From under the linoleum
Old newspapers show Mussolini's imperialism looked a lot like today's

I sat on the floor and picked through the tragedy of the country we now call Ethiopia laid out on the yellowing pages. It was eerily reminiscent of the current Iraq adventure.

A tale for our times
The December 1934 assassination of Sergei Kirov

Seventy years on, the killing of Sergei Kirov casts an eerie light on the events of 11 September 2001, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the “war on Terror” and the state-sponsored hysteria surrounding the shadowy figures of Osama bin Ladin and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Ninety-three years of bombing the Arabs
It was the Italians, hell-bent on acquiring an African empire, who got the ball rolling. In 1911 the Libyan Arab tribes opposed an Italian invasion. Their civilians were the first people in the world to be bombed from the air.

Dispossessed all over again
After spending nearly two months in the West Bank the pull towards my village was growing stronger, especially after being detained twice and threatened with deportation … an Australian Palestinian returns to her ancestral home.

The tragic inevitability of a forlorn hope
Australia slides further into the Iraq quagmire
Cabinet documents recently released under the 50-year rule show that, in 1954, Liberal (conservative) Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, and key figures in his Cabinet were extremely gloomy about the prospects for success in an American war against nationalists in Indochina. But eventually they went to the Vietnam War anyway.

Bombing King David
One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist

Some historians date the beginning of modern terrorism from the 1946 bombing by Zionist terrorists of the British military HQ in Jerusalem.

Don’t loiter near the exit
Military debacle and economic decline haunt the Bush regime

When I was just a young possum in the school cadet corps there was a hoary old war story that we all knew. It was almost certainly apocryphal, but it ruefully expressed a nasty historic truth about the US role in the demise of the British Empire.


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It's no show without Paddy

2 March 1999

Saturday afternoon was quiet at the cafe. The Mardi Gras folk had left for the parade assembly points, leaving a scatter of sequins glittering in the lane. It was threatening to rain, so I hunkered down over the Saturday Herald, nursing a cider and chuckling over Paddy McGuinness's latest column.

Here was the Great Fulminator at his finest: in a sweaty embrace of his old colleague Germain Greer that was almost beyond satire.

"Yeah, it might be funny to you", Joadja snorted, "But, lots of younger people wouldn't understand the Germaine joke because they weren't there. And anyway, most people get so confused after a couple of paddygraphs that they just give up and flip over to Alan Ramsay or Kaz Cooke, or even Richard Glover".

She was right or course. We learn so much history by rumour that sometimes it's a shock to actually read the black letters on the white paper and think about the implications.

Lots of people live with the vague impression that Germaine Greer was a pioneer feminist, so Paddy's endorsement probably seemed weird, but The Great Fulminator and the author of The Female Eunuch go back a long, long, way -- to the early 60s in fact. They go back to the Sydney Push, a bohemian heterosexual drinking and rooting club run for the benefit of a handful of pretentious "libertarian" men who made a living gambling, or were awaiting the moment when their field of professional endeavour would offer them fame, respectability and huge salaries.

For women, the price of entry to the Push was widepread sexual availability, and the Push had a fatuous justification for this: sexual freedom was the root of all other freedoms. There was even a bizarre party line on orgasm -- the vaginal orgasm was superior to the clitoral.

Paddy's love letter to the Untamed Shrew started with a long gushing buildup in which he favourably compared Germs with most other feminists through the old Paddy technique of the straw woman.

He laid the groundwork with a portrait of the feminist as selfish, rich and middle class -- a woman stacking up problems for society by treating her children like "pets or furniture" while pursuing a career as a man-hating academic; sleeping her way to the top while whining at her long-suffering husband about housework and the "non-existent" glass ceiling.

How many professional feminist academics are there in all of Australia? Maybe 50 or 60. How many fit Paddy's caricature? Maybe one.

Having knocked the stuffing out of the straw feminist, Paddy came back to Germs, but a cuddle can be a dangerous thing -- you can suddenly take a thumping at close range from someone who knows your history well. When the stick came down it was well aimed:

"Germain Greer has gone through a long intellectual evolution and rethought many things. After a bohemian youth in which she did not make a career of flashing her knickers (there is a famous underground film by Albi Thom [sic] in which she appears nude, and she went even further in a photo for the dreadful rag Suck), she gradually realised that there is more to a woman's life than sleeping around and she came to admire the traditional family loyalities of marriage and children."

Maybe Germaine didn't make a career of flashing her knickers but she certainly wrote a lot about taking them off. How about this, from Oz magazine during her late 60s counterculture group sex period:

"I guess I'm a starfucker really. You know it's the name I dig, because all the men who get inside me are stars. Even if they're plumbers they're star plumbers. Another thing I dig is balling the greats before the rest of the world knows about them, before they get the big hype."

In fact Germs was writing some of her dumbest pornographic rubbish for Suck while she was penning The Female Eunuch -- in which she attacked every possible variety of feminist for being fat, belligerent, sexually unliberated and probably lesbian.

Germs' view of the ideal marriage? In The Female Eunuch she returned to her old obsession with the Petruchio-Kate relationship in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Kate has the "uncommon good fortune to find Petruchio who is man enough to know what he wants and how to get it. He wants her spirit and her energy because he wants a wife worth keeping. He tames her like he might a hawk or a high-mettled horse, and she rewards him with strong sexual love and fierce loyalty ... The submission of a woman like Kate is genuine and exciting ..."

And while we're at it, here's Germs on domestic violence: "It is true that men use the threat of physical force, usually histrionically, to silence nagging wives: but it is almost always a sham. It is actually a game of nerves, and can be turned aside fairly easily".

Ah, the Paddy and Germs show. It'll keep the kiddies giggling for decades to come about how it was in the old days.

Required reading
Greer, untamed shrew, By Christine Wallace, Picador, Sydney 1997
Sex and anarchy: the life and death of the Sydney Push, By Anne Coombs, Penguin, Australia 1996.

INCLUDED in Whispers from the mean streets -- Best of 1999

FREE downloadable PDF booklet.