Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Short confessions of a Summit Cynic

It's been challenging trying to keep my dinner down while I've been surfing the internet lately. I've read more 'motherhood statements' and 'aspirational' messages over the past couple of days than I have ever seen in my life. My saving grace was Annabel Crabb—whose hilarious blog about the proceedings mysteriously disappeared. Overnight. Every search for it on resulted in a confounding "lack of search results". But at least there is now a new voice in the Australian media who makes me laugh and with whom, on many points, I strongly agree.

What I strongly disagree with is these people, the self-proclaimed "chosen ones", who have motherhooded themselves into some tardis of sociopolitical relevance that seems to have eluded every one whose opinions I value. "The Chosen Ones" have taken refuge behind the most convenient of barricades: that anyone who has an opinion about the summit and its outcome(s) that is not wrapped up in divine love is a "cynic". A Naysayer. "You're either with us ... or agin us." That we're all suffering from some hideous plague of Summit Envy Syndrome (SES) ... or Acquired Idealism Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

The critical point to surface for me out of the proceedings over recent days is that—even with all the protestations about "robust democracy" and "fresh air"—that people who have not found worthy and meaningful ways of contributing to society and justifying the amount of oxygen they steal from everyone else have suddenly been recognised as having some immense societal worth. In their own minds, at least.

I 'worked' for the ALP last year. I 'worked' for A Candidate in an unwinnable seat. I learned many, many, many things. And chief among those is that Politics is a grubby, nasty, toxic business. It's the absolute manifestation of self-interest. Absolute. That this Summit was anything more than a fancy 'Thank You' card to the personal attention of some hard-working campaigners ... or a PR event of national significance is really, I'm sorry to say, idle conceit. You'll see what I mean when your well-intentioned emails start bouncing back. And people stop remembering and/or using your name. And the extent to which you supported them becomes irrelevant in their continued pursuit of their own selfish agendas.

I have worked with women who rocked their new-born babies to sleep in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet because they couldn't afford child care. That Cate Blanchett seems to be celebrated beyond the boundaries of good taste for turning up offends the sense and sensibility of working mothers everywhere. The Unchosen Ones it would seem. And that Kevin (07) Rudd missed the great John Button's funeral to drop off what I imagine were Osh Kosh B'Gosh overalls to the newest Upton/Blanchett, is an astonishing lack of judgement and political sympatico.

I feel like I've just spent the last couple of days at somebody else's cast party. I wish Annabel Crabb had been there.


Alison Croggon said...

Geoffrey, I was for quite a time a trade union industrial reporter, which breeds disillusion quicker than anything I know. And even through the realpolitik I think the Summit was an amazing event. I was as stunned as everyone else by the final presentation - as far as the Creative Stream was concerned, I thought it was a disaster, and in no way reflected what had gone on. But that doesn't mean that a synergy hasn't occurred which might have far-reaching effects. Its most important effects might not ultimately in fact have much to do with government.

And lay off Ms Blanchett - any woman knows that her decision to come to the Summit was a hard one, and she behaved with grace and intelligence. Which is more than can be said for the media.

Geoffrey said...

Hi Alison, and thank you for dropping by. I appreciate that your involvement in the Summit would provide you with insight and the value of the direct experience, but I am not alone in writing about my feelings of, let's call it 'suspicion' regarding the ultimate agenda and outcomes. I wish I could share your optimism for the possibility of these "most important effects", but the single biggest issue for me is the healthy contradiction (my preference to "cynicism") that many commentators have written about with wit, humour and sly irreverance.

As for Ms Blanchett, I stand by (and defend) my right to comment on how inappropriate it is to launch the vision, hopes and dreams of many on the face, reputation, intelligence and capability of one. We are a population of human beings, after all ... not a moisturiser.