Bernie Banton ascends to the Union heavens in a chariot of fire

From the department of we-are-entering -a-workers-utopia:
More than 1,000 mourners are at Sydney's Olympic Park superdome to pay their respects to 61-year-old Mr Banton, who died from mesothelioma last week.

Mrs Banton said her husband had a big impact on the nation.

"The 'never take no for an answer' attitude of Bernie Banton brings hope nationally, and globally, that good will always triumph over evil," she said.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told mourners that Mr Banton was a "great Australian hero" with a "heart as big as Phar Lap".

"A hero in an age when we had all become so cynical that we didn't there could be heroes. He was an Australian hero with an extraordinary heart who lived an extraordinary life," he said.

Mr Rudd also saluted the trade union movement's role in "bringing justice to ordinary people", saying the unions had stuck with Mr Banton throughout his compensation struggle against building supplies giant James Hardie.
Okay I'm glad Labor won, and I'm sad that Bernie Banton died from the effects of years of working in an unsafe workplace.

But today I'm in no mood to rejoice over the worker's utopia that has has come upon us through the election of Kevin Rudd. This photo annoys me greatly, not because Banton was somehow less than what he claimed to be, but because it is through scenes like this that a person is so eulogised in death that he becomes myth, a saint of the working class. It would've been better for Banton's funeral to be held in a rickety, overcrowded church with suit-wearing mourners sweating profusely in the summer heat while ordinary looking relatives got up and spoke haltingly of his life.

Of course any society needs heroes. Banton worked hard to get compensation from James Hardie and became a figurehead of grassroots opposition to corporate bullying and penny-pinching. For this he should be remembered.

But our future is not bright. There is no workers utopia and never will be. Banton did not die in order to usher in the new age of Rudd as PM. The ALP under Rudd has many difficult decisions to make about issues like global warming and public health and public education. The ALP will inevitably place personal power and party politics over good governance and competence.

So let's remember Banton, but let's not somehow justify inevitable political failures by invoking his name.

© 2007 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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