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How can we fix this mess?

By Kyran O’Dwyer


There was a yarn I heard some years ago about a fellow listening to the morning news. The ‘lead’ item was about a car travelling the wrong way on a freeway. Knowing that his friend was going to be on that freeway that morning, he called the mobile and said to his friend “Mate, you’d better be careful. There is some idiot driving the wrong way on the freeway.”

A few seconds elapsed and all he could hear was his friend yelling profanities, with background noises of tyres screeching and horns blaring. His friend eventually responded, somewhat breathlessly, “One idiot? There’s fucking thousands of them.”

I recalled the yarn after reading Mr Lord’s article, “Day to Day Politics: Will someone please fix this?” In that article, he makes reference to ‘trust’ and ‘democracy’, amongst other values and aspirations. The article troubled me for a reason that didn’t become clear immediately. It took me quite some time to work out that, in the article, there was an implied interdependence on ‘democracy’ and ‘politics’, both of which are underwritten by trust and validated by truth, apparently to lesser degrees.

As a cynic of some vintage, it took me quite some time to work out that ‘politics’ is what ‘politicians’ do to ensure they remain privileged and protected, all the while hiding behind any criticism with the blanket disclaimer “This is democracy in action.”

It took me even longer to work out the other bit that troubled me. It was the heading. I’ll get back to that.

So, I reflected a little more on the yarn. In our brave new world, there would have been helicopters launched within minutes of the incident being reported. There would be live footage of ‘the idiot’ and the carnage surrounding the idiocy. There would be wild speculation about the idiot’s identity, colour, ethnicity, motivation, background, religion, intent, etc. And it would be a relentless frenzy.

All the while concentrating on the idiot and ignoring the fact the idiot was going the wrong way, ignoring the masses going the right way.

Without wanting to sound too simplistic, our politicians are idiots. They are the ones going the wrong way, dazzled by oncoming headlights and media attention, delusions of relevance, all the while ignoring the oncoming traffic. After all, they only have to take that punt every few years.

The political reality in Australia is that you can pick Liberal or Labor every few years. Of course there are minor parties and independents, if you wish to make a protest vote. Or you can ‘not vote’. In any event, it becomes the voters fault. The paucity of options is, apparently, no excuse for not participating.

Isn’t our reality that we live in a ‘politocracy’ (it’s not a word, it’s a board game. Google it, you’ll get my drift) rather than a democracy?

Our democracy is not broken, but it is in need of a hand. Imagine if the Australian Electoral Commission had the conduct of our system? They could canvass the planet for the best voting system, impose the rules to which our elected representatives would abide and ruthlessly enforce those rules.

Of course, that’s fanciful. Under our current system, our politicians would need to propose such an idea. It’s a bit like the notion of ‘ICAC’. It’s not in their interests. They’ll just keep ducking and weaving the oncoming traffic.

It’s a bit like climate change. Most people in Australia may not know the science, but accept that it is real and it is happening now. That nigh on 97% of relevantly qualified scientists support them, is of little solace. The fact is our politocracy, the idiot driving against the traffic, is in charge. All of the focus is on the errant idiot, not their ducking and weaving of oncoming traffic. The real issue.

It’s a bit like ‘universal health care’. Most people in Australia understand they pay the Medicare levy which allows them access to health care. Our politocracy, the idiot driving against the traffic, is imposing all sorts of terms and conditions onto what is essentially a social contract. Fully paid for by the ‘patient’s’.

It’s a bit like education. Or equality. Or worker’s rights. Or the NBN. These idiots are driving against the traffic, all the while basking in the glow of a compliant media and oncoming headlights.

Every so often, you get a glimmer of hope. Our First People didn’t issue a threat, an ultimatum or an edict out of the Uluru Conference.

They offered a solution.

They were offered ‘Constitutional Recognition’ by a PM who is infamous for the fact that he lead the charge for the last change to the Constitution. How the heck did he stuff that up? It’s not like it was an NBN.

Maybe. Just maybe. Our First People know what they need. Know what they want. It’s not like they have been around for tens of thousands of years, with their own education, health, legal, trading systems in place. It’s not like they care for country.

Maybe. Just maybe. Our First People will not be a catalyst for ‘Constitutional Reform’, but the catalyst for ‘Constitutional Replacement’.

All of the issues I have mentioned are now urgent, in so many ways. I left out quite a few.

Here’s the thing. I don’t trust politicians to make any change, other than that which suits them. Idiots, driving against traffic. Politics V Democracy.

