FREE SPEECH Judith Curry kicks off the new semester in US universities with a roundup of items related to free speech.
Jeremy Sammut on a collection of papers on “Australian exceptionalism” edited by William Coleman. Interesting to compare this with the collection Australian Civilization circa 1960 edited by Peter Coleman. For the editors introduction go to the Peter Coleman room in the guest accommodation in the Rathouse.
Peter referred to the suggestion that there was a turning point in the 1930s when Australia could be said to have come of age. Examples of this maturity include the expansion of the CSIRO, systematic recruitment of graduates to the Commonwealth public service, the cultural patronage of the ABC, the expansion of the Commonwealth Literary Fund, the Federal Govt decision in 1938 to take Jewish refugees and the establishment of a board to review the “crude and philistine” censorship policies. He noted the expansion of industry at a great rate, the formation of a Contemporary Art Society, the penetration of key unions by the Communist Party and the start of the National Secretariat of Catholic Action.
The notion that important things happened in Australia before the Advent of the Whitlam Experiment is a poke in the eye for the myth of the “cultural cringe”, much loved by leftwing cultural commentators, and decisively shredded by the late Hume in an important and detailed demolition job.
Public policy apart, there are all manner of myths abroad that undermine the vigour of our social and intellectual life. One of the most pervasive of these is the subject of this essay by the late L. J. Hume. The notion of the Australian cultural cringe is one of the great cliches of our times. According to legend, the humble colonials of yesteryear were “inert, deferential and passive’ before the great overseas powers, especially Britain, but this dismal state of affairs changed for the better during the 1960s, or perhaps with the accession of the Whitlam Government in 1972. Hume’s painstaking analysis of the legend is fascinating and devastating, revealing a tapestry of ignorance, selective quotation, and misreading of documents.