THESE DAYS it is much nicer to play at golf and wield a whippy rod than devote thankless days to expanding human knowledge, but every now and then one catches word of academic pursuits and projects so undemanding that the business of ambling about the links or hauling fish onto mossy banks can seem positively energetic. Such were the tidings delivered with this morning’s salvaged copy of the Age, which continues to be delivered to the house two doors down the street even though the occupants moved out six months ago. Normally it is left to rot, but this morning, after last night’s epic final at Rod Laver Arena, it seemed worth the effort of stooping to scoop up the sports writers’ thoughts on what was, and without a doubt, one of the greatest finals every played.
That was the Age’s first disappointment: Not a mention of the contest and its outcome on the paper’s front page. Not a picture! Not a word! The action stopped at 1.30 am, which is late but not so late the event needed to be ignored. The rival Herald Sun made the effort and provided readers with a front page picture of Jocko the Great baring his chest in triumph. What a pity female players do not celebrate their victories in similar fashion.
Not to worry. This morning’s Age cost nothing, which is what it is worth, so it was flick, flick, flick through the pages to see if they contained anything sensible. Like Lot combing Sodom for a righteous man, it proved a fruitless quest.
Though to be fair there was, briefly, a flicker of hope on the opinion page, where Monash University’s Jane Lydon has a column which begins with a lament that the PM’s restaurant riot robbed an award recipient, nonagenarian Laurie Baymarrwangga of the Yolgnu people, of the attention she and her good works deserve. What a surprise: an apparent acknowledgement that last week’s orchestrated affray at The Lobby eatery harmed the efforts at reconciliation those window-thumpers are so fond of going on and on (and on and on) about. Perhaps Age editors were too busy watching tennis to weed it out, just as they failed to report the match itself.
But then disappointment returned. By halfway down her column Ms Lydon’s thoughts were back on the approved track. Yes, Humpytown is both a national treasure and a tool for alerting white Australia to the fact that Indigenous people, like Laurie Baymarrwangga, do not fit the racist Eurocentric stereotype of the “lazy Abo”. If the column’s start and its conclusion appear to present a contradiction, you are quite clearly not an academic specialising in Indigenous Studies, which is Ms Lydon’s happy station. She writes:
New ways of representing the cause have emerged. Some indigenous leaders have therefore criticised the tactics of what they (and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott) suggest may be an outmoded style of protest. I disagree: the embassy is more than a heritage relic; it continues to serve an important role as a thorn in the side of national complacency.
And a thorn in the side of the un-feted Laurie Baymarrwangga as well, one gathers.
Now there really is no excuse for Ms Lydon’s slavish reversion to the standard line. Her current project, generously funded by some $600,000 in ARC grants, consists of “working with four major European museums (the University of Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum, the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, the Musée de Quai Branly in Paris and the Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden)” to retrieve from their archives photographs of long-dead Aborigines.
Apart from travel time to and from Europe, which even in business class can be tiresome, that does not seem too demanding a brief, certainly nothing so all-consuming that Ms Lydon would not have had the time to inject a little logical consistency into her Age column. Here is how this nice little earner pans out (from a .pdf so no link is available):
Dr Jane Lydon -- ApprovedProject Title: Recognising Aborigines: from objects of science to First Australians2010: $74,386.002011: $147,672.002012: $151,294.502013: $156,214.502014: $78,206.00
The Professor will be off to whack a few in a couple of hours’ time, a round of golf promoting not only good fellowship with Dr Yowie and Double Bogey Daddy but also providing time for contemplation. Today all thought not devoted to putts and drives will be dedicated to preparing an ARC submission for funding to investigate Indigenous handicapping systems and the modern pitching wedge’s origins in the nulla nulla. There are some fine golf courses in Scotland, and surely Aborigines played some part in their creation, so it would be nothing less than racism if the request meets rejection.
After that, perhaps a meeting might be possible with the fetching Dr Lydon in Paris, where the restaurants are very good and Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s debt to Indigenous cuisine has yet to be properly explored. That should be worth at least $700,000 in additional grants. And if the committee is a little uncertain, the Professor is more than prepared to churn out a column or two of contradictions to establish the application’s ideological soundness.
Has Ms Lydon (above) ever walked arm-in-arm by the Seine at dawn or sampled the literary life beneath a bridge, as was Anais Nin’s pleasure with Henry Miller? If that grant comes through, she can count on the Professor to expand the good cause of education on very many fronts indeed.