Cory Bernardi is our very own Charlie Sheen
American celebrity culture and Australian politics don’t often make for useful comparisons - but then, it’s not every day that Charlie Sheen comes along.
Sheen is a highly amusing egomaniac but - unlike most Australian politicians - he also tells the truth. “I believe in the truth and that’s what rules me”, Sheen said in an interview with Andrea Canning for the ABC network in America. He certainly does.
When asked to describe the last time he used drugs, Sheen said, “I probably took more than anyone could survive… I was banging seven gram rocks… that’s how I roll. I have one gear—go.” It’s the answer no one else would’ve given even if they had’ve banged seven gram rocks (which I assume means consuming a lot of cocaine).
Canning asked Sheen, with a straight face, if any celebrities had reached out to him. (Is there anything celebrities can’t do? It seems they are both good looking and good friends).
Sheen’s answer rightfully mocked the very culture that made and remunerates him. “Sometimes a giant marquee name will come through your caller ID, and it’s like—winning”, he said.
Sheen is fantastically rich, lives with two hot girlfriends and has regular drug and booze-fuelled benders. And it’s this very lifestyle that feeds the hell-razing image that he’s exploiting for fame and fortune.
My lifestyle is morning jogs, a modestly paid job and lonely nights playing iPhone scrabble. I find it hard to look on Sheen as anything but a winner.
Australian politics has few truth-tellers like Charlie Sheen. Politics is plagued by conformity and scarcely any are prepared to take a political stance, or give an opinion, contrary to the party line.
Labor MPs have been described as “lobotomised zombies” by one of their own. Considering the cancerous influence of factional leaders on the Labor Party, who select unremarkable parliamentary candidates to dutifully toe the factional line, it’s an appropriate description. It’s ironic that the statement was made by Doug Cameron, one of the guilty factional leaders.
But there is one politician who is prepared to say the truth (as he sees it). Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi is Australia’s Charlie Sheen, notwithstanding his arch-conservatism and presumably drug-free lifestyle.
Bernardi is a prolific opinion-giver and maintains a website in which he shares his often controversial views on a range of subjects. He recently raised the issue of multiculturalism and Muslim integration in a blog entry on his site and, in a subsequent radio interview, called Islam a “totalitarian” religion.
The response to Bernardi’s comments was predictably vitriolic. Independent MP Andrew Wilkie accused Bernardi of “whipping up the fear of Islam” and for contributing to the “racism that eats at the Liberal Party”. In a recent question time outburst, the Prime Minister also challenged Tony Abbott to “reject the political tactics of Cory Bernardi”.
But what’s wrong with questioning status quo assumptions, especially about religion? It’s intellectually dishonest to deny that Islam is a problematic religion. Islam is struggling to deal with terrorism, the subjugation of women—including an inability to look at them in the face, and the political repression and economic stagnation which categorises many Islamic countries.
It’s also impossible to argue that Islam isn’t totalitarian (and the argument naturally extends to other monolithic religions). Islam and Christianity, for example, both require subservience to an authoritarian God and the unadulterated worship of seemingly mortal prophets. If you take totalitarianism to be synonymous with control, then there was nothing controversial about Bernardi’s statement.
Religion has been immune from criticism for too long, and given the reaction to Bernardi, it will be sacrosanct for some time yet.
Australian politics could do with a bit more truth telling. Julia Gillard should have revealed her intention for a carbon tax before the last election and Tony Abbott could admit that his hyperbolic anti-tax campaign is cynical and simplistic and that Australians can afford a small rise in electricity prices.
But unfortunately Gillard and Abbott are not in the league of Cory Bernardi… or Charlie Sheen.
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