Saturday, October 8, 2011

No More Of That Old-Time Religion

AS a general rule it is good policy to dismiss any and all observations by women who appear to be wearing leg-warmers even when they are not, especially if they are holding forth on gender politics and the irredeemable wickedness of Liberal Party leaders. Having never observed academic Susan Mitchell at the beach, nor ever wishing to do so, it still seems safe to assume on the strength of the many errors in her profile of Tony Abbott that conservation authorities must seriously be considering an intervention to prevent her entering the water. Heaven only knows how many small shrimp, jellyfish and other innocent marine creatures might be trapped and perish in the organic monofilaments sprouting from her lower limbs. As for those armpits, the rising price of flake needs no further drift-netting to crimp the available, free-swimming supply.

Gerard Henderson, educated at a Jesuit school, is far too polite to make such an observation, but he stints not at all in noting the many howlers that pepper Mitchell’s new book on Tony Abbott, so enthusiastically announced by The Phage. As with most of Henderson’s demolitions, it is painstaking and well worth reading. There is one problem, however, and that is his summation, written in the third person, of those who these days constitute the Society of Jesus. He writes:
According to Mitchell: The Jesuits are the intellectuals of the Catholic teaching orders, open only to men of the highest intelligence.
This is arrant nonsense.  There is no intelligence test for admission into the Jesuits – i.e. the Catholic order formally titled the Society of Jesus.  Gerard Henderson spent most of his schooling at schools run by the Jesuits and he has known many Jesuits in his professional career.  Some are men of the highest intelligence – and some are not.
If there are indeed Jesuits of high intelligence, they hide their lights under a bushel. Indeed, one need look no further than Eureka Street, the Jesuit-funded magazine and web site, to comprehend how those who purport to honour Inigo de Loyola’s teachings violate the eleventh rule of their founder’s Spiritual Exercises, “to praise positive and scholastic learning.” Can such a mission statement be reconciled, to cite just one instance, with the publication of some 100 articles by spineless diplomat (“the Australian ambassador was in Kampot but immediately fled back to Phnom Penh … leaving his consul, me, behind”), SIEV-X fabulist ( “this almost certainly sabotaged boat” ) and Alene Composta intimate Tony Kevin?

By the light of Eureka Street’s fashionably modern Jesuit bankers, apparently it can. Nor does free speech figure in your contemporary Jack’s estimation of social good, with the site currently featuring no less than three celebrations of Andrew Bolt’s smiting by a Labor hack who gets about in the robes of a Federal Court judge.

Brian McCoy SJ laments a charity's rejection of his suggestion that it support a pale face’s progress through medical school. He was informed, he writes, that it preferred “ ‘to get involved with ‘full blood’ indigenous … our two current holders do not ‘look like’ aborigines’.”  McCartney then reveals that his proposed candidate subsequently graduated without assistance, a fact that rather supports the unnamed charity’s point of many, many others being in far greater need. Let us hope those dollars found them.

Andrew Hamiliton, Eureka Street’s contributing editor, takes it a little further, albeit with a nod to the individual’s still-indulged permission to voice unpopular opinions, by comparing Bolt’s ridicule of race-mongering careerists to a vulgarian’s farts during the quiet moments of a delightful symphony. Intellectual substance, at Eureka Street it is a bottom-up affair.

And finally, there is RMIT lecturer Binoy Kampmark, who takes the cake by trumping those other contributions with a digression about nasty Jews, of whom, apropos of nothing much, he writes of “figures in the American Jewish community who have trafficked in a currency of past suffering [the Holocaust] to obtain a position of worth and favours.”

On other topics, much more of the same. Pop on over, have a look, see if there is anything of intellectual substance to, say, Moira Rayner’s defence of Christine “Just Popping Out For Dinner” Nixon,  Fatima Measham’s exposure of climate sceptics as just few nasties with many, many online personas, or journalism academic Tim Dwyer’s suggestion that the Press Council needs more money, additional staffers and, perhaps, a greater authority to decide good free speech from bad free speech.

On that point it would be interesting to see if Eureka Street is leading by example, which its policy of refusing to publish reader comments critical of its writers would seem to suggest.

But just for the clincher, what would happen, do you imagine, if an aspiring contributor sent in an article arguing that the modern Church, and the Jesuits most of all, have surveyed their empty Sunday pews and decided that the business of saving souls is no longer a growth industry -- hence the switch to preaching the secular creeds of rights for illegal immigrants, the advantages of command economies, green animism, and the elevation of “inappropriate” speech and thought to highest and darkest ranks of the very worst  mortal sins.

One suspects such a piece would be given very short shrift indeed.

But don’t take a Bunyip’s word. Pop over to Eureka Street and try submitting some polite but critical appraisals of their writers’ intellect and arguments. Chances are most such comments will end up on the cutting room floor, along with all the other articles of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises.


  1. A slight churn in the stomach pit as Moira Rayner makes an appearance; shameless name-dropper that the Professor is. Those were the days, when the politics of resentment held sway and PC hit squads roamed the land. And none better to wield the big stick than an arch-feminist like Rayner. Both she and her soulmate Kirner would tart up some of their more notable excesses with cries of "Social justice" repeated like a pair of performing parrots. However, soothing it sounded this mantra was NEVER defined. Meaningless no longer. I recently came across the following: 'Social justice is the stubborn application of unworkable solutions to problems that don't exist." Will this do Joan and Moira?????

  2. Politeness is over-rated. A lot of feminists are incredibly vain and insecure. They're cowardly too. If they suspected they might get publicly ridiculed, or have their past sexual behaviour discussed, you can bet they wouldn't draw attention to themselves.

  3. PhillipGeorge(c)2011October 8, 2011 at 11:05 PM

    Prof, I think the world's last conservative might have died in the late 17th Century. It's not that Chivalry is unattainable. It's just, well - we have to progress. This nostalgia thing?

    So why stop with gay marriage? Why not move straight thru to gay polygamous marriages? Why stop there? You know, annual, weekly, 24 hour marriage licenses. Marriage licenses for people that specialize in, specialty interest stuff - pending involvement from peak bodies like the RSPCA to moderate certain extreme behavior not with standing.

    Prof. That old time religion had to have some point of reference. Any way, if they won't do it....

  4. For pities sake, it can take me 10 minutes to read one of your blogs. I am blinded by tears of laughter every other paragraph. I don’t know if erudite is the right word but it seems a fit description of your writing. If you ever need a donation, say a couple of cans of condensed milk, to help with the cost of maintaining this blog, you can count on me.