Ellis & Hamilton – defrocked priests muttering on the edge


I read the views of two men today that were diametrically different but strangely the same.

Both writers opined on issues of the day, and both were once considered high priests in their respective spheres. One was witheringly sanctimonious while the other was simply lecherous. One decried humanity while the other sought to excuse its depravity.

But my response to both men was the same – I concluded that they are embarrassingly out of touch with contemporary community views and perhaps even with sanity.

I don’t accept the suggestion that Bob Ellis’ appallingly misogynist piece was in fact a mirror held up to shock an Australian community desensitised by morally-bankrupt television shows and ethically-challenged paparazzi.

Nor do I accept Clive Hamilton’s denunciation of everyday Australians as an important wakeup call to those supposedly duped by shock jocks into changing their views on climate action.

I’m not going to declaim the many ways Ellis made lame excuses for voyeuristic and sexually predatory behaviour. He is more than adequately scrutinised here and here.

However it appears Hamilton’s latest sermon received much less attention. While it is not sexist like Ellis’ pontification, it is similarly disdainful if not bordering on misanthropic. And unlike Ellis, who seems only to want to put sexually-active women in their “rightful” place, Hamilton has upbraided the whole Australian community.

Hamilton denounces those who “have transformed themselves from a citizenry worried about global warming, and asking for something to be done, into an outraged mob indignant to discover that their noble desire to protect the future means they must pay a bit more for petrol and power.”

He accuses Australians of being selfish, superficial and environmental wreckers:

What do Australians want? The answer is clear. We want symbols of action but not action itself. We want to hear words that make us feel good about ourselves but none that ask us to make any sacrifice. We care about climate change, but we hate the idea of having to do anything about it.

Give us leaders, says the great Australian public, as long as they do not ask us to follow. So the public gets what it wants – hollow leaders who will go through the motions, massaging their sense of entitlement to make them feel secure.

So we may safely write the epitaph of this sad and flabby nation: “Built by resolve and stoicism; destroyed by self-indulgence and timidity.”

Both Ellis and Hamilton are out of sync with the Australian community.

As I have written elsewhere, Australians are motivated by winning, not by losing.

We are rarely motivated by guilt.

If indeed Bob Ellis was trying to shame the Australian community into facing up to its double-standards on the acceptability of certain sexual behaviours, then he failed dismally. All Ellis generated was derision and outraged rejection of his article.

Similarly, there is no point in Clive Hamilton trying to shame Australians into taking climate action. Telling us that we are the worst (per capita) climate polluters or flabby and self-indulgent will generate a reaction no less dismissive than that received by Bob Ellis.

In their different ways Ellis and Hamilton were once considered bold idealists and prophets; now they are nothing more than defrocked priests, muttering on the extreme edge of their respective congregations.

Both are out of touch and discredited. No-one should pay either of them any attention any more.

3 responses to Ellis & Hamilton – defrocked priests muttering on the edge

  1. Deep are the waters when taking personal views to the wide sweep which is “the masses”. We are a diverse lot – motivated by different urges and and inclinations; different understandings of politics and the public discourse; different views on our steps into the future. Listening to callers on ABC Local Radio is very dismal re military malfeasance and Australian women on the front line. These are times when I use the word insular. I used to use it a lot to describe the British for whom their domicile actually included the word Isles. But I use the word, in the main, to refer to our Australian selves – so insular we appear to be (or sound as if we are) marooned on our island at the bottom of the world.

  2. Mhoram

    Agree with you re: Ellis, but not re: Hamilton. A good kick up the backside, done often and done well, is infinitely preferable to a chorus of “I told you so’s” down the track. Clive Hamilton does show the apathy and rampant NIMBYism that runs through our veins these days, so I have no issues with that aspect of his argument.

    I don’t agree with his comments regarding our political leaders, though. Using the public’s apathy and selfish bleatings to excuse the inaction and lack of any vision on these issues does not wash.

  3. @juliusflywheel

    Hi DG,
    Yet to read Clive’s article and no reason to think these quotations aren’t representative.
    They sound positively Wesleyan and Methodist to me in their exhortations and while the vast bulk of the Anglo-celtic Australia isn’t actively observant, I think its notes reach deeper-and its emergent effects consequently longer to develop and discern than might be immediately apparent

    As for Ellis, the Devil take him.

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