Possum and the Victims of Political Correctness Inc.
was sitting at my favourite table by the window of the Brushtail Café
reading City Hub when I noticed an attractive well dressed blond
come down the lane. She stopped and pressed my office bell so I walked
across the lane, introduced myself and led her upstairs.
how can I help you?", I asked. Everything about her said Money.
She was a fine looking woman in her forties. Simple classical hairdo.
Simple classical gold earrings. She put a lot of money on her back.
Simple classical Double Bay suit (say, $1500). Simple classical $400
shoes. I could feel a simple $2000 fee in the offing. I get a bit of
this sort of work. Women will discuss things with possums they wouldn't
talk about to men (or even women).
feel horrible about this, but I'd like you to follow my husband. I suspect
he's ... seeing somebody".
makes you suspect, what are the signs?", I asked. "In my experience
these things often turn out to be some other problem the person is going
through". This wasn't actually true, but I find it's important
to defuse the situation if paranoia is on a roll.
he's become very mean, grumpy. He explodes over trifles. He's developed
a real obsessive hatred of my women friends".
perhaps also of Asians, gays, Koories, the unions, the unemployed, young
people, the ABC, judges, greenies", I ventured.
yes, but he was always very conservative, politically ... He's with
a newspaper you see".
"Perhaps it's just a case of Mad Columnist's Disease. Does he also
feel he's ..."
It's not that, I know there's something more". I could tell she
had made up her mind.
is there time you can't account for?"
nights. Every second Tuesday night. But also other times. He comes home
late. Says sometimes he had to go to a meeting but he never says of
what, and it's as though ... he's different ... as if some stress had
been lifted from him. But it only lasts a day. I want you to follow
him. I want to know".
face had a sad resigned quality. Did instinct tell her that behind the
veneer of success and status there was something she would never have?
"You'd better give me some more details about your husband",
it was that the next Tuesday evening I waited in the rain outside the
grim grey block on the edge of the city where the target worked. I had
no trouble with concealment. Homeless men are a fixture on the streets
there. I picked up an empty bottle of cheap muscat I found on the pavement
and slumped against the wall, pretending to be asleep. Twenty minutes
passed, and the target emerged.
followed him up the hill towards the city. He was nearly sixty and seriously
overweight so he moved slowly. I had been shocked when I learned his
name. It was not a nice scenario. I didn't read his column much, never
listened to him on the radio, so I went down to the library and looked
back over the last 30 years of his stuff, to get a feel for the case.
was pretty much the average for a Sydney pundit: he'd been a fair-weather
dope-smoking lefty in the sixties but he slipped effortlessly to the
right in the seventies and eighties. By the early nineties he was a
full-blown free market fundamentalist extolling a glowing consumerist
future in which history would die and we would all become just the sum
of our shopping. But now his world was disintegrating ... currencies
and stock markets were crashing, an ugly nationalism was on the rise,
there were millions of unemployed in Jakarta, the trade unions were
getting stroppy and the Spice Girls had broken up.
followed him down Elizabeth Street. He walked into the flash new hotel
opposite Hyde Park. It was the sort of place where a five foot eight
and a half inch possum in a grubby trenchcoat stands out, but I nodded
to the conscierge as if I knew him and strolled in. The target was nowhere
in sight so I sat down on the black leather lounge where I could see
he'd gone straight up to a room for a rendezvous with a woman I didn't
have much of a chance of finding him. Perhaps, after all, he was going
to a meeting. I flicked through the hotel brochure. There was a luxurious
conference room on the fourth floor. I decided to check it out. I got
into a lift by myself and went up.
the lift door opened it was screened from the room by an opaque glass
wall. I slipped out of the lift and looked around the edge. The room
was set out for a meeting. A few people were gathered around a heavily
loaded buffet table eating and drinking. My target was with them.
backs were turned so I walked casually across towards the only cover
I could see -- a fake Louis XVII dresser topped by a china vase from
which exploded an enormous dried flower arrangement. Concealed behind
it, a passageway led to the kitchen. I pushed open the door. It wasn't
waited behind the dried flowers. The lift door opened and out walked
Paddy McGuinness with Piers Ackerman and Dame Leonie Kramer. The room
started to fill quickly. The celebrated redneck poet, Les Murray, was
there with the Quadrant crowd. Frank and Miranda Devine drifted
in. Then came Ron Casey with what looked like Alan Jones. Stan Zemanek
turned up with Paul Sheehan, who was carrying a heavy cardboard box
full of books.
were not many women but Marlene Goldsmith arrived and I thought I recognised
Bettina Arndt. Helen Demidenko-Darville was on the fringe of the party
talking to a tall woman in a leather miniskirt, fuck-me shoes and fishnet
might have been fifty people. I did some rough calculations in my head.
