Slouching Towards Bethlehem

When I read Jennifer Wilson’s exceptionally fine piece at No Place for Sheep on Friday evening, I decided to republish it at The Pub because her analysis of George Pell is one of the best I have ever read – and I also agree that Yeats’s poem “The Second Coming” is a brilliant, and ominous, work. Thank you, Jennifer, for permitting The Pub to provide yet another platform for your amazing writing.

In my experience one of the more dangerous types of human is the man or woman with an intense and unshakeable conviction that he or she is a “good” person, doing the “right” thing.

The danger is that such a person will see everything they think, say and do through the prism of perceived good and rightness, and this vision inevitably blinds them to the damage they are, like every other human being, capable of inflicting. Because they are unable to see they are incapable of taking responsibility, let alone making atonement or working towards change. So they continue on their blundering path, leaving havoc in their wake, entirely unable to acknowledge they’ve had any part in its production.

Or as Yeats puts it: The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.

(Actually, that poem, The Second Coming, is worth a read: it seems eerily appropriate for these times. Decades before Jacques Derrida’s Structure, Sign and Play…, Irish poet William Butler Yeats noted that “the centre cannot hold.” I find this strangely reassuring. That the poets got to it before the post structuralists, I mean. But I digress…)

The Cardinal George Pell is one such human. Indeed, the most powerful conviction I can see in Pell is his conviction that he is always innocent, always good, and always right, and he clings to these self-perceptions with all the passionate intensity of a man clinging to the lid of an esky in a turbulent sea into which he has been unceremoniously pitched from a sinking vessel. The Catholic church is not holding its centre: The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned…

Serious allegations of bribery and cover-up have yet again been made against George Pell at the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sex Abuse. The Cardinal, strategically parachuted into a leading role in the Vatican’s finance department when things got a little hot for him here in Australia, responded with a written denial, fully supported by his good friend and failed priest Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Abbott, who has a moral point of view on everything, is strangely reluctant to offer one on this matter, saying only that it is up to Pell whether or not he returns to face the Commission’s questioning.

I cannot recall a conversation I had forty years ago, declared the Cardinal, however, for those who were traumatised by such conversations they remain unforgettable. The Cardinal has the luxury of forgetting what continues to haunt and torment victims to this day. For this alone one would expect him to express some gratitude.

It is difficult to imagine that a conversation in a swimming pool change room in which Royal Commission witness Timothy Green informed the then Father Pell that boys were being sexually molested by pedophile Brother Dowlan could have been invented by Mr Green forty years later, in an effort to further discredit George Pell.

It would perhaps be fitting for Pell to emulate the crucified Christ, who died in agony for the sins of the world even though according to the mythology he committed very few if any of them himself. Of course I’m not suggesting a literal crucifixion for the Cardinal, rather a metaphorical sacrifice of self on the altar of the Royal Commission. A written statement from his luxury accommodations in Rome does not, contrary to Prime Minister Abbott’s view, seem nearly sufficient. George Pell needs to front up, and not simply for himself, but for the victims and for the Catholic church, if he wishes that institution to retain any last shred of credibility.

The extent of the sexual abuse of children in institutions, and in the family, is almost beyond comprehension. The frequency with which it is and was committed, and is and was covered up by people who consider themselves “good,” reveals an epidemic of psycho-sexual dysfunction that has been repressed and suppressed to a degree that is also incomprehensible. This denial has occurred at the centre: the centre of institutions, the centre of families, the very centre of our culture and our society. The reality of the margins is confronting the fantasy of the centre, and the centre is no longer holding.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

453 thoughts on “Slouching Towards Bethlehem

  1. L2

    “The professor who wants to cut older workers’ pay to make them more employable”

    Goodness me. The same crap we are told needs to be done for younger workers. Get stuffed ya greedy mongrel.

  2. If I am paid less then someone will employ me and keep employing me because my output is so much better than that of the more-highly paid bozo who was good at his job.

    Yes, I can see the logic there.

  3. Tollner and Elferink doing a hockey and ley double-act. Not sure who is the straight-man, in either case

    Comments by Northern Territory Treasurer Dave Tollner about diverting resources from the Top End’s main hospital have hit a nerve, with the nursing union claiming it would put lives at risk.

    It was left to Health Minister John Elferink on Thursday to mop up Mr Tollner’s comments, as Mr Elferink insisted Royal Darwin Hospital (RDH) would not suffer when the Palmerston Regional Hospital opened.

