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The failed experiment

If we don’t talk about ‘class’ the species will go extinct.

Marx’s original concept of class is that:

There is only the working class and the capitalist class.

The concept of a ‘middle class’ is a necessary fiction that is fostered by the capitalist class (who generally realise that there are only two classes – being ‘us’ and ‘them’).

If you have to work to support yourself then you are in the working class.

If you do not need to work then you are a capitalist.

The distinction pivots on the perception of the individual relating to their own circumstances, not on the degree of capital that an individual might possess.

Marx talks of a class ‘in itself’ as the objective reality of the relations of production. A class ‘in itself’ is defined by whether or not an individual must sell their labour to survive, regardless of whether or not the individual might believe they are actually in ‘the working class’ or the ‘middle or upper class’.

So the definition of a class ‘in itself’ is an objective appreciation relating to the relationship of the individual to the means of production. If an individual need not work at all then they are in the capitalist class ‘in itself’. In modern parlance we would say that they are ‘objectively’ (i.e., by appreciating the facts that are evident) in a situation where they need not work because they can comfortably and trans-nationally live off accumulated capital without diminishing the sum of the available capital. The only class that is currently ‘in itself’ and ‘for itself’ are the rich elite. (Consider that at the moment more than half the fungible wealth in the USA is under the direct control of less than ten people. Moreover, the richest .001% of the worlds population control more than 80% of the capital resources on the globe).

If it is apparent, objectively, that you cannot simply put up your feet and make a living by using your capital to generate more capital (sufficient to not only surviving but also generating a further surplus), then you are a member of the working class ‘in itself’. Regardless of what you might say yourself.

The terminology of a class ‘for itself’ is, therefore, a reference to the subjective appreciation entertained by an individual relating to their own economic and social status. In this manner, the ‘middle-class’ does exist as a class ‘for itself’ (i.e., as a social definition) but not as a class ‘in itself’.

The easiest way to work out if you are in the working class ‘in itself’ is to think about whether or not you would be ‘wiped out’ in a substantial downturn in the marketplace (think about something like a housing market and stock market crash). Capitalists retain their capital during downturns and make surpluses during upturns. This is because their wealth (stolen labour) is sequestered in fungible forms (land, plant, political hegemony) across a number of jurisdictions. Their primary calling is to accumulate personal wealth so their allegiance is to the retention of wealth (objects) not other people (subjects).

Our PM (for example) is in the capitalist class because he has a gazillion dollars squirreled away in overseas accounts. All of the capitalist class are similarly ‘economically’ rational and so ‘economically motivated’ (above all else). If you gave our PM (or any other of his class) the option of living as a worker in Australia without property, or elsewhere with their current wealth, then …

Marx theorized that revolution occurs when the degree of alienation of the working class is such that it remains impossible for the bulk of the workers to maintain their fictional self-conception as being members of a class ‘for itself’ and realise that they are simply wage takers (and part of the working class ‘in itself’). In other words, when they realise that their primary class allegiance should be to other subjects; not to a pile of objects.

In the original thesis proposed by Karl (in the unpublished German Ideology and the Grundrisse) he proposed that the ‘alienation of the working class’ will dissipate when the wage takers of society become wage setters. So, breeding a revolution has nothing to do with brainwashing people but rather the opposite. Marx proposes that social revolution begins with individual enlightenment. When the majority of the citizenry decide to objectively and communally re-negotiate what is valuable and what is ‘freedom’ – then we will have achieved class liberation.

The emancipation of society is all about the education of the individual and development of a just and equitable society that is in balance with the environmental, agrarian and industrial base’s of production.

Unless we do change our systems of distribution and common assessments of ‘value’ then we are stuffed. The human experiment will be snuffed out for want of facility and ability. Like 99.999% of all the species that have gone before us, we will pass away. Perhaps so shall consciousness. That self-aware spark of magic we think of as ‘us’ might very well fade away even before we get any real chance to become truly self-aware. I find it difficult to smile at the irony of this prospect.

It is relatively certain we will go extinct if we do not work out a system by which we can say ‘no’ to both the imperatives of capital and those of our own literature. Who will say that the current system is either rational or just? Yet so many amongst us yearn to retain our ever-failing traditions? This is simply a longing for annihilation as a species.

If you say we can never contain the imperatives and the violence of capital, upon the citizenry and the environment, then you are saying that mankind cannot survive.

Marx proposed that the central urgencies which make sense of our current system is the logic of the .0001% of the population who own virtually everything on earth. He proposed that as soon as the ‘working class in itself’ suddenly realise that there is actually enough ‘stuff’ for everyone on the planet, revolution will occur.

We either contain the ravages of ‘the rationale of capitalism’ or we fail.

We must make it impossible for individuals to gain control of large aggregations of capital and then pass this on to their offspring. This is because the rationale of capital is to make more capital irrespective of the individual, environmental and social cost.

As a species we only get one shot. Just like the 99.999% of species that went before us. But it looks like a tiny group of rich arseholes are going to entirely stuff it up for the rest. Apparently the need to be able to own sixteen cars and a house in five countries is more important than the need for fresh water and food for the children and the future of our species upon the globe.

Right at the moment I am not confident. People keep on telling me that I am the one who is a ‘radical’.

But (I keep stuttering) …
– the Great Barrier reef is crumbling and going white
– people are working ever longer hours to pay ever inflated prices for virtually everything
-we are wedded to environmentally catastrophic products that we throw away and repurchase weekly
-across the world we spend five hundred times as much on armaments as we do on feeding the poor
-our oceans are dying
-our planet is warming.

Yet the mainstream press and most of our citizenry are continuing to work hard to prop up this failing system whilst inanely prating inanities about how great the modern capitalist world is and how wonderful all this ‘economic activity’ is for ‘jobs and growth’.

What I find ‘radical’ is the sort of hypocrisy that is mainstream in our society. That we should all be happy to trade our current spurt of economic sunshine (being entertained by a tiny minority of the worlds population) for the whole of the worlds environment and the future of our species. I think that is ‘radical’.

Yet I am labelled a radical for ever trying to progress the needs of the species? By proposing that inanimate objects are not valuable. But rather that I am valuable and you are valuable. And that my time and your time is valuable. All the rest is bullshit.

I think it is radical that we are living in and fostering the perpetuation of a society where you and I – and everything we care about – can be weighed against a small pile of coinage and legal documents. And sick.

If mankind does not abandon many of its ‘cherished traditions’ then the experiment will fail.

James Moylan
Midday December 29th
(any given year on the calendar)

 492 total views,  10 views today

Fixing Our Society

Does anyone remember that we once proudly described ourselves as an egalitarian nation? Just after World War II, the Australian government wanted everyone in the world community to understand that Australia was a socialist democracy. Evatt at the UN, then later Gough here at home, were simple expressions of the majority opinion.

We were hugely proud of the fact that we were a country, where the population were the ones in control. We wanted a level playing field with ample public services for all. What happened?

We hear all the time that our democracy is broken. In virtually every debate relating to the big picture issues facing our society, just about the only thing that everyone seems to agree on is that our democracy is broken.

The pattern is obvious. The inequalities and disaffections entertained by a particular part of the citizenry are identified, listed, and then widely and loudly discussed. (Think about women, Aborigines, the poor, the unemployed, the disabled, homelessness, rural services, health services, the environment, etc etc etc).

Then, having identified a range of obvious and dire problems, we implement some half-arsed idea and publicly forget about it all until the next time we again jointly and collectively fail to fix the very same problem.

Pay gap widening. Rich getting richer. Homelessness growing. Great Barrier Reef going white and crumbling. Cannabis illegal, yet super strong legal heroin widely available. Cities outgrowing their infrastructures. Housing, twenty-years plus, unaffordable. Huge concentrations of corporate power in every segment of society. Electricity ever more expensive. Workers ever falling behind bosses raking it in and vacationing in Europe.

Let’s for a moment step back from these ‘intractable’ social problems and ask ‘why?’ Why can’t we seem to address any of these problems? After all, it is not that we have not already had our best minds consider these matters and give their opinions. Sometimes endlessly. Anyone can go to the internet, right now, and track down a thousand articles and discussions relating to any of these topics, with many containing a range of rational responses, sometimes from the best minds of our generation, discussing how we might begin to tackle all of these problems.

Of course, I am not saying that any of these long-standing difficulties and faults in society can be easily fixed. But why no progress at all? Especially since it is relatively easy to also gauge the opinion of the Australian population regarding any and all of these matters. We want these matters addressed: yet nothing continues to happen.

Note that not all social problems are a difficulty. In situations where the interests of the corporate sector and the interests of the majority are aligned then we do seem to get instant government response which is sometimes incredibly effective. Think about littering, smoking, the road toll, child sexual assault, gay rights, sewage and stormwater control, etc. Aussies like a cohesive and safe urban environment and, in the main, so does the corporate world.

I despair for our current social discourse. It has become stupid, mean, and corporate. It simply does not represent the Australia that I know.

Why did our governments sell off all of our electricity and water services? Why did they sell off the Commonwealth Bank? Why did they dismantle the CES to replace it with a huge corporate sector that costs four times as much? Why do we give away all of our mineral wealth to a group of rich men? Why does none of our corporate sector pay any tax? Why are the rich getting so much richer? Why aren’t the workers getting more?

After twenty-five years of our entire mainstream media being owned and run by corporate apologists, these questions are simply not being addressed. The people who ask these sorts of questions are now sneered at and their questions absent. What did we expect?

We allowed all of our social services and structures (in media, banking, retail, health, electricity, etc) to be privatised and sold off piecemeal to the highest bidders (and every one of them with a friend in Parliament). All generally against the wishes of the majority of the population. Now we sit around griping about the rising cost of everything like a bunch of whimpish three-year-olds. We just gripe. It’s pathetic. It’s now too late. The baby-boomers have utterly stuffed up ‘our’ democracy.

Ask any mainstream politician in our land and they will tell you that the most important thing in their universe is to make sure that Australia has a ‘healthy economy’. This is simply because, for the last quarter of a century, every media outlet in our country has been unabashedly expanding their ‘business’ section to cover the entire social realm.

Until now, in our modern age, every political decision has to be ‘economically feasible’ rather than merely being socially equitable. Moreover, to point out this gross capture of democracy is no longer even considered rude. It is celebrated.

I have to accept that we no longer live in a socialist democracy. Our ‘society’ has become an ‘economy’. In other words; the bastards have won. Both major parties take their marching orders directly from the big end of town. Everyone now talks about our country as if it is a big shopping centre. WTF?

Once upon a time, there was at least the need for a modicum of stage-craft. The politicians had to at least pretend that they were acting in the interests of the majority of the people in society. But no longer. Now we have a merchant banker in charge of our land and the leader of the free world is a bigoted property developer from New York.

I think I have cause for at least mild to medium levels of dark despair and foreboding. If you are poor then, apparently, you have the option of starving to death or working hard, all your life, to just make ends meet, so as to make someone else rich. It’s up to you. After all, we are all equally free to sleep under the bridges in our land (at least out in the countryside where the municipal authorities won’t hose you down).

Anyway, why would you complain? Everyone tells us all, all the time, that we all should simply do what is in our bosses best interests because ‘capitalism won’. ‘Socialism’ was defeated. Greed is now not only good; but right. Just ask our PM, the leader of the opposition, all of the media outlets in the land, and just about every kid (under 25) who are wondering why the hell they can’t seem to make ends meet while all of their parents were able to afford to buy such beautiful homes.

None of our ‘intractable’ social problems can even be approached, let alone addressed because we sold our souls to the idea that everyone could be rich. We have turned our society into an economy and all of our politicians now work for the highest bidder. Now the flower-children are all homeowners, small business people and have generally bought the capitalist dream utterly. They all seem to think that they are sitting on a house that is worth a million dollars. A whole generation has drifted from flower child to shallow corporate schmuck in just twenty-five years. It’s pathetic.

This is why we have ‘intractable’ social problems. In simple terms, in an economy, the one with the biggest wallet always wins. And the biggest wallets in our society are very happy with the way that things are, right at this moment. After all, these intractable ‘problems’ are making them ever richer. The bigger the problem; the better the banker’s holiday. Stuff the reef.

It will now be up to the next generations to fight for the soul of Australia. There is no doubt that our descendants will look back on us and disown us completely. We have lost the plot. The baby-boomers are fools. When the 1% walk away from the smoking carcass of the Australian economy after their twenty-five years of disastrous mismanagement, they will be happy to retire to nearby their money in an offshore haven.

