7 October, 2005, Andrew Olle lecture, Sydney, Australia
It was during the bombing of Baghdad that I reeled in shock, awe and disbelief when I saw Fox news coverage. Two immaculately dressed presenters were genuinely excited by the pictures they were seeing. One of them shouted 'I want to see the Moab! [The mother of all bombs.] Bring on the Moab!' And I thought it's come to this. The news had degenerated into watching people wank at a snuff film. They were the new type of journalists. The fact is, rarely has there been a more important time for truth in journalism.
I should begin by putting my journalistic credentials on the table - I have none. As a radio presenter I once managed to conduct quite a long interview with John Howard who was then a shadow minister in the Downer shadow cabinet, and covered a lot of ground without extracting any indication one way or the other that a leadership challenge was on.
Whichever corner I tried to box him into, he deftly changed from a solid to a gas, only to reappear as a solid on another part of the canvas, with me clumsily smoting the air. Within a few days he was Opposition leader, within twelve months, Prime Minister and, on paper, the most successful one in living memory. As a television presenter I had quite a productive if unfocussed interview with the then Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer in which we extensively canvassed his future and the future of the National Party. Within an hour of finishing the interview he announced his resignation and retirement. It's clear that while we were talking he knew what he was going to do, but all I could wheedle out of him was that it was 'steady as she goes'. Again a no-contest. In short, I've been thrashed by both champions and plodders. And the boxing metaphor is apt. The media is charged with aggression. Newspapers battle newspapers, radio stations spit at each other and the Television networks hate each other's guts. And journalists joust with politicians and journalists claw at each other, and politicians even on the same side of the street do likewise. It's a cold, cold-hearted world out there. Look at the way Mark Latham treated his Labor family. Look at the way the Liberal family treated John Brogden. To state a truism politicians and journalists need each other, feed each other and form marriages of convenience. I remember working with a high profile journalist on a commercial network a few years ago who stated that his ambition was to work as Peter Costello's press secretary when he assumes the Prime Ministership. His newspaper column has been nothing but full of praise for the Treasurer ever since.
As a means of preparation for tonight, I had another look at some really engaging lectures delivered on previous occasions in this forum by some pretty heavy hitters in the industry and there have been some outstanding insights into the media. Kerry Stokes talked of the need for different voices, different perspectives and diversity of opinion and how vital this was for the health of the media and therefore the health of democracy itself. I notice that this year has seen Seven's Today Tonight and Nine's A Current Affair put to air the same story at the same time on the same night. As nearly as I can tell the programs are the same: same old foot in the same old door philosophy, same mock outrage at feuding neighbours and total dependence on losers, or sad losers, or violent losers, or losers ripped off by shonky gold tooth rat type losers. They now make the ABC's brilliant 90's farce Frontline look less like parody and more like reality television. Both current affairs shows depict a world where it's not only not safe for anyone to leave their home, it's not safe to live. And the commercial news services are carbon copies of each other as well. If one uses a blue background, the other will follow. If one uses a cityscape as a backdrop, the other will follow. Testament to the superficial nature of news as news is seen in whatever happened to Jim Whaley. Jim had been groomed to follow Brian Henderson - the former host of Bandstand, but it began to go wobbly when people started to watch Nine's Ian Ross over on Seven instead. It was decided Jim might have been scaring the viewers a bit, so they began moving the camera back making Jim appear smaller and therefore seemingly less scary. But then Jim was disappearing altogether and by that stage it was all too late. Enter Mark Ferguson a bloke who looks about nineteen, who is then marketed as the man with the experience. Unlike Jim apparently, who has, to my knowledge, been seen in the flack jacket more times than any bloke ever to read a bulletin. So forget diversity of opinion - it's out there on the margins. If you really want diversity go to the ABC or SBS.
Then I watched Jana Wendt's excellent address where she spoke candidly about the immense difficulties of providing popular quality journalism on any commercial network. And she was right. But in the end you can take the girl out of Mary Magdalene's world for a time, but it's very hard to take the Mary Magdalene out of the girl completely. And then we had Jana usher Sam Chisholm into the Logies Hall of Fame and suddenly Sam's back at Nine, and while middle management now have to call him Mr. Chisholm and wear suits, Ray had to lose the suit and loosen the tie in promoting A Current Affair. It was to give people the impression Ray had been at it all day at the coal face tracking down the spivs, the plastic surgeons and the weight loss miracles.
