Simply Not the Best


Anton Chekhov’s first play, Platonov, which was recently performed in Melbourne, contains a wonderful exchange between two of its characters.

"Terrible news," Platonov tells his friend Nikolai. "The most recent edition of Who’s Who has been released."

"Why is that terrible news?" his friend asks. "We are not in it," replies Platonov.

I feel a bit like Platonov today, finding that I have missed out on the 2020 summit. I am not among Australia’s 1000 "brightest and best". Very few of my friends are either. It’s a crisis for many of us. After years of living a lie, it’s time to face facts: we’re just not that important.

I had applied via email, like most people of the 8000 candidates who weren’t lucky enough to be issued an on-the-spot invitation on national television by Kevin Rudd. I wanted to attend the "creative Australia" group, of course, not just because I believe I have much to offer in terms of policy input, but also … well, because I’m vain.

I should be there. Swanning around at a high-powered meeting with A-list celebrities discussing the future of our nation – that’s how I roll.

Clearly, there must have been a mistake. I was wronged: neglected, defamed. How can they have passed me over? I mean, I am obviously one of the 100 best and brightest cultural minds in this country. It’s just that Peter Garrett and Cate Blanchett don’t think so. Peter Garrett and Cate Blanchett. I mean, what have they done lately anyway?

There goes my chance to meet Hugh! And Claudia! And Joshua Gans.

Where did it all go wrong? All those policy papers I read and blogs I scrutinised. My brilliant one-page description of exactly what I could bring to the summit. The referees I hunted up. The quiet words put in by various journalist friends. "They said they’d heard of you," one friend helpfully informed me. If only I’d been a ski jumper.

Perhaps I should not be surprised. I don’t own a media empire, I am not a famous actor or sports star and my skills in productivity leave much to be desired. I have no real understanding of how to solve global warming and my knowledge of the education system has mainly been gathered at a student newspaper. I don’t exercise enough either. Some mornings, I sleep in.

I am the first to admit my CV is a little thinner than, say, Fiona Stanley’s.

No, I’m sorry to say, the bald and ugly truth is that I am not important. I haven’t made the cut. Not to put too fine a point on it, my life is a failure. By my age Newton had invented the calculus and Alexander had conquered the known world. I haven’t even made it onto a laundry list of the nation’s top 1000.

Doesn’t matter. I don’t need them. They’re just out of touch elites who don’t understand the problems of the common man. Who’d want to hang out with media barons and Hollywood stars anyway?

I never wanted to go to that stupid summit in the first place.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.