Golf and the Sydney Peace Prize in the lifestyle republic


While Arundhati Roy was delivering her Sydney Peace Prize speech (transcript here), Brian was heading home on a first class flight after a very important and satisfactory trip to Dehli. While a recording of the speech was being broadcast on ABC Radio National on Sunday afternoon he was at the Royal Seersucker Golf Club, which he joined only recently, part of the golfing boom that has flourished beyond all expectation in John Howard’s Australia.

I can hear the crunch of spikes on scoria now, as well as the tack, clack, tack of the credit cards in the pro shop.

On the tee, Brian stands in the easy tradition of successful golfing men. Dwight Eisenhower, Bing Crosby, JFK, George Bush Snr and Jnr. He feels safe and proud amid the fairways and greens, the arboreal enclave. This is the kind of thing he’s worked to achieve after all. Brian is relaxed and comfortable, par excellence.

He is clad in Pringle cashmere, duck-egg green, over the bone and blue striped Raglan shirt with the Adam Scott signature that Susie bought for him in Banff. His slacks are terracotta polyester, Johnny Miller style. His brogue spikes are as black and buffed as a Lexus in a casino carpark. They’re so Camp David. Not to mention his bag! Ample, to say the least, like his driver, his Big Bertha.

In the hushed surrounds of Royal Seersucker, Brian has no idea that the Sydney Peace Prize speech has anything to do with him. That Arundhati Roy is not playing the globalisation game by the agreed rules, although it is obvious she knows the rules well:

‘No doubt all will be revealed in the free and fair trial of Saddam Hussein that’s coming up soon in the New Iraq. All except the chapter in which we would learn that a 12,000 page report submitted by the Saddam Hussein government to the UN was censored by the United States because it lists twenty four US corporations that participated in Iraq’s pre Gulf War nuclear & conventional weapons program. They include Bechtel, Dupont, Eastman Kodak, Hewlett Packard, International Computer Systems and UniSys.’

Now then Brian, to the swing. With the infrastructure he was given at birth “ his body “ rather than that which he has paid for since, Brian over-reaches and his rough clunk squirts down from the tee, seeking trouble, almost like a Coalition of the Willing missile but nowhere near as precise. Suddenly he becomes a tableau of raw humanity amidst the sage and still witnessing of sandbelt melaleucas. He swears under the breath, pleading. Why, Brian? Concentrate, Brian!

Amongst his playing partners however, nothing much is revealed in that moment that isn’t already known. What matters is not that Brian can PLAY, but that he can PAY. Still, in the moment between his shot and his exit from the manicured tee, the air is thick with tacit understandings.

Golf being golf, it’s all agreed that clumsy moments like these should pass, like Freudian slips or Spoonerisms, or like facts regarding Third World debt. By the 11th hole Brian is tiring and his incredible business reputation comes to his rescue again, this time as an excuse. Walking up the slight incline of the fairway he chats with his chums about India and China – it seems as if he’s in either Shanghai or Dehli most months of the year nowadays. It’s no wonder his golf’s suffering. They all laugh. Well, you don’t go to India to improve your golf swing, do you Brian?

After the round Brian heads home, Andrea Bocelli soaring and a Starbucks hot chocolate in the space provided. He steers the Audi into the driveway and doors whirr and blip before he heads inside. The boys are upstairs with friends and Susie’s in the kitchen listening to the radio. Her neck is craned and she shooshes as he enters. Some young woman with an Indian accent is talking about the Iraq war. About Enron. About Donald Rumsfeld. About Bechtel. Brian stands behind Susie as she listens, he can see her frowning face reflected in the industrial strength stainless steel of the fridge. There’s no ‘hello’, no ‘how’d you play, darling?’ Nothing pert, no smell of cupcakes.

Brian stands motionless for a moment, R.S.G.C cap in hand, and the Indian woman speaks.

‘So think about it. The notional profit of a single corporate project would be enough to provide 100 days of employment a year at minimum wages, calculated at a weighted average across different states, for twenty five million people. That’s five million people more than the population of Australia. And that is the scale of the horror of New Liberalism. But the Bechtel story gets worse….’

‘What is this rubbish?’ Brian says. ‘It’s Sunday, for God’s sake!’

Susie waves him away. ‘It’s the Sydney Peace Prize speech,’ she frowns.

Momentarily livid again, like he was back on the tee, Brian wanders down the hallway towards the bathroom. Once inside the vaguely Byzantine cocoon, with Susie’s Natio & Aveda laid out in front of him, his mind clears. He chooses a Bergamot face scrub and steps under the high flow shower head. He sighs as the water-needles bite, and the coarse scrub gently tackles him. A busy man needs his comforts, he thinks, even on his day off. Then he longs for Susie to be standing in the steam beside him, though he wouldn’t quite call her his concubine.

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