The fact is, as Lachlan Murdoch pointed out in his address here, the media is a business, and if going low sells, then let's mine really low. Lachlan's remarkable thesis seemed to be that elite opinion is to be avoided at all cost. What is preferred is opinion that fuels nationalism. And profits made serve to improve the systems of delivery of information to consumers - colour printing and the like. What is overlooked is that, in the end, delivery and delivery systems are meaningless. Content is all that matters. Rubbish is still rubbish be it on an old 21inch black and white HMV or in high definition through the digital set top box. The Beatles and the Stones sounded great through the crystal set attached to the iron frame of my bed as a ten year old. As for elites: well it's best to encourage worship at the feet of sporting elites, for those who dabble in elite thought may well come to conclusions that are at odds with the prevailing wisdom within the culture of the organization. And while on the one hand the Murdoch organization bleats on about its abhorrence of political correctness and the need to enshrine freedom of speech and opinion, on the other, when dealing with China, is quite sanguine about removing the BBC channel from its Star service because the opinions expressed might upset the burghers of Beijing.
But to give it its due News Limited is digging its heels in regarding Freedom Of Information laws. And is supportive of two journalists who are under threat of gaol for not revealing their sources over a leaked government document. Maybe the time has come for a bill of rights.
I think Jana is right, Lachlan is wrong and Kerry seems to be living in a parallel universe.
I come to this forum as a consumer of media and as someone who's been fortunate enough to sit a little on the inside and observe aspects of how it appears to work. At my first real job at the Small Arms Factory in Lithgow I bought the Daily Mirror every afternoon on my way home. I used to savour the football and cricket think pieces from the likes of Phil Tressider and Ian Heads and Geoff Prenter and they brought me up to speed with the notion of cliché. At the time I had no idea that this would be my career-making preparation allowing me to express moments of life in terms of a traditional softening-up period, forwards stamping their authority on the match, players having either good hands or quick hands or both, being able to sell a dummy or sell a dump or both, being able to bundle people into touch with either a grass cutter or ball and all tackle while second rowers hunted in packs or made busts up the middle or the hard yards before creating something out of nothing and being able to score from anywhere on the paddock while you could throw a blanket over the defence. Players could have the ball on a string in a moment of individual brilliance or weave their magic in a desperate bid requiring courage and commitment in the trenches in a game played in two halves where both teams were a credit to themselves with one player being an ornament to humanity in a match where the game was the ultimate winner. In thirty five years about the only new contributions are American ones: this rookie stepping up to the plate, could end up a hall of famer at this level. Yet despite the tightly spin doctored homogenized responses of sports stars and commentators there is still the odd surprise. Ray Warren suggesting at one stage that the ball popped up like a plume of molten lava or Benny Elias on SBS saying it's like comparing apples and apples, you just can't do it.
I've always loved radio. Mornings was Gary O'Callaghan and Sammy Sparrow until pop meant the 2SM Good Guys introduced the songs that would become the diary of adolescence. Many years later, what's changed? Talkback. That's all. Commercial radio now: AM. Bandwagon talkback, water cooler drivel as talkback thought starters, competitions, finance and weather, quizzes, traffic, more talkback, then an inflammatory lunatic with talkback. FM. Whacky clubs or Crews, old music or a balance of old music with unthreatening new, competitions, requests, racy talkback with swearing and repetition. All programs are substantially written by the daily newspapers. Breakfast and Mornings used to have a deal - Breakfast got the stories on the odd pages and Mornings got the ones on the even pages. The quirky stories are good for the Crews - often they are survey - based stories. Four out of every ten Swedes prefer briefs to boxers. 'Come on guys, what do you prefer? Give us a call.' 'G'day Brian, love your show. I wear briefs, mate.' The Crew might ask blokes who freebag to phone in. One of the Crew will have an insight. 'I always freebag in my trackies'. 'You're wearing your trackies now'. 'Bloody hell!' - much hilarity and that becomes a promo sound bite for the next month. And don't be scared to use the Melbourne chuckle. That's when everything is so funny you can hardly speak for laughter.
Sadly I've only caught John Burgess on radio once: the grab I heard was 'and we're coming up to the bottom of the hour, so let's just ease our way through with a little Anne Murray.' Perfect.
