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(generated from captions) out of my head." "And I can't get this guy subject, even the same image, A painter can treat the same over and over and over again, given that kind of opportunity, yet a playwright is not

questioned when these themes, so a lot of people were... would turn up in this play, or these characters, in a later work slightly different. and then they'd turn up how can you do that? They'd go, "Well,

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when she's like this in this play?" sure where the best moment All I could say is, "Look, I'm not so that's an earlier version of her. for this character is, This is a stronger version of her. version of her." This is the ultimate Debbie Coughlin Closed Captions by CSI - 0

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THEME MUSIC I'm Tony Jones. Hello, and welcome to Big Ideas.

from the Melbourne Writers' Festival. On today's show, some highlights Economist Loretta Napoleoni vulnerable if you follow the money. explains why terrorists are and journalist Mary Delahunty Former Victorian politician and private grief on her public life to cancer. over the loss of her husband Peter McAllister Plus, Manthropologist are the worst in history. on why modern males for many long years It's been my work research them, to mark them, measure them, and describe them.

that all is not well And those years have convinced me with the male of our modern species. Not well at all. the sorriest cohort As a class we are, in fact, to ever walk the planet. of masculine homo sapiens or woman reading it about him And since any man reading this is, by definition, a modern one, I confidently repeat - absolutely the worst man in history. you are, or he is, LAUGHTER aren't exactly helpful right now. I know, I know, such sentiments In these times of masculine crises, accelerating job-losses, of falling sperm counts, and fading masculine relevance, waning libidos to be challenged. men are not looking a saviour. They are looking for a messiah, who will soothe their battered egos, They are looking for someone restore their lost virility they think they once belonged, and put them back up where at the top of the gender chain. Sorry, I am not that man. of modern man's inadequacies More about the science from Peter McAllister a little later. for our radical centre, But first, the search and realism. somewhere between idealism John Button Oration That was the theme of this year's and intellectual Noel Pearson. from Aboriginal writer progressive politics. Pearson's speech deconstructs of the Labor Party It laments the failure Indigenous Australians, in dealing with of a liberal ideology and posits the possibility for social progress. compatible with a mission manifestation The second most important of these class dynamics is the ideology of the middle classes of the poor who have made the condition their concern.

It is this class for generating, that is often most responsible then reinforcing, and if not generating the destructive outlooks of the poor. middle-class left here. I am talking about the progressive I am talking about me

and I am taking about you. It behoves us

of the old left critique as inheritors of classical liberalism analysis of class to ourselves. to apply the old leftist We are a class, as individuals and as a class. and we possess interests No, we are not working class.

the no-equal-pay working underclass. My father was a member of Your grandfathers may have been but you are not. you think you possess Whatever lower class solidarity cannot be taken at face value - your real interests, we must actually examine not what you think or feel. your professed loyalties This is not about or your empathy, this is about your interests. What is your class? and how are they served? And what interests do you have Wake up from our daydreaming. You are bourgeois. We are bourgeois. I am bourgeois. I am one member of a growing class who are middle class, of Indigenous Australians who are increasingly prosperous and our children are getting educated good universities and they will attend to do well and they will have the means could never have conceived of. in ways that my parents Yet there are dynamics. concerning race and culture Yes, there are dynamics that are particular to us, of the old left but I know of no classical theory that exempted us from the dynamics of class society on those bases alone. We have class interests and they are not the same as those of our families and fellow countrymen back home. The tendency of black and white members of the middle class left to maintain illusions about our solidarity with the interests of lower classes,

is one of our central problems. These illusions result in members of the middle class left to not understand that they, in fact, have more in common with their opponents in the middle class right than they do with the lower classes. Whatever the problems with Kevin Rudd's discourse, as a whole, in The Monthly, his back-to-first-principles attempt to articulate a Labor philosophy based on Adam Smith was coherent. He wrote, "Modern Labor, following Smith, argues that human beings are both self-regarding and other-regarding." He argued that members of the political right distort Smith's liberalism when they selectively speak of the self-regarding values of security, liberty and property. Social democrats, he contended, are truer to Smith's original philosophy because they add the other-regarding values of equity, solidarity and sustainability. I responded in The Monthly in the following terms: "Yet social-democratic solidarity has its limits. The fate of the disadvantaged can be seen to depend too much on the altruism of the economically and socially integrated mainstream. We need policies that increase self-regard among the disadvantaged." To put it crassly, poor people need to become at least as self-regarding as those who are not poor. Until disadvantaged people become as self-interested as advantaged people, they will not rise above their disadvantage. Until we crank up the engine of self-interest among the under-privileged, we won't get individual, and therefore social, uplift. Those who are well off and who devise other-regarding policies for the disadvantaged forget that they themselves are well off because of their own self-regard. Politicians of the centre-left are particularly prone to this kind of patronising double standard: Mate, I do well with my own self-regard, thank you very much, but self-regard isn't for you.

