Last month, on Monday 8 April 2013, the Sydney Traditionalist Forum hosted its fourth documentary screening, the first which was attended by an honoured guest: Senator Cory Bernardi of South Australia. Conservatives in the Sydney region have been keenly observing the political career of Senator Bernardi, who has on many occasions risked political ostracision for his commitment to honest debate in Parliament. By unapologetically stating arguments that offend the delicate sensibilities of so-called “progressive” discourse, Senator Bernardi has shown the courage of his convictions by refusing to buckle to the expected leftist condemnation of anyone who steps out of the “politically correct” line. What makes the Senator stand out as a politician in the mainstream is his refusal to meet the demands of leftists, who predictably call on him to retract statements which highlight the deleterious consequences of liberal social reform, its inherent contradictions and hypocrisy.
SydneyTrads has covered recent controversies involving the opposition to the incessant push for so-called “gay marriage”, and we support Senator Bernardi’s comments warning society of the dangers of redefining core civilisational institutions which predate the state itself. As the popular culture moves incrementally to the left with each passing year, it is rare that grass-roots conservatives can find a politician who is willing to take a principled stand on highly contentious issues such as these. For this reason we welcomed Senator Bernardi to our gathering and warmly support his initiatives in promoting a critical conservative discourse that questions the assumptions of the liberal consensus which dominates the entire political spectrum.
The function was hosted on the campus of Sydney University and involved the screening of Agenda – Grinding America Down. This documentary outlined the manner in which the aims and objectives of the West’s 1960s Communist radicals have been essentially achieved, and how these radicals’ initiatives have morphed into contemporary liberal agitation and the “progressive” programmes of today. Whereas orthodox Communism waged war against the West in an openly violent manner, today’s “progressives” continue to undermine its traditions through cultural deconstruction, sexual identity politics, militant atheism, the denial of normative values and the celebration (and increasingly, the encouragement) of perversity. The documentary included extensive interviews with academics, community leaders, social commentators and private researchers such as Medford Stanton Evans, Wedy Wright, Curtis Bowers, Phyllis Schlafly, The Hon Edwin Meese III, The Hon Steven King, Brannon Howse, John Stormer, Janet Porter, Trevor Loudon, Dr. David Noebel, Dr. Calvin Beisner, Mike Smith Esq., Tim Wildmon, The Hon Hubert Leon Richardson and Jim Simpson.
The Sydney Traditionalists were also fortunate to have Rev. The Hon. Fred Nile of the Christian Democratic Party honour us as a VIP guest, as well as various representatives of conservative and traditionalist groups from across the state. The hosts and producers of Radio Carpe Diem were present as well as other journalists and media personalities; representatives from Testify and the Tradition Family Property group also attended the event, as did past and present members from the Executive of the University of Sydney Conservative Club, and various conservative lobbyists from the Liberal Party (NSW Division).
The Convenor opened proceedings by noting the apparent crisis of conservative politics in the Anglosphere. “Conservative seem to be always on the defensive” he said, and that “the best we can apparently expect from our leaders is a compromise with the Left.” He noted how this does not lead to a viable alternative to the mainstream’s liberal politics. “What this amounts to is a form of incremental triumph, over time, for the Left. All we have to do is look at other supposedly conservative parties of the mainstream to see where this will lead. The prominence of the John McCains, David Camerons and Malcolm Turnbulls within major non-left parties suggests there is a crisis of faith among the conservative mainstream.” The Convenor then said that if conservatives want to address this problem, we need to openly and energetically analyse what it is to be a conservative in the first place. “If conservatism is simply the ‘praxis of preservation’, or merely preserving the status quo, then such a definition would mean that a conservative living in Soviet Russia in the 50’s would have to be a communist. Obviously this is a nonsense. There is more to conservatism than just preserving what we have, especially if there is a great deal around us that we may not wish to see preserved at all.”