Another yarn I recall is the one about the Engineer, the Prostitute and the Lawyer, arguing about which is the oldest profession. The prostitute argued that “When order came to society, my profession blossomed. We could satisfy the needs of a new world.”

To which the engineer said “Who do you think created the order? We saw a world in chaos, and brought order!”

To which the lawyer said “Who do you think created the chaos?”

Back to the headline; “Will someone please fix this?” With the greatest of respect to Mr Lord, it’s on us. Outside of the electoral cycle. I think it was Harquebus who posted a comment some time ago, advocating participation at a local level.

From little things, big things grow.

Surely, it’s time to ignore the idiots, and get on with the job.


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  1. David Bruce

    Excellent article! Just hope the rest of the world can ignore us while we get on with the job!
    Seems Trump found the plug for the Swamp and pulled Comey out?

  2. stephengb2014

    Great article
    Yes looked up Politocracy and found this amongst other stuff

    How A Dominant Party Behaves In A Politocracy

    When one party establishes what it thinks is a dominant political position in a Politocracy, it then believes that it can institute laws and orders that will, amongst other things, shift financial resources from one part of the electorate to another part of the electorate. It usually will do this without regards to the longer term consequences to the whole electorate. The thinking is that such action will ensure short term political power and influence to the dominant party.

    On another note
    I think that the indiginous peoples of Australia, being the soverign first peoples of this country should be the sole occupants of our house of review the Senate (elected soley by the first peoples) and not a long way different to the House of Lords.
    This would elliviate all of the issues we have currently with the (“unelected swill”) currently in the Senate, and provide the indiginous peoples of Australia genuine autonomy and a very real ability to stir the direction of Australian laws.

    Anything else is going to be a sop to the aspirations of the first people of Australia.

  3. Ceridwen66

    Nicely written. I too am a cynic, a relic of a different age, one which vanished with the elevation of Mr Gutter Politics himself – Abbott, to party leader and in turn PM. Abbott, with much insidious backing, did incalculable damage to the Australian body politic, collectively they didn’t much like the 2007 decimation of Howard and repaid the Australian public for daring to utilise their democratic right to choose a new leader with austerity, chaos, ineptness and corruption.

    Change? I believe it will need to get a whole lot worse, and people will need to become a whole lot more uncomfortable before there is any sudden shift in awareness. There are collective murmurs, and the occasional scream, but on the whole, the Australian public is stupefied on the ever faithful bread and circus routine conservatives are so clever at creating. This current ‘governing’ party have stitched the game up diabolically well.

    The dispossessed, marginalised and downtrodden must understand that to change the system which is strangling us, we have to enter it and pull it down brick by brick from the inside. Sustainable, positive change is possible, as are the dreams of a Federal ICAC, independent Federal corruption watchdog, a basic liveable wage for all, Indigenous Constitutional recognition and Marriage Equality, but until we collectively stand and demand our ‘leaders’ create decent, humane policy all the above will remain a pipe dream.

  4. Matt

    Trouble is that it is only you and relatively few others who are going the right way on the freeway – 98% of people are going the wrong way – to them you are the ‘idiot’ – until these peole change direction then there will not be enough of ‘us’ to change anything.

  5. helvityni

    Whilst the majority of Australians still believe this is the bloody best country in the world, nothing much will happen..
    To want changes, people have to see and accept that not everything is honkey dory, only then will they be ready to start demanding changes, to rock the proverbial boat…

    Julie Bishop was running to the podium to tell us whatever it was, it was “the first in the world”…

    Whilst the Italians rush out to sea to save drowning asylum seekers , we push them back in their leaky boats. Humane?

  6. guest

    So what we have now, Kyran, is a PM who was once driving in the right direction, but is now driving against the traffic flow. He is doing that so he can keep driving – but what will he achieve except a disaster?

    He has given up on much of what he espoused several years ago and has embraced whatever keeps the approval of his back-benchers.

    Along the way he has made a mess of the Republic Referendum, the SSM issue, the NBN, Climate Change policy…

    So bereft of ideas, he sets about trying to pretend he has seen the light again by advocating imitations of Labor policy, while at the same time clinging to neo-con tax policies which are supposed to promise more “jobs and growth” through a “trickle-down” process which does not work.

    Take his promise about jobs to be gained by the implementation of the Adani mine project. He said it would deliver “tens of thousand of jobs”, by which he meant, he now tells us, “ten thousand jobs” for Indians. Adani says some 1400 jobs for Oz workers.