    Mr Tollner was asked in parliamentary hearings on Tuesday what was in the budget to run Palmerston Regional Hospital when it opened in October 2018.

    “There’s a figure there, I think, of around $25 million, bearing in mind that when initially it starts up, resources will go from Royal Darwin Hospital to [Palmerston] hospital to get it operating,” Mr Tollner said.

    Health Minister John Elferink today said he rang “and had a discussion” with his senior Cabinet colleague.

    “And that’s why he issued a clarifying statement,” Mr Elferink said.

    That statement, given to the ABC, made clear the $25 million was new, but was silent on what resources would be drained from Royal Darwin Hospital.

  4. And in Africa

    The power of sanitary pads!

    Today is Menstrual Hygiene Day, but for young women in parts of East Africa discrimination, a lack of hygienic facilities and limited access to sanitary protection means many are forced to miss school during their period, and eventually drop out. They lose out on the vital education that will open their lives to opportunity.

    Build Africa’s menstrual hygiene training teaches girls (and sometimes boys) to manage menstruation better, to dispel the myths that can damage the way girls are seen, and to make reusable sanitary pads.

    Meet Caroline (above), one of our beneficiaries in Uganda…

    Before she received the skills, Caroline depended on her mother to buy her sanitary pads. This wasn’t always possible given their cost, and Caroline would instead have to use rags that didn’t protect her properly. She would be forced to stay out of school altogether during her period…

    “But after attending the training on sexual reproductive health, the knowledge and skills I obtained on making reusable pads helped me supply myself every month.

    “I now have emergency pads in hand when going to school and this has improved my attendance. I have also learnt how to keep myself clean during my periods and to delay sex until I achieve my life goal of becoming a nurse.”

    Caroline was so excited about the new skills that she has trained two women in menstrual management and they now have more hygienic sanitary wear, too.

    Visit to discover why #MenstruationMatters, or find out more about our education projects:

  5. 29 May 1982:

    The Argentinians seem to have worked out that something is going on. Yesterday they were unprepared for the attack on Darwin despite a very naughty BBC reporting that the Para’s were on the move.

    They work out that they can be ‘seen’. They try an assault on Mt Kent but are repelled by the SAS there.

    (From Mt Kent there’s a direct view over Stanley and its port)

    Later in the day the British take Goose Green after around 1,500 Argentinians surrender to a force of 500 or so Para’s.

    It is all ‘down hill’ from here.

  6. In other words, it fails as a diet.

    But there was one downside.

    “While a low protein, high carb diet is likely to have beneficial effects later in life, it did increase hunger and the chance of weight gain,” Professor Simpson said.

    To lose weight without hunger, manage diabetes 1 & 2 and epilepsy, you need a low carb, ketogenic diet:

    Sugar is the real dietary enemy – and Big Sugar (aided and abetted by Big Grain) knows it. Expect misinformation and dirty tricks campaigns – like the “diet” above and the “chocolate hoax” earlier.

  7. 29 May 1982 – Extra Note:

    The SAS on Mt Kent were providing targeting direction to gun fire support from the Task Force boats.

    Not a ‘beautiful thing’ but the best that can be done after most of the Artillery and the capability to move them was lost at San Carlos.

  8. Jaeger

    Spectacular photographs.

    The Iguanas seem to know their stuff – stay out of the way of the volcano and be on the sunny side of the island.

    Not so surprising if you take 2 seconds to think about it.

  9. Good morning Dawn Patrollers.

    Is Peter Martin here suggesting that Hockey is delusional?
    Putting the “Death Cult” into perspective.
    Warren Entsch, the rainbow warrior.
    The FFA will vote to get rid of Blatter but news reports this morning say Blatter has refused to pull out.
    Surely it’s reasonable for Dreyfus to ask the questions he did? After all, it was Abbott who has been banging on ad nauseum about the death cult an Brandis who a few weeks before the letter arrived raised the terror alert level to high.
    Mark Kenny on the shifting stances of politicians on SSM.
    Jess Irvine says Hockey’s moves on tampon GST is a tokenistic distraction.
    “View from the Street” has a very good spray at Scott Morrison.
    A voice of reason is Waleed Aly – of course it will fall on deaf ears with Abbott and Brandis.
    This expert says the Defence pay offer could leave the military short staffed..

