Sunday, March 1, 2009

Malcolm Fraser, the world economy, tedium, boredom and surpassing boredom

Here at loon corner we have a special fondness for former politicians suffering from relevancy deprivation syndrome, who turn to column writing to re-connect to the world.

Inevitably they fail, because the utter tedium of their time running some wild-eyed political regime is matched or exceeded by the utter tedium of their writing.

Every so often, an extraordinary example of the breed, with tattered plumage and a downcast air, takes to the stage. Come on down Malcolm Fraser, the man who came to power by the most devious and repellent means, and has made us suffer his redemptive guilt ever since.

Of course these days people have forgotten the dismissal - maintain the rage, as a general rule only lasts a day or two - and luckier still for Malcolm, most people have forgotten his time at the helm between the years 1975 to 1983.

Suffice to say it was an undistinguished reign, and so we have to ask why anybody would bother to pay attention to what he now has to say in his dotage.

But the vein of squatterdom runs deep in Victoria, and not surprisingly The Age has decided to bore its Sunday readership with Malcolm's The global economy needs a makeover.

In it Malcolm reveals himself as a full-blown Keynesian with a healthy Nixonian respect for China and the role it can play. No wonder the Liberals in the state gnash their teeth - if they can manage to stay awake - whenever the kraken awakes.

There's actually nothing to report, content wise, in Malcolm's column. It purports a substantial, solemn, sober - which is to say immensely dull - review of the history of the world economy in fifteen hundred words or so.

The solutions he proposes are a carbon copy of what others have been saying with more clarity, force and sense this past year - dear ex-leader Malcolm urges that much needs to be done in terms of financial market supervision within countries and worldwide, and extra penalties and so on. Even the way he grates on Liberals and free marketers with this idle chatter isn't sufficient reward for wading through the turgid prose.

He also seeks a new and appropriate role for the IMF, urging on Japan and China as having the necessary surpluses and resources to bail out the world from recession (it seems to have escaped him that Japan is in full blown depression, and is something of a basket case, but hey who cares about details).

As a corollary, Malcolm prescribes some economic cod liver oil for the Americans.

But that was always Malcolm's way, while I've always thought life was in fact meant to be sleazy.

Funnily enough, newspapers wonder why their readership is diminishing, but their only hope with this kind of column is that readers nod off before they can remember to get indignant and demand their money back. What's the point of reading (and paying for) a Western districts aristocrat, so that we can all marvel that he still lives, breathes and writes for The Age?

Some think Malcolm should be forgiven the tedium he induces, for the way he irritates the shit out of neo-cons, and it's true he does perform some kind of service. But it's a limited one, and not redemptive enough. He was a bore before he came to power, a preening pontificating prat who loved the sound of his own voice, then a bore when in power who made other head prefects look like caring chappies, and now out of power a super bore, with a drone-like resonance that produces a hypnotic trance in any innocent who strays into his path.

You have to suspect that his fate is the fate of many on the neo con side. A lust for tainted power, and then an unseemly and untimely amount of guilt and repentance, making us suffer as they suffer.

As a political tragedy, Fraser lacks the scope and hubris of Nixon, and instead he plays out like a really bad antipodean version of a Chekhov play, with innocent bystanders uncertain as to whether he's playing a menshevik or a bolshevik in his new guise as caring patrician.

Is it better never to have had political power, and therefore always to have been irrelevant, or to be at the centre of the storm, and then get washed up on the beach like a piece of driftwood boring the sand with chit chat about the state of the world? The challenge is to make it through Malcolm's musings so you can cast a vote on the question.

And at least he's a new distraction, because over at the Sunday Terror Piers Akerman aka the fat owl weighs into Queensland Labor and Anna Bligh, and given this is a government that learnt all its tricks with Peter Beatty sitting in the lap and sucking the teat of the corrupt Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, it's hard not to just say 'meh' and care less about the whole storm in a teacup of Queensland politics. I guess it's better the fat owl is writing about land sharks rather than sea sharks, but that's about the only discernible benefit, since as always he's horrid and beastly for all the wrong reasons (well with a heading like Labor's lost ladies, you can sense the tone and the style he brings to the piece).

Meanwhile loonatic gadfly Tim Blair keeps on thinking he's being satirical about left wingers, little realizing that in fact he's turned into his very own kind of Gilbert and George. Only there were two of them, and there's just one of him, so the ongoing dialogue he has with himself, to his own eminent and obvious self-satisfaction, suggests schizophrenia is the only sensible, viable way forward.

Blair's latest contribution to peace in the Middle East is a hate-filled rant, but that hardly surprises or shocks anyone (but it's so tedious I can't be bothered to link to it). 

Still if you want a healthy corrective you might want to read the rootin' and tootin', fightin' and shootin' Christopher Hitchens' take on the current power grab of the right in Israeli politics, available at Slate (and presumably his own eponymous siteentitled Avigdor Lieberman's Chutzpah, with a sub header The right to return cannot confer the right to expel

It conjures up the madness of the middle east and the Israeli predicament in particular, while Blair just likes to throw in some red hot chili pepper and keep the madness bubbling along. There's always two sides to a story, but Blair the schizophrenic strangely only ever manages one. Does that make him the world's first monomaniacal schizophrenic?

So it goes on a quiet day in loon pond, with the pagan ritual of Mardi Gras just around the corner. Now that's sure to bring the loons out, squawking and flapping, so we look forward to the new week with joy and hope ...

(Below: Gilbert and George presciently evoke Tim Blair's potty mouth)

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