Friday, June 12, 2009

Donald Horne

I read Donald Horne's famous book The Lucky Country while I was on hiatus. Unfortunately, my emotional/mental state was not at 100% while reading it. So I felt for the most part I was reading the words with very little comprehension.

I was able to pay attention to the beginning of the book because I was less upset then. But by the time I got to the end, Horne's words were not quite sinking into my brain.

I did love holding the book in my hands because the copy I have was printed in 1967. I thought that was cool. When the book was published there was no Opera House. I don't think Holt had drowned yet. And I don't think the 1967 Referendum had happened.  At least it's not mentioned in the book.

Maybe one day I'll try to read the book again....maybe during a less distressing period of my life.

Well, I guess I should begin the research stuff.

Horne was born on Boxing Day 1921. I wonder if they had the Sydney to Hobart races back then.

Nope. They didn't. Lord Wiki says those started in 1945.


Birthday website time!

He's a Capricorn in astrology, and a 6 in numerology. 6 is the family number. I forgot what the Capricorn is. I shall go check.

All right. This website says, These hardworking, unemotional, shrewd, practical, responsible, persevering, and cautious to the extreme persons, are capable of persisting for as long as is necessary to accomplish a goal they have set for themselves.

I'm trying to think of whether or not I know someone like that. I know of hardworking people, but I'm not sure I know of any unemotional ones. I mean I know of people who hide their emotions; are very stoic. But I'm not sure I'd classify them as being hard-working. They're not lazy really. They're kind of moderate in terms of the amount of work they do.

Horne was born in a place in Sydney called Kogarah. I've never heard of it. I'll have to go look it up.

Lord Wiki says Clive James was also from there. I read his memoirs so maybe I HAVE heard of the place. It's in southern Sydney and I remember that's where James was from. I think it's near the airport.

I'll go look at Google Maps.

It's about twenty minutes south west of the airport.

That might have just been baby Donald's birthplace though. The place he was actually raised was Muswellbrook.

Muswellbrook is about two hours north west of Newcastle. It's part of the Hunter Valley region and is known for horse breeding and coal mining.

Horne graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Arts. He became a journalist and worked for various publications. As an editor for The Bulletin, he removed it's motto Australia for the White Man. That was a good deed. And Lord Wiki says Horne was proud of that. I think he should be.

The Bulletin stopped being published in 2008. I think maybe I wrote about that before. I'm having deja vu here.

At one point, Horne was a political science professor at the University of New South Wales. Fairly recently (1992-1995) he was the Chancellor of the University of Canberra. I didn't realize there was another university in Canberra....I mean besides ANU.

Lord Wiki says he was for the Republic and against the White Australia Policy. I think he's a guy I can stand behind.

I need to read his book again.

In fact, I think I'm going to read the last chapter right this minute. It's the one I tried to read twice without any luck of comprehension. I'm in a much better mental state now. Maybe this time I'll have more luck.

Okay. I like the first two paragraphs. The first one sounds a bit insulting against Australia. It starts off saying, Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck. He talks about how Australians do not put emphasis on hard work. He says, According to the rules, Australia has not deserved its good fortune.

But then in the second paragraph, Horne turns things around. He says, The rules may be wrong. Further down he says, some way will have to be found in which most people will work less without suffering comparative economic hardships.

Coming from a horribly workaholic country, I like what Horne is saying here.

I like this quote although it stereotypes and I don't know how true it is today. I'm not even sure if it was true when Horne wrote the book. Australians have good nerves. They hate discussion and theory, but they can step quickly out of the way if events are about to smack them in the face. That doesn't remind me of any Australian I personally know. But they could still be out there. Maybe I'm missing them somehow.

I'm tired of reading the book...mostly because I know I will have a ton of Internet reading to do today. If I recall correctly, Donald Horne is featured on that overwhelming biography website.

I'll read the book another day. Maybe

I am done with Lord Wiki though. That's good.

I guess I'll move onto that biography website.

Oh. I forgot to mention. Horne died in 2005.

This biography website interview was done in 1992.

I'll start with page one.

His father was a school teacher.

Young Donald had a small collection of books he loved. As a child he liked to learn.

Anzac Day was big at their house.

