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A Dystopian Reality

Are you like me when awaiting an authoritative decision to be handed down (like this very recent decision by the High Court on the same-sex marriage postal survey)? I know I awaited the decision with mixed anticipation. One part of me was hoping for a positive outcome (for the High Court to block the government, while another instinct kept whispering in my ear that there was little chance that an authority with a vested interest in the same status and class as the very people and government that desired a different outcome would disappoint their fellow travelers.

Of course, I had no reason to believe there would be any kind of collusion between the judiciary and the members of the government, except a faint, nasty, nagging, instinctive premonition that we have been down this path so many times and the result seems (I say “seems”) to always end up favouring the conservative side of the ledger. And I just can’t shake that niggling feeling that there is a kind of – if not actual collusion and back-slapping; ”We’ve got you covered on this one mate” – than a almost imperceptible nod and a wink of camaraderie to each other.

Like the recent several decisions on refugees:

  • The High Court ruled the detention of the mother and daughter was lawful.
  • Pregnant asylum seeker on Nauru flown to Australia
  • Manus Island refugee dies in Brisbane hospital
  • A decision by the Commonwealth Government to send them back to …

There would appear to be an in-step cabal to back each other on matters conservative and controversial. Like the recent ruling on the SSM survey. A lay-person who has followed the preceding events leading up to the High Court challenge could be excused for thinking that there has been a miscarriage of justice. After all, those barristers who advised for the challenge would have some degree (one would presume) of insight as to the probability of success before bringing the challenge to such an expensive advocacy.

Of course, the working-class radical in me immediately jumps to the accusation of “Class privilege/Class collusion”. But then one has to be judicious on such an accusation less it start to sound more as a shrill whinge rather than accurate assessment. And it’s not to say that all judiciary emanated from the same class background, indeed some have quite humble heritage. But one has to concede both through example and personal experience, where one comes from is not always a certainty of how one will act when reaching a higher affluence lifestyle..

Consider Thorsten Veblen:

“As has already been indicated, the distinction between exploit and drudgery is an invidious distinction between employments. Those employments which are to be classed as exploit are worthy, honourable, noble; other employments, which do not contain this element of exploit, and especially those which imply subservience or submission, are unworthy, debasing, ignoble. The concept of dignity, worth, or honour, as applied either to persons or conduct, is of first-rate consequence in the development of classes and of class distinctions, and it is therefore necessary to say something of its derivation and meaning. Its psychological ground may be indicated in outline as follows.

As a matter of selective necessity, man is an agent. He is, in his own apprehension, a centre of unfolding impulsive activity—”teleological” activity [Teleology is a reason or explanation for something in function of its end, purpose or goal]. He is an agent seeking in every act the accomplishment of some concrete, objective, impersonal end. By force of his being such an agent he is possessed of a taste for effective work, and a distaste for futile effort. He has a sense of the merit of serviceability or efficiency and of the demerit of futility, waste, or incapacity. This aptitude or propensity may be called the instinct of workmanship. Wherever the circumstances or traditions of life lead to an habitual comparison of one person with another in point of efficiency, the instinct of workmanship works out in an emulative or invidious comparison of persons. The extent to which this result follows depends in some considerable degree on the temperament of the population. In any community where such an invidious comparison of persons is habitually made, visible success becomes an end sought for its own utility as a basis of esteem. Esteem is gained and dispraise is avoided by putting one’s efficiency in evidence.“ (Thorsten Veblen; “Theory of the Leisure Class).

Armed with a certain prejudice against the class that appears to hold all the best cards of law and authority, one can be excused for harbouring a feeling of being “hard done by” in the realm of justice and equality. After all, it just appears logical that those who possess all that a society values in regard to position, wealth and power, would do their damn best to cultivate a favourable advantage to keep them … and form a network of like-minded fellows in the various departments of social control to maintain that advantage.

The dystopian connection here is the feeling of disconnectedness between our nurtured sense of what constitutes social “fair play” and the “impartial rule of law”, where the latter seems to too frequently fall solidly over the other side of the fence of upper-middle class solidarity.

Perhaps it is just me, and I have spent more than a little time analysing my prejudices, but then I also have this instinctive faith, brought about by many years’ experience in trusting my intuition on matters subjective. And, as you can read above, by falling back on past authors so much more wise and informed on such subjects than myself.

