LONG before they put video screens or even cassette decks in cars there were games like Spotto to keep the little ones occupied. Does anyone remember it? Little cards printed with trucks, cows, trees, clouds and what have you, all to be observed through the window and crossed off the list? Variations on the game, prompted by parental suggestions, soon took root, so that a long trip might see quests to name a dog breed for every letter of the alphabet, or composers, major cities and, inevitably, VFL footballers.
One challenge the nippers never faced was compiling an A-Z of Australian intellectuals, and just as well. If the grown-ups in the front seat had heard Clive Hamilton offered as a suggestion for “H” – not that the like of him existed back then, mind you -- blinding laughter might have seen the car run off the road. Adults were different in those days. Seeing off the Depression and a couple of serious wars must have done something to their sense of perspective, and a poor, ranting fellow forever beside himself about imperceptible shifts in temperature and weather would have been an object of indulgent ridicule. Silly Clive, he does no harm down there on the Yarra Bank.
Ah, but the Spotto kids grew up, as all do, to find themselves the luckiest ever born. No foreign threats, no susso or rabbit for tea. TVs and bountiful times, inoculations and a good certainty of hitting at least the three score and ten -- for the child of the Fifties’ those were birthrights.
And their kids, the ones now two+ generations removed from first-hand knowledge of just how genuinely nasty the world can be, what of them? Every action demands an equal and opposite reaction, and the business of growing up is no different. There needs to be something to push against, and if the enemy’s vileness owes much to the imagination so much the better. Bogeymen won’t actually cut your throat or blow you up, so it is just fine to take issue with Tony Abbott’s Catholicism, never the goings on at the el Ratbaggi mosque. Bristling and snarling is part of every young pup’s training. Israel, Big Carbon, Maccas, even the bloody thermometer – that was some tempting smorgasbord of wickedness, all items fit for rants and raves, and each just right for bleeding off some of that adolescent bile. Down on the Yarra Bank, Clive and many like him heard the racket, caught whiff of think-tank sinecures and comfy campus gigs, and rose to the moment.
And those angry kids? The ones least familiar with soap are still out there, camped in the City Square or jeering at Jews outside Max Brenner’s chocolate shops. The smarter ones, they scrubbed up nice and moved with their imaginary enemies into glass offices with plenty of bicycle racks out the front.
Yesterday some such specimen at Fairfax had the opportunity to publish something interesting, perhaps even a little provocative, about Gina Rinehart, free speech and the Fairfax raid. Such an article might even have touched on the company’s narrow and ever-narrowing demographic, how that shrinking audience might have a big something to do with the moribund stock and shrunken prospects.
They might have done that. Instead it was the Jeremiah from the Yarra Bank who was hauled into the spotlight with instructions, as usual, to froth on command. There would be no adult laughter this time, not as once for a bit of Spotto silliness. Outrage and furious applause on one side and silence on the other. The explanation for that is simple. The last adult abandoned Fairfax long ago, leaving only a choir to heed the incessant preaching.
With the exception of Rinehart, there is no longer anything about Fairfax to command a grown-up’s respect. What interests her, however, is not likely to please the editor whose first instinct was to tap Hamilton for that opinion column. This is a genuinely odd development, and sad in its way, because the businesswoman’s likely arrival on the Fairfax board fulfils every luvvies’ lifelong dream.
Finally, at long last, they have a genuine, bona fide enemy to contend with.And perhaps, if the innocents' screams are loud enough, some adults might come back to see what is going on.