Thursday, May 26, 2005

John Howard is Not Cool

To pretend John Howard is cool is like pretending the Titanic didn't sick. John Howard is not cool. In fact, his lack of coolness is one of his strengths. Personally, I think he's an utterly ruthless, cunning, bastard. But he hides it well under his cover of your particularly dweebish suburban solicitor - the original Man of Conveyance.

John Howard is not cool. This has helped him to a fourth successful victory, while "cooler" people (thinks Paul Keating) have gone down in flames.

John Howard is so uncool that he's about to get a government majority in the Senate. You can imagine him dragging a beat-up caravan behind his car at 40 km/h while driving down to Bateman's Bay. You can envisage kilometres of frustrated drivers behind him. You could even picture him wearing socks with his sandals at the beach. All of this is so unthreatening enough to the Australian electorate that they voted for him in droves.

I don't even believe we are having this debate. There was this video of him they showed in The Late Show some years back, when our Johnnie was visiting this farm. They brought out this Merino ram to show him. And for some reason, Johnnie started clapping it, with this pensive little grin on his face, and his brow furrowed in nervousness. No-one else was clapping - only him. It was just ridiculous on his face. Look, he's clapping a bloody sheep. And of course the punters laughed.

I also recall when the Spice Girls (you may remember them?) were doing a promotional tour of Australia. Kim Beazley - then as now, Leader of the Opposition - was teasing our P.M. because he refused to meet them. Little Johnnie was not down with the kids, or some such nonsense. But John Howard refused, and I think he was perfectly entitled to do so. His reasons were probably different than mine ("flash-in-the-pan manufactured band, although with a few catchy songs in there"). He doesn't sound like a man into musical introspection. He just thought they weren't worth the bother.

(The only person who came out of that incident with extra kudos was then leader of the Nationals, Tim Fischer. As a man who runs model trains as a hobby, he is really not cool. But he pointed out the obvious on JJJ: there were better, local, Aussie bands worthy of support, like Regurgitator and Silverchair. More worthy than those false prophets of "Girl Power". Good on ya, Tim. I'd rather have commonsense than cool.)

But in case you are not convinced, let me point to an incident two years ago. I was doing my CELTA with 17 other people in this town. It was a mixed group that came to the campus cafeteria - British, Australians, and Americans. Some had just flown in for the course, and others were long term expats. But none was as long term as Rich. He'd actually been in the U.S. Peace Corps in the seventies, helping villagers in the Highlands with agriculture and medicine. While he had to run for his life in '75, he ended up returning to Việt Nam later. One of those ex-hippies that are actually a credit to his breed. He even spoke the local lingo, which few foreigners do. But he's also mischievious. And looking at me - Caucasian, spectacles, and with receding hair - he decided to have a little fun.   

"Hey, everybody. Doesn't he look like John Howard?", while pointing to me. Everyone starting giggling. 

"I mean really, doesn't HE look like John Howard?" Now, everyone was laughing out loud, with the Australians laughing harder than everyone else.

Sometimes, there is no comeback. All I could offer was "Fuck. You. Rich. Fuck You." And that set off everyone else even harder. Game, set and match: Rich. What a bastard. 

John Howard is not cool. If he was, do you think my classmates would have been cackling themselves to death? They were laughing at me, but they were also laughing at the man I was unwittingly impersonating. Q.E.D.