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Newsletter 310

Published October 28, 2019

It’s easy to agree that anyone who starts invoking comparisons with Hitler has lost the argument, but the essential craziness of present-day politics makes such comparisons extremely tempting. I was recently struck by a proposition advanced by the Führer, that it was the duty of all Germans “not to seek out objective truth in so far as it may be favourable to others, but uninterruptedly to serve one’s own truth.”

Here, in a nutshell, is the logic of totalitarianism: don’t seek objective truths, be content to accept the truths bequeathed to you by the leader. So when President Trump says “no quid pro quo” he must be believed, even though the crushing, overwhelming weight of evidence reveals a very clear quid pro quo. It’s so bizarre to imagine such propositions coming from grown-ups, let alone Republican congressmen, that no level of comparison seems out of line.

In Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here, newly elected populist President, Buzz Windrip, makes it his first task to round up politicians from the opposing party and put them in a concentration camp. If Donald Trump were re-elected in 2020 is such a tactic out of the question? After all “Lock her up” is his favourite rallying cry. It’s far-fetched, but when the President’s lawyers are arguing that he can commit any crime he likes and not be indicted or even investigated, we’re getting into some very dangerous waters. It means, in theory, that the President could mow down the Democrats with an AK-47, and be immune from prosecution.

No wonder everyone I meet nowadays is obsessed with American politics. It’s more gripping than any TV drama, more outrageous than any science fiction scenario. We may, however, be reaching the point where the  entertainment begins to sour.

Back home, Scummo says he prefers “quiet Australians” because he would prefer not to get into thorny issues about truth and falsehood. Just leave it to him and Jesus, and perhaps the bloke from the Hillsong Church. It’s so comforting to have your authoritarian impulses classed as a form of religious freedom.

While dealing with the total collapse of their political system, the Americans are also developing an affection for Australian indigenous art. A component of the Tarnanthi exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia will be touring the United States next year, courtesy of the Kluge-Ruhe collection of Charlottesville, VA.

This week’s art column looks at Tarnanthi, our newest festival of indigenous art, and one of the liveliest national art events. I’ve tried to put provide an overview of the show and discuss a few highlights but it’s not possible to convey a clear sense of the work on display in the space of a single article. Yes, you’ll just have to go to Adelaide.

If you’d sooner go to the movies instead you might consider The King, David Michôd’s historical drama made for Netflix that’s getting a limited theatrical release. It’s not exactly family viewing and not especially educational, as most of the story is fiction rather than fact. On the other hand if you’ve ever wondered what it was like to slug it out on a muddy field wearing a full suit of armour this film will answer all your questions.