Sunday, April 03, 2005

Book Group Update - Not Happy, John

We had our Book Group meeting today at the usual fashionable cafe/bar in the Valley. At first we were really freaked out because we didn't have the usual sneering waiter. There was a new guy who kept coming over and asking us if we wanted drinks or food or anything. Thankfully, he got the hang of waitering after the first half hour and then totally ignored us. In fact, he was such a fast learner, that when I decided to order a glass of wine after an hour or so, I actually had to chase him down and subdue him with a wine list so I could order said glass of wine.

This month we read "Not Happy, John" by Margo Kingston. Most of you are aware of my painfully inept grasp of politics, so this book scared me at first. Margo Kingston is political journalist who (with the help of a few guest writers) documents the decline of democracy in Australia in language that most of us (that's me - the politically moronic) can understand.

Kingston wrote about the visit from George W. where our Parliament was temporarily occupied by a foreign power (he had his own security, his own journalists, his own photographers etc) and the Prime Minister tried to forcibly eject one of our Parliamentarians for asking an embarrassing question. She wrote about when the George and John show visited the National War Memorial and George W. laid a wreath for the first Australian soldier to die in combat since Vietnam and the soldier's widow and child were not invited to be present. Kingston also wrote a chapter about the laws surrounding the ownership of media. She gave a couple of excellent examples about what happens when journalists work is not published because of the editorial direction of the newspaper (which is controlled by the owner).

I thought it was a really good book. It was informative, easy to read, clearly written and carefully researched. It started off as a bit of a John Howard bash but she was pretty clear that it wouldn't matter which party was in power, both of the big parties have virtually indistinguishable policies anyway. She was really writing about the democratic responsibilities of the elected. In Australia, democracy has become the process of voting once every three years and then letting those voted in do, pretty much, whatever they want. Kingston's point was that this isn't democracy. Democracy is about equality and transparency not about hoodwinking the general public or making things so difficult to understand that you beging to feel like it is not worth the effort.

Anyway, if you are interested in knowing more about these kind of things, I'd whole-heartedly recommend this book. It's like an Australian, political version of "Fast Food Nation".


Blogger L said...

It's even scarier on this side of the world :(

10:29 am  

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