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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)

 32 total views

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.

 54 total views

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.

 56 total views

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.

 20 total views

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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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.)

james2 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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 44 total views,  2 views today

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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 40 total views

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.

 32 total views,  2 views today

Jumping the Shark with Robbie

‘Beware the great union comeback’ is the actual name of an actual article. On the front page of the Australian this headline was coupled with a dire warning that ‘Unions are using their ALP influence to make a comeback and it won’t take long for the public to understand the ramifications.’

It all seems to hint at a looming communistic overthrow of our local shopping centres and industrial parks, any moment now. Apparently, for writers and readers of the Australian, the word ‘Unions’ now stands in for all the corruption, thuggery, oppression of the masses, and failed business ventures, that have ever occurred, all across recorded history.

Right from the outset our intrepid journalist Mr Robert Gottliebsen so obviously wants you to shiver and be scared. The Unions are once again coming to kill off any possibility you might become stinking rich! The Unions are coming to kill your dreams! It’s well known that Unions just want to eat up all your well deserved prosperity. Unions eat prosperity and kill dreams. That’s what they do.

(sigh)

What can you do when presented with this sort of pap but to turn away and let a shiver run up your spine? Yet even as you turn the page you know you are likely just turning from one batch of pap to another, but you, like most every other Aussie, will persist regardless. This is what ‘reading a newspaper’ has become. Unfortunately, looking for news in our newspapers is now a hit and miss affair. Sometimes you can decode what really happened. Sometimes the veil of political smear and spin is simply too think to be able to work out what actually happened.

Our modern multi-media, all-singing-all-dancing, ideological extravaganza has shifted so far away from traditional reporting that the Daily Telegraph can boast, on its front page, a picture of Scott Morrison pictured as a Superhero labouring to save the working man; with no irony intended.

It’s hard to put a finger on exactly when the role of political commentator transitioned from acting as a reporter to being an ideological warrior, but now it is so blatant that many political hacks don’t even bother to try and join up the dots. It’s become both sad and scary.

There is nowhere left to go. Our political commentators, as a professional category, have jumped the shark. We all know that. In fact at times you have to put on an ideological filter just to be able to read the newspaper without being blinded by the apparent absurdities.

Newspapers like the Telegraph and the Australian have now moved into another realm of ‘reporting’ entirely. One where it is impossible to out-ludicrous the actual text. A part of our press where any attempt at parody appears to be a mere washed out imitation of reality. It might even be life threatening. It makes you want to guffaw and vomit simultaneously.

Which of course brings us back to how obviously nasty and horrible and despoiled and thuggish and naturally not-nice all unions are: Mr Gottliebsen addresses the situation of fire-fighters in Victoria.

He laments that: ‘Premier, Daniel Andrews, wants firefighting in the state to be controlled by the union [i.e. the fire-fighters]. Under the plan agreed to by the Premier and the fire union, members of the union [ie accredited fire-fighters] need to attend every fire.

There are some 60,000 volunteers available to fight fires in Victoria via the CFA and they are one of the best fire fighting organisations in the world [i.e. because they are all highly trained accredited fire-fighters]. Under the Premier’s plan volunteers will be controlled by members of the union or somehow unionised [i.e. will continue to be unionised].’

Obviously this is a recipe for disaster. The Victorian fire-fighters are going to remain unionised despite the obvious and pressing need for us all to become ‘aspirational, patriotic, working men and women of Australia’. Apparently they have not suddenly woken up in the middle of the night realising, in a fit of existential humility, that they simply cannot organise the fighting of fires without first consulting Adam Smith and their local LNP branch.

The model that the fire-fighters and the Government in Victoria have settled on is so obviously perverse that it cannot be in the public interest. It includes only the people who are funding the activity and the people who are engaging in the activity! All without any business being involved? It’s a total and outright travesty! No wonder Gottliebsen is getting annoyed. It’s the thin edge of the wedge.

The takeover of the fire-fighting capacity in Victoria by the people who are actually fighting the fires is downright anti-commercial. What next? Socialistic free water? Communistic free roads, rail, sewage, and telephone services? Free electricity poles? All without an added layer of commercial activity making it twice as expensive?

