‘none so blind as those who will not see’A really apt quote in regard to the now almost daily whimpering to be heard from Casa Abbott via Radio 2GB, some sectors of the Murdoch media and the head of the household himself.
From a objective perspective, I’m aghast that Abbott’s cheer-squad, as thinly ranked as it is and has ever been, continues to wail & gnash teeth over what is simply a realistic outcome to an inevitable and monumental political, ideological train wreck in early 2016 at the ballot box. Genuine big and small ‘L’ liberals of my acquaintance have agreed unanimously that Abbott, the man, was a mill stone around the neck of the party and belief system they espoused. Only the dyed-in-the-wool, extreme right-wing ideologue minority of Australian society ever believed anything Abbott promoted, and yet even some of those folk could never explain exactly why they viewed the man as a modern day fish and loaves provider.
Abbott, the man is something of an anachronistic enigma in modern society. He genuinely believes in the purest ethics of 19th century Conservatism. Change nothing if it currently works, eschew anything different or new because it will inevitably be proven to not be a patch on the old. Distrust science on any level, because science challenges the core of fundamentalist religiosity. Only the almighty has the answers and we should always trust to God, because……God. Abbott reminds me very much of the Dickensian character Ebenezer Scrooge, yet even Scrooge had his awakening to reality. Abbott is a deeper character, more beset with hateful undercurrents from earlier times which, I believe, he has never managed to shackle and leave behind. I’ve never researched the man and frankly, have no desire to, but I would posit that his days at University, learning his political craft, sewn together with all the threads of cunning, malevolence and guile we have seen employed over the past 5 years, are where his failings as any form of inspiring or inclusive leader lie.
As we have seen, the man is an ideological warrior. Even in the book he wrote, Battlelines, he is quoted as writing, “never give the left a win of any kind”. It was this book which political historian Robert Manne described as “… a hodgepodge of half-baked thoughts and determinedly unresolved contradictions.” Indeed, I commend Manne’s 2010 The Monthly essay on Abbott to you, dear reader, as a sound source for any understanding of the man, Abbott, and his contradictory convictions.
Quite surprisingly, from the man’s own mouth in recent days, we’ve heard him state that he wasn’t watching his back, politically, and never saw the coup coming. This, from a man who his acolytes claim to be so very astute and in tune with the populace he purported to lead? Simply astounding! Was he perhaps, so convinced by his own rhetoric, by his own sense of self-righteousness, that all he said & did was right for the entire electorate he said he would act on behalf of? I believe so. He believed his own mail, as the saying goes. As for those he gathered around him, trusted in and believed had that back he wasn’t watching….well, they’re political animals, aren’t they? Won’t a wolf pack turn on a wounded alpha, tear down its leader, when times get tough and survival becomes paramount? That is the nature of the political game, and for Abbott to claim he never saw it coming speaks volumes for the naivety of the man.Or perhaps his sanctified self-belief, exclusive of all other advice to the contrary.
Harking back to Robert Manne’s essay again, dear reader, you’ll find it speaks in paragraphs of the influence of Bartholomew Augustine Santamaria on the Abbott belief system. As someone who has only the vaguest of memories of the Santamaria times in the 1960’s and 1970’s I cannot write with any authority, however I do know from research and anecdotal discussions with my father before he died, that Santamaria was an extremely divisive individual who played a Machiavellian role in religion and politics over that period. It was BA Santamaria who was instrumental in ‘The Split’ of the late 1950’s which eventuated in a large number of ALP members being expelled from the party, who then went on to form the Democratic Labor Party, the DLP. It was that particular ruction in ALP ranks which allowed Conservative government into the hands of Robert Menzies to gain and hold significant political power while the ALP wandered in a 23 year wilderness. It is the Santamaria spirit that Abbott channels. Disruptive, conniving and manipulative. Frankly, I wouldn’t put it past Abbott to become some modern day Santamaria who plays politics from the sidelines, although, in the current day, an anachronism like Abbott probably wouldn’t last long in the 24 hour media/social media Colosseum. Neither, I suspect, would BA Santamaria. Old dogs don’t adapt well to new tricks.
Abbott claims to admire the Menzies style of conservatism, but to my mind, Robert Menzies was not a hard line, socially conservative ideologue. Menzies was more in the vein of John Stuart Mill. Perhaps, the closest we’ll ever see in my time to a real Liberal politician. Howard also espoused what he claimed to be a Menzies-like political ideal, but Howard was much further to the right than Menzies ever was. Abbott claims to admire Howard’s style, but again, Abbott is even further to the socially conservative right than his supposed mentor. Abbott bemoans the ‘revolving door’ of political leadership we’ve seen since 2010, but I say to you, dear reader, what is 5 years in the political life of this country? Five very turbulent years geo-politically, economically and socially. We are changing as a culture and evolving as a society. Change cannot be stopped. It may be slowed, even made to stumble, but it cannot be stopped. It advances inexorably and must be embraced if we are to move forward and grow. People like Abbott do not understand this most basic of human conditions. As Ralph Waldo Emerson states in The Conservative…
Conservatism makes no poetry, breathes no prayer, has no invention; it is all memory.
…and therein lies the major failing of conservatism in all of it’s forms. Conservatism abhors change, fights against change, despises change. Conservatism doesn’t understand change and therein lies the title of this post. When over-run by change, Conservatism cannot come to terms with what has occurred, or why. Conservatism is always right, because…..it is always right. Until it is found wanting. Will Abbott make it up off the mat to fight again? I doubt it. He will spend the time until Christmas, as he claims, considering his fate, then he’ll retire from politics and play his ideological conservative games from the media ranks. He was, at some time, a journalist. News Limited would love to have him writing for them, glass jaw & all.