Today on a day of unsurpassable spring glory my wife and I visited the onetime home of her maternal great-grandparents, Robertson in the southern highlands of NSW. Her great-grandfather, in fact, cleared much of the land later employed for extensive farming in that whole area and also built a small stone house – later greatly enlarged by Kerry Packer – in a road named after him: Pearson’s Lane. The valour and struggles of earlier Australians shine today like a lit beacon in a continent of ever-gathering, largely left-wing gloom. Thomas Edwin Pearson came originally from New Zealand and was heavily involved in the development of Pearson’s Sandsoap and Drizabone. Hard to get more historically Australasian than that.
Before we met, my wife and I both travelled and even worked extensively in communist countries during the Cold War: Latvia, East Germany, Poland, USSR, Georgia, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. Today the supposed wonders of communism are articles of faith in many Australian households if certainly not in ours. Amazingly, my wife’s late Dutch father even took his wife, a young Dutch nephew and his daughter on a round trip to Moscow involving a VW Kombi way back in 1965 when my wife was still a small child. No one was impressed by anything at all that they saw yet my previous employment by News Ltd. finally ended when a new arts editor claimed my views on art were worthless because they failed to be based on ‘Marxist analysis’. By now Australian culture may well aspire to being the least informed or sensible in the whole Western world. How in God’s name did that happen?
These days I often wonder increasingly what inspired me to come to Australia in the first place? The fairly unlikely answer is this: while still based permanently in the UK much of my leisure activity involved playing sport at a reasonably high level. Among the best and fairest opponents I met at cricket, squash and tennis quite a high percentage were Australians. Amid a long list of such adversaries I especially remember an epic contest at squash against an opponent who, like me, never ever gave up. When I asked him post-match why I had never seen him before he told me that until the previous week he had been playing for Port Moresby. Our particular match took place in the Cornish Super League. He and his young wife had just taken up an appointment as local pharmacists. Year of happening? Some time around 1978 – but it now feels more like a century ago. How would such enterprising and pleasant young Australians cope with present-day, semi-totalitarian Victoria? The origins of Covid-19 do not lie in this country and we should all feel immense sympathy to those who have suffered their effects. I was a child during World War II and did not see the end of food rationing until I was about 15. Now our world apparently faces imminent food shortages again which will only please those who apparently believe our planet is over-populated. Are such militant folk offering to cut down on all eating themselves? Forgive me if I doubt it. Hitler also thought our world was over-populated in certain specific ways but I doubt his causes are shared by any sane or democratic people anywhere today. The second world war ended only 75 years ago but global hostility is now increasingly in the air. Throughout the second world war millions of people prayed earnestly for its end all round our whole planet. Sadly in some countries people are not even allowed to pray any more of course so may only do so internally. Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle were adversaries during the war but wished to put their faith in the regeneration of Europe fairly on the shoulders of families rather than political theory as a basis for post-war European revival. Both were devout Catholics and it may not be so easy ever again to find vital European or other Continental leaders who emphatically share such a faith. Australia was surely founded by people who believed not necessarily in exactly the same thing but at least in something beyond mere politics.
Giles Auty 1934-2020
In recent years we have lost Brian Sewell, Roger Scruton, Robert Hughes and now Giles Auty, all articulate and valiant contrarians, resisting the destructive cultural militancy of post-modernism and leftist politics.
In 1994 I sought Giles out in London to invite him to give a speech at the Art Gallery of New South Wales as part of the lecture programme. I had been reading his column in The Spectator for years but I was surprised by the rancour and outrage his presence produced from the arts community in Australia. Even in those days opposition was barely tolerated.
Giles returned to Australia the following year to take up the position of national art critic for the Australian. He seemed to encounter opposition from all quarters. It didn’t help that he habitually made unflattering comparisons about Australian art and culture with what he believed were superior English examples. In Australia some regarded him as an arrogant ‘new chum’ – so be it.
Australia was lucky to have Giles Auty and with his witty intelligence he took aim at the cant, hype and destructive absurdities of post-modernism, neo-socialism, communism and bodies like the Australia Council for the Arts which he regarded as a Soviet-style institution. He continued to write in the same fashion here in Australia as he had in The Spectator in Margaret Thatcher’s England. Giles was yet another Englishman whose good sense and intelligence added immeasurably to the culture of the Commonwealth of Australia.
He died an Australian citizen.
-Tim Storrier, Bowral, Australia
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