Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Loose Tongues

A while ago I suggested that, had Philip Larkin been an Australian, (and I think it is possible to detect his considerable regret at not achieving that great honour, if you read his poems closely enough), he might have rephrased his famous lines about spring to suggest that wattle coming into flower is 'like something almost being said', rather than trees coming into leaf.

Well, now the wattle has come into flower. It has flowered to its heart's content. And, in the course of flowering, it has said everything it could possibly have wanted to say on all subjects that may have occurred to it. The result is sobering:

In an age where we are exhorted from all sides to 'Let it all out', where our streets ring to the whoops and squeals and whinnies of Oprah and her tribe - 'You go girl, you tell them' - this picture reveals a sadder story. The wattle has followed the contemporary advice to eschew reserve, it has got things off its chest - but at what cost?

In a former era - ie my childhood - things were very  different. 'The less said the better', was the phrase that rang through those dim and distant years, along with, 'Least said, soonest mended,' and, of course, the perennial favourite, 'Would you please shut up.' I don't know if the world was a better place, but it was certainly quieter.

(On further reflection, I also suspect that a culture of greater restraint might have saved us from the candour with which Catherine Deveny expressed her 2010 New Year's wish for 'the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia. Or, in the case of my racist, bigoted, homophobic, judgmental, passive aggressive, narcissistic, wealthy grandmother, involuntary euthanasia', the openly meanspirited desire of the editor of Meanjin for "the people I love to be well and the people I don't love to be well also. Except for Tony Abbott" and the extraordinary ad hominem attack on Barry O'Farrell by Bob Ellis in yesterday's Drum - apparently no-one will vote for him, not because of his policies, but because he is "a serial fatty with an Irish name and a Greenstreet shape and a face like boiled bacon" - not to mention the periodic shrieks of silly Marieke Hardy.)

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