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.
”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.”