POST 19 – 8-11-2014

Response to a crisis is great stuff but why are we so poor at responding to creeping problems?

POST 19 – 8-11-2014

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

I have been tardy in adding to my BLOG but occasionally find something to comment on. Gough Whitlam’s memorial service is one such occasion. As reported in the Editorial of the Sydney Morning Herald on 6 November 2014:

Gough Whitlam wanted his state memorial service to highlight his aims in public life: “to promote equality”, “involve the people of Australia in the decision-making of our land” and “liberate the talents and uplift the horizons of the Australian people”.

He saw these as the tasks of government in this democracy we have established on our island continent and I add, which should be an example for the rest of the world to follow.

Government should ensure that each citizen has the unfettered opportunity to be included in our society and not discriminated against either actively or passively. Each of us is expected to operate under the rule of law and to contribute to the decision making process, not only by making our vote count but also by contributing to the process of solving problems and progressing the civilising process.

The reality is that not all of us are able to do these things as a result of handicaps such as the accidents of birth, socio-economic circumstances etc. If, by “to promote equality” Gough included the removal of obstacles, then I guess most of us see this as “fairness” – a fair go. I see that to mean that those who have the basic advantages and skills should be untrammelled in their pursuit of human fruitfulness, however they perceive that to be (within the law), while those who are not capable should be helped to cope and be supported at an agreed basic level.

Of course some will seek to be free riders in the system and there should be disincentives or punishments for them but nobody in a civilised nation should be deprived of some agreed basics – perhaps these are food, clothing and shelter or enough money to allow them to obtain the basics. Of course there will be problems – there are such things as dole bludgers, criminals, greedy capitalists etc., who should be recognised and managed but there are also people who cannot get jobs for various reasons that are not their fault.

I would also add something about the commitment we should have to support people in other countries and assist them to have access to the same civilising benefits we have.

In our current political scene we are oppressed by the political culture and the collaboration of the press and, dare I say, many of our fellow voters, and have not seen any clear political choices before us for a long time.

There appear to be two central elements in this. Firstly the minor differences in policies between the parties and secondly the strange problems in the structure of the parties. I have little concern for the problems of the conservative side but I squirm when I see that the progressive side is so disorganised. The conservatives seems to say that the high unemployment rate is due to the pernicious dole bludgers who should get off their butt and make some effort. They also still seem to believe that the entrepreneurial high performers at the top of the capitalist system will create wealth which will trickle down to those who participate in the workforce. They also seem to be more inclined to foreign aid as a secondary responsibility which can be cut in hard times. They also seem to say the same about scientific research and education .. I could go on about the conservative mind set, but suffice to say now that there are many liberal thinkers on the conservative side who are realistic about the importance of human values but for many years they have been outnumbered in the coalition ranks.

The unbalanced nature of the influence of various segments of the progressive party is horrifying to me. There is so much talk of reorganising the party but no progress happens. Comfortable people do not change quickly.

Humans respond well to urgent and serious threats – bushfire, war, earthquake, terrorism, crime, famine, epidemics – but not to less urgent threats even if they might be urgent. The less critically perceived crises we need to respond to include:

  • Climate change
  • World population growth in the face of depleted resources
  • Poor distribution of resources and of opportunity within and between nations
  • Globalisation of trade, information technology
  • Neglect of our indigenous people

Here we are in Australia where we have been pretty comfortable for many years and with concerned parents making sure that their kids have every opportunity to wallow in life’s good things, to get an education and to assume that someone else will look after the disadvantaged.

Why this is important to me is that I have many grandchildren, some of whom are politically engaged and some of whom are coasting along in the system and coping with whatever it presents to them. Both are sensible ways of facing up to reality but I encourage them all to be aware of the desirability of their taking some responsibility for what Gough has identified as the need to “involve the people of Australia in the decision-making of our land”.

Perhaps we need a good crisis so that people feel threatened enough to take up the cudgels and fight for a better future.

In Gough’s time we had emerged from a series of poor Coalition governments, we had emerged from rapid economic advance in the post-war period and the kids of the baby-boomers were at school or University and ready to emerge from the dull ages into something vibrant and new. Nowadays all that is offered to kids is a new TV show, a new smart phone and even faster internet speed. The biggest threat may be “novinophobia”as depicted in the postcard I copied above.

Short of creating a crisis by bomb throwing or civil war we must rely on an intelligent response to the, perhaps less critical but equally threatening, issues that loom as threats to our progressive civilising process for our nation and our world – where your children will live.

In case anyone misses my point – it is important to join the ALP so as to influence its internal restructure and its future application of your beliefs for producing a better Australia and a better world.

Go to ABC iView to see the whole Whitlam ceremony – worthwhile to spend the time on a quite historical matter –

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