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Day to Day Politics: Conservatives’ bizarre acts of self-importance.

Saturday 7 July 2017

This time last year I was in bed with some sort of virus feeling miserable and sorry for myself. The new Turnbull Government had taken office and the hypocrisy of our new leader was becoming very apparent.

If as Shakespeare said; “time is but the essence of history,” then a lot of water has flowed under the political bridge in the past twelve months.

None more so than from those on the right of our political landscape who have launched concerted effort to not only redefine what conservatism means but to also win the ideological war being played out by the coalition parties.

What is conservatism?

I would say that Conservatives (the LNP) believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty and traditional values. They believe the role of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals. Conservative policies generally emphasise empowerment of the individual to solve problems. And they are cautious about change or innovation, typically in politics or religion.

Conservative thought is coloured by the belief that – over time – history has produced institutions and modes of government that function well, and which should be largely preserved for the future. They also believe that political change should be organic and gradual, rather than revolutionary

What is a neo conservative?

Neo conservatism goes back to the 30s however in its modern form it is identified with George W Bush who embraced unbridled capitalism, corporate greed together with literalist Christianity to form a modern neo conservatism. Carl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld and others added global superiority to the mix believing that America in all aspects was above the rest of the world. A further element in this mix is Tea Party Republican politics.

One of the most bizarre aspects of this fight to the death within the Liberal Party is the presence of Cory Bernardi who defected from the party in order to set up a conservative movement based on his own particular variety of extremist conservatism.

It seems that although he has left the Liberal Party he is still popular within it. So much so that he has been invited to address the Roseville Liberal Party branch on Sydney’s north shore.

It is being promoted as an evening with Senator Bernardi as a chance to listen to “the ultimate outsider” on “just where the political landscape is heading at the moment.”

The invitation comes from the Northern Sydney Conservative Forum, which invited former Labor leader Mark Latham to a fundraiser at the same venue in February.

On top of this we have former Prime Minister willing to address any function, broadcaster or journalist who will listen to him talk about scary shock and awe inequality based conservatism. In a leaked audio he described the budget as a second best effort. He still thinks his 2014 budget that placed the onus of fixing the surplus on the poor was good conservatism.

“Here on 2GB a few weeks back,” he (Senator Cormann) told Ray Hadley: ”If you can’t get the budget back into balance through spending cuts because the parliament does not let you do it, then the only other way that you can do it, sadly, is through tax increases,” Mr Abbott told radio 2GB.

He also defended his promotion of an alternative conservative manifesto as an attempt to ensure the Liberal Party was in the ”best possible position to win the next election”. ”The last thing I want to do is be difficult,” he said. He could have added; ‘’so long as I get my way.’’

The problem as I see it for conservatives is that they are a collective of individuals all having contrasting views of what conservatism is, although the three mentioned do have a commonality in that they share a hatred of Islam and gay people.

None seems to have a coherent set of axiomatic principles. They talk about Australian values but are unable to articulate them as being different to any other western democracy. There is a rigidity, an unbending attitude toward change that is out of step with the demands of a technological world. They want to cling to the simplicity of a world long gone.

An observation

Change is a process, not an event.”

I have never understood this reluctance for change. My view is that conservatives dislike and resist change in the foolish assumption that they can make permanent that which makes them feel secure. Yet change is in fact part of the very fabric of our existence.

They carry the luggage of a delusional oversimplification of what should be a coherent set of principles that are pliable and open to reformulation and restructuring.

The problem is rigidity of concept and a lack of application of empirical evidence (climate change) to human beliefs and attitudes and the defining of clear moral obligations such as their objection to marriage equality.

Equity, distribution, alleviation of poverty, adequate income, suitable welfare, health, aged and disability support should be the foundations of any ism but they don’t feature largely in the Australian conservative. Well those of the ilk of Abbott, Bernardi or Hanson.

I would have thought that the highest value any ideology has would involve the common good, and that a measure of that value might be related to how it best served the most disadvantaged in the community.

I have probably seen more change in my lifetime time that any other period in history. Often worthwhile change comes with short-term controversy but the pain is worth it for long-term prosperity.

And change sometimes disregards opinion and becomes a phenomenon of its own making with Its own inevitability. Change is in fact one of the only constants in life.

