Verily, for though Tony Abbott lives among us, his spirit dwells in earlier times.
It has the shape of a cloud that even buffeted by gales will not be pulled apart. It sits in God’s hand. It is impervious to the nature of the weather and the times; that being so, it can exist in the past and live in the present. It is a transmigration of ignorance to belief.
Evidence of its existence is plain. Wherever Tony Abbott is, so it appears. It believes it speaks truth to power. It cannot otherwise exist, for to deny this is to admit that ignorance is bliss, that black is white. And besides, why bother, we’re all gunna die anyway.
And yet Abbott perseveres, a prophet discarded in his own land. Perhaps he chisels slowly on stone tablets by candlelight. With unwavering deliberation, he chips out characters. Immovable words. He scours deep into the stone so that his thoughts cannot be erased. When he is finished with a tablet, he nicks the flesh so that a drop of blood may fall onto the last word.
Or perhaps he uses ink and quill on parchment to draw his views of the world in neat assured strokes of refinement. Surely his hand moves as does his mind; a turn of phrase, a flourish of certitude flowing with the conviction of one who knows his world, his place in it and how everyone else should be placed in it.
“These are the words of a lost soul looking for a world that he used to know but which is fading into the horizon.”
This week Tony Abbott presented his views not only to his country, but to the world. He spoke at the Global Warming Policy Foundation in London of “civilizational decline”, of climate change, the settling of science, the plight of the West and the moral code.
He spoke of goats.
‘‘Environmentalism has managed to combine a post-socialist instinct for big government with a post-Christian nostalgia for making sacrifices in a good cause,” he said. “Primitive people once killed goats to appease the volcano gods.
“We’re more sophisticated now, but are still sacrificing our industries and our living standards to the climate gods to little more effect. Beware the pronouncement, ‘the science is settled’. It’s the spirit of the Inquisition, the thought-police down the ages.”
So Tony Abbott is really Winston Smith, the rebel of Oceania, who can say that “more than 100 years of photography at Manly Beach in my electorate does not suggest that sea levels have risen”.
That’s settled then. The science is in.
And so having found truth in the unsubmerged grains of sand of his home beach, Abbott takes the view that “in most countries, far more people die in cold snaps than in heat waves, so a gradual lift in global temperatures, especially if it’s accompanied by more prosperity and more capacity to adapt to change, might even be beneficial”.
Indeed, “climate change itself is probably doing good; or at least, more good than harm”. And from there it is only a small step to arrive at our destination of “why bother we’re all gunna die”.
Abbott told the London audience: “Even if reducing emissions really is necessary to save the planet, our effort, however Herculean, is barely-better-than-futile; because Australia’s total annual emissions are exceeded by just the annual increase in China’s.”
This is Abbott now as Dalek: “Resistance is futile.” Our moral obligation to the planet thus stops at our shoreline. While per output our influence on climate is small, per capita Australia is one of the biggest polluters in the world. As much as his stance is deplorable, it’s the sneering intolerance to grant even a sliver of science its due in that opening “even if reducing emissions is really necessary to save the planet” that sticks in the craw.
“He cannot move forward without abandoning the past. And he cannot do that. It is what defines him. If only people would listen to him.”
It must have been hard, excruciatingly so, to chisel those words into the tablet. But there is solace in abrogation:
“A tendency to fear catastrophe is ingrained in the human psyche. Looking at the climate record over millions of years, one day it will probably come; whatever we do today won’t stop it, and when it comes, it will have little to do with the carbon dioxide emissions of mankind.”
But, as is the lot of the prophet, or the missionary, the task of conversion is never-ending, especially when such obstacles as this, in Abbott’s words exist: “Climate change is by no means the sole or even the most significant symptom of the changing interests and values of the West.
“Still, only societies with high levels of cultural amnesia – that have forgotten the scriptures about man created ‘in the image and likeness of God’ and charged with ‘subduing the earth and all its creatures’ – could have made such a religion out of it.”
So, it is the fault of forgetting the myths of Creationism. How inconvenient. God must be fuming. You evolutionary bastards. Lucky God has a friend in Abbott. “Civilizational self-doubt is everywhere; we believe in everyone but ourselves; and everything is taken seriously except that which used to be.” Amen.
These are the words of a lost soul looking for a world that he used to know but which is fading into the horizon. He is trapped. He cannot move forward without abandoning the past. And he cannot do that. It is what defines him. If only people would listen to him.
“I’m reminded of the story of a man randomly throwing pieces of paper from the window of a train. Eventually his companion asked him why he did it. It keeps the elephants down, he said. But there are no elephants here,’ his companion replied. Precisely; it’s a very successful method.’ ”
Abbott, with a tin ear, has turned the adage on himself. He is the man throwing pieces of paper into the wind. Verily, he is as lonely as a cloud.