I went to the launch of Don Chipp’s latest book Friday morning titled ‘Keep the Bastards Honest’. There was an impressive turnout of people, including Andrew Peacock and his wife, Michael Kroger, John Button, Ron Barassi, Steve Vizard, as well as the MC John Singleton and Andrew Denton, who gave a very good speech.
There was an implicit assumption in a number of the comments made that the Democrats had now failed as a political force and – in many ways far worse – had failed to even be a voice on some of the important issues such as honesty, the war, refugees and aboriginal disadvantage. I should have found this annoying and dispiriting, but I have become used to our efforts being perceived as invisible or non-existent by the media (and therefore by many in the community). It didn’t overly trouble me, as this wasn’t meant to be a forum on the fine print of current political reality.
It was in large part an event to pay tribute to someone who has certainly made an extraordinary impact and had a fairly extraordinary life. Don Chipp is affected by Parkinson’s disease, but he is also clearly still full of fight. Andrew Denton highlighted a simple, but very evocative line from the book about continuing to explore the ‘delights life has to offer’, which probably portrays very well Chipp’s general outlook.
It is an outlook I support the adoption of and that I sometimes envy. Living with depression over decades makes such an outlook inaccessible for me in some respects, although occasionally I think I get a sense of what it might be like, like a breeze blowing fleetingly past. Still maybe that’s all anyone really experiences and they just talk it up because it makes them feel better – who’s to know the intensity and nature of what other people really feel.
Andrew Denton made a comment I particularly liked, talking (jokingly) of his new organisation of ‘fundamentalist moderates’ whose role would be to travel the world and exterminate everyone who doesn’t accept that there are two sides to every argument. My predilection for insisting on acknowledging both (or more) sides to an argument has sometimes got me into trouble and is often totally unsuited to the polarising, black and white way in which politics operates in Australia.
Of course politics doesn’t need to be polarising and black and white, but the way the media frames politics rewards that approach, while at the same time diminishing and even poisoning reasoned debate (and therefore the potential for reasoned thought). I very much appreciated the sentiment of Denton’s comment. If there’s one thing I am fundamentally and uncompromisingly opposed to without any equivocation, it is fundamentalism. For many people it equates to and feeds their passion. Passion is usually very good as long as it is not devoid of reason and it sometimes seems that’s easier said than done for political activists of all colours.