The Australian, Dec. 17, 2002 (Opinion, Stephen Romei)
Exercising his oversized brain in this newspaper a few weeks back, my colleague Luke Slattery reduced that most irreducible of writers, Marcel Proust, to one sentence: “He was a namby-pamby poof who wrote too much.”
Now, that wasn’t exactly what Slattery wrote, but he did not disagree with this distillation of his prose when I put it to him. That got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be terrific if we could capture all complex characters in a single pithy line?
Moby-Dick, to ride the literary wave, is a very big white whale who sunk ships and floated Herman Melville’s homoerotic fantasies. Napoleon? Short bloke with well-developed breasts and ambitions to conquer the world.
That led me to Jamie Packer. Recently separated junior media mogul who may or may not have joined the Church of Scientology. Although Packer has refused to comment on the rumours, weekend newspaper reports said he has been attending “auditing” sessions with the scientologists in Sydney.
He reportedly spent three hours in their company on Saturday.
Is this any of our business? Probably not, provided Packer’s relationship with the scientologists remains personal. If he decides to donate a portion of his considerable wealth to their cause, good luck to him, and to them.
Trenchant critics of scientology might mention that Packer runs a publicly listed media company, Publishing & Broadcasting, in which thousands of ordinary people have invested their savings. Such critics might suggest shareholders should be concerned about the company being in the hands of someone under the influence of a religion or cult.
I don’t know that much about scientology. I do know that some European nations, particularly Germany, are so concerned about the movement as to ban it from operating as a religion, which denies it lucrative taxation concessions.
Were I a PBL shareholder, I’d be concerned by the L. Ron Hubbard.
Is there no scientologist who, asked their favourite quote, would opt for Shakespeare, Montaigne or Groucho Marx? Or, if they are business-minded, Kerry Packer?
I’m reminded of Packer’s legendary observation following a near-death experience: “I’ve been to the other side, and let me tell you, son, there’s nothing f—ing there.”