Academic journal article Oceania

'We Wouldn't Be Dead for Quids': Hansonism, Fascism, Death and Difference

Academic journal article Oceania

'We Wouldn't Be Dead for Quids': Hansonism, Fascism, Death and Difference

Article excerpt


There are a number of ways in which the Australian political movement led by Pauline Hanson can be implicated in the totalitarian episodes of the twentieth century. But there are also significant differences between what Hansonism presents us with in Australia and what totalitarianism has presented us with in Europe, in the fascist and stalinist regimes with which totalitarianism is associated. The suggestion in this paper is that totalitarianism can be understood in schematic terms as a mutation of the symbolic order through which differences have been arranged and evaluated in Western thought since the time of the ancient Greek philosophers. Specifically, it belongs with the history of the binary opposition. Its mutation is that it attempts to realize -- that is, to accomplish in reality -- the fiction of the binary structure, which is its claim to comprehend or to be able to totalize and exhaust the space over which its positive and negative terms must govern. In a contemplation of death and difference, the question is considered here of what is to be gained for thought in characterizing Hansonism as a neo-fascist phenomenon.

The phrase 'we wouldn't be dead for quids' comes from a Hanson supporter in a letter to a friend and journalist just before the Queensland state election in 1998, when the popularity of One Nation was at a high point. 'We are fine and wouldn't be dead for quids', she wrote, 'with this red-headed bushfire fanning hot breezes in this dry and arid land...' [1] The 'red headed bushfire' is Pauline Hanson, and it is her appearance on the scene which is credited with the rekindling of life or life's spirit in the bush. Hanson is perceived as having struck a match upon the national landscape; one that has put, in the place of a slow leaking away of life, the regenerative flame of life's potency and passion.


In his book The Psychoanalysis of Fire Gaston Bachelard wrote:

If all that changes slowly may be explained by life, all that changes quickly is explained by fire. Fire is the ultra-living element. It is intimate and it is universal...It rises from the depths of the substance and offers itself with the warmth of love. Or it can go back down into the substance and hide there, latent and pent-up, like hate and vengeance...It is cookery and it is apocalypse...It is a tutelary and a terrible divinity, both good and bad. It can contradict itself; thus it is one of the principles of universal explanation. [2]

Bachelard also considered fire to have a sexualized significance. Documenting the writings of alchemists and early doctors, he found that the principle of fire was perceived to be the male activity, virile and erect, while woman was passivity and the principle of water. [3] More precisely, it was the enclosed fire of the forge or the alchemist's furnace that was tied to the masculine ideal. Concentrated, contained and controlled, it was a fire strengthened and made productive by mastery. Left to itself, a fire may dissipate or escape into chaos; its formlessness and leakage lending itself, perhaps, to its elementary opposite, to water. Fire, as Bachelard says, can contradict itself. Sexual difference is a crucial part of its articulation.

Hanson's fire -- at least in its promise, or its threat -- is not the enclosed fire but the wildfire, the bushfire. (The more ideological of her right-wing supporters may see them selves as self-appointed rangers -- lighting the smaller, strategic 'control fires' which are set to guard against the greater destructive power of the coming 'race wars' -- but Hanson herself, in her popular persona, embodies the erratic spark and fury of the bushfire.) While it is less contained and more dramatic and chaotic, the bushfire has something of the ambiguous clearing and cleansing values of the agricultural fire contemplated by Virgil, in Bachelard's book. The bushfire in Australian mythology is a sacrificial force that must destroy in order to renew. …

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