Making Trouble

Making Trouble

Robert Manne, Black Inc.

It wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say that with this volume Manne has managed to re-engage me in Australian politics; dare I suggest bring me back from the sort of complacency he argues is rife in Australia at this time.

Making Trouble is a collection of essays covering a wide variety of subject areas.

There are the distinctly political; for example, an incisive dissection of the Howard biography, Lazarus Rising, to Julia Gillard via Kevin Rudd, and the Rise of the Greens — all of which give an insightful commentary on the intrigues and shifts of power and influence behind the news stories.

A number of essays on some critical issues for Australia, such as asylum seekers, climate change and the media are also featured, along with an eclectic group of essays gathered under the title of Past and Present.

And finally there are four essays interpreting the Holocaust.

So interesting and stimulating are these essays that I read Making Trouble’s 400 pages in just a few days.

I particularly enjoyed the exchange of letters between Robert Manne, professor of politics at La Trobe University, and now Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, who Manne in a later chapter describes as “almost comically inconsistent”.

I found the essay on the case of Cornelia Rau, mistakenly held in immigration detention for over nine months by a government department seemingly predisposed to “moral inertia”, deeply disturbing; as are the ongoing implications for immigration detainees under a policy of mandatory detention.

Manne’s essay titled “Gallipoli and the Armenian Genocide” led me to wonder why I’d heard nothing about the atrocity wreaked on the Armenians by the Turks at virtually the same time as the infamous Gallipoli landing and how this is neatly sidestepped while we remember “Johnny Turk” with respect bordering on affection.

My final pick is the section Interpreting the Holocaust and, in particular, Manne’s essay “In Praise of Saul Friedlander” who in his two volumes on the history of the holocaust argued that the first generation of Holocaust historians possessed a fatal flaw.

If Hitler had a pre-determined plan for the extermination of European Jewry, why did the Nazis have a policy of encouraging Jewish emigration from the Reich to areas beyond German military control?

Whether you agree with Manne’s perspective or not, Making Trouble is well worth the effort.

It is also particularly important if it manages to re-engage other complacent Australians, given our currently unstable political environment.

Karyl Davison



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