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Day to Day Politics: How did it come to this?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Australians have always had a sort of love-hate relationship with America. Whilst we come from an English heritage, it has been the United States that has had the most influence on our maturing as a nation.

Rightly or wrongly, we have blindly followed them through wars that arguably were not of our concern. We have alliances that almost guarantee our national safety. We have embraced their culture to the detriment of our own.

We have grown up with their music be it pop, jazz or theatre. Their television is over represented on our screens. The Americanisation of Australia is all but complete.

Their sports have become second nature to us as have the artistic creations of Hollywood. We have accepted the American inclination toward scandal and sleaze. We also suffer from both political and social narcissism.

Our natural inclination for technology has seen us take up their inventions at unprecedented levels. It is said in economics that if America catches a cold then we get the flu. Its endless unwinnable wars are bankrupting it but they don’t seem to care and go on spending more on defence than the rest of the world put together.

The science of climate change shows that we are looking at an impending environmental disaster of catastrophic proportions but like many of us the US refuses, as they do with evolution, to believe it.

In the US 22 million people live in poverty. Inequality in both countries is a problem with only the left of politics acknowledging it. The right don’t give a damn.

Trickle-down economics and de-industrialisation are responsible but the right cling to the God of capitalism, that believes that making the rich even richer will solve the problem.

Religion has a rather odd hold on the most technologically advanced country in the world but we are more circumspect and Christianity is in decline and is likely to disappear in two or three decades. However, there are growing signs that among the young that religion is on the decline.

The rich citizens and the big corporations of both countries seem to have ‘boycotted’ paying tax. The American President, Donald Trump appears to pay no federal income-taxes and uses his foundation to pay his legal bills.

Corruption runs rampant in both countries. Both are loathe to tackle political exploitation … being afraid of what revelation might bring. While in Australia we don’t have periodic mass killings at schools, malls, movie theatres and other public places, there are those who would soften our gun laws.

Fortunately we don’t have the problem of police committing public executions of black people in our streets but only a fool would deny that we have an element of racism.

Like America, the reality is that we have a media that produces an avalanche of political and cultural untruths. It is based on the assumption that in a declining market it is legitimate to lie and disseminate political, intellectual and cultural discourse with a perverse sensationalism, emotionalism and pathetic dishonesty to arrest a declining market.

American and Australian media is saturated with highly paid commentators whose job it is to titillate, gossip and contaminate the airwaves and television screens with nonsensical garbage where people talk up negative possibilities. Selling advertising comes first and it’s done in any manner it can be.

Mass entertainment, both violent and sexually explicit, contaminates the cultural life of both our countries. American reality television conspired to produce a ‘reality’ presidential candidate.

“There’s no business like show business”

America elected a President who may at any time be investigated and put in jail. If he has the support of Congress he will obliterate Obama’s legacy by dismantling all US social programs, environmental regulations, civil rights legislations, and the elimination of the federal minimum wage.

Obamacare is currently being put to bed and private insurance will have a ‘free ride’ over US healthcare coverage. A Trump Administration would eradicate all global, solar energy technological incentive programs. (Trump believes global warming to be a hoax stemming from China). Our government believes it to be a socialist plot. In Australia we have citizenship problems relating to the dual citizenship of parliamentarians that could develop into a constitutional crisis.

Private prisons will become a nationwide corporate reality. And Trump has promised media/press ‘crackdown on contrary news reporting’. Roe v Wade (a landmark decision in the US Supreme Court on the issue of abortion) might be overturned. Programmes like planned parenthood would be abolished.

LGBT laws will be overturned. Same-sex marriage will be outlawed. All civil rights legislation will be reversed. Privatisation of Social Security and Veterans Administration will become a reality.

On top of that Trump will make America a better place by defeating ISIS – because “I know more about ISIS than the generals do”. By building a wall. And then making Mexico pay for it. By deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants. By banning all Muslims from entering the nation.

Essentially, all of what Roosevelt’s New Deal stood for would be scrapped (or privatised). International relations would be turned upside down.

If you take a look at the far right’s agenda in conjunction with our IPA’s, together with the extreme of the Australian Coalition, there are striking similarities. ”I will make America great again” Trump shouts from the highest pillars of the mountain of illusion. Hundreds of millions of Americans have ‘woken up’. The dream has ended.