After the screening of the documentary, Senator Bernardi briefly addressed attendees, reflected on the themes outlined in the film as well as the need to organise groups such as the Sydney Traditionalist Forum. He said that he was “saddened and gladdened by the evening,” that the essential truths of the films were depressing but that he was “heartened by the great promise of this group.” The Senator said he was humbled to be in the same room as so many conservatives from so many different organisations and thanked them for their attendance and support. He discussed the importance of building a strong community-based grassroots movement while also avoiding the stifling effects of personality based politics. Senator Bernardi emphasized that genuine conservative activism is principled activism, and indicated that for too long conservatives have been too accommodating to the demands of the unscrupulous left. Due to the inroads that leftist politics has made in popular culture over the last several decades, Senator Bernardi mused that “in a way, we are the radicals of today”. Although a great deal of cultural capital has been lost, “we should always have faith in the truth of our position” he said, and urged those in the audience to keep defending the principles that have been the foundation of a safe, healthy and prosperous society. The Senator pointed out the value of internet technologies such as YouTube and blogs, and how they offer conservatives an opportunity to be heard in circumstances where their voice is censored out of the mainstream press. He concluded by saying that each individual that is involved in the movement brings a unique quality with him in the form of his individual talent. “We all need to specialize in our own way” he said, pointing out to the attendees that a great deal of work is ahead for all of us if we value the good and true, and if wish to be part of the cultural restoration that our country needs. “I commend Edwin for organizing this event and the people who have come here this evening” he concluded.
Luke Torrisi, host of Sydney’s only explicitly traditionalist and paleoconservative leaning radio programme and close friend of the Sydney Traditionalists was then invited to move the motion of thanks for Senator Bernardi’s visit, and present him and the Rev Fred Nile with a gift. In return for Cory’s kind words of support for the Carpe Diem Programme, Luke offered a few extra words in his vote of thanks on behalf of the Sydney Traditionalists. He alluded to Cory’s previous rowing career and reminded the audience that “when you are rowing with the tide, you can literally fall asleep at the helm and you will still eventually get to where that tide is taking you. However, when you are going against the tide, then things are different. You have to put effort into your rowing, but most importantly, your fellow rowers have to be rowing in stroke with you – working with you so that you are pulling your oars as one.” In his allusion to fighting the culture war and challenging the current liberal zeitgeist, Luke urged the audience to consider themselves as Cory’s fellow oarsmen: if our elected representatives are to be truly effective, we cannot me “asleep at the helm,” we must be active in order to provide them with the mandate to propagate the Conservative disposition. Senator Bernardi was presented with a copy of Kenneth Minogue’s The Servile Mind and The Rev Fred Nile was presented with a copy of Roger Scruton’s The Meaning of Conservatism.
The Convenor closed the evening’s proceedings by encouraging the attendees to make new contacts: “When I started law, some years ago, the Dean told us in the first week of the first semester that the most valuable resource would be our fellow student colleagues. He was absolutely right. There is nothing more important in the Culture War than the the people you are currently sitting next to. It’s not every day that you will find assembled in one room so many representatives and activists from so many different conservative organisations. If you see someone in this room you haven’t yet met, please spend the rest of the evening building new bridges. Soon we will be needing each others’ support in campaigns and initiatives. This is where it starts.” This was a great opportunity for conservative activists from the Sydney region to mingle, socialise and network. Food and refreshments were served throughout the evening, and at the end of formal proceedings young conservatives were able to freely discuss matters with community leaders from the grass-roots conservative scene. Sadly, it was late at night when attendees also learned of the passing of Margaret Thatcher, and a toast to her memory was spontaneously made from the floor. (although the Sydney Traditionalists understand and appreciate that Thatcher was largely a right-liberal, and her economic policies did contribute to the social erosion of traditional Britain, we appreciate the iconic value of an explicitly anti-feminist female politician who is hated by the broader left for her courage and success; for this reason we believe that it is not entirely inappropriate to honour her memory, under the circumstances).
This fourth documentary screening of the Sydney Traditionalist Forum was a great success. Despite risks that the proceedings may have been disrupted by radical elements from the student body of Sydney University, no such interference or trouble was encountered. The Convenor announced that a future documentary screening is currently being organised, as well as a more informal event catering specifically for senior community leaders and activists. The Sydney Traditionalists have been active under the official banner of the Forum for almost a year, and we hope that soon our organisation will develop a more subtle role as a facilitator of inter-group, cross-conservative lobbying and mentorship for young conservatives. Attendees were notified that they would receive notices of future functions in the mail.
Final acknowledgments were given to Mark Richardson of OzConservative, John Styles of The Australian Conservative and Trevor Loudon of New Zeal, all of whom helped promote this event on their respective websites. We are grateful to Copybook Heading Production LLC for having been granted the right to screen Agenda – Grinding America Down. Thanks were also offered to the Sydney University Catholic Chaplaincy, who assisted us in securing the venue for the screening. We also wish to acknowledge Chad Sidler for his photographic services during the evening.
– SydneyTrads Editors