You need everyone else's other-regard, and I'm in government to organise the very other-regarding policies you need. The great tragedy of Kevin Rudd is that he seemed to understand that the social democratic thinking about social justice was daydreaming. In an interview with Peter Botsman's online journal, Australian Prospect, in 2006, Rudd expressed this important insight - quote, "There is a great opportunity for any member of parliament at any level of government throughout the country to become a community entrepreneur. What do I mean by that? Work within market structures or normal local community structures to achieve social outcomes that benefit the community rather than waiting

for some huge, centrally driven social justice machinery to roll out one day which will deliver nirvana in our times. Let me repeat that. Work within market structures or normal community structures to achieve social outcomes that benefit the community rather than waiting for some huge, centrally driven social justice machinery

to roll out one day which will deliver nirvana in our time. "We all hope," he goes on to write, "that will one day be the case. But absent that, I think we've got on our side of politics a dual responsibility to work locally as an entrepreneur to achieve community outcomes using the resources available

and then to work separately and simultaneously at a policy level to try to achieve outcomes through a change of government and overall national policy." At the time I placed great store in Rudd's insight here. I thought that he got it. But then as Prime Minister, we have never before witnessed a more ambitious erstwhile driver of the massive forklift of social justice than Kevin Rudd.

The scale of his governmental ambition was a measure of his heart, but it was fundamentally at odds

with the insight he seemed to show before he became Labor leader and before he became Prime Minister. The problem is that those who step into the big cabin of the vehicle of the country's national government, and they feel the power of the massive diesel engine rumbling under the hood start to think that this machine can be mobilised against all of the big problems in a big way. When it comes to social progress no matter how big and powerful the engine of government might be, it is the numerous engines of self-interest that lie dormant in the breasts of the disadvantaged that must power people up the stairs of social progress. Yes, governments can and should make social investments so that people develop their capabilities,

but that investment must be about enabling people to pursue their own interests, not to assume that government can be a substitute actor in the development story. The Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has been a seminal influence on our reform thinking in Cape York Peninsula. It was his articulation of the purpose of our policy that we have taken as our own for our people. We want our people to have the capabilities

The capabilities to choose lives they have reason to value. Sen's great contribution was that he resolved the dialectic between liberal choice and social democratic opportunity redistribution.

Sen's synthesis was the concept of capabilities.

In many ways, Sen had exposed the conceit in liberal thinking. It is not just the case that choice is a power for development. In order to have real choice Sen says that you need capabilities. Liberals often forget that the reason why they derive so much power

from their freedom of choice is that they had the capabilities to choose. Cape York Aboriginal leader, Noel Pearson, and his search for the radical centre. To see that talk in full, head to or website - or watch out for it on ABC News24.

Next up, terrorism and the economy. Well, the century kicked off with two global events, the consequences of which are likely to be felt for decades - the 9/11 attacks and the global financial crisis. The idea that these events are connected in disturbing ways is the great untold story of our time, according to economist and bestselling author Loretta Napoleoni.

Tracing the links between the finances of the War on Terror

and the GFC, Napoleoni has exposed connections from Dubai to London to Las Vegas. She told the Melbourne Writers' Festival

that America has failed to follow the Al-Qaeda money trail. I have produced this research - which has been very controversial, I must say - where I link the current crisis - so, not only the credit crunch but also the recession - to the War on Terror. Now, that doesn't mean that the War on Terror actually caused it, what it does mean is that the funding of the War on Terror has made this crisis much, much bigger than it actually was going to be, so big - at the point we don't know how to manage it. I mean, how did all of this happen? Well, for a start,

after 9/11 the Bush administration decided to launch the War on Terror. Now, the real objective of the War on Terror, now we know, was not to bring Osama bin Laden to justice only,

but to relaunch the hegemonic position of the United States in key areas of the world. Now, this kind of new vision, let's say, of the United States in a globalised world had been formulated initially by Dick Cheney in 1993 and this is when he was the undersecretary of state of Bush's father. It was then developed in the year 2000 after the election of George W. Bush by a think tank funded by the neocons