The promise that everyone can be whoever they want to be and have whatever they want, if they would just work hard, and trust in God, is dead.

American Exceptionalism, the land of milk and honey belongs to a bygone era. Polls show that as few as 20% think that Washington can be trusted to do what’s best for the country.

They feel incapable of doing anything about it.

In Australia we feel powerless to have any influence in what we thought was an inclusive democracy. We are both just spectators, hostages to broken systems of government. Chaos abounds and the common good forgotten.

The political, cultural and intellectual discourse of both countries has been so effectively muted by the contamination of those who would seek power for power’s sake. They have successfully stifled the intellectual exchange of ideas. Australia has a compulsory voting system and America a non-compulsory one. Neither serves the people well.

We the people of our enlightened societies feel betrayed by a lack of leadership, of vision. Capitalistic neoliberal ideology has won the day and we have given up. The words we use to describe these events, the austerity, and the lack of transparency, uncontrolled capitalism and the death of truth are of themselves devoid of concern and fight.

Sure, both societies have advanced but the price is gauged by the exploitation of the poor and middle classes. The price we have paid for our progress is measured in wars and seductive illusions about our culture. Our lives are about perception. Not ‘what is’ but what we perceive it to be.

And in our powerlessness we listen to the voices of the absurd, to the promises of demigods and racists in the absence of ideas about how to fix our comparative democracies. It’s called long-suffering irrationalism.

We no longer have the patience or desire to soberly examine policies that effect our lives and politics has been relegated by the media to a 24/7 sideshow.

In America the voice of Trump is heard by those who cannot see that the great American dream has ended and those who have lost faith in institutionalised politics see no future.

What used to be a beacon of light to the free world, the presidential election is now but an illustration of the decline of a once great nation.

In Australia the voice of the far-right is gaining a foothold because people have become dissatisfied with our institutionalised democracy. Our government produces slogans and promises repetitively until the people are conned into believing them. They deal in the illusions of social progress and prosperity. They refuse to acknowledge any reality that might concern us about the future.

The people either don’t vote or think they gain a voice by voting for extremists. Few people trust our politicians or have faith in our system of government. We live a life of permanent malaise and think little about what makes our nation work until the next election come around.

Yes, we are much alike. Both countries are on the verge of democratic collapse. Politicians in both countries have little incentive, or even the capacity to change the democratic structures because they so are locked into neoliberal corporate capitalism.

Columnist and Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges puts it this way:

Life is lived in an eternal present. How we got here, where we came from, what shaped us as a society, in short the continuum of history that gives us an identity, are eradicated.

What Australians dislike about Americans is their pomposity and self-righteousness, their know all attitude and belief in their own self-importance for which we have a saying. ‘They think their shit doesn’t stink’. Some would say that they are the only people in the world that believe their own bullshit.

Whatever happens in America, (apart from frequent mass murders), usually reinvents itself in Australia. Greed is now God. Paying tax has become a sport with no rules.

Narriccism is rampart and religion has more to say than it should.

How did it come to this?

It did so because we allowed ourselves to believe the lies. We fell for the mantra of hatred and fear they so delicately indoctrinated us with.

An observation

“The purpose of propaganda is to make you feel good about the wrongs being perpetrated on you”.

We permitted ourselves, because of our innate narcissism, to believe all the bullshit, the incoherent absurdities mouthed by self-serving politicians. We believe in our feelings and mistrust facts. In short we allowed ourselves to be conned into believing that poverty is the fault of the victim but wealth comes from virtue and both are the natural order of things.

Good democracies can only deliver good government and outcomes if the electorate demands it. Unfortunately we have forgotten just what that means.

In Australia we will see a continual decline in our politics until the next election in 2019 and beyond.

In America they had a choice between a women so entrenched in establishment politics that the people despised and mistrusted her or a man described as a sick deluded one of no redeeming features, full of racial hatred, bile and misogyny. A deluded pathetic liar unsuitable for the highest office in the land, if not the world. One who sees complex problems and impregnates them with populism and implausible black and white solutions.

My thought for the day

“Sit before your televisions and watch Trump’s antics and ponder at the gullibility of the American people and say … ‘only in America’.”


  1. Graham Barnes

    Once again, John is right on the nail. We are already in grave danger of following the USA down Trump’s “primrose Path” – albeit bestrewn with thorns. Time to WAKE UP!

