Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Getting Their Goats

UP THE road from the Billabong there is a formidable but fading edifice, what was once and long ago the local Masonic Temple. It has since been a rug shop, a wholesale toy warehouse and, most recently, an antique market, though the garishly re-painted doors have been locked more often than not of late. High above the passing traffic and these days unnoticed by all but pigeons, there remain the crossed carpenter’s square and compass, ancient and once revered  symbols of the building’s original owners. It was the long gone local worthies who gathered weekly in that tomb-like meeting hall, the community pillars and solid merchants, the High Street’s men of respect -- the sort whose voices carried just a bit more weight with the local council, where fellow lodge members would have worked and been ready to exchange the secret handshake and sort things out like good Masonic gentlemen.

If you were Catholic and being raised that way, the Masons were figures of both ridicule and loathing. They wore blue aprons and rode billygoats, and there were other giggles too – sleeping in coffins and getting about with one trouser leg rolled up, or so it was said. The loathing was mutual. Catholics were forbidden by papal decree from joining the Masons, who would not have accepted a papist in any case. If it had been just dress-up games and a bit of mumbo jumbo to justify an evening away from the little woman, few would have seen anything too sinister about middle-aged men showing each other a knee.

But there was rather more to the Masons than that. The common wisdom spoke of undue influence and exclusion, of how a Catholic could never get a game for Essendon because the footy club was dominated by goat riders and, even worse, the sons of transplanted Orangemen.  Fancy a job in the public service? Well that would depend on the arm to which you sent your application. At the Board of Works, Masons were said to dominate and promote only their own, while it was known that Catholics did well at the Harbour Trust. Same with the police force, where some squads were Masonic and others Catholic – a divide that helped prompt the Kaye Inquiry and the biggest public airing of institutionalised corruption Victoria has seen, as Gideon Haigh explains in his fascinating history of abortion in Australia. A friend of the Billabong, an old Xavier boy, tells of seeking vocational advice in his HSC year from an elderly Jesuit, who reacted with horror at the lad’s intention to pursue a particular career. “Be very careful,” the old priest warned, “that occupation is infested with Masons.” He laughs about it now, but that advice was delivered as recently as the mid Seventies.

If you have ever wondered why so many prominent Catholics barrack for Collingwood or Richmond, the answer is straightforward. Archbishop Daniel Mannix set out to lift his flock from the boot factories by fostering an education system that took the best and brightest boys and pointed them up Johnson Street, over the Studley Park Bridge and onto the high ground of conspicuous achievement represented by Kew’s shady streets and mansions. Mannix was determined to see his flock colonise the middle class and the legacy of his strategy remains. Scratch any number of current judges, silks, business leaders or medical folk and there you will find it, just a generation or two beneath Melbourne’s social epidermis, that ancestral memory of slums and, inevitably, the unwavering generational fealty to Magpies or Tigers.

Why bring all up this up? The Masons yet exist but are these days, by any real-world reckoning, no more potent nor sinister in their mischief than Rotarians. Their old lodges are shuttered and apt be rebuilt as apartments or shopping centres, the certain fate of that ratty former temple near the Billabong. Well the answer is simple enough, and its purpose as this new year begins is to mine from relatively recent history the sustaining hope of change and reform. Fact is, while the Blue Apron Boys are pretty much gone, there is a new and not-so-secret brotherhood, one even more committed to looking after its own.

Consider the ongoing Dave and Bob show, which is seeing two of the left’s leading lights making asses of each other and themselves. The boasting and abuse, the bitter geriatric crowing of having mounted an enemy’s wife (on a billiard table or otherwise), it would be sad stuff if not leavened by the yeast of so much revealed stupidity. But will it hurt either party in the short term? Will it give commissioning editors or ABC producers or talk-show bookers pause to reflect on the wisdom of having anything to do with either wretch? Don’t be silly! That’s what the modern brotherhood is all about, taking care of mates while ignoring their manifest deficiencies of intellect and character. If you are in that club there is no need for forgiveness because sins and sensational indiscretions are simply overlooked. Need an example? While the rapist Bill Clinton’s  visit to Sydney moved Anne Summers to tears of joy, her response to Tony Abbott has been to warn of a man who would “wheel out his wife and daughters” in support of an allegedly Catholic and conservative anti-feminist agenda.

How many Fairfax columnists could survive on the merit of their insight alone? Go on, name one. Not the hack Hartcher or the tired, tapped-out, depleted gusher that is Michelle Grattan. A Dill Horin or Betty Farrelly? Don’t make a Bunyip laugh. On matters environmental, who holds to account the gullible, cheer-leading transcribers of catastropharian cant, a category exemplified by Adam Morton, Ben Cubby and Melissa Fyfe? No one because the brotherhood has its own agendas to advance and that trio ride their goats with unswerving assurance and aplomb.

