Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Two Don Watsons

A PARTICULAR friend, one who spends a bit of time at the Billabong, is quite sharp and holds down a no-nonsense job, which a series of promotions suggests she performs with distinction. She is a person you can trust with your life, very level-headed and with a remarkable gift for bringing order out of chaos, so it came as quite a surprise when she arrived at the Professor’s most recent birthday celebration bearing a gift-wrapped horoscope, one she had commissioned a professional astrologer to cast. Well what do you say? Thank you very much, but seriously now, you don’t really believe in this stuff? The answer came that star charts, numerology and sundry other sooths are “interesting”, a response that conferred the merest hint of endorsement. One puts up with a lot of nonsense from women, especially those who are easy on the eyes, so that little streak of gullibility was accepted without comment. After all, it is not as if she believes in Scientology or inquisitive aliens bent on probing, a job she sensibly recognises as best left to a Bunyip.

If there was desire to squash one strand of that winsome star-charter’s belief, today would be the perfect moment to do so, as a coincidence hinging on the latest edition of the Monthly and the running of the Bathhurst 1000  provides an irrefutable demolition of numerology. This is the curious belief that assigning a numerical value to each letter of a name and then adding them up will provide an insight into that person’s character and future. If there is anything to it, then two people with the same name must surely be cast from the same mould. Clearly, this is not the case or anything like it, and the matter of the two Don Watsons is the proof.

In The Monthly, the first Don Watson is writing of motor vehicles and the people who drive a particular variety, the tradies he loathes. It is a column of the kind seen so often in the Fairfax press, almost to the exclusion of all others. An exercise in ego, it reflects the writer’s firmly held conviction that his life, interests and passing fancies are of immense interest to lesser mortals. The dismal circulation numbers for the Silly and Phage strongly suggest this is not the case, but editors seem not to have noticed and the tumble of pointless words from empty heads continues apace. The only thing to be said in favour of such articles is that, every now and then, they open an unwitting window on the writers’ patronising contempt for people unlike themselves, which is to say those not invited to writers festivals, gallery openings, MUP book launchings and various other gatherings where everybody regards Bobby Manne (and Pilger and Marr) as a serious thinker.

The Monthly column is a beaut for manifesting the absolute contempt Australia’s pseudo-intellectual elite reserves for the horny handed sons of toil whose best interests the Wanking Watsons of this world claim to hold so close to their enlightened hearts. He begins by quoting advertisements for the Toyota HiLux and Nissan Navara, all of which stress the models’ power and ruggedness. Since manly topics and activities have an astonishing ability to engender extreme discomfort amongst leftoid males – can you imagine Robert Manne with a chainsaw? – the oily Watson all but apologises for bringing such an unsettling subject to his readers’ attention. “It’s possible that some readers of the Monthly will not recognise either of these vehicles,” he writes. “Should they want to, they need only travel the arterials of our cities around 4 pm any weekday and keep an eye on the rear-vision mirror: chances are the thing tailgating you has ‘striking road presence’; ‘a big tough, powerful stance’ … ‘an aggressive bonnet scoop’ … and ‘large cat-like headlights … that show it means business’.”

After that the assault really gathers pace. He imagines tradies regarding “that jerk in the hatchback” as no better than road kill, a case of projection if ever there was one. Those twin-cab pickups are the modern equivalent of the squatter’s horse, class symbols of a boganocracy that now dominates and shapes Australian society and our economy. And such loathsome specimens their drivers are, wallowing pig ignorant in their “Foxtel-fitted pads in the new suburbs”! It seems today’s tradies have usurped the rightful place of so many lesser Watsons atop our debased system of remuneration and respect.

“The tradie brings intimations of pointlessness,” proclaims Watson, projecting once again. “When I hear our political leaders, I suspect at least a general trend and complete acquiescence in it. What happened to Albert Schweitzer, Mozart and the CSIRO? Where is physics, anthropology or the simple promise of the Education Acts?” This is familiar stuff, and not just from Watson. Does any one else recall David Williamson's lament that he could find no passengers on his cruise ship with the wit to converse about "Proust and George Eliot"?

