Hicks: Still there. Still not laughing

Back in 2003, Federal Liberal MP Sophie Panopoulos (now Mirabella) was keen to see that Australian “terrorist” David Hicks “paid for his crimes”.  
Her eagle eye had spotted that Hicks’ father Terry was trying to beat up sympathy for his son.

In an attempt to attract sympathy, Hicks’s father told the media this week that his son had lost his sense of humour and weight while in Guantanamo Bay.

No doubt Sophie had a good laugh at that.

Today we learn that David Hicks has not just lost his sense of humour,   but has also lost his mind.

During the last family call in July, Hicks had trouble speaking and was incoherent for almost 30 minutes, Mr Hicks said. “The first half an hour of that phone call was absolutely terrible,” Mr Hicks said.

Sophie Mirabella is not returning calls, so the fate of her sense of humour is unknown

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Graham Bell
Graham Bell
17 years ago

When ex-soldiers, with experience of insurgency, like Major Tinley – and me – call for the return of David Hicks to Australia, you really have to wonder why a bunch of people who have never had any military service at all, who have demonstrated time-and-time again their complete ignorance of terrorism and revolutionary warfare, continue to make fools of themselves with ridiculous claims of some sort of special knowledge about detainee David Hicks.

Only the stupid and the gullible would even half-believe the Howard-Ruddock load of cobblers about David Hicks, so, what purpose is served by persisting with a pack of obvious lies?

The most important casualties in this whole scandal are not David Hicks or the Australian Defence Force, both have been harmed …. nor John Howard and Phillip Ruddock, both of whom, sooner or later, will have to face justice over this mess.

No, the ones who have already suffered the most lasting damage are all the Australian journalists who failed to ask obvious questions, who neglected to follow leads, who were too timid to challenge manifest bullsh*t served up to them and chose to follow the Party Line. Nobody can ever, ever trust what they see on the “news” (wtf??) again.

17 years ago

Rex, the term ‘arc of intolerance’ is a good one. I think you’re on to something with this:

I think there’s been a political trajectory. An ‘arc of intolerance’ that commenced perhaps in the days of Pauline Hanson, but was made official by the Tampa episode. Followed in rapid succession by 11/9, Bali, Afghanistan, Iraq, Madrid, London etc.

And I think you’re on to something with this comment, only that it appears to me hidden in it:

All of these events have allowed our government to stoke a climate of distrust, if not fear, principally directed at Muslims, and enthusiastically embraced and promoted by media bastards

While the roots of intolerance can be debated endlessly, it’s clear the current government has invoked intolerance for political effect. Hence, I would suggest that it is in fact the current government which has “allowed” people to feel comfortable expressing themselves, or defining themselves, in terms of intolerance.

Over at Catallaxy, here’s Rafe describing ‘classical liberal agenda’:

The classical liberal agenda is not supposed to make people happy, to be a substitute for religion or to create heaven on earth. As Novak pointed out, it merely promises freedom from material want and political oppression.

It’s a good piece there and with more time would be enjoyable to explore, for now, though, it serves to highlight a difference of understanding of human nature, and the effects of the current government’s ideological agenda.

What that description shows is a lack of accountability for what the neo-liberal agenda (to which the author also accords the description) creates in terms of the effects on the human condition. There is a further definition and a consequence there by ommission. This seems to me to cut to the centre of differences between what is commonly termed the ‘right’ and ‘left’.

What is ommitted is an acknowledgement that there is an impact on the individual and his or her relationship to other individuals that goes beyond that description. That means there is an impact on human relationships and behaviour. That impact is hidden in the idea of a small government. Subscribers to the current government’s belief is that the government is not responsible for any such impact: it’s the individual’s responsibility, as part of the individual choice offered them.

Part of that subscription is to look at those (whom they regard as ‘left’ and ‘soft left’) who acknowledge the human component built into that form of governing and, very often, dismiss that acknowledgement as being somewhere ‘way over there’ distanced from reality. To them, they can prove their reality in quantifiable terms, so they believe they have a monopoly or truthful embrace on it.

But the human condition is organic. It is affected by things not so easily quantified, yet potently real.

Examples are abundant. A classroom: where the teacher comes prepared not just with a curriculum to enact, but with a considered understanding of the nature of each of her constituents. Inspired, she ushers forth through the year not only that agenda but a silent agenda which speaks to each person and sets the constituent alive on the path to a deeper personal enrichment. She does this through suggestion, through an establishment within the classroom of a more subtle form of energy which works its way through and into the pores of the constituent’s mind and heart.

Or: another teacher, cold, harsh, callous. She establishes the curriculum and does so with no further regard. The messages the constituents get is they’re allowed to be cold, harsh, callous.

A football or netball or swimming team: taught by the academic coach, him going by the book, statistics and calculations the go. Another: his very presence gives off a certain, unquantifiable energy which reaches into that individual or team and uplifts their spirit.

In all cases an agenda – the same agenda – was enacted. But with one there was an acknowledgement that the human being is affected by subtle messsages. And that the individual – and their relationships in the broader sense at least – grow and are enriched by that.