I was looking at serious money. Their combined annual income was around
$15 million. If John Laws had walked out of the lift it would have jumped
to $27 million.
was still utterly mystified as to what could bring this crew together
when the chairman tinkled a small crystal bell to bring the gathering
declare the 48th meeting of the Sydney Chapter of the Victims of Political
Correctness Incorporated open", he announced. "There are apologies
from John Howard and Pauline Hanson. Unfortunately pressing engagements
have kept them in Queensland. In just a little while we're going to
hear an appreciation by Brother Paddy of Brother Paul Sheehan's new
book Among the Barbarians, but first I'd like to welcome a new victim
to our gathering. Brother Adrian has been victimised. He's the latest
to have his right to free speech attacked by the Political Establishment.
I'd like you to put your hands together for the Brother as he comes
up to tell us about his ordeal".
was a murmur of approval and a round of polite applause as Adrian made
his way to the microphone.
and Sisters ... " he began hesitantly.
we're 'Brothers', we don't have 'Sisters', in this organisation, Brother
... that reeks of the hegemony of PC. We won't have anything to do with
the Sisterhood here", interjected a columnist from the Daily Telegraph.
beg to differ with the Brother", said an elderly female academic.
"I'll overlook your use of the left-wing term 'hegemony', but I
must say the appellation 'Sister' has a long record of honourable use
in quite respectable organisations like the Loyal Order of Wives of
the British Empire and ..."
in the trade unions and the Catholic church", somebody else added.
on a second, what have you got against the church?", said a thin
mustachioed figure whose voice seemed oddly familiar.
of Bog Irish republicans and wogs", the Murdoch editor sputtered.
"What about Gerard Henderson and his wife? Irish Catholic feminism
with a conservative spin".
who are you calling a wog?", demanded a swarthy talk-back DJ.
please, some consideration for our speaker", the chairman said,
raising his voice above the din.
"I've just moved here from Adelaide and my friend Christopher Pearson
know I'll be in trouble for saying this, but Pearson is a poofter. Are
you a poofter too?" asked a tense, florid, white haired man seated
in the back row.
and murmers of disapproval gusted around the room.
I hardly think such terminology is called for", Adrian said.
that, the florid man lurched towards Adrian. "PC! PC!" he
screamed, "You won't let us say what we want to. Censorship! It's
the Jews! The Jews are using the Abos and the poofters and the greenies!
Locking up the land. Cheap imports. The yellow hordes are upon us! They
took my guns! I fought for this country and now They won't let me evict
possums from the ceiling!".
chairman stood up and tinkled his little bell but everyone was yelling
at once and nobody noticed. Adrian grappled with the florid man and
they fell among the seats. All hell broke loose. My target started swinging
wild punches at the bloke beside him. A champagne bottle spun across
the room and crashed against the wall behind me.
think it was Paddy McGuinness I saw, standing like a grim prophet in
the midst of chaos as the fighting surged around him. He was bellowing
slogans mustered from some deep leftist archive of the memory: "Brothers!
This is what they want! Only with unity will we overcome the tyrants!
We must have unity around our demand for tolerance and free expression!"
melee subsided in a litter of upturned chairs, broken glasses, truffles,
tiger prawns and soiled copies of Among the Barbarians. The Victims
backed away from each other in small knots gibbering in low voices.