Then we, the baby-boomers, will have nobody but ourselves to blame. Yes, our democracy is broken. We, the smug ownership class, have allowed our system to become corrupt. We surrendered our entire free press and most of our infrastructure to large commercial conglomerates.

Ours is no longer a country run by the populace but rather the corporate sector. We have allowed the concept of our democracy to be perverted. Our children and their descendants will look back on our generation with contempt. We identified all of the problems, and carefully, one by one, totally failed to fix any of the big ones.

We allowed our society and political system to be captured by big money. For all of our constant barrage of self-congratulation, the baby-boomer generation has failed. And now it is simply too late. When our housing bubble bursts and Australia settles into becoming a third-world backwater for a quarter of a century, then the baton will not so much pass-on as be wrenched from our hands.

We have allowed our industrial base to virtually disappear. We allowed multinational corporations to export all the profits of the mining boom. We allowed our public services to be sold off, bit by bit, until we have to pay a toll even to travel from one end of a city to another. We have pissed the opportunity to make a better society, up against the wall. I am ashamed to have been born amidst such a cretinous bunch of imbeciles.

But then the baby-boomer generation have simply carried on the great tradition of mankind. In the last two hundred years, we have consumed voraciously everything we might and done our best to irretrievably damage the ecosystem on every continent, even whilst simultaneously causing a mass-extinction and a climate change event.

Hopefully, our children might do better with the little we leave behind. We cannot hope they will consider us kindly. Perhaps the best that we can hope for is that there might actually be someone still around in another thousand years. It’s a low bar but I think we might just clear it.

Happy Holidays.

 242 total views,  3 views today

I thought we worked all this out during the Enlightenment?

When President Trump announced that he would acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel he did it to appease the Christians in America. Or, more precisely, the big money Evangelical donors. This is not a good development. The real problem with the current meddling in the affairs of the middle-east is not so much that the President has no idea what he is doing. The real problem is that this President is a fantasist.

Because the President lives in a world in which everyone is being deliberatively and carefully deceitful, he cannot seem to discern the difference between the personally rapacious and the dangerously lunatic. Don’t get me wrong. I want to state at the outset that people like Steve Bannon are dangerous. But Bannon is a banker and so is easily understood. It is simply class-warfare. To work Bannon out all you need is a calculator, a stock price index and to be able to feel the breeze of the current social mood on your cheek. In many ways Bannon and the traditional Republican Establishment are one and the same. They entertain much the same basic ambitions: Do what you have to do to amass a lot of money, then retire.

But the current Prez is so dim-witted that he cannot seem to understand that while most of the people he deals with, day-to-day, are just saying whatever they need to say – some are not lying. Some are actually batshit crazy.

So we return to the topic of the Evangelical Christians and all the other ‘people of the book’. The current coalition of the deluded that the US President is unknowingly appeasing are just that percentage of the population that all sane and thinking apes have been doing their best to disinvest of power since Adam was knee-high to a Neanderthal. We almost got there for a while prior the Roman Empire but the dark ages intervened and it was religion everywhere for centuries. Then we had a real crack at it during the Enlightenment. But it was only after we all had electric light and flushing loos that rationality ever really took hold. So, ever since the Industrial revolution, we have all been whittling away at the power of the ‘people of the book’. I actually thought we had finally won. Silly me.

I don’t mean to say that we don’t all like the stories. They are terrific stories. The garden of Eden. The snake. Noah and the big boat. The red-sea opening up. Moses and Commandments. Jesus whizzing about on the water. Mohammad and his flying horse. But in the modern world I thought that it was not really popular to actually believe the stories. Or admit that you believe them. At least not in public where sane people might overhear.

After all, the ‘people of the book’ (either Jewish, Islamic or Christian) are simply not working with the same rule book as the rest of us. They are not amenable to reason. The Evangelical Christians that Trump is pandering to are pretty much unknown to Trump. He probably dismisses all their ‘end-of-the-world’ malarkey as just another schtick. But some of us understand that they are deadly serious. No really! People like Sheldon Adelson should not be approached unless they are wearing a straight-jacket and muzzle. They are not just batshit loop-the-loop crazy; they want to blow up the world so they can live forever in another dimension where everything is ‘nice’ (in other words where scum like you and me are burning in hellfire eternal somewhere close at hand where the saved ones can watch on and giggle). So not just batshit crazy but dangerously batshit crazy.

For those unfamiliar with the name, Sheldon is an anti-Union, anti-Cannabis, anti-Women’s rights, anti-Modern world, evangelically inclined Casino magnate, who donated twenty-five million dollars to Trump. Sheldon was brought up, like the rest of his generation of literalist bible believers, reading the ‘Left Behind’ series of books, which are simply racy pieces of Christian ‘end-time’ apocalyptic pornography in which the Christians all win and the rest of us get to burn in hellfire eternal. Most of the rest of us understand that people like Sheldon cannot be allowed into the game. OK, being corrupt is horrible but tolerable. It is not an existential problem. Even the corrupt need a world in which to spend their ill-gotten gains. However, the batshit crazies like Sheldon are on the side of a worldwide apocalypse. They are on the side-lines cheering and doing everything they can to bring on a worldwide Armageddon as soon as possible. (Nothing could be finer than to burn in Carolina?)

It is impossible to stress this enough for a relatively rational Aussie audience: the American Evangelical Christians really do believe that bringing about the end of the world is a good idea. They talk about ‘us’ and ‘them’. They really do think that science is the product of the devil, that the world is six thousand years old, that angels exist, and they alone will live forever while everyone else is damned (and damnable). They are hoping for Armageddon. They have been betting on it and waiting for it all their lives. Some of them even think that they have to force the prophecy to come true. They believe that bringing about the end of the world is doing God’s work. Loopy does not quite cover it.

Yet notice how all of the Press coverage does not even dare to talk about the sheer lunacy that is propelling this whole situation. Why do the Christians care? According to the Evangelicals, all of their metaphysical end-of-the-world fun can’t get underway until Jerusalem is reunited under the one ruler who can then lead all of the Jewish Nation into the fires of hell to cook forever in one long parade. Wow!

I am not so worried that Trump will cause America to become debased. That is a bit like worrying about water becoming wetter. But I am worried that he might accidentally blow us all up.

[sigh]

Say after me; people are real. Books are fantasy. We don’t stone children to death; we don’t keep slaves; women are equal to men; sex between consenting adults cannot be ‘perverted’; we don’t live forever; people don’t die and then get better; and, blowing up the world is just not a good idea.

F’r Chrissakes. I thought we worked all this out during the Enlightenment? Sad.

 258 total views,  8 views today

Our leaders are loyal to the citizenry? Don’t make me laugh!

The biggest kerfuffle in Aussie politics is all about the technicalities regarding ‘dual citizenship’. Our founding fathers were well aware that if an individual was going to sit in our Parliament, then it was important to know that they do not have divided loyalties. A principle which has been largely lost in the political point-scoring and bickering about paperwork. Do any of our politicians even notice the irony in this situation? What has become of us?

We, the people, need to begin questioning the obviously divided loyalties of our leaders. No one else will. The mainstream media are only interested in pissing in the pockets of their owners and advertisers. We all know the social media to be as corrupt and as stupid as the lowest common commercial denominator. Therefore, it is largely down to us. (Which, in effect, means we’re f*****d.)

What do we want from our political leaders? What is the one thing that is foremost in every average citizen’s desires regarding an elected representative? It is simple. We want a politician to put our problems and circumstances first; not that of Party, Religion, Sect, Ideology or Idol. Not their mates, their donors, their bank account, the ‘economy’, their favourite TV star, dog, or anything. How far from this simple ambition has our political system drifted?

Currently, it is almost impossible to even get elected to a parliament in Australia if you do not pledge your abiding loyalty to a political party. If you stand as an Independent you will not get any media coverage, or you will be pilloried in all the mainstream media. If your only loyalty is to the citizenry, then it is almost impossible to get elected. If you do get elected, (accidentally), you will have no power. You will not be ‘in the club’.

Yet, this is just the first of the loyalties that our politicians put well ahead of any thought for their constituents. If a constituent of Mr Turnbull is having trouble with a bank loan and walks into his office to discuss it, whose interest do you think will be at the forefront of our PMs mind? First, he will toe the party line. This will provide him with a script for his discussion. Then he will argue the case for all of his donors. But what about his private opinions and loyalties?

Our PM is an ex-merchant banker with a squillion dollars stashed away in offshore bank accounts. I would propose that this is probably Mr Turnbull’s No. 1 priority in all matters; both personal and private. The PM is an easy target of course. But if it came down to a choice between forsaking their money or fleeing Australia, how many of the people in our parliament do you think would choose their money?

I do hope you are not as cynical as me. The assessment I make is not flattering. The hypocrisy is as thick in the air in Canberra as it has ever been. The fight is as furious as ever. Yet it continues to be a fight about whose big money backers get to rule the roost. It has nothing to do with you or me. We only get to be observers (and to be ruled). And don’t doubt that most of our politicians fully comprehend both their own deceit and our continuing disdain for them. But they hardly care. They don’t have to. After all, we’re not their boss.

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The mobile phone is throttling Jesus

Musing about the benefits of less God at Easter.

#1.

At Easter it is a good moment to settle back and consider our slow yet steady development as a species. In Australia we have become a relatively Godless bunch. It’s a very pleasing development.

In the main Aussies are now either heathens, apostates, atheists, or lukewarm believers. As a whole we have generally rejected wide-eyed unabashed religious nuttery but we are still fond of our traditions. We would, in the main, rather remain conflicted instead of putting in the mental effort it might require to fashion any sort of a cohesive world view.

Yet even so – the apparent retreat of God does need to be noted and celebrated. Individually we are a pretty sorry bunch of apes; but as a species we are definitely progressing. In some small ways and in a limited fashion. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Centuries of religious tomfoolery have left their mark. It will take a concerted effort over many generations just to redress half of the harm that has been inflicted on feckless believers by the spiritual thugs we collectively refer to as ‘preachers’. Certainly not bashing your head against a wall continually is a good thing – but it is not necessarily something that should be celebrated even though the lack of bashing is something that should be noted with at least quiet satisfaction.

Always remember that there are still more churches than there are schools in Australia. How embarrassing!

But at least they are now generally sitting empty. While it is a scandalous waste of public resources these temples, shrines, churches and other sites of sorcery are, happily, now barely visited. While 61% of us like to say that we are ‘Christian’ only one in seven of these ‘believers’ ever set foot in a church. In reality less than 2 in 50 of us go to church or even pray on a daily or weekly basis.

#2.

I do not wish to imply that half of the population do not deeply believe in one or more patently ludicrous thing. This is unfortunately the case. However some small gains are falteringly apparent. There are now five times as many active recreational fishermen in Aus as there are churchgoers. That has to be long step in the right direction. Also, note that the majority of us have decided that we will no longer accept that the amorphous assertions that may or may not have been advanced by one or another holy person, several tens of hundreds of years ago, should be regarded with anything more than a nod and a wink.

In fact, it is now almost appropriate to declare an interim victory over rampant mysticism in Aus. Not because anyone is talking about it but rather because nobody is talking much about it. Even the really committed religious zealots all seem to have pulled their heads in for the time being. Or perhaps nobody is providing them with a microphone? Whatever. But the extended silence is pleasing.

It seems that only Americans and people over 55 dare to preach in the public square anymore for fear of being branded an idiot. Even these so-called ‘apologists’ are mainly on the backfoot. The range of apologies seem to just keep on growing. Those that aren’t fending off kiddie fiddler charges are now also continually puffing out a miasma of embarrassed justifications regarding every new scientific discovery to their ever diminishing flock of mobile phone owning parishioners.

Mobile phone ownership is a key aspect.

#3.

The greatest threat to the continuing ubiquity of Jesus statues throughout our society is mobile phone technology. God and the iPhone are competing technologies. McLuhan was right. The medium is the message. Wherever a mobile phone is active God can’t compete. Facebook, Twitter, casual sex and drugs, and discussions about casual sex and drugs, will win. Every time. No fact is more ‘facty’.

In our day to day living pragmatic science has replaced mysticism. We all live a Star Trek existence with cool ‘communicators’ strapped to our hips while we stride along the virtual superhighways and live both a virtual as well as a genuine existence, simultaneously. The digital age has revolutionised the way in which citizens conceive of who we are and how we might interact with other citizens. Every moment of a personal routine is now capable of being contextualised by reference to a host of competing voices and supplementary information streams.

