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Gadfly 44


In a world where climate change is spinning out of control, where plastic waste is destroying our oceans and political chaos is breaking out in America, the UK, the EU and elsewhere, it would be understandable if we all went into an emotional decline. Add to that an American president accused of ‘treason’ by a former chief of his country’s Central Intelligence Agency; India disgracing itself with religious extremism; and the Chinese government destroying the remaining vestiges of its citizens’ freedom of thought, expression and assembly and the decline could become terminal.

Ruination seems just around the corner.

But then, suddenly in Thailand a soccer team of bright young boys gets impossibly stranded in the depths of a cave and the whole tenor of our lives changes.

What a weird mob we are. And not just us Aussies for whom John O’Grady’s wonderful book of that name dubbed us, but the entire species. When word filtered out that the kids had disappeared in that wet, black labyrinth, slowly the world roused itself. The good angels of our collective soul took off on a flight of mercy that somehow transcended all that dreadful stuff that had threatened our faith in humanity.

It was quite extraordinary the way the plight of the innocents grabbed us; and men with arcane skills – people whose hobby was cave-diving for goodness sake – came forward. Men we’d never heard of but who exhibited the highest order of organising ability, medical expertise and raw courage that might otherwise never have been recognised. Blokes like Dr Richard ‘Harry’ Harris and Perth Vet, Craig Challen joined a truly international rescue team. British, American, Japanese, Chinese, and especially the Thai people all worked around the clock to bring them out.

And when we saw the boys’ fresh faces on that televised conference talking about their fearful experience, it made our hearts glow.

Suddenly, all that political posturing in Helsinki and Washington took on a new perspective. Dopey Donald’s fantabulous ‘explanation’ for his apparent (and real) preference for Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence chiefs on Russia’s support for his election seemed pathetic. In fact, it so offended reality that the laws of nature rebelled and briefly dimmed the lights in the White House briefing room.

Really, who cares?

Oh sure, his eponymous ‘base’ will still support him. If Vlad the Impaler himself had lent a hand to keep Hillary out of the Oval Office, that was fine by them.

In the UK, Theresa May staggered through the next ridiculous phase of removing her little island from the EU’s clutches. Here at home Turnbull and Shorten ramped up their shadow-play, pretending that they were really something more than two faces of the same coin. The guilty Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide was tapped on the wrist by the courts since until his appearance he’d been of such good character. And on TV we all pretended that Masterchef was a ‘reality’ show where merit triumphed and the producers had barely a hand in who won the big prize.

But what the hell – together we brought those boys out of the cave. We can’t be all bad.

robert@robertmacklin.com


Robert Macklin has carved out a unique place among Australia’s literary biographers and historians. He has won numerous literary prizes including the 2009 Blake Dawson award for business literature with Peter Thompson for their classic THE BIG FELLA – the Rise and Rise of BHP Billiton. His Kevin Rudd: The Biography was shortlisted for the ACT Book of the Year; and he has won three Critics Circle Awards for his military biographies and histories.He has completed a lecture tour of three Chinese universities based on his works and is presently writing a history of Australia/China relations over the last 200 years. Queensland born, he has been a journalist at the highest level, a confidant and biographer of two Australian prime ministers; a documentary filmmaker in 32 countries of Asia and the Pacific; and is also political columnist and commentator in the nation’s capital. He presently divides his writing time on fiction, non-fiction and screenplays between Canberra and Tuross Head on the NSW South Coast.You can follow Robert Macklin's excellent commentary at CityNews

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