Allan Takes Aim Blog

Meet the rednecks and philistines

Posted on: 27 April 2011

An edited version of this article was published in The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday, 26 April, 2011 

According to the report “Stanhope labels public art critics ‘rednecks’ as new work unveiled” (Pg 3 The Canberra Times, Saturday April 11) the Chief Minister clearly thinks many people in Canberra deserve the soubriquet Rednecks. But if he thought rednecks not clear enough just to make sure he also labelled them ‘philistines.’

The Chief Minister, and others in the social, political and cultural group to which he belongs, should be careful about calling people ‘rednecks and/or philistines. And the reason they need to be careful is to avoid the word philistine coming back to bite them – which it has in this case.

Indeed, according Goethe, “The Philistine not only ignores all conditions of life which are not his own but also demands that the rest of mankind should fashion its mode of existence after his own.” From this comment it seems clear that Goethe would consider the Chief Minister a philistine.

And in the case of rednecks too, the Chief Minister might be seen as having a case to answer. It seems he is a one -size fits all man. No doubt he was pleased his statement that critics of public art are rednecks made good headline in The Times, but whether or not it is true is a different matter.

It is also a statement that could alienate a great many voters who dislike being called rednecks. With many other people in Canberra I appreciate some public art but not a lot of what the Chief Minister calls public art. Indeed, as someone remarked to me some time ago in respect of another piece of public art that was raising the ire of many in the community, the only thing public about it is that the public paid for it.

In this case however I am happy to be called a redneck because I think it better being a redneck than a stiff neck, a person who is of the opinion that their opinion is the only one that counts. But for those who might like a more genteel or polite way of saying it, they are people with a condition common to many politicians: ‘tunnel vision.’ 

Some people the Chief Minister calls rednecks are people whose conventional values have served Canberra well. They are not cultural snobs. For them, cheap art without beauty, intellectual content and spiritual value is anathema. Society could do with more of them.

That said, some experts are of the opinion that Philistines are the answer to the Bohemians, people who display what is called artistic temperament when it is simply a tantrum and also claim to have a broad cultural horizon open to the avant-garde, a picture that suits the Chief Minister to a “ T.”

With this in mind and with the Chief Minister’s encouragement, perhaps the Philistines should start a political party in the ACT; a party that thinks conventional social values plus some surrealist and cubist works and also some graffiti are good for the community?

Indeed with public art being so much in the Chief Minister’s mind at the moment I’m surprised he hasn’t suggested that the next ACT election be decided through a public art competition in Civic Square, or whatever its new shape is called. Seventeen artists who, in the opinion of voters, create the best works will form the Assembly with the artist adjudged to have created the best work becoming Chief Minister.

Now if he wants to be Chief Minster again I can see Mr Stanhope dressed in his artist’s gear of bright red beret casually draped over his left ear, paint bedaubed smock, an equally disreputable pair of what once were green cords and a pair of suede shoes that had seen better days, sitting before his easel in Civic Square creating a masterpiece that he hopes will not only restore him to the Chief Minster’s position but also will be adopted as the face of Canberra on a Canberra Centenary Card of which in 2013, every Canberran will get two free ones for sending send to their friends and relatives throughout the world.  (By the way that’s a free idea for Canberra’s Centenary.)

 NB. According to history, the Philistines were sophisticated and cultured.


6 Responses to "Meet the rednecks and philistines"

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