Say it loud - I'm elitist and proud

Friday, May 17, 2002

FLAGS ARE flying at half-mast across Australia today for the last Anzac, Alec Campbell.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

BASIL! The 'real' Sybil Fawlty claims her husband - a Torquay hotel-keeper who was the basis for the character of Basil in Fawlty Towers - was nothing like him.

In his 1980 book From Fringe to Flying Circus, Roger Wilmut interviewed Cleese, who also co-wrote the early-1970s comedy series Doctor in The House:

For one of the shows Cleese drew on his experience of staying in a hotel with a thoroughly bad-tempered man who saw the guests as intrusions on his attempts to manage the hotel. He was so rude to everybody that Cleese was entranced, and used him as the basis for a character in a show where the doctors stayed in such a hotel. Cleese: 'This shows what a clever man [producer] Humphrey Barclay is - at the end of the show he said, "You know - there's a series idea in that hotel"; and I remember looking at him and thinking, "Oh, you TV producer, you - that's all you ever think about".' There was indeed a series in the idea, although it was 1975 before it saw the light of day.

Of course, Fawlty Towers wasn't just about the difficulties of running a Torquay hotel. Like the Monty Python 'Dead Parrot' and 'Cheese Shop' sketches, it was about the impossibility of getting decent service in Britain in the 70s.

By 1990, Cleese and Michael Palin were doing a reprise of the 'Dead Parrot' sketch in a TV benefit show for AIDS research, Hysteria 2:
CLEESE: Ai wish to registah a complaint about this parrot, wot I purchased not arf an hour ago, from this very boutique.

PALIN: Oh, yeah, the Norwegian Blue? What wrong with it?

CLEESE: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my man - it's dead, that what's wrong with it.

At this point the audience were expecting Palin to make excuses: 'He's resting...He's stunned....He's probably pining for the fiords.' Instead:
PALIN: Yeah you're right. Here's yer money back and some gift vouchers.

AUDIENCE: (Cheers wildly.)

CLEESE: (Turns to audience) Well, you can't say Thatcher didn't fix SOME things.

AUDIENCE: (Cheers even more wildly.)

Sunday, May 12, 2002

THIS IS THE BIG ONE, FOLKS: the killer that’ll flatten not just ‘Mad Mark’ Latham but anyone who believes that the market economy might be a rather good idea. Well, I’ve waded through its 13,000 words. And my mind isn’t changed.

Tim Dunlop tells us:

The problem that kills the third way, therefore, is its internal incoherence. The nature of that incoherence is this: at the social level it advocates a enhancement of community, shared morality and trust and participatory democracy, but at the same time it advocates at the economic level policies that undermine the conditions for that social program…

On the other hand, the one country in the 'developing' world that most closely adhered to the neo-liberal prescription was Russia. As it has been an abject failure, no-one in the neo-liberal community wants to claim it.

Mr Latham goes so far as to say it has been 'most resistant' to the preferred agenda (of neo-liberalism) but this is an inexplicable comment from an honest reporter. Far from being 'resistant', it is the one country that most openly embraced the neo-liberal project.

In fact it's a Hobbesian jungle. The real point of his screed:

You can't have cohesive communities and free markets: it's that simple.

Economics is based on the fact that, because your resources are limited, you can’t have everything you want - so you have to make choices among competing (which is not the same as contradictory) desires.
So I'm not just attacking the theory of it all - I've lived the practice.

Me too. Did you truly have NO choice in the matter?
I've seen my friends and family live it too, the one's I've been able to stay in contact with. My nephew and niece have lived in five countries in eight years, as their dad, my brother-in-law, goes where the company needs him. I've watched my five year old son spend those first five years in the one house, close to both sets of grandparents and an extended family that loves him unconditionally. And I've watched him cope with resilience to being dragged away from it all to the other side of the world to start again. We send letters, emails, and even have a website where we put up family photos so his grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles can see them. It's better than not having a website, but let's not kid ourselves, right?

Over the last few months, I've watched him start to form close friendships and to, yes, become part of a school and a local community, and I know that he is going to have to leave it all in a couple of years and start it all over again, again, with a new set of people in another country. We might have to do this three or four more times before he leaves school. And then what does he do when he enters the workforce? What lessons has he learned about community cohesion? Or family stability for that matter.…

And it is that simple contradiction [betweeen free markets and communities] that kills the third way dead.

Only if you believe fanatically in market forces. And to paraphrase Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now: ‘What do you call it, when the fanatics accuse the fanatic?’ You admit the benefits of technological progress – brought about by the free market. Why not come up with a way of dealing with the strains on community you’ve mentioned, that doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater? Got ANY ideas at all?
And the left can look forward to being lumbered with another boring process of self-examination and reinvention until someone eventually plucks up the nerve to say, 'It really is the economy, stupid. We need to control it, not worship at its altar."

Which is precisely what Latham is saying: why his – admittedly unreadable – book is called Civilising Global Capital.