The Writing Process: Part D


"Ivy Mike" hydrogen bomb test by the US, Enewetak Atoll, 1 November 1952 [Public Domain].

Part A is still coming, Part B is here, and Part C is here. Part D is the finished product below that didn't get published and then went into Part A, only to be taken out by my co-author except for a few bits and pieces that seem to work in Part A. WTF?

My point is that writing is not a process where you sit down and write a first draft and it gets published. If you do, then God bless you. But for the rest of us, "The first draft of anything is shit" (Hemingway, apparently).

Anyway, my point is to record my process. The entire exercise has revealed to me the following:

  • Twitter is indeed a place for venting frustrations, even if the people venting are part of the fourth estate and they create an echo chamber of nonsense that somehow gets picked up by the politically correct brigade.
  • I am more centre-right than I thought I was. "Woke" culture is a thing and it annoys me tremendously.
  • While "woke" culture annoys me, so does conservatism. In some things I am conservative, but in most others, I am more likely to remain a liberal in the sense of John Locke and John Stuart Mill.
  • Putting my work out there and getting helpful feedback is enlightening. A student said to me at the end of semester that my marking feedback (I put in a good deal of effort and I was 'nice') was like a conversation and the student wanted to keep that conversation going. I have had the same experience with Part A, even though with other works I have had to contend with fragile narcissists wielding what little power they have. Knowing the difference is rather powerful.
  • Writing conforms to the maxim of Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “Perfection is Achieved Not When There Is Nothing More to Add, But When There Is Nothing Left to Take Away”.
  • Marcus Aurelius (Meditations, 4.31) was right: "Love the humble art you have learned, and take rest in it".
  • I am dedicated to my craft. I write because that is what I do. When I do not write, I feel empty.
Here's Part D. 

Morrison’s stewardship amid COVID-19 outrage culture

Political leadership is challenging at the best of times, but PM Scott Morrison’s ability to end the leadership merry-go-round has had a lasting impact on Australian politics, much to the outrage of some.

Morrison’s legacy will be the National Cabinet, a form of executive federalism that has seen greater federal-state cooperation than ever before. It replaced COAG with little ceremony and barely a hint of outrage.

Meanwhile, the ABC appears to be focused on undermining the government, with alleged activism by senior journalists taking centre stage and creating an opinion fog that impacts the ABC's pandemic information, confusing many citizens.

And if Twitter's #auspol was the barometer for political leadership in Australia, you would think that things were going to the dogs. Even The Conversation’s ‘academic’ articles on Morrison are largely negative in tone.

For those who agree with market liberalism but shun conservatism, there is a gaping hole in Australian politics. But that doesn't change the fact that during one of the worst periods in recent history, Morrison is presiding over a period of extraordinary good fortune in Australia.

Despite the bushfire debacle and tenuous Trumpism of the early stages of the pandemic, Morrison is still holding firm. His remarkable resilience and ability to reset are not lost on voters.

If we had good political intelligence systems, we could analyse cause and effect and determine how good policies might be predicted. Instead, ideology gets in the way and policies are judged by people (on both sides of the political spectrum) who express their opinions while hogging the microphone.

While the focus on the performance of political leaders has dominated the media, there has been little talk about the structure of Australia's blood market or the vaccine manufacturing capabilities of CSL, or whether such an important capability should be nationalised or have more competition introduced for future responses to pandemics.

Instead, the PM and state premiers are good/bad, competent/not competent, doing the right thing/doing the wrong thing, and a host of other things that have impacted confidence of the AstraZeneca vaccine and Australia's ability to deliver vaccinations within existing production and logistics capabilities.

Misinformation supporting ideological positions is rife. Take for example the infographics being used by the Twitterati to criticise the PM and Australia’s pandemic response. Many Australians have had their first shot, and the poorly framed infographic will see Australia leap ahead of other countries in the region once the second shot is delivered. 

But the polls show that Morrison is still leading the pack. Under the conventions of our Westminster system, Morrison has been chosen to lead and the polls continue to show his government is in a strong position to win the next election. 

But with all the outrage against the current PM on Twitter, one could be forgiven for thinking this wasn't the case.

Janet Albrechtsen recently called Twitter “a putrid trough of polarisation where angry people sup for repeated hits of unplugged outrage”. But who are the Twitterati talking to?

When the life of the average Australian is pretty good given the global COVID-19 social, health, and economic crises, you'd think that the position of PM would be given its due respect. Not so the Twitterati.

The reality is that there is no alternative leadership proposition from Labor, and repeated calls by Greens leader Adam Bandt to form a coalition with Labor would only destroy Labor in the long run. And when the time comes, the Greens’ aspirational policy platform is unlikely to survive the political realities of a federal budget if they ever get into power.

At the Sydney Institute a few weeks ago, I asked Kevin Donnelly about “middle Australians” caught in the midst of the ongoing "culture war".

Donnelly said it was important for political leaders to "speak" to their "base". John Howard did this, as did Bob Hawke before him; and of course Menzies spoke to "the forgotten people”. Malcolm Turnbull paid the price when he was unable to speak to the party faithful.

Despite what the Twitterati says, word on the street largely supports Morrison and the Coalition (for now).

Morrison’s stewardship of the National Cabinet demonstrates a complex set of skills needed to ameliorate formal weaknesses in the Constitution, particularly for health-related responsibilities. In the meantime, the outraged minority’s screams for instant gratification would see Australia return to the leadership follies of the immediate past.

But that would require realistic leadership alternatives. In the meantime, outrage culture has a lot to answer for hampering collective responses to the pandemic.

With ideologically-driven critics ignoring support for the Morrison government in the polls, it brings to mind some words from the poet Criss Jami: “the devil's happy when the critics run you off”. How outrageous!

Better the devil we know.