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.