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Day to Day Politics: A Society for the Common Good. (Updated, yet again)

Sunday March 11 2018

Author’s note:

There are some things we write that at a later date when writing on the same subject the words we choose seem inferior to the original ones. It is with this in mind that I post. I don’t know how many times I have posted this but I always come back to it. Somehow it seems to summarise my thinking, my purpose and the reason for my writing.

Can you imagine, if as a nation, how much more advanced we would be, had we had a common purpose over the past few years instead of the vile negativity Tony Abbott and other like-minded politicians injected us with? The cost of it in economic and societal terms we may never find out.

A Society for the Common Good. That’s all I want.

I was walking my dog Zach (since departed) one autumn day in 2016 and thinking about the year in politics. Many things came to mind but the one thing that stood out was the sense of self-entitlement that politicians have.

As if just being a politician necessitated some form of self-indulgence that set them apart from the society they are supposed to represent. My thoughts drifted to what I thought a society should be.

When, many years ago, the lady with the bad hairdo uttered her famous and dispassionate condemnation of the human species:

”There’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first”

I was horrified. It was a statement that could only be expressed by someone with a deep sense of isolation, selfish indifference, or indulgence. Was she saying that families only consisted of individuals making their way without any dependency on the societal structure? The basic need to coexist and seek companionship.

We are by nature a herding animal. We form groups because no individual can survive without the assistance of others. ”No man is an island” as John Donne said. Margaret Thatcher’s statement condemns us to class self-centeredness and serfdom.

Successful societies should be built around a common good and we need to examine which political ideology is best placed to build such a society.

Firstly, let’s ask ourselves what is an ideal society based on the assumption that’s it’s an attainment we may never accomplish, but none the less is a worthwhile aspiration. Even call me idealistic if you want.

In the modern Western sense, an enlightened society is a populace of men, women, and children who as a collective desire to express their humanity, work, aspirations, spirituality, art, poetry and play with the richest possible diversity.

If Robert Kennedy was looking over my shoulder he might say:

“the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages… It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom or our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

It cultivates a common good with equality of opportunity for all. A society where one’s sexual preference or gender is not a judgement upon your character and the color of your skin says nothing about you other than perhaps your geographical place of birth.

A society that believes in individual pursuit, intellectual accomplishment and financial reward only regulated by what is beneficial for the common collective good. In other words everyone is entitled to an equitable share of society’s wealth.

If Abe Lincoln was looking over my shoulder he might say:

“Labour is prior to and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labour, and could never have existed if labour had not first existed. Labour is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration”

A society where freedom of expression is guaranteed but limited only by the innate moral personal decency of the individual. Where free speech is fair speech. An enlightened society in which the suggestion that we need to legislate ones right to hate another person is considered intellectually barren.

A society where the health and welfare of all is sacrosanct and access to treatment is assured. Where the principle that we should treat others in the same manner as we expect them to treat us is indelible in the mind of every citizen. A society that respects science before myth and mysticism, but at the same time recognises the individual’s right to the expression of their own form of spirituality so long as it doesn’t hinder the common good.

A society that should be judged by its welcoming, and how well it treats its most vulnerable citizens. By how well protected we are and how accessible the law is regardless of stature or wealth.

In Democratic Societies (the best – or least bad form of government) our herding instincts are realised by the election of leaders who form government. Even in the imperfection of democracy, we realise that a group mentality advances society better than dictatorial individuality.

So we need a government that is subservient to the will (the common good ethics) of the people and is responsive to the inclusiveness of public opinion.

It is government that decides and regulates the progress and ambitions of society. Or at least provides the environment in which to do so. There is very little that is done in the name of progress that cannot be attributed in some way to government. Individual or collective ambition can only be achieved within a social structure built and controlled by government.

These are the wisest words ever written by a politician:

“It is an absolute principle of democracy that governments should not and must not say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards. Nothing could be more calculated to bring our democracy into disrepute and alienate the citizenry of Australia from their government than if governments were to establish by precedent that they could say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards.”

Unfortunately, they were written by a person so synonymous with the most disgusting lying that it is doubtful that another will emerge to equal him in generations.

Currently, we are experiencing a shift in power from government to those who control the means of production, financial institutions, the media, the rich, the privileged and large corporations.

Government by the people for the common good needs to be taken back. It is our entitlement, not there’s.

Catalyst is a word that describes something that is a defining reason for change, or it is what stimulates discussion about something that otherwise wouldn’t have taken place.

How I look at the past few years. They have been the catalyst that might wake us from the political malaise that had bogged us down in a quagmire of narcissism. It’s the individual first second and third.

Every part of society, when you think about it, has been indoctrinated with a nefarious, me first, Attitude that has seen the common good almost vanish.

