I posted my first essay on this website on 16 July 2012. Why did I start it? Because I liked writing analysis and commentaries, and after the GFC in 2009 newspapers and magazines shed staff as though they all had some dread disease. Paying for outsiders like me was out of the question. My first essay, way back, was at the beginning of 1968, and was a request to the Liberals to choose Paul Hasluck as leader. That was an editorial in The Canberra Times, unsigned of course. Alas the Liberals took no notice, and selected John Gorton. I had several conversations with John Gorton, and liked him, but I did think and still that Paul Hasluck would have been a better choice.
I did the Monday leader for the Times for several years, and added a signed column each week soon after. In 1971 I stopped the leader and moved the column to the new National Times, because I was going to Sydney to live and work. That continued until about 1983, when a new editor thought it was time to prune the staff and the columnists. I was offered a monthly gig, and decided it was time to do other things. Thereafter I wrote pieces for practically all the major newspapers, was an International Correspondent for Newsweek, and did all sorts of other little writing bits and pieces, finishing with several years writing about higher education for the Australian Financial Review, and then opinion pieces for a new Canberra freebie run by a friend. That too lasted several years. Then I got caught up in the anthropogenic global warming issue, and started writing pieces for Judith Curry (Climate etc) and Anthony Watts (WUWT).
One day I decided to have my own site, and in the nine years that have followed, I’ve written over one thousand essays, and well over a million words. About 35,000 comments have followed, and the readership or audience used to run about 10,000 a month. It has slowly declined over the Covi-19 period, and runs now at about 8,000 a month. It’s not one of the big ones, and is not important in the scheme of things, but I liked writing, and my readers seemed to enjoy it.
Well, it’s going to cease, on or about 16 July 2021. Why? There are several reasons. One is age. I’m nearly 84. I have an incurable and inoperable cancer, which I manage well enough to please my specialist, but it takes a lot of energy from me. I will have to stop writing it one day, and that day is soon.
A second reason that I am conscious of being repetitive. The wonderful English essayist, A. P. Herbert, said somewhere that the approach of Easter always filled him with dread. What could he say about that event that he had not said before? I feel rather the same. I have several favourite topics, and I write about them again and again. I actually don’t want to write anything more about climate change, for example, though I will do one last piece on that dreadful faux issue. In fact, I don’t even to want to think about it any more. Same with elections, prime ministers, politics generally, and so on.
A third reason is that I’d rather write novels. I’ve written twelve and revised one since 2012, the same year as my website began. The need to exercise my imagination keeps me sane, a bit like playing the piano. I no longer sell my books. I have an excellent designer, and she and I work together on each one. People often say, ‘I love the cover of …’ and that pleases her, though I’d like them to say how much they enjoyed the story. When we have the novel and the design as good as we can make them, I have a hundred copies made and give them to family and close friends. Then I’m on to the next. The time I have for writing is limited, and the concept of the website simply doesn’t attract me as much as it did when I started it. I never asked for donations, and received none. It was, as one of my daughters put it, ‘a public service’ in that sense.
Fourth, I am also conscious that my interests have shifted. I am now more interested in larger philosophical questions about existence. Who are we? What is our purpose, if any? What is a good life, and how do we achieve it? How much of socialism is sensible, and how much of capitalism? Many other people write about these questions, but I am learning as much as teaching in this domain.
I am sorry for hundreds of my quiet readers, who never post comments, but sometimes write to me to say how much they enjoy what I give them. They will have to find a new website, or even start one themselves. It’s not cripplingly expensive, but it does take time to manage it, especially if it is successful. And then you’re hooked. There is a weekly darg, your ISP to get to know, problems that arise that have to be fixed, research that has to be done, and so on.
My elder son and I are working on how to save the essays and the comments. After all, they do represent one perspective on what happened, mostly in Australia, and therefore would be a useful source for future historians and social scientists. We have a couple of ideas, but would welcome any others that readers might suggest. This is new territory for both of us.
So this is an advance farewell from me to those who comment and those who read. It’s been a good nine years, and I have learned a great deal. But, as I have said above, it’s time to end this little endeavour. There’ll be half a dozen more essays, probably my last thoughts on what I think are important themes, and then silence.
I’m sure that those who are passionate about their own special themes, like climate change, will find somewhere else to go. I wish them well. For my part, if I really feel the need to say something I haven’t said before,I might go back to making comments on Judy Curry’s Climate etc website.