"If you want a new focus on resilience and self-reliance, some attention to creating a world where people stand on firmer ground might be the go."Because that’s all his articles are really -- an extended ego defence. But in that they become a defence of a certain type of politics. Razer has the full deets on how wilfully and utterly Latham misconstructs depression -- whether that is the best word for an unarguably real and widespread afflicting condition -- and most of all, which social classes it affects (hint: the poor). This correspondent will simply add: the fantasy world that Latham projects is the same fantasy world that Labor projects, and which gets it tangled, again and again, in bad strategy vis a vis the Greens. It’s the idea that there’s a hard and fast division between the Greens class base in the culture/knowledge professions and Labor’s in the suburbs. Latham’s idea that "normal" people don’t talk about depression can be disabused by talking to any suburban GP, or picking up a copy of Take A Break magazine. There’s a certain type of condition that’s a product of contemporary existence, of the surpassing of a religious/traditional value framework, the undermining of settled worlds by the extension of the market into every sphere of life, and by the shift of onus to the individual to build their own social worlds, rather than have them ready-supplied. All good events in many ways, but for many people such conditions will bring periods of utter collapse, when the ability to make it through the day becomes impossible. People don’t go to the GP for anti-depressants because indie-darling filmmakers told them to; they go because they can’t stop crying enough to pick their kids up from school, are about to lose their jobs for non-performance and are driving their families mad. GPs, many with misgivings, give them these pills because they know the real pressures they’re under, and that the pills work. That in turn has created a cultural problem in which commoner-or-gardener misery can become relabelled, and, as Razer notes, depression become a public performance. Latham latches onto that last bit because he needs to invoke a fantasy world of "normal" people to justify a view of himself as their champion. It’s a pre-Whitlamite Catholic Right view of Labor’s mission, which is to serve a relatively settled and collectivist social class, and to conform party policy to the enforcement of modest ambitions -- hence, until Whitlam, Labor’s deep suspicion of extended tertiary education. How does that fit with Latham’s arguments about lifelong learning, the market everywhere, the nanny-state psychobabble early learning theories he pushed? It doesn’t! It’s not meant to! It’s a fantasy! If you’re a crooked man, you need a crooked mirror to view the world through, so that everything will straighten up. Obviously, no policy maker in their right mind is going to disregard depression, or shape a health department around the idea that it doesn’t exist. The idea that there is some world out there where people are transparent, self-knowing types is a nostalgic fantasy. There never was -- half the patent medicines advertised ad nauseum were for "melancholia", etc -- but there was a world where most people had less chance of coming apart, as they do now. That world is gone. "Depression" of this type is to modernity what black lung is to miners, an industrial disease of hyperindividualised existence. That’s why every government of Left or Right now deploys vast arsenals of social, behavioural and psychological management -- to lessen the cost, in lost worktime, social care, public hospitals, crisis management, etc. If you want a new focus on resilience and self-reliance, some attention to creating a world where people stand on firmer ground might be the go. Latham’s rant might be useful to Labor in that it gathers, in one clear streak, all the confused bitterness about a changing world where the "trendies" have got control. This is the Australia Labor built from 1967 to 1996 -- tertiary-educated, urban, mobile, aspiring. If Labor doesn’t want the new classes it created, doesn't want to deal with the new common conditions of social life, the Greens will be happy to take them off the party’s hands. A little guided reflection -- call it therapy -- never hurts, to re-adjust your faulty perceptions and render you more effective. Once, it might have helped an energetic but neurotic man survive one election loss and go on to victory in the next -- but it’s too late now for that once high-flying bird.
Rundle: Latham’s twisted fantasy echoes Labor’s disconnect
A film about a high-flying ego brought down by delusions of omnipotence? No wonder Birdman has Latham feeling anxious.