Sunday, September 16, 2007
Hugh Mackay, Australia’s most boring human, in July 2003:
We have shifted our gaze from the big picture to the miniatures of our personal lives and our local circumstances. We can’t get enough TV programs about backyards, cooking and interior decorating ...
It’s actually Hugh who can’t get enough about backyards. He’s been on a backyard bender for at least four years. November 2003:
The focus has turned inwards. Look at the behaviour of the television audience – we’ve more or less lost interest in news and current affairs and become obsessively interested in backyards! We can’t get enough lifestyle programs - programs about renovations and cooking and, literally, backyards.
According to Hugh, all of this backyard business has made us “more prejudiced” and “less tolerant”. I blame lawn furniture. February 2004:
They’ve taken their eye off the big picture and instead turned the focus inward. We’ve become in these early years of the new century a nation of self-obsessives. We’ve turned off current affairs programs on television and turned on backyard programs and home decorating programs and cooking programs. We can’t get enough of ourselves, our own lives, our own kids, our own backyard ...
The real reason airlines don’t provide metal knives these days? It’s so people stuck next to Mackay on a long flight can’t carve their ears off. October 2004:
Bedrock public opinion - the stuff that determines how people will vote - doesn’t change that quickly, especially at a time when people are in shut-down mode and preoccupied with their backyards and home renovations.
Which means they can’t think about anything else. All is shoved aside until the sufferer emerges from backyard monomania. October 2004:
I mean, things like house prices, things like the national obsession with home renovations and backyards, I mean, people would refer prefer to watch home renovation programs than current affairs programs on television.
Hugh said that while actually appearing on a current affairs program, which might explain our aversion to them. You’d rather watch your kid’s school be invaded by Chechens. November 2004:
We have fundamentally lost interest in news and current affairs. What we can’t get enough of is backyards, home renovations, lifestyle programs, which are of course all about turning the focus inward.
Always - always - the focus turns inward. It must turn no other way. March 2005:
In response, we have turned the focus inward, and concentrated on things that seemed to be within our control: backyards, home renovations ...
The current mood is characterised by disengagement - from politics, from current affairs, from social issues. Feeling daunted by a ‘big picture’ that seems beyond their control, they bring their horizons up close: me, the family, the backyard, the street, the school, the weekend, the holidays.
And, in Hugh’s case, writing his latest column about backyards. He’s probably financed an entire renovation from them. July 2005:
Many Australians have simply disengaged from the political and social agenda, preferring to focus on their own backyards where things may seem a little easier to control. We have become more interested in home renovations than nation-building.
The nation is already built, mate. Take a look outside; roads, shops, even electricity. August 2005:
We couldn’t get enough programs about backyards and home renovations because they helped us to keep out minds off the big picture and to focus on issues that reflected our growing self-absorption.
Rarely found in backyards: Hugh Mackay columns. Australians have worked this out and adjusted their behaviour accordingly. September 2006:
By the end of the decade, the really big programs were about backyards and home renovations. As the focus turned inward, we became quite backyard orientated, literally and metaphorically. We became attuned to programs that reflected that very narrow focus of interest because this was an aspect of their lives people could control.
Hugh spends nearly half a decade banging on about backyards and home renovations and has the nerve to claim others have a “very narrow focus”? January 2007:
We couldn’t get enough TV programs about backyards and home renovations, because that’s where our heads were. Our narrow, inward focus excluded the things we half-knew needed our attention ...
We turned away from news and current affairs and started watching shows about home renovations and backyard issues.
Something our social observer has missed, during his endless worry over news viewership and network lifestyle shows: Australians have lately taken to an invention called the “Internet”, which allows folk to access news from sources beyond those presented in lame TV broadcasts. Mark Steyn and Robert Fisk, journalists from opposite ends of the sanity spectrum, might illustrate this point. Neither has a vast Australian media footprint; Fisk sometimes appears on the ABC to make a fool of himself, and Steyn is occasionally published in The Australian. Yet when they tour here, they win great attention and play to large audiences.
Why might this be, Hugh? I’m guessing it’s because Australians - of various political persuasions - haven’t “turned away from news”. They’re seeking out Steyn and Fisk, among many others ... and they’re reading blogs, one or two of which might be considered influential. (More influential than Hugh, anyway, which isn’t saying much.) On Saturday, our man again rolled out his standard line:
Faced with the threat of international terrorism, we curled up into little balls of self-absorption. Faced with Iraq, we turned on the barbecue. Faced with bad news on TV, we switched to programs about home renovations and backyards.
But now, with John Howard way behind in the polls and Kevin Rudd poised to take power, Mackay senses a Great Awakening:
We’re shaking ourselves out of this torpor. Perhaps the unlikely combination of the water crisis and Work Choices frightened us into a new alertness.
There’ll be no renovations during Rudd’s reign. Backyards will be paved to prevent distraction from big major important issues, such as: what the hell is Hugh Mackay going to write about if backyards and renovations are off the table?
(More on Mackay from Andrew Bolt.)
UPDATE. Backyarder Jamie Durie joins the Cult of Al:
Not so long ago, television host Jamie Durie used to race around the clock to transform Australians’ backyards. Now he’s getting ready to join 169 other Australians in a race to transform the planet, with a little help from former US vice-president Al Gore.
Currently filming in the US, Durie said he was “absolutely over the moon” to be selected for the training ...
“Over the moon”, eh? Well, wherever the comet takes you, friend.