Karl Marx was right about one thing. Throughout history, the ruling ideas of society have been the ideas of the ruling class. Thankfully, from the 18th century Enlightenment onwards they were essentially the right ideas: the advanced learning, technological progress, market economics and liberal democracy of Western civilisation.
But then, in a bizarre twist at the turn of the millennium, something changed. A new ruling class emerged with the wrong ideas, fanatically pursuing renewable energy, corporate wokeness, identity politics and cancel culture. Let’s call them the Bourgeois Left, this unholy alliance of corporate executives and wealthy political ‘progressives’ in the media, universities and parliaments. Their natural habitat is a Lisa Wilkinson/Red Pirate garden party where, over harbour views and the best-catered cuisine, they see themselves as saving the planet from climate change and saving oppressed minorities through identity politics and censorship. If only other political views were blotted out and the ignorant, bigoted working class would learn from the wonderment of Peter FitzSimons’ many predictions.
Recently a friend fighting the culture wars told me he was so depressed by our situation he was ready to retire down the coast into a library annex, spending the rest of his days re-reading the classics of English literature. I responded, ‘Why are you so pessimistic? The new ruling class and their ruling ideas only have the support of: Big corporations, all universities, most school teachers, the ABC/SBS, most commercial media, new activist websites, the Greens, Labor, the left-wing of the Liberal and National parties, federal and state bureaucracies, the indigenous and multiculturalism industries, the medical and legal professions and some church leaders. I assured him we could rely on a tight fighting cadre of resistance from: Sky New, conservative remnants of the Liberal party, One Nation and, most importantly, millions of Australians in the outer suburbs and regions who quite like the many achievements of Western civilisation.
Among the groups that have flipped to the dark side, the most intriguing on the list is the left-wing of the Liberal and National parties. How did these erstwhile conservative parties end up with dominant left-wing groupings, thoroughly dedicated to saving, among other species, solar-powered gay whales? Sitting through long nights in the NSW House of Landowners and Lords, aka the Legislative Council, I have had time to contemplate this unexpected phenomenon. It’s a case of what I call ‘externalised identity oppression’. Let me explain. For understandable reasons, gay MPs on the Coalition side have had trouble coming out. It’s not been seen as a conservative thing to do. They have struggled with coming to terms with their sexuality in public but thankfully, as social attitudes have improved, it is becoming more common and less stressful for the individuals involved.
Although the gays are just two per cent of the general population, they tend to be highly political people and more likely to find their way into parliament. Not that’s there’s anything wrong with that. Similarly, some female Coalition MPs have found public life to be tough, dealing with a traditionally male-dominated workplace and juggling the extra demands of work/family balance. In many cases, these personal experiences have had a transformative effect ideologically. A majority of gay and female Coalition MPs see themselves as progressive. They readily empathise with others who have had to fight for their rights and freedoms: the so-called minority groups of refugees, migrants, the LGBTIQ community and left-feminists arguing for ‘gender equality’. The perceived search for fairness in their own lives has bridged the formal party divide, carrying them into alliance with the Left.
It is often said that the most powerful faction in the NSW parliament is a cross-party working group of Liberal/National/Labor/Green identitarians. This is also true of corporate Australia. As affirmative action policies and employment quotas have propelled more women and gays into senior positions they, in turn, have employed more people in their own image – the runaway snowball of identity politics.
We should never underestimate the way in which individual feelings can reshape political outcomes. I first saw this in the life of Gough Whitlam’s Treasurer, Jim Cairns. Not that Cairns was female or gay. But he was deeply affected, personally and politically, by his mid-life struggle with sexual oppression. He was perhaps the first Australian MP to convert identity experiences of this kind into a political metamorphosis. Cairns was very close to his mother, who had had the misfortune of her husband (Jim’s dad) absconding to South Africa at the end of World War I. Jim’s wife Gwen was said to be like a mother figure to him.When Junie Morosi entered his life in 1974, it aroused in Cairns a sexual reawakening. He embraced ‘personal liberation’ philosophers like Kate Millett, one of the first writers to critique so-called patriarchy. Cairns joined what he described as ‘the revolt of youth against the masculine traditions of war and virility.’ In bed with Morosi, he discovered his tender side. Cairns junked the organised politics of class struggle, replacing it with a personal quest for sexual and natural freedom. Within a few years in the 1970s, he went from being Deputy Prime Minister to Australia’s oldest and best-known hippie. Who would have thought? Jim Cairns’ journey was a forerunner for the ideological transformation of Australia’s Liberal and National parties. They are all identitarians now.
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