Conservatives often become so trapped in the longevity of sameness that they never see better ways of doing things.

Science has made in my lifetime the most staggering achievements and they are embraced, recognised and benefited by all sections of society and none of it could have come about without constant change. Resisting change can be folly and one of the best examples is the denial of climate science.

My thought for the day

”The secret of change is to focus all your energy on not fighting the old but on building the new.”

24 comments

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  1. bobrafto

    This time last year I was in bed with some sort of virus feeling miserable and sorry for myself.

    I wish I could remember 12 months ago.

  2. OPPOSE THE MAJOUR PARTIES

    think u have confused conservatism with liberalism. they are not necessarily the same thing. conservatism is basically a simplistic political ideology that seeks to maintain the status quo – in particular the relations of power established in a social context. liberalism is all the other things u describe. obviously liberalism and conservatism can compliment each other but conservatisms accommodation of liberalism would be limited to the extent that liberalism does not seek change. change is a possibility in liberalism due to the insistance upon the interests and freedoms of individuals while change is never accepted by conservatism. conservatism is an inherently regressive and ignorant set of values that views society as a static object to be preserved and is usually put forward by those few who derive the greatest benefits from maintaining the existing order.

  3. Zathras

    I thought traditional Conservatism came from the notion that the wealthy “were on a good thing” so any change had to be gradual so as not to disadvantage but ideally to further strengthen their privileged position.

    Neo-Conservatism to me is about further enriching the same people simply by removing all regulatory barriers and decreasing taxes and to be done as quickly as possible with no consideration to other consequences, believing “the market” will fix everything.
    It’s also about “plundering the vaults” by transferring public assets into private hands and a misguided belief in trickle-down economics.
    Ultimately it’s motivated and maintained by personal greed and not public interest and a lot like fascism in its execution.

  4. Michael Taylor

    Bob, I wish I could remember 12 days ago!

  5. Keitha Granville

    “…… a lot like fascism in its execution” – yep, hit the nail there.

    We need a leader like Gough right now, someone is not afraid of change, someone who insists on change. We are wandering along getting nowhere, in many cases going backwards and in danger of disappearing into the Doldrums ( from a children’s book called the Phantom Tollbooth)

    I find it hard to understand the DEregulation of many things that the Conservatives don’t like and at the same time the OVERregulation of others. I was talking to some teacher friends the other day about the plans to have NAPLAN testing for every grade, and tests for children in Kinder and Prep. They are astounded, shocked and horrified that the government can’t see the damage being done to learning by the current NAPLANS, and why they don’t see that countries who are the top of the world in education have NO testing at all (Finland) This seems to me to be just one example of an ideology so entrenched in the last century, completely unwilling to accept that they MUST change to allow us to succeed in the world – or else we will be like the dinosaurs and just vanish.

  6. Aortic

    Actually John, the correct term is the Poseville Liberal Party branch. Having lived amongst them all for forty odd years, even though they were down to their last dollar the thought of engendering change, through a vote other than the Tories possibly for the better, would be anathema to them. I suppose they think it might lead to bestiality or dancing, but Cori will sort them out on these issues I suppose.

  7. stephengb2014

    A very brief check of the origins of the Conservatives leads one to the conclusion that Conservatives are really just Tories who actually believed in the place of the Crown (divine status of the Crown) and the rights of hierarchy (born to rule – the inevitability of Class).

    From Maggie Thatcher on, the Conservatives went that stage further to take on the fundamentals of the free market as was espoused by Hayek, Friedman (and a few less notables). The Conservatives under Maggie Thatcher saw that the free market fundamentalists (neoliberals) policies exactly aligned with the old Tory ethos, which is why it was taken on with so much agusto.

    I must say that searching the raison d’etre of the Australian Liberals under Menzies bares no relationship to the current Liberals in the Coalition. The current LNP is by far more like the Conservatives of Maggie Thatcher. Whereas people like Abbott are more akin to the Tories of the 1680s who were apposed to Cromwell and loyal to the divinity of the Crown and its hierarchy of the upper class.

    Then there is Bernardi, who is a Free Market Fundamentalist with no real understanding of the Conservatives of old or new but knows there is no acceptable name for those pure neoliberal ideas. I suspect that he dare not espouse his true neoliberal policies and so hides behind the title of Conservative. Bernadi seems also to be influanced by Ayn Rand.