The ancients were timid supplicants at Delphi – proving that none of them had a mobile phone. There is nothing timid about the post-modern phone-owning citizen. When you have a mobile phone in your pocket, God is not so much dead as entirely superfluous to all current requirements.

We ride in supercharged cars and launch a million souls hurtling into the high atmosphere every moment of every day. We blithely demand answers from google, regarding everything, instantly, and simply expect that our civil engineers will move mountains and make it rain in the desert, and provide us with live action coverage. Let’s face it: Jesus may have been able to walk on water, but any kid with Google Maps can fly anywhere on earth, conduct simultaneous conversations, stream and broadcast live video, plus emit a GPS location fix that is accurate to within one square metre, even while riding their bike home from school. These days it really takes something pretty astounding to shake the attention of a teenage kid. Walking on water simply won’t cut it. Who needs loaves and fishes when Milo and a microwave are both present?

We think differently. Our phones are seducing and altering us. There is no battle. We march willingly into the ether. We are subdued and then trained seamlessly and almost incidentally. It is an almost invisible Faustian bargain that is rarely provided the consideration it deserves. We offer up our identities up to the network. Defer to the requirements, and become transformed into a newborn, pinprick, GPS reference. Part of our life force bleeds into this new online identity. Forever more we are more than we once were, but also less. We split our psyche. Amoeba like a new entity has been born. An ‘online persona’. Something at once bigger and more majestic, yet also deliberately and knowingly fraudulent.

When you own a mobile phone you accept you are a cipher. You are explicable. You are related and located. That dot on the screen is at once definitely and precisely ‘you’ as well as simultaneously being vague digital approximation.

#4.

In the virtual world we all jointly deconstruct and reconstruct vast digital empires and arguments, on a millisecond by millisecond basis, even as we all integrate these new dimensions of connectivity into our daily routine. It changes the way that we associate bits of information. We become more interested in patterns and processes and less fixated on data and text. Over many generations we developed from Homo Erectus into Homo Sapiens. Now our emotional and intellectual software is finally beginning to catch up with all the possibilities. The impact of digital modes of communication on the consciousness of many individuals within our species, on the ways in which individuals disambiguate and process information, is palpable. The information age has dawned. Homo Sapiens has become Joe Citizen.

Star Trek is here. We are, as a species, in control of this fragile globe as it hurtles through the distant reaches of the outer-spiral arm of our milky-way galaxy. It is now StarDate 2017.

As a species our numbers, technical sophistication, and modes of communication now inculcate an expectation that ‘history’ is over. That we are now the ones in control. All the ‘blind and unknown forces’ have mostly become explicable. Mysticism has given way to wide-eyed awe as we gaze at the majesty and complexity of the power and matter, and the vast spaces, surrounding, separating, linking, and partially explaining us.

For most modern first world residents of earth our daily regimen is jam packed with the palpable fact that science works. That astronomy explains stuff and astrology doesn’t. That chemistry is correct and alchemy is a plotline.

With all this being revealed whenever we spend any time reflecting on the implications of just one Tweet, in an eternal Twitterstorm, which is itself only one facet of an ever changing and evolving deluge of available content and context. Who needs God?

Entertaining a knowledge of mortality and vague feeling of existential despair may be Joe Citizen’s lot for the term of his highly contextualised and self-consciously limited span of years. It’s not the ideal situation but you simply can’t argue with a mobile phone.

So- the mobile phone is throttling Jesus. It’s not all the mobile phone is is good for; but there is no doubt it is a Christ Killer.

The son of God will likely be stone dead pretty soon now. For the first time in 2000 years the news that he really won’t be coming back will become the widespread orthodoxy. In fact; Jesus is already stone dead on Facebook. On Twitter he still pops up occasionally but Twitter is good at recycling extremely limited explanations.

#5.

However, it seems the atheists are winning by default. There is no bunch of less organised or less organisable individuals than the atheists. Which is understandable. Founding any sort of atheist organisation makes as much sense as trying to found an anti-unicorn society. While a lot of us do not believe in unicorns – non-belief in unicorns can hardly be described as being a central guiding principal in anyone’s life.

So it is not the efforts of the atheists that are causing this shift away from organised religion, it’s just that the simple ubiquity of information seems to be causing religion to wither as a core organising principle. The questions asked and supposedly answered in traditional religions are just not really important. And when you can get a rundown of sixteen different apparitions of Jesus in any given google search then it tends to devalue the whole Jesus marketplace. Unless, of course, you decide to go with a religion that simply disavows the utility of ‘knowing stuff’.

But even then, becoming a radical mainlining Fundamentalist, of any stripe, for any length of time, is ever more difficult. You really have to cultivate a very sophisticated outlook to be able to be able to entertain all of the eternal justifications required to be an evangelical anything in our modern world. To maintain such a world-view requires that you constantly re-interpret the whole realm of ‘science’, and pretty much every incidental fact that you encounter at every juncture during the course of every long modern day. All the while simultaneously using mass transit or private cars and surfing the information superhighway every time you swipe to buy a cup of coffee.

So, to actively maintain a belief that ‘the scientists’ have ‘got it all wrong,’ means constantly manufacturing a commentary regarding exactly how and why the scientists seem to have to got such a hell of a lot of things, so precisely and uniformly wrong, for such an extremely extended period. In the end it’s far easier to simply zone out, watch another movie, tweet about some significant weather, and window-shop for doodabs and sprockets, whilst on a bus, while on your way to work.

Religion automatically becomes a less sufficient explanation when you own a mobile phone. There is a tragic and inescapable irony associated with searching for reasons for ‘why the world is six thousand year’s old’ on an iPhone, connected to the internet, using electricity and wi-fi, with no sorcery or magic apparent.

#6.

Relativistic godlessness is simply an inescapable corollary of having instant access, all the time, to all the knowledge, of all the least informed individuals, all across the globe. Will the real Jesus please stand up? All, some, or none of them might be real. But there sure is a heck of a parcel of Jesus’s to choose from.

Yet while far right and the far left wing individuals in our society get to choose from any number of religious affiliations and personal associated Jesus’s – in middle Australia this is no longer the case. For middle-of-the-road Aussies God has become really difficult subject. Especially if your main aim is simply to just ‘get along’. For the vast majority of the population, who are not at the extremes, professing a belief in any particular ‘belief system’ now seems far more likely to cause offense than serve to ingratiate. Even ‘middle of the road’ politicians no longer talk about religion or invoke religious values in public. They all know that saying outright that you are a religious person, or even vaguely implying that you believe in the literal truth of some element of religious dogma or scripture, is largely frowned upon. Yes you are allowed to believe whatever sort of tosh you might want to believe: as long as you don’t mention it in public, blow something up, or embarrass yourself, or me.

Religion is tolerable as long as it is remains some sort of a fuzzy, non-threatening, generalised, theistic notion. But unless you are already occupying one of the extremes in our society, religion has become particularly tricky in the digital age. While far right and the far left wing individuals get to choose from any number of religious affiliations and personal associated Jesus’s – in middle Australia this is no longer the case. Here ‘God’ has become really prickly subject. Especially if your main aim is simply to just ‘get along’. For the vast majority of the population, who are not at the extremes, professing a belief in any particular ‘belief system’ now seems far more likely to cause offense than serve to ingratiate. Even ‘middle of the road’ politicians no longer talk about religion or invoke religious values in public. They all know that saying outright that you are a religious person, or even vaguely implying that you believe in the literal truth of some element of religious dogma or scripture, is largely frowned upon. Yes you are allowed to believe whatever sort of tosh you might want to believe: as long as you don’t mention it in public.

In this way, in the last decades, what is considered to be ‘normal’ has changed radically. Having any sort of a deep religious conviction has become somewhat out of the ordinary. That is; anything beyond a bland assertion of cultural affiliation and a vague indication of being ‘sort-of theistic’ in a ‘round-a-bout way’. Two minutes of conversation with any average Aussie will be enough to assure yourself that the orthodoxy of the irreligious really has won the day.

Aussies now equate secular and academic expertise with competence rather than degrees of faith or personal religious values. If truth be told, the discussion of religion in public has come to be regarded as being a little ‘icky’.

Even as we are expecting more sophistication from our political class we are also, simultaneously, marking them down whenever they mention something religious. We all largely expect better than we are getting already, so when politicians veer off into trying to ingratiate themselves by advocating a soft and woolly form of Christianity, they are more likely to be sneered at than given credit.

The medium really is the message. A generation on from being coined this truism is being born out. Mobile phones are providing ubiquitous access to reams of accurate information, instantly, has served to breed a largely irreligious population that is at once oddly credulous yet also wildly sophisticated. The borders between what is ‘right’ and ‘left’, and what is ‘traditional’ and ‘fundamentalist’, have shifted and continue to shift, simply because, for most young people, the possibility of remaining ignorant regarding the views embraced by the majority of the world’s population is no longer a viable option.

#7.

Being a participant in a 24/7 online world automatically conditions each individual to receive information in a different manner to the way in which their parents did. Integrated, continuous, narrow cast, and personalized information is traded while we multi-task. We don’t try to hoard or index information as it is largely free, ubiquitous, and ever available. We swim through information, share, avoid, appraise and compare information, and discard rather than regard the vast majority of words and images that we encounter throughout the course of our day.

At the same time the information revolution is transforming our appreciation of what society is, and how we all need to temper our impact upon the environment and each other, it is simultaneously inculcating within every user of an internet connection or a mobile phone a habit of sceptical inquiry and methodological naturalism. It is changing the way that the user ‘thinks’. We are becoming the first generation on planet earth who know and believe that we really can solve the problems of hunger, malnutrition, war, fresh water, food security and power generation, using the scientific method.

The ‘big-picture’ ethic that is a concomitant outcome of our Faustian digital trade is the adoption of a relativistic perspective where we are floating high above our earth, along with many hundreds of thousands of other digital simulacra. All finding it a little difficult to mask our dismay at the distressing sight of the increasingly distressed environment and the distracted and sometimes parlous state of our various societies.

To Joe Citizen, floating above it all and looking down, it is self-evidently apparent that the practice of science and the nature of the available information should inform our discussions regarding social dynamics and the nature of our impact upon the environment. Religion simply does not ask or answer any of the questions that are important. So rather than being considered wrong, traditional religion is simply beside the point. It is anachronistic. It is all about answering questions that are no longer appropriate or important.

So ‘god’ has been steadily retreating. A massive all-knowing and all-seeing entity has shrunk into a god of the gaps. A cipher for all that is unknowable and unknown. A word signifying a mix of the unknown plus all the parts of the story that are too ‘difficult’ to deal with in a casual manner.

Also, where once, only several generations ago, Joe Citizen would likely only travel from one village to another every now and again, would likely only read a local newspaper, and would likely work in one profession for all his working life; he now has a computer in his pocket with more grunt than all the computers that powered our first mission to the moon. Joe is no barbarian in any of his parts. He is a discerning consumer and participant in several digital and real communities, all at once. Also Joe doesn’t want to be defined by his profession, and really does want to accord greater respect for other citizens than was common in earlier ages. He is primarily worried about the future of the planet and the state of our environment. Moreover Joe believes that these primary allegiances are far more significant and important than are passing things like political parties and ideologies. Joe really has embraced an understanding that the world has changed. For Joe Citizen; godless and rational is now the default setting.

#8.

Note that despite a continuing fightback from many in the traditional media, the tenor and vocabulary in our public discussions has shifted. We are beginning to adopt a global perspective rather than a parochial one. Our grip on our mobile phones is slowly dragging us all, as individuals, into a relationship where we are still atomised individuals yet where we are all seen as being in a distinct relationship to each other as well as to the massive and awe inspiring blue globe above which we hover. Our commonly stated ambition is to be inclusive and careful in our dialogue. What a wonderful thing!

Most people, most of the time, now deliberately and carefully avoid using sexist or bigoted terms and ideas. We have become self-consciously aware that our labels and our labelling are significant instruments of power as well as being markers of a personal understanding of the need to foster inclusive and non-judgemental speech patterns and habits. In effect our pervasive self-conscious adherence to norms of behaviour and opinions that are often derisively referred to as ‘being PC’ is actually a marker of the very different forms of engagement with information that are now commonplace in the digital marketplace. Ways of understanding that simply did not exist thirty years ago.

We have been transformed. The purveyors of information in online discussions now tend to be more argumentative and topical than declarative and rhetorical. Our online and mainstream media streams have become arenas of discussion where the particular personal beliefs of the individual are often considered but rarely privileged unless the individual concerned is an ‘authority’. And that means a ‘scientific authority’ – not a spiritual one.

