Cultural Comment Politics

Dinner Parties with Political Commentators – What Would They Be Like?

When I was at Sydney Uni, my favourite history teacher, Richard Waterhouse, used to make passing remarks about “Balmain Dinner Parties” whenever he threw in a piece of trivia or superficial bit of knowledge. Clearly, as a historian at Sydney Uni, he had been to a few and seemed to despise their superficiality and irrelevance. This is one of the many things that appealed to me as a student training it in from the Lower Blue Mountains for my course. I found most of my fellow students as equally facile and interested in superficiality as Waterhouse found with his Balmain dinner parties. I found the same when helping with an Student Representative Council political campaign in 1995 – something I did out of sheer curiosity.  I was only interesting if I could give them something.  In my experience of Greens politics, I have since met people in their early 20s fresh from SRC campaigns and the like – I have discovered that things haven’t changed all that much in 20 years.

Fact is, I have had little to do with academia, Balmain or inner city “elites” in my time.  I am someone who lives in the Mountains, catches trains, goes to the occasional Greens meeting, picks up my kids every second weekend and works full time.  This is why one of the more hilarious comments hurled at me online during this past election campaign was from the former journalist Margo Kingston, who accused me of being in “an elite” with my “journalism mates”.  The same Margo Kingston who swept back into relevance because an old friend of hers, Michelle Grattan, took up one of the causes mentioned in a Margo article published in Independent Australia.  Accusing me of being an elite journalism something or another. I have only met two journalists from the Guardian face to face, run into one from the Herald and I know Kevin Cheng from the Penrith Press – we have met twice. That’s it.  I still haven’t even met Paula Matthewson, the facilitator of AusOpinion – she still owes me a beer.

I mention all this because I have been wondering what it would be like to have a dinner party with the political people of the Twitterverse / Bloggoverse.  I have never gone to dinner parties for the chief reasons of:

1. Geographical inconvenience when at Uni

2. When I got married, I went out of every loop possible and lived in Campbelltown. Awkward BBQs with conversations about league were the go there.

3. Now, we have only been in our home for 2 years and most of our friends we know through Twitter.

4. No-one invites me. Understandable, really.

I am not disappointed in the slightest about these things. But I do wonder at the kinds of conversations that could be had at such dinner parties. I’m not going to make this blog post into a piece by piece deconstruction of everyone who blogs and tweets about politics. Frankly, who would really be interested in that.  But I do know a number of things that would sorely test my patience at such a dinner party I would be hosting.

1. The first mention of “The Left” and “The Right”. Unless you believe politics is football and you acknowledge that, don’t pretend that “The Left” and “The Right” are intellectually correct and edifying concepts.  You are just On The Couch on Fox Politics on a Monday night. Nothing else.

2. Saying that there’s far too much emphasis on sport and that people who like sport are all meatheads.   These people clearly ignored the Swans memorabilia in our house. And are just choosing to ignore that sport is an integral part of our cultural heritage and fabric.

3. Did You Watch Q and A The Other Night?

4. “Gee, it’s a long way to get here”.   Hmmm, yes, it’s a long way for people who commute to the city for their work too – these same people who can’t afford the house prices in the inner city because they aren’t baby boomers or work in the public sector.

5. “The ABC Are…” That sentence has a whole lot of hurt if it ends with “… just an echo chamber for News Limited and the IPA – just look at the Drum”.  If it ends with “full of poor bastards who would love to be able to tell us what they think, commercial media style” or “doing a pretty good job with their resources” or “needing to improve News 24 – it’s pretty inconsistent” – then I will probably smile, nod and drink more wine.

By the way, I wouldn’t mind if these things were said, but they would probably elicit a reply that may not please.  Plus, there’s a whole lot of good things that could be said at a dinner party such as this that would be awesome. There are many great people who blog and write about politics. And then there are others who are crashing windbags.

But these dinner parties are never going to happen, so it’s all just hypothetical anyway.

By prestontowers

I had been a teacher observing politics and the media from the outside for some time. I became a political insider, didn't like it much, and hightailed it back to watching it again. And still loving teaching.

3 replies on “Dinner Parties with Political Commentators – What Would They Be Like?”

Haha…I enjoyed your post and agreed with your list (although I’ve been guilty of mentioning these topics at dinner parties). Sometimes it’s just too tempting at these gatherings to be the provocateur…just to get things going and moving from the crushingly bland.

I dunno, the Hoydens seem to manage ok with their touring meetups. Getting us inner city elites (cough) out into the far west to burble on about politics is surely not impossible. If you could compromise on Cabramatta or somewhere it would be easy (for me, we visit the in-laws regularly) but I’m sure there’s some little hamlet on the train line that has a decent restaurant where we could get together. If you pick somewhere convenient you will not be too discommoded should no-one else turn up.

It’s always fun seeing what people are like in person. Often they’re more interesting than you might expect unless you read a lot of off-topic threads and can mentally track them (which I can’t, I’m a bit of a social goldfish. More than about 5 people and everyone gets blurry)

Also, there’s enough mobility at least in the inner west (and academia) that few people are born, educated and inducted into the lofty tower all within the same little patch of Sydney. So some of your inner city elites will come from little townlets in the middle of nowhere (in which case teasing them about the commute from Tilba Tilba to Centra Tilba can be entertaining).

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