HEADLINES

Friday, October 06, 2006

Straight-talking from down-under


In a speech earlier this week, Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard condemned his country’s left-wing intelligentsia for its systematic denigration of the nation over past decades. He attacked its past support for communism and regimes which opposed Australia’s interests, and its relativism in seeing the cold war as an equal struggle between the ideologies of the Soviet Union and the US.

‘It became the height of intellectual sophistication to believe that people in the West were no less oppressed than people under the yoke of communist dictatorship’ he said. He went on to say that the country’s universities were still breeding leftists, and that the intelligentsia was liable to be gripped by ‘stultifying orthodoxies’ and ‘dangerous utopias’ which needed to be countered.

It is extraordinary, and incredibly refreshing, to hear such an argument from a senior Western politician. Certainly in Europe, where the left has had, and still has, such an impact in shaping the cultural and intellectual landscape, such a speech from a Prime minister or President, or whatever political colour, would be unthinkable.

The essential tone of the protests of the left and the ‘counter-culture’ during the Vietnam War was not so much one of rejection of war, as rejection of America. The same now characterises opposition to the conflicts in the Middle East and the threat of Islamic terrorism. Hatred of the US has become a pathology, and of Bush in particular so intense as to be virtually unhinged.

The Leftism of the traditionally Europhile American intelligentsia is kept in check first by the fact that the bulk of the country cares little about what comes out of the salons of New York and Los Angeles, and second, because there is still a very strong sense of national identity. This is not the case in Europe, where the intellectual and cultural elites have spent most of the post-war years chipping away at their countries’ sense of self, traditions and cultural heritage. They have been enormously successful in their efforts.

There are, perhaps, chinks of light here and there which suggest that the era of the left’s cultural and intellectual ascendancy is slowly coming to an end. But its grip remains tight, which is why those who oppose it should be grateful to John Howard for his bold and clear-headed remarks.

1 comment:

Croydonian said...

I've long been a fan of John Howard, to the extent of suggesting that if there was a transfer market in politicians I would rather like to have him in my fantasy cabinet...