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Culture is but a reflection of the society our politicians create

If you are of adult age, do you ever ask yourself if the society you live in is better than the one you grew up in? At my vintage, I would have to say yes, but then I have the advantage of longevity, meaning my answer to the question can be measured over a long period.

In a material sense, everything is better. Public transport is better than what I used as an adult. The sporting facilities are better. Homes are built better. Everything would seem to be better. Our roads are. Airline services are much improved. More Australians travel the world than ever before.

Our motor vehicles are so advanced that they will soon drive for you. Sanitation has dramatically improved since I was a lad. A sudden rush in the advancement of technology has created a more affluent society. Health care has remarkably improved, as has education. The internet has changed the way we live, think, and communicate.

Science has extended my lifespan with the most staggering achievements, and they are embraced, recognised and enjoyed by all sections of society. On average, we even live longer.

Yes, as I say “materially,” Australia is a better place.

So how are we doing as a society? All the inquiries and Royal Commissions connected to us as a society would suggest something is drastically wrong. The Royal Commission into Banking revealed a culture of greed within several Australian financial institutions that financially ruined thousands of ordinary people. Of the commissioners’ many recommendations, not much has been done.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care told us that Australia’s quality and safety were substandard. It is said that thousands have died.

The abuse of children by the church that had been going on for decades. Child detention is a scandal. Many have committed suicide because of both of these.

Domestic violence and the rape of women occurs every week. “Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability is rife” and Aboriginal deaths in custody continue unabated today.

We are one of the most technological nations on earth. However, in terms of social progress on matters of great moral importance, we are backwards in our thinking.

The term “authoritarian populism” is often associated with far-right conservative parties; it has also been used to describe the Abbott, Turnbull, and Morrison governments. They are people with their own elite special interests who govern for those who have. They project an authoritarian way in which they manage government together with a “know your place” attitude. They also exhibit a “we know what’s best for you” perspective in their leadership and policymaking.

It is said that thousands have died from the Robodebt fiasco and many more in aged care.

In terms of policy decisions, the sports rorts affair has created inequality. The Government’s unashamed bias toward private schools creates a class society and inequality in education.

Allowing political donations creates an unfair playing field. The buying of land at bargain prices that filter back to donors is corruption at its worst.

Morrison’s slogan: “A fair go for those who have a go” implies that some welfare recipients didn’t deserve the benefits they were getting.

Morrison’s authoritarian packed punitive policy plan has blossomed since the election.

The constant deliberate attempts to lower the wages is nothing more than an effort by the Government to reduce the standard of living for ordinary workers and should be combatted with whatever means available.

I concede that Australia is an excellent place in which to live. We are doing well by many economic measures, but while many have disproportionally benefited from our decades of growth, our poverty levels have also risen. There are those who have and those who have not.

We have more millionaires than ever before, but we are literally going backwards on the side that we might call social progress. Progress, as such, is no longer used as a term to describe social change.

Does the average citizen experience equality? Are they punished if they don’t conform to the recent economic models?

Have our First Nations People benefited from our new prosperity? Recent data on social inclusion show visible flaws in our social cohesion and assimilation.

Some key facts on wealth inequality:

These figures from ACOSS show that income and wealth inequality in Australia were rising before COVID-19.

  • “Average wealth is relatively high and now exceeds $1 million for the first time ($1,026,000). Of this, 39 per cent is the main home, 21 per cent is superannuation, 20 per cent is shares and other financial assets, 12 per cent is investment real estate, and 9 per cent is other non-financial assets such as cars.
  • However, wealth is distributed extremely unequally. The average wealth of the highest 20 per cent of wealth-holders is $3,255,000 – over 90 times the wealth of the lowest 20 per cent (with just $36,000).
  • The wealthiest 20 per cent hold almost two-thirds of all household wealth (64 per cent), more than all other households combined.
  • From 2003 to 2017, the average wealth of the highest 20 per cent grew by 68 per cent compared with 6 per cent for the lowest 20 per cent. This divergence has been driven by the asset types held by the top 20 per cent: investment property, superannuation and shares. Eighty per cent of financial assets like shares and property investment are held by the highest 20 per cent of wealth-holders.
  • At the bottom of the wealth ladder, the most valuable asset holdings of the lowest 20 per cent are ‘other non-financial assets’ such as cars (48 per cent of their wealth holdings) and superannuation (38 per cent). At the top of the ladder, the wealthiest 20 per cent hold relatively less of their wealth in the main home (34 per cent) than those in the middle, and more of it in shares and other financial investments (26 per cent) and investment property (15 per cent).
  • The average superannuation wealth of the highest 20 per cent is $496,000 – nine times that of the lowest 20 per cent ($58,000). The top 20 per cent hold 60 per cent of the value of superannuation holdings.”

