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Last updated on August 6th, 2017 at 05:46 am
“We’ve talked too much about politics,” says the Australian author Richard Flanagan towards the end of our rambling five-hour discussion of his latest book.
Five hours with Flanagan; five whole hours. You’d rather spend five hours sucking laundry. Naturally, peacenik Flanagan is a fan of Jew-hating random shooter David Hicks:
The politics are there in the first three words. In the dedication – “For David Hicks”, the Aussie drifter who has spent five years in Guantánamo Bay.
And the Left keep telling us they “support Hicks’ rights, but not Hicks the man.”
The novel itself deals with another – fictional – drifter, Gina Davies (aka “the Doll”), who has a one-night stand with a small-time drug runner from the Middle East. He gets fingered as a terrorist suspect and when he is killed, the Doll, guilty by association, becomes public enemy number one – hounded by the media, betrayed by friends, the victim of dirty tricks by spooks eager to ratchet up the state of alert, a useful pawn for politicians.
Sounds great. Can’t wait to burn it.
The Unknown Terrorist, full of disconnected, lonely, angry, desperate people, is an urban book, centring on a lurid Sydney of beggars, crooks and strip joints …
Hey, that’s why I moved here!
He has set out to write a thriller, but after the thrills have subsided, the meaning – that we get the politicians and the world we deserve; that we have allowed the “war on terror” to be used to undermine freedom and oppress the marginalised – remains.
Well, there’s a bonus.
I finished the book close to midnight and slept very badly, fretting over my part in the Doll’s fate.
Why? Did the reviewer think he’d be sent to Dolltanamo Bay?
“I’m sorry about that,” says Flanagan when I mention my post-book depression. “I wanted to make a mirror to what I felt Australia had become. I think it is a pretty bleak country at the moment. It was a land of such hope and possibility when I was younger, and in the past couple of years, like a lot of Australians, I’ve ended up feeling ashamed of what it had become.”
We can’t be that bad; after all, we did produce idealistic drifter hero David Hicks.
“But we can’t blame governments or parties or politicians; we have to accept in the end it was we as a people who happily went along with this. There was a loss of empathy. I don’t know where that comes from. We’re a migrant nation made up of people who’ve been torn out of other worlds, and you’d think we would have some compassion.”
Australia has “torn people from other worlds”? I guess that explains all those damn Martians.
[Flanagan] sense[s] that the world in which he grew up in the 1960s – founded on the family, social cohesion and a sense of all being in it together – has been replaced by one characterised by social dislocation and obsessive materialism.
A white picket fence Leftist! They’re surprisingly common; having spent the 60s railing against family and order and societal monoculture, now they want it back again. Although Flanagan wasn’t a 60s radical, being only eight years old when the decade ended. He evidently wants to return to his childhood.
“We’re obsessed these days with believing that the answer is always individual, that it lies in ourselves. This takes every form of madness from self-help manuals to step aerobics, and is always about improving yourself. But the reality is, it lies in other people and making connections with them, yet it is a world where it’s ever harder to make those connections.”
Flanagan has just flown all the way to London to spend five hours talking to a stranger, and he’s complaining about how difficult it is to make “connections”.
He spent time in Sydney researching The Unknown Terrorist and describes it as a Martian might …
He’s ONE OF THEM!
“In Australia,” says Flanagan, “we have a whole spectrum of media commentators who consistently argue that things like national security demand that individual freedoms be truncated, and we’re also constantly told there are needs and necessities of the nation that mean there are limits on the truth.”
Some details would be nice. Care to name the “whole spectrum of media commentators” demanding limits to individual freedoms, mate?
Wasn’t the dedication to Hicks, who had links with al-Qaida and the Taliban, needlessly provocative? “To train with al-Qaida prior to 2001 is a different thing than to go and train with them now,” says Flanagan.
Prior to 2001, they were training for peace.
“One can understand how people like him might end up there. You don’t have to agree with them, and I don’t. I have a friend who died in the Bali bombing. I don’t support the murder of innocent people anywhere by anyone, but what really matters is truth and individual freedom, and when those things start coming under such heavy attack as they have in recent times, then people should be very disturbed. All around the west you see the language of Stalinism being invoked. ‘There are things that matter more than individual freedom’ – that was the language of Stalinism. Well, there is nothing higher than individual freedom.”
A few minutes ago Flanagan was whining about individualism – “We’re obsessed these days with believing that the answer is always individual, that it lies in ourselves” – and urging some vague kind of connection-based collectivist society. Now he’s on an individualist bender. Let’s conclude with Flanagan’s terrorism remedy:
“The danger for western societies at the moment is that we seek to protect ourselves by creating and feeding difference, and by making people feel alienated, and that it’s not possible to share with other human beings the possibility of being fully human. The best defence we can offer against evil and the possibility of terrible, murderous acts is by letting people back in. Then the appeal of a death cult starts to evaporate.”
Mohamed Atta and his pals were let in to the US. Incredibly, the appeal of a death cult didn’t evaporate at all.
UPDATE. Henry Rosenbloom is another Leftist who supports Hicks the man:
For my money, David Hicks is our alternative Australian of the Year …
Powerless, voiceless David Hicks has proven he is a genuine little Aussie battler.
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