And on such a note, I will give another author well versed in the mechanics of class politics to have the last word on an “independent judiciary”:

“From this incident there is to be noted that which was mentioned above, that it is useful and necessary for a Republic with its laws to provide a means of venting that ire which is generally conceived against a citizen, for if these ordinary means do not exist, they will have recourse to extraordinary ones, and without doubt these produce much worse effects that do the others. For ordinarily when a citizen is oppressed, even if he has received an injustice, little or no disorder ensues in the Republic, because its execution is done by neither private nor foreign forces which are those that ruin public liberty, but is done by public force and arrangement which have their own particular limits, and do not transcend to things that ruin the Republic … for the accusing of a powerful one before eight judges in a Republic is not enough; it is necessary that the judges be many because the few always judge in favour of the few.” (Niccolo Machiavelli: “The Discourses of Titus Livius”).

So you can ”judge” for yourselves.


  1. wam

    wow and you thought I was convoluted??
    Was the point:
    nothing is changed without a critical mass being reached. Until then, when doubt take the conservative position?

  2. John

    I have always thought that status was its own reward and those esteemed by society should welcome lower remuneration as a result. The government needs us to tell them how to vote on SSM, clearly deserving neither respect nor pay.

  3. Joseph Carli

    Wam..I reckon you are right on the money with this article…upon a “in situ” re-reading, it has an awful complicated, twisted logic (if there is logic in there somewhere!) about it..Oh well..too late now…but basically what I was trying to say in 1000 words or less was that the High Court can sometimes be seen as a kind of drinking circle of friends of the same class/status at the same club….but I sure screwed that one’s gotta be YOU..the convolution is a contagion!

  4. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Hi Joseph,

    your main point about the High Court came across. Your description of a dystopian reality is what progressives must aim to upturn and that’s why we need strong voices in parliament, who will ensure the High Court is not represented by a bunch of old farts, who interpret the Law through narrow, black and white, rigid, lifeless lenses.

    Labor will win the next election with the help of the Greens and other progressives. That obliges Labor to ensure all the regressive steps institutionalised by the LNP and their cronies in the courts, bureaucracies and business are overturned.

  5. paul walter

    JMS gets it best so far.

  6. Joseph Carli

    Jennifer..Well..I am glad I got one good point across in what could be seen as a “dog’s breakfast” of a convoluted posting!..I used those two sources because of their opposing , yet similar conclusion to the one problem…: When does a law created by one class, to benefit that one class become a tool of equitable use for ALL society?…The answer has to be; for when it serves the common good of ALL classes of that society..and by having a High Court that will look to the use of law to give judgement on a conflict that can have far reaching social consequences on a greater percentage of that society, yet rule AGAINST a favourable outcome for that majority, is to have a High Court that is being used for a political end by a ruling class.

    Thorsten Veblen (I believe you would know) came from a solid Scandinavian farming background…working class in the most basic way. He always brings a practical footing to his social economic treatise. even if somewhat turgid in language..but that could be the age when it was written..He is one of my preferred social commentators.

    Machiavelli plays for his ruling class audience, but there he has to be honest and deliver the advice that is best suited for that class to hold onto their power…and his advice in the case of jurisprudence is one most advantageous to the Prince, and , vicariously in this case ; to the citizens as well.

  7. Gerry Wilson

    It is way more complicated than a simple yes or no,
    Look what Canada has done ? Opened a Pandora’s box of laws,Civil rights, and counter laws and seems to have ended up technically legalising beastiality ,and pedophilia,

  8. Alphonse

    The act of parliament that appropriated the emergency fund didn’t say the fund could only be used if the expenditure was urgent and unforseen. It said it could only be used if the finance minister was ‘satisfied’ that the expenditure was urgent and unforseen. Only if no rational finance minister could possibly have reached that state of satisfaction on any meaning of “urgent” and “unforseen” would the $122m for the plebisurvey be unlawful.

    Court cases are the last thing the country needs when expenditure from the limited emergency fund put at the finance minister’s discretion is proposed. Hence the court’s fixation on ‘satisfied’. Cormann sailed very close the the wind, despite the huge latitude given him by parliament.

    Needless to say, the merits of holding the plebisurvey were not relevant to the expenditure question. I’d be amazed if a single high court judge saw any merit in it.

  9. king1394

    As Alphonse says, the judgement was on a question of funding. However, the vast majority of commentators and media articles seem to downplay this and make the High Court judgement into their imprimatur for the Government to hold this survey.

  10. Joseph Carli

    Yes…I can see the point there if it was a single issue judgement…But I have to wonder , if that is the case, why Wilkie and others took the case to the High Court if they were aware of the high risk of losing the judgement…and one is inclined to ask…of both parties in the advocacy if then the High Court is but a media tool used by those in the “establishment cabal” as a Machiavellian imprimatur for to then give political permission to travel in a certain direction?

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