WHAT do James Bond, Mick Jagger and Tim Paine have in common? They have all been run over at the intersection of New Old-Fashioned Values and Old New-Fangled Sensibilities. More on that below. Let’s start with the auto-da-fé in whose flames religious authorities just burned Australia’s cricket captain. While it’s true that aroused males don’t always make prudent decisions – Mother Nature’s way of hampering childless bachelorhood, I guess – nor, let’s be frank, do randy females. How else to explain the forlorn army of single mothers pushing prams in every mall from Bunbury to Bundaberg? God bless the babies but if all were planned I’m a Cubist.
I press that comparison to the point of indelicacy for a reason. You hope the national conversation can’t possibly get any worse and then you see Paul Murray discussing a cricketer’s penis this week with Bronwyn Bishop. What next, John Howard on the Brazilian? In The Australian, Helen Trinca explains why men “feel the need to flaunt” their genitals. Her conclusions are admirable but a more interesting column would be on why women feel the need to flaunt their expertise on what all men feel. Both ladies are right that Paine acted foolishly and wasn’t thinking with his head. Not the big one, anyway. Ho ho ho. But he hasn’t committed any crime, nor – thankfully – adultery of the kind formerly committed habitually by our future King. His marriage is safe, according to reports – and, more authoritatively, his wife. Enough with the tut-tutting.
So why did Paine fall on a stump’s business end? Why did he feel compelled to preemptively cancel himself Kim Hughes-style? Why has he announced an indefinite leave of absence from all cricket? Before answering those questions, here are two more: why has the Rolling Stones’ frontman retired Brown Sugar and why is it the mission of pop culture prigs to erase the 007 you know and possibly love? The answer for ‘conservatives’ is that woke killjoys obsessed with ‘misogyny,’ ‘patriarchy’ and ‘white privilege’ mean to supplant customary freedoms with a ‘safe’ and ‘diverse’ culture. That the latter dispensation is a revolting Maoist empowerment scam may be taken as read. But not so the hallowed status of Jagger lyrically ravishing slave girls or Sean Connery bedding every woman he encounters between hearing M’s orders and detonating a villain’s lair. These were both gratuitous rebellions against prevailing social mores.
We on the right call it cognitive dissonance when the left gets tangled up in its own contradictions. They mocked the Hays Code, we laugh, and now they’ve written their own. But conservatives used to believe in dignified limits and now find themselves lamenting the censorship of rock ’n roll louts and Fleming’s debonair lech. This, then, is the postmodern war zone all of us seem to inhabit and the one Tim Paine wandered into. Progressives don’t want to be seen as prudes but as guardians of equality. Conservatives don’t want to be seen as prudes but as sticklers for solidity. He may not be a political adept but the ex-skipper was bright enough to know what was coming. Short of setting Veritatis splendor as a text for all school seniors – which I would happily do – I have no normative prescriptions for a way out. Except forgiveness.