and was produced in a document called the New American Century - Project for the New American Century. In this document we see that there are certain kind of points that are made by the think tank, and of course by Dick Cheney. And one of these is actually a regime change that has to be brought about in Iraq because Iraq is a strategically important country. It's not necessarily linked to oil, although oil did play a certain role in the War on Terror. But it is linked to the fact that the US needs to have a friendly government, a friendly state, in that region in order to pursue its new position of hegemonic power in the Middle East. Now, all of this, of course, can be carried out after 9/11 because 9/11 becomes the casus belli to bring about this new vision, to a certain extent I would say this redrawing of the map of the world. Now, of course this is a very big effort, on top of that there is the war in Afghanistan. So, the Bush administration has no intention at all to raise taxes because this is not in line with their political but also their economic policy. So, the idea is to fund this effort through the selling of the US debt. So, by selling government bonds on the international capital market - but to sell government bonds on the international capital market you've got to be competitive because everybody is doing the same thing, every single country is on the same market. So the best way to make your government bonds competitive is by cutting interest rates. So, we see the interest rate goes from 6% on the eve of 9/11 to 1.2% at the beginning of summer, 2003, and this is when the United States told that they had won the war in Iraq. Now, this is an interval time

in which interest rates drop very, very quickly and we see in this interval time the formation of the subprime mortgage bubble. But at the same time we also see the formation of the genesis of the credit crunch

because the subprime bubble - because interest rates are cut so quickly is then transformed into the securitisation of a bad debt. All the international banks want to get into the same business so they start trading this bad debt with one and each other. Um, it's very important also to analyse how was the economy in that particular moment, so, when 9/11 happened. Well, we were going through a phase, which in economics is called "overheating" so the global economy was growing very, very quickly, we had several crises, several bubbles, in the '90s and all of these bubbles - for example, you might remember the Asian Crisis in '98 - all these bubbles, one way or another, had been postponed in the real impact by simply cutting interest rates. So, the Federal Reserve and to a certain extent also the European monetary authorities had not faced the problems related to globalisation, because the economy was growing too quickly but they had postponed that problem by cutting interest rates. In 2001 it was clear that the economy was growing too quickly and it needed high interest rates and this is why interest rate was 6% on the eve of 9/11 because actually interest rate was rising 'cause there were great worries about the formation of this bubble.

Now, the Federal Reserve went along with the idea to cut interest rates because 9/11 had actually triggered a mini recession

in the Western world - you remember, nobody was flying anymore, nobody was shopping anymore, people were so afraid. So Greenspan was convinced that by cutting interest rates very quickly and in a very short time it was possible to regenerate the economy and start growing again. So this is why the Federal Reserve actually went along. You all know the consequences of that policy because you know, of course, we are living it. The credit crunch is very much related to that

and the credit crunch caused the current recession. We're now facing a double-dip recession. So it's not true that we were getting out as they told us but we're still in. So, I told you this story because I wanted to show you how in reality terrorism changed my life without really... ..any idea - I had no idea what was happening to my friend when it happened. I did not know that 15 years later it would change again my life but it actually did and the same thing is happening to you, you are in this crisis, you don't know why all of this is happening but in reality there is an explanation, there is a reason and this reason is also very much related to the importance the politics has on economics and the importance that economics has on politics. The two things go together. So don't believe what they tell you, basically.

Let's think, try to find the connection. And that's the only way to get out of this

because we're still stuck in the legacy of the War on Terror, we're still paying the debt of the United States. I mean, there are still troops in Afghanistan

and there are still troops in Iraq even if tomorrow most of them will get out, but we're still paying for this War on Terror. And that was a mistake because in reality if we really wanted to go after Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda and Islamic terror, we should have followed the money trail. By cutting the money we would now have solved the problem but because we didn't want to do that,

we wanted to go to war,

now we have made a problem which was serious, an almost uncontrollable problem. Today we are not facing Al-Qaeda anymore, it doesn't exist anymore, we're facing Al-Qaedaism which is an international, anti-imperialist movement

which is poisoning many people across the world. And all of this for what? Because Dick Cheney wanted to relaunch the hegemonic role of America. I think we should wake up, really.

Economist and author Loretta Napoleoni and to see that talk in full head to our website or watch out for it again on ABC News24. Well, next up in our Melbourne Writers Festival special, a story of public life and private grief.