Horne shares a childhood memory. He and his parents went to see a movie which involved pacifists. When they got home from the film, they sat around drinking tea. Horne's dad expressed concern that his son wouldn't fight in a war.

That mindset is so foreign to me. I can't imagine WANTING my child to fight in a war. I'd be horrified if he was forced to do it. I'd be very sad if he chose to do it. Horne's dad would look at me and probably think I'm incredibly selfish.

I don't know.

Maybe I'd feel differently if the war was a truly righteous one. But I'd rather sacrifice myself; not my son.

Horne says Muswellbrook wasn't very multicultural outside of a few Greeks. He doesn't remember there being any Aboriginal people.

He talks about his own childhood prejudices. He says he didn't believe Catholics were part of the human race. Yikes.

Horne talks about something which is common in bigotry. He believed Catholics were subhuman, yet there were exceptions. There was a teacher that was okay. There were some playmates....

I've encountered sentiments like that. I've gotten it from some Australians regarding me being American. There's that idea. I can't stand Americans. But you're different from the rest. I like you. From my viewpoint, it's pretty ridiculous because I see Americans as being individuals. I don't see them as all the same and me as different from the rest. I'm similar to some and different from others.

But I guess I have my own prejudices. I'm pretty sure I've said (or thought) on some occasion. You're not bad for a Christian, or For a doctor, you're not too arrogant.

I guess we all have our prejudices. And most of us make exceptions, for those that we personally know, who don't fit the stereotype we have formed in our mind.

Horne describes his mother as superficial. He's not completely negative though. He says she was also extremely generous.

He was an only child during his early childhood years. I guess this means like Keneally, siblings came later. Horne says he felt guilt about being an only child because he heard people gossiping about it as if it were some horrible infliction.

Horne did have friends. He had friends next door. His most important playmate though was his cousin. That's like Jack. His two favorite playmates are his cousins.

He says he spent a lot of time alone. He would read a lot. He didn't have many toys.

Here's a somewhat awful story. Horne says he was pretty smart for his age. When he was in year two the teachers brought him to the year five students and had him read for them. They wanted to show the kids that they were so bad at reading a younger kid could do better then them.


Horne says he was in the top of everything at school. Then one time he didn't come out in the top with math. It seems that was hard on him. He sounds like Lisa Simpson.

When Horne was an older child, the family moved to Sydney. He went to Parramatta high school. His level of academic performance went down quite a bit. He even failed French. Horne says some of this might have come about because his father suffered a nervous breakdown. I'm sure the move might have had some effect as well.

Horne is asked whether his troubled adolescence added anything to his life.

Horne said, I don't know that my troubled adolescence did me any good at all. I think that it took me ... I think it would have been ... I think I might have been a more useful productive person if I had not had a troubled adolescence.

This is different from my way of thinking. I hate the bad things that have happened in my life, but I'm still somewhat grateful they happened.

I had some pretty negative experiences these last few weeks. They were very hurtful. But in a way, I'm very glad they happened to me. I've learned so much from them. I think in the end, they will make me a better person. I think maybe they'll even make me a nicer person.

Horne seems resentful of his father's breakdown; almost angry at him. Maybe I'm reading it wrong. I don't quite understand, I guess.

When he was in year nine, his mother had another baby. This was his sister Janet. Horne says he didn't trust his mother to know how to take care of a baby; so Horne read parenting books.

He talks about his father's problems. It sounds really rough.

Horne says he didn't like Parramatta High much. He was invited back later to do a speech and he started by telling the students he hadn't liked their school. The students heard that and cheered. I think that's pretty funny.

He also attended Canterbury High School at some point. It seems he liked that school a little bit better than the Parramatta one.

Horne liked reading better than sport. I can definitely relate to that!

He didn't have friends at Parramatta because of his family problems. He became a bit of a recluse. But he did develop some friendships at Canterbury.

All right. I'm now on page two. I just noticed that this biography has only seven pages vs the usual thirteen.

You know I still feel guilty for not giving more attention to Horne's book. I just had an idea. I think I'll randomly pick a page and read it.

I got page 108-109.

I'm going to read it now..... Or I should say RE-read it.

It's about Australia's relationship to Britain and America. Horne talks about how a lot of the traits Australians pride themselves actually come from the UK.