At the ABC, more of the same. When not on vacation, Jonathan Holmes does his weekly smugging and scandalised tut-tutting, a Monday night caricature of probity and righteousness but hailed by the brotherhood as the genuine article. So why not praise the man, sling him a nice salary and the odd, black tie award for excellence or whatever? He is one of them, appreciated for his eagerness to overlook twitter pal Wendy Carlisle’s transgressions against fact and fairness, indulged when he delivers a token smack to his own. Who amongst those whose agendas he advances would say a bad word about the host who uses his ABC pulpit to urge in the name of fairness that lefty warmists blitz broadcasting authorities with demands that the sceptic Alan Jones be sanctioned for his “unbalanced” agenda?

One could go on indefinitely, especially about the debasement of our tertiary institutions, but with the new year’s quickening it is not the time for grumbling, which the Right in its post-Rudd exile has elevated almost to an artform. Rather, look to history and take heart. Masonic influence waned and faded, in no small part because the rituals and regalia were rendered ludicrous and irrelevant by a changed world’s impatience with old-style sectarian tribalism. Its adherents were to be laughed at – “Where does Mr Smith keep his goat, Mum?” – and it crumbled, just as the temple up the road has done.

The new tribalism, that will go the same way. Dave and Bob can spit their venom about who did what to whose wife and who bags all the money and grants, but such eruptions animate only fellow members of their push’s various factions. To the rest of us, their self-important feuds are the brayings of donkeys in a knacker’s yard. They have gamed the system for years, advancing each other’s careers and turning Fairfax and the ABC into shops less open to dissent than the College of Cardinals.  But their pews are emptying, do no more than consult the latest polls for evidence of that. The billygoats, if you like, are coming home to roost.

Their day is almost done and the best the rest of us can do is see them off in the appropriate style – with laughter at their pretensions, hilarity at their antics. It is the one thing they cannot stand, as Ellis’ hints of bringing legal actions against his needlers attest. Sue for loss of reputation? That would be a tricky brief when the client has long since shredded his own amongst all but those so ideologically blinkered they can no longer recognise a fool.

Make laughter the weapon in 2012. Bring your ridicule to dinner parties and other social functions. Scoff openly, even to the mortification of your hostess, at some minor entry in the register of wit’s parroting of the piffle handed down by his betters. Don’t be rude or aggressive -- don’t “get in their faces”, as Obama puts it. Just laugh good naturedly and openly, and keep right on chuckling until the election is called and the posses of clowns and poseurs are banished from the trough of public influence and funding.

Laugh at Dave and Bob, and the Silly and their ABC. Laugh at those who have traduced the CSIRO and transformed humanities departments into cesspits of dogma. Laugh at the Drum, especially at its proclaimed even-handedness, and at your capital’s cookie-cutter writers festival. Laugh until your sides split at the next Earth Hour. And laugh in particular at broadsheets so contaminated by groupthink they no longer see the bulk of the population as worthy of absorbing the clichés their authors mistake for wisdom.

Increasingly, the brotherhood talks only to itself. Its day is coming. Laugh and rejoice. Goat, or so they say, makes a very tasty curry.  


  1. Billygoats coming home to roost? Ellis can do better than that; he writes that “the pigeons are coming home to roost in the eves [sic] of elden [sic] memory”.

  2. And once we're done laughing at the forlorn goat pilots after they've ridden into the night, go on laughing at all the post modern nonsense they've left behind like a slimy, sticky, snail trail to nowhere.

  3. To Walter Plinge: That would be about right, but let us keep that information to ourselves. Had no idea that Ford was a papist bailiwick. Old Henry probably could have lived with it, so long as there were no Jews getting ahead in Geelong.

  4. Another masterpiece Herr professor - increasingly I find myself turning to your blog in eager anticipation of another flaying of the left and their old, tired diatribes against the practical members of society whose taxes keep them in bubbly and cake. But the end days of their snouts in the trough are fast approaching and we the proletariat are going to exact a high price for the pathetic indulgences of these so called intellects.
    For starters there will be no more shagging on billiard tables.

  5. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.January 3, 2012 at 2:07 PM

    So that's what the smell is! Billygoat breath festering in the Yarts and the Yunis and their ABC, adding to the general Parliamentary stench coming from inappropriate footwear and apparel, viz brothel-creepers, ancient slippers and free dresses. Glad you cleared that up Prof. Excellent sleuthing and scientific analysis of a serious problem of contamination.

