Lift your Game, Men of Australia.


Recently I heard Phil Cleary on the radio. What he said was so right, I thought I should, if not expand on it, fully endorse it. His subject was the Royal Commission into Family Violence, which is happening in Melbourne, now.

We can argue the point as to whether the term “family violence” does justice to the subject, but I will just call it what it overwhelmingly is: male violence toward other, usually younger men, or women, and children.

Phil’s argument was that we were focussing on the wrong causes, which were seen to be predominantly substance abuse, and mental illness. He’s right. They are excuses. Excuses for bad behaviour, which feed into all the other excuses weak men use. Alcohol doesn’t make a man beat his partner. Smoking bongs doesn’t turn a man into a cruel abuser. His attitude to women and children does.

Look around you. Bad attitudes to women and children abound. When did it become acceptable to call women “bitches”? Women are half the population. They are mothers, sisters, daughters and aunts. It isn’t even necessary to argue their special contribution to life. They are human, they are half the story, and they make humanity whole. Thinking that women are lesser creatures is the problem. It is a problem so self-defeatingly stupid that it is difficult to believe. It is as dopey as thinking less of your left leg than you do of your right leg. And children are not possessions, or bargaining chips. They are your future, and they deserve your protection and guidance.

Family violence is always wrong. It is always used to bully and intimidate. This community needs to set itself a standard for civility. Similarly to the way we have made racism socially unacceptable, we need men to re-discover the wonder of family, of community, with no victims.

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A short review of “The Narrow Road to the Deep North”, by Richard Flanagan.

This is a long book. It appears to be based on the life of Sir Weary Dunlop, and it is written in the style of a year 12 English essay.

It is really interesting as a catalogue of the horrors of the building of the Thai Burma railroad, by mainly Australian Prisoners of War, after the fall of Singapore. It leaps about in time, but its most successful, and most tedious passages, document the inhumane treatment of the prisoners by their Japanese, and Korean guards.

While it pays due respect to the suffering of the prisoner/slaves, it appears to suffer from such a surfeit of words as to be exhausting. Not for Richard Flanagan the elegance of Henry James, who stated that the reader was the best person to provide the details of horror, by dredging his or her own fears and memories, and imagining the protagonists dealing with them; no, Mr Flanagan provides episodes so over-written that one begs for relief. In one memorable scene the guards beat a prisoner for page after page, after page, until it appears he is immortal.

There is a love story, where the hero chooses the woman he loves, based on the preference of blue eyes over brown. This great love story is at best perfunctory, and has nothing in the way of passion, or credibility. Similarly his marriage and subsequent family life are characterised by descriptions of adultery and failure, a situation miraculously redeemed by the great Hobart bushfires of 1967. He drives through road blocks onto the mountain, where his wife and children are on foot, and he finds them amidst the firestorm and the smoke.

This book is not a novel, in the sense that it is not a conscious work of art. It is almost an oral history, unedited, verbose, well meaning, and so like the writing of so many earnest Australians during the 194os and 50s.

It seems to have garnered almost universal praise as an Australian classic, which is really sad, because one page from Christina Stead can say more than this weighty volume.

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