    Finally Pauline Hanson is just a Right wing Xenaphobe who would have no idea where she is on the political spectrum but I would place her close to Right wing Tea Party with dictatorial ambitions, but actually I don’t think she realises that is her modus erandi.

    My thoughts for what it is worth.

    S G B

  8. OPPOSE THE MAJOUR PARTIES

    conservatism certainly shares some aspects of fascism. i think stephengb 2014 sums up the development of neo conservatism quiet well. neo conservatism takes aspects from liberalism and neo liberalism because conservatism was a political ideology that offered no corresponding economic theory of its own, that is, none other than feudalism.

  9. Jaquix

    Is it only 12 months ago? Feels a lot longer …..

  10. jim

    Well my theory is the consertives or LNP are AH’s.

  11. jim

    I wonder is protecting the big banks being “conservative”?.

    When Labor members were appointed and sought to alter the senate hearing dates to
    allow more time for preparation and to provide additional days for questioning,
    the Coalition members used their voting majority to press ahead with dates predetermined
    with the banks.

    The banks have ridden roughshod over their customers, the Australian people, and
    the Turnbull Government is providing cover to protect the banking industry from
    further scrutiny.

    The above says it all it does, it clearly shows the Lying Liberal partay are working for the elites and most likely some of those “elites” run the banks, again its easy to see the Liberal partay do not care one iota for the workers who get thrown against the wall and more by the banks most likely working in cohort withe the LNP’s_ ABCC.
    Come on the election.

  12. diannaart

    I have probably seen more change in my lifetime time that any other period in history.

    @ Lord John, unless you are Doctor Who, that is probably true… for everyone.

    @ S G B agree with your comments

    @ Jim

    Conservatism surely has been corrupted. One would think that conserving our planet, its resources and inhabits would be the very basis of conservatism. Irony gone mad.

  13. economicreform

    Neoconservatism is a political ideology very closely associated with the U.S. alone. It is concerned with protecting American interests in the international theatre by use of military force, among other things. Recent American presidents were and are fierce proponents of this movement, as the regime change wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and other countries give testament to.

  14. economicreform

    Neoconservatism should not be confused with Neoliberalism. The latter has come to refer to advocacy of free-trade, privatising and deregulatory economic policies, made famous by Reagan in the U.S. and by Thatcher in the U.K. It is blamed by many as the root cause of the financial crash in 2007-2008. The main similarity between the two movements is that they may both be described as “technofascism”, meaning melders of corporate, state and military power into a few political elites that allow comprehensive control.

  15. guest

    John, you make an interesting point when you say “Conservatives often become so trapped in the longevity of sameness that they never see better ways of doing things.”

    Paul Kelly is playing Jeremiah in the WE Australian:” Blessed be the egoistic individuals”. He claims that society, especially the relation between the people and the government, is disintegrating. And why? Because of the loss of ‘shared values’, ‘the most fundamental norms’, ‘objective moral order’, ‘God-ordained morality’; that is, Christianity is in decline in secular Australia.

    Which is quite surprising, because it always seemed that the individual has been seen as the enterprising, innovative and free driver of our politics and economy.

    Not so, according to Kelly. Not without religion which binds us all together, gives us “a particular conception of human nature.” None of this “individual autonomy” and especially not “progressive ideology…dismantling the values of civilization”. And he goes on to refer to several august writers to support him – no doubt conservative chaps.

    All being done in the name of justice (legal decisions Kelly does not like), rights (you know, Human Rights commission types of rights) and progress (change, presumably).

    And of course Greg Sheridan writes similarly in the same issue. “Without transcendental belief, there is no ultimate philosophical obstacle to the pursuit of power as the ultimate human pursuit.”

    Does that explain Abbott, for example? And it does contradict Kelly, somewhat, for his reliance on opinions provided by humans.

    Meanwhile, Janet Albrechtsen is attacking fellow females, such a Hanson-Young and Yasmin Abdul-Agied. She is especially vindictive in discussing Hanson-Young’s comments about “grumpy old white men’, possibly because Janey knows a few. She says of Hanson-Young’s thinking that it is “a rotten form of thinking evident from those who have grown accustomed to hanging out with people with identical views, never engaging in serious debate or testing their ideas, their responses, their thinking…When your choice of drug is inhaling the social media exhaust fumes of your enclosed habitat” (you know, the common plebs tearing society apart).