One of the basic doctrines guiding our democratic process is the recognition that we have all agreed (in general) that religion should be a right for an individual yet never privileged or endorsed by an instrument of the state. More significantly: we have decided that we will all enjoy a ‘common discourse’ that assumes that rational argumentation and methodological naturalism will be the principle modes of appraisal and where publicly significant discussions will be based on a scientifically and academically valid forms of appreciation.

So where once the political folk who commonly front our nation state were habitually found, every Sunday, clad in long flowing robes, murmuring incantations in large draughty stone barns, this is largely a thing of the past. Conspicuous religious devotion has become an anomaly in the modern world. It can even be a liability, especially where the majority of the population are either non-religious, non-Christian, and/or are only vaguely and culturally theistic.

For the tiny minority of the deeply religious who still roam our fair streets it has all become deadly serious so they are busy outfitting themselves with all sorts of powerful spells and incantations. A huge new marketplace of potential religious beliefs has sprung up to cater to this need. There are now so many different types of Jesus on the market that just about any potential set of beliefs is now catered for. Take your pick. Whatever you want to believe there is now a Jesus pre-prepared that will fit your requirements exactly.

If you are young and liberal then maybe try a mid-strength Presbyterian or Church of England brew. If you are looking for something a bit harder then you might need a revolutionary, or a feminist, or even a mystical Jewish apocalyptic Jesus. They are all available. But, oddly enough, even though there is a seeming boom in different available forms of divine progeny to choose from, there also seems to be far fewer religious zealots to go around.

Mobile phones and computers continuously suck up the religious and spit out dazed yet addicted consumers into the digital marketplace. Our mobile phones are slowly gobbling up and devouring the old ways of looking at the world and the old ways of ‘thinking’.

But that just means we take responsibility for our new vision. Without God the universe is a huge and intimidating as well as being finite and depressing. So while it is good to take some time out at Easter to celebrate the fact that we might have jointly moved out from under the deep cloud of superstition and delusion that has tracked our progress as a species for so many millennia; this nonetheless leaves us with a clear view of the globe as being a single fragile environment that is currently exposed to all sorts of clear and present danger.

So perhaps our moment of smug appreciation needs to be a rather short one. The digital age leaves us mere mortals hovering above our small blue dot of a planet; alone. So it is up to us to sort all of these hassles out. There is no God left anywhere to be seen. Just us and the universe. Frightening. Exhilarating. Intimidating. But real.

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Trump, the Media and the Underclass. A Lesson for Australia

To understand this lesson, first we must put aside all of the bullshit journalistic clichés and begin to talk about the Trump phenomena in a realistic manner. This is essential if we do not want to see the same thing occurring in Australia, because our press is failing us in exactly the same way as the American press have failed the American public.

Trump won the election because he engaged in class-warfare. Period. This is not to say that Trump had, or has, any affinity whatsoever for the working class, but rather that he tapped into the zeitgeist of the American public. He identified the fractures in American society and exploited them in a manner that simply could not be combated by either the press or the political establishment.

There are two mythologies that are prevalent in both America and Australia. Firstly, there is no such a thing as ‘class’ – and secondly, the press should never appear to be talking about ‘class distinction’.

During the final stages of his campaign, the press in America turned on Trump. However it did not work. His alt-right handlers managed the onslaught with aplomb. They typified these attacks as proof that Trump was actually hated and despised by the ‘political élite’ – which just reinforced his support amongst the dispossessed, the angry, and the disaffected working class.

At the same time, to ensure that these same voters would not turn on him, he also began talking about the ‘plight of the American black’ and other similar topics. Whilst it was an ignorant white man, talking about matters he had no knowledge of, to mainly ignorant white voters, it did not matter.

While it was obvious to those on the other side of the class divide that Trump’s empathy was a smokescreen, this was not how his audience received it. Working class voters saw this phony empathy as a sign that if Trump was elected, he would be on the side of the poor and disaffected – not on the side of the rich bankers and the urbane ‘elites’.

When the banks refused, publicly, to allow their directors to support his campaign, Trump’s handlers immediately had him disavow ‘Wall Street’ and promise to ‘drain the swamp’. More class based dog-whistles. It reinforced, in the minds of his largely illiterate, ‘low-information’ voters, that he really was in a battle against the elite.

The alt-right and hard right bigots who heard these dog whistles also heard what he wanted them to hear and saw in Trump, a man who would protect their right to be politically incorrect and bigoted.

Trump’s campaign was all about proving that he hated the same people his audience hated. Nothing about ideals or ideas. Trump directed and targeted hatred. Trump was against all the elements of society his voters detested – whether they existed or not. Whether the descriptions he was advancing were fantasy or reality, simply did not matter.

Trump’s deliberate lack of political correctness, and his triumphant failure to be informed and correct, were received by his audience as proof that he was on the side of the disaffected worker. While, to the educated consumer of the mainstream media, it sometimes looked positively insane, to the audience he was cultivating, it made him ‘one of us’.

All this time, the American press simply refused to even acknowledge, let alone adequately cover, this reality. When Trump got up on the stump and talked about ‘us’ and ‘them’ he wasn’t talking about democrats and republicans. He was never referring to the traditional schisms that the American press commonly discuss. He was invoking a battle between the educated middle-class and everyone else.

Trump was evoking and utilising class war rhetoric, in a country where discussion about class, within the media, is considered taboo. This is why he managed to get away with it.

Consider those whom Trump eternally vilified. The banks (who were ripping ‘us’ off). The immigrants (who were taking ‘our’ jobs). The effete liberal press (who look down on ‘us’). The educated urban dweller (who all think they know everything). The University student (who has never worked a day in his/her life). The rich donors (who buy all the politicians). The politicians (who don’t give a damn about ‘us’). The political system (which is rigged on behalf of the rich elites). Washington and New York (where the snobbish know-it-all’s, live).

In other words; Trump targeted all the groups that the proletarian side of the class divide hate with a passion. Yes it was all stage managed lies; but they were brilliant lies. It was all about class warfare.

And there was nothing the press could do to fight back. For years the mainstream media talked about a country where everyone had an equal chance. Where everyone could pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Where it didn’t matter where you were born, what colour you were, or whether your parents were rich or poor.

In this way the press laid the groundwork for Trump’s election by continually propagating the lie that the US was a classless society – so when Trump did declare a class war; there was nothing they could do.

Trump was another ‘low-information’ conspiracy theory believer, who was a watcher of FOX, a reader of Breitbart, and the World Today. He was accepted by the working class simply because he spoke the right language and shared the same bigotries. The disaffected lumpen-proletariat, and the proletariat, immediately saw in Trump, a person who spoke their language and who (apparently) hated all the same people they hated.

Many did not like Trump all that much, but he hated the right people. The same people who had been ignoring them and their concerns for all their lives. The same people who had ‘everything’, left them to rot, then pretended that they didn’t even exist. The working class voted for Trump simply because he seemed to hate the same people they hated.

So now the press in America, as well as the middle-class, are still in shock. Most of the middle class simply cannot understand how Trump managed to gain power. The press they had been consuming all their lives, had been propagating the lie, and continue to propagate the lie, that there was no underclass in America. That everyone in the US lived on the same level-playing field.

And they had been consuming this lie for so long that it seemed to them inconceivable that anyone like Trump could ever be liked by so many of their fellow Americans. The middle-class still fail to see that a vast number of their compatriots live in dire poverty and see no hope for the future.

They have become inured to the pain of the working class to the point where the poor have become invisible. Now they reap the whirlwind they have sown.

The very same phenomena is stoking the fires of bigotry here in Australia. One Nation is engaged in exactly the same sort of class warfare and the Australian press is similarly inclined to continue to ignore the concerns of the poor and disadvantaged, or even acknowledge the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor.

This is at the heart of the rise of the populist right-wing parties in our country. In much the same way as Trump does not believe half of the things that he said on the campaign trail, the politicians running the small right-wing parties in Australia also lie to the voter to feather their own nests.

They are trading on the disaffection of the working and underclass and the refusal of our politicians and the media to acknowledge their pain. Or even their existence. So why not vote for someone who hates all the same people that they hate, shares the same bigotries, and at least acknowledges that life is not so easy at the bottom of the heap?

The only real difference between America and Australia is that their Trump has already been elected. Here in Australia, our bigoted, right-wing, populist demagogue is still waiting in the wings. But his/her time is fast approaching.

James Moylan BA (Culture) LLB (Hon.), is a doctoral research fellow studying ‘Economic Analysis in Law’ at the Southern Cross University School of Law and Justice.

 

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Know your enemy: understanding the origins of right-wing, laissez-faire, economics

As a doctoral research fellow I have been working to identify where the various ideas that we call ‘economic rationalism’ come from whilst also trying to understand how these irrational ideas come to be championed by so many right wing politicians and their ill-educated, ignorant, and greedy supporters.

While most right-wingers like to present ‘economically rational’ ideas as being both financially and rationally justified; this is simply not the case. The vast majority of economists across the globe think that these ideas are not only silly but dangerously nonsensical. The people who study our economic systems know that these ideas are ‘junk economics’.

Yet still the majority of our politicians continue to pretend that cutting corporate taxes, reducing government services, removing corporate regulations, and allowing the rich to gather huge piles of money to pass onto their chinless offspring, is all in the best interests of our society.

The following extract is presented to assist readers in understanding just how duplicitous our politicians are being when they advocate on behalf of laissez-faire economic doctrines that are specifically designed to make the rich richer, the poor suffer, and let corporations rape and pillage our society and the global environment.

* * * *

The ‘freshwater school of economics’ is often referred to as the ‘Chicago school of economics.’ The term ‘freshwater’ was coined to contrast this school of economic thought, which was developed and championed mainly by a small number of economists practicing in Universities lying in the heart of the American continent, with the much larger, mainstream, ‘saltwater school of economics’, based predominately in the many coastal states of North America.

The majority of the original concepts which animated the ‘freshwater school’ of thinking are now considered to be arcane and outdated by both freshwater and saltwater economists alike. Both these schools of thought now tend to talk about the predominant ways of thinking about economics that are current in the modern era as constituting ‘a new synthesis’ or the ‘new economics’.

The ideas championed by the freshwater school are closely aligned with the political ideology of the Republican Party. These ideas have influenced the policies implemented by many recent Republican administrations. In contrast, the ideas of the saltwater school of economics are best typified as being a congress of more traditional economic concepts. So while the ideas of the freshwater school are largely confined to the right-wing, the ideas of the saltwater school are shared by a much broader range of economists and politicians and so have provided the rationale underlying many policy decisions taken by both Democratic and Republican administrations. A similar dynamic is evident in many other western world countries (including here in Australia).

The freshwater school of economics is the origin of the majority of the ideas that are generally known as ‘free market economics’. The theories that are central to this school of thinking relate to how these economists view the dynamics of the financial marketplace and its cyclical nature. In many ways the freshwater school might be described as being fundamentally anti-Keynesian. This is because many of the theories which define this school are based on refuting the work of John Maynard Keynes, thus advocating for a return to neo-classical ideas relating to the way in which economies function and how an economy should be managed by a government.

In the 1930s Keynes developed a series of economic theories that were largely based on a critique of many of the ideas that were central to the existing neoclassical forms of economic thinking. The neoclassical view of the marketplace is that the economy is a largely self-correcting system, where, following any downturn in demand that occasions an increase in unemployment, as long as workers are moderate in their wage demands, and there is an adequacy of resources available, the ‘free markets’ will eventually, spontaneously, return to an equilibrium in the short to medium term; all without any need for government intervention.

So, without the government doing anything, the unemployment rate will eventually fall again and activity in the marketplace will again pick up. The neoclassical view is, therefore, a conception of the economy as being a self-correcting artificial organism, driven by the need for the means of production to supply the basic materials that the community desires, and powered by the aspirations of the owners of capital to service those desires and therefore generate more profits. Thus the neo-classicists believed that ‘supplyside’ factors are always the dominant motivating and driving forces that are propelling a ‘self-correcting’ economy.

Another aspect of the neoclassical orthodoxy that is of particular significance for our investigations is the belief that the relationship of the individual to the economic activity within society is best conceived in a naïve manner. The neo-classicist generally conceived of society as being constituent of self-interested autonomous individuals making rational decisions that are in their own best economic interests. So rather than focussing on classes of citizens, or aggregations of economic interest, the neoclassical view is that society is best described in a manner that roughly parallels the modern neoliberal concept of society as being a community of atomised and autonomous decisionmakers.

