The Magazine

The Death of the WASP Down-Under


We have met the enemy and he is us.

~Pogo Possum

No writer has more deeply researched the decline of America’s WASP, or more vehemently mourned it, than has my friend Paul Gottfried. Reading his most recent observations on the topic, I am impressed not simply by how accurate they are, but by how little resemblance the process of American WASPs’ collapse bore to the process of Australian WASPs’ collapse. While the Australian WASP is as obviously dead as is the American WASP, he was killed by different methods.

So different were these methods that in themselves they rebut the cliché which has fallen from a million Aussie lips since the 1960s: the idea that Australia is America’s 51st state, a condition to be hailed or condemned according to personal disposition. The more one studies Australian history, the harder it becomes to interpret it in terms the average American would comprehend.

Yes, Americans might once have been so impressed by antipodean fondness for the secret ballot that they called it “the Australian ballot.” Yes, Jack London and Harry Bridges might have regarded Australian socialists as brothers-in-arms. And yes, Sex and the City 2 is as loathsomely omnipresent in Sydney as in San Francisco, St. Louis, or Seattle. Overall, nonetheless, any honest Australian should say of Americans what Chesterton said about the French: “I love [them] as the most foreign of all foreigners.”When I visit America, I am rendered (in Clive James’s happy phrase) “catatonic with culture shock.”

At first it might be hard to discern why the Australian WASP should have differed innately from his American equivalent at all. America’s religious default mode is Protestantism. But so, until recently, was Australia’s, although in Australia Anglicanism far outweighed the other Protestant denominations (or, for that matter, U.S.-style Episcopalianism) in terms of prestige. Technically Anglicanism ceased to be an established church in Australia as far back as 1831 -- I have explained elsewhere how and why this cessation occurred -- but for all practical purposes Anglicanism constituted as great a career advantage in Australia as it did in England, and a still greater career advantage than Episcopalianism did in the States.

Non-Anglican Protestant churches bathed in Anglicanism’s reflected glory. Their members could draw solace from reflecting that however humble their situation, at least they weren’t Catholics. Political scientist Norman Abjorensen has made a good case for arguing that John Howard retained, to the bitter end of his Prime Ministry in 2007, a personalized resentment at the social-democrat Australian Labor Party (ALP) government which ruled New South Wales uninterruptedly from 1941  to 1965. Catholic-dominated and with more than a whiff of Tammany Hall, this apparently immovable administration enshrined the pro-trade-union policies which it became Howard’s lifetime ambition to wreck.

Not that Howard, as Liberal Party leader, ever acted in a consciously anti-Catholic fashion. On the contrary, in 1996 he became the first Liberal boss to obtain more Catholic votes than the ALP got. But for all his awkward attempts at backslapping, he never lost a sense of cultural apartness. This is why David Marr, a clever left-wing journalist, once wittily commented about Howard’s lower-middle-class Sydney Methodist background: “They [Australian Methodists] knew they were at the bottom of the heap, but it was the right heap.”

Howard never realized -- any more than Margaret  Thatcher did -- that he could support either social conservatism or globalist demands for mass immigration, but not both. The more diligently he showed his modernizing zeal by submerging universities in (to quote Churchill) “a vast process of Asiatic liquefaction,” the more widely mocked he became for his residual anti-modernizing instincts: his old-style monarchism, for example, and his opposition to “gay marriage.”  In short, and not for the first time, it took an Australian WASP to humiliate and disempower Australian WASPs.

Kevin MacDonald, in The Culture of Critique, asserted that Third World immigration to Australia had been largely organized by Jews. It is perfectly correct that Jewish activists like travel-agency tycoon Isi Leibler and mass-media schlockmeister Sam Lipski have been disproportionately represented among those who demanded such immigration from the mid-1960s onwards. Where MacDonald errs is in supposing that they took the lead. Far more crucial in the process were two WASPs, both Prime Ministers: Harold Holt, in office 1966-1967; and Bob Hawke, in office 1983-1991. (As for the following tale’s earlier part, readers wanting further information should consult The Origins of Multiculturalism in Australian Politics 1945-1975 (2000), the work of Melbourne educationist Mark Lopez.)

Nothing in Holt’s life became him like the leaving it. Most Americans have never heard of the Australian Prime Ministers who actually achieved meritorious things: such as Sir Edmund Barton, Alfred Deakin, Andrew Fisher, and Ben Chifley. But they all seem to have heard of Holt: “Oh yeah, he was the guy who drowned, right?”

To examine the 2005 biography of Holt by Anglican bishop Tom Frame is to appreciate anew that whilst Holt might not actually have been Australia’s worst leader, he was indubitably the most crazily desirous of being loved.  When he posed for the internationally syndicated photograph of himself at the beach, surrounded by  female relatives in varying degrees of undress, he appears never to have had the smallest insight into how such casual deportment cheapened the position he held. Almost certainly his lust for popularity at any price, rather than more sinister motives of appeasing ethnic or big-business lobbyists, led him to abolish the White Australia Policy within months of coming to power.

No popular mandate existed for Holt to abolish it. His predecessor Sir Robert Menzies had deplored the very concept of doing so, as did the ALP, then led at federal level by septuagenarian Catholic Arthur Calwell. And while Calwell’s swashbuckling successor Gough Whitlam (Presbyterian-reared though personally agnostic) made no moves to revive the policy after he had brought the ALP to near-victory in 1969 and outright victory in 1972, he demonstrated in his immigration program an uncharacteristic caution.  (He did so despite the best efforts of his unspeakable Immigration Minister Al Grassby, whose protracted function as standover man for the Calabrian Mafia could only be admitted in public after his death in 2005.)