But what really gnaws at Watson’s effete essence is a resentful jealousy, and as with so much of the left’s animating spirit, it is about cold, hard cash and why someone else is pocketing it. Tradies, he seethes, “now earn a good deal more than office managers, a great deal more than arts professionals and about the same as architects, auditors and accountants … certain kinds of welders earn more than the prime minister, and a lot of labourers earn more than lawyers and treat Bali as a third home – the other two being a portable on the mine site and a 400 square metre, twin garage, three bathroom $700,000 number in a nice development on a coast somewhere.” It might be noted that a journeyman welder is likely to display a greater competence at his job than our PM at hers, but that would not be a view heard often at functions of the type that define Watson's social orbit.

Watson suggests no remedies for this sad state of affairs – no legislation, for example, to set the incomes of transgressive video artists several pegs above those of people who actually contribute to the nation’s economic health and future, nor does he advocate restrictions on the lesser classes' Balinese holidays. Resentment alone will be enough for Monthly readers to hail his insight. At the next of his mate Williamson's opening nights, Watson can count on any number of admirers sidling up to express their total agreement, a sentiment he will accept with grace but as no less than his august due. That is the way of the New Establishment, whose arrogance is blessed by toadies while spite is passed off as substance.

Let us now leave the first Don Watson to consider the other, the one whose memory puts pay the occultists’ art. The second Don Watson quit this planet on September 29, 1994, at the end of Bathhurst’s Conrod Straight, where a shattered brake disc sent his car ploughing into the safety fence. It was the end of a life that would have wrinkled the first Don Watson’s nose, as if he had caught the unsettling whiff of something base and stinky from the outer suburbs. A self-made man, the second Watson built his dad’s Golden Fleece garage and one-truck haulage outfit into a transport empire that bears his name to this day. He was an achiever, a man who actually did things, as opposed to one who dribbles disdain to the applause of his tight little circle.

Watch the video of the second Don Watson’s fatal crash and know that there is no truth in the belief that stars and other ethereal forces regulate human affairs, and especially not in accordance with some code of cosmic justice. If that were true there would still be only one surviving Don Watson, and it damn well would not be the one whose greatest talent is the condescending sneer.


  1. Thanks Prof -- a nice post. It reminded me of the rather forgettable 1974 fillum "Petersen" about the travails of a tradie in academia. There is an early scene where Petersen in his ladder-laden van is call a "bloody tradesman" as he negotiates the roundabout where Crown Casino now stands. The writer? David Williamson.

  2. Yep, you're clearly an alien prof. You're IQ is off the planet! Great stuff. Cheers mate.

  3. An antipractical dimension has developed in education that discourages practical skills and emphasises desk work. Even sixty years ago my revered woodwork teacher was eased out because he did not have a Dip. Ed. The resultant supply and demand issue pays well for folk who have overcome their schooling and become tradies, and not so well for the deskies. So now, oh dear, we need tradies. But sadly, not so many toolmakers.
    Ian Macmillan

  4. Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
    Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
    Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
    The short and simple annals of the poor.

    But they're not poor, anymore.

  5. "an unwitting window on the writers’ patronising contempt for people unlike themselves"
    Pot and kettle - your whole post is exactly that.

  6. PhillipGeorge(c)2011October 10, 2011 at 9:24 AM

    Prof, there are numbers in "normality", and it is worth considering if a single anecdote is sufficient to take on a thesis called numerology. The irony should unsettle you.
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
    Certainly a single experiment can falsify some theses - but others as subtle as Nominative Determinism may require a great deal of statistical work. Sweaty brows and pencil shavings.
    There could be more in a name than meets a casual, slight and passing gaze - numbers being bits of it.
    Keep your girl friend close.

  7. You are so right Prof. The modern lefty is a sad sight.

    What he hates is that now that threis wealth for all, nobody respects him and his low-rent pseuds any more. What he really wants is for life to be in the austere tradtion of the War in Britain or the SOviet Union where everyone is poor, but the the 'intellectual' workers get a little bit more of the necessities of life.

    Many of the whining lefties are quite ascetic and puritanical by nature. They could quite happily eschew many of life's luxuries; as long as the proles have less than them.

  8. This is a theory of mine for the Bunyips consideration:
    Sometimes the left seems incomprehensible. Why are they like that?

    Eventually I figured out that socialism is an evolved form of parasitism. Why is the human species so smart? We didn’t need to be able to understand Quantum Theory and Relativity to be able to hunt antelope on the plains of Africa. So why did we evolve as we did?

