One of the major shifts in how Australians think about politics in the past century has been the elevation of the personal narrative to a place of great importance. The first signs of holistic political lifestyles appear to have emerged in the 1960's with the New Left, which incorporated anti-war, anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian politics with the hippie subculture, comprising loose morals, eastern philosophy and peasant fashion.
At least they are in their wheat fields
Despite the fact that this took place over half a century, one can still readily observe these grungy reactionaries of the far left in backpacker hostels, green parties and universities. As was the case with their forebears, most are simply looking for a cover for their libertine-ism, or a tribe with a low barrier to entry that will satisfy a need for belonging and provide a sanctioned space for their bourgeois rebellion. But for the most part, the hippie heyday has passed, the bulk having graduated into the boomer middle class that can fondly recall their days of sticking it to the man.
Outside of the fringes, it is harder identify someone's politics from their consumer choices and lifestyle today. The largest corporations sponsor all manner of radical-left causes, including gay rights (see the Sydney Mardi Gras), inter-racial couples, global warming and feminism. Government bureaucracy, corporate boards and executives are desperate to 'close gaps', and are investing heavily in this latest form of brand marketing. Who would have thought that disciplined, orderly and hard-working office functionaries would have taken to the task of dismantling our society with such vigour so as to put the hippies to shame?
On another level, the degree to which ordinary people harbour intolerant views appears to have risen tremendously, perhaps to compensate for the weakening explanatory power of subcultural political association. While this is largely a feminine phenomenon, it is not uncommon for males to enthusiastically express moral outrage over the alleged mistreatment of refugees or the government's policy on gay marriage.
'Virtue signalling' as it is now known, suggests an association between political affiliation and prestige, a kind of modern-day demagoguery arms race. The cheapening of charity and Christian teaching aside, what this trend broadly indicates is that the left has succeeded in making its pet causes and basic precepts both the worthiest goals and the new basis of social morality.
The contempt of the bourgeois left for expressions of working-class culture go far behind judgements of taste or economy. There is a level at which these tastes - whether bloodsport, hunting, dog or horse racing, are morally repugnant to progressives. It is this transgression - in lacking the requisite sentimentality - that gives the left permission to set upon destroying whatever remnants of working-class identity that still exist.
Poor girls don't realise no racing = dead doggie
Whether through flooding their suburbs with aliens, offshoring their industries through neoliberal reform, or simply pricing them out of the market due to cheap coolie labour, there has been a successful campaign to push what was once an employed and electorally significant segment of society into the welfare class, which having lost its dignity, skin in the game and connection to the wider economy, have become reliable Labor voters, reduced to voting for their benefits and plagued with social ills.
The attack on the livelihoods and identity of the working class is not limited to these more indirect methods. In 2016, the NSW Liberal National Government banned Greyhound racing in response to specious claims by animal-rights campaigners. A few years earlier, the Gillard government placed an immediate freeze on all live cattle exports to appease similar sentiments. It is not beyond any mainstream party or faction to simply legislate entire industries out of existence. While both of these knee-jerk reactions failed, after having wreaked millions in damage to workers' livelihoods, the ever-present threat of the new moral majority to enforce its will has not.
Even the Australian cricket team must now abase itself by wearing pink uniforms in the name of breast cancer research. What cricket has to do with scientific funding, much less wearing pink, is yet to be explained. But the unequivocal commitment to ‘a good cause’ finds few objectors willing to risk their necks for asking why this Australian male tradition must be feminized and brought into line, making itself useful to one of the few legitimising causes adopted by the feminist left.
McGrath milking his new found fame for all it's worth
The hollowing out of the working class has left a vacuum that all the advertising, corporatised sport, cheap electronics, fast food and reality TV in the world will not fill. Just as the lack of values in the Labor party has led to the rise of the Greens and amplified their role in setting the moral agenda of the left, the New Right has a strong role to play in giving people something to believe in the beyond cheap luxuries promised by the managerial state.
This process is perfectly illustrated when Federal treasurer Scott Morrison laments that protecting freedom of speech by abolishing section 18 “won’t create a single job” and “won’t help us pay off the debt”. These technocrats are far removed from both their parliamentary responsibility as it was intended, and the real and pressing concerns of the people they are elected to serve. What may seem like tired conservative talking points such as ‘freeze peach’ and the threat of Islam to a civil society are still important to what Cory Bernardi refers to in The Conservative Revolution as ‘the silent majority’.
The two major parties continue to lose an ever-greater share of the primary vote, and One Nation appears set to capitalise upon the failure of either party to articulate a vision beyond the cuckoo clock cries from the LNP about 'jobs and growth' or shrieks from the Greens and ALP about 'refugees and Centrelink'.
More importantly, abandoning failed attempts at a flaccid identity based around ‘Australian values’ will mark the final departure from status quo. Making politics personal, rather than something that happens in Canberra, is the next step in decolonizing our own collective oppression from the politics of guilt, shame and the blackmail threatened to those who speak out about our dispossession
An unapologetic revival of an authentic Australian blue-collar identity is what is needed to reclaim our cultural space from the rootless cosmopolitanism of the east-cost capital cities. These men and women already exist, but lack the platform, the influence or the organic organization that previously sustained and promoted their interests on a collective level. In his book The Political Bubble: Why Australians Don’t Trust Politicians, Mark Latham explores how the breakdown of trusted institutions, including unions, government departments, local councils, churches and political parties has disenfranchised the majority, effectively excluding them from the political process.
The process of rebuilding will have to be different. It will be from the ground up, not within existing institutions (although in some cases they should be utilized), that people will realise opportunities to ‘think global, act local’ in a way that strengthens us.
We must seek a rediscovery of our will and spirit through educating ourselves and our children, a better relationship to consumption that places loyalty to each other over price, exploration of art and music that speaks to our being and the use of de-territorialised and derelict space to collect ourselves and affirm that we are greater than the anodyne worker-drones that we are expected to be. We must get outside and get to work to reify the seemingly abstract vision of healthy and homogeneous Australia that embraces truth, fights for our interests and won’t be cowed into submission.