  2. Möbius Ecko

    “We fell for the mantra of hatred and fear they so delicately indoctrinated us with.”

    The only bit I don’t agree with. The fear wasn’t indoctrinated “delicately” at all. We were constantly hammered and slapped in the face with it and have been for a long period.

    Fear of just about everything is America’s biggest issue, and they are preyed upon with it from the government, corporations and sales entities across the whole spectra of products and services. It is a very deliberate and not subtle strategy to foremost part people of their money.

    There are so many examples.

    I’ve been scoffed at with this example. The US has an inordinate fear of insects and arachnids, spending huge amounts each year to kill them, poisoning not only themselves but their environment and killing biodiversity. This is a fear groomed by pesticide companies like Reckitt Benckiser, the makers of Mortein and other pesticides to sell their products. This fear can be seen reflected in movies like Starship Troopers, and making that comparison is when I’ve been scoffed.

    The same comparison might be made for germs, where companies making anti-bacterial and cleaning products push an over the top fear of disease harming a family to sell their products, to the point where some research might show this super cleanliness and mollycoddling of children is causing much of the immunodeficiency today.

    Another example of where fear has been used for corporate greed, and a case where a perfectly ecologically sound and viable industry was destroyed, is the fear campaign against hemp. This campaign that started in the US showing ads with family members going insane smoking marijuana was deliberately spread globally to destroy the post-WWII hemp industry to the benefit of US cotton growers. This is a good, quite old now, documentary on it:

    And of course, there are guns. The best example I can give is the one Michael Moore highlighted. Across a lake are two cities, one in the USA and the other in Canada. Canada has a higher per capita gun ownership than the USA, yet the Canadian city has less crime, far fewer gun crimes and fewer shootings than its USA counterpart across the lake. One city is constantly wracked with fearing criminality, especially crimes involving guns, the other is not. The difference between living in these two cities couldn’t be starker.

  3. babyjewels10

    Nailed it John Lord. What a ghastly mess we’re in and it could all have been prevented.

  4. Jack Straw

    Unfortunately we are still living in the John Howard mindset.He was the propaganda master.

  5. Terry2

    We seem to be confronting a major challenge to our democratic arrangements and the neo-Liberal philosophy that we have had foisted on us in recent years.

    The Panama Papers and now the Paradise Papers are telling us quite clearly that major corporations and high wealth individuals are bluntly telling governments – and the rest of us – that they will not pay income taxes and they will adopt every measure within their financial capability to reduce and avoid taxes on them.

    Major corporations have made it clear to the likes of Trump and Turnbull and other leaders that they were put in place by these corporations and high wealth individuals and the deal was that they get tax reductions and other concessions.

    This is not just a question of tweaking taxation law to eliminate tax avoidance, it is outright war as these interests have no social conscience and they see it as their absolute right to be more equal than the rest of us.

    Some irony in the fact that this is coming to a head one hundred years after the overthrow of the Russian royal family and elites for much the same reasons.

  6. Aortic

    Great article John, nailed it again. Anyone who thinks governing bodies are running the country are deluded. They are all in the thrall of large corporations (spivs) who donate the blood money in order to keep the punters in check for their own greed avarice and tax avoidance to continue unabated. As someone once said if politicians thought voting would make a scrap of difference they wouldn’t allow us to do it. Part of the answer may be public funding of elections but if even this was law some bastard or buch of bastards would find a way to corrupt the process to their own ends.

  7. wam

    America was milked by the poms from 1620 and for the next 156 years were sent pommie convicts. Sound familiar?

    The septics in theory stopped slavery in 1865. Did Australia have slaves? Do you know the history of the naming of Townsville and Mackay?

    American schools make sure Americans become Americans. Teir port is the world series, Their films reinforce America for the world. Until recently, any film made in Australia had a foreigner as the star. Indeed one of my favourites had an American star and he played two starring roles? Once we had our own tv our actors didn’t have to go overseas to be stars.(this government and rupert is rapidly redressing that situation with their cuts to the ABC/SBS and by changes to media laws)

    How many of your fellow school students or current friends, Lord, knew of the goons and how many knew of lucy and a squillion sceptic tv shows?

    My dad came home with problems and he believed the septics did not save us from the ‘japs’, mcarthur was a deserter and the americans deserved their bashing in the battle of brisbane(the Australian truth)

    Consequently, I am a americophobe and found the Audie Murphy and John Wayne version of WW2 to be laughable and still do.