Least forgivable is the program that begins with 'Why don't you just give me a call and tell me what's on your mind'. It's dead air space with a host.
As are TV shows like The Up Late Game Show on Ten which may be telling us what TV will be like down the track when the digital revolution gives us thousands of channels - all with nothing on them.
For some reason or other as an immediate response when first approached to speak at this occasion I wrote down the word Symmetry. This is the tenth Andrew Olle lecture. Like many I can remember where I was and what I was up to when the shockingly sad news arrived. I last saw Andrew in the canteen at Gore Hill at lunchtime on a Thursday. We chatted in the sandwich queue. Not long before he'd worked on a Four Corners special entitled 'What's wrong with the Liberal Party?' a program that ended with Andrew angrily railing at the panel of John Howard, Robert Hill and John Moore for being in denial. I talked about work, his work, and he wanted to talk about anything but work. He looked and was exhausted. He was doing mornings on 702 and The 7:30 Report at night. He had every reason to be exhausted.
Andrew was very generous to me when we were working at the same station. He always offered story ideas, wry observations and encouragement. I did afternoons and it was the only time of day apart from midnight to dawn when nobody seemed to give a bugger about what you did. There was no minute by minute scrutiny that Breakfast in particular has to endure. One of the traps with radio is that it caresses the ego in the most dangerous manner imaginable. The first skill to leave is the ability to listen - when someone else is speaking you are automatically forming your next thought. The long-term affect must be a specific type of narcissistic madness. The trade is in part about finding a performance mask that can be slipped on and can evenly disguise days of euphoria or despair. Andrew was helped on radio because we knew what he looked like. He had a natural elegance and an interesting mask that really exposed itself on television: he had a look of almost permanent skepticism brought about by the asymmetry of his face. Science tells us we are attracted to symmetry. Symmetry equals beauty equals biological success so the argument goes. Yet there was Andrew, a sort of walking proof that the exception can also be true.
I'd see him annually at the NSW Tennis Open at White City. Here he presented as a sort of 'what ho' Bertie Wooster type with attractive slacks and lemon sweater casually draped across the shoulder with the picnic basket in the boot of the Audi parked on the lawn courtside. Yet in the background was this tearaway kiddie from Queensland who'd terrorized neighbourhoods and missed out on gaol by the skin of his teeth. His mask of performance had obliterated this part of his life completely as nearly as I could tell. But I never had a night on the tiles with Andrew and I suspect a few good reds might have allowed a different spiritual genie out of the bottle. As is the case with many journalists.
Journalists like a drink. Often to excess - it's an occupational health hazard. Robert Haupt became a regular commentator on my show. He had tremendous style. And a mission to find truth. But there were days when Haupty would have had a long lunch. And then it was different. A rosy warm smile can make for difficult radio. Then he learnt Russian and went to Russia as a correspondent because he thought that's where it was going to happen. And he was right. Many a time at awards do's I've gaped in awe as highly respected journos have slammed yet another one back and bayed at the moon, or thrown a glass in anger, or picked a fight. At the Walkeley's, fistfights are part of the card. I suspect drink in the journalist's culture might have something to do with massive overexposure to the darker side of human nature.
I've always enjoyed reasoned commentators. I loved the sturdy assuredness of Paul Murphy and now Mark Colvin. I lean forward when I hear Catherine McGrath or Fran Kelly in attack mode. I love Kerry O'Brien getting angry. I pull up a chair for any Chris Masters or Sally Neighbour Four Corners special. I flick the page to the Paul McGeough article. It's the mixture of gravitas and style. As a family in the late fifties we used to sit around the lounge room at night letting Arch McKirdy guide us through Benny Golson or Oscar Peterson or Charlie Parker. A cigarette company sponsored him. It might have been Ardath. And with voice alone he fashioned the smoky atmosphere of a New York Jazz Club. His live commercials for Ardath had him ignoring the copy and the ad would sometimes be reduced to a pause, followed by the sound of a match being struck and an ecstatic draw. And that was the ad. Arch always struck a warm yet authoritative tone. He was a master of the medium having the easy confidence of one who has made the time, the moment, his own and he knew his subject and somehow gave the impression of having left the ego behind. John Cleary has a similarly elegant style. Andrew also, despite his particular asymmetry, had reasoned objective balance. Which leads us to Opinion. Suddenly the world is awash with Opinion. Sadly more Arch Tambakis than Arch McKirdy. Newspapers too, are full of it. Any half-baked dickhead who can string a few sentences together is given a go, particularly if the opinion is inflammatory or somehow ratchets up the climate of fear or loathing - simply and obviously because it sells more newspapers.