Former Victorian government minister and journalist Mary Delahunty launched what she describes as a love story and political memoir. In conversation with ABC TV's Kerry O'Brien, the star political recruit tells how her somewhat charmed public life came undone when her husband was struck down with cancer. Again, when you became a minister - one talks about the soft leather chairs and the white cars and the staff and all the accoutrements of power but the description of your office in Parliament House

where you would work these long hours and live this strange, unreal life - you described the level where your office was as the dungeon. "Light and air seemed to be sucked out of me

and my stomach involuntarily clenched as I tasted the tension. I unlocked the office door and flicked on a desk lamp. 14 hours later I shut down that lamp, locked the cell door and my briefcase and I made our way back through the dim corridors and crannies to the relief of the sharp night air at the back door." So, it's like - this is the sense that you get of this, that you're walking into a prison and at the end of the long day, into the night, it was like being released from your cell. Yeah. Was it really that grim? Well, from my perspective, at the end, yes. You know, clearly I wasn't... I wasn't as optimistic at that stage as I was when I first started.

Yes, I was very gloomy, I was bleak, I was black and I found the physical circumstances really quite difficult in the end

because we're underneath this beautiful, beautiful chamber

but the Parliament of Victoria was never completed and so there's not enough room for everybody so the situation is fairly tight and grim. And, yes, I was in a dungeon corridor - it was called "the dungeon" by everybody - there was no natural light, there was no natural air and when you've all been locked up for three full days and, you know, it starts very early on Tuesday morning

and ends very late on Thursday evening, sometimes into Friday and you've worked through the nights - or through parts of the night. The air is acrid, it's not clean. It's not clean air. Plus there's a lot of testosterone, there's a lot of energy, there's a lot of fury, there's a lot of coded conversations and it is not physically a great environment to work in. But I should say that you're not in parliament all the time. As a minister, you're there. As a politician, as a member of parliament, you are required to be in parliament when parliament sits. But it doesn't sit for the whole year, so that's only one corner of the canvas.

But while that is on, you've got the bear pit of the parliament itself, which is a kind of unreal environment and very combative, which is supposed to be fostering high quality debate but, again, you talk about the volume of speeches

that you have to make, you talk about how ordinary those speeches often are and what a waste of space they often are. And you go from that environment, and presumably a little bit of corridor stuff,

a little bit of on the spot caucusing with friends and enemies in and out of your own party and then back into this dull office. Yep. Now, that does not lend itself, that combination of things would not easily lend itself to positive thinking, to positive action. Yes. I agree with that.

And that's the contention I think I draw from that experience. Now, other people don't find it that way. You know, I think it depends on your personality, it certainly depends on your circumstances.

You know, I was obviously grieving very deeply and didn't know that I needed help so I was particularly black and bleak but I do think we ask our elected members of parliament

to work under pretty appalling conditions at times. Now, the new Parliament House in Canberra, of course, is a complete contradiction in terms. You know, you have massive offices and suites of offices and no-one can find anybody so they don't communicate with the public.

It's very hard to plot. It's very hard to bump into a citizen. You know, they're either lobbyists or they're politicians or they're staff.

Whereas in Victoria, you do bump into citizens - that's the beaut thing about it because someone will pull you up short. And I think I also described that, at night, when you're trying to get through your briefs - your files, not your knickers, you know... LAUGHTER

..you know, you'd sit there and it would be quiet time, the backbenchers would be droning on upstairs in a non-debate and you'd be trying to get through the files and you'd be sitting there with the little lamp on

and going as fast as you could and people would come down and look at ministers in their dungeons. You know. It was a bit like show and tell. The backbenchers and sometimes the Opposition, who had a little bit more free time, would, after dinner upstairs in the Stranger's Corridor - You see? Strangers Corridor, that's the name of the restaurant. If you brought someone in from outside to have dinner with you, you went to Strangers Corridor. It was only for strangers? Yeah, they were strangers. Anyone who was not actually employed in the Parliament was a stranger? Elected. Elected, that's right. And in fact, you recount at the time there was another female member who dared to... was it Kirsty Marshall? Yeah. ..dared to feed her baby. I'm sure it was publicised at the time. Oh, yes, yes, it was a huge story.

Who dared to feed her baby and the Speaker said, "There's a stranger in the Parliament." Yes. "Would the member for..." What was her seat? What IS her seat? Forest Hill. Thank you, Forest Hill. "Would the member for Forest Hill please remove the stranger from the House?" LAUGHTER Yeah. Yeah. In fact, you talk about the different parliaments. I remember at one point - you may all remember it again - when John Howard was Opposition leader and Ian Sinclair was the National Party leader and there was a coup. It was in the new Parliament, it was 1989, if I remember rightly, and Andrew Peacock overthrew John Howard and at precisely the same time, a man named Charles Blunt - Charles Blunt? No, it wasn't Charles Blunt, he was the Telstra...