    Decontamination by laughter coming right up. Satire is the written order of the day and only belly-laughs of ridicule in public places. No ammunition is provided then for the knees-up goat rodeo to do their usual and respond with writs as fast as fleas hop around in a plague year.

  6. An excellent post Professor. What should happen as a post script is that a newly installed Liberal Government puts the cleaners through our modern day goats (the nannying classes?). They won't of course, they will want to be 'even handed', not realising that our goaty friends will butt and kick anyway, irrespective of what the Libs may do. My advice is for them to 'go for it', they'll be damned anyway. Just ask David Marr.

  7. Spot on, Nic. But we cannot stop with simply ousting Gillard and her dills. We did that in Victoria and, 12 months later, we have a Premier who is Labor-lite. Perhaps Big Ted thinks that, if he doesn't make waves the Age and ABC will come to like him and Victoria will be one, big happy family. Unless this changes, come the next state election, many of us will have a very hard time voting for Big Ted -- who will be hard-pressed to win. Why turn out for a man who stands only for a milder dose of what the other side represents?

    One idea: join the Liberal Party and start making noises about what Abbott MUST do. It was a rank-and-file revolt that toppled Turnbull. It has to be the rank and file which holds Abbott's feet to the fire as well.

  8. Well said Prof. But I think you might be a bit harsh on the Bros. I know that they have, and still do, prodigious good works in the community for the elderly and the sick. And their ability to raise very large amounts for disaster funds is very worthy.
    Whilst their ceremonies must seem quaint, they are quite harmless, and have provided a refuge for men outside the family.
    As to the blue aprons etc., I find that of little consequence in comparison to the Popes' recent performance. He is reported as being "dressed in cream and golden garments with red leather slippers" and borne down the aisle of the basilica on a "gilded float" propelled by several Vatican minions. the Holy Father exhorts his flock (of goats?) to eschew the "baubles and commercial glitter" of the festive season, and” remember the poor”.
    Astonishing that the sheer hypocrisy of that incongruity seems to escape the Vatican.
    One might just have seen the point, if the Pope had been dressed in the simple black garb of a parish priest and stuggled down the aisle barefoot to deliver his message

  9. Cut funding to YUNIS, especially Etruscan Studies! Only fund Batchelors of Bourgoise Arts and Politicalism and masters of Bugger All ,keep the country heading to North Korean political Fairylandism.No Revisionism,No Deviationism ,Forward into the Lower Middle Class Tertiary Educated Future. Who cares if we can't fix the Plumbung,

  10. Walter Plinge of Port LincolnJanuary 3, 2012 at 4:58 PM

    Nic -- good point. In fact there was an article in Quadrant last year suggesting that the Coalition, when they assume power at the next election, should cut substantially funding to the arts and the ABC. After all, why pay your enemies to campaign against you? There are few votes for the Coalition in the yartz.

    Actually the ABC should just be sold off or privatised. It's a bad look for a government to own a broadcaster. Things have changed a bit since the 1930s. There's aren't too many organisations with the clout to purchase the ABC. Fairfax is out of the question. That leaves News Ltd.

  11. Walter, I repeat my earlier post of selling the ABC. Firstly, to pay back the debt. Secondly, cut the funding for the Arts to the bone. If they can get support from the community, good.
    The Left have to learn that putting in lunatic governments has consequences.

  12. Professor, your post is a positive pleasure to peruse. I am full agreement with its entire thrust - the end is not far away for an entire gaggle of miscreant spivs, drongos and assorted ne'er-do-well no-hopers.

    I am particularly looking forward to the collapse of the global warming / climate change push. I mean, fair dinkum, the unsurpassed levels of zealotry, missionary endeavour and capacity to divine the future these wild-eyed folk display each and every day! Wow! In terms of absolute specific prognostication, we're talking not only in terms of days and weeks, but decades and centuries! The world has never seen anything like it - or them - and the Catholic Church's best missionaries over the last 2,000 years can rightly be regarded as a bunch of half-hearted, half-baked back-sliders when compared to these spittle-flecked nostril quiverers!

    I could go on but shall respect brevity instead. Their end is nigh - ours is NOT - bring it on - the final soft shoe shuffle from this mound of clowns.

  13. Prof, your suggestion that those who share your perspective should "join the Liberal Party and start making noises about what Abbott MUST do" (about the ABC, the Yunis and the Yartz) is spot on. But we are scattered about, and would have little influence merely through branch membership. To make an effective noise, an organised ginger group is required, with its own e-journal [edited or at least partly written by someone such as yourself, or even indeed, you] and regular get-togethers. And of course there must be a link to younger Liberals. This group need not have a name, unless it's something apolitical.