Nut it back to remove any romanticism and it’s still a matter of two different styles, two different understandings of how people grow and succeed.

That humanity, that subtle understanding for what uplifts us in the complex human condition is what is missing from the current government. Remove it, reduce it to something like what Rafe has suggested, and there comes with that reduction an attendant removal of responsibility for when a person is compromised. To attend to that person becomes merely a matter of choice, governed by more quantifiable measure.

Wedded to our current government, to Mr Howard and Mr Ruddock, is Mr David Hicks, through that very thing. Discarding human rights is a matter of choice, of freedom, and they seem to secretly relish that, without an understanding of its wider social consequences.

Rex, the word “allow” is indeed a key word in this.

Dialogue between the so called ‘left’ and ‘right’ would be greatly enhanced by each side realising the value of the other. There is tremendous value in the quantifiable reduction of human principle, for its succession, and there is tremendous value in the unquantifiable qualities of potency as well. The untold lovely fact is that the two are not so far apart. A touch of humanity, a touch of that subtle understanding, can work wonders of itself.

This current government lacks that touch.

17 years ago

They also seem to lack a legal leg to stand on to charge this poor bastard. Can’t they just let the poor boy come home. All is forgiven. (What’d he do again?)

Graham Bell
Graham Bell
17 years ago


Rex Ringschott and Robert:
Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

I was indeed unfair to those journalists who did place the honour of their craft above any narrow selfish interests or any crawling. Sorry.

The political trajectory – the arc of intolerance – is an interesting concept. I think that when it does come down it will wipe out the present Liberal Party (with the survivors going to the Aust. Democrats, Labor, Greens and perhaps a libertarian or a business party).

One worrying aspect is that if, in future, we really do need strong, fair laws to hinder terrorists and agents of foreign governments and corporations intent on doing us grave harm, there will be such a massive and thoroughly understandable public reaction against any sort of counter-terrorist laws that evil-doers will have a free hand. In other words, Howard, Ruddock and their ilk have actually impaired our ability to fight terrorism because they have squandered so much public trust just for their own insignificant personal political schemes and whims and for their own personal advantage..

As for institutionalizing callousness and despising humanity in the conduct of government, I fear that it will take a couple of generations to eradicate that particular pest. Even after he has gone, Howard’s long-lasting legacy will be the brutalization of government so that it can reasonably be compared with much of that of the post-Stalin U.S.S.R. without the M.V.D. and K.G.B. troops.

Whoever he is and whatever he has done – or not done – the United States must surrender this Australian citizen to Australia immediately and in good condition. No Ifs Buts or Maybes, Now!

17 years ago

Robert I am in furious agreement.

Very interesting piece in todays Age by Christopher Scanlon that touches on the same theme.

Scanlon looks at Hanson’s original prescriptions for saving Australia, and notes that those original prescriptions have been fulfilled by Howard. It’s the same message, just packaged in a more palatable way by an experienced political machine.

Hanson’s political goals were achieved not by One Nation or its remnants, but by a smarter, more politically astute political outfit known as the Liberal Party.

If that sounds like an exaggeration, just note that the party that disowned her has now delivered on every single one of the substantive policies proposed in Hanson’s maiden speech.

Judging by Rudd’s recent articles in The Monthly, we have a completely new character on the political scene who seems to recognise how Howard has poisoned “community” in the process of delivering what he sees as “freedom to the individual”.

17 years ago

That is an interesting article, Rex, and a bit of a shock to hear the agenda tabled in Hanson’s maiden speech has been effectively fulfilled, when broached in those terms.

Rudd as you say is completely new, in very many ways. He could well be the man of our times, or somewhat made invisible by them. Somewhere in between more likely.

It’s difficult to get a fix on how the Howard Rudd battle will play out. On the one hand we have common sense telling us Howard can attack Rudd’s experience factor and that alone could prove enough to win again. And Howard makes the point that by the time the election comes around the IR changes will be so embedded that for Rudd to stand on current policy of ripping them up will simply alienate Rudd. Maybe Rudd will find a more sophisticated approach than Beazley’s.

But what I do like about the Rudd Howard battle is we may have at least something of a national debate about the Howard ideology – something Howard has been desperate to avoid, as it blows his cover of appearing as the average joe. If Rudd draws Howard out, the whole game changes. The public perception of Howard is altered dramatically. That’s where it could get interesting.

What happens then is a possible raised public awareness about the processes of our politicians and their parties: what drives them, where their private interests lay, what tools they use and what their real vision is – as opposed to the public vision-handout – those sorts of things, which could lift our nation’s political dialogue markedly. Spark up the press, too. (There is passing mention of some of these things, but overall the national debate has been dumbed and numbed horribly.)

And for younger people, who’ve only known Howard as PM and without comparison on how else it (big it, that) could be, there’s tremendous value in at least what Rudd is doing already: cutting through the Howard Handout and bringing back for the public something deeper, more real, behind it.