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Rudd's forgettery and the things that don't matter


Things That Matter

The word ‘forgettery’ was mentioned several times by Kevin Rudd during the Eureka Street Discerning Conversation at Melbourne University earlier this month. 

It’s not listed in the Oxford or Macquarie dictionaries, possibly because it originated in the Rudd household and may not have gone far beyond. Rudd said: ‘Mum always had a saying: just put it into your forgettery’. 

He used the term to indicate what he does with criticism he’s been subjected to over the years, such as that referring to his reported tantrums and harsh treatment of staff.

Is putting unpleasant or shameful memories out of our mind a sign of arrogance, or instead the outcome of a proper discerning of what needs to be taken seriously?

There are some clues in an interview which Annabel Crabbe conducted with his wife Therese Rein for Fairfax in 2009. They suggest it was apt to use it during an event that was titled Things That Matter.

In dealing with her anger over the publication of photos of her gym workout, Rein said she put it into the forgettery. It’s the same for opposition and media outrage over the Rudd Family's use of a publicly funded maid to babysit their youngest teenager during their early days at the Lodge in 2008. The forgettery is for the things that don’t matter.

‘All that stuff goes straight to the Forgettery,’ Rein told Crabbe. ‘Stuff that actually doesn't matter goes in there. Stuff that's not important, stuff that if you carried it with you would be a burden.’

On the other hand, some things do matter, and we need to carry them with us until we can atone for them. These may or may not include items in Rudd’s forgettery. But they certainly included the treatment of Indigenous Australians, and also the Forgotten Australians mistreated in institutional child care last century, and children sexually abused by church officials. 

The media and opposition are programmed to act as watchdogs. They – and indeed the public – will not allow things that matter to remain in the forgettery. Former prime minister John Howard put the treatment of Indigenous Australians into his forgettery. Subsequent support for the Apology showed this to be a misjudgment of public sentiment. 

As for the church, Bishop Anthony Fisher appears to have had the forgettery in mind when he provoked outrage during World Youth Day 2008 by trying to insist a sexual abuse case belonged there. Before later apologising, he spoke disparagingly of those who were ‘dwelling crankily ... on old wounds’.

This raises the question of the motivation for keeping some things in the forgettery while allowing others to be retrieved from it. The identification of the truth in a way that leads to the righting of the wrongs of the past would seem appropriate justification. But too often, it is done as an act of political or psychological vindictiveness.

Julia Gillard has had her own forgettery raided during the past week with media coverage and opposition questions concerning events that occurred two decades ago at the end of her period of employment as a lawyer with Slater & Gordon.

At her media conference on Thursday, she lashed out at the ‘misogynists and the nut jobs on the internet’, which would seem to be fair criticism. As would criticising The Australian newspaper for using already resolved issues from the past to prosecute its anti-Labor political agenda.

A forgettery is not sealed like the confessional, but it should not be opened unless it promotes justice for the individual and the common good.

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.


Topic tags: Michael Mullins, forgettery, Kevin Rudd, politics, Therese Rein, Bishop Anthony Fisher, John Howard



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Existing comments

The use of the "forgettery" bin has been handy for the Rudd family. However, its usefulness should be weighed by several factors. People have different levels of sensitivity - our reactions are not uniform. And for things like when one is sidelined, or overlooked for a job or not invited to a party, then most people can place those comfortably in the "forgettery". The question of whether it is ego that has been wounded or a deeper sense of oneself is important. Sometimes the best we can do is say "It happened, I can acknowledge our common humanity, and then 'Let's move on'." Separately.

Pam | 26 August 2012  

"forgettery" What a great neologism! It is linked with but counter-posed to "memory" - a mental faculty where information/experiences is/are stored, sometimes deliberately because we want to remember them, but most times instinctively. "forgettery" seems to be limited to storing information/experiences deliberately because we want to forget them. We think they are not worth remembering. They do not matter. There's the rub! We cannot deliberately forget. The best we can hope for is that we do not allow unpleasant information/experiences to become resentments - scabs on our soul that we never let heal; that we continually scratch at. And even if we can consign information/experiences to our own "forgettery" others may not be so inclined. So one needs an attitude that can cope with the slings and arrows that others retrieve from their never to be forgotten "dirt files". The trial of Jesus was a prime example of this. And what was Jesus' attitude to the twisting of his teachings by the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin? Silence, for the most part; acceptance; and trust in his Father's will.

Uncle Pat | 26 August 2012  

Maybe Kevin Rudd should not have put criticism of his explosive temper and bullying of his staff into his 'forgettery'. Maybe he should have taken the criticism seriously and moderated his behaviour. Then maybe, just maybe, he'd still be prime minister.

Monty | 26 August 2012  

Even more valuable than the materials in a person's Forgettery are those in a person's Forgivery.

TREASURE CHESTS | 26 August 2012  

We should all be gravely concerned at the way The Australian's continuous attacks on our PM and her government. Their latest mudslinging, although grudgingly retracted, will no doubt remain in the public realm for quite some time. But it also raises the important matter of the kind of journalistic culture of The Australian and the media stable it belongs; misinformation and unreliability. It's interesting that the Weekend Australian ( Aug 25 -26/12)devote pages to prove that Kerry Packer had been wronged in the so-called "Goanna" saga. In this instance, the FBI was quoted as a reliable source (sic). In other words, Murdoch's Australian woud go to great lengths to verify its source in the Packer article but did not do so when accusing our PM for a perceived misdemeanor. The "Goanna" saga is something that I would doubt anyone under the age of 60 would know or even care (such as the Khemlani case, for instance). But throwing mud at our PM, with the knowledge that some would stick, is de rigeur as far as the Australian is concerned. I think it's ime that anything we read in any of Murdoch's papers should be cast aside into the vacuous chasm of forgettery because whatever they print do not "promote justice for the individual and the common good".

Alex Njoo | 26 August 2012  

Ask anyone who suffers shell-shock - after witnessing or experienced violence, trauma and fear of death - as well as betrayal at the hands of someone who failed them, and the wounds and scars from betrayal will likely remain the deepest, most damaging and haunting.

AURELIUS | 26 August 2012  

brilliant like this article a lot especially the last paragraph. lest we forget

irena mangone | 27 August 2012  

I suppose one would have to define what was for the "common good", and I do agree "forgettery" should be opened to promote justice: not in spite of. Each has a right of it's own, and justice is the right for those who believe in Him not only in the next life, but in the land of the living.

L Newington | 30 August 2012  

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