When I had a regular radio show I was constantly astounded by the easy access to some of the great minds of our time. It seemed to me that radio had such portability and potential that there was no excuse just to throw the lines open. I had an American physicist called George Smoot on once. He helped discover cosmic background radiation - the echo of the Big Bang, the microwave image of which was given the title 'The face of god'. We pick it up as snow on our television screens. And he was talking about String Theorists whose Maths had rewound the tape of time to escape this universe and seriously postulate that the Big Bang was caused by a collision of two other universes in a cataclysmic event. He said the Maths was pretty good. I thought fair enough. Certainly the idea of other universes seemed redolent with possibility.
Then I spoke with another American physicist, Robert Kirshner who shrugged and said that in the end, a mathematical formula must have Elegance to have truth and to his mind, String Theory still lacked elegance. And I've wondered in wonder about Elegance in this context ever since. To me the doctrinally unencumbered search for the big picture answers of where we came from, where we're going and how we might survive as a species are far more interesting, intriguing and satisfying and more revealing of truth than Faith based examinations that eschew proof and lessen us as humans. While the echoes of the Big Bang provide the clues, the echoes of the Age Of Enlightenment remind us that we are but the stuff of stars.
I remember reading some years ago about the series Dallas being beamed in to the New Guinea highlands. It was being viewed by mountain tribal people who were just a generation removed from First Contact, people who'd had little or no connection with European society at all apart from the odd Christian missionary. Tim Flannery recalls seeing a burial service in the highlands whereby the deceased was picked up and swung over the grave with the family and onlookers solemnly chanting the incantation 'In the name of the Father and of the Son and into the hole he goes'. What were they to make of Dallas? A highly camp styled vacuous rich oil family living the life of Reilly in a bed-hopping fun-filled soap operatic adventure, laced with stylized irony. Probably the highlanders saw it differently - a lifestyle that was heaven on Earth. Irresistible. Vast houses, huge cars, heated pools, money, booze, guns and loose women. And no morality to speak of. Ancient and modern cultural universes brushing against each other. Again a cataclysmic event.
The truth is that in the belly of any society there's a violent brutal core that exposes itself when the thin veneer of culture is stripped away. The recent Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico partially revealed the feral world that snuggles so closely within the first world. And there are web sites that explain that the shape of the hurricane was that of a womb and that while ever the US continues to allow abortion, God will rein such punishments down. Without doubt there are other web sites that suggest the shape is that of a bum hole and is a warning against the legalization of gay marriage. And others suggesting this is simply Gaia attacking the oil industry. The fact is New Orleans has been known to be a disaster waiting to happen for decades. Being in denial about global warming is to court disaster. And Tokyo is a disaster waiting to happen - the earthquake is already 250,000 years overdue.
Welcome to the age of infinite Information. Small cataclysmic events are happening all the time at the speed of light. The Internet allows anyone anywhere to access information that might be true, might be false, but you can find whatever information you need to prosecute any argument you want. Conspiracy theories abound. History can be written any way you wish. In the past, information bound culture. There was a shared sense of a gradually expanding library of sensible and responsible scholarship whereas now information is serving more to fracture culture. The future of information is with bloggers. And who knows what the blogging implications might be of a generation aching for the steely coldness of Grand Theft Auto San Andreas and other games involving cyber murder, cyber torture and on line sex and anonymous chat rooms and bomb-making instructions and clubs dedicated to nihilism and terrorism and all manner of misguided madnesses designed to accelerate Rapture.
The genie of limitless spin and unlimited market power has been unleashed. The result is to squeeze the commercial lemon shamelessly with a never-ending stream of services offered that come with the tacit irresistible message of the promise of the good life. And somehow people spending 150% of what they earn makes for a robust economy. And then there's the promise of globalization which has still done little for the Asian sweatshop worker being paid fifty cents an hour to build the shoes for the golfer who is being paid fifty million a year to wear. Never before have we been aware of just how obscene has become the remuneration amongst our top company executives. Five to ten million a year seems to be unexceptional - whether successful or not. And nobody bats an eyelid. We're becoming a nation of acquisitors: special interest, real estate and the stock market.
