Griffiths: Young Josef and the looks that deceive

“It seems unlikely that any of the cool young things zooming around the inner north on their vintage bicycles are plotting the deaths of millions,” writes JOHN GRIFFITHS

DOING the rounds on the internet lately have been pictures of the murderous Soviet dictator Josef Stalin as a young man.

The first of two striking things about the photos are that he was a very, very good looking young man with deep soulful eyes.

Young Joe Stalin… just like any inner-north hipster.

Young Joe Stalin… just like any inner-north hipster.

The more alarming thing is that if you could bring him to life from the century-old photos (just google “young stalin”) and put him down on Braddon’s Lonsdale Street he would fit right in with the hipster crowd without the blink of an eyelid.

It seems unlikely that any of the cool young things zooming around the inner north on their vintage bicycles are plotting the deaths of millions, but then again its not clear the young Stalin had much planned beyond coffee, cigarettes, and convincing the next winsome lass that sleeping with him would further the revolution either.

In the interests of disclosure I must admit I cycle a very groovy bicycle to work, sport a beard, glasses, and hold strong opinions about coffee and obscure music. On the other hand, I’m probably too old and fat to be a hipster and pay insufficient attention to my wardrobe.

WHILE considering the reflections of the past in the modern era; this week’s Budget convulsions in Canberra had me thinking about what drives our political parties.

Greens, Labor and Liberal all trace their ideological underpinnings to the late 19th century.

We’re talking about a time when it was still possible for one person to be at least broadly across everything needed by an up-to-date civilisation.

Back then, a steam train was a very snazzy piece of technology. Today, a moderately intelligent school leaver, deprived of modern society, could hope to build a functioning steam train in their lifetime.

Cast your eyes now to your mobile phone.

In a whole lifetime a single individual could not hope to replicate just the glass screen on the front of the phone. Never mind the processors, accelerometers, batteries, barometers, data arrays and wireless antennae. That’s before we even think about the millions of lines of software code and the vast infrastructure of the telecommunications industry and beyond it the broader internet.

I bring this up because as a global society we have never been so interdependent and interconnected.

Having found ourselves in this unprecedented situation (and largely having chosen it for ourselves despite all the smarmy youths on youtube railing against technology with no apparent sense of irony) we perhaps have to wonder if the political certainties of the age of steam are really going to be very helpful.

Before the ideological warriors don their tin hats, leap into foxholes and start firing, I’d ask them to consider in what possible other sphere of life would they consider a single set of policies to be universally applicable?

The only other place you find that sort of dogma is in religion.

Even in religion, Christ’s Sermon on the Mount is a more progressive manifesto (coming to us from the Iron Age no less) than anything Labor or Liberal are offering at the moment.

Maybe, just maybe, we need to stop parrotting things we heard when we were young, and start thinking.