..Mr Blunt... (LAUGHS) Blunt by name and by nature. ..who also knocked over Ian Sinclair at the same time. It was a double coup. And journalists had their noses very much out of joint that they hadn't seen it coming, and were all trying to work out why, and we realised what it was - we'd moved from the old parliament to the new,

and we'd got used to the old parliament with its intimacy, and everybody bumping into everybody everywhere

from the toilets to King's Hall to the corridors. You could always see who was going from whose door to whose door. We came to the view that that double coup could never have happened without our knowledge in the old parliament, but in the new parliament, absolutely nobody knew what was going on, including, obviously, John Howard and Ian Sinclair. LAUGHTER Mr Blunt lost his seat at the next election. So, in all of this, Mary, it's very clear that Jock and the kids were terribly important to you.

The kids, as they grew - and they were very young in the early stages. Jock, particularly, was a real sheet anchor for you, wasn't he? Oh, absolutely, and that's really the only reason I agreed to put my hand up for election, was because I thought there'd be two of us. That I would have the confidant -

someone who knew politics,

because Jock was a journalist but had also worked briefly in Canberra, so he knew it from the outside, as I did - but someone who'd give it to me straight,

to tell me when I was making an error, when I was being melodramatic, or just to be a sounding board. And someone who would listen to you download at the end of the day or the week without necessarily judging you. Or giving it to you straight, as Jock would always do. So really, that was the plan. Plus, you know, the children, as I said in my acceptance speech in Northcote, the family always comes first. I didn't think that was an exceptional statement to make.

But once you realise the hours you're asked to work, you do realise you've got to struggle to hang onto that. And our government was terrific on that, because there are a lot of young parents in our cabinet.

Steve Bracks himself had young children at that time. So there was a great understanding of the requirements and needs of children. And it's terrific to have Nick here. Olivia's studying in Paris. But they've turned out brilliantly, so we did something pretty right. But that was an important part of it. And I knew that we could balance the requirements of public life if you had a partner like Jock, who was seriously involved,

not just, "Would you like me to put the rubbish out?" or, "Who's picking up the kids?" But seriously involved in what they were doing at school, what they were thinking, what they needed, and would spend a lot of time with them. So it seemed like the perfect situation, really, to go into public life. I thought I was extremely well supported. But it just didn't work out that way for long enough. I'll come to that in a moment, but, in passing, one of the things I wanted to raise with you briefly at least is this whole issue of spin in politics. Spin, yeah. Because as a journalist, and you, as the public, we all talk about it, we're all absolutely over it, is the impression I get. And I think this election result federally has said something about that, in one way. But you make a point - you use Sir Henry Bolte, who was premier of Victoria for an extremely long time - '55 to '72. Most of this audience won't remember Henry. LAUGHTER Looking around here I can see one or two! I certainly do. To quote you, you say, "Sir Henry was a colourful character in his prime politically well before focus groups and spin leeched the language of politics.

A boy from the bush who didn't dally with weasel words, and famously told striking teachers

they could march till they were bloody-well footsore." LAUGHTER He did.

So, did you manage to escape the syndrome of the weasel word and the spin? Because I suspect you wouldn't have been able to entirely. I certainly, well, I hope I escaped a fair bit of the spin. But you know, once you're in Cabinet, you're part of a collective. And that collective is your Cabinet ministers, led by the premier. And that premier, and that ministry is led by - supported by an office.

And depending on who the media manager was depended upon the level of spin. But I, you know, I railed against it and I lost a lot of friends around that

because I felt if you wanted to say it as it was, and were prepared to defend it, people would give you a fair chance to listen. But I have to say it's not just the politicians' fault, Kerry. The modern media, with the exception of the ABC and some other journals, they don't want to hear it straight. When politicians do give it to you straight there's often a sense of, "What an outrage."

I mean, they're trying to make fun of Bob Katter - there's no spin with Bob Katter. Bob has a particular point of view. I don't happen to share it, but he has a particular point of view.