Opposition to big Third World intakes had been second nature to Labor ever since Australia founded its first central government in 1901. Former New South Wales ALP Premier (and Catholic) Jack Lang, a ferociously populist orator analogous to Huey Long in his visceral detestation of finance capitalism -- and whose 1925-1932 political zenith coincided with the Kingfish’s -- laid it on the line, with habitual eloquence, in his 1956 autobiography:

White Australia ... was Australia's Magna Carta. Without that policy, this country would have been lost long ere this. It would have been engulfed in an Asian tidal wave. There would have been no need for the Japanese to invade this country. ...

Even the United States has had to wrestle with the problems of Jim Crowism, racial segregation and color discrimination. Labor didn't want this country to have similar problems. Had we listened to the do-gooders and the crusaders for international brotherhood and racial equality, the barriers would have come down long ago. Our living standard would have been destroyed. We would have had intermarriages of races, half-castes and quarter-castes with all the social dilemmas that invariably follow such racial mixtures. We would have had a Black, Brown and Brindle streak right through every strata[sic] of our society. Instead we ... decided to keep this country as a citadel of the white peoples. Australia is still White Australia thanks to those who battled against those who wanted to exploit colored labor for their own ends. We must keep it that way.

That’s talkin’, that is.

Where Holt led, the even more reprehensible and expensively educated Bob Hawke followed. Hawke’s father was a rich Congregationalist clergyman; Hawke’s uncle was, in the 1950s, a Western Australian Premier of steady-as-she-goes temperament. So Hawke himself scarcely belonged to the underdog class, however grossly he coarsened his speaking voice in order to resemble a proletarian parrot. He displayed a sovereign contempt for the traditions of the ALP over which he so long presided. His passionate and indiscriminate Zionism played, however, a smaller part in his “thinking” on the immigration issue than did the Tienanmen Square massacre in 1989.

News of the massacre caused Hawke (facing probable defeat at the following year’s poll) to engage in frenzies of weeping on national television -- he could always be trusted to join the sob-sisterhood with an election in prospect -- and, further, to vow that at least 40,000 Chinese students already in Australia could stay for the rest of their lives. As for unemployed blue-collar Australians of Anglo-Celtic or European extraction who had voted ALP all their lives, they could (in Hawke’s view) go jump in the lake, being ipso facto “racists.” In the short term, the strategy worked. Hawke scraped home in 1990; and his successor Paul Keating delayed until 1996 the electoral disaster that, save for Keating’s staggeringly inept opponent John Hewson, would have overtaken the ALP in 1993.

What with the combined chicanery of Holt, Hawke and Howard since 1966, the surprising thing is not that the Australian WASP is dead, but rather that -- like  the coelecanth -- he survived for so long. To his striking capacity for endurance, any Australian of my age, or older, will attest. Australia in 1980 was remarkably similar, in economic and cultural terms, to Australia in 1960. Matter of fact, except for its incomparably greater levels of affluence, it had a good deal in common with Australia in 1950.

Therefore, if we Australian WASPs (and I, though Catholic by choice, am largely WASP by ancestry) have become strangers in our own home, it is fruitless to go around blaming Jewish behavior. We did it to ourselves. (With substantial help, admittedly, from bellyaching Irish ex-Catholics, not to mention from Calabrian Mafia thugs.) Our position, and ultimate complicity in our own doom, may call to mind the 17th-century Spanish proverb: “Castile has made Spain, and Castile has destroyed it.” For “Spain” read “Australia,” and for “Castile” read “the WASP”.

Every native-born Australian with an IQ of more than room temperature goes through stages where he curses his native soil, and convinces himself that he is really a  Brit/American/Greek/Italian/Russian/Armenian/ Uzbek/Tamil deprived of his authentic geographical heritage by a mere squalid accident of birth. Only with advancing age does he discern that he can no more obliterate his Australian background by taking thought, than obliterate his nose without the cosmetic surgeon’s aid. He might feel, apropos Australia, as a battered wife feels apropos her spouse; but a spouse is still a spouse, and not a one-night stand.

More and more, while conscious of nostalgia-tripping’s dangers, I think of the Australia in which I grew up. The Australia which contained very few millionaires and fewer starvelings. The predominantly austere land where  John Curtin (ALP Prime Minister from 1941 till his death four years later) stayed in a shabby Melbourne hotel so as not to scandalize his working-class supporters by personal extravagance. The Australia where Menzies, on his retirement from politics in 1966, found himself too impoverished to buy even the smallest house. The Australia where you could no more bribe your way into parliament or a judgeship than into obtaining a Nobel physics prize. The Australia whose national bureaucracy, whatever its faults, avoided vulgar corruption as totally as we mere victims of Original Sin can hope to do. The Australia where we had a manufacturing industry and full employment, and where we had full employment because we had economic protectionism. (An Australian neocon, by contrast, may be defined as someone who would rather say “f**k” than “tariffs”.)

But you know what I miss most about the Old Australia? I miss capital punishment. (Whilst the death penalty hasn’t been used since 1967, capital sentences were routinely passed till 1980, and not till 1984 was the penalty junked by Western Australia, the last state to retain it for murder.)  During my childhood, in even the poorest areas, small children could walk home from school at dusk in the absolute certainty that any pervert who tried to harm them would go to the gallows if he were not publicly lynched first.

Joseph de Maistre has been famously credited with worshiping the holy trinity of “King, Pope, and Hangman.” Australia’s Protestant royalists of 45 years ago (and 45 years ago even Catholic republicans wanted to be Protestant royalists) could have informed de Maistre:  “Two out of three ain’t bad.”

Cut to the late Dennis Hopper: “This used to be one hell of a great country.”