He says, Australia is very British in the sense that both societies are outwardly skeptical and pragmatic, distrusting public emotion and any complicated form of conceptualization and systematization.

All right. Back to the interview.

I like this quote I think I'm one of nature's autodidacts in the sense that I believe really the only education that thoroughly matters is the stuff you teach yourself.

As an unschooling mom, it makes perfect sense to me.

I do think we can learn from other people teaching us, but only if we are interested in what we're being taught. If the motivation to learn isn't there, I think we fail to learn. If there's a superficial reason for learning something, like grades or a test, I think we learn the information temporarily. Then when the test or grade is in the past, we forget what we learned.

Horne's motivation in learning reaches back to his childhood and a book called Cassel's Childrenss Book of Knowledge. Horne wanted to end up knowing EVERYTHING. I think I was like that as a child. I remember reading encyclopedias just for the fun of it. I wanted to learn. I wanted to know. I AM a 7 in numerology which is all about learning.

I'm still like that in a way. I want to know EVERYTHING about Australia. I'm less idealistic though as an adult, and realize it would be impossible to know everything. But I'll keep trying anyway.

I can relate to this quote. One, yes, certainly, although I now understand that there's nothing wrong with that, and that it also has been my experience that I sometimes express things very forcibly and got reactions and then changed my own mind.

I do that. I can have very strong opinions about something. I express them and then later I no longer believe in them. I'm trying to do this less now though, especially since I've had recent bad experiences with fanatics. My feeling now is that if you believe in something so strongly that you're willing to reject and ridicule people who feel differently, than this is not okay. It's okay to have strong opinions, but I think you have to at least listen to and consider the other side of the argument.

I'm not saying I'm trying to express my strong opinions less. I guess I just want to do it more carefully. I don't know if it's about changing the way I say things. I think it's more about how I react to the way people might oppose my opinion. I'm not sure I've been that harsh in the past. I hope not. But I will be extremely careful to try to be kind and tolerant when people disagree with me....especially since I know that within a short time I might be agreeing with them and disagreeing with my past self.

I can relate to Horne. He talks about not having a lot of friends because he alienated people. I guess that happens when you have strong opinions. Although on a positive note, I do have a good amount of people in my life who accept me and my opinions. And I accept them. Some people are decent in that way.

I'M finding myself developing a tiny bit of a crush on Horne....well, the young version of himself.

All right. Now I'm on page three.

He got married in 1948. That was the year my mom was born. See. I can go back in time to 1948. I can have a romance with Horne, steal him away from his woman, and meet my mom when she was a baby. That might be cool. I'm up for a time-traveling adventure. I'm all inspired because I recently read Playing Beatie Bow.

Horne was a conservative MP for awhile. I didn't know that! I mean I didn't know he was an MP at all. They're talking about Member of Parliament, I assume.

He says he believes in abortion-on-demand and is anti-censorship.

When Horne was a student he despised the idea of journalism. But then by pretty much chance, he ended up getting a job in journalism. What happened essentially was romance. I guess he was in love with a woman in Sydney so he ended up moving there. The job available was a journalism one. I'm not sure if I'm getting this right though.....

He talks about his reputation of being egocentric. Horne says, I'm egocentric without doubt, in the sense that I look at myself all the time and I've even, you know, written about myself.

I'm definitely like that. I guess anyone who blogs is somewhat egocentric. Anyone who frequently updates Twitter is egocentric. I think some of us are more self-conscious about it though. I did Twitter for awhile and then I felt weird about it. There was that idea of why does anyone care about the trivial details of my life? Why am I sharing these?

But I still do it on this blog, so I guess it makes me somewhat egocentric.

He says he's very disappointed by stupid people.

I find them disappointing at times; but I can tolerate them more than I can tolerate cruel people.

I'm now on page four.

Horne spent time living in England. He left Australia in 1949 and returned in 1954. He says, I was never going to have the dust of Australia on my heels again. I was one of the, you know, expatriates who despised the country: it's philistinism, all that stuff.

I felt that way about America. But I haven't yet had the chance to be an expatriate. Maybe someday. I no longer despise America though.