What statistics never show, however, is that we live in a failed system. Capitalism does not allow for an equitable flow of economic resources. With this system, a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience, and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level.

What conservatives have never achieved is a satisfactory marriage between our economics and our social progress.

Capitalism has failed because it has no understanding of society.

Culturally, our society has become a herd of self-loving narcissistic animals who want everything without questioning if they need it. Children have no idea of the difference between manners and civility. Possessions equate to materialism, so they are good for us.

Economic success, if used wisely, can benefit social progress, but if used only to benefit those who have, then it is useless. It can improve the wellbeing of a country only if it increases equality of opportunity and equality generally.

There is a growing awareness among thinkers “that economics alone” doesn’t measure a country’s success. Many thoughtful observers have highlighted the “limits of economic success as a proxy for wellbeing.”

In Australia, we have a government that measures social progress entirely on the success or otherwise of its economic policies.

Our moral landscape still occupies the darkness of unemployment, inequality and economic unfairness.

All our thinking on wellbeing, intellectual enlightenment and moral fairness has not advanced any understanding of the purpose in our being or the reason for our existence. Or, indeed, knowing the difference.

Substantial and worthwhile economic change often comes with short-term controversy, but the pain is worth it for the long-term prosperity of all.

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10 comments

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  1. Harry Lime

    That capitalism has been allowed to run amok is unquestionable,the rich and powerful vested interests have been controlling Western Democratic countries for decades,and in some cases, (the US,the UK) for centuries.Our own pathetic pile of shit government,led by a lying sociopath who cares naught for anything but his own self interest is a testament to how far down the shitter we’ve fallen,and we appear to have an opposition with wishy washy conviction.
    Where’s the fire in the belly? Or are they really just a less offensive Liarbral Party?

  2. Ross

    As John says society may be better off materially today but the ecosystem that supports us is in rapid decline. The trick for future prosperity for all of us will be placing the environment ahead of economics. The states are starting to show signs of comprehending that fact, federally none at all.

  3. Arnd

    Maybe it’s high time to have another look at what they call a “steady state economy”?

  4. ajogrady

    I want my country back! I want to be proud to call Australia my country and my home again. Where truth and justice prevail. Where ethics and honesty are valued.Where honour and morals are held in high esteem.Where respect and dignity for others is not a choice. Where humility and servility is considered strength. Where empathy and compassion are paramount. Where fact is important and fiction is left for fairy tales.
    I reject the LNP’s and Main Stream Medias lies, distortions, corruption, arrogance, deceitfulness, law of the jungle dog eat dog, survival of the fittest world

  5. Vikingduk

    I’m with ajogrady. Just a minor nitpicky point John Lord, you’ve obviously never seen or worked on a project home, if you had, you would never state homes are built better.