    Sadly my prejudice is re-enforced daily

    Have you seen the shows on the commercial channels? Where are the ex-ABC pommie shows broadcast?

    Menzies was desperate for all things british but as soon as whitlam and labor hit the ground, the white Australia policy went, he established relations with china(closely followed by kissinger and nixon) and Asia/Pacific and he set PNG free.

    He was accelerating the move of Australia away from the poms and even challenging the ‘All the way with LBJ’ attitude towards the septics.

    Fraser went even further suggesting we don’t need the septics. But the Americans played the fear game and had little johnnie’s full support.

    I cringe at the intrusion of words breaking news, wildfire, jail and my facebook is filled with septic, pommie and aussie patriotic claptrap. The latest quoting the 77% increase in muslims as per the census. (note no sunni/shia split why???)

    However it has been a long time of americanisation.

    My family go to see all australian films, most pommie and foreign films and apart from me do patronise the septic blockbusters.

    PS Mobius we were bludgeoned and unless we physically and consistently resisted we would have been septic clones 50 years ago. Few resist nowadays and all my non family friends believe john wayne and hollywood’s view of the world.

    ps poor old sam he is a member of the race of:
    labor politicians
    short men
    muslim men

    a thrice race pollie confronted by racism? What drivel sam you are a not a victim of racism.

  8. Michael Taylor

    Jack, I agree with you 100%. Abbott might have been the wrecker but Howard gave him the wrecking ball. I blame Howard – more than anybody else – for the rise of lunacy in this country.

    More than ever we desperately need a PM who has the guts to “drain the swamp” and change this country’s course. We don’t have one in Turnbull.

    In 2007 with the elections of Obama and Rudd I had a lot of confidence that the world could be a better place. Ten years on, and with conservatives back in control, it’s a wreck again.

  9. Jack

    John, If you haven’t already, you should watch the movie Idiocracy.

  10. Michael Fairweather

    True Americans come from English stock who went over on the ship “Mayflower” and they settled there , just like Australian have done. We have fallen over our selves to do what the American Government want helping them with all their wars . One thing I learned a long time ago is that we are Allies of America but America is allied to no Country , you know what they say “your with us or against us” we will get no support from America so dont rely on any. The American people are good people but you cant trust their Government!!!

  11. jimhaz

    [you should watch the movie Idiocracy]

    If it was not so bad a movie! Yankee trash made for teens – that just happened to be what appears to be happening.

  12. jimhaz

    [The American people are good people but you cant trust their Government!!!]

    Meaning – you cannot trust their big business people as the US has not been a true democracy this century. It is a plutocracy.
    btw – Russia is also a plutocracy – so with Trump we currently have two Russian presidents.

  13. paul walter

    No, Mr Featherweather, True Americans, of Eurasian stock, began arriving 12,000 years before the Mayflower.

    Not many left after the genocide of the last four centuries, but..

  14. jim

    I think American riots are taking a hold right now in the “land of the Brave”.: you have to be brave to live there imo.

    According to the International Monetary Fund, theHoward/Costello government was the most profligate in Australia for the last 50 years. Indeed, while the mining boom was gathering pace they cut taxes so far and so fast that they forced the Reserve Bank of Australia to rapidly increase interest rates………

  15. jim

    Plutocracy eg Wiki; Historic examples of plutocracies include the Roman Empire, some city-states in Ancient Greece, the civilization of Carthage, the Italian city-states/merchant republics of Venice, Florence and Genoa, and the pre-World War II Empire of Japan (the zaibatsu). According to Noam Chomsky and Jimmy Carter, the modern day United States resembles a plutocracy, though with democratic forms. nope no Russia at all. Russia is Communist I think.

  16. jimhaz

    @ Jim

    It is just definitions. Oligarchy might better describe Russia – but really doesn’t it mean more or less the same thing. They are not communist as they gave away (sold cheap) the major assets such as oil to a few elected business people. Putin also has had people killed who say the truth about these business criminals.

  17. paul walter

    I think that most of the problem comes back to what Terry2 was saying- the clash between democracy and neo liberalism. I also think the US and Australia are fairly parallel, split down the middle between the sort of people who comment here and Hansonist types. I’ve good US friends on FB who would instantly recognise what this blog is about, for example.

