Sunday, September 30, 2012

An Age Reader Writes...

FURTHER TO the post below about Fairfax’s policy of publishing toxic nonsense and driving away sane readers, it is worth noting the sort of people who still harken unto inanity’s trumpet. The top letters in today’s Sunday Age, all commenting on Chris Berg’s column of the week before, make a very good example. In case you missed it, Berg was explaining that the increasing wealth of many has bestowed the ability to live in the sort of homes they like, and if those abodes happen to be outer suburban McMansions, so be it.

This sent a gaggle of quintessential Age readers to their keyboards, eager to broadcast how very good they feel about themselves for limiting their carbon footprints, living frugally and, presumably, not patronising the shops and products of the Age’s remaining advertisers. Here is one letter summing up that perspective:

Not always a solution
I AGREE that it's unfair to label the people who live in McMansions as inferior, but to argue that their houses are a healthy sign of wealth is ludicrous. Chris Berg's logic seems to be that ''because we can'' is justification for anything. The flaw lies in the underlying assumption prevalent in much of society that physical assets are, in and of themselves, a good thing; and that the more we have the better off we must be.
        Berg has previously argued that it's OK to use it/spend it/build it now because human ingenuity has and always will find a way to solve any problems we might encounter. Funny thing is, I remember reading about another optimist who happily announced ''peace in our time''. I believe in human ingenuity, too, but perhaps we should consider the possibly that it might not always solve every problem.


Writer Jamonts lives in one of Williamstown’s nicest streets, no one’s idea of a cheap address, and earns his crust as a management consultant, by no means a minimum-wage gig. One guesses he regards his own plush digs in Toorak By The Bay with affection and pride, no doubt seeing his address as one of the just rewards accruing to his career as a seagull* with a clipboard. Those bogan cretins in unfashionable suburbs, they are different. As Jamonts writes, it would be “ludicrous” to suggest the fruits of their hard work -- you know, building things etc., -- are “a healthy sign of wealth”.

At some point, when a history of Fairfax’s last days is written, the author will need to establish just when managers and editors came to the conclusion that their papers’ future depended on becoming one with the Jamonts of this world while not merely ignoring, but actively denigrating, the far larger pool of potential readers in those despised McMansions.

* OLD JOKE: Why are management consultants like seagulls?

A: Because they fly in, make a lot of noise, crap on everything and leave a huge mess when they go.


  1. The Old and Unimproved DaveSeptember 30, 2012 at 5:10 PM

    Being a Sydney-sider, I had to check the Google map, and I notice that this seagull lives on the Bay.

    Presumably that makes him a bagel ?

  2. Prof,

    While you're on the subject of holding letter writers to account, I noted a critic of Mitt Romney's 14% effective tax rate, via the link to the Age:

    PHILIP MENDES, director, Social Inclusion and Social Policy Research Unit, Monash University

    Mr Mendes' letter did not, of course, take into account Romney's reported multi-million dollar charitable contributions, which apparently take his overall contributions to societal well-being to something approaching 38% of gross income per annum.

    Given that Mr Mendes has chosen to slag off someone else about their tax returns, I think it only fair to request that he, himself,'put up or shut up' - ie he should demonstrate that he's not one of these govt/'not for profit'-types who gets to salary-sacrifice a large portion of their gross income into tax-free credit card payments, school fees, entertainment, cars, travel, etc, etc, of the sort recently highlighted per the MLC imbroglio.

    I'm happy to meet with Mr Mendes to compare my 2011 tax assessment with his. 2012 might not be a fair comparison, as I'm now retired.

  3. Of course physical assets aren't necessarily a good thing -- but when they are something that someone has chosen to buy with their own hard earned cash, it's a good bet that they are.

  4. It's a touch ironic that as Fairfax mastheads go the way of the other neanderthals, the Financial Review is starting to make sense after years of pretentious, artsy drivel. If you can skip over Phillip Adams in The Australian you can skip over Laura Tingle in the Review. And treat Mark Latham as the paper's comics section. Mostly a joke but with an occasional insight into Labor's bearpit.

    Pedro of Adelaide

  5. Many excavations in England have foun exxtensive Villas .very large homes built nearly 2000years ago ,by people who had attained wealth.! Are these the Mc Mansions of those days? Meanwhile the "intelligentsia"live in "restored OLD
    warfies cottages!

  6. "Peace FOR our time" is actually the correct quote.

    Sums up young mister management consultant quite well really. Comes in making high and mightly comments to appear superior, yet doesn't really know what he is talking about.

  7. Walter Plinge of TulkaSeptember 30, 2012 at 9:06 PM

    "Because they fly in, make a lot of noise, crap on everything and leave a huge mess when they go."

    Traditionally includes, "eat all your food..."

  8. Jamonts' Law: Proles simply shouldn't be allowed to have nice things.

    Because, sustainability. Also, shut up.

  9. The Jamonts abode is market-valued at a tad under $1.5M. Evidently a man of the people who best knows how others should live.

  10. Mr. Management Consultant totally loses the thread of his specious non-argument, and the entire plot actually, in his second half, Prof. His segue into 'peace' is a bit thin-on.

    Seems 'peace' is everyone's bag and segue though, even for those marchers today expressing their sympathy to a victim's bereaved family.

    If I were to march, I'd prefer to march in praise of the excellent police action as well as in common human sympathy.

  11. A bit off topic but I note that Melbourne's newspaper of record shares and indeed builds on the myopia endemic to the rest of the city when it comes to the Swans and their fabulous victory over Hawthorn. Despite beating Hawthorn in their first encounter this year and only narrowly losing after leading for much of the game in their second, the universal narrative is that Sydney had a flukey victory, gallantly beating a much better team. And in the Age it's even worse. Both Caroline Wilson and (I think) Rohan Connolly used the term "heist". Sydney's victory was not merely illegitimate and a plucky fluke, but somewhow illegal. Hilarious. The Hawks were neaten by a better team, period, and they had no answers.

  12. Isn't it funny that if you try to knock down or develop one of these mansions from the last two centuries, these same types protest and object.

    Why was it ok then but not now? Historical relativism or as i suspect, just plain mean spirits.

    Usually they are aged around 50-65 and haven't changed since the "Sovereign Hill seventies". They have usually made their money and are either comfortable or just looking forward to the public service pension and as such do not care for the financial imperative that stalks a younger generation.

    Hoddle Boulevard

  13. There is, of course, another well-worn definition of a Consultant.
    That is, one who arrives uninvited, borrows your watch to tell you the time and keeps the watch.

    The Irish Lion

  14. Well in their defence, the Fairfax intelligentsia can't just let Chris Berg willi nilli defend those filfthy bogans in the suburbs.
    On a side note, I'd be surprised if any of those editors and writers still own Fairfax shares.