Social engineering is something that all political parties practice. Left-leaning progressive parties view change as a vibrant way of engineering society for the common good. To introduce a National Health Service with good research followed up with good legislation is one example of good social engineering.
Conservative parties view it as a means of changing society to fit their own ideology.
To introduce changes in university courses and fees so as to produce more workers without looking at the social consequences for humanities courses is bad social engineering. We need thinkers as well as workers.
In the complexity of what a society is we are apt to find many pieces that make up the puzzle.
Social engineering exists within “the Psychology of Politics.” That means that persuading people to think as you do is an important part of any democracy provided you are not being manipulated, lied to or fed propaganda.
I have seen many governments come and go in my lifetime. All incoming governments naturally implement their policies within the constraints that exist within the two Australian Houses of Parliament.
In 2013 I wrote a piece titled “The Abbott form of Social Engineering.” Not long after he had become Prime Minister it became apparent that he and his government had embarked on a conservative form of social engineering.
It was based on the aforementioned tactics of manipulation, lies, propaganda and hidden persuaders.
At the time I received a fair bit of flack for my views so I followed up with some quotes to put them in context.
In one of his most influential essays, (Milton) Friedman articulated contemporary capitalism’s core tactical nostrum, what I have come to understand as “the shock doctrine.” He observed that: “Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change.” [Which of course is a variation on Machiavelli’s advice that “injuries” should be inflicted “all at once” – Naomi Klein, “Shock Doctrine”].
In other words, manufacture a sense of crisis and you can get away with anything starting with maximum harm. Therefore, Conservative’s manufacture crisis at every opportunity.
Let’s look at what others have said…
Margaret Thatcher (paraphrased):
“There is no such thing as society. There are only individuals making their way. The poor shall be looked after by the drip down effect of the rich.”
“Labor came before capital and is not related to it. Capital is what’s acquired from labour, and would never have come about if it were not for labour. Therefore, labour is superior to capital and deserves the higher significance.”
They who seek to establish systems of government based on the regimentation of all human beings by a handful of individual rulers … call this a new order. It is not new and it is not order.”
Before addressing the issue of Social Engineering I should say exactly what I think a Government should be regardless of its ideology.
Good government is about making and implementing decisions that serve the common good. That give security to the people it governs. Follows the rule of law and is truthful about its intentions.
When making decisions it must be responsive to the will of the people. It should allow its citizens to be participatory in the function of government.
It should be inclusive, equitable and supportive of the people’s right to know. By equity I mean the people have a right to a fair reward for the fruits of their labour.
And above all, it should be answerable to the people.
What is Social (political) Engineering?
Social engineering is a means of implementing ideas and principles relative to your party’s philosophy.
Sometimes, however, it is politically expedient to forgo your beliefs when certain policies become entrenched in the countries way of life. Our health system and the NDIS are but two examples.
It is when a political party seeks to use selective deceptive, manipulative and insidious psychological techniques to influence and bring about a change in the attitudes of masses of people to its point of view.
If you look at the society we had when Tony Abbott came to power and compare it with today you could not deny that it is less free, FOIs are more difficult to procure, press freedoms have declined, we are more open to corruption, and police intervention in our daily lives has increased.
Older folk are treated abysmally as are women generally. The treatment of asylum seekers and our Indigenous folk have gotten worse.
Our economic attitude toward the wealthy be they corporate or individual has resulted in the rich getting increased handouts and subsidies
Abbott’s social engineering 2014 Budget was labelled the most unfair ever. Cuts to services such as welfare, education and health copped most of the budget pain.
Billions in funding were also slashed from international aid, health, and education. Alongside cuts to family benefits, these were all designed to change the societal structures of how we live.
My problem with the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments is that they all embarked on a program that was ideologically targeted at changing the way we think – for all the wrong reasons. Think climate change, for instance.
This is social engineering at its worst and the current proposal for changes to university entry is a typical example of reasoning gone wrong.
Conservatives seek to create a crisis even when none exists.
There is a debt crisis … while adding to it. Or a rise in Islam immigration, or boats. Last week it was the Chinese attacking our internet security.
It’s a deliberate tactic of social engineering.
Create an illusion of disaster and people will believe that perception is in fact reality. (COVID-19 and climate change aside, of course.)
Conservatives appeal to the base instincts of ordinary people and the racists.
I have the view that a form of serfdom is running through the Morrison government’s work.
The disparagement of science (COVID-19 excepted) has been peculiar to the three governments.
In the area of communications, we have a concerted attempt to eliminate the reasoned voice of opposing views. The dual attack on the ABC by the Murdoch empire and the government is an attempt to stifle debate.
When a government condemns a perceived bias of one outlet without acknowledging the bias of another it is practising social engineering
Lying, of course, is the social engineer’s most effective tool. Throughout his career, Tony Abbott used it most effectively.
Malcolm Turnbull was hypocritical on climate change and Morrison has taken lying to another level.
Another tool of social engineering is secrecy, and the Conservative governments have has displayed a propensity for it. It’s called lying by omission.
We also see social engineering in communication policy.
The best NBN is now effectively only for those who can afford it. They have become information-rich and those who cannot have become information poor.
All of these things contribute to how we think act and feel. By manipulating society into thinking that the entire realm and ownership of knowledge is found in one ideology, one individual or cohort of individuals is a form of social engineering.
By influencing society into believing that if the rich become richer their lot will advance at the same rate, conservatives see their social engineering as a success.
As I said at the beginning, all forms of government, corporations, institutions, and religious groups, even the advertising industry practice social engineering.
Not to mention the lop-sided social engineering that stems from a biased media in Australia.
Questions of ethics, values and law arise because it can be used for good or evil.
At one end of the scale is power and societal control, whilst at the other is a desire to be virtuous.
All that the common good be served.
My thought for the day
Perhaps a greater understanding of what I am saying might be obtained by willingly exercising a greater desire to think more deeply.
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