Always and ever the Golden Age — Χρυσόν Γένος — has been an illusion. It is important to remember that.
Today we have one of those silly occasions in politics where I guess an aspiration rather than a promise has dropped from the lips of Tony Abbott: “I’ll revive Howard’s golden age.” The Annunciation was actually made two days earlier by St Godwin the Grech. Yes, I remember The Golden Age. It was to my eyes more like this:
To me this looks more like a Golden Age:
But of course that view is not only because this speech still thrills me, but also because of where my life was at that time, 1993, when (for example) my 50th birthday was the sweetest I had — ever, possibly. At that time too I was locked in battle with the Immigration Department on behalf of M — a battle we won — an experience that still colours my views on more contemporary issues. I do not see the advent of Howard and Pauline Hanson three years on as ushering in a golden age of any kind. I never could and never will.
It is interesting of course to consider a couple of other views of recent Australian history. Take Ian Macfarlane in the 2006 Boyer Lectures, right there in The Golden Age according to La Grech, but placing The Golden Age rather earlier:
The end of the second world war ushered in an era of incomparable economic growth. In the era of post-war reconstruction the world’s developed countries would enjoy a ‘golden age’ of low inflation and full employment. Guided by the theories of John Maynard Keynes, governments became increasingly confident in how to apply macroeconomic policy.
Ian Macfarlane examines why this prolonged stability led some to proclaim that business cycles and recessions were things of the past. By the early 1970s it was clear such optimism was misplaced…
Then Strategy in Australia’s Golden Age 2011-2020 puts us right inside one right now!
Perhaps 1988 was the Golden Age.
That’s The Oxford Hotel in Darlinghurst on Australia Day 1988. I wasn’t there that day, but I sure was there or nearby on more days than one in 1988 – and 1989, and 1990… I see a number of faces I know in that shot, which comes from the Facebook page “Lost Gay Sydney”. One is John Farmilo, whose Bennett Street Surry Hills address was also mine for a good part of 1987. Not many years on from this John died of AIDS-related illness. I also see a Vietnam veteran there, former RAAF. He still used to wear his uniform on Anzac Day. I wonder if he is still with us? Later on – 1990 – M used to refer to him as lao dongxi. If you know Mandarin you will know that isn’t all that flattering. Oh well then: Lao Dongxi: Fortunately not common and obviously derogatory, lao dongxi (pronounced "laaw-dong-shee") means "silly old fool." M was not being entirely serious. He sometimes referred to me in similar terms…
That Australia Day I was with the Indigenous Australians down at Hyde Park remembering another version of the Bicentennial. That’s how I know I wasn’t in The Oxford that day. Or The Beauchamp:
I lived opposite The Beauchamp in 1988-9. The above is from a little later. Sirdan would recognise these people.
Was this part of a personal Golden Age? Yes and no. Aspects were, but there were also other aspects that were as bad as anything I’ve known. Which just goes to show the Golden Age is usually a product of nostalgia and wistful rearranging of history. That applies to personal as much as political ones.
Click that to see how I experienced The Golden Age as it happened
Things ain’t what they used to be!