But now they're trying to ridicule him because he's giving it to people straight. Not all the media, not everyone. But, you know, there's a bit of a commentariat that says, "You play politics this way because that's cosy for the press gallery, and if you don't, well, we'll certainly see to it that you're criticised." So, it's a little bit of both. I agree with you, this election - and I wasn't here for all of it - but it just seemed to me that there was an absence of what we call the 'vision' thing. You know? This idea that if you want to lead the country,

if you want to lead a State, you have to have a story that you can advocate to the public to convince them that you've got a view and a vision for your State that they might like to subscribe to. And it's about a conversation, it's about words,

it's about building the bridges between ideas. The focus groups have leeched all of that away. We now pitch our message in elections, it seems, to the lowest common denominator, you know, the safest marginal - if that's not a contradiction in terms - but we're not talking about the future of the planet in the same way, and yet politicians do. I mean, my colleagues worry about it in exactly the same way as the public worries about it. But the focus groups have been there for a long time,

and if you want to talk about vision, Kevin Rudd had a vision for Australia in 2007...

Correct, and that's why he won the election so well, I reckon. ..and he captured a lot of people with that vision, and he then proceeded to disappoint a lot of them. Correct. And whether there were focus groups folding into his original policy areas or not, there were certainly focus groups driving some of the backflips that got him into such trouble in the first place. But it's hard to see how politicians are going to be able to break out of that syndrome now.

Well, I think this is the opportunity. I think you're right. This is an election that said, "We don't like either side's approach to politics at this particular moment." And, you know, the Independents are talking about a new paradigm for politics. I don't think it's going to be quite as dramatic as that. But if you do, through this negotiation, force more private members' bills, where real debate actually happens, where people are freed from the party line to actually argue their case in a very personal way, where the Independents will get to ask a question every so often alongside the conventional opposition in the House. This is what we did in '99. I think it actually improved our government. We had to do two things - we had to firstly negotiate to be approved, if you like, for government in '99, with the three country Independents. We established a charter of agreement of what we would do through our term or government, and that included improve and renovate and democratise the upper house, which is one of the best things we ever did. Then we had to negotiate every single piece of legislation. That must have been - I mean, was that ALL good? There must have been a lot of time spent in that. There was, there was. And some of that must have been a distraction from other necessary and important areas of government. Hmm, I don't know. I think that - "How long's a piece of string?" If you have to do it, you have to do it. But what it meant was if I was negotiating with Russell Savage, the member for Mildura, on an education bill, his perspective on what he thought his schools and teachers needed there was very valuable, was very different

to the perspective that I was getting in Northcote, for example. So, if I could negotiate with him and get his support, I'd often run the arguments that I'd need to run in the Parliament, to the Opposition, and most importantly,

I'd already tested the arguments that I needed to run outside. So, in a way, you know, it took a lot of time. but it actually made us a better government. Former Labor politician Mary Delahunty, speaking there with Kerry O'Brien. To see that talk in full, head to our website - Or watch out for it as part of Big Ideas Extended Mix on Wednesdays at 11am on ABC1.

Finally today, the science behind why we're only half the men we used to be.

Modern man is evolution's greatest mistake, according to Peter McAllister, author of the book Manthropology.

The University of Queensland-trained anthropologist claims today's males aren't a patch on their ancient ancestors. Despite his huge brain, the modern bloke fails to measure up physically, creatively and even emotionally with men of the distant past. In this RiAus event in Adelaide,

Peter McAllister tells radio presenter Amanda Blair why we're the worst men in history. I'll just tell you a very brief story about the publication of this book, Manthropology. When I approached my publishers with the idea for this, they said to me, "This is crazy. Who's gonna want to read a book that bags men like that?" And I said, "Well, women." LAUGHTER But I'm very pleased to see that we do have a substantial minority of males here tonight who are there with me to fly the flag and show that however terrible the truth is we can at least face it like men. So, well done to you. What I'm going to do is just read you a very short introduction. I promise it won't be too long. And then we've got some slides to show that shows you some of the science of what I'm talking about here. This is from Manthropology - The Science of the Inadequate Modern Male. If you're reading this, then you, or the male you've bought it for, are the worst man in history. No ifs, no buts - worst man, period. How can I be so sure? As a paleoanthropologist - Greek roots, paleo - ancient, anthro - man, logy - science - it's my job to study people, including men from way back in our evolutionary past until today. It's been my work for many long years to mark them, measure them, research them and describe them. And those years have convinced me that all is not well with the male of our modern species. Not well at all. As a class we are, in fact, the sorriest cohort of masculine homo sapiens to ever walk the planet. And since any man reading this or woman reading it about him is, by definition, a modern one, I confidently repeat - you are, or he is, absolutely the worst man in history. I know, I know, such sentiments aren't exactly help?helpful right now. In these times of masculine crises, of falling sperm counts, accelerating job-losses, waning libidos and fading masculine relevance, men are not looking to be challenged. They are looking for a messiah, a saviour. They are looking for someone who will soothe their battered egos, restore their lost virility, and put them back up where they think they once belonged, at the top of the gender chain. Sorry, I am not that man. In the words of another man, one who really was a messiah,

I have not come to make peace among you, but war. I've come to turn father against son, brother against brother and mate against mate. I have come with the sword of science in my hand to demonstrate that every terrible little doubt you ever had about yourself is completely and utterly true. I have come, in short, to rub it in. In my defence, it wasn't always so. I didn't set out to destroy the image of modern males when I started this book. Far from it. As an anthropologist and a man, I love my brother males. it was that love, believe it or not, that started me writing.

