"Just as Suez followed Anthony Eden into retirement, so Iraq will follow Tony Blair".Hard to argue with that. I was living in London when Blair came to power. I remember the excitement attached to his New Labour agenda after years of stifling Conservative rule. Blair inherited a delicately-poised Northern Ireland peace process which now appears to have delivered lasting peace. His efforts to reform the House Of Lords and other anachronistic relics of Empire, while not going as far as some might have wished, have certainly exceeded what most would have thought possible twenty years ago. But all that matters for nothing against the hundreds of thousands dead in Iraq, the resultant growth of militant Islam, the loss of British money and prestige, and the further destabilising of the Middle East.
Singer Bryan Ferry was recently forced to apologize after praising the quality of Nazi iconography:
"The way that the Nazis staged themselves and presented themselves, my Lord! I'm talking about the films of Leni Riefenstahl and the buildings of Albert Speer and the mass marches and the flags - just fantastic. Really beautiful."Who cares, right? Any such achievements pale into nothing when stacked up against the horrors of the Holocaust and the battlefields of WWII. In fact, it's impossible to derive any lasting pleasure from watching old Nazi parades and rallies, because it's impossible to separate such events from the horrors to which they led.
I think Howard's legacy will depend very much on where Australia goes from here.
If, fifty years from now, we Australians find ourselves living in a militant Fascist state, then I suppose John Winston Howard will be remembered as a hero who resurrected our glorious war machine from the dusty debris of the Menzies era. If rampant corporate globalization leads us to a future where affluent Western societies like Australia have successfully locked developing countries into industrial and agricultural servitude, then I suppose Howard's economic policies will hailed as visionary. If we find ourselves in a Police State where citizens of an entrenched underclass end up doing forced labour in penal colonies, then I suppose Howard's industrial reforms will be remembered as well-intentioned but a bit too soft.
If, on the other hand, we can take our country back and resurrect the real meaning of old Australian values like mateship, tolerance, equality, and a fair go for all, then maybe history will judge Howard more harshly. If we can reclaim our place as a responsible global citizen, take the lead on global warming initiatives, help restore the tarnished image of International Law, and serve as a beacon of hope and decency for less fortunate citizens of the globe, then perhaps Howard will be remembered for what he truly is: a pustulent symptom of our society's enduring class and privilege divisions, a willing accomplice in the corporate rape of our global resources, an immoral, power-obsessed worm of a man, and a War Criminal.
Mind you, mothers are still buying Michael Jackson CD's for their kids, so who knows? It's a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world, and maybe the moral values that once existed no longer apply.