It’s absurd. Because Scott Morrison is a working class hero and Greg Hunt is a defender of the environment. And unions are bad because unions are bad because unions are bad.

Just a bit more than seven weeks to go before we vote and then get to enjoy another two months of non-stop political speculation and hoopla.

Whooopeeeee!

I better stop typing now. I’m feeling just a tad queasy.

 

 52 total views,  4 views today

Drug testing the unemployed for God

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz is reported to be in favour of drug testing welfare recipients to ensure they are ‘job ready’. An idea originally raised by the Tasmanian MP Brett Whiteley.

But this is hardly ‘news’. That the slack and feckless amongst us (ie welfare recipients) should be drug tested is an article of faith amongst the far right wing. The idea resurfaces every now and again for just long enough to cheer up the party faithful before once again being ruled out due to commie-pinko-civil-rights.

Last time around the idea was floated by George Christensen, then Abbott. Before being passed on to Kevin Andrews who considered it for a good long time and then ruled it out. Of course Senator Jacqie Lambie also indicated that she also thought it was likely a good idea.

It seems almost churlish to argue with such an illustrious group of moral philosophers.

Predictably Senator Abetz wants to go even further than just drug testing welfare recipients; he recently floated the idea of widespread random drug and alcohol testing on Australian building sites. For the safety of the workers. He was quoted as droning that: “Safety is a paramount consideration on construction sites. It is simply an unacceptable risk to the health and safety of employees and the public to have workers affected by drugs or alcohol on construction sites.”

So why does this dead horse cop such a flogging? Eternally. After all: the Health and Safety advice is that legal recreational and prescription drugs are the ones that are doing all the damage in the workplace, on our roads, and in people’s lives. Every day 15 people die and 430 others are admitted to hospital just due to the abuse of alcohol. When you add to this the people who are dying from tobacco abuse, and from abusing prescription drugs, that accounts for 98% of drug deaths in Australia. When you add up all the columns, for every death due to the use of an illegal drug in Australia there are at least forty-one deaths due to the use of a legal drug. So why the focus on illegal drugs?

One of the bedrock assertions motivating this proposal is the assertion that welfare recipients are morally weak individuals who are therefore more likely to use and abuse illicit substances. How true is this proposition?

The available research comes to the astonishingly logical and obvious conclusion that really poor people don’t actually spend a lot of money. While many of our politicians like to constantly intimate that all the Australian unemployed habitually engage in drink and drug fuelled satanic orgies until late in the night – it appears that this is not the case. Apparently the unemployed simply can’t afford to spend a lot of money. Who could have guessed?

It also seems that in the real world testing welfare recipients for illicit drugs costs a lot of money but does not seem to catch many welfare druggies. In those forward looking and progressive states in the US where the drug testing of welfare recipients has been tried (Arizona, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Florida, and Missouri) it has failed to catch anyone much despite it costing a fortune. After a year of drug testing in Tennessee welfare assistance was denied to around 30 people – out of 28,559 welfare applicants. Last year a report on the website Salon indicated that: ‘Out of 38,970 welfare applicants, 48 people got positive drug tests in Missouri. Utah blew $64,566 to catch 29 people who did illegal drugs. Arizona found 3, and Mississippi just 2.’

So why do people like Abetz, Christensen, Abbott, Andrews, and Lambie seem to remain forever immune to comprehending any of this factual information? Yes everyone agrees that illegal drug use can have deleterious effects. But surely it is impossible to accidentally ignore the actual proportion of welfare recipients who are harmed by illegal drugs, in comparison to those who are harmed by legal drugs as there is a huge avalanche of factual data available?

Unfortunately for all the rest of us the theological argument is undeniable and unequivocal. It makes absolute sense in a superficial and fascicle manner. To the rabidly religious folk in our federal parliament it is apparent that, because those who use illegal drugs are morally decrepit, and those who are on welfare are also morally decrepit, then those who receive welfare must be more likely to use illegal drugs than are ‘normal’ Aussie citizens. It doesn’t matter what the facts might say. This is a religious belief so facts do not matter.