I read everywhere that my fellow men were suffering from feminisation, ornamentalisation and emasculation, and I decided to help. I would use my research into the evolution of our species to prove that men today are not weak contemptible commitment-phobes who can't hold down their end of a meaningful conversation, let alone a snarling cave bear, but gods on earth, whose heroic abilities would make Zeus himself sneak back to Mount Olympus to work out on his abdominator in shame. I would write an ABC of the virtues of homo masculinus modernus, comparing him to earlier men, to prove that he is, we are, the crowning glory of humanity's long struggle from our inauspicious beginnings as leopard food on the African savannah. As you will see, I failed. In fact, I didn't even get past B. I discovered, to my horror, that it's impossible to write a book about the superior achievements of modern males because we haven't got any.

From battling to boozing, babes to bravado, there's nothing we can do that ancient men and sometimes women haven't already done better, faster, stronger and usually smarter. Typically that knowledge dawned on me only slowly. Like any challenged male seeking to cover up an annoying sense of inadequacy I started by picking on a girl. A Neanderthal girl, to be precise. I decided that demonstrating how strong modern men are compared to our ancient brethren would make a great beginning so I calculated the average upper arm strength of several winners of the World Arm Wrestling Federation Championships since the year 2000 and compared it to that of the Neanderthals who lived in Europe in the upper Paleolithic, roughly 40,000 years BC. I must have already sensed I would need to stack the deck a little because, for some reason, I decided to start with a Neanderthal woman. That did me no good, however, for a troubling inconsistency quickly emerged. She was stronger. I checked and checked the data, but there was no mistake. Incredibly, it seemed that a random, anonymous Neanderthal female - actually it's La Ferrassie II for the anthropologists in the audience - would slam the big men of the WAF to the table every time. That, admittedly, was disturbing, but I felt it had to be an outlier, so I moved on confidently to a surer field of inquiry - Sports. Competitive athletics are widely considered the proving ground of modern physical superiority.

So, surely modern men of the track and field would leave their ancient rivals trailing in the strength, speed and agility stakes. To my intense disquiet, the answer was no. As I went deeper into the research, I uncovered a succession of startling facts. I found Mongol bowmen in the 12 Century who shot with higher accuracy than modern Olympic archers, over distances six times greater and from galloping horseback to boot.

I found ancient competitors in the Greek Olympics who won three gruelling events on a single day's competition, in one case repeating the feat at four successive Olympics. That's over 16 years. I found other Greek athletes who set long-jump and triple-jump records unassisted by modern technology that would've stood until the 1952 Olympics. Not to mention the bravery and commitment of competitors such as the boxer Eurydamas of Cyrene who swallowed his smashed teeth during a match to disguise his injuries from the judge. The further back I went, the more calamitous the news became. Archeological research from a fossil footprint site in the Willanda - Willandra Rakes - Willandra Lakes region - I'll just pause here to point out I've got one great advantage in doing this presentation tonight. If anything goes wrong, I can just claim it's a case study. So whenever I stumble, I'm going to point to that inadequate modern male there. That was the first one. So in the Willandra Lakes region of south-western NSW, which shows that 20,000 years ago, Australian Aboriginal men regularly ran at speeds rivalling and probably exceeding the top speed of the current 100-metre world-record holder, Usain Bolt. Going back beyond the dawn of our own species, the picture is bleaker yet. Even female chimps, gorillas and bonobos, our closest living relatives, not only carry much higher ratios of lean muscle to body mass than modern men, their individual muscle fibres are four times stronger than those of any human male or any male homo sapiens. Question up the back?

I'd like you to expand on the issue of intelligence because is there a possibility that we've traded off our physicality to eventually end up being brains in bell jars and so that's where we're putting our focus. And so that, at least in respect of intelligence, we are superior to our forebears. That's a really interesting question but I don't think that's actually true. I originally did my thesis on hominid cognition and I started thinking about a lot of these things.