Changi and Marking Time were written as companion pieces examining the Australian Character - the sweet and sour journey towards the hardening of its heart. It's fitting that we are now exporting our homegrown Aussie version of Christianity to Europe that comes with the powerful message that Jesus wants us all to be millionaires. Paul Keating commented almost as an afterthought that without Reconciliation, we're just here for the view. Speaking of which, it's amazing to think that Reconciliation was so recently a part of mainstream public debate. Mention Reconciliation now and there's a generation of Australians who haven't the least idea of what you are talking about. If it doesn't affect the economy, it's not on the radar. The economy is everywhere. Paul Keating made it pop. He was so successful at it that Peter Costello has modelled his parliamentary performance mask entirely on Paul Keating's: he is walking proof that imitation is the highest form of flattery.
God almighty. The economy.
It's assumed that everyone is now a shareholder, everyone has a portfolio - many with those T2 shares just sitting there as a reminder of how close to gambling the stock market really is. But it's a source of celebrities. There's always someone from Comsec bobbing up in an audition piece on Channel Ten's news, or Karen Tso on Nine or Alan Kohler on the ABC. And when it's budget time, Bill Evans or Saul Eslake. They are as predictable as Phil Koperburg appearing when the temperature reaches 34 degrees in summer. Then there's Koshie who bears all the hallmarks of one having loomed out of the dismal science.
Religion too, has again become a source of celebrity. Archbishop George Pell is probably at the top of the tree with the Jentzens jockeying for position now Peter Carnley has exited stage left, and the Rev. Doctor Gordon Moyes has almost become invisible. But bobbing up on the inside is Sheik alHilali who came out of nowhere during the Doug Wood incident. Well almost out of nowhere. There was an incident involving an unregistered vehicle and an unlicensed driver and some plumbing supplies that were protruding precariously from one of the windows. I don't know what the upshot was. But the Mufti and Kaiser Trad have become Australia's Islamic odd couple. And if they seem a little like rabbits caught in the spotlight or appear to be treading on eggshells with their speech, bear in mind how difficult it is for anyone in the Muslim community to put their heads up in 21st century Australia. And the media doesn't help when it depicts quite falsely Australian youths of Arabic background supposedly claiming an unwillingness to ever integrate. Mercifully some media does attempt to reveal truth and if it wasn't for the excellent work done by Lateline this year with the ABC Investigations Unit, I doubt whether the Rau or Sarlon cases would have appeared at all on the radar. Let alone the exposing of what has been described as an overarching cultural problem within DIMEA. And I think it's fair to say that in days gone by under our Westminster system, any Minister who oversaw such a rancid cultural climate within a department would have been expected without question, as a minimum requirement, to fall on his or her sword.
It's not always so great for a society when God turns up. Reason is often the first thing jettisoned. Evolution is back on the agenda in the United States - which means here as well. Creationists want what they are calling Intelligent Design incorporated into the curriculum and it's meant to be treated seriously. But it doesn't surprise me. Battles won in the past are having to be won again. And as long as within the media elite opinion is reviled, untested populist positions will prevail. I can only imagine what the cost was of the burning of Constantine's great Library in Alexandria: so much knowledge of Astronomy and Maths and all manner of literature, history and art: universal truths that had to lie dormant until rediscovered by another purple patch of human intellectual endeavour. The sadness of today is that the truths are still with us, sitting side by side with uninformed nonsense. Do we need to revisit through individual work contracts the factory life of Dickens for collective bargaining to grow again? And while ever the media allows truth to be bended, more old battles are going to have to be re-won. Humans are not related to chimps. Astrology has answers. There is no connection between Iraq and the increase in terrorism. The earth is flat. The holocaust never happened. To be born in poverty is your own fault. A society is safer when human rights are compromised. There is no such thing as greenhouse gases. Certain races are not as intelligent as others.
And now there's Terrorism. Will it become common, a sort of angry graffiti?