So while the rhetoric of the drug war warriors may sound shrill and largely incoherent to the majority of the population their dedication to their nonsensical arguments is undeniable, as is their air of desperation. This is because currently our drug laws represent the last moral cannon left in the legal armoury of those who deem themselves to be our moral superiors. All the rest of our laws are now designed to stop Aussies from getting harmed. Our drug laws are the last laws left that are based on protecting our moral rather than our physical health. So in the modern age the far right wing are fast running out of moral ‘outrages’ to be outraged about in public. Just about every other ‘moral outrage’ has become legal. Without the ‘drug laws’ the morally superior among us would be largely bereft of a weapon to use to bash the ungodly with. Therefore they clutch at their arguments despite the evidence and regardless of the obvious harm inflicted on individuals and the society at large.

In every other way except for in our drug laws we have largely ditched our victimless ‘crimes’ and excepting for those on the far right we all feel so much better for doing so. In the Australian context it now feels positively vulgar to even think about protesting against providing gays with the same suite of rights as any other member of society. Prostitution has long been decriminalised almost everywhere, and pornography seems not only ubiquitous but even rather passé. Plus virtually everything up to and including Satanism is now recognised as an acceptable lifestyle choice. So unfortunately for those who really want to get outraged; most of the good old legal snubs have slowly ebbed away. The only morality laws left standing are our drug laws.

Criminal laws are crafted to protect people while morality laws are crafted to control them. So of course Abetz, Christensen, Abbott, Andrews, and Lambie all remain immune to any rational scientific evidence regarding drugs. For these individual this is a moral question: not a scientific or social one. The attribute they all share is a belief that they are all duty bound to look after our moral health. They feel they are obliged to outlaw anything that fails to accord with their spiritual beliefs. They also have another thing in common – they have all been failing to keep us ‘pure’. So they continue to fight for their drug laws despite any amount of evidence.

Their sense of desperation can be explained by the growing gap between the opinions of the political class and those of the majority. It’s becoming ever more difficult to deny that the sole reason that illegal recreational drugs remain illegal is because our politicians continue to wilfully refute the evidence in front of their own eyes. So despite all the evidence and against the oft stated wishes of the majority, Queensland is currently doubling down on the drug war by increasing the penalties for using cannabis to the same as those for using heroin. Similarly our federal government is currently in the process of setting up a huge bureaucracy to protect us all against the evils of anyone taking cannabis for recreational rather than medicinal purposes. It would all be laughable if it was not so tragic.

Until we finally confront this ‘third rail’ of Aussie politics nothing will change. Misinformation will continue to be paraded about as apparent fact. Citizens will continue to be demonised and their lives destroyed for no rational reason and for no apparent social benefit.

If we must have fools in our parliament then at least let us have honestly misguided fools rather than the wilfully ignorant. Individuals such as Abetz, Christensen, Abbott, Andrews, and Lambie have every right to preach from any pulpit in the land, but when they do so in our parliaments they do our democracy a gross disservice.

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The Emperor fiddles while Rome burns

We are currently experiencing a massive natural catastrophe such as Australia has never before experienced. The Northern reaches of the Great Barrier Reef are dying. Much of the coral cover over thousands of square kilometres of the reef has turned as white as bone china. Even the fringing reefs are dying.

Professor Terry Hughes of James Cook University recently flew over 660klm of the northern reaches of the reef and estimated that 60% of the reef was entirely bleached. Many of the most famous dive sites on the northern reef have been reduced to barren ghostly white wastelands. Soon algae will discolour these lifeless coral skeletons and they will begin to crumble. As will the local tourism, diving, and fishing industries.

If you hop on any number of the dive or charter boats available in Port Douglas and motor out over the reef for several hours you will come to the famous Agincourt Reef system. Or at least you will be in the vicinity of where it used to be. In today’s Guardian you can see pictures of this natural wonder of the world bleached as white as coral sand. The same thing has happened to most every reef between Cairns and Papua New Guinea.

Meanwhile on another planet entirely, in Canberra, our government has been summarily recalled to debate vitally important business. In an action which has no modern precedent our PM has recalled parliament so as to sit for a few days to reconsider matters that are of such dire consequence that normal conservative practice and tradition must be set aside.

As I write I am listening to the leader of the opposition moving for the business of the house to be suspended so that they might all discuss the banking ‘crisis’. This motion will fail. The Turnbull government will then use this extraordinary meeting of parliament to prorogue parliament and call a Double Dissolution election.