  10. Section 2 . . .

    Greg Jericho examines the economics of inequality.
    Stephen Koukoulas and the horror of the CAPEX data.
    The 21 worst things the Liberals did yesterday.
    Ridsdale’s sins of(convenient) omission.
    Abbott’s deafening silence on the child abuse perpetrators and enablers.
    Alan Moir on our Iraqi adventure.

    John Spooner with a factional road map for Victoria.

    Matt Golding with Abbott’s stance on SSM.

    David Pope on FIFA.

    And a ripper on FIFA by Mark Knight.

    Of course David Rowe trumps them all.

    Bill Leak on Brandis and THAT letter.

  11. jaycee@jaycee ‏@trulyjaycee 28s29 seconds ago

    Brandis sends a couple hundred police to arrest some teenagers w/ a plastic sword, yet sees no worries in a letter from Monis..?????

  12. It is very concerning that the apologists for Brandis seem unable to comprehend the relationship between cause and effect on this issue…
    “Oh . no-one could really see he was a lone wolf…” is the defence.

    And yet he did it!

    “They are not connected in theory…”

    But they are in reality….they ARE in reality!!….and they WERE in reality..

    They WERE and ARE connected..perhaps not to you nor I..WE are not in charge of national security..WE are not the one’s hyping up the terrorism threat every day!!…and here is a known criminal seeking permission to communicate with the most reviled of all the reviled terror groups and “Death Cults” (and it is not known WHAT Man Monis wanted to write to the head of ISIS ) and he is brushed aside and several hundred coppers sent to raid some teenagers with a chatty iphone and a plastic sword…all the while, Man Monis is seeking to purchase a firearm to do some real damage…

    Forget Brandis…we already know HE is a complete wanker!

    A totally incompetent govt’ running a totally incompetent national security police.

  13. jaycee

    it’s lovely seing BRandis squirming and trying to explain why Monis’ letter did not set off alrms, but to be fair, Brandis’ staff are at fault here. He most likely never saw that letter. Some underling would have read it and then it was passed on to another department and underling for a form letter answer just a few weeks before Monis went nuts with his siege.

    The real worry is not so much Brandis’ incompetence, but the bleeding obvious fact that the Attorney-General’s department staff were so ill informed, lazy and so incompetent that they just treated Monis’ letter as a ‘normal’ letter from a citizen looking for information. All sorts of alarms should have been set off, especially by the use of the term “Caliph Ibrahim”, which only his devotees use, but no-one noticed a thing.

    If only – if only someone had said ‘Hang on, who is this’ and had then rung the AFP, or even the terrorism hotline, as we are all told constantly to do when we see something suspicious. But no-one did.

  14. Leoni..”The butler did it” defence does not wash in this nor any other situation where he who calls the tune answers to the song..if I, as a tradesman builder over looked a potential danger spot in the construction that I was in charge of…I…would still have to answer for the damage done in a case of collapse.

    Brandis and the govt’ wish to collect all our metadata…for what?..a terrorism threat…yet here they were delivered one on a platter..and they cannot connect the dots!!??…Then how the blue blazes are they going to draw conclusions on one that is more vague?

    It is why ALL builders have liability insurance…to pick up the tab when an un-forseen happens…it must be why the MSM. is there… ie ; as Brandis’ / LNP. “insurance” to make sure NO liability goes through to the public perception!

  15. gigi

    Peter Garrett

    Gave up some things in an attempt to gain other things.

    Then got dumped on.

  16. Hmmm … Latest mail from the ATO.

    WTTE “Won’t pursue but don’t expect a tax refund any time soon”.

    If I win Tattslotto they can have their claimed bit.


  17. jaycee
    I’m not excusing Brandis, just pointing out how it works. As minister, Brandis has to take the responsibility for the failures of his staff, and for the failures across his portfolio. He has failed to make his staff aware of potential threats or issues, it’s all his fault, and Labor is justified in going after him. As gigilene says, if it had been Nicola Roxon or any other Labor minister responsible for this debacle they would have had to resign. Brandis is still there, still incompetent, being defended by Madam Speaker and his cringing fellow ministers.

