PWF2014 catch-up post. OK. This one is weird but IT WASN’T MY FAULT

So I see an event listed. It’s free. It falls into a slot where I have nothing to see. It’s in a location that I know, ie I don’t need to look at the map to get there. And it’s got ‘culture’ in the title.

The Lucky Culture, with Nick Cater, columnist with The Australian newspaper (this should have been the first ‘clue’)

I walked in, found a seat. I didn’t notice anything in particular, but the next hour was one of the freakiest of my life, and I’ve had a few freaky hours, let me tell you.

To my notes:

The moderator is Paul Murray, journalist and broadcaster. The book – The Lucky Culture, by Nick Cater, is related to class. Cater was born in Essex and came to Australia in ’86 or ’88 for the bicentennial (?) with a ‘can-do’ spirit where nothing was off-limits.

Australia works so well because it’s a ‘migrant country’ and people work hard at it. (You can’t go ‘back home’ a failure.) The title of the book was a spin off Donald Horne’s The Lucky Country (1964). Horne gives the idea of how smart, intelligent people back then thought about the country. Cater reckons luck here is not automatic, and never has been, that you have to make it [April note: well, der. This is nothing new?] There are people now who think they’re better than others.

We have to label food because people are too stupid to work it out for themselves

– Nick Cater

[This might be when the alarm bell started to go a little louder]

Cater: Our history’s been ripped from us… we have to apologise for everything.


And now I have a note: “It’s strange to find myself in a right-wing forum… never happened before.”

The mark of a successful country, one factor = internalise guilt

– Nick Cater

Talk about ‘victims’ – we used to say ‘build a bridge and get over it’ but we don’t today

– Nick Cater

Q: Who does Cater think is the ruling class? ‘They’ve got big mouths and loud voices.’ [JA note here: “unclear whether left of conservatives. Is it possible that each ‘side’ think the same as the other?? Of course, not just possible but probable and definite.” And then I’ve got a note to look up Cater’s politics as research for a novel idea I’ve got going.]

Q: What is the nature of Australian national identity? It’s suggested by the MOD that we lack culture. Does a polyglot nation tend to eradicate culture?

‘Segmented and siloed’

[JA note: “Idea that L & R wing people would never go and listen to each other, sit in a ‘friendly, sympathetic environment and listen’ “]

[JA note: “privileged, white men like Cater say work hard and everything will be okay, he has no idea about real struggle and oppression.”]

Cater: Anglosphere countries have done a lot better (but doesn’t say why.)

Cater: we need to push government right back out of our lives. We’ve done it economically. Interference of government disempowers us.

And then he seemed to have a go at tertiary education:

It’s dangerous for people to think they’re smarter than everybody else (uni graduates).

MOD: It’s the intellectual class sneering at people who don’t agree with them – marginalisation. Gave two examples, if you don’t accept climate change, you’re labelled as a ‘denier’ or if you support refugee policies, you’re a ‘racist.’ (I think he did air quotes here.)

Someone in the audience asked a question which I couldn’t catch. Cater response gave me a clue what the question had been about:

“I’m deeply uncomfortable with a questioner bringing up race.” Says race is not an issue, was quite hostile and aggressive. People in the audience were clapping and shouting out in the room. I think Cater asked the room: Is there anyone who’s racist here? It’s what I’ve got written down here but I think my head was spinning as it is now again, reading these  notes that feel tainted, to have even written the words down. I would have left if I’d been at the back, but I guess it was sociologically interesting.

It was at this point one of very few dark-skinned people in the room asked a question. He was very polite and softly spoken, yet he was treated incredibly disrespectfully. There was a real anti-academic/anti-education theme in the room.

Not valuing life experience that people bring

– Nick Cater

the intellectual sneer

– Nick Cater

He went on to comment: We used to venerate our elders. The comment: ‘that’s an old white man’s view’ what’s wrong with that? he says.

An old white man’s view. What’s wrong with that?

– Nick Cater

Cater said valuing wisdom and experience is a ‘much more normal way of looking at the world.’

All questioners were just echoing back to him his views, and of course the audience is self-selected, and is in line with Nick Cater’s views and attitudes, and those in his book.

Cater said he doesn’t like the term ‘bogan.’


I’m leaving it there. There are more notes but this is not the place. I do not want to be defamatory.

Next up: terrific session with David Marr called Saints and Sinners: Faith, Abuse and George Pell.

7 thoughts on “PWF2014 catch-up post. OK. This one is weird but IT WASN’T MY FAULT

  1. I’ve never heard of this person, Cater and am about to Google him. It sounds like you wanted to be anywhere else but in that room. I’m always suspicious of books that include the word ‘culture’ in the title 😦

    1. I know. Kinda bugged me that he said that, talking about Australia with such ownership and self-righteousness. Commentating on our stuff and complaining about our stuff. It messes with my head, as I read the notes to transcribe them onto this post, it messed with my head again.

  2. I can imagine your surprise … and I can imagine walking into that session expecting something quite different too. Your comment that “privileged, white men like Cater say work hard and everything will be okay, he has no idea about real struggle and oppression” rang a bell with me, except I was thinking that exact thing the other day during a conversation with a “privileged white woman”. We had to agree to differ in the end because there was no way I could get across to her even basic issues like the role of “opportunity” in people’s life chances.

    As you imply in your post, it’s good to hear the other side .. as in, you have to know your enemy.

    1. Thanks for your comment Sue. Yes, it was so strange but also a very interesting experience, that’s for sure. This idea of oppression, it’s something utterly different to the concept of struggle that people who are members of a dominant group might be aware of. To struggle with normal things in life is a freaking luxury (when compared to being oppressed); to have the idea that hard work and determination will be rewarded is a luxury really and some people just don’t get it. To get to the hard work and determination stage, you need the opportunity for work first. Some people are using up all their determination on survival.

      This is poorly expressed, sorry. I hope you get what I mean.

      What I mean is oppression cancels out everything else. And people who’ve not experienced it in one of its forms (and there are different forms) have no idea what it means to be oppressed and engaged in that kind of struggle. It makes the normal, day to day struggles nothing more than privileges.

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