Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Latham Diaries I

The introduction is a 20 page political essay.

It was written in May this year, and if we take Latham's word that the diaries were written contemporaneously from the mid-90s onwards, then this intro can be taken as the best reading of his current state of thinking.

It is surprisingly low on vitriol.

It attacks machine men hard. It also acknowledges they are a product of their political institutions.

It mentions Simon Crean. I realise I don't recall any reporting of how he has dumped on Simon Crean. It will be telling if Latham has left him alone. Simon Crean lacked the pizazz to be elected, but he was a decent man and a real Labor martyr who sacrificed valuable self-promotion time to start the internal reforms Labor (still) desperately needs.

The media make out that Latham's sprayed on all his old comrades, so I'm going to make special note of any prominent individuals he does not unload on.

Latham candidly accepts a large chunk of responsibility as leader for failing to convince the public to embrace his models of social capital.

He is still too misty eyed in my view about the potential of suburbia. When he talks of growing alienation he includes a line about domestic violence and child abuse. I know a fair bit about this field, and it used to be at least as bad, if not worse. Men bashed their wives, teachers and scout masters raped young children, and people who complained were told to mind their own business or ridiculed for taking the word of a woman/child over a man.

But he now acknowledges that the answers may not lie simply in empowering the upwardly-mobile "working class". This is a big step, because it goes to the heart of the left's problems, and is a candid revision of his previous policy stance. The upper working class earns far more than the lower middle class, and often cares sweet fuck all for refugees, the environment, or international justice, so they can't be relied on with some misty-eyed Marxist waffle about workers uniting.

He talks the language of the social democratic idealist, and it spoke to this disenchanted lefty.

He has a visionary's grasp of the self-perpetuating conservatism of politics, business and the media. Not left-right conservatism as much as unwillingness to allow the boat to be rocked. He claims this conservatism is embedding itself deeper and deeper in the Labor party, so that mavericks and alternative thinkers are quickly crushed, as they are in the mainstream institutions.

The nail that sticks out is quickly hammered down.

He talks of downward envy- the whinging culture characterised by people complaining about the welfare and rights of those who are far, far worse off. Downward envy is a defining characteristic of our current society, he says.

Not a lot I'd disagree with in there, except that I hang on to a bit more optimism.

Tonight I kick into the diary-proper. I think I'll open a nice peppery Shiraz to mark this pleasure...

4 comments:

QM said...

Great recap. I am blogging the diaries too, so will be interesting to see how our perspectives differ.

Brownie said...

Elsewhere there are charges of 'Narcissistic Personality Disorder', a characteristic of which is: Total Lack Of Empathy. ML's noting of Downward Envy absolves him of the NPD charge.
Today an Age or Australian Letter to the Editor notes that there are no crits of Crean in the book.

Armagnac Esq. said...

Although I've already found him expressing disappointment with crean being more of a fixer than a policy man.

What i'm reading so far isn't that OTT at all.

Guy said...

Interesting. Now you're just tempting me to buy the bloody thing!