To my horror I saw the florid man staggering towards me. Perhaps he
mistook the kitchen door for the toilet. It was too late to escape down
the corridor but I remembered the adage Old Possum had taught me: "Bigots
are easily conned by their own prejudices". I slumped against the
wall and stretched out my paw. "Gibbit dollar boss, for an ol'
marsupial to buy a drink, gibbit dollar for an old grey possum, boss",
I said as he lurched around the dresser.
he muttered, reeling back, "There's an intruder, there's a fucking
possum here. Who let the bludger in ... call security".
fled into the kitchen but the back exit was locked and the Victims barricaded
the door to the conference room.
security arrived five minutes later and dragged me by the tail to the
lift. Most of the Victims averted their gaze but the florid man spat
chairman had reestablished order and Paddy was making kind remarks about
Paul Sheehan's book. "It will rapidly become the bible of the One
Nation party ... There is truth in every one of Sheehan's charges ...
they will rue the day that one first-rate journalist has been so angered
..." I heard him say as the lift doors shut.
goons hustled me through the foyer and threw me out into Elizabeth Street.
"Back up the tree, possum", one of them sneered, "Don't
bother coming down while your balls are still above your dick".
saw your face at Port Botany before you pulled your balaclava on ...
You had your partner on a leash back then ... I'll tell my wharfie mates
where you work, arsehole", I said.
lifted a can of capsicum spray to my face but he fumbled with the button
and I ducked around a taxi and limped across the street to the park.
pulled the Nikon out from my trenchcoat pocket and examined it under
the harsh glare of the street lamp. Despite having been bashed around
in the encounter it was OK. I moved into the shadows and waited.
An hour later, the Victims drifted out of the hotel and started to leave
in taxis and limousines. My target emerged. I watched through the viewfinder
as he stopped near the door to talk with the tall woman in the miniskirt
and the fishnet stockings. I squeezed the button and took a dozen frames
before he jumped in a cab.
hunch about Mad Columnists Disease had been right all along. I called
his wife up and asked her to come over.
searched her face as she slid elegantly into the chair opposite me.
It was a kind, decent face. It seemed to be free of ego, or greed or
envy. What did she really fear? What did she want?
saw myself standing in court giving evidence in a ghastly celebrity
divorce and I wanted no part of it.
I spread the prints out on my desk.
followed him to this hotel. He went to some sort of, ah, meeting there.
He was there for a couple of hours. He walked out with this woman. I
dunno, dunno ... she's another, ah, journalist ... writes about sexual
politics, mostly. I've got to be objective. You wouldn't hang a dog
on that evidence. I can't help you interpret this."
god, it's probably only another affair", she said sadly, "My
worst fear was that he'd got mixed up with the Victims of Political
sensual moment with Alan Jones
was sitting at the bar with Joadja watching a current affairs show about
the New Guinea tsunami disaster when a couple of boys from the local
private school came into the café.
a raffle ticket to help the victims, Sir?" one of them said, holding
a book of tickets expectantly.
not?", I said. "What do I win if my number comes up?"
prize is this great CD set: Alan Jones Presents: Inner Peace, Dinner
for Two, Sensual Moments. They sell for thirty dollars". He
handed me a shrink-wrapped pack of three CDs.*
thought I had misheard him so I turned the pack over and an involuntary
shudder ran right down my spine to the tip of my tail. There, smiling
out of the packet, was Alan (The Parrot) Jones. According to the blurb
he had selected the music himself.
I dunno", I said. "I've never been one for Alan Jones. I mean,
I can't really see Alan bringing me Inner Peace."
I'm not sure if dinner for two or a sensual moment with Alan would be
my cup of tea either", Joadja muttered.
your case Jo, neither would be a likely option", I said.
the hell, I thought. The prize isn't their fault. A couple of bucks
for a good cause.
anyway, it's great that you're doing this for those poor people",
I said. "They'll need all the help they can get to rebuild their
lives after that terrible tsunami".
looked a bit bewildered. "Aw no, it's not for that", the other
said. "It's to help the Victims, the Victims of Political Correctness
rolled her eyes and departed in the direction of the kitchen.
fumbled around in my pocket pretending to look for some change and didn't
find any. "Sorry, must have left my wallet back at the office",
I mumbled. "Why don't you pop down to the News Limited building?
The Victims are well regarded down there, You'll sell lots of tickets".
eyed me suspiciously and turned to go. "Anyway, what's second prize?"
intimate dinner with Alan Jones."
luck ... I won't ask you what third prize is", I said.
*$29.95 at Braschs.