It's complicated. The same political figures who today kiss the hem of Nelson Mandela in a time not so long ago were happy to see him rot forever on Robben Island. Saddam Hussein was the friend of the West, and armed by the West in the war against Iran. Somalia and now Zimbabwe can go to hell in a hand basket because their lack of resources has no affect on the West. And there's the overarching issue of sustainability. To imagine that everyone on the planet can aspire to the lifestyle of JR Ewing at the cost of the global environment and the resources of other nations is to live in a fool's paradise. Arm poverty and ignorance with moral rectitude and hang onto your hats. We live in interesting times.
If commercial radio is so slight because it is under resourced, so too is Television. And if more channels are allowed then the resources will be even further stretched. As it is the ABC has been cut to the marrow and can no longer afford to do much Drama, and commercial networks have decided Drama is too flakey and expensive. Meanwhile our very fine drama schools are pumping out scores of new young actors each year and there is nothing for them to do. The lucky ones might get to appear in a Holden advertisement or survive for a season in the Bell Shakespeare Company. So our local content is reduced to game shows, dancing shows, lifestyle shows and talent quests all creaking under the weight of diminishing returns. Think of something mindless, rope in a couple of celebrities and there's your show.
Big Brother is such a waste of an opportunity. The housemates live in a state of perpetual boredom, unless they're pissed. Why not engage them. A house of really smart gifted young people from various fields: scientists, engineers, mathematicians, builders, a Latin scholar, a poet etc and they have a problem to solve. With a shared incentive of a few million dollars they have to find a solution to Australia's water problems in ten weeks - there's a show.
To get on my hobbyhorse for a moment. Because historically the ABC has been the powerhouse for new ideas that are often taken up by the commercial networks, perhaps the time has come for those networks to subsidize the ABC. After all, the ABC has been the training and testing ground for the commercial networks for fifty years - it's about time the situation was redressed. What I would propose is a tax deductible levy on pre-tax network profit of around 25% to 30% that is pooled exclusively for ABC Drama. In return, the networks get second viewing rights and the right to franchise any series on a rotating basis that is deemed commercially viable. The fact is, it is only the ABC by virtue of being unencumbered by what is popular, that is capable of taking risks. Why is there such a paucity of great locally made drama? Because the ABC isn't doing it. The Americans would hate such a plan and see it as not being in the spirit of the Free Trade Agreement, but so what? This isn't cheese or rice we're talking about. It actually is Culture. A fully funded ABC Drama unit would be to the advantage of the commercial networks. The ABC could become Australia's HBO.
So, what has changed in the ten years since Andrew left us? A conservative Labor government has been replaced by a conservative Coalition government, and the organization he worked for, the ABC, has had to steer through some pretty treacherous waters. ABC News and Current Affairs has somehow survived the Shier era and the petty ideologically driven hounding by former Minister for Communications Richard Alston. The ABC still provides the best news services in the country and arguably services that could be described as being among the best in the world. Radio National is still impossibly excellent. ABC TV has too, somehow managed to survive with its current affairs programs intact, loathed by Labor and Coalition alike, as it should be. And as it should be, it still strives to put forward an alternative view. So that when the commercial media is dictated to by myopic intrusive ownership and ill-informed populism, is forced through thoughtless need to make irresponsible programs that lack both style and substance, caresses inflammatory and cheap, nasty demagoguery that seeks to marginalize the already marginalized, that describes the world in simple terms, provides simple solutions to complex problems and is purely a servant to fiscal outcomes, then the ABC will always seem to aggravate, annoy and frustrate and it's precisely when the ABC is doing this that it is serving its charter. It's preserving its sceptical asymmetrical mask.
Andrew missed out on seeing the events of September Eleven, a blunt cleaver that questioned Western certainty. One of the pilots of the first American Airlines plane to smash into the World Trade Centre was Mohammed Atta. He spent his last hours on this earth in Las Vegas roaming amongst the gambling dens and strip clubs theoretically to further steel his resolve such was his loathing of the excesses of the West. The quest for our media is to ask why it happened and why it's continuing to happen, to understand the motivations of those who are willing to end their lives at a young age on the altar of sectarian anger. To join the dots between that state of mind and the mindset of those in the New Guinea highlands cutting down their pristine forests to feed the generators that provide the power for the television to screen Buffy, or The OC or Joe Millionaire or if they're on line, to power the modem to any cyber freak show the mouse takes them. If this examination isn't exacting and truthful and without fear or favour, then this universe's accidental experiment with self-awareness and consciousness may well have been a total waste of time.