The Australian twitterati went into a bit of an onanistic frenzy at around seven-thirty-something this evening as St Paul of Keating assumed the position on
the 7:30 Report and took aim at powerful apparatchiks in NSW Labor. In for special mention were the Opposition leader-in-waiting John Robertson, strategist Bruce Hawker, fmr state secretary Eric Roozendaal, familiar targets Mark Arbib and Karl Bitar and last but not least, ETUnionist Bernie O’Riordan.
Without wanting to sound smug, I found the whole thing a little painful. I think we can start with the widespread use of the ‘PJK’ acronym. Firstly, it reminds me of the narcissistic way in which celebrities like Cristiano Ronaldo market themselves with brandings like ‘CR7’. Except, in instances like this evening’s, it’s the adoring audience’s use of the branding. From the outset, the user asserts their position as an insider in whatever discourse they think they’re inside by using the neologism. If you come armed without the requisite knowledge of the subject matter you’re already excluded from the conversation. It’s a sort of casual narcissism that I’m probably guilty of myself.
However, it grates when the discussion takes on a reverential tone. Paul John Keating becomes PJK because it’s the easiest way for the insiders to show their reverence and adoration for the man. No higher honour could be bestowed upon a person by the twitterati than the honour of becoming a meme. Keating is the meme of everything that politics ought to be. PJK is all one needs to say. There, followers, is a leader.
Wistfully, we’re told to long for the days of Keating. The days where his acerbic wit and intellectual agility tore opponents to pieces on the floor of Parliament. Forget his policy output. Keating got things done and he did it with flair. Keating may or may not have been a great Treasurer and Prime Minister. His record of reform might be worthy of veneration or worthy of scorn. Where I sit on these matters is irrelevant. The point is there’s a fine line between longing for a Prime Minister whom you admired and promulgating what is essentially a mythological, hollow construction. Paul Keating, the Prime Minister. PJK, the myth.
If only he were Prime Minister the taste-makers on twitter bemoaned! Oh, if only. If anyone is under the illusion that the dire issues with Australian democracy and Australian political discourse would be repaired by even PJK, the myth (let alone the the man himself), they need to be institutionalised.
A lot of what Keating said and says has merits. He is a brilliant communicator and political mind, who I think most Australians have a lot of time for. However, the circle-jerk that occurred on twitter just blinds us from the real issues at hand. Further, it illustrates a troubling trend in Australian politics that I alluded to yesterday. Politics as pure simulation. The veneration of Keating is almost entirely removed from the referent of his actual political output.
Fundamental change is required, nothing a meme would fix.