Monday, August 22, 2005


"Now watch what you say or they'll be calling you a radical,
Liberal, fanatical, criminal.
Won't you sign up your name, we'd like to feel you're
Acceptable, respectable, presentable, a vegetable!"

The problem many words have, to the great delight of such deconstructionists as Jacques Derrida though not anyone else, is that they start off signifying one thing and finally end up meaning another. Take the word idiot for example. In the original Greek, an idiotis was an individual. As an English loanword, it signifies a buffoon. The word liberal has undergone a similar transformation in connotation. Originally as the above Supertramps' lyrics connote, to be liberal is to be "not subject to the common prejudices or conventions," to be "favourable to social liberty, social reform and the removal of economic constraints," to be "willing to respect and accept behaviour or opinions different from one’s own" and further as a quantitative adjective, to be liberal is to "give freely, more than is necessary or usual." Of course this word is derived from the Latin liber, meaning free man, which is a concept that underlies most of its derivatives, the most famous of these being liberty, which along with life and the pursuit of happiness in all of its multifarious forms, is a mainstay of what up until recently, was known as the 'Free World," the only vestiges of which now lie solely in the yard of that purveyor of fine automobiles, Jefferson Ford, 'the greatest car dealer in the Free World.'
To be Liberal in politics traditionally signified achieving greater freedom for individuals and the British Liberal Party under Gladstone tried to achieve this through a slow, gradual process of social reform that culminated in the granting of home rule to Ireland compared to Lloyd George’s radicalism, though both had as their cardinal tenet the free development of all forces that would prevent any group or class from dominating a community. To this day a multitude of conservative hate-sites in the land of liberty, America, vent their spleen at the antics of bleeding-heart, pluralist and thoroughly race-traitorous liberals whose lack of rigidity threatens the cultural hegemony of that superpower's ruling class.
By contrast, the word liberal in Australia shares the same fate as the word idiotis. Whereas in the rest of the world the word connotes a freer, more radical viewpoint, hence a liberal education being one concerned with broadening general knowledge and experience, in this country, at least in the political sense, a Liberal is seen as a conservative, even though in Britain, a Liberal is the opposite of a Conservative, or at least would be, if the British Liberal Party had not entered a terminal decline…
Confused? One is even more confused when one considers that it was during the reign of archconservative Liberal leader, PM and muse of the current PM, Sir Robert Menzies that the great social upheaval that was the mass-migration of Southern Europeans to our antipodean shores began, challenging the until then crystallised perception of them as Anglo-Saxon, given that the original owners until then did not really count as humans. Sir Bob also did some other uncharacteristically liberal things like introduce affirmative action into the Liberal Party, something which is incompatible with the notion of that Party being conservative unless one considers that as Sir Bob was wont to be "British to the boot-straps.” He was in that case a Liberal strictly in its British sense. Notwithstanding this however, Sir Bob was a man of his times and though freedom of speech and political association were and still are paid lip-service to as important constituents of liberal democracy, his reaction against those who would subvert it was ultra-conservative, for instance holding a referendum for the banning of the now defunct Australian Communist Party, considering that the only way to convert people over to the ways of the Free World was to deny them certain freedoms. (By the way, communists always hated liberals as much as conservatives did, the former for not veering enough to the left and the latter for their adherence to a no right turn policy. It was thus that the cul-de-sac was invented.) Again it is a paradox for our times that a conservative Liberal Party under the visionary Malcolm Fraser should have embarked upon a liberal attempt at a tremendous reconstruction of common perceptions of Australian society, in the form of multiculturalism, though this is in keeping with Menzies' British doctrine, and viewed from this angle, its coming full circle and final deconstruction in these reactionary times is even the more so, proving that undefinable Derrida right after all.
The antics of the Victorian Young Liberals recently are a case in point. If one considers that the key feature of a liberal democracy is that elected representatives holding the decision power are moderated by a constitution that emphasizes protecting individual liberties and the rights of minorities in society, then the name liberal does not seem apply to them, unless by the term 'Young Liberals' we signify to a group of people who have a lot of growing up to do before they become 'Big' Liberals.
Indeed one struggles to find what if anything is liberal in the motion recently passed by the Young Liberals calling for “the Australian government to train undercover agents to kidnap or kill those responsible for the Bali bombing.” If my reading of history is correct, even the incendiary of the German Reichstag in 1933, Marinus van der Lubbe was granted the semblance of due process, something which if these infantile liberals knew their British history as well as their founding father Sir Bob did, has been the mainstay of the Westminster democratic system since the demise of Charles I, a monarch whose head was confiscated by Cromwellian proto-Liberals. This is where the term Liberal veres further right of the conservative lane to which it has been directed and surreptiously shoots off along the fascist sliplane.
One would think that these naughty little Liberals in trying to befuddle any sense of meaning in the term liberal were deliberately playing a prank on us or at least telling a post-modern fable. There is no other way that their motion condemning comments and actions made by Liberal MP Petro Georgiou on the Howard Government’s policy on mandatory detention can be explained. This is especially so given that Petro Georgiou was the main architect of PM Fraser’s multicultural policy and further, considering that pluralism is a traditional tenet of liberalism, this is downright disturbing.
Even more disturbing is these neophyte Liberal’s disapprobation of affirmative action within the Party, “including but not limited to, gender specific positions within the Liberal Party.” Though this was one of the foundation principals of Sir Bob, the founder of the Liberal Party in the late 1940’s, and was also interstingly enough insituted in America by none other than archconservative Nixon himself, the idea of ensuring that women are adequately represented in the political sphere is well… too liberal. Is there not a more appropriate place for them? Interestingly enough it was archconservative Nixon who instituted affirmative action in America along with Watergate.
Sadly, it appears that in abandoning such founding principles as have been the mainstay not only of the Liberal Party but of Australias’ progress throughout the past fifty years, the Young Liberals are whimsically looking back to a society that no longer exists: racially exclusive and dominated totally by males. In order to do so they would have to travel back in time at least sixty years, before the advent of Sir Bob’s Ming dynasty, though their advocacy of brutal totalitarian approaches for dealing with internal threats is totally without precendent and unaustralian as it is unliberal.
In Chinese, the word Ming means bright and the years from our own ‘Ming’ right up until recently have been the brightest and most enlightened in Australias’ political history. After the fall of the Ming however, came the Qing, the barbaric Manchu dynasty that while paying lip-service to Ming culture, held its subjects in thralldom. Ever so slowly, the Liberal Party and indeed the Young Liberals are becoming about as liberal as the People’s Democratic Republics of yesteryear were popular or democratic. No truly liberal government would try for example to abrogate for itself what is in the popular conscience at least, the most clear display of parliamentary democracy at work: Question Time, while to have the role of women in any political entity questioned in any way in the twenty-first century, is simply heinous. Even more so heinous is to have a 'Liberal' MP such as Sophie Panopoulos of migrant background adoicate the deportation of an Australian minority on the grounds that it is a threat and does not assimilate.
It is hoped that this crisis of identity within the Liberal Party results in a reassessment and readherence to liberal principles. Alternatively, those who reject these should hve the courage to name themselves after what they really are, for identification by all and the consigning of Derrida to the dustbin of inanity. We leave the Young Liberals with a few last words of wisdom from Supertramp: “Won´t you please, please tell me what we´ve learned/ I know it sounds absurd/But please tell me who I am.” Or better still, with some Mayakovsky: “No heavy boots please! /Tell the firemen to go gently/ when the heart's on fire."

First published in NKEE on 22 August 2005