29 May 2007

Leunig For PM

Michael Leunig, Australia's home-grown antidote to the proliferating misery of BushWorld, has published another exquisitely beautiful piece:
Some say things are getting so awful that they have stopped reading the newspaper because it's so depressingly full of bad news about the declining situation. "Ignore the media and turn back to the ordinary world," they say. Yet looking at the world around us; into the nooks and crannies and closets, can be even more devastating than looking at the Daily Bugle. Many choose to ignore both.
Leunig's prose verges on sheer poetry as he recalls an old trip to Far North Queensland:
When I was 18 (three six-year-old boys stacked on top of each other), I wandered one summer with a schoolmate and a canvas rucksack up the east coast of Australia to far north Queensland when it was a mystical dreamland and before it had a become a hyper tourist destination or a developer's stomping ground. There was not much traffic then and the main road north was unsealed for long stretches. We camped by the quiet roadsides and sometimes woke at dawn with mobs of cattle thundering around us and mounted drovers plying their whips and sooling their dogs.

What I saw as we wandered northwards along the beaches and small towns was a beautiful remnant Australia - more innocent and organic and far more slow and peaceful than the land we know today. Crumbling, yet luminous mental images remain to console and sadden me: a broad, shallow cove lapping into rainforest with indigenous families dragging nets at sunset, lizards and exquisite tree frogs clinging to hotel bars lit by dim bulbs, sugar towns being swallowed by flowering vines - the streets strewn with golden mangoes fermenting, enchanted architecture of lattice, tin and wood - delicately laced with peeling paint and richly jewelled with fireflies and butterflies - frangipani vapours and the slow, warm dripping of time in darkly rotting gardens - all engulfed in a deep, humble and intoxicating peace. Or so it seemed.
If you do only one thing today, go and read the full article, or print it off and give yourself a few moments to contemplate it in peace. Then share it with your friends and family.

Of course, such magic is anathema to some:
Unfortunately, in Leunig's case we have to assume the sentiment to be, at least in part, bogus. If Leunig really held such things to represent the good, then he would hold them to be good for all men, including his fellow "whitefellas".

We know, though, that he doesn't. Leunig typically presents the mainstream tradition not in terms of the sacred good, but as a uniquely evil manifestation of racism and xenophobia.
Bloody hell, what is wrong with these people?

When I was 18, I won the Dux for French in my final year of high school. The prize was a twenty dollar book voucher. I had to go buy a book, then bring it back to the school so the headmaster (a former Australian rugby star) could present it to me on stage. The book I bought was "The Second Leunig". I remember being very worried that I might get in trouble for my selection, which had nothing to do with French, and I remember my joyous sense of triumph when the book was finally presented to me in front of the whole school. Clearly, these people had no idea how subversive it was!