    Meanwhile, other Oz workers in the tourist trade in Qld are concerned about the effects of Climate Change on the Great Barrier Reef.

    Other workers in the renewable energy industries are waiting to go ahead with what are the inevitable solutions, while others rub their hands with glee at the opportunity to participate in the costly and futile exercise of carbon capture.

    The driver is driving very erratically.

    His own anxiety and distress can be clearly seen and heard in his loud shouting shouting shouting and waving of arms, trying to persuade everyone, including himself, that he is heading in the right direction.

    He is deaf to the sounds of sirens tracking him down.

  7. roma guerin

    Great article, and beaut discussion. Thanks all.

  8. kerri

    What a great analogy! The idiot driving the wrong way. Dazzled by the headlights.
    The headlights being opinion polls and journalists.

  9. havanaliedown

    Are you saying that the supposed “97% of climate scientists” are wrong?

  10. wam

    Little things need planting, water and sunshine?
    Little billy is no gardener?
    The political traffic is flowing

  11. helvityni

    wam, I have been a ‘gardener’ all my life, I helped to ‘green’ the inner-city streets and backyards, I had a hobby farm in Southern Tablelands and made everything bloom during the drought…I have learned though that not everyone is on my side, many want lawns only, consisting only of one species of grass , no FOREIGN stuff, ‘we don’t like them trees and shrubs, they are messy, leafs and things falling on our spotless lawn….’

  12. Kyran

    By way of collective response, thank you.

    Mr May, perhaps we can just ignore T Rump, and get on with the job. The rest of the world seems to be understanding that to get on with the job, we need to ignore T Rump.

    Stephengb2014, I wasn’t sure if anyone would check that out. As to your second part, giving control of our upper house to our First People, we could well and truly do worse. We are based on the Westminster system, resplendent in the House of Lords. In England, the Lords were the custodians of ancestry, with a few thousand years of experience. In Australia we have an opportunity to avail ourselves of tens of thousands of years of ancestry, of governance. Whilst highly unlikely, I’m up for it.

    Ceridwen66, for what it’s worth, I believe the critical word is ‘change’. I have a lot more faith in our kid’s, our future, than I do in our ‘leaders’, who have become an irrelevant past.

    Matt, I’ve been called a git so many times (most often rightly), I get to question my judgement all the time. I would not have written the article, otherwise. There are enough people wanting change. Our ‘leaders’ don’t see it is in their best interest’s.

    As helvityni would be well aware, what we are doing to those seeking nothing more than asylum is, at best, a disgrace. The relevant point is that “To want change, people have to see and accept that not everything is honkey dory…” The churches, mostly Anglican from recollection, offered refuge to those seeking asylum in February, 2016. Will they do it again in 2017, in spite of dutton’s assault? For what it’s worth, Getup have a campaign going about Dutton.

    Guest, “The driver is driving very erratically.” Under any other circumstance, the driver would be ‘breath tested’ for illicit substances. It’s not like this driver is on the government teat. The precedent was set by his predecessor. Thank goodness they don’t rely on ‘welfare’, other than their very existence.

    Wam, it is inescapable that, for anything to grow, it needs nurturing.

    The point of the article is best summed up by helvityni.

    “Make thing’s bloom, during a drought.”
    Thank you AIMN, for the opportunity. Thank you commenters, for your time. Take care

  13. guest

    “thing’s”, Kyran?

    I heard a Trump executive talking about Trump and whether he would withdraw from the Paris accord. He said he should because Trump said he would. The executive went on to say that no one was meeting their emission reduction targets, And, anyway, the effects of Climate Change have been exaggerated. Anything we do will have little effect and if we do nothing, the effects will not be catastrophic. Humans will survive as they have through climate change over the past 10 000 years.

    What did not happen in this interview was any questioning of this man’s comments. It is this passive acceptance of whatever politicians say and the reporting of it which muddles the truth.

    Reporters will say that they are merely reporting and any contrary statements will be made by someone else. But of course in some news outlets the contrary point is never put – unless of course it is the Murdoch press exclusively reporting the opinions of deniers and sceptics of Climate Change.

    Even when questions are raised, as in parliamentary Question Time, often the question is not not answered. Responses are accepted even if there is the remotest reference to the question asked. So also at press release interviews. I sometimes wonder if some of the reporters really know anything about the matter in order to ask a penetrating question. Perhaps they do not want to know for fear of losing their jobs.

