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Soup of This Day #165: Talkin’ ‘Bout Fungi Love

April 13, 2012

Storm over Miami
A storm brewing over Miami – Photo: Marc Averette, 2006. Marc Averette is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Back some time around 1997 I got embroiled in a political debate in a University student common room. Originally I was a peripheral participant, only involved because a friend was 1 of the 2 main protagonists. Funnily enough I disagreed with the friend and somehow I got sucked into the discussion. At its epicentre was the views of 1 particular Australian politician, Pauline Hanson.

Hanson had been elected as a member of the Liberal Party (The conservative party to the right – We use the terms, ‘Big L Liberal’ to refer to the right-wing party and ‘small l liberal’ to refer to those with liberal, left-wing sensibilities.) via the 1996 Australian Federal Election. Actually she had run as a Liberal but was elected as an Independent because the Big L folk had dis-endorsed her at the last minute for saying that Aboriginal Australians shouldn’t get special handouts – The suspicion being that she was being racist.

Hanson denied this in her maiden speech to parliament. Right before she said:

‘I and most Australians want our immigration policy radically reviewed and that of multiculturalism abolished. I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians. Between 1984 and 1995, 40% of all migrants coming into this country were of Asian origin. They have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate.’

Yep, it turns out she was being racist.

She was passionate too, fully committed even. In 1997, faced by a substantial backlash she even took the extraordinary step of filming a video to be shown in the event of her being assassinated. It began:

‘Fellow Australians, if you are seeing me now, it means I have been murdered. Do not let my passing distract you for even a moment.’

She really needed to be committed in another sense. And no, nobody ever tried assassinating her – They were too busy snickering at her video.

Which in a strange way suited her – At the height of her political career she was a celebrity populist and any publicity was a chance for her to air views that weren’t going to justify airtime by themselves. Her saner policies spoke to small government and fighting for what she perceived as the rightful inheritors of modern Australia. A flat 2% tax, no immigration and a narrow world with a 1950s style respect for society.

And this was the crux of the argument. My friend believed that, whilst some of Hanson’s views were extreme, she did have something valuable to contribute. His opponent disagreed, claiming that the negatives, such as her nonsensical racist rants, far out-weighed anything of good that Hanson espoused.

Things got heated. ‘She does have some good points,’ defended my friend for the nth time. At this his opposition exploded:


This was 1 of those comments that echoed into a rare moment of silence. Which was a potential problem because in isolation it didn’t sound good. It kinda sounded like the guy was defending Hitler and bagging out the pre-Holocaust Jewish population. He clearly wasn’t – His comment had been made in sarcastic anger and was meant to draw parallels between Hanson and Hitler – Kind of like saying that this is how it starts, with politicians who have ‘some good points too.’ In a sense he was evoking the line, often attributed to Edmund Burke, that claims that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

Context is a wonderful thing. So too would be a real-life 20 second delay – Sort of pause and rewind, a chance to retract stuff that maybe has bypassed the old brain on it’s way out.

Maybe Miami Marlins Manager Ozzie Guillén is wishing for that kind of facility to be installed in his head. And in Time Magazine.

Disclaimer off the bat on Ozzie: I think he’s mostly ok, not especially bad or good. I shouldn’t be ambivalent because he’s bat@#$% crazy in a way that could distract from his team and baseball in general. Somehow though he doesn’t – Maybe because his current outfit is the Miami Marlins and they play in an aquarium theme park. Yep, for those gaudy fish Ozzie is just about the right level of bat@#$% crazy.

In most circumstances.

Unfortunately Ozzie has found himself in a situation where he is completely the wrong kind of bat@#$% crazy for Miami. In an interview with Time Ozzie filled up some column space with a throwaway line that was a little brainless:

‘I love Fidel Castro … I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that mother[redacted] is still here.’

Actually now that I’ve written that out it seems a whole lot of brainless. Ozzie is the Manager of a baseball team in Miami. The same Miami that hosts a fair old number of Cuban exiles. Who don’t get along with Cuba’s dictator in chief, Fidel Castro.

If you haven’t been across this you’ll be surprised to hear that it did not go down well. Not well at all.

The Marlins responded by suspending Ozzie for 5 games. They’ll possibly take a hit – The Marlins might be playing to a half empty fish bowl a smaller crowd than normal for a bit while this pans out.

Ozzie responded by apologising profusely and explaining that it didn’t come out right:

‘I was thinking in Spanish and I said the wrong thing in English.’

Which sounds reasonable. Me personally, I read Ozzie’s Time Magazine comment and took it this way – He has a childish respect for Castro’s ability to avoid being assassinated.

And to be fair Castro has been rather good at that. Allegedly the CIA have tried 638 times, including 1 attempt with an exploding cigar and another, my favourite, with a fungal-infected scuba suit.

If anyone out there reading this is old-school CIA and can explain how that was going to work I’d love to hear it. I have this athlete’s foot fungal thing going on right now and I’m a little concerned my life is in danger.

No matter how the fungi thing works, Fidel Castro is pretty decent at avoiding being killed. It’s hard to argue with that.

Sadly that is 1 of the few things he is decent at. Mostly he’s a thoroughly indecent human being who hasn’t exactly been great for a lot of his fellow Cubans. In that light any comments around Castro in a high profile situation in Miami, where a lot of victims of Castro live in exile, are pretty unwise. I think Ozzie gets that now. Bud Selig, the current Commissioner of Major League Baseball, reckons he gets it too:

‘Major League Baseball supports today’s decision by the Marlins to suspend Ozzie Guillen. As I have often said, Baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities. All of our 30 Clubs play significant roles within their local communities, and I expect those who represent Major League Baseball to act with the kind of respect and sensitivity that the game’s many cultures deserve. Mr. Guillen’s remarks, which were offensive to an important part of the Miami community and others throughout the world, have no place in our game.’

Yeah… Ahhh… Didn’t you sit next to Fidel Castro in 1999 when the O’s played an exhibition game in Cuba Bud? Were you respectfully and sensitively carrying fungi?

There’s a couple of quotes in 1 of Terry Pratchett’s brilliant Discworld novels, Guards! Guards!. The Machiavellian Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, Lord Vetinari, is deposed and dumped in the dungeon of his own palace. Despite his incarceration he ends up being quite comfortable there, which he explains via 1 of his 2 rules for dungeon building:

‘Never build a dungeon you wouldn’t want to spend the night in yourself.’

His comfort is aided somewhat by his ability to escape any time he wants, which he explains via his other rule for dungeon building:

‘Never build a dungeon you can’t get out of.’

A world whereby we try to address stupid remarks without due compassion is an uncomfortable dungeon of our own making. It’s also bloody hard to escape from.

Something to finish up on: There’s long been stories of Castro having tryouts with the Yankees and the Senators before he discovered the whole bloody Marxist regime game. Those are mostly spurious – Fidel was apparently good at sport when younger but not that good.

It’s a shame – If it had been true then maybe Cuba could have been spared his brutal regime. Maybe too it would have brought a whole new meaning to the nickname ‘Evil Empire’ for the Yankees.

Talkin’ ‘Bout Fungi Love

  1. Political debates. Watch on TV. Stay away from otherwise. Some folks have no filter, others the inability to even listening to any opposing views. I am hearing a number of folks this morning who have connections to the South Florida area saying the pressure on the Marlins to fire Guillen isn’t going to go away lightly at all. Protests are still being planned and likely only his dismissal will dismiss the turmoil.

    • Yep, dangerous ground it is. Ozzie’s comment was incomprehensibly stupid, no matter how much the reaction has been blown up. If he goes I’ll feel sorry for him but he’s got himself to blame.

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