Man behind the curtain
I guess we’re all doomed

The great unwashed take charge


TUMBY BAY - I was very interested in art when I was at high school and in my final year visited an advertising agency as part of a school careers program.

It wasn’t a work experience program, just visits to places where people worked in careers that interested us. I was intent on talking to the commercial artists in the company.

Nothing came of it in the end. I had middling talent as an artist and, besides, Papua New Guinea beckoned, even at that early stage.

While talking to the advertising people and artists I heard for the first time the expression, ‘the great unwashed’.

The great unwashed is a pejorative expression and refers to people who do not have much money, or who lack a formal education.

In advertising parlance back then it referred to gullible people who could effortlessly be sold ideas and products.

This amorphous demographic is also beloved of politicians, because ‘the great unwashed’ are the people most easily conned into voting for them.

Former Australian prime minister Robert Menzies referred to them as ‘the forgotten people’. His erstwhile protégée, John Howard referred to them as ‘battlers’. Our current prime minister talks about ‘quiet Australians’.

The Labor Party equivalent was ‘hardworking families’ and ‘the working class’ but the connotation wasn’t as strident and derogatory.

In the USA, Hillary Clinton called the working class and uneducated who follow Donald Trump ‘deplorables’.

In one of her speeches, Clinton criticised Trump's campaign for using "racist lies" and "taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party”.

In Papua New Guinea an equivalent expression is probably something like ‘ol bus kanaka’.

Forgotten people, battlers, quiet Australians, hardworking families, deplorables and bus kanakas don’t really exist.

What does exist, however, are uninformed, gullible and, most of all, vulnerable and frightened people.

They are the people who gave Australian prime minister Morrison his unlikely election victory. They are the same people who gave Trump his unexpected victory. They are the same people who support Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party.

They are the same people in Papua New Guinea who allow their votes to be sold for money.

Morrison, Trump, Hanson and many politicians in PNG know how to indulge these people and stoke their fears and prejudices.

When the primary focus of a politician is to get elected no matter what, the great unwashed are too good to ignore.

Unfortunately, pandering to such a demographic doesn’t make for good government.

Policy based on people’s fears and prejudices inevitably leads to bad policy.

It is the sort of policy that seeks to cement the status quo. It is the sort of policy that cannot deal with change. It is head-in-the-sand policy.

Such policy demands a reactionary government. It demands policy inertia. It demands doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different outcome. It demands institutionalised racism, xenophobia and grocery store economics.

The politicians who rely on this demographic to get them elected are the same politicians who have trashed the image and reputation of a profession that, believe it or not, was once reasonably highly regarded.

Yes, politicians were once largely admired.

Mike Seccombe, writing in The Saturday Paper, described Morrison as “belligerent in rhetoric, authoritarian in tone, divisive in intent, unimaginative in vision, deceptive and insubstantial in content”.

That description would also fit many other current and past politicians. In PNG, Peter O’Neill and Bill Skate come to mind.

Honest politicians with high ethical values and ideologies stand little chance in such an environment. At best they are labelled ‘elitist’ and at worst ‘out of touch’.

What these labels actually mean is that they are people who are not prepared to be dragged down to the base level.

The politicians who capitalise on the ignorance and gullibility of the great unwashed are unfortunately in control at the moment.

They are dragging everyone and everything to the edge of an abyss.

What to do about it?


All that can be done is hang on for a wild ride.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

Bloody hell Roger! That's entirely tragic. How the hell did that get out. Tell your friends that Tumby is unfortunately closed for the rest of Summer. They'll all have to go to Port Lincoln.

Roger Simpson

As one of the great unwashed, Phil, I wonder if I would be entitled to a seat at Tumby Bay's French café (L'Anse) which is featured in today's 'Weekend Australian' newspaper.

Or is this eating establishment only for the washed?

Sounds a bit flash for the likes of Fitzpatrick - KJ

Philip Fitzpatrick

Em nau Paul. Tok yu bekim lauto tru.

"One of those checks and balances should be the free press. Yet even this establishment, it has been claimed, has been taken over and run by an increasingly partial monopoly."

A vast majority of the media preach to the converted. We know, for instance that most people who read the Murdoch press vote conservative. Some people read his rags to see what the bastards are up to but that is becoming increasingly difficult because of cost, most notably through pay walls on digital material. The other side read 'The Guardian' and 'The Saturday Paper' but similar problems exist.

Letters to the editor of 'The Australian' almost exclusively rant about how bad the Labor Party is and letters to the editor of 'The Saturday Paper' rant about how bad the Liberals are but to what avail are either effort if only like-minded people read their comments?

I rather like the quote that I read in a 1960s novel whose title I can't recall: "Some men lead and some men follow and some don't". I reckon that third category has a lot going for it.

Bernard Corden

Scomo is reminiscent of a shiny-suited Pentecostal pastor with a red Lamborghini delivering a soteriological sermon to a disparate flock of reformed smackheads at a dilapidated church hall opposite a gay sex on premises venue on a suburban Sydney industrial estate.

Please excuse the expression but he has made a right fist of the bush fire crisis and the sports rort scandal.

Paul Oates

What you are describing Phil is unfortunately, all too common. It's called human nature. The issue concerns the nature of power and how it corrupts.

In my latest written offering as you know, since you made a wonderful fist of editing it, I give an observation of how power is merely an ephemeral notion that can change those who are given this mantle, albeit sometimes in a temporary capacity.

Lord Gort observed that 'Power Corrupts. Great men are usually bad men.' The issue of how power corrupts is not easy to define since it depends on the basic personality upon which power may be bestowed.

Power is addictive and often leads to a desire to do anything to extend or increase it as its hold over the individual slowly but inexorably takes over.

Kiaps were mostly no different than anyone else but the system of postings was primarily designed to move occupants around so that if a problem was experienced with an individual, he was moved or asked to show due cause.

It was a bit like the old system of transferring ministers around between churches when I was young. It ensured there was no power base that could develop and you could at least get a good one every now and then and the sermons were new and varied.

The basic problem is nothing new and has been known of since recorded history. The only way human societies can try to advance despite this evolutionary plateau, is to have a number of independent checks and balances in place and rigorously followed.

One of those checks and balances should be the free press. Yet even this establishment, it has been claimed, has been taken over and run by an increasingly partial monopoly.

The Westminster system with its separation of powers tries to provide another check and balance and sometimes succeeds. Independent auditing is all very well if the reports aren't slanted in favour of those to whom the report is being provided to.

The basic flaw in any checks and balances is that humans are basically not interested or motivated in doing anything until a problem actually affects them personally. At that point, there is confusion about what exactly can be done about a problem since most have no idea what to do and simply follow the line of least resistance. This usually turns out to be someone with ambition to take over and do much the same things as was done before.

In some ways, it might be said that the Kiap system was better than many other systems. It provided for an accountable and responsible system of governing a country in often extremely difficult situations and isolated communities.

Could it be, with due reflection, that we actually had something practical evolve that was better than what we now have, and yet what evolved was spurned by those who could least afford to have it scrapped?

No wonder it seems, PNG history now being taught in schools, if indeed it is, starts with Independence in 1975.

Australian schools have also apparently turned their back of history in school curriculum's and what limited history is now taught includes very little of anything like what we used to be taught and examined on during the whole of our schooling.

Could it then be argued, that our young and now emerging generations are fraught with a lack of any substantial concepts or ideas beyond a concentration of their implied 'rights' under implied social engineering?

Could it be that those in power have intentionally ensured this diversion in thought process and have taken this step to ensure the status quo remains in power?

You've got be careful Phil, you might just start another revolution with your cynical and radical ideas.

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