    Then there is the problem of media monopoly in Oz. Unfortunately, when the truth is expressed, as on independent media, or the ABC, the heavy-weights accuse the others of bias, of not telling the truth.

    In Oz, we are being dudded.

  14. Harquebus

    Governments and corporations will not solve our problems, they are the problem.

    “New methods of governance are being experimented with that promise to make the old dinosaurs of social control go extinct.”
    “Allowing people to go their separate ways is a major threat to the powers that have held control over humans in the same way for thousands of years.”

    Warning: Startup Societies are Disrupting Government

    “We have been led to believe that living sustainably or reducing our “carbon footprint” is difficult, expensive, reliant on new technologies, and involves personal discomfort. None of that is true.”

    What An Energy Revolution Looks Like

    Our mess is a predicament of our own making. Predicaments don’t have solutions, they have outcomes.
    Get ready.


  15. margcal

    Good to see you writing a piece Kyran. You’re one of my favourite commenters.

    To me, what is wrong with politics (OK, one of the things) is that we now have “politician” as a career aspiration. They get into power with no care for any community concern and, these days, with almost zero experience outside of political circles.
    Give me more Ricky Muirs and Jackie Lambies. I far from agree with some of the positions they have taken but they have brought a degree of integrity (Muir in particular) and experience (Lambie’s living on welfare) that is totally absent in most of their political cohort.
    Going back a few years, although party affiliated as a politician, Joan Kirner came up through the ranks, first being involved with making things better at her children’s school/s. How different to an IPA apprenticeship.

    We need so many more of those Independents, not as a protest vote but as true local representatives. Cathy McGowan’s campaign is some sort of blueprint but I’m not sure how you’d manage that in suburban electorates.

    Not voting as an option – I think we have a moral obligation to vote. If there isn’t a good candidate then the least worst should win it – because ‘someone’ will always win.

    My biggest disappointment with Turnbull – well, I don’t have any disappointment on one level. We got exactly what I was expecting. But for the sake of the quiz, I won’t take part because there is no “All of the above, and then some” button. But if forced to pick one, it would be asylum seekers because that’s the ‘best’ example, in the list, of the LNP’s inhumanity which starts with asylum seekers but adversely affects all of us.

  16. Kyran

    Guest (June 1), couldn’t agree more.
    “What did not happen in this interview was any questioning of this man’s comments. It is this passive acceptance of whatever politicians say and the reporting of it which muddles the truth.”

    The absence of critical analysis is, IMO, the reason that MSM is in decline. Whilst they scream about the ‘disruption’ to their ‘business model’ by the likes of sites such as this, they ignore the critical fact that they ceased doing their job when they ceded global control of their industry to Newscorpse and similar entities. A point well made by your later comment;

    “Then there is the problem of media monopoly in Oz. Unfortunately, when the truth is expressed, as on independent media, or the ABC, the heavy-weights accuse the others of bias, of not telling the truth.”

    Harquebus (June 2), couldn’t agree more.
    It is a question of how we arrive at an alternative model of democratic government, as opposed to relying on a political system that seems inherently and systemically corrupt. Whilst I agree with your premise that radical social change is needed (including our attitude to rampant consumerism), my contention is that this can be achieved through education and consensus. This is an anathema to the ruling rabble, who rely on ignorance and division for their very existence.

    Margcal, June 2, couldn’t agree more.
    It seems, in the modern context, we have a choice of ‘career politicians’ (courtesy of the major parties) or the ‘Russian roulette’ of independents, many of whom are ‘one issue candidates’ or wannabe ‘career politicians’. I wasn’t advocating ‘not voting’, just trying to point out that I could understand such exasperation, notwithstanding its obvious moral cowardice.
    Ged Kearney resigned from the ‘Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration’, in protest at the lack of consultation by dutton prior to his announcement of the revamped 457 process. A minister willfully ignoring expert advice to pursue a political agenda. Go figure!
    Ms McManus advocated civil disobedience to protest ‘bad law’, and was roundly criticized for it.
    Ms Triggs has tirelessly advocated nothing more than human rights for all, equally available to all, and has been roundly (and doggedly) criticized for it.
    These are good people, IMO, in the Joan Kirner mould. It’s fanciful, but imagine, if you can, people of that caliber being on offer.
    As for the survey, my thoughts exactly.
    Thank you again AIMN and commenters. Take care

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