Horne talks about how he changed The Bulletin from being a racist magazine. It seems he alienated some of the staff and readers. Eventually he was fired from the magazine for stirring things up too much. But Horne says but by that stage it was unreturnable. Nobody could put it back to where it was before. That's good.

My feeling is that sometimes we speak up and no benefits come to us. We might gain enemies. We might gain scorn. We might be ridiculed. We might not have people patting us on our back saying Hey, you were right. Sorry we gave you a hard time. But there's this hope that maybe somewhere we planted a seed. Maybe we made someone think twice--if only for a brief second.

Horne ended up getting rid of his first wife and taking on a a second. His second wife's name is Mifanwe. That's a very interesting name. I wonder what its origins are.

Donald and Mifanwe had two children.

Horne says he explodes now and then. He also says he doesn't apologize. I don't respect that. I can relate to exploding. But I usually apologize.  At least I hope I do.

Oh wait. He says he is working on the apology thing. But in the past he didn't apologize much.

He doesn't believe in holding grudges. He says, But I ... I think, in a way, in relations with people, you know, you sometimes ... there may be some quite bitter relationship, and then later you've shuffled the cards again, you have different hands [and] you find other sides of people.

I like what he says there a lot. I do hold grudges. I sometimes think it takes awhile to let go of anger. But I definitely don't believe in everlasting grudges. I don't believe in lifetime enemies. I think minus extreme cases people should try to eventually reconcile.

Before I get to page five, I'm going to randomly pick another page in his book to read.

Okay, I got 188-189. This is from a chapter called "Men in Power".

Anything interesting here?

Well, sort of. Horne says, There is a lot of make-believe in Canberra and a tendency to look down on the rest of Australia as crude, self-interested, troublesome, and ignorant. You know what city that quote reminds me of...Los Angeles.  Or maybe any big American city: Los Angeles, San Francisco, NYC, etc.

Back to the interview. Horne talks about how his title The Lucky Country has been heavily misinterpreted. He was being ironic with the title, and a lot of people fail to understand that.

Horne says, A couple of years after that there was that now forgotten minerals boom, and a whole great deal of flatulent overpraise of Australia for being so clever as to have minerals, and it was at that stage that people, who very largely hadn't read the book, began to speak of Australia being the lucky country as if it was a gift from God, or as if the Australians were particularly clever at being lucky, and at the same time there was a new lot of lecturers coming out of the universities wanting to push old rubbish like me away, and they misrepresented the book too, and used the expression as if I'd meant, somehow or other, that luckiness was the greatest thing that a country should be.

I guess what he's saying is many people took lucky as being a compliment. It's as if luck is a skill in which Australians have impressive talent. But I think Horne meant it as more of an insult. Horne was saying (if I interpret him correctly) that without it's luck, Australia might have failed. Although maybe it's less of an insult and more like constructive criticism. I don't know.....

Horne says he's against the idea of being a nationalist. He says, Nationalist to my mind means that you're a patriotic chauvinist, which means that you believe that your country is superior to other countries. There's no harm in people thinking that we'll win the Admiral's Cup, we've got Ayers Rock and so forth. That doesn't do much harm but it be ... can become nasty and xenophobic and also aggressively trying to impose your order on others.

I strongly agree with him on this. I think it's great to love your country...or in my case love a country that is NOT your country. But I think it becomes unattractive when you're misguided enough to believe your country is superior to all other countries.

Now I'm on page six. Well, wait. Let me pick another random page from the book. I ended up on pages 76-77. It's from a chapter titled Sense of Difference.

Well, he talks about architecture....not really anything there I feel like quoting. Sorry.

Back to the interview.......

I like what he says here. I can REALLY relate to it. The interviewer mentions that he's been accused of intellectual arrogance. I've been accused of arrogance lately as well.

This is how Horne responds. Well I would think there probably is, yes, sure, in the sense that characteristics carried to excess I'd sooner be arrogant than over-humble. In this sense. It's not a personal matter, it's a question of how on earth does one encourage discussion amongst our fellow creatures, and one way of doing that, I think, is to state something quite confidently, in a way which might spark off a debate, and of course that can be arrogance in excess. It becomes arrogance if you assume that you're absolutely right. It doesn't become arrogance - in some ways it's rather humble I think - if you imagine: look I'm prepared to make an idiot of myself. Who's going to speak up?
There's a part of me that's terrified to speak up now. There's a part of me that feels when I see things I disagree with, I should nail my mouth shut or sit on my hands so they can't type anything in disagreement. But what would happen to the world if we all made that choice? How would I feel if people felt that fear when they came to my blog? What if I said things they disagreed with, and out of fear of sounding arrogant they kept their opinions to themselves? I know exactly how I'd feel. I'd feel horrible.

