I was shocked today to read that David Greason had died while I was in Nepal. I knew he had cancer from the article he wrote about Kylie Minogue’s brush with death in 2005 but I figured he must have been one of the lucky ones. But I guess it didn’t turn out that way.
I bought the book, I was a teenage fascist, in 1994 from a long departed bookshop in Kempsey as companionship for the long return train trip down south to uni. I was captivated by the story and the compassion with which it was told.
What struck me was that not only did he treat those fascists with compassion, even Dr Jim, but he wrote of himself with care and openness, a tricky combination that his literary skills effortlessly afforded.
The passage in I was a teenage fascist that remains with me to this day is his description of being politically spellbound:
I’m sitting here, and as I said, I’ve not been following things too closely, but this filmclip, fuck, it’s amazing. I’m looking at this screen full of flags and flagpoles coming towards me, right into the camera, right through the camera even, this wall of flags, and there’s this drumbeat – prrrrum prum-prum, prrrrum prum-prum, prrrrum prum-prum – and I’m thinking: These people can do it. And I don’t even know what it is. I mean, I’m only thirteen. I’ve not even been paying attention.
And there is the heart of contemporary politics, the seamless production of unquestioning confidence. We should call it the Greason effect.
Looking at the Iowa caucus carry-on this week the Greason effect is the absolute cornerstone of mass communication based electoral politics, nobody would whine about ‘going negative’ if it didn’t work. And David Greason nailed it, back in the early nineties, right there in the introduction to I was a teenage fascist.
In the late nineties we had a brief email correspondence about his book, and I recall the warmth with which he wrote about his Mum and her response to reading the book. It was a correspondence from a mature, thoughtful writer about politics to a young man desperately seeking the kind of certainty that maturity and deep thought usually preclude.
The two emails I received from him were moderate, civilised and patient responses to my offering of something not too far from lefty hysteria regarding Pauline Hanson and John Howard. His emails both counselled against the romance of political zeal. It was good advice and remains crucial to my thinking about politics.
I read that David Greason had a wife and two children. They have lost much, as have we.