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.
“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’.”