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Roasting the local mullahs by Gunduz Kalic

"Power hides behind theatricality" - Jean Genet

The Hanson - Katter - Campbell electoral phenomenon seems to have renewed - very awkwardly, to be sure - open debate on the uncomfortable issues of race and political correctness.  The "voter's message" has also prompted much public wringing of hands.  Social scientists especially have been hard pressed: simultaneously "explaining" and bemoaning the Oxley result in particular.

The pretenses and postures - the playacting - of those in elevated positions of moral authority have been fair game for roasting for many centuries.  Perhaps, now that the experts have had their go at the "voter backlash", it's time to have a go at the experts...

Take Ross Fitzgerald, social historian ... Excuse me, Mr. Fitzgerald, sir, would you mind if we replayed in print what you had to say on ABC' s Stateline current affairs show recently about the Pauline Hanson bizo.  Word for word, sir, verbatim, exactly as you said it.  Ah, here it is, sir.  Let's play spot the mistake.  Everybody ready?  Let's watch for Mr. Fitz's boo-boos.  "I must say that I take that quote from Voltaire.  I disagree violently ... uhhhh ... vehemently with what she (Hanson) has to say.  But she has the right to say it, as long as she doesn't incite violence".

Good golly, sir, when you said you disagreed "violently" my heart leapt up into my mouth.  What a whopper of a blooper!  What a thing to do to your audience!  Thank goodness you recovered and corrected yourself, sir.  For a second we thought that you yourself were violent.

Sir, you've just got to pay attention to detail and get your lines right.  Think of your poor audience.  For that extended catastrophic moment the world turned topsy turvy - our expert on the populace's inappropriate, violently strong feelings suddenly turning feral himself - it was enough to make us violent, sir!  Please, never, ever slip like that again, sir.

Thank the heavens above that you kept on going!  But just as we thought you were in the clear, another mess!  After, so to speak, losing control of the wheel and driving up over the curb, just managing to steady up before you hit the telephone pole, you go and power straight into the bloody ditch!  You completely misquoted Voltaire!  So much so, sir, that with utmost respect, sir, I regretfully must point out that you utterly misrepresented his meaning.  When an academician invokes the classics - especially to the great unwashed masses - please, sir, he's got to get it right.  Otherwise, if caught out, the risk is that the whole priesthood, very sorry, I mean profession looks ludicrous.  What Voltaire actually said was "I disapprove of what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it".  Sir, your violence landed on the wrong side of the barricade!

George Bernard Shaw, the famous essayist and playwright used to sit - an actors and directors nightmare - at the back of the Royal Court Theatre during rehearsals of his plays shouting out whenever an actor botched a line "I didn't write that".  Mr. Fitzgerald, sir, you're so lucky old Voltaire isn't around anymore.  The only thing left of him is his heart floating in a jar in a museum in Paris.  If that heart could talk probably it would be chiding you, sir, "you bastard, you can't even quote me right!".

Speaking of "bastards" and "Voltaire", sir, there was a book published not so long ago with the title "Voltaire's Bastards".  It's by a writer named John Ralston Saul.  Perhaps you should read this book, after which you're not likely to ever quote Voltaire again.  Saul puts forth the view that modern technocratic experts, including many academics, have bastardized reason and rational thought - the intellectual weaponry wielded by Voltaire and other thinkers of the Enlightenment against despotism - thereby undermining the public's common sense understanding of issues.  Just a suggestion, sir, perhaps next time you should instead quote Plato's bit about the citizens needing wise Guardians to tell them what to do.

Ross, sir, everybody is nervous in impromptu situations.  But technically speaking, in acting terms, what happened is that blowing your line straight away like that put you off balance and led you into another mistake.  Next time try treating the whole TV interview situation like theatresports.  If you do make a mistake - have a giggle with the reporter and audience.  Don't just pretend it didn't happen.  Like a good stand up comedian, just turn the laugh on yourself - and then move on.  Things will work out much better.  Try guiding the populace not through stuffups followed by cover-ups and more stuffups - but through the actual live comedy of the situation.  Let your humanness and humility shine through!

So next time sir, a bit less nerves, a bit less posture, sir, and a lot more attention to knowing your lines and getting the script right to start with.  If we are serious about bringing Brisbane's standard of performance up to world class levels - we can't afford these slip ups.  Of course, though, your mistakes are understandable.  Playing the part of single-handed social conscience of Queensland is enough to wear out a Pacino or DeNiro.  Maybe it's time to take a well earned break and turn top billing over to Professor Henry Reynolds, Historian, expert on the impact of white settlement upon aboriginals...

Mr Reynolds on Stateline: "We have a past which still lives (what was done to aboriginals) and we have to try and live it down.  When people say this group is getting too much they must remember that we got Queensland for nothing ... When you look at it from the perspective of history, what they get is peanuts compared to what they lost.  I think there should be a little more generosity of spirit and understanding of our own history." Mr. Reynolds, sir, ol Fitzie sure could take some lessons from you!  We in the audience are so proud - what a stunning, breathtaking, all - Aussie one man show you put on for us - you deserve one of those Oscars.  Like a wise and cranky old testament prophet you were, so irritably, passionately, self-evidently right.  So totally credible.  So reasonable and sensible, at first glance.  Your usage of voice to bring home to our squirming consciences the Fact of the Aussie Original Sin vis a vis the aboriginals was overpowering ... In fact, sir, I feel downright sick.  And confused . Sir, did I really do something wrong to the aboriginals?

Mr. Reynolds, sir, there is a Sufi parable about a master who drags his servant into the marketplace and ferociously beats him black and blue.  The master then hands the servant a jug and sends him off to go and get it filled up with milk.  The servant heads off to do the task.  A curious bystander asks the master why he beat his servant.  The master replies "To make sure he didn't spill the milk".

Sir, does what you are saying mean that I will have to feel bad and pay for the rest of my life?

And my children for theirs?  That 'correct' discussion of social justice now is dependent upon each citizen guiltily carrying the sins of our fathers on and on into the future?  Oh, what a fundamentalist feeling!  Mullah Reynolds, I'm confused, sir, please beat me again.

"To be the slave of pedants.  What a fate for humanity." - Mikhail Bakunin  

Unpublished 1996


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