Keynes, however, refuted the idea that the marketplace was ‘self-correcting’. He asserted that the economy had to be managed by governments in a proactive manner because the aggregate demand for products would often fall below the output capacity that the owners of capital had generated to service the requirements of the marketplace at its peak, so without constant ongoing government intervention, the economy would always be subject to a boom and bust cycle. Moreover, due to the slow development of efficiencies in the means of production, and the concentration of capital resources within particular segments of the economy (and other factors), without government intervention the economy would often breed high levels of unemployment even when there was both a sufficiency of demand for products and relatively stable and moderate wage outcomes. So governments had to manage the economy by utilising fiscal policies. In other words, governments had to always manage the amount of money that was available in the economy, the relative value of the currency, the minimum wages being paid to workers, the conditions of employment, interest rates, and other significant factors that impact upon the economic environment. So Keynes was in favour of interventionist fiscal policies. By the mid-1950s virtually all western world governments had adopted most of Keynes policy prescriptions for running an economy.

The majority of the ‘saltwater school of economics’ might be described as being those economists who are modern Keynesians, although prior to the 1970’s there was no real need for such a distinction because the mainstream of economics was almost exclusively focussed on elaborating Keynesian ideas, with the various schools of economic thought all generally being in favour of interventionist governments applying different mixes of fiscal policy prescription. Economics was mainly all about squabbles regarding the nature of the best types of interventionist policy prescription rather than whether or not they were required at all.

Then along came the 1970s and America suffered a period of economic downturn caused by what is known as ‘stagflation,’ which is an economic condition where there is a long period of high inflation, high unemployment, and stagnant demand. In response to these conditions the interventionist fiscal prescriptions proposed by the various mainstream schools of economic thinking did not seem to be able to provide any adequate nor ready solutions.

From the end of WWII until the 1970s both the conservative and the more liberal elements of the political culture in the US were largely united in believing that the employment of one or another form of Keynesian fiscal policy was the best way to run a complex modern economy. However, during the downturn of the 1970s, the conservative forces in American politics were also becoming far more radical than they had been for the previous two and a half decades. During this period, bipartisan agreement regarding the Keynesian solution broke down, and many of the more radical conservative politicians began to advocate on behalf of a return to a more neoclassical approach where the government stepped back from the economy and let it ‘run itself’. This breakdown in economic bipartisanship was primarily driven by ideological aspirations favouring ‘small government’ and a consequent adoption of a more laissez-faire approach to corporate and social regulation and government spending.

So, in the 1970s, the more conservative forces in American politics began championing the ideas of Milton Friedman, of the University of Chicago, and other theorists who were generating economic theories that accorded with their own ideological prescriptions for society. This led to the rise of the freshwater school of economics. This brief history assists in explaining why this small group of economists, proposing theories that were well outside of the mainstream of economic thinking, came to be so influential.

In 2008 the economist Paul Krugman described the freshwater school in the following manner:

‘… macroeconomics has divided into two great factions: “saltwater” economists (mainly in coastal U.S. universities), who have a more or less Keynesian vision of what recessions are all about; and “freshwater” economists (mainly at inland schools), who consider that vision nonsense.’

‘Freshwater economists are, essentially, neoclassical purists. They believe that all worthwhile economic analysis starts from the premise that people are rational and markets work…’

‘The neoclassical revival was initially led by Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago…’

‘Friedman’s counterattack against Keynes began with the doctrine known as monetarism. Monetarists didn’t disagree in principle with the idea that a market economy needs deliberate stabilization. … Monetarists asserted, however, that a very limited, circumscribed form of government intervention namely, instructing central banks to keep the nation’s money supply, the sum of cash in circulation and bank deposits, growing on a steady path – is all that’s required to prevent depressions. … Friedman made a compelling case against any deliberate effort by government to push unemployment below its “natural” level (currently thought to be about 4.8 per cent in the United States): excessively expansionary policies, he predicted, would lead to a combination of inflation and high unemployment – a prediction that was borne out by the stagflation of the 1970s, which greatly advanced the credibility of the anti-Keynesian movement.’

‘Eventually, however, the anti-Keynesian counterrevolution went far beyond Friedman’s position, which came to seem relatively moderate compared with what his successors were saying’.

In simple terms, the freshwater school of economics extrapolated upon the relatively temperate theorising initially engaged in by Friedman regarding the need to return to neoclassical principles, until eventually, it came to be advocating for governments to not manage the economy at all. Their policy prescriptions were all about reducing (or preferably abolishing) most forms of government spending (but not military spending), privatising any parts of the government that unfortunately still had to spend money, reducing corporate and personal taxes, removing as many other taxes as possible, and doing away with any regulations that might impact upon corporate practices. At the core of this school of thought was the idea that our society is primarily an economy, and since economies are self-correcting, governments should simply ‘get out of the way’ and let economic forces run their course.

The administration of Ronald Reagan, which spanned virtually the entire decade of the 1980s, embraced many of the concepts being advocated by the freshwater school of economics. At the same time these ideas spread to many other western world countries. Ideas which are now commonplace within the majority of western world democracies, such as ‘trickle-down’ economics, ‘economic austerity,’ boosting the economy by cutting corporate taxes, reducing income tax levels and government spending, eliminating peripheral taxes, reducing government ‘red-tape,’ and most other ‘free market’ ideas, all spring from the embrace by the Reagan administration, and right wing politicians across the globe, of ideas that were initially advocated by the freshwater school of economics.

However, even before the turn of the last century, many western world governments were already returning to a more Keynesian approach to governing their economy. This is because, while the benefits of laissez-faire policies were largely debatable, the growing inequality and wages gap occasioned by the employment of these policy prescriptions was not. Nor were the constant high levels of unemployment, increasing government indebtedness, the harmful effects of degraded government services, the negative social and environmental impact of reductions in corporate regulation, the growing instability in financial markets, the appearance of housing bubbles, and the consequent social unrest.

It must be stressed that even while the freshwater school of economics was immensely influential politically, it had always represented the thinking of just a small fraction of the professional and academic economists across the western world. The majority of these economists have always regarded the theories being put forward by this group of academics as being invalid at best, and dangerously nonsensical at worst. However, because these ideas aligned so well with the ideology of many right wing politicians across the western world, they had a grossly disproportionate impact upon the nature of the policy prescriptions being implemented across the globe. Or at least they did until the global financial crisis of 2008/9.

The reason that the majority of economists have always considered this school of theoretical endeavour to be dangerous and silly, and why the global economic crisis marked the point beyond which not even the most rabidly committed of academic economists could any longer advocate on behalf of these theories, is best left to an economist to explain, so once again we turn to Paul Krugman:

‘Freshwater economists are, essentially, neoclassical purists. They believe that all worthwhile economic analysis starts from the premise that people are rational and markets work…’

‘As they see it, a general lack of sufficient demand isn’t possible, because prices always move to match supply with demand….’

‘But don’t recessions look like periods in which there just isn’t enough demand to employ everyone willing to work? Appearances can be deceiving, say the freshwater theorists. Sound economics, in their view, says that overall failures of demand can’t happen – and that means that they don’t. Keynesian economics has been “proved false,” Cochrane, of the University of Chicago, says.’

‘Yet recessions do happen. Why? In the 1970s the leading freshwater macroeconomist, the Nobel laureate Robert Lucas, argued that recessions were caused by temporary confusion: workers and companies had trouble distinguishing overall changes in the level of prices because of inflation or deflation from changes in their own particular business situation. And Lucas warned that any attempt to fight the business cycle would be counterproductive: activist policies, he argued, would just add to the confusion….’

‘Put baldly like that, this theory sounds foolish – was the Great Depression really the Great Vacation? And to be honest, I think it really is silly’.

So, due to the extended ‘temporary confusion’ and widespread ‘vacations’ that were occasioned by the global financial crisis, the freshwater school of economics was finally discredited so absolutely that these ideas have largely been abandoned by even the most committed of former advocates. Even the economists who are still members of the Chicago School of economics have now modified their ideas. To once again quote Paul Krugman, the economists at Chicago University have, in recent times, become ‘more brackish every year’.

Yet, of course, this has still not dissuaded many right wing politicians from continuing to advocate on behalf of laissez-faire economic theories. Presumably on the basis that, while their policy prescriptions remain valid and accurate; reality continues to get it wrong.

About the author: James Moylan BA (Culture) LLB (Hon.), is a doctoral research fellow studying ‘Economic Analysis in Law’ at the Southern Cross University School of Law and Justice.

The text presented is an extract from a research paper entitled; ‘Explaining the Existence & Persistence of Economic Analysis in Law: a Structural & Semiotic Appreciation.’

 

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Why our politicians suck

Our politicians have sold our country out from under the feet of the citizenry. We are no longer even the primary audience that our politicians are worried about. Policies are now crafted to be suitable to the Murdoch and Fairfax organisations and the big end of town. Exclusively. Common sense does not matter. Nor do Aussie citizens.

So our politicians keep recycling the same old failed policies because they are not allowed to propose anything that might impact negatively on big business. If they do they will lose their job. So the citizenry no longer control our own country. Obvious and appropriate policies simply cannot be mentioned for fear of a backlash in the press.

Most Aussies know that:

  • You cannot solve unemployment by bashing the unemployed.
  • You cannot make housing more affordable by propping up the housing market.
  • You cannot reduce CO2 emissions by paying businesses.
  • You cannot fix the budget deficit by taxing the poor.
  • You cannot reduce our trade deficit by reducing company tax.
  • You cannot make the poor better off by making sure that the rich are better off.

Yet all of these nonsensical proposals remain at the core of our politics. This is because these are the only policies that the press and big business will allow to be discussed. And unfortunately this is likely to continue for as long as our country is ruled by big media and big business.

The solutions to most of our problems are obvious, apparent, and relatively easy to implement. A primary school child could work out a viable answer to most.

  • If you want to fix unemployment then you need to increase the number of full time jobs available and increase the support available for those who are unemployed.
  • If you want to make housing more affordable then the housing market has to be treated as a housing market rather than as an investment vehicle.
  • If you want to reduce CO2 emissions then you ban companies from emitting too much CO2.
  • If you want to reduce the budget deficit then you increase taxes on the well-off and on big business.
  • If you want to reduce the trade deficit then you tax multinational companies in a way in which they are obliged to pay at least as much tax as domestic companies.
  • Finally: if you want to make the poor better off then you abandon using economics as a guide for how to run our country.

It is this last point that is the most significant.

Our ruling elite have decided that we live in an economy: not a society. Economism is now the only language talked by our press and our politicians. Even though it is totally nonsensical to treat our society as being just an economy, and to propose that anything that is good for the economy is good for the society; this remains the default setting for our politicians and press.

Why? Because as soon as a politician joins a political party then they are obliged to swear an oath to protect the interests of the 1% exclusively. Politicians see their entry into politics as being an entrée into becoming a part of the 1%. They understand that our country is being run for and on behalf of the rich so they understand that it is in their best interests to simply become one of the rich.

Of course many in the press would likely label me as being an alarmist but this is mainly because they are being paid by rich corporations to label me as an alarmist. All that any reader need do to assure themselves that my observations are correct is pick up a newspaper and flick through it. The only ‘solutions’ that are ever proposed or considered in our press are those solutions that are acceptable to the rich. Not the obvious ones. Not the solutions that are proposed by academics or non-economists. Or primary school kids. The answers are there. The problem is that they cannot be discussed in our country.

If a proposition is raised that might run counter to the interests of big business then the person proposing the measure will instantly be branded as being a ‘socialist’ or a ‘communist’. Or they will be called ‘naïve’ or a ‘dreamer’. Regardless of how sensible the proposal or how ludicrous the ‘solutions’ currently being embraced. The only answers that will ever be considered are those that are acceptable to rich people and rich corporations.

For example: we have watched successive governments spend all of their time and effort over the last two decades talking about reducing our deficit. Instead of increasing revenue by taxing the top 10% of earners and businesses our press and politicians have focussed exclusively on gutting the services provided to the other 90% of the population. This is simply insane.

For the majority of the time our country has been in existence we have had no trouble in funding services for the majority. Upon our founding it was decided that we would ensure that nobody got too rich or too poor. But twenty years ago our politicians decided that we had to allow rich people to accumulate as much money as they wanted so we had to limit the amount of tax we levied on them. This has led to the nonsensical proposition that the only way that we can fund the required services for the majority is to tax the poorest in our society ever more heavily whilst allowing the top 10% to triple their income.