    When we first evolved the ability to speak, some members of the species would have soon evolved the ability to use speech to manipulate others to gain advantage. For example, manipulation would get them the safest place in the hunt and the biggest share of the meat. Then others would have to get smarter to understand the manipulation. Then some would have got smarter to manipulate better, and round and round till you get where we are now.
    The left say they know what’s best for us, but in truth they are the manipulators using their clever words to gain advantage as parasites. It’s not a co-incidence that after all the fine words and social changes the left get more free money and the contributors have to work harder. The welder is good at welding, and the public servant in Canberra is good at talking and manipulating. The welder produces, the public servant consumes.

    The parasite class doesn’t produce, and yet they made our species as smart as it is.

  9. Would this be Keating's old speechwriter Don Watson, who was on Q&A a few weeks ago? The man is a decent wordsmith, but on Q&A he came across as a boring, arrogant windbag. This article must be one of the most snobbish attacks on the 'lower classes' I've ever seen - whether from a leftie, rightie or just a rich snob.

    It certainly shows how the left have turned savagely on the 'working class' they once championed. I think the most telling sentence is this:

    "However, when I see their bullbars or their cat-like headlamps on my arse I confess to feeling a kind of existential threat."

    No kidding. Lefties like Watson used to be all about the workers' rights, solidarity and collectivism. Except that many workers decided to embrace capitalism and hard work instead and by doing so became wealthy without the 'help' of elitist lefties like Watson. Of course this is an existential threat to him and his ilk.

    They've never forgiven the 'bogans' for this.

  10. Why would you say that, 1735099? Surely you can see the difference?
    Still. from what I've read of your posts elsewhere, this small article has you to a tee, hence your "dismay".

  11. I think academic types like the not late Mr Watson don't talk to the right tradies, or more likely don't try to engage on such high matters because they pre-judge their booted interlocutors. In the last week I have discussed and been enlightened about an intricate aspect Ancient Roman politics and the fall of empires by a plumber, and the best stage actor I've seen I found out is a qualified and working landscape gardener, one who actually wields a shovel. Both of them very well read and essentially self taught. I wasn't even trying.

  12. Forgive me, 'Yip, but I could have sworn you were describing Dr Sneer himself, Carlton of the dying Fairfax rump, who long ago finished his Masters thesis in contempt for real people and has lately become even more of a caricature of the drunken left, belching his approval of the temporary applause of the temporary Canberra ruling class.

  13. At the risk of being perceived as a cosmic loon, astrology is not about predicting the future, and it is fun.
    That said, one of the small nods to justice we can make would be to avoid further eye-grinding complaints by the Don Watsons/Elizabeth Farrellys/Mike Carltons et al of this world.

    Interestingly, this anti-working class writing trend is not just in Australia. Julie Burchill has written of the anti-Chav (British for "bogan") verbal/written savagery by the professional chatterers there in a book she wrote with Chas Newkey-Burden Not In My Name.

  14. Tradies can obviously afford to drive to and fro to the job in fertiliser belching monsters since they've earned all those carbon credits by not luxuriating in air conditioned comfort all day like so many of the faculty lounge set.

    They await with drill and grinder hair triggers for their carboniferous PM to make the big announcement that no publicly paid official will remain air-conditioned on her watch just like in our grandparents day, for the benefit of the grandkiddies. This to the unanimous cheers of the lecturing graduazzi. But louder still all those who work in the great outdoors, the workshops and iron roofed factories, as their well drilled champions arrive at the automated gates of the glass castles ready to smash the ducted belching behemoths within and to open all the windows to Gaia's fresh breath. Just utter the words Julia and let the Carbon Revolution begin!

  15. Hey Professor, I think the living Watson's problem is that he speaks OUT of his tight little circle.

  16. The Bunyip...a master at the putdown.
    Another great read Professor !

    Readers should check out the entry on the same page by

    October 9, 2011 3:56 PM

    The post by Anon referred to above is one of the most succinct summations of the Leftie.
    Of course I could be wrong...never having been to Uni or (sob!) a Writer's Festival.

  17. Excellent examination of what is wrong with the Australian left.

  18. Don Watson's text. Let's see now. Grotesque, pretentious, circuitous, obscure, bloated, florid, clumsy, effete, garbled...

    No, I'm not talking about the whole essay. Just the one sentence:

    "But the tradie brings intimations of pointlessness."

    To catalogue the stylistic horrors of an entire page of Don Watson takes more time and a stronger stomach then I've got.

  19. Good grief. Digital Dude has stumbled into the Billabong.
    Prepare to repel boarders!