The government has not been able to get its extraordinarily repugnant economic agenda through the senate. Many of the 2014 budget cuts are still delayed. And despite the fact that even the government has turned away from many of the more obnoxious of these proposals, this is now a ‘crisis’. Moreover: if we don’t suddenly reinstate a home-grown FBI built just for unions involved in the building industry then the whole of the Australian economy is under threat (apparently).

Under normal circumstances the artificiality of our politicians and their views is somewhat masked by the gravity of the issues they consider. However in this instance, for this week, there are only artificial crises being considered.

Nobody in our country really believes that the passage of the BCCC Act is a first order problem. If it had wanted to negotiate an outcome on the BCCC Act then the government could have done so. Many cross bench senators may have been willing to negotiate a reasonable outcome, if only the government had not already rammed through alterations to the senate voting procedures that will wipe them all out at the next election, and then recalled parliament using a long dormant constitutional manoeuvre so as to manufacture a double dissolution election.

Six months ago it may have possible to still keep a straight face while calling DD and arguing that it was because there was a policy agenda that was being thwarted by senate intransigence, however after six months of political inertia it is no longer tenable. For the last six months the government has done nothing but rule things out. When Turnbull was raised to the throne all of Australia chanted ‘yes’ ‘yes’ ‘yes’ in unison. The ‘Party of No’ was at last going to pursue a middle of the road conservative agenda. Then ever since Turnbull has done nothing but say ‘no’ ‘no’ ‘no’.

So while six months ago Turnbull might have been able to call a DD and be pretty sure to get elected on the basis of all his wonderful aspirations for our country, now it’s not a sure thing. The longest election campaign in Australian history is in prospect. And while very few Aussies know what the BCCC is, most every one of them is fairly attached to the Great Barrier Reef.

Unfortunately for the Turnbull incumbency he is leading the wrong political party. All of Australia was backing him on the hope that he would be able to lead us out of a wilderness of political rhetoric and bowing and scraping to vested interests. Aussies largely agree with his stated sentiments regarding climate change, keeping manufacturing in our country, addressing long term unemployment, providing decent education and health services, and knowing that there will be a secure pension available at the end of a working life.

However every time Turnbull has voiced anything that might possibly be construed as being in line with any of these stated aspirations he has been immediately beaten up by right wingers before backing down. It is becoming more and more apparent that Turnbull is entirely captive of his own Praetorian Guard. He is up on the battlements playing a sweet fiddle, but nonetheless Rome continues to burn.

So while six months ago Turnbull would likely have won an election comfortably, now it seems the worm has turned. It is going to be a long cold winter for Turnbull and the LNP. The bookies are still offering reasonable odds against a Labor victory. Maybe it’s time for a flutter?

Also by James Moylan:

The ongoing News Limited ‘reality show’

Likely arguments in Day v Regina

Why we need to be intolerant of climate science fools

Campaign coping strategies

‘The modern and wonderfully diverse 21st century Australian democracy®’

Yes, we do need to talk about the spurious nonsense being taught to children in our schools

Election 2016: Media Groundhog Day

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There is no such a thing as ‘too much democracy’ in our Constitution

The big three political parties seem to have overlooked the fact that our Constitution does stipulate some parameters by which senators must be elected.

The hubris of the big political parties in Australia is remarkable. The recent debate regarding proposed alterations to our senate voting system has been engaged as if our democracy is the simple plaything of the political parties. Unfortunately for many of the propositions being advanced, ‘political parties’ are absent from our Constitution.

Yet our media seems to have simply lapped up and regurgitated the public relations output of the major parties without even considering the first principles that are at stake. Nor have they paused to consider the constitutional viability of these propositions.

The suite of propositions being advanced will alter the law to restrict the entry of new politicians to the Senate on the basis of what political party they might belong to. In other words, the new voting rules that are being proposed will thereby generate two classes of voters and votes. There will be those cast for one of the major political parties and those cast for one of the others.

However, political parties are an overlay on our political process that have been developed so as to allow blocks of like interests to coalesce together and serve the interests of particular politicians and their friends. They have no constitutional force. Rather, the rules by which our votes are cast and counted, as well as those which regulate the definition of who we are voting for, are all stipulated in our common founding legislative act. So what does the Constitution have to say?

