Tuesday, April 17, 2012

West End

According to a report just released by the Australian Treasury, two centuries of Western global  fratricide and hegemony came to an inevitable, if somewhat abrupt, statistical end on March 28, 2012. Statistics are like that; underwriters of the binary world we all but a special few inhabit. 

For according to the most credible and exacting our Commonwealth has to offer (other than yours truly), it was on the 88th day of this year of the Mayan apocalypse (and 88 being a propitious number for the Chinese, by the way) that the wealth of the planet shifted from west to east, returning Asia to the prime place in Old World economics to which it (by which I mean China) had grown accustomed for some 1500 years until about 1840.

Could be in years to come March 28, 2012 will go down with those other landmarks of the slow eclipse of Western hegemony, but I doubt it. Like the birth of the internet, it is a slow, painful, yet ultimately fruitful thing for which no-one will openly declare patrimony.

In the short-term, of course, nothing much will change. Hollywood will continue to leach this country of its best and shiniest to no good purpose. India will continue to insist it is a stand-alone while shoring up its borders east and west, and the likes of Melbourne critic Peter Craven, or our very own Sydney-institutionalised Gerard Henderson, will continue to bend an ear to their ghosts, blinkered to the new possibilities.

Nevertheless, this seismic change variously and often vaguely trumpeted since the 1960’s has now passed across the desks of the bean-counters, and from there, as we all know, there is no going back.

I can’t help wondering, though, what this epoch-defining moment will mean to those dedicated to the destruction of the Western hegemony? And I am not just talking about the Taliban. Will they turn their attentions further east to patterns of life at least outwardly at odds with their medieval obfuscation? Not that such a thing as "Western hegemony" has ever really existed, of course, but even if it had, its time has passed now, or is at least well on its way to passing. The subjunctive “legacy” will start to rise on the word-count, matching the flow of the smartest and brightest north to Shanghai where managers (even now) have begun to nod their heads when they are actually awake. 

The next two decades will no doubt sort the creative, malleable minds from the more doctrinaire and regimented, particularly in resource-rich and increasingly skills-poor countries such as Australia. I owe a doubt here, of course, to the late Donald Horne. But doubts and misquotes aside, the next twenty years will either sort those prone to incessant hyperbole from those less inured to extremes of behaviour (predictive or otherwise), or bring them closer together. Student of 1914 as I am, I hope it is the former, not the latter.

So, at the risk of falling into my own trap, I predict a kind of digitalised belle epoque being the new political divide for the foreseeable. Not the tired old left-right polemic of so much of the “urban” poetry peppering my inbox, but the malleable and empathic against the so-called agents of “change“ who are anything but.

And while we are on the subject of those apparently unable or unwilling to understand the forces and historical trends against which they so publicly rail, what in the world was Julian Assange thinking when he signed on with Russia Today for his show The World Tomorrow? The title's bald assumptions aside, was Assange not aware of the track record of this Putin-backed outfit? In fact, if any media organisation could be regarded as the living embodiment of everything Wikileaks purportedly aims to take down, it is Russia Today. His maiden performance was wooden and obviously heavily-scripted, and his reference to Hassain Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, as a "freedom fighter" was as trite as it was inaccurate. I appreciate the Aussie ex-pat and hopeful Senator has some serious legal bills, but this latest chapter in the Assange saga confirms a complete lack of judgement which can only lead any thinking person to question both his and his team's essential motives.

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