West, all doled out and laid bare in the Herald ... it's just too fucking much, it produces a kind of Nietzschean, syphillitic scream of despair at the sky

Why the fuck doesn't Duffy just shut up about the place? Why doesn't he just shift out there to live in peace and quiet and leave the rest of us alone? Better still, why doesn't he just shut up if he doesn't have anything sensible to say?

He doesn't live in the west, he doesn't believe in the kind of immigration that has generated the Fairfields and Bonnyriggs of Australia, and in the past he hasn't shown any signs of bible bashing. But I fear for him. It's likely he's a closet Chrisopher Pearson, and as he's aged, and become fearful about the world, he's decided to convert to Christianity so he can be closer in body and soul to his much beloved Sarah Palin. In which case he's triply damned forever, because if he believes all the various religions of the world can live in peace and harmony together, he's a bigger fool than I ever took him for - he's a monstrous fool.

(By the way, the food in Cabramatta is truly excellent, with duck and pork freely available in time honored recipes, and not a hint of religion on view in the throng of people in the street as they go about their lives apparently free of western religiosity).

Next week, having given the Christians a run,  I look forward to the Duffster's column on the way Islamic thought and teaching is bringing harmony to the outer West, with specific reference to the way being a youth worker is likely to see you shot down in the streets of Auburn. Because after all religion is such a good force for good. But I suspect that the Arab presence and the issue of Islam fundamentalism might just be too much of a nuke the fridge moment for even the huckster Duffster ... (maybe he could do Falun Gong instead?)

So to the score this week, and what a depressing total it is on the tape:

Capacity for lick spittle fellow traveling with crazed Christians: 11
Capacity for doing a Conroy from the safety of an eastern suburbs bunker: 11
Actual insights into religion and its ideological activities amongst westerners: 0
Glassy eyed, glazed acceptance of cults while chanting 'angus dei': 11
Capacity for injecting sanctimonious pontificating smarmy tone worthy of a Sunday sermon: 11
Willingness to be the bearer of glad tidings and joy while at the same time reserving the right to be cynical and snide when needful to sound hard edged and tough on immigration: 11

Yep, the stench of hypocrisy and celebration has produced a record score.

So this is what we have to look forward to. A denuded Internet and Duffy ranting about the joys of religion. Well at least I won't have to read Duffy, because surely in the first cull of content, Conroy will ban him. And sure as hell I won't be buying the Herald so long as he keeps writing this kind of guff and I can insult my eyeballs by reading it for free as it comes on down the tubes (and let's have a big shout out for convicted Republican senator Ted Stevens, who first understood that the Internet was a series of tubes, and so helped Senator Conroy understand that you can easily shove a large cork up a series of tubes and the people will be ever so happy and joyous and dancing down in Duffyland).

"From the churches to the jails tonight all is silence in the world
As we take our stand down in Jungleland".

Bring it on Conroy.

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