Barnaby’s Dad A “Recalcitrant Leftie”

18 Sep

Senator Joyce writes for the Canberra Times:

On Level Playing Fields

Do you ever wonder where thoughts come from; what makes your mind wander? Are we hardwired, but unaware of our predetermined cerebral voyage? The wondrous reality is that some people’s voyages are far more intricate, far more complex than others. It may be hard to swallow but some people are more clever than others, and a rare few are brilliant.

The Wallabies are playing in the World Cup but only 15 are allowed on at a time. Millions may watch, thousands of rugby players may dream, but only 15 are allowed on the field. If you manage to get on the field, if only for a second, you are a Wallaby for life. Result: it is highly prized so all hide a longing to be noted at the soiree as ”there is Bill Smith, he played for the Wallabies you know”.

Lately, we seem to have experienced an explosion in doctors. Not of the Hippocratic oath type with the ubiquitous stethoscope in shot, just so you know they are not – God forbid – a nurse, orderly, cleaner, visitor or absconding patient. No, the doctor of philosophy type, the PhD. Maybe there are just far more clever people around these days, but Australia’s global university rankings suggest not. Among the top 100 universities in the world, Australia has three.

I hope we are not telling people that they are six-foot-two when they are five-foot-11 because we feel that it is only fair for the effort they put in to be tall. It is like the Chevy Chase movie Spies Like Us where, in one scene, everyone is called ”doctor”. If someone is called a doctor then I have always believed that means they have written a thesis on something that is exemplary; a progression of knowledge unique, complex and, to be honest, beyond the capacity of the majority to compose. PhDs should not be a politically correct stethoscope draped over the shoulder to make someone feel good in the academic ward, because of either, their or our, benevolence, insecurity or ego.

A PhD should mean that you are without question at the top of your field in a form that carries similar protocols across other fields of study. If you have a PhD in English literature then it should be comparative in its excellence to a PhD in quantum physics or the genuine doctor of doctors, a PhD in medicine. I must admit we seem to be getting a large number of doctors in economics still discussing the theories of Keynes and Friedman, and if this continues we will have PhDs from the University of Google.

That is the great thing about sport. There is a winner. How many would watch the World Cup if every team got to take home a William Webb Ellis trophy? How many would bother to train if there were no chance to prove that you were the best?

I remember my father getting into real bother at the Limbri picnic races because, as the recalcitrant leftie, he gave all the kids ribbons no matter where they came in their race. Likewise the gongs in the lapels for Australia Day honors are becoming more the norm than the exception at certain airport lounges. Maybe like the Wallabies we should nominate a maximum of 10 Australians a year?

We should bring back the pre-nominal of ”Lady” or ”Sir” for those who have given a very long period of service to this nation. Was it worth getting rid of the Knight of the Order of Australia in 1986?

A worker who has spent their life in a charity, the arts or research, without a commensurate pecuniary return for their endeavours, that is they have not had their reward, should be recognised in a form that poses the question ”why do you call them that and what did they do?” Someone shouldn’t have to wear a suit just so they can wear a lapel pin that most Australians would not recognise.

If we put our jealousies aside, it is a far more prevalent form of recognition for those rare individuals who are exemplary and should be honoured, not just for them but as a statement to all, of a life which if it cannot be emulated should be highly respected as it makes us all kinder, wiser and our nation a better place.

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One Response to “Barnaby’s Dad A “Recalcitrant Leftie””

  1. Twodogs September 19, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

    Fair call Barnaby, but regardless of how many are given out, ultimately they are judged by people to be worthy, and not always for the right reasons. I’d rather be Usain Bolt than Guy Sebastian, because no one can argue that the dude ain’t the best!! I agree though, that Orders of Australia shouldn’t be given out like lollies. Still, they’re better than honourary Doctorates!

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