    Might you approach a sympathetic Melbourne Liberal to front a loosely organised meeting of Liberals to begin stirring the pot? Allow a few weeks for us to join up and organise our affairs to come to Melbourne.

    Otherwise we are pissing into the wind.

  14. I know of two RCs who are/were Masons.

    My father and an ex boyfriend.

    My grandfathers were both Masons. I know that the Masons carried out good works in the community. I suspect that the old days of the supposed influence of Masonic membership are over.

    My grandmother was a lady Mason, a member of The Order of the Eastern Star. Nanna was Christian and although not a regular at church in her later years her good works in the community were well known.

  15. Kae: I assume they were recent members. Back in the sixties, when I was a kid, masons and catholics were oil and water. Mind you, I also knew a Jewish mason, but he was also of later vintage.

    And I don't dispute that Masons do many good works. The thing was, they really were quite powerful back in the day -- and Catholics were a particular target.

    Would a lady Mason be a maisonette?

    And i just found this, which may be of interest. It seems no one is quite sure if Masdons can be catholics, but the topic certaiinly gets folks upset.


  16. A splendid exhalation, professor. It will indeed be humorous watching the children attempting to put off the return of the adults until the last possible month. But I know many young men and women will face hopefully not serious injury on police duty when the deliquents of the Greens, GetUp and Trades Hall (and hundreds of off-duty ABC and Fairfax zombies) trash the CBDs of Sydney and Melbourne, as well as the federal parliament building in Canberra when their entitlements are removed. Middle Australia will watch agape as the Guevara National Liberation Front government self-destructs.

  17. I don't want to fuel a non-existent argument but English, Scottish and Irish Rite Freemasonry has always welcomed Jews and Catholics and I have known many. More pertinently, it also welcomes Muslims and other monotheists. Don't get confused with Grand Orient Freemasonry or the Orange Lodge etc - different kettle of ritual and belief!


  18. I had a very hearty laugh yesterday listening to Clive Hamilton at a talk-fest last week lament how the right have hijacked public debate in this country and how the poor left should claw back the balance from the shock-jocks and right wing extreme bloggers who are dominating public debate!

    The Fear Factor: Australia's Political Culture 11.30am - 1.00pm
    Clive Hamilton, Kate Jones, Benjamin Law

    You know what? The lefties fear us:


  19. Outside Australia, there were plenty of Catholic masons. Mozart is the most famous one (viz The Magic Flute),and it's common belief that a few Habsburg emperors were Masons. Jewish masons were common too. Eg Irving Berlin: http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/biography/berlin_i/berlin_i.html

  20. Walter and Winston

    I reckon it would be much more more entertaining if the ABC business was simply given to its staff with the Govt retaining ownership of assets such as land and frequencies. A lien could be placed on the business to prevent the staff from cashing in by selling up.

    I realise that taxpayers would have to forgo the potential income from its sale but I reckon the resultant entertainment would make it worthwhile.

  21. Catholics still face excommunication for joining the Masons. Pope Leo XIII's Humanum Genus stands


  22. The compass and square are stone masons tools not carpenters tools.
    We havnt disappeared, we moved out of the old, huge, expensive halls into smaller more modern premises, our local temple opened 2 months ago and is a fantastic modern facility that also doubles as a conference centre.
    As to religion, the discussion of religion and politics is banned so I couldnt tell you what any other brother's incination is but I can tell you I was baptised a Roman Catholic and I am a Freemason. I couldnt give a stuff what the Pope thinks of that.

  23. Walter Plinge: Why worry about selling the ABC? Give it away to whoever wants it and we still save > $1 billion per year.

  24. rafiki, I think you're right. The key to it all is money. The Left has billionaire backers funding assorted activist and "research" groups. The right has got a bad image and no one seriously wealthy whats to fund it, yet. BTW Bunyip's got the brains, that's for sure. Not so sure about his politics though.

  25. The Old and Unimproved DaveJanuary 5, 2012 at 9:05 AM

    The Alex Masterly cartoon had a good take....p*ss-take, that is.....on the Masons some years back.

    Alex's boss Rupert was having a short stay at Her Majesty's pleasure when one of the local lags challenged him to an arm wrestling match. The fellow had forearms bigger than most men's thighs, but an instant look of surprise came over his face when Rupert clasped hands with him as combat was joined. Seconds later, the big bloke's arm thudded to the table. As he walked away, one of Rupert's mates says "You mean to say he LET you win?" To which Rupert replies, "He had to...I outrank him. Useful things, Masonic handshakes."

  26. Have a good holiday or a well earned break (GH). I hope you return fresh and ready for this coming year.