By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Making Trouble: Essays Against the New Australian Complacency
By Robert Manne (Black Inc, $34.95, softcover, 430 pages)
After reading this book, you will know why Robert Manne has twice been voted Australia’s leading public intellectual.
Making Trouble points to a new tendency described as Australian complacency. Almost everyone would be aware, even if it is only semi-consciously, of the “stifling artificiality and sterile gamesmanship of contemporary politics”.
Manne is eloquent in his analysis: Donald Horne described Australia as “the Lucky country” in the mid-1960s when the island nation was on the “edge of experiencing a cultural revolution where apparently solid values began to be questioned and to dissolve”. Then in the period between the election of Gough Whitlam and the fall of Paul Keating, Australia became involved in a period of “self-criticism and in a process of trying to re-invent itself”.
Making Trouble states that the greatest enemy of Australian self-criticism and re-invention was John Howard - and proceeds to outline why. The period of John Howard’s prime ministership saw a shift as “self-criticism gradually became confused with un-Australian self-hatred”.
Displaying shrewd insight, almost all of the essays concern the “politics and history of Australia”.
Author, commentator and professor of politics at La Trobe University, Robert Manne makes some good arguments.
You will be informed and feel stimulated as you walk down memory lane as he traces the events and ideas that have recently changed the nation. A wide spectrum is covered from Howard to Gillard via Rudd, from Victoria’s bushfires to the Apology, from Wilfred Burchett to Julian Assange, whom he regards as “undoubtedly the most consequential Australian of the present time”.
It includes the updated version of ‘The Cypherpunk Revolutionary’, which drew global attention and prompted WikiLeaks to tweet that it is “easily the best article” on Julian Assange.
Critical appraisals abound with insightful discussion on a number of issues including climate change, a reflection on ways of remembering the Holocaust – an event that’s “haunted” him all his life – and incisive essays about the treatment of asylum seekers and the question of reconciliation.
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.