    What was that about Kelly’s “egoistical individuals”? And then Albrechtsen talking about Kool Aid, was it. and the Murdoch bunker?

    Can’t you just feel the “sense of community and shared values’ they preach?

  16. susan

    Guest, I think you have brought up an interesting point about religion and politics. Religion has become essential to right wing politics because exclusion is the right wing’s only weapon to keep the people under control.

  17. helvityni

    Another excellent post, guest, totally agree.

    “Can’t you just feel the “sense of community and shared values’ they preach?” Yes, I can, most clearly…. 🙂

  18. John Lord

    Guest . Thanks thanks for your comments. I read the headlines of the articles you refer to. I wonder what they cannot imagine a world without religion.

  19. Aussie Pride

    We are all conservative on some issues, liberal about others, and throw in a little commie or full tilt socialist in other areas. A politicians wage is paid through socialism for goodness sake. In our homes, in our personal do’s and don’ts, in our evolving selves. Generally we are all more socialist and liberal in youth and grow more conservative as we age. That often can include even our choices of where we party and socialize and how we choose to go about it. Great businesses are built from collective minds, physical effort and even financial collective no matter the form, we are more ‘collective’ than anything else.

    I think what’s most important is that it’s clear that this current government, is a bunch of lying, corrupt, delusional, abusive idiots; destroying our fair nation and seriously harming our citizens. We need to come together on this. It’s not just them though. Look around you.. the rent seekers, the predatory bosses, the deceitful marketing people, the malicous ex boyfriend or girlfriend, the small business operator who scams the system, the big business operator who scams the entire country, the little guy who lies on his tax return, the mum who scams the system to get that bit more FTB, the accountant who makes a living advising others how to legally avoid paying in.

    Our entire lifestyle system is built like that now. The lack of empathy and accountability, the lack of social cohesion and brotherly love. In essence the loss of decency and honesty and critical thinking. They don’t practice what they preach, and that’s why they’ve lost the true conservative vote. I think the change we need, the only one that will really change anything, is a complete overhaul of who we are as individuals and a nation. INTEGRITY fixes a hole host of issues, no matter which side of the political divide your on. No matter your income, no matter your race, no matter your faith. INTEGRITY is what we need, internally and externally.

    So i vote for the collective, sustainable integrity, party!! Whoever the hell that is.

  20. Aussie Pride

    We need another Menzies. Not just people who quote him and show with their actions they are anything but. We need men like Menzies in our neighborhood, our work environment, our businesses and our political arena.

    I agree with stephengb2014. Thinking similar. I think your right about Bernardi. I was with him for a bit, i left fairly quickly after trying to hold on to a conservative ideal that didn’t fit.

    They’ve all high jacked the name ‘Conservatives’ yet none of them bare the true form. As you so astutely state stephengb2014.

  21. Sam

    I recently read a discussion from a couple of strong willed, lifetime conservative voters that seemed to actually be genuine non-trollish people and fully admitted to the stupidity of some of their ilk(in that they seemed to be as disgusted by the likes of Abbott and Hanson as much as we are).

    To them the true conservative “seeks to preserve from our history, that which is worth preserving and resisting change that is only for the sake of change.”

  22. laramelia

    The research evidence is now pretty clear (& easy to Google) on two issues that are relevant here:
    Right wing people have higher levels of anxiety than left wing, & tend to be more authoritarian, so aim to order & control their world through the latter to keep the former in check. Disorderly change is anathema.
    The suicide rate increases significantly when conservatives are in power; this holds true in the UK, US & Australia. In Australia, it increases even further when conservatives “rule” at both state & federal levels. Causation is difficult to pin, but it’s thought to be the result of the individual’s increased isolation in the dog eat dog environment produced. A bit like living in an uptight, autocratic family where feelings, self worth & happiness are rubbished, & the rules are everything?
    Unlike the right wing journos, I don’t despair for the future. We’ve built a more inclusive society before, we know how to do it, & more people are crying out for it right now, world wide, than has happened for a long time. “It may not happen overnight, but it will happen” if we keep pushing.

  23. Pingback: Day to Day Politics: Conservatism, change, and the right to rule | WewUnik World

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