Thursday, 3 April 2008

George Megalogenis is in Melbourne writing for The Australian, which dubs him "resident nit-picker". My creative treatment (pic) is not representative of the man, who is only visible online (except in print) with a single image.

Yet he's there, picking nits and writing dry columns about everyday politics and, occasionally, a book on dry, day-to-day politics (I've found two, but there may be more). In other words, he's not my cup of tea.

Just look at the photo (untouched here)...

From the rumpled grey suit to the routine tousel of hair, and from the inexpensive blue shirt to the bits of black, wiry hair sticking out at the top, Megalogenis' visual persona is unthreatening, routine, run-of-the-mill, laid-back. But polite. A good boy who is just doing his job. A guy who goes out of his way to fit in.

Not a loner. Not a fanatic. Not a disturbed individual. No chip on these shoulders, ladies and gents. (Possibly dandruff, but that's a matter for him and his significant other.)

Yet, suddenly, Megalogenis has put his finger on an item of publc concern that a work friend brought to my attention some two years ago, and that I've seen spruiked about in a haphazard fashion: we're sick of the old left-right thing. It's so gone.

But Megalogenis still gives the "culture warriors" an ear. In a column from yesterday's Australian Literary Review, I can pick out several points I fully concur with. In a column with this topic, that's a rare accolade. Naturally Robert Manne is here (he edited Dear Mr Rudd: Ideas for a Better Australia, Black Inc), but Megalogenis does not subscribe to the stale, orthodox, inner-city narrative of decline that Manne and his followers have been putting about like a flock of Chicken Littles, this many-a-year.

He highlights the "level of complexity" that operates in our public sphere, and bolsters this notion pointing to three "established mainstreams":

  • The traditional white male
  • the tertiary-educated woman, and
  • the Australian-born children of immigrants

As if they were all equal in influence!

Melbourne seems to foster wog journos. The Herald has Mary-Ann Toy now on the ground in mainland China, replacing Hamish McDonald, who returned to Sydney last year. She's from the southern capital, too.

Apart from these two, however, there's frankly few options for your average wog living somewhere in the suburban heartland of Sydney. Lakemba, say, or Blacktown. Perhaps Quakers Hill. (They've all gone from Leichhardt and Marrickville, just as they left Paddington, when the pickings got good.)

"[T]he pots and the kettles create a din that most Australians ... close their ears to." The suburban wog closed his (or her) ears decades ago, and tried to mingle with the mainstream without (a) looking foolish or (b) destroying self respect.

Meanwhile, we see blondes on TV as though they were the majority. The stats must be there, somewhere (I'm too jaded to look them up). In the media, too, 95 per cent of journos are Anglos. Not because they're smarter, but because they can bully the wog and feel superior (crypto ethno-triumphalists to the last).

Years and years of slights, missed romances, misspelt names, an eternity of frustration that builds up like piles of lego in a three-year-old's bedroom. Step on them and you feel pain.

It's part of Australian culture, and has been since the White Australia Act hit Hansard in 1901. Six year later, women got the vote (not all of them, mind), but your Oz-born wog is still waiting for equality.

I'd better stop. Megalogenis thinks that the average Australian can "spot the ideologue". I fear reprisals at the tuck shop. Ginger Meggs is alive and living in Leumeah.

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