    Brandis can collect all the metadata he likes, but what use is it if his staff aren’t fully briefed, or aware of potential threats, or are incompetent bunglers like their boss. It doesn’t matter what information is or is not gathered, it will be pointless. Brandis is lazy and interested only in self-promotion, denigrating Labor and re-arranging his book collection. He is a fifth-rate lawyer, given that damned QC – after he became a politician and had given up practicing law – for services to the Liberal Party, not for legal excellence and ability. He is way out of his depth as AG. The Keystone Kops always spring to mind whenever I think about this government. A bunch of incompetent bunglers the lot of them.

    Note – the Newman government reinstated the title ‘Queen’s Counsel’, to replace the usual ‘Senior Counsel’ and Queensland lawyers could then choose to use either title. Brandis, formerly an SC, chose to be a QC. Conservative to the bootstraps.

  18. More government lies –

    Perrett denies same-sex marriage deal

    Federal Labor MP Graham Perrett has denied he’s teaming up with a Liberal backbencher to co-sponsor a private bill legalising same sex marriage.

    Mr Perrett denied reports he was one of two Labor MPs Warren Entsch said he had spoken to about a bill separate to the one Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will table in parliament on Monday.

    ‘There’s only one bill going into Parl House: billshortenmp It will be bipartisan and owned by all if Libs vote freely for it,’ he tweeted on Friday

    There will be all sorts of government lies and plotting around this debate. Abbott is never going to allow Labor to gain any credit for anything.

  19. Anyone who would have seen Christine Forster on Lateline would have come to the conclusion that stuttering is a common trait in the Abbott family.

  20. gigi

    Anyone who would have seen Christine Forster

    Being inquisitive but where does the ‘Foster’ bit come from?

  21. ‘Foster’ because she was once married to a Mr Foster, before working out she preferred women.

  22. The Dalai Lama has urged fellow Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do more to help Burma’s persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority in a worsening migration crisis.

    Despite thousands of Rohingya fleeing on harrowing boat journeys to south-east Asia to escape poverty and discriminatory treatment by the country’s Buddhist majority, opposition leader Suu Kyi is yet to comment.

    Observers have attributed this to fears about alienating voters ahead of elections expected in November.

  23. Amazing just how the Australian economy responds now that the adults are in charge. The LNP sure know how to run an efficient economy! Yeah! Right into the ground. Good one Hockey! 👿

    Business spending is collapsing to “recessionary” levels as worries grow the Reserve Bank may have to deliver another interest rate cut to prop up a deteriorating economy.

    Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show the mining sector is central to an investment strike that is only partly offset by a home-building burst.

    The statistics show new capital spending fell 4.4 per cent in the first three months of the year – double what was expected.

    More worryingly, estimates by firms on their spending intentions were also trimmed.

    The mining sector, which two years ago invested more than $94 billion in new plant and equipment, expects to spend just $52 billion next financial year.

    Beyond that, investment is tipped to fall even further.

    In WA, mining investment remains reasonably strong but manufacturers spent an 11-year low of just $230 million on upgrading their operations in the March quarter.

    Nationally, total investment covering all industries is tipped to fall from about $150 billion to just $102 billion.

    Treasurer Joe Hockey admitted the figures were disappointing but said they had not taken into account last month’s interest rate cut or Budget initiatives such as the $20,000 instant asset write-off for small businesses.

    But UBS economists Scott Haslem and George Tharenou said capital expenditure was falling off a cliff in a direct risk to the entire Australian economy.

    “The capex outlook deteriorated from already bleak three months ago to now recessionary,” they said.

    “This data is so bad it would worry the Reserve Bank and now raises the risk they will cut rates again.”

    The figures suggest the Budget’s key economic forecasts are at risk as well as the Reserve’s expectations for the country.

  24. ok. today I am celebrating my coming birthday as I working on the actual day. And i don’t let on my actual birthdate on social media.

  25. Gina Rhinoheart’s son says his mum won’t give up. She wants control of all the money, no matter what.

    I reckon that she’s used the Trust as part collateral for the finance for her Roy Hill mine. If the iron ore price continues to lie in the marginal to non-marginal levels, then the Roy Hill development might go under and the banks will snaffle up the Trust money.

    I reckon the reason why Gina is fighting so desperately to retain sole control of the Trust is because she wishes to keep her dealings with it (ie using it as collateral which would be illegal) totally inhouse & secret, hence the lobbying of the members of the trust (the children) by Barnarby & Alby Shultz & goodness knows how many other senior LNP lobbyists!

    This is only a theory, mind you & not proven fact. I’d cry bucketfulls if Gina does go down though, not! 😉

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