By Travis Shueard
‘When I went there, I did not think to have done this. But perceiving the spirit of God so strong upon me, I would not consult flesh and blood.’
Oliver Cromwell, on his forcible dissolution of parliament in April 1653
‘Nothing is as obnoxious as other people’s luck’ wrote J. Fitzgerald as he no doubt simmered in envy at those who lived with far more opulence than he (I’m still convinced that he wrote The Great Gatsby after being spurned at a 1920s razzamatazz party for his cheap suit). I can relate this to the wonderful and glorious sins that are lust and envy with no difficulty.
If there are two things that get my loins girded, it is politics and history. When I say loins girded, I mean a crushing heat in my lower abdominal, groin area that sends me positively randy at the idea of ancient civilisations or the legalised treason that is politics.
Whether it is the Spartan ‘phalanx’ formation of 300 fame with that ball-heating air of imminent violence, or the teeth-grinding years of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd merry-go-round that made me wonder how so many other countries got it right, politics and history to me are the ultimate expression of lust and envy.
I lust for an expression of female dominance like Queen Elizabeth I. I lust for the proto- pornography that was Cleopatra and Marc Antony’s love affair. I lust for stable, strong and meaningful leadership in the country that be Australia. I lust, like an 18-year-old at Reds on a Saturday, for our own Alexander the Great to take us, with principle and strength, into the 21st Century with a modicum of respect and dignity, without treating the office that is our Prime Minister like a personal play thing.
Surely, surely I’m not the only one who looks at dusty, leather bound history books replete with images of historic leaders and doesn’t just wish, for a moment, that we were back in those times. Where are those leaders that helped define civilisation as we know it? Those who walked among their people with a dream to help lead their nations (rightly or wrongly) into the future.
The reason I hang on to these overly romanticised versions of history is due to sheer despondence at our current political situation, and envy that the media’s romanticised image of foreign countries leads me to believe that everyone has it better off than we.
From 2007-14, we dealt with the roundabout disgrace that was the megalomaniacal Kevin Rudd being replaced by Julia Gillard, who then had to fend off Rudd’s ‘right’ (and I say that term more loosely than a leaky tap) to the PM’s office, before she in turn was deposed in something akin to modern day regicide.
I couldn’t help but think at that time in September 2013 that Jacques Clément would be smiling from his murderous, zeal filled grave.
Now we have another leader that makes me lust for times gone past, whether they were truly what 300 and Troy depicted, or not. Regardless of your politics, we now have a man named Abbott intent upon dragging Australia, that naughty, ignorant baby, kicking and screaming into the past.
I don’t mean the cool, romantic past. I don’t mean the past where there were super cool Lord of the Rings battles, and people magically survived any violence. I mean the nasty, real past. The past where equality was something that was only dreamed of, where the opportunity to educate oneself was an expensive privilege and not a right. Where being a bigot ‘was a right’, as Attorney-General Brandis would say as he threatens to repeal Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act.
To a past where we went to wage wars on foreign shores with Empires that neither cared nor knew if our fair men and women died, as long as it wasn’t their own nation’s soldiers. To a past where one’s worth was dictated by family name, by place of birth, by colour of skin.
Does anyone else cry over the backwards steps we’ve taken over the last few years? That there are actually some in our society where the romanticised version of history has been so manically lusted after, that they are hell-bent on taking us back to those times with them in an effort to recreate their fantasies?
I talk about the romantic views of history and historical values with a mixture of sarcasm and nerd-interest. I truly am interested in the battles of the Roman Empire in its peak; I truly am enthralled by the socio-political landscape of Austro-Hungary circa 1914. I get great enjoyment from following Australian politics.
But this enjoyment, this interest does not mean that we as a nation should in any way seek to go back in time. This nation does not, and should not, and WILL NOT go back to a time where gender/racial equality was a dream, where the goal of studying law, or medicine, or engineering, or even history, was something that would be out of your reach if you didn’t have the British Pounds to do so.
If we sit on our hands and lust after things that we already had, or lust for things that we don’t want to experience again, eventually there will be a time where we will find ourselves with an unenviable situation of history repeating itself. And who knows who the next Cromwell will be?
The more we sit on our hands, the more we stare at the TV screen and allow the concept of democracy, fair society, the rule of law, be subverted by those who are drunk on power, then the more it’ll disappear. The more these men and women, on both sides, lust after the power of Xerxes and Darius of Ancient Persia, the more we’ll envy those times where we had what we wanted.
A society where we, the citizens, chose our Government and policies, and not the other way around.