If a wise old man was advising you on its resurrection what might he say?

“How can I help you” might be his opening words that spring from lips that form the beginning of a smile.

“Is it not possible to hope that there are some people of integrity who might form a centrist party dedicated to honest government for all and the principles of “from each according to her/his ability, to each according to her/his need”?

My thought for the day.

“People need to wake up to the fact that government affects every part of their life (other than what they do in bed) and should be more interested. But there is a political malaise that is deep-seated”


9 comments

  1. helvityni

    The English had their Maggie, we have our very own Michaelia; both of them might have had their empathy bypass, but at least Maggie had some civility about her…

    (Michaelia’s hairspray is as good as Maggie’s though….)

  2. Clayton Werner

    a good thread of sense and logic that runs against a few common and current grains – it deserves to be updated and re-published!

  3. Keitha Granville

    May I also quote a Kennedy – JFK. He may have not been a perfect human being, but his inaugural speech has a lot of similar ideals. (I don’t know how to do hyperlinks but I am sure most of the AIMN readers would be able to find it)

    This is a wonderful piece of writing, how do we get these principles across to the political class ? Their current ethos seems to be survival from election to election with as much squandering of allowances as they can. Grubs, scum, parasites, self-centered miserable excuses for supposed servants of the people.

    We deserve so much better, so why do we keep voting these creatures into parliament.

  4. wam

    Dear lord john,
    Thatcher overcame major handicaps, gender, social status and status quo. Her success or failure deserves debating not debasing..

    Anyone who toured Europe and then visited Britain under the pre-thatcher boys and then re-visited after thatcher would have the context to understand the comment.

    My mother has 3 sisters who lived in Stevenage, Glasgow and Perth. We were still sending ‘food’ parcels 20 years after the war.
    We stayed with my Aunts in 73, 77, 80 using Eurail in Europe based in a friend’s house in Bad Wildungen then a car hire in Britain.
    The economic difference between the townspeople was obvious and sad. To see the women pushing prams in Stevenage wearing flimsy winter clothes was awful. By the end of thatcher the appearance was comparable and only eastern Europe were ‘left’ in the poor zone.

    Have a good sunday Lord John. I look forward to your causerie tomorrow.

    ps what sort of an idiot talks about adani in Adelaide??

  5. diannaart

    John Lord, can we not speak the name of the reptilian one? I refer to the quotation of the bat-eared freak’s signature hypocrisy – which deserves placement of its author’s name. Just sayin’.

    @ wam

    ps what sort of an idiot talks about adani in Adelaide??

    Selling coal for sale overseas is global – burning coal produces pollution (even ‘clean’ coal) the thing about pollution is, it is also global. In fact, in recognition of the long term and global consequences, Adani has become a hot topic in Melbourne in the lead up to the Batman election. Those are the types of “idiots” to whom you refer?

    Yours Truly,

    An idiot.

  6. Florence nee Fedup

    Shorten answers all questions put to him no matter where he is. Now I know some find that strange. If he didn’t answer questions put to him, the headlines would have been that he was confused. Reluctant to talk about Adani.

  7. Matters Not

    When it comes to education policy, Shorten and Plibersek are unrivalled – but not in a positive sense. Another disaster in train.

    Maybe Labor has forgotten how the fairness and equity of the first Gonski review was received with a collective sigh of relief by educators, commentators, and even by most politicians. When not enough of it was implemented there was very evident rising concern about unresolved old problems. This was new and game-changing: even the Coalition felt the pressure to go back to some of Gonki’s original recommendations.

    To go from being so far ahead in the policy debate (via Gonski’s original recommendations) to now being so far behind takes a very, very special set of skills that only Shorten and Plibersek seem to possess.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/11/labors-250m-promise-to-catholic-schools-reveals-a-funding-horror-story

    It gets worse:

    Most significantly, the Turnbull government adopted the recommendation to establish a national schools resourcing board. …

    Labor has apparently not been able to learn anything new. The difference this time around is that they might get an unwelcome judgment from an electorate that has, and one that expects something better.

    Yep – Labor has apparently not been able to learn anything new. Unbelievable. No principles just dumb deals.

  8. OPPOSE THE MAJOR PARTIES

    Under ‘the common good’ theory it may seem rational to some to spend most of the collective resources on a military. Please enlighten me/us, who is to decide what specifically the common good may be and how it is to be ascertained.

  9. wam

    As is usual the women put this man’s short term blindness into context.
    It is clear that shorten is too trusting to bother preparing for such an obvious question or with deflecting questions by a simple political put down rather than attempting a complex answer to a question designed to embarrass.
    Weatherill did well to keep a straight face.

    What benefit is there for SA by shorten talking to inner melb latte sippers, especially when the reporting will be negative regardless?

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