  6. Gangey1959

    I disagree JL.
    Yes, we have the ability to communicate from anywhere and at any time, and our merest thought can become a mainstream movement at the click of a button, but there is no balance, no respect, and thought for anyone except the self. And EVERYTHING is made/sold/purchased with a disposable mentality. How many new igadgets does one need in a calendar week? Yeah yeah, “This one is the new pink”
    Transport : The vehicles themselves may be more technological, but the systems they use are exactly the same as 70 years ago. The same freeways have 5 lanes jammed into the space where there once were four. That is not progress.
    Houses : They are not better built at all. Still wood frames, Still tile roofs. Still single pane windows. And now so close that you can pass your neighbour their coffee in the morning through the kitchen windows. Yay for progress. Nowhere to play backyard cricket any more, because there are three houses on the pitch. Where is the steel framing and roofing, the double glazing, the water collection, the insulation, the green energy source that all should be mandated? Federally !!!
    Employment : Unless you run your own little family style business, with the employees as family too, there is only grist for the corporate mill. Multinationals and the shareholder mentality have taken over, and driven commonsense out of everywhere. All hail the mighty KPI. How the fuck can you measure a bank tellers performance?, Or a teacher? Or a politician? Oh that last one is easy. Measure their bankl balance relative to last FY, and then shoot them if it has gone up by more than the CPI. I drive a forklift for a company that has “A SAFER place to work” as it’s mantra. Wh wants to come to work because it’s SAFE. Shouldn’t that be a given? We worked 89 days a week during the start of 2020 shipping medicine, It sucked. Management just wanted MORE. And more. And now scotty et al want to cut wages, super and conditions for the folks on the floor even further.
    Climate : We as a population all care. We like to think that we do the right thing, and we all have our yellow bins out every second week. All of “us” want to see less smoke and shit in the air, and most of us don’t think wind turbines are ugly, nor do we believe that they cause thunderstorms, but we all need to have the lights come on when we click the switch, and so get conned by the bullshit, even though we hate the climb in prices. “Its because of the market” we are told. So change the fucking rules, scotty, it’s why you get the big bucks.
    As a kid, I watche images of the Reef, and a myriad little fishes and bright coloured coral through water as clear as crystal. Nowadays, the same shots are cloudy, with few fish, and dead or no coral. “Come to Dunk Island” They need the support. “I’ve been to bali too” Screw that. I call Australia home.
    Australia, since the late 1800’s anyway, developed and grew as a trade protected country. That is where our standard of living, our education levels, and our general Australian-ness comes from. We were able to do anything, make anything, and although the workers always wanted a little bit more, and in general the “bosses” wanted to pay a little less, things seemed to work pretty well. Mostly. There were tarriffs to protect our industries from cheap labour products and countries.
    Free trade changed all that. That and workchoices, and weakening of unions, and a general money is king attitude.
    So, no, John, Australia is not a better place. Next time you are in the supermarket, take a look at the faces. look at the stressed, tired eyes. The stooped shoulders. beaten down expression on the shop staff.
    In 1981 I started work, earning $88ish takehome. Petrol was 20c. Rent was $55 month. In 1993 I bought my first home, $150G. Take home was $525. Mortgage at I think 12% was $320wk. 2020. Takehome, about 1200. Petrol $1.45. Rent $500 wk.
    It’s called progress. I’m having a go, so apparently it’s fair. But it isn’t fun. And it certainly isn’t positive. Or healthy. And if I could go back to “then” I would. Because it was better.

  7. Harry Lime

    I’ll precis that for you Gangey1959:the great majority of people simply don’t give a fuck,that’s what the ‘free market’ has given us,and I’d look at the people in the supermarket if I could see around the giant arses everywhere, almost exclusively on the young.Yeah, and houses aren’t better, just bigger and shittier.How do I know? I’ve been building and designing for 50 years,and doing passive solar nearly as long.Harry Lime 1946.

  8. philip chugg

    well said on both occasions Harry,,spot on matee

  9. Arnd

    Houses : They are not better built at all. Still wood frames, Still tile roofs. Still single pane windows.

    What’s wrong with wood frames, Gangey? Sequestered carbon n’all that? Asking for a carpenter! Of course, the new craze in timber high rise construction may not bestow all the environmental benefits it’s cracked up to have:

    https://e360.yale.edu/features/as-mass-timber-takes-off-how-green-is-this-new-building-material

    Agree re. double-glazed windows and insulation (I learnt my trade in Europe in the 70s, that stuff was mandatory there back then. It’s all triple glazing now.

    More generally, I agree with your post, though: especially in the so-called “Western World” we’ve basically been treading water for the last fifty years.

    Carbon Tracker@CarbonBubble
    Jul 26, 2019
    “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters. We wanted clean energy; we got cryptocurrencies that use as much electricity as Argentina. We wanted sustainable transport, instead we got millions of car-hire drivers”

  10. wam

    A pleasant giggle in the southern ocean cold, lord.
    When you see the average household super at $337000 but the median is $154950 you may want to forget averages.
    It is time to legislate: for a maximum wage, as no CEO is worth the millions s/he gets paid.
    for Medicare levy on gross earning
    for politicians to publish the previous month’s diary

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