Most significantly it dictates who shall be eligible to stand for election in our country (for both Houses we refer to Section 34) and it adds a few stipulations regarding the election of our senators (such as in Section 9). This section reads (in part): The Parliament of the Commonwealth may make laws prescribing the method of choosing senators, but so that the method shall be uniform for all the States.

Note that the founders stipulated that the process has to be identical across all the states. It has to have a ‘uniform’ effect. It does not mention ‘political parties’. Yet as soon as any of these possible ideas for new senate voting rules is introduced then there will suddenly be two classes of votes and voters in every federal senate election (1- those that are cast for a senator and then passed on as a preference vote, and, 2- those that are not). Yet while our Constitution does seem to allow for our political class to alter the voting rules so as to enable two classes of voters and votes to exist; one of the very few firm stipulations is that any alteration must be uniform for all the States. Oops!

All the current proposals will result in a differential breakup in the votes cast in the Senate across our states. In NSW the system may provide for one set of six political parties being included and all the rest being excluded, whilst in Tasmania and Western Australia the list will be entirely different, etc.

When our Constitution was being framed the Senate was envisioned to be composed of individual members chosen with regards to regional (State based) criteria. However, under all the propositions that have been advanced then a candidate standing for the Senate in any state of Australia will be advantaged or disadvantaged relative to what political party they might belong to. In one state it may give you a leg up, in another you may not be on ‘the list’. This means that a ‘uniform method’ will not be used to differentiate votes in each state.

I will take a moment to reiterate the legal sense of the argument being presented once again. Many point to the inequity of having sitting members of parliament voting to impose restrictions on entry that didn’t apply when they were voted in as being inequitable. And so it is. But the Constitution does allow the Parliament to compose the voting rules as long as they abide by the few simple stipulations that are made. The Parliament is also allowed to split the voting ticket into two classes of votes and voters, but only if this arbitrary distinction operates in a uniform manner across all the states.

Further, this whole argument is both ill-informed and insulting. Instead of screaming about the size of an electoral ballot paper we should be celebrating it. The miracle that is the Australian ‘fair-go’ is based on the idea that we are a democracy born entirely in peace and so mainly devoted to BBQ’s and arguments in parks. However, this implies much more democracy rather than much less! Aussies carry a sausage sandwich and a big mouth. We have an opinion about everyone and everything but, apparently, we cannot possibly spend five to fifteen minutes once every three years filling out a big ballot paper. What unadulterated tosh!

But it seems that our current crop of incumbents have lost control of the democratic process so we must change the rules that applied to them to keep the ‘undesirables’ out of the House. Give me a break.

Yet in our big-media saturated fast food society we are buying it. What happened to doing your bit? What happened to pitching in and building an egalitarian paradise? Our current leaders and press seem to have decided, on behalf of me and you, that it is all too difficult for them to engage in negotiation and compromise or for us to have to read a long list and then number either one box or every one.

Who do these overpaid and entitled b*stards think they are? First and foremost this is all a whinge about their job being too difficult. My response: ‘If your party cannot get its way then you will have to negotiate with a number of other members of the Upper House. This is the way our democracy was designed to work.’

Just because the Australian population has started to vote for other people does not give our current crop of incumbent politicians the right to entrench their power and influence (and that of our political friends) at the expense of the democratic process. And thank heavens the people who framed our Constitution were pragmatic enough to foresee the tendency of our political masters to ever grab for greater power. So our Senate is different from the Lower House. Any alteration in voting rights must have exactly the same effect across the whole of the Commonwealth, so unless the legislation stipulates which six (or eight, or fifteen) parties will be allowed to run and which will not, then the effects will be differential, and thereby will be specifically precluded by action of Section 9 of our founding legislative act.

Expect any of the proposed alterations to face immediate challenge in the Federal Courts. Do not be surprised if one of the small parties makes application for an injunction precluding the implementation of these new Australian Electoral Commission guidelines on the basis that they are blatantly unconstitutional. If our politicians want to put political parties into the Constitution then they should have a referendum, otherwise they should do their job or make way for someone who is able to do it.

 

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