We think that there's a correlation - an inverse correlation - between physicality and brain but, you know, Neanderthals had bigger brains than we do. They probably did because of the temperature constraints but I'm just pointing out that they did have bigger brains than we do. And one thing that I was convinced of, looking back at the record of tool-making in hominid cognition, is that it's actually very hard to find a spot where you can say we can do something that is qualitatively completely different to what these guys were doing. So you've got 'Cro's that are making tools and that sort of thing. So - and I follow Jared Diamond's lead a little bit in that I think that hunter-gatherers were probably slightly more intelligent individually from what we are because they needed to solve very, very individual problems. It was kind of life or death stuff, too, wasn't it? Well, it was. Their street smarts, you know, kept them protected and kept their genetics rolling on and the food on the...stone. That's true. The only way in which I would agree with this lady here is that because human beings - we are a shared organism in a lot of ways, like language gives us the access to each other's brains, you really could say that on average we are more intelligent because the overall - we're more than the sum of our parts. There are so many of us, there are so many more opportunities to learn than what a hunter-gatherer ever had

I think that you really could argue that there is an overall quality of increase in intelligence. But individually, I think - Keep going. I think if you dropped a hunter-gatherer from many, many thousands of years ago into modern society from the beginning you'd find them every bit as intelligent and probably more so. Have we shut down that aspect of our brain, though, that they had, which was clearly the survival aspect? Because it's not - you know,

life, generally speaking for most of us, isn't too threatening.

You know, we don't have huge threats around the corner. I'm relieved to hear that. I haven't been to Adelaide before. I know. You've heard the stories. When I walk out of here - No, but I mean, you know, most of us really don't have huge threats. Presumably there is a lot more threatening stuff on a daily basis, namely the fear of the unknown,

that they would've had to have been - Yeah, true.

It's more that, um... ..solving problems of survival - being scared of a sabre-toothed tiger or whatever - is simply - Not a great way to live. Well, that's just an emotional reaction but there's a strong theory that what has driven the evolution of human intelligence is it's a social thing.

You're always trying to work out how to better yourself

within the rank of people that you need but that you're actually competing against. So you have to keep track of a lot of shifting alliances and that's why we need the big brains that we have. So, I'm afraid I've forgotten the question. It's just about shutting down that fear aspect. I mean that adrenalin and that fear would've kept a lot of people going. I think I disagree slightly with that. I think that that would be a very - That's just a very automatic emotional thing. The real things that drove that intelligence were working out threats that come from within your social group but also acquiring resources - you needed to have a lot of intelligence and a lot of affinity with - I'm reading a lot about anthropomorphism at the moment, for example, and that's a theory that the reason we're so prone to anthropomorphism is because we needed to have strong access to the world of animal minds to predict behaviour. So I do agree in that sense, that that was what probably has driven intelligence -

we have less of that. Now we just lavish that on our cats. Yeah. And dogs. What about emotions with men? I mean, that's touched on in the book, isn't it? The way that men emotionally - Well, I talk about fatherhood there, for example. And there are many examples of hunter-gatherer fathers who are really astonishing. The Aka pygmy men are one of them but I'm also thinking of Malinowski's work in the Trobriand Islands where they're really super dads, you know, they had no shame at all - the Aka pygmy men, for example, take over most of the child care. It's more often the dad, you know, who's cuddling the child or wiping its bottom, that sort of thing. And the mums, to a certain extent, are a little bit more distant, yeah. And so when did that all sort of start to change? Well, I think those are really cultural phenomena, you know.

There's an enormous range of possible behaviours. There's a lot of other cultures where men are so incredibly distant. I'm thinking of the Bedouin men that I read about where it's possible that a man can grow to the age of 18 without speaking with his father more than three times. Wow. And if he transgresses, the punishment is usually a stabbing with a sabre. So it's very - but that, I think, is really - there's a lot of room for cultural differences there.

So I wouldn't say that there's been really fixed changes in that - it's just how much you can express it. Manthropologist, Peter McAllister, and the science behind the inadequacies of modern blokedom. Well, that's all for today. Hope you've enjoyed that emasculating dose of Big Ideas. For more gender politics and much more besides, point your browser to our website at: There you'll find full-length versions of everything you've seen on the show today plus a vast selection of the best and the brightest talks and lectures around. Don't forget Wednesdays at 11am on ABC1 is where you'll find the newest serving of Big Ideas Extended Mix. And look out for Big Ideas on ABC's News24. I'm Tony Jones. 'Til next time. Closed Captions by CSI

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