Friday, March 21, 2003

Baby boomers and melioration

The war in Iraq has already achieved at least one positive outcome – that of old baby boomer platitudes being wheeled out again. This time will hopefully be the last – they are as transparent as the skin on a corpse at an open casket viewing.

One example: “If this cannot be seen as an unjust and illegal war that undermines the advances we have made towards international humanitarian principles and the rule of law and democracy, nothing can be."

Everyone’s entitled to their views, of course, but I just gag every time I hear the word “advance” in this context. Says who? In my thirty-something years of life in an affluent (they say), ostensibly democratic country, I only have seen steady, near-continuous downward movement across all spheres: economic (unemployment and house price affordability for starters); political (bribing redneck “aspirational” voters with tax-free 4WDs); educational (no further comment required); and cultural (more about this below).

Even if the above statement is taken at its narrowest and most literal, any advances genuinely, if fluffily, made towards “international humanitarian principles and the rule of law” would seem to have been recently cancelled out by the two competing posses of international law experts, who have claimed in the last week that war on Iraq is respectively clearly mandated by the UN etc, or isn’t. To paraphrase: If this little ridiculous squabble isn’t rebarbative, subtle-as-cavemen-fighting behaviour, nothing can be.

“Melioration” has an interesting archaic use, from Scottish law, to describe improvements to land made by the tenant. Advances, in other words, must either be paid for, or achieved through the labours of others, if they are to be recorded on the capital ledger, as opposed to being pie-in-the-sky fluff. The sharp decrease in home ownership among Gen X is certainly not an “advance” from my POV, but, resurrecting its archaic Scottish law meaning, I suppose that this is indeed an unearned windfall for wannabe, and already-are slumlords generally. With everyone needing a roof over their heads being one of the few remaining certainties, together with skyrocketing house prices, this is a textbook neo-feudal “advance” for the rentier class – unpaid for by its beneficiaries.

I have previously blogged around this topic, and what I’ve termed a festering inter-generational fault-line (see February 19 and 20). A short news story today, Selina Mitchell “Public servants losing spirit” (The Australian 21 March 2003, no URL) shows the level of sheer fudging around this fact. The story’s gist: the public service pool is getting older. The good: the public service pool will therefore be more experienced. The bad: new entrants (and a majority of them are graduates, these days) tend not to stick around past four years or so. The unsaid: (i) in a bleak employment market for graduates, the public service must be doing something badly wrong if it can’t keep them; (ii) if “experience” outweighs formal education in the general estimation of the public service (the article implies that it does), then there is already a prime suspect identified for the malfeasances imputed in (i) – take a bow, Miss Marple. I am no advocate of credentialism for its own sake, but if the public service really prefers to hang on indefinitely to its current mainstays – semi-educated, apathetic forty and fifty-somethings – it could at least be honest and open about this depressing fact.

Onto baby boomers and the cultural industries. Case in point: Robyn Archer and the "Ten days on the island" Tasmanian arts fiasco; see Carol Altmann, “Dissident voices chip away on the island” (The Australian 7 March 2003, no URL) and Robyn Archer, "Ten days through the mill” (The Australian 21 March 2003, no URL). Accepting tainted money to sponsor the arts is a complicated and emotional issue, so I’m not going to into too much detail here (not to mention the fact that, not being a Taswegian, I don’t really have standing to be in either camp).

Anyway, something Archer, the “Ten days” festival’s “artistic director’ (= travel the world in search of the latest trends, spot ‘em, buy ‘em, then import ‘em – much like a gift shop wholesaler) wrote had me choking on my cereal this morning. In the midst of a long and impassioned (and I have no doubt, sincerely felt) spiel about the damage an artists’ boycott does at this time of culture industry cutbacks, Archer opined: “we must use new arts support strategically or risk losing young, emerging, creative and, yes, essential political voices”.

Fuck you with your “strategy”, Robyn. The voices you speak of are being used as human shields, in defence of an agenda and system that (whether good or bad) they are not franchised for, and never will be. They are already lost, and not only has the sky not consequently fallen for the boomocracy, your greed and cowardice have been rewarded with permanent sunlight for your ever-expanding patches.

But I should shut up now – the more I go on, the more “advances” I’m placing at “risk”, I’m sure.

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