We have watched the price of houses in our country skyrocket to the point where we all know that when this bubble bursts it will destroy hundreds of thousands of lives. However what is the response of our politicians?

They have watched a bubble grow that has reduced the living standards of most Australians, enriched a few investors at the expense of the majority, and has ensured that the inequities in our society have been growing rapidly. Yet our politicians have decided that they have to keep the bubble inflated and growing. They are apparently reassured when they note that house prices keep inflating? In other words the needs of ‘the economy’ outweigh the needs of the average citizen. The future be damned!

Most of our politicians simply refuse to even acknowledge that the housing bubble will ever burst. They refuse to acknowledge that they have totally destroyed the housing market in our land just so as to service the needs of the property owning class and the banks. When the bubble does burst then the majority of the population will be struggling to survive a massive recession yet the rich will be happy. They can simply move overseas if it gets to difficult. Most of our politicians will be receiving a guaranteed pension that will be sufficient for them to live a very comfortable life so they are unconcerned. However hundreds of thousands of Aussies will suffer horrendously for many years.

It is difficult to see any way out of the current predicament. The feedback loop between the press and our politicians seems to be impossible to break. Even the silliest and the most heartless of ideas will not only be supported but will be extrapolated upon and celebrated.

When our politicians propose that the best way to reduce unemployment is to bash the unemployed harder – our press simply suggests new and exciting ways to increase the pressure on these most vulnerable citizens.

When our politicians propose to reduce services because they have reduced the taxes paid by the rich to the point where the government is going broke – our press suggests that perhaps the government should actually strip away ever more and more services because that will obviously be good for our society.

Where are the individuals in our press who are arguing on behalf of the working class? When was the last time you saw heard a journalist propose that taxes need to be increased? When was the last time you heard a politician say that our housing market is ludicrously overpriced and that the cost of houses has to fall by 70% just to get in line with the average in other countries?

When our housing bubble does burst it will cause a massive recession. Every economist in the world outside of Australia has been making this observation for quite a while (although our press does not seem to report this). Our banks are being shorted on international markets because nobody with eyes to see and a memory thinks that the housing bubble in Australia can last much longer (although our press does not seem to report this).

However there is a faint silver lining to the absolute certainty that Australia is headed for rocky financial times. Perhaps we might see foreign corporations divest themselves of their media interests and we might see our own press owned and operated by Australian citizens rather than foreign businesses? Perhaps we might see taxes raised on those who can afford to pay more taxes? Perhaps we might see our politicians start governing a society on behalf of Australians instead of running an economy on behalf of big business?

Perhaps …

 

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Exposing yourself for the good of the nation!

Now I know there has been a lot written about the census. Old fashioned privacy aficionados have been going at it hammer and tongs in the press all week. But you can hear from experts every day of the week on the ABC and we all know what that leads to!

I’m here to tell you how lucky you are to be under constant surveillance by the state.

It’s a dangerous world. Just listen to what the government says. (It’s not as silly and self-serving as it immediately sounds.) After being taken aside by three very nice men in plain suits and wraparound sunglasses this week for a twelve hour session of coffee and scones: I have entirely changed my mind. Silly me. What could I have possibly been thinking? They explained it all in such irresistible and graphic terms. I now understand!

So in stilted prose and with a quivering voice I am now agreeing fulsomely with everything that the government thinks. That is my new blanket policy. And right at the outset I would just like to say a big ‘hello’ to Mr. George Brandis and say how much I do admire and respect him. This has nothing to do with the topic at hand and just needs to be stated as an objective fact before I continue. For the sake of the nation and possibly the good health of my children.

The nice men in suits and wraparound sunglasses explained to me how there are innumerable unmentionable but very real threats crowding our society. In every city and township across our land they are multiplying in the corners. Then they seep like a low invisible fog into our classrooms, universities, parklands, airports, local cafés, various assorted fruit and veg shops, and even into service station bathrooms.

And, apparently, Muslimness is also spreading. Especially around mosques. And according to the new political science – wherever the low fog of terroristic threat meets a patch of Muslimness; then there is a chance of ‘an incident’ spontaneously igniting. Chocolate themed cafes around Australia are particularly dangerous ignition sources.

So while surveillance never actually happens; if it does then it is only ever for our own good. Everyone still has privacy from each other after all (mostly). But you can’t be on the lookout for threats all the time: can you? You need professionals for that!

So the government only looks at everything just to make sure it isn’t being looked at by people who shouldn’t look at it. If the government didn’t hack your emails then the terrorists would immediately hack all your emails, steal your bank account details, and then send dirty pictures to your boss. So it’s for your own good (if it did happen. Which of course it doesn’t.)

And of course the government would never actually do anything like that. And if they did have to rummage around in your dirty pictures for your own good, then they have to be allowed to do so, because of 9/11 and ISIS. But of course they don’t and won’t and they are all really nice people anyway even if they do. All of them. And their pets. George said so and he is so right. (And very handsome in the right light.)

So anyway, I want to assure you that our government is not rummaging around in or photographing anything but if they had to then they would likely do so in a very ethical and anti-terroristic way. After all, they want to protect all the institutions of the state that are looking after you and your kiddies (and they may or may not have pictures of all of them). Anyway our security forces are far too busy worrying about real and present threats to even notice a silly thing like a census!

‘Didn’t you hear our nice Attorney General?’ the nice men in suits and wraparound sunglasses said before playing a short four hour monologue from George that cleared everything up nicely. He is such a nice man (have I mentioned that already?)

Apparently the Australian Security Forces behemoth didn’t even know that the census is happening! They are just so busy sweeping up acres of dangerous things and foiling hundreds of thousands of dangerous plots; that they were entirely unaware that anyone was planning on filling in anything anywhere in our country. And I believe him. I think this is the safest route.

So I urge you to believe him as well. After all they already have your name and address. (But of course they won’t ever put the two things together and I would never even dream of hinting that the government could even possibly think about doing such a thing.)

So first and foremost DO NOT PANIC. It’s far too late for panic and it will achieve nothing.

Just tell the truth when you fill in the census. Or at least a reasonable approximation of what you would like to think is the truth. But remember: if you fail to provide the correct information (that will never be collated or considered or checked) then you will be fined $800.

So if you do provide false information on the grounds that the government might collate and check the information: think of the glow of moral satisfaction that you will get when you receive the fine. All of your fears about the state becoming an all-knowing, all-seeing totalitarian monster will have been vindicated!

But of course that would never happen. (Perhaps a portrait of George in front of the entranceway?)

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Unashamed spiteful gloating is such fun

In boardrooms across our nation the CEOs are ‘tut-tutting’ and shaking their heads. Stock and insurance brokers are taking long lunches. Some are drinking too much. Bankers are fearful, secretaries are worried, and most right wing think-tanks have taken the phone off the hook.

The corporate and ruling classes arranged an election, much the same as all the elections they’d arranged in the past; yet this time neither of their authorised political parties had won! This time, fully half of great unwashed citizenry voted for someone other than one of the official, genuine, ridgy-didge, authorised, time-tested, corporately controlled and funded political parties.

So now what? Nobody knows what to do. The peasants are revolting!

It’s something that has never happened in our country before. Or at least not since our current crop of corporate owners took over a couple of generations ago. In fact it hadn’t even occurred to most of the members of our ruling class that the citizenry might even have an opinion of their own. But now, out of the blue, apparently the great unwashed masses seem to not only have their very own opinions, but want to talk about them, in public, and in our parliaments! It’s outrageous. This has never happened before.

Corporate Australia is losing sleep. It’s understandable. The potential for total chaos, economic meltdown, social disorder, godless communism, and a flood of all things our mothers warned us about, is palpable to our leaders. After all: if our country allows the barbarians to storm the citadel – then all of the proud and venerable political traditions of the two parties will be trashed. What about corporate tradition? What about trickle down economics? What about business incentives? Or corporate tax breaks? Superannuation? Private schools? Private hospitals? F’r chrissakes; who will be left to wash the Volvo?

So while the majority of Aussies see the election results as being a demonstration of democracy in action: our ruling classes see it as a slap in the face. If one of their political parties goes into partnership with one of these unruly independent mobs that are springing up all over the shop – it could very well mean the end of total corporate control of the political process. And with ‘unqualified’ people in control who knows what might happen?

If the ‘people’ get to set the agenda then corporate Australia might even see some of their greatest fears realised. Climate change science rather than partisan politics might lead to a lot of ‘negative’ economic outcomes. Workers might demand a piece of the corporate pie. Executives might have to justify their salaries. Bankers may have to assume responsibility for their own advice. Corporations might even lose their special ‘amoral’ status so executives and decision makers may have to adopt a personal as well as a corporate liability for their decisions.

Oh dear!

No wonder our ruling elites are in a tiz.

Right now Australia is on the verge of engaging in unrestrained democratic negotiation regarding who will run the country and so assist in setting the agenda for our parliaments and so our democracy. This is a dangerous new precedent. Our politicians are currently getting so confused and disoriented they are stabbing each other in the chest! On live teevee. And they’re running out of people to blame.

Mediscare, Unions, Get-up, and the campaign are certainly to blame. So is Tony Abbott. Especially the Peta Credlin part of Tony Abbott. Plus general moral decay, the teaching of transgender Marxism in our primary schools, and a whole bunch of other things that are entirely apart and distinct from any policies that the LNP might have taken to the election.

Of course the bloodletting and blame game is mainly being played on the right side of politics. Yet the craziness of our right wingers is only the most apparent of the delusional responses on display.

In the days following the poll the Labor Party have also constructed a small and well appointed reality of their own, and have spent all the time since cruising around visiting all the scenes of their purported ‘triumph’. Of course the rest of us have been looking on in mild amazement at this ability to not only walk past a graveyard whilst whistling, but to also apparently entirely miss the fact that there is a graveyard there at all.

The Labor party have been typifying their lowest primary vote since Whitlam was knee-high to a Tory as being proof positive that they are actually beloved by the huddled masses. So the antics of the left have been no less delusional than those of the right – just a little less hysterical. And for as long as the focus is on the ‘other mob’ then their ‘narrative’ will remain largely unexamined.

Of course the press have been dutifully reporting on the antics of the little ALP circus as it has criss-crossed the country yet have refrained from pricking their balloon. This unholy alliance is explained by the need for the press to also propagate the same illusion as the ALP, namely that there are only two viable choices available to the voting public. The MSM will continue to typify every vote for an independent as an invalid and wasted vote being cast for a weirdo by voters who have been either wilfully reckless or tricked into wasting their vote.

It doesn’t matter if Jesus Christ and Stephan Hawking are on the same ticket. For the MSM in Australia, if they are independent, they are losers. So even a loss, with the lowest recorded primary vote in their history, is continuously reported in our mainstream press as being a triumph for the ALP.

So we do not know who is running the place while all the potential members of any probable government, a government that will need a positive vote from every member on every bill presented to it, are all currently fighting like dogs and cats. Yet while the right-wingers are baying at the moon, baring their chests in public, and engaging in fits of public flagellation, the Labor party are also just as delusional. Only a little less hysterical.

We certainly do live in interesting times. Our professional politicians all look like they are deluded or neurotic. Our MSM seems to be reporting on an entirely different election campaign entirely, and the public are wondering if they will ever see anyone form an actual government.

Yet I can offer no comfort except to observe that this whole process has had a corroding effect on both the body politic as well as my own morality. Over the last few days I have at times been overcome with scurrilous and evil fits of glee whilst watching the right wingers in our midst tear each other to pieces on our television screens.

Yes our democratic process might be at the crossroads. Yes both of our major political parties and all of the MSM might be off in la-la land. But even as the whole edifice threatens to fall atop of our collective heads we can all take a little time out to thoroughly enjoy the misfortune and current suffering of those that we dislike.

It was positively refreshing to watch a whole episode of the Bolt Report (or whatever it is called) and be entertained all the way. Yes it is possible to see this election as being a really positive thing for all those who think in a reactionary or progressive manner. But don’t let that stop you from also doing a bit of spiteful gloating and revelling in the discomfort of others. It might not be healthy but it is a whole lot of fun.

Also, having lived a long life, I know that these moments of righteous political retribution are as rare as a pay rise in modern Australia. Very soon the politicians will once again be the ones making us suffer. So enjoy it while you can.

 

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The instant, universal, collective amnesia of the MSM

Turnbull suffers a massive loss, the election result is on a knife’s edge, and so the afternoon after the election the Australian press is full of questions about Bill Shorten and his leadership.

WTF?