I think there's a difference between believing you are ALWAYS right, and believing you are worthy enough to share an opinion that might be different from most other people's.

All right. I'm on page seven now. I have to admit I skimmed over a lot of page six. It's past 1:00 already here. Time has gone by rather quickly today.

The interviewer says Horne has a reputation of making mincemeat out of people. I don't like that type of person. But Horne talks about attacking someone's opinion, not the person. I think there's a huge difference. I think you can have a great colorful debate with someone without being nasty about them personally. And if it starts to get nasty, you make a joke, change the subject, etc.

He's very much against whinging. That seems to be his pet-peeve. I probably whine/whinge too much for his personal taste. I'm afraid our time-travel romance probably wouldn't work out because of this. I'd end up whinging too much about missing the 21st century.

He doesn't believe in God and life after death. We differ there too. Well, I share his disbelief in God, but I do believe in Life after death. Or I should say existence after death. Well, wait. I believe in reincarnation. So, I suppose that would be life after death.

I like what Horne says here, I didn't ... don't feel that I became a conservative to be different. What I think happened was that as an anti-authoritarian person, I rebelled against what I saw as the authoritarianism of the Left. It's a bit of a difference I think.

I can relate to that. I feel at times I pick the side that is less pushy and dogmatic. I might believe in something, but if I feel people on that side are too pushy, fanatic, cruel, and unfair, I'll find myself drifting over to the other side. I guess this happens to me though because I'm in the middle when it comes to a lot of controversial subjects. I'm not sure which side to take so sometimes I'll end up taking the "nicer" side. Or I'll take the side which I feel is less popular. I don't think it's about wanting to be different. I think it's more about not wanting to be associated with people who act awful.

Okay. I'm done with the interview.

I'll go exploring via Google.

Here's a news article about his death. It says, It was meant as an indictment of an unimaginative nation, its cosy provincialism, its cultural cringe and its White Australia policy. But much to Horne's subsequent misery, many failed to detect his irony and many more, either wilfully or lazily, misinterpreted his words.
That sums up things pretty well.

The article says he was Liberal, but then later moved to the left. He was strongly against the Whitlam Dismissal.

The Australian Government website has a page on Horne. I'd like to see what they say.

I love their first paragraphs, talking about the phrase the lucky country.

The phrase has been used to describe our weather, our lifestyle and our history. It is often invoked to describe the nation's good fortune, from gold booms to economic booms. Recently, our geographic isolation from the world's trouble spots has again seen us labelled the lucky country. It has been paraphrased by politicians - 'the clever country' - and when Kylie Minogue sings we're 'lucky, lucky, lucky', we all know what she means.
How ironic then that Horne's irony was totally overlooked!

I love what the essay says towards the end as well. His words were meant as a wake-up call but were widely interpreted as an affirmation of the Australian way of life. They were meant to spark change but instead produced a relaxed approach and a 'she'll be right' mentality.

I wonder was it done on accident--out of ignorance. Or was it more about taking an insult, and instead of acting offended about it....turning it into a compliment. It's kind of like if someone tries to hurt you by calling you a name. Instead of acting hurt, you can embrace the insulting name and use it as a nickname. It's kind of like the pink triangle in terms of homosexuality. In the Holocaust, it was used to brand homosexual prisoners. It was a symbol of shame. But later it was embraced as a symbol of pride.

Here's an ABC interview with Horne. It's from a show called Compass. The interview took place in 2001.

His dog died when he was young. Horne talks about that and compares it to the tragedy of his father's breakdown. He says, Yes well it was, well it was also a tragedy, it was as fully indulged. I mean the tragedy of my father was something too horrible to contemplate in a way, but what happened to the dog that's a well-known tragedy and boys are allowed to have it.

