Date: Mon, 30 Oct 1995 12:01:28
From: Gil Hardwick []
Subject: Rindos & foreign academics again . . .

In The Weekend Australian Review section Oct 28-29 1995, there is a feature article head-lined _The Vanishing_. It purports to investigate the fate of Rindos in the aftermath of his "clash of the Titans" with Professor Sandra Bowdler.

It cites correspondence from former deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Robert Parfitt; "To my knowledge he is a sound academic who behaved professionally at all times . . . the whole sorry episode is bringing the State into disrepute."

Let's have a look further into this, shall we?

Sandra Bowdler's supporters counter with the claim that she had had to climb up through the academic ranks the hard way, and of course ended up with a jagged personality in the wake of such an egregiously unwarranted life experience.

I must say here that I can understand and identify with that myself, quite regardless of whether I like her or have had anything much to do with her at all.

The facts are that the University environments here in Australia are dominated and controlled by rigidly hard-core fundamentalists who had even gone so far as to have the Head of one of the Sydney colleges convicted of heresy. They have been running this place since the days of the NSW Rum Corps, and see the rest of us yet as nothing better than "convict stock". It is only in the past generation or so that we have been able to stop the bullying, the beatings, and the streaming along class lines in our schools, but the backlash continues.

We are not subject to any academic freedom here, nor any right to think freely, nor opportunity to engage in any open intellectual debating or public fora in any form, whatsoever. We live constantly under threat from lawyers employed by unknown faceless, academics, bureaucrats and censors as far as I am able to determine associated with fundamentalist controllers of our entire intellectual, spiritual and material life.

It is perhaps worse for someone like me, deemed to represent good cause for suspicion because of my family background; themselves pressured to comply with the orthodoxy for six full generations here in this country and only able to get away with their free-thinking because they lived so far out on the Western Plains, and had carried with them an intellectual rebelliousness and contempt for the "Scribes and Pharisees of this world" as my Aunties used to say, dating back to the Hugenots. But because we are neither "working class", copping it from them too.

Persistently we have these foreign scholars and academics parachuted in to our institutions of learning, such outrageous practice defended with deference to something called "international reputation", and threats of "loss of prestige" were we to lodge any protest.

While on the ground we Australian citizens are subject to unrelenting ostracism, violence and abuse, and pressured as unrelentingly to find work in factories up in the city on wages so we can pay our taxes to support all this domination of our lives by people we don't even know.

I will not!

The Rindos/Bowdler Affair is only symptomatic of the appalling state of Australian intellectual life. It is clear that Rindos among quite a large number of others BTW made the biggest gaff of his life in coming here new, with no feel for the situation here whatsoever, and then going out of his way to expose people here to even further risk; people already battle-hardened and cynical over their lifetime of struggling to win for themselves and their fellows the most basic human rights to an education and a place in their own society.

Of course people everywhere forced to cope with such circumstances will retreat into solidarity against any perceived threat. I have to face it myself during every minute of my daily field-work practice, while at once being subject to exactly the same thing myself. With no rights to access academic resources even though I am myself formally a member of the campus community by virtue of my Honours degree, and no rights to defend myself or seek to obtain recognition.

We are nothing more than the professional scapegoats of the society, forced to go in and fix a situation which has got out of hand before outright violence erupts in the wake of bureaucratic arrogance and academic incompetence, while at once being set up to take the blame in the aftermath.

What Rindos did to his colleagues was to break ranks and rock the boat in the most egregious manner, claiming with others grounds based on their own ideological notions of "academic freedom" and "intellectual innovation", instead of acknowledgement of the substantial reality of people's lives.

He is supported publically by foreign "distinguished scholars", who themselves as I understand it have no appreciation of the conditions here. The pattern of their behaviour is consistent with that of every colonial master preceding every war for independence throughout this century.

Demanding that people comply with even temporarily unattainable ideals; worse, ostracising and punishing them the moment they fall short, is not the way to solve these sorts of problems. One might have thought that the British and the Americans had learned something about dealing with "Third World" and "undeveloped" countries by now.

By kowtowing to foreign powers our every institution has betrayed us. For the sake of these foreign "distinguished scholars" who apparently feel free to interfere with Australia's internal affairs as absentee authority, with no reference whatsoever to our own real situation here, and insulated from the consequences of their actions we here have to live with daily, we are offered nothing better than the most marginal of residual colonialism in place of a sovereignty, a culture, and an integrity of our own we can live with ourselves.

Oh well, while we are forced into this situation and systematically denied education and a right to participate in our own society, then the option is civil disobedience. So long as the major world colonial powers decide to come after us, then it is war. But they know that already.

Because they have not actually moved against us beyond cutting us out of normal communications with the rest of the world and keeping us here on the dole instead while we work to keep the shambles from degrading into utter chaos, we are stuck right now in this hiatus between civil disobedience and civil war.

For most people here the "State" has ceased to exist as a meaningful part of their lives, while the Universities sink into the most profound malaise and disillusion, and the pollies are represented as nothing more than puppet fools mouthing at best hollow promises, and at worst vicious slander against one another.

Just know that the moment the next fool decides to cause problems for us, it will be on all over again. Just know that stripping the entire continent of resources just to support all these alien (and alienated) academic ghettos perched precariously about our coastline, is not going to ease the underlying festering resentment of the society as a whole.

Those few of us struggling to hold it all together have to be spending enough of our time as it is putting out the fires, and trying to keep things going well enough to allow our own children at least something of a chance in life, but next time it might no be so easy to manage.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "A generation has arrived which happily seeks out Norman Lindsay ... because in our drab and dangerous march to nowhere he is that rare, wonderfully reassuring and luminous event, a genius; perhaps the only authentic genius Australia has ever had." Godfrey Blunden 1968