All the while not a single one of our mainstream press agencies has devoted any time to trying to work out why they all got the whole election so very wrong. Think back on the last eight weeks of coverage in the light of the result. Then think about what the polls have been telling us (and the pundits) all this time. The predictions of the mainstream press were universally wrong. The narrative (the liberals will cruise home) was wrong. Their predictions regarding the way in which the pre-poll and the postal votes would break was wrong.

It’s a wonder that any of them got the date correct.

However, even so, not a single one of our mainstream ‘news’ agencies has bothered to apologise to the Australian public for being so ignorant of the actual state of opinion in Australia. For the entire length of the election campaign. For the third election campaign in a row. Problem? What problem?

And it seems that Aussies have even given up being exasperated. We now seem to just expect our press to get it wrong and then get it wrong again. To the extent that it isn’t even mentioned anymore. This morning it was immediately obvious that none of our press agencies was willing to acknowledge that everything they had said for the three months up to about 9.30 pm the night before had been complete and utter bullshit.

Nobody, in any paper or on any channel, bothered to observe that the majority of consumers might have actually been better served if they had simply asked a local tradesman or butcher, or had a conversation with their hairdresser. Instead all I found was instant, universal, collective, amnesia.

I suppose that pretending that they always actually knew what they were saying is the best option. Instantly there is no need to apologise to the 30% of Aussies who voted for a small party or an independent candidate for totally ignoring them and their interests for the entire length of the campaign. Instantly there is no reason to apologise for actively ignoring all the published poll data pointing to a hung parliament and instead substituting their own ideological whimsy.

The reality is that if we want to fix the Australian political system we have to start with reforming our mainstream press. There has to be some rules. The mainstream press agencies need to be owned by local corporate entities that are subject to ethical and editorial controls. A newspaper needs to label news as news and opinion as opinion and fearlessly and unambiguously report on all the events and issues of importance to a community without fear or favour. We don’t have that in our country.

The Fairfax and News Ltd behemoths are no longer engaged in providing news to the Australian population. If any ‘news’ is imparted to the consumer of one of their products it is entirely a by-product of what they are doing. It is most certainly not what the owners of these corporations want from their investment. The bosses who run our news corporations see them as being Public Relations companies who happen to handle news. They see these corporations as being designed to provide favourable publicity for the ideas and interests that the owners of these outlets want to see promoted. As far as the executives in charge of our media companies are concerned, these corporations have long since ceased to be ‘news’ outlets in everything except in name. Media outlets in Australia are first and foremost purveyors of influence and political favour.

So until we have rules to force the divestment of all of the major papers and television stations in our country into local hands then we might as well give up on trying to reform our politics. Currently our media outlets simply have no morals or even a comprehension that ethics and reporting need have any relationship. In the modern age our media establishments have become an impediment to progress. One of their reasons for being is to impede progress towards realising any social goal that the owners of these media behemoths do not want to see realised.

So we come to the juncture where the only reason we cannot get a great many things done that are both popular and also in the public interest is simply because our mainstream press, and their corporate backers, will simply not allow us to even discuss the possibility of change. Nor will they allow our politicians to talk about change.

Who will deny that our media barons lead our politicians around on leads and slap them down whenever they bark the wrong tune. Our media forces all of our politicians to pretend that they are living in a 1950’s Sunday School where cannabis will kill you, coal is good for humanity, tax breaks for corporations will make you better off, wind turbines will make you ill, and public support for private hospitals and schools will help make poor people healthier and so much better educated. Our politicians are in a straight jacket designed by our corporations and fitted by our journalists.

It is our press that will not let us reform our drug laws. Or address climate change. Or increase taxes. Or tax corporations effectively. Or reign in the banks. Or pull the plug on all the perks. Or tax resource extraction. etc etc The population may be in favour of it, and in most cases our politicians would do it if they could, but when it comes to almost every progressive issue facing our society our mighty corporate press overlords will not even allow us to discuss the matter in our own media or within our own parliaments.

If any unwanted conversation does break out then it will be immediately howled down and demonised. The person speaking will be labelled a radical, immoral, wide-eyed, dangerous, crazy, or a danger to our society and/or our kiddies. Then the whole thing will never be mentioned again in the mainstream press except to belittle the idea or the proponent should they ever dare resurface in public.

Of course ‘the tyranny of the Australian press monopoly’ is a subject that will never be mentioned in our press. Talking about the need to foster a plurality of voices and owners amongst our media organisations is simply a thing of the past. The whole conversation has been obliterated. Even knowledge that we once thought and talked a great deal about this topic has now been wiped from our collective memory. Orwell said something that is likely to be pertinent here – however a recollection of exactly what it was seems to have slipped away.

So while all of our press got the whole of the election hideously wrong, and spent the entire length of the election campaign telling us how the Turnbull government would be, and should be, returned with an ample majority. In the modern age this failure really does not matter. The veracity of ‘news’ is no longer important. After all; there is no need to be accurate when you have no competitors. And what the hell use is a ‘news’ organisation if you can’t use it to wield incredibly disproportionate amounts of power and influence on behalf of the owner? If it takes a few lies and a bit of misinformation then so what? It’s not as if there are any rules to stop them.

So the biased, inaccurate, and simply wrongheaded nature of the majority of the mainstream reporting of the whole of the election campaign – will be entirely ignored. We will suffer the same again next election.

Instead of navel gazing and seeking to work out where they might have gone wrong our journalists are all back at work today doing what they get paid to do. Today that means focussing on whether or not the members of the Labor Party, after winning a historic victory over all the forces of corporate nastiness, will all suddenly want to begin a catfight amongst themselves for no apparent reason except that it might make a really good post-election story. (You know – something that fits in nicely with an existing narrative.)

They will continue to learn nothing. There is nothing for them to learn. They are all doing their jobs brilliantly.

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From the Frontline of the Culture Wars

The Safe Schools Program certainly has the Godly and Righteous in a lather. I would have thought by now they might have realised that they look more like a Monty Python skit than they do a group of concerned citizens from the 21st century.

For months rabid right whingers have been gathering in little digital packs and braying at this subject online. That the rest of the population continues to studiously ignore their antics just seems to further inflame their joint indignation. At the end of each article about how the Safe Schools project is variously turning our kids into gay transgender lesbian Marxist greenie communist traitors who hate god, there is a long thread of responses from furious and indignant readers who are utterly freaked out about the looming social sexual apocalypse. It’s a hoot.

To call this pack of right-wing conspiracy theorists mere ‘nutters’ is to entirely discount how spectacular and awe-inspiring their delusions often are. These are much the same group of people who might also argue that there has been no actual warming of the globe for about two decades, and that the world is only six thousand years old, and that miracles not only do frequently occur but that ‘my friend Margery’ saw God ‘so there’. So they also display the same amazing kneejerk propensity to ignore the need to proffer anything even resembling actual evidence. Instead they simply assemble arguments out of obvious assertions based on obvious god given facts. Obvious facts like ‘all communists want to kill us all’. ‘Children are naturally Christians’. And that hundreds of classrooms and their local teachers are very easily controlled (via some sort of Atheist Radio-wave technology) from Heathen HQ at La Trobe University.

Yes, in the beginning, some of these protestations in the threads did seem to bear some passing resemblance to actual arguments. However in recent times the ‘Safe Schools Conspiracy’ has progressed so far beyond being mere ‘news’ it is now best described as being an ‘all singing, all dancing, right wing, conspiracy extravaganza! Ta Da!’

Remember we are talking here (in the real world) about an optional anti-bullying program where teachers (daringly) ask students to imagine that they might be standing in someone else’s shoes. Using role play and age appropriate discussion materials the project asks students to not only imagine that they are of another gender, but then to consider what the world might look like when considered from this ‘other’ person’s point of view. Racy stuff eh?

Yet while the Safe Schools project material, and virtually all the teachers who are teaching it, say the project is dedicated to reducing the number of incidents of deliberate and explicit bullying, and to also assist in fostering an intolerance of incidental attitudes and behaviours which are oppressive and exclusionary. The right wingers know better. There seems to be no doubt in the minds of both the journalists and the readers of the Australian, and among the hosts and listeners to virtually every right wing talkback station in the country, that the Safe Schools project is actually a fifth column infiltration, directly into the hearts and minds of our children, being undertaken by Marxist communist traitors.

As they say, you just couldn’t make this sort of stuff up.

This comment by ‘R’ in today’s online lynch mob summarises a common-sense viewpoint that Marxists should be (at the very least) crucified in the public square: When did parents become accountable to a Marxist who was able to take advantage of a mindless state government and a university only too eager to fall over itself to accommodate political correctness (aka social engineering), regardless of the wishes of those parents, the majority of the public and the consequences for society, in particular future generations?

Image from smh.com.au. Illustration by Matt Golding

Image from smh.com.au. Illustration by Matt Golding

Setting aside the obvious reality that in our pluralist democracy we are supposed to set aside the fact that we might individually be a Marist, a Keynesian, a Marxist, a lesbian, or a transgender accountant, and also setting aside the obvious irony that at its heart this is what the Safe Schools Project is all about, the instant and obvious response to ‘R’ (and the majority of these commentators) is: ‘What planet are you on?’

For example consider this comment directly from the heart of the cold war (yet published today): Marxists are at least as dangerous as Fascists so should be banned from public office and influence. Marxism has been responsible for millions of political deaths over 100 years and its adherents should have no place in our public life. Just imagine for a moment if this had been the work of a closet Nazi. It almost is.

It makes you want to shuffle your feet and look away. Somehow, in the minds of this small segment of the Aussie population, an anti-bullying class, being conducted by the teachers at your local school, has been captured by an underground clique of Marxist academics (led by a childless short haired white cat stroking international communist femme fatale going by the name of Roz). One reader even helpfully provides a short psychological profile: Ros Ward is a pseudo-academic with serious problems, at best. No way should she be teaching children. For a start, has she got any children of her own? And if so, let’s have a look at them. What’s her own background? It’s relevant if she’s teaching our children. They know nothing of Marxism or the untold millions it’s killed.

Yup. At the end of such a statement you are left in no doubt that right now you are shoulder to shoulder, in a trench, with comrades in arms, even while the culture war rages on around you. In the digital threads of the Australian there are very few who would dare to argue in favour of this obvious attempt at ‘mind-control’ on behalf of Communists. As one says: Prof Mitchell needs to understand that The Australian is a pivot around which sensible people in this country seek to reclaim the education of their children.

So no compromise is possible. Empathy is the enemy. It is righteous and warranted to be bigoted against gay and transgender children, and to label children as good, bad, and/or corrupt. Otherwise all that is Godly and Righteous will crumble. This is why we refuse to teach our children drama! Or allow them to read corrupt and godless literature. Such practices will invariably lead to children experiencing empathy. And empathy will lead to a tolerance of heathens. So anti-bullying is anti-God.

So in the trenches on the frontline of the culture wars the language is triumphant. They might be a tiny chosen few, surrounded on all sides by the seething mass of the ungodly and satanically inspired. Yet they will prevail. In fact. Some of the conspirators even hint that any minute now the tables will turn and the godly will rise and march forth to reclaim the world from ‘these people’. After all: These people seem to always be out there, milking the system with little standing in their way, busily attacking our freedoms. Perhaps it is time that the Right started fighting back harder and played just as nasty – publishing the addresses of where they live, holding raucous protests outside their offices and so forth.

So all of us Gay-luvin heathens have to watch out. The mob with pitchforks and flaming brands is very nearly at our door. The power of our Marxist mind-control conspiracy is about to be broken. Any minute now I will begin to build some protective battlements (based on plans borrowed from the middle ages). I promise.

As soon as I can get up off the floor and stop laughing so hard.

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Have the big three parties shot themselves in the foot?

I am a political tragic. I am one of the few who habitually votes beneath the line in the Senate. I even carry in a list that I prepare beforehand. But I fully understand that most Aussies are hardly as careful.

During the course of the last few election cycles I have been intimately involved in grassroots political campaigning on behalf of small parties and issues and in doing so I have travelled the length and the breadth of the country. In these travels during the last electoral cycle, whenever in an extended conversation with a punter, I have invariably ended up asking two stock questions: Do you think our electoral system is any good? and How and when do you make up your mind about who to vote for?

The answers are generally pretty vague and in the main a bit depressing. Only a very small segment of the Aussie population are politically engaged and ready to change their vote in any circumstances. Even those who say they are ‘undecided’ are generally fairly sure which side of the political spectrum they will probably support. They just don’t like talking about it.

Traditionally only about one in five Aussie voters will ever change their voting habits at any stage over the space of any six elections. With more than 70% of those votes being cast for either the LNP or Labor, or one of their affiliates. So we are, traditionally, a conservative and staid electorate.