    I think the difference rest with America’s far more permissive gun culture.

  18. diannaart

    I thought many of Australia’s less than endearing qualities arrived in 1788 with the First Fleet. That we share a lot in common is more due to similar colonial histories and that we do have some significant differences to the USA is due to good luck and a bit of Aussie larrikinism.

    Having lived in the USA for a time, I spent the first six months there in a variety of culture shock. Sure, English was spoken mostly everywhere, but people there amazed me with their lack of knowledge of the rest of the world. They really believe their country is “God’s Own” and the rest of the world will do anything to get there – even Australians, British, Europeans were just itching to get a Green Card (or marry an American which is what my then boyfriend’s father thought).

    Aussies, like the British and Europeans are well travelled. Sometimes, when I had had a brew too many (I still drank back then) I would make claims that we only got electricity 12 months before I left and all our dunnies (after I had explained what a ‘dunnie’ was) had stumpy tailed lizards living in the faeces coated pits below the wooden red-back infested toilet seat – well the one at my cousins place in South Australia was exactly like this and no-one was believing me when I said Australian swans were black not white and that wombats could wipe out your car. A girl has to do something in situations like this.

    Yes, we do have a great deal of USA TV. Currently I am watching “Hard Quiz”, “Sisters”, “Let Down”, Micaleff in anything “Glitch”, “Clever-man”… oops must add some of the US Teev we are being indoctrinated with… The Goggle Box, “Have you Been Paying Attention?”, damn it, some US teev – Stephen Colbert, The Daily Show, John Oliver, “The Muppets”.

    I also wear base-ball caps, T-shirts, jeans and Converse sneakers – so shoot me.

    The entire globe is gaining, subtracting and inventing new and old traditions as our communications become faster, easier and cheaper. Remember not so long ago international phone calls were really expensive?

    Our (Aussie) cuisine reveals many more global influences and in a manner which is more adequately demonstrated than my attempts at explanation here.

    Then I am not so doom and gloom – I have no idea why, I think I should be, I actually have some very good personal reasons to be very depressed, but when I read stuff about how Australia is just the USA’s little clone – I sit back and think, “No, we are not.”


  19. Michael Taylor

    Kronomex, that shows the extent of what a low-life grub Turnbull is. We’ve seen, this week, that he’s not only gutless but a prick to boot.

    Vile man.

  20. Harquebus

    Hear hear. Well said John Lord.
    This article is so good, I am not going to argue the very little that I disagreed with.

    Audie Murphy was a decorated WW2 hero. I have read his memoirs, “To hell and back”.

  21. Jack Straw

    That’s very magnanimous of you Harquebus.

  22. Kyran

    Over the past few years, the major parties have suffered from declining membership and finances. It is hard to get definitive numbers, but there is this from 2013.

    Membership of 50,000 for the Liberals, 43,800 for Labor and 10,400 for the Greens. Just over 100,000 Australians are sufficiently motivated to join a political party. Admittedly, that is only the major parties. For the sake of the exercise, let’s assume there are another 20,000 involved in the minor parties.
    Membership in the major parties was once in the realms of well over 100,000 each, which is an indication of how precipitous the decline has been.
    Compare that ‘political’ decline, if you will, with GetUp. They claim a membership of over 1 million Australians. Unlike political parties, their membership is growing. Their finances are far more transparent than any political party, and are growing.

    Back in April, 2016, you wrote;
    “A democracy should grow with the advancement that comes with an ever-increasing standard of education and should demand more. Otherwise it is doomed to a level of democracy that never prospers or flourishes for the betterment of society.”
    “Our system is one in which politicians set the yardstick instead of one in which excellence is demanded by the people.”

    Your observations in this article are brilliant. The comparison with America is entirely appropriate, as it demonstrates, clearly, how it came to this. It also belie’s the difference. There are increasing numbers of Australians wanting a voice in how change will be effected.
    Fair play to them. And yourself.

    “So we open up a quarrel between the present and the past
    We only sacrifice the future it’s the bitterness that lasts
    So don’t yield to the fortunes you sometimes see as fate
    It may have a new perspective on a different day
    And if you don’t give up and don’t give in, you may just be okay
    Say it loud, say it clear
    You can listen as well as you hear”

    “The Living Years”, just love that song, and its inherent aspiration.
    Thank you Mr Lord and commenters. Take care

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