It does seem that in life there are problems we're welcomed to talk about and get sympathy for. Then there's other problems that have shame attached. We get the message that we should keep quiet about it; limit our whining.

I think I'm going to quit soon. Before I do that, I'm going to look at some blogs.

This classical music blogger takes a break from writing about classical music to give his opinion on Horne. Oh never mind. Brendan does talk about music in his post. He says he often asks what Australian music is. Horne's The Lucky Country helped him work on answering that question. Brendan says, Horne wiped away my insecurities of underachievement on a world stage, and he showed me that my own future, and my nation’s, is dependent on how confidently I step forward into a new age of technology, ideas and culture. Although Horne offers no answers to any questions, nor is this book supposed to be any sort of self-help guide or path to enlightenment. He simply discusses how those very answers will be needed to be found by the newer generations, or Australia will perish into mediocrity.

I like what Brendan says.

I'm not finding anything else that brilliant.

I'll keep looking.....

Well, there's nothing I want to quote. But I did find a nice handful of bloggers expressing warmth towards Horne and sadness over his death.



  1. My personal Australian stereotype? We are lazy, so we use stereotypes a lot. Saves all that thinking about people as individuals. But we mostly don't apply that stereotype to an individual.

    I probably hold more stereotypes about Australians than Americans. Which just means I am as lazy as the rest of us. :)

  2. Here is a kind of life after death you can both agree on:

    You are not talking to yourself (or only to yourself...)

  3. Dina this was a wonderful post! You make me want to buy "The Lucky Country". I found your corellations to various events and attitudes he had rivetting... and obviously after our little contretemps a few weeks ago I identified with much of what you said.

    After an incident online last year I felt, as did you, in some respects that ideas level blogging was too going to be too difficult. Luckily I held onto the knowledge that the issue was the outrageous behaviour of others, not blogging itself. Although certain elements of blogging can lead to abuse I believe. But as long as people make it about the you say... I will keep talking...or writing on blogs and I am so pleased you are too!

    Donald Horne sounds like either an old fashioned kind of intellectual or a man who was ahead of his time...or a mixture of the two.

    Wish I had known about him when he was alive! Thank you so much Dina my dear....I love the ideas level blogging that you present us here.


  4. Ariane: I'm trying to think of which stereotypes I have for Australians. It's probably not much anymore since I know individuals. When I first became interested in Australia, I thought of Australians as people who love sport and drink a lot. I think it's easier to have stereotypes when you don't know a lot of people from a particular culture. And since none of us can know a lot of people from every single culture, we're all going to have some stereotypes.

    Whatwas: I'm trying to figure out if your comment is legitimate or just an advertisement for your website. Either way...interesting site. I guess at least you're not trying to sell anything.

    Kathleen: Thank you! I'll be interested to know if you end up reading Horne's book. I need to read it again someday...or maybe I'll read some of his other work.

    I think the thing with blogging is it's a scary world out there. But if we let cruel intolerant people scare us away, then what will the Internet turn into?

    I think my plan is not to change what I say. I don't think I'm particularly rude. I think I'm a fairly civil person.

    What I do plan to change is where I visit in the blogging world. If there's a blog that shares many of my viewpoints or is about a subject I'm interested in....if I see the blogger being very nasty to others, I'm not going to hang out there.

    I found a blog I might have liked the other day. But then I looked at their list or blog rules, and I decided never to go back. It just sounded too snarky for me. They talked about inappropriate comments and warned people that if you wrote something they didn't like, they might turn your comment into a whole post and ridicule you.

    Well, I guess I should be glad there was a warning at least!

  5. The Lucky Country is used as an insult by my partner. Don't do anything, don't bother, this is the lucky country. Me trying to point out that it is supposed to be ironical does not help.

  6. Good point about not hanging out with those who are just plain nasty. It's one thing to disagree in an intelligent manner, it's another thing to just lob insults at each other and never address the main point(s) of the disagreement.

    It doesn't take much intelligence to curse and call another person does take quite a bit of emotional/social intelligence to disagree with someone in a way that tries to bring a level of understanding to both parties.

  7. Andrew: Could he be being sarcastic? Well, probably not. But I could see someone saying it in a sarcastic way.

    Gun-bae: I strongly agree.