However in recent years the voters have been getting uppity. Lots of people have been voting for individuals or parties that are not aligned with one of the two major factions. At the last election more than one in five first preference votes were cast for an independent or for a member of a minor party. This really spooked the big parties.

Suddenly Senate obstructionism (especially when it embarrassingly reflected the opinion of the vast majority of the population) was akin to treason. How dare a Senate (so conveniently) block so many draconian impositions! Blahdy-blah-blah. We all know what happened.

So the major parties decided to outlaw the minor parties. And since all that was required was to convince the politicians involved to side with their own self interests above those of the general public – we are now voting with a new set of rules. One designed to lock out all those silly individuals and smaller parties.

But what if the LNP has miscalculated? There is a possibility that the widespread political dissatisfaction evident in the community, in combination with this new senate voting system, might actually cause the big parties some unexpected grief.

Remember at the commencement of this ramble I noted that I am one of the very few political tragics in our nation who actually fills in the huge senate sheet below the line. Most Aussies simply pencil in a singe ‘1’ above the line and then fold it up and plonk it in a box. In the main I get the feeling that this does not reflect a disinterest in the political process but simply a pragmatic acceptance that numbering every box below the line takes a heck of a lot of time. So they vote above the line. It’s easier.

But now everyone has to choose at lest six parties, even above the line. Moreover they have rate them 1 to 6. This has never happened before. Everyone now has to fill in six preferences. And the big parties in Australia are betting that most electors will simply vote the way that they have always done in the past. But what if they are wrong?

This has never happened before. These sort of preference considerations have been entirely restricted to small lower house ballots – never to parties and issues. When given a choice between a host of issues as well as parties – what will happen?

What if one in five of those voting above the line decide that they will not vote for one of the major parties at all? This is realistic as it matches with the actual way in which voting occurred at the last election. Many of these votes will now be thrown away (‘exhausted’) but some will land on a pile that will also be supplemented by those who alter their way of voting. I do not think that the politicians in Australia really understand how much they are on the nose. When forced to choose between a host of options, and then number them 1 to 6, a lot of Aussies will likely put a 6 next to the symbol of a major party and then go shopping.

I think that the major parties are underestimating the level of anger and resentment that is simmering in our community. They are asking all Aussies to rate their performance on a scale of 1 to 6 and expect they will get terrific marks. I think most senators are there precisely because Aussies have found it easier to avoid having to number their ballots. Now they are being forced to number at least six boxes I think that many politicians in the big parties might be surprised when they find out what Aussies really think.

How will you vote now that you have to choose at least six political parties and or issues? Now consider that every other Aussie also has make the same choice. All of them. They can no longer avoid rating at least six parties. In a DD election where a candidate can get elected on half of the normal quota (or 8.3% of the vote).

So in addition to the existing 20% of the vote that will likely be cast in a deliberately seditious manner, I would not be surprised (yet I would be delighted) to see another 10 – 15% without a first preference vote for a major party. If that happens then we will see more independent voices, not fewer, elected to the Australian Senate. Which would be a wonderfully ironic result.

So be prepared: this time it will be different. Make sure that you think about what you will do before you have to cast your vote. The only sane thing to do if voting in Queensland is to vote for me (of course). But remember that now you also have to make a decision regarding a second through to a sixth choice.

Where do you think the majority of Aussies will put the major parties now they are being forced to choose?

We certainly do live in interesting times.

 

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Negative Gearing was designed by God

DO NOT PANIC. The Labor Party might want to destroy our way of life and utterly debauch all of the maidens in our midst but DO NOT PANIC. I am here to provide some entirely impartial and unbiased advice that may or may not be paid for.

I want to talk in an impartial and entirely unbiased way about the really really nice people at the Property Council of Australia. They are almost saints: each and every one of them. This is simply a fact. Working tirelessly for the public good all the people at the Property Council simply seek to ensure that Australia can remain a country in which we are all happy and free and can all have kittens and fairy floss. Hardly any of them are multi-billionaires.

So, of course, we all know the Property Council is as an entirely unbiased observer that would never ever ever tell anyone a fib. It’s right up there amongst our most respected institutions. At least as respected as the Church and the Media.

So you really really should listen to their entirely trustworthy and dispassionate advice when they say that even if we just think about removing negative gearing in Australia it will likely lead to widespread famine, plague, a loosening of the moral fibre, and probable damnation for all of eternity by an all powerful omnipresent creator.

At first I was somewhat sceptical of these claims. So your intrepid and impoverished reporter, who might or might not have been looking for a good story to objectively report on for money, decided to give the Property Council a ring. After answering a few simple questions about my favourite colour and approximate net worth I was instantly transferred to someone who couldn’t help me. Instead they pointed me to the work of Dr Credibility of the Australian Cash in Large Denominations Institute. Then yesterday I was provided with a sneak preview of his all his work. Including his most recent research. It was an enriching experience.

It seems that Dr Credibility, who describes himself as Australia’s foremost Economically Rational & Theologically Acceptable Social Scientist, is the source of many of the recent flags that have been run up the public flagpole. While waiting to interview him I was provided with a rare opportunity to flick through and consider some of his recent work (after surrendering my phone, signing a few inconsequential documents, and being patted down very politely).

Light bulbs went on as I leafed through ‘How Marxist Terrorists Likely use Gay and Transgender Children to take over Schools’. Then after considering several papers devoted to the current scurrilously low level of our GST, a small installation in the corner caught my eye. It was called ‘Rationalising our Education Spending’. It seemed to rate all of the schools in Australia according to parental income? After a few minutes spent fiddling with the controls I still couldn’t get it to show any public schools but I was assured that this was just a glitch in the software.

After only a very short conversation with Dr Credibility I was absolutely convinced that he was a diligent and credible scientist. His small brown paper bags are utterly convincing. His charts and graphs are also quite professional. Plus there is no doubt his big foldout ‘build-your-own-diorama’ featuring ‘Bill Shorten Massacring the Innocents’ will keep kiddies occupied for hours. (Apparently the Telegraph is showing interest and although I was initially a bit sceptical, the Doctor was quick to assure me that some Telegraph readers are actually allowed to use scissors. They really have come a long way.)

One quick glance through a big book on a golden stand labelled ‘The Negative Gearing Heresies’ was enough to convince me that, if anything, that the Property Council are currently understating the probable impact of this silly, dangerous, evil, inequitable, selfish, foolish, misguided, anti-working-mums-and-dads proposal. At the very least it will lead to the end of civilisation as we know it. Perhaps the end of the world, maybe even Mars, Jupiter, Mercury and several other close celestial neighbours. And it will certainly kill Christmas. That is just undeniable.

It’s a complex and sophisticated argument. All of Chapter Four of the good book describes how negative gearing was originally part and parcel of the original commandments that were handed down to Moses. Apparently it was removed by Liberal Heathen Popish Barbarians in the middle-ages. A close reading (of original manuscripts from Salt Lake City) shows that the original final commandment actually read: ‘Den theleis epofthalmioún tis foroapallagés ton gerónton sas.’ Which roughly translates to mean: ‘Thou shalt not covet the tax breaks of your elders/betters.’

This new science of Econotheology is wonderful stuff. Dr Credibility also has some entirely plausible arguments regarding the identity of the Messiah but that will have to wait for another day. Also he has an entirely new translation of the ‘Blessed are the poor,’ verse. Apparently the poor are entirely unlikely to inherit anywhere near as much as they once thought. Who would’ve guessed?

 

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Regarding insignificant questions and spontaneous swearing

Hard-hitting cutting-edge political commentary goes right to the heart of an issue. The best practitioners carefully sieve and weigh competing ideas, contentions, and stories. They present lots of facts and figures. Also they use lots of long descriptive passages unleavened by punch-line or explosion. It can’t be helped. Political commentary is serious stuff. If you want gripping drama then turn over to Game of Thrones.

So modern political commentary is, at times, boring. Perhaps even deliberately boring in places. It can’t be helped. It’s just not appropriate to slip in a gag when discussing the deficit. It tends to diminish from what is considered a suitable gravitas. Harrumphing and long winded responses are considered appropriate. After all, there are acres of newsprint and hours of television to fill. So our political columns are full of boring ‘facts’ and ‘policies’. Apparently it’s what editors’ want and demand. Therefore we all suffer endless similar long boring interludes just jam-packed with reasonable people being reasonable about a whole bunch of entirely unreasonable ideas and things.

This does not reflect the general consensus. Just think back on any one of your most recent discussions with a fellow citizen regarding a politician or politicians in general. Disregard all the simple slander and outright abuse and you are left with a lot of far more directed and pointy questions than any being asked in the press.

In our private lives and on the streets most Aussies are carrying around big studded metaphorical baseball bats and are ready to instantly bash the metaphorical shit out of any passing metaphorical political figure. We are not only expecting to be further disappointed, most of us believe we are currently being lied to by virtually all of our politicians regarding most issues. We jointly expect that each of the major parties are ready, at the drop of a hat, to abandon any of their pre-election pledges and do whatever is pragmatically in their own best interests. We all expect our politicians in general have a whole bunch of far more important priorities than the ‘public interest’. We also expect them to put their personal interests in front of ours. In the main Aussies simply do not hold politicians in high regard.

So while there are important and significant questions being discussed that are well-deserving of serious consideration, there are also lots of other not-so-important but still bleeding-obvious questions that are usually getting asked as our attention drifts from the page or screen. Sometimes they are simple and naïve queries like, ‘Does Julie Bishop know her default setting is ‘death-stare’?’ Or ‘Why doesn’t someone tell Bill Shorten a shiny blue suit makes him look like an insurance salesman?’ Also it seems that nobody can explain Christopher Pyne? For example my brother winces just on hearing his name. When I asked ‘why’ he explained ‘It saves time.’

But there are mainly lots of not-so-funny questions that seem to be asked urgently of friends and family. Usually in an exasperated tone. Questions like: why does our PM have a whole bunch of bank accounts in an overseas tax haven in the first place? Why do our politicians want to talk about reducing carbon emissions and then take lots and lots of money from carbon emitters and then approve every coal mine ever proposed, all at the same time? Is there really any reason for a DD apart from Turnbull’s numbers going down? Why do most of the press like Turnbull and most of his colleagues hate him? Is Barnaby Joyce really our Deputy Prime Minister? What happened to a budget emergency? Who will take over from the next PM halfway through their term? Why are we opening new coal mines when the Great Barrier Reef is dying? And why is everyone is talking about what the tax take will be in 2026?

These might seem like irascible and somewhat argumentative questions but that is the current mood of the Australian electorate. How long since you last heard someone exclaim: ‘Do they really think we’re all idiots?’ Or ‘I just don’t want to think about it.’ Or ‘What did [he/she] just say?’ All while gesturing in a futile sort of half-waving and half trying-to-throttle-someone sort of way.

This is, of course, apart from the compulsive fits of swearing.

Swearing, like spontaneously muttering bleeding-obvious questions, is also a natural by-product of any recent Australian election campaign. Swearing serves a different function though. It’s just the sound of an existential pressure-valve hooting while it releases pent-up pressure. In most instances a fit of quiet and private swearing is just the ticket. We’ve all seen what it does if you resist the urge! Look at Ruddock and MacFarlane fr’crissakes.

So it’s simply best to just let your pressure valve do its thing, then as soon as the red fog fades and you can consciously concentrate on conjuring up a picture of a field full of kittens, or some other suitable calming image, you can get up and make yourself a nice cup of tea.

In an office or in public this can all be a little embarrassing, but during an election period, for the most part, we all become familiar with encountering someone staring off into the middle distance, or at their shoes, whilst quietly muttering mild obscenities as they try and regain some sort of a grip on what is currently passing for reality. In most cases it is just dismissed as being yet another symptom of ‘Election Campaign’. So we give each other a break. After all, the only perfect cure for this particular social malady is to take a deep breath, swear quietly under your breath, and then close your eyes and ears for about 80 days.

But still nobody ever seems to ask the obvious questions! Or even interesting ones. Mind you it doesn’t matter what questions are asked, politicians all seem to just tell you what they want to tell you regardless. But why does Scott Morrison always look as if he just remembered he left the stove on? Why does Albo dress like he’s about to go to work as a pit boss in a casino? Does anybody really watch Andrew Bolt? And who really cares what Peta thinks? I suppose we will never know.

I might go and ask the wife. Or I might just go and make a nice cup of tea and then maybe close my eyes for a while.

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