Dear Mr Nolan,
Thank you for your open letter of 24 November. Please accept my apologies for the delay in response.
It was excellent to catch up with you yestere’en along with various others in the Convoy for Cliev cohort. It was particularly fun to meet up with John, who was in every way as I imagined him.
Turning briefly to your questions:
what’s up with the Governor General and what do you reckon about escalators?
This is an excellently crafted question. The two nouns sit in a harmony with each other. Objects defined by function and purpose, objects in the abstract. This reveals how we often feel about the Governor-General not actually being a person qua person, but a person qua function. This becomes the surprise when we think of Her Excellency, Quentin Bryce, who is an outspoken and intelligent woman. To what extent is Quentin Bryce the Governor-General? Is she reducible to the role of Governor-General? Which of her functions belong to the Governor-General and which to Ms Bryce? When she eats breakfast, is the Governor-General eating breakfast or is Ms Bryce eating breakfast?
This becomes the issue at the heart of her recent comments about marriage equality and the republic. People felt that it was inappropriate for the Governor-General to make these remarks (those people are incorrect), but was she making those remarks as Governor-General or as Ms Bryce? Perhaps Ms Bryce might agree that it was inappropriate for the Governor-General to make those remarks but not inappropriate for Ms Bryce to make those remarks, and — at the time of those remarks — she was Ms Bryce and not the Governor-General.
I’ve always liked to think about the criminal responsibility of Bruce Banner. When he becomes the Hulk, is he liable for his actions? Is he still the same person? When I use the word ‘person’ here, I think I mean something socialised. A person exists only in relation to social identification. People, in this sense, are not born but are broken free from the chains of animalistic irrationality. We become higher than our physical bodies not in a spiritual or metaphysical sense, but in a social aspect.
Have you ever taken a plane apart with your bare hands?
I have. In high school, it was compulsory for me to take woodwork, much to my annoyance. An abstract and esoteric person — also, an extraordinarily anxious child — I was never terribly good at manual work. I could see how things should fit together, but translating them from the mental to the physical was beyond the skill of my hands. One of our examinations was on the safe use of equipment, which in practice meant taking apart various tools and putting them back together again. The plane was not one of my favourites, as I was sure my clumsy hands would be cut on the blade.
Ever been on a moonlit walk in Phuket?
Alas, I haven’t. I recently hunted a Bogong moth with a can of Old Spice body spray, a yoga mat, and a ten-foot long pole. After knocking it into a concussion, my partner hit it stone dead with a shoe. I then danced to ‘In Enterprise of Martial Kind’ from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers.
I think political debate in this country is dire but I also really like VB tinnies so I mean it’s all a wash.
Living as I do in an ivory tower and a moonbase, I sometimes wonder if political debate in this country is poor because many of our other debates are similarly poor. We let the ravages of the market determine what’s good, define value in nothing else except economic terms, and allow anti-elitism to parade as commonsense pragmatism. I had a discussion with another libertarian friend of mine about a franchise of books, noting that it was entirely without literary merit. Their response? It made a lot of money so it must be good. We have no sense of value greater than utility or expense. I think this is a result of our culture not really having a broader appreciation for aesthetics. Political debate isn’t just dire, it’s ugly. This ugliness stems from a social malaise and disinterest in beauty.
Speaking of which, my hair is looking less ’90s today.