politics is a chronic relapse condition
are days when it's hard to know whether Bob Carr just does what David
Humphries writes in the Herald or if David Humphries writes what Bob
Carr thinks. This thought struck me as I scanned through reports on
the outcome of the much-vaunted Drug Summit.
and I were dawdling over dinner in the Bar Muda in Australia Street,
celebrating my big cheque from the Bob Ellis paternity investigation
and watching the Saturday night traffic drift past across Newtown Bridge.
We had simple enjoyment, but out there in dark corners of Sydney, a
handful of winners were cleaning up and others were despairing, succumbing,
retching, sweating and dying.
had been a week of winners and losers in politics too. John Howard was
a big loser. His mean little vision of the GST as a millionaires' relief
tax was dying wretchedly like some junkie in a back lane in Fairfield
-- until Meg Lees gave it a big shot in the heart.
Carr was a big winner. He had lived dangerously again and survived.
At the end of the day the drugs status quo prevailed, in a practical
sense, and he got good notices and nice pix in the Herald. It must have
been a huge rush.
the biggest winners were the drug barons. If they bothered to read about
the summit at all, they would have felt they could sustain an almost
endless war of attrition with the police -- assuming Peter Ryan had
the stomach for the casualties. On the wild frontiers of globalisation
there were plenty of keen and dumb recruits.
of marijuana for personal use! That's the defacto position now",
Joadja snorted. "When was the last time you heard of the police
aggressively raiding a party and dragging people off for smoking dope?
The only time they bust somebody is if they want them for something
else. It's an opportunist tool for muscling working class youths --
and even with this, Carr says he's not personally in favour. There are
plenty of opportunities for the idea to be swallowed up by the quicksands
then there's 'safe injecting rooms'. I'll be surprised if many of those
get set up. Carr's way out will be to roll over to local government
objections -- all very democratic. The 'shooting galleries' might not
have been hygienic but they were defacto legal too, until the tabloids
and the talk-back nazis waged a campaign against them a few months ago.
but Carr's spun his way through it and thanks to the Herald he's looking
good again. He's a minor genius in the petty craft of politics. It'll
be a few weeks before the Tony Triminghams and Bev Bakers and Ian Websters
realise they've been done. These people are babes in the woods of politics.
The generalissimos of the Salvation Army know they've held the line
against the reformers but they'll cover their profound relief by ranting
about how Bob has surrendered to the forces of the devil and that's
how politics is conducted". She lapsed into silence and pushed
a chickpea around the huge white plate.
I detected a more sinister thing in the outcome", I said. "See
how far we've come from the early ideals of the labor movement, the
ideals of equality and a full life for all. Listen to what Bob Carr
says here: 'life is an inherently disappointing experience for most
human beings, some people can't cope with that. My view is that this
comprises the problem: a propensity of human beings to compensate for
the mediocrity of their existence and that it [he means illicit drugs]
is there, it is available'."
made a mental note to check what 'propensity' meant in the dictionary.
a question of where you stand," I went on, "of how you make
your living, of how secure you are. A businessman, judge, politician,
currency dealer -- or for that matter a middle-level drug dealer --
on $150,000-plus a year tends to see things differently from you and
Carr sees it, most people's lives are pretty mediocre compared to his.
They're basically a bunch of losers. In his brave new world, a Millennium
of plenty and prosperity arrives through dog-eat-dog competition, privatisation,
temporary employment, downsizing. There has to be insecurity to drive
the lazy masses forward and overcome their dissatisfaction at the mediocrity
of their existence. If we don't get the business, then the Koreans will,
or the Indonesians, or the Chinese, or even Jeff Kennett.
some fall by the wayside, well, as Mr Justice Wood so charmingly puts
it here (I riffled through the Herald till I found the place): 'There
is no means of inoculating people against the life circumstances and
social events that lead to their cycle of substance abuse and criminality
and we should not pretend there is'."
fact is," Joadja said, "people know more nowadays, they have
higher expectations, but the Laborites have all but given up on the
hope and belief that society can be organised so that inequality is
minimised. What we're left with is a grim caricature of 19th century
had to make an early start in the morning on a missing person investigation
-- the curious case of Cheryl Kernot. We paid our bill and strolled
to the station through the Saturday night bustle.
Justice Wood's quote from SMH Friday 21 May 99, Bob Carr's quote
from SMH Saturday 22 May 99.
in Whispers from the mean streets
-- Best of 1999