One of the most common questions people ask me in my capacity as a professional humourist and internet celebrity is, "Ben, the world today seems to be a big load of crap. Why is this?"
And I always tell these nebulous, ill-defined people the same thing: the problems of the world today can be summed up in four simple English words: lack of moral fibre.
I’ll say that again for those who missed the first announcement and are unable to lift their eyes to the previous sentence: lack of moral fibre.
The simple fact is, every malaise to be found in this once great land, and indeed across this once-great planet, can be traced to the fact that our leaders no longer have moral compasses in their pockets. And without a moral compass, one cannot navigate moral landscapes, indeed, one finds oneself constantly walking in moral circles and getting lost in moral blizzards, whereupon one is forced to eat one’s moral huskies. Which was pretty much the situation with Bob Hawke and Blanche D’Alpuget.
But up to now, I had thought there was some hope for our community, some slivers of decency and ethical rectitude remaining in our leaders. I was wrong.
Imagine somebody placed in an important position, a position of trust and respect and prestige. Imagine this somebody suddenly revealing that they fail on the most basic criteria for that position. Imagine finding out, for example, that Barack Obama was unable to wear a suit well; or that the Pope was not incredibly old and bigoted. You would — naturally — be shocked. Shocked as I was when I heard that Victorian Governor David de Kretser does not believe literally in the Bible.
Now up to this point, de Kretser had seemed an excellent governor, quietly going about his business according to the strictures of the Constitution, which specifies that the Governor shall a) be completely unknown to the general public, and b) do absolutely nothing. (There is, of course, provision, in the event of invasion by a hostile enemy force, for the governor to curl into a tight ball and emit an unpleasant odour.)
One would never pick this gentle, wrinkly man for a dangerous radical subversive. But what else are we to think, when he demonstrates his lack of moral fibre by proudly flaunting his rejection of the very foundations of moral fibre itself?
He doesn’t believe in the Bible! And yet this man is in charge of the smooth running of an entire state! I mean, not literally, of course: in reality, governors are barely allowed to be in charge of scissors; but symbolically, the Governor leads the state in all matters.
And symbolism is, after all, the most important element of morality. Nobody cares what a person actually does; it’s what they stand for that matters. Nobody minded that John Howard lied and misled and locked up brown children. Why? Because he represented honesty and decency and uptight straitjacket prudishness. Nobody minded Bill Clinton’s misdeeds — because he stood for compassion and progressiveness. Nobody minded Mark Latham breaking taxi drivers’ arms — because nobody likes taxi drivers. In leadership, symbolism is all.
And so we see it with de Kretser. The man is apparently a "church-goer" — but then he says he rejects the fundamental tenet that the earth was created in seven days, that woman was created from man’s rib, and that humankind is doomed to suffering till the end of the world due to the first woman’s impetuous trusting of a talking reptile. So what’s the point of going to church? He might as well spit on the altar and take upskirt photos of the priest, for all the good it does him. In a way, one might say that de Kretser’s very presence inside a church represents the foulest form of blasphemy.
Why does de Kretser so repellently reject both his own God and his responsibilities to the people of Victoria?
Oh, oh, oh! Of course! It’s because of "evolution" — the sexy scientific "theory" that has seduced so many of our potential leaders, turning them into gibbering scum no better than the monkeys they apparently believe gave birth to them thanks to Richard "Hellraiser" Dawkins and his latest book about how we should burn down all our churches and worship amoebas.
Dr de Kretser says the god he believes in created the world as it is "over an evolutionary time span". Ha! Dr de Kretser, you may be a "renowned fertility expert", but right now all you’re fertilising are the ova of my disgust with the collapse of our social institutions.
Because here’s the thing: it’s a matter of trust. When a public figure states his firm, unshakeable belief in the holy Word of God, you know you can trust him — you know his principles and beliefs are grounded in something solid and eternal. Maybe not true, maybe not relevant, maybe not possessed of the slightest smidgen of sense of logic, but solid and eternal — which is exactly what we need in these times of shifting loyalties and dizzying technological change and horrific variety show comebacks.
But when a governor comes along who says he does not believe that every word of the Bible is literally true, what are we to make of that? He is unpredictable, frightening. If you don’t believe in the Bible, you could believe in anything. Oh sure, today you might believe in democracy and freedom and cute little babies wrapped in fluffy pink blankets, but tomorrow you might have changed your mind. Tomorrow you might believe in paedophilia and polyphonic ringtones. Who can tell? Without the Bible to tell you what to believe, your moral system is as changeable as a flimsy pair of harem pants.
And this is terribly dangerous, in a leader of a greatish state like Victoria. David de Kretser must, after all, safeguard democracy and constitutional propriety south of the Murray. It is his job, in between speaking to school groups and dusting the silver, to keep an eye on the Government. He must ensure that everything is running as it should, that the Government does not go off the rails and begin oppressing its citizens or telling the truth or rejecting huge donations from property developers or anything, and that members of the Opposition do not risk a capsize of the ship of state through rash actions like revealing their identities.
Do we really want to entrust such weighty responsibilities to a man who confesses his confusion is so great that on the one hand he thinks the "teaching of values" is vital, yet on the other hand, that he believes the human body is a "machine". Can we entrust such duties to a man who believes in cyborgs? Can we feel safe from tyranny and despair while the highest office-bearer in this benighted patch of turf admits he cannot even prove God exists (an absurdly easy task, as anyone with access to a Good News Bible and a freshly picked lily will show), and yet accepts the half-baked theory of evolution without the slightest regard for certain vague reservations expressed about the general consensus on the hitherto discovered fossils of Ambulocetus? Answer: we cannot.
No, de Kretser’s admission is a wake-up call.
We must immediately press for an audit of the religious beliefs of all senior office-bearers in Australia. Rudd, Bryce, Gillard, Rees, Bligh — all must come under the microscope. Put them before a panel of respected clergymen, such as George Pell, Peter Jensen, and Danny Nalliah; hook them up to a polygraph machine; and force them to answer appropriately probing questions, such as: "How did the Israelites escape Egypt?"; "What was the first bird released from the Ark?" and "What is your opinion on a) the problem of evil, b) the ontological proof, and c) talking snakes?" If they fail to respond satisfactorily, they shall be cast into the outer darkness.
And we must start with this de Kretser reprobate. Time to march up to Government House, grab hold of the nasty science-hugging bastard, and send him wailing through the Botanic Gardens with the horsewhip cracking about his ears.
It’s what Jesus would do.
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