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Fixing Our Society

Does anyone remember that we once proudly described ourselves as an egalitarian nation? Just after World War II, the Australian government wanted everyone in the world community to understand that Australia was a socialist democracy. Evatt at the UN, then later Gough here at home, were simple expressions of the majority opinion.

We were hugely proud of the fact that we were a country, where the population were the ones in control. We wanted a level playing field with ample public services for all. What happened?

We hear all the time that our democracy is broken. In virtually every debate relating to the big picture issues facing our society, just about the only thing that everyone seems to agree on is that our democracy is broken.

The pattern is obvious. The inequalities and disaffections entertained by a particular part of the citizenry are identified, listed, and then widely and loudly discussed. (Think about women, Aborigines, the poor, the unemployed, the disabled, homelessness, rural services, health services, the environment, etc etc etc).

Then, having identified a range of obvious and dire problems, we implement some half-arsed idea and publicly forget about it all until the next time we again jointly and collectively fail to fix the very same problem.

Pay gap widening. Rich getting richer. Homelessness growing. Great Barrier Reef going white and crumbling. Cannabis illegal, yet super strong legal heroin widely available. Cities outgrowing their infrastructures. Housing, twenty-years plus, unaffordable. Huge concentrations of corporate power in every segment of society. Electricity ever more expensive. Workers ever falling behind bosses raking it in and vacationing in Europe.

Let’s for a moment step back from these ‘intractable’ social problems and ask ‘why?’ Why can’t we seem to address any of these problems? After all, it is not that we have not already had our best minds consider these matters and give their opinions. Sometimes endlessly. Anyone can go to the internet, right now, and track down a thousand articles and discussions relating to any of these topics, with many containing a range of rational responses, sometimes from the best minds of our generation, discussing how we might begin to tackle all of these problems.

Of course, I am not saying that any of these long-standing difficulties and faults in society can be easily fixed. But why no progress at all? Especially since it is relatively easy to also gauge the opinion of the Australian population regarding any and all of these matters. We want these matters addressed: yet nothing continues to happen.

Note that not all social problems are a difficulty. In situations where the interests of the corporate sector and the interests of the majority are aligned then we do seem to get instant government response which is sometimes incredibly effective. Think about littering, smoking, the road toll, child sexual assault, gay rights, sewage and stormwater control, etc. Aussies like a cohesive and safe urban environment and, in the main, so does the corporate world.

I despair for our current social discourse. It has become stupid, mean, and corporate. It simply does not represent the Australia that I know.

Why did our governments sell off all of our electricity and water services? Why did they sell off the Commonwealth Bank? Why did they dismantle the CES to replace it with a huge corporate sector that costs four times as much? Why do we give away all of our mineral wealth to a group of rich men? Why does none of our corporate sector pay any tax? Why are the rich getting so much richer? Why aren’t the workers getting more?

After twenty-five years of our entire mainstream media being owned and run by corporate apologists, these questions are simply not being addressed. The people who ask these sorts of questions are now sneered at and their questions absent. What did we expect?

We allowed all of our social services and structures (in media, banking, retail, health, electricity, etc) to be privatised and sold off piecemeal to the highest bidders (and every one of them with a friend in Parliament). All generally against the wishes of the majority of the population. Now we sit around griping about the rising cost of everything like a bunch of whimpish three-year-olds. We just gripe. It’s pathetic. It’s now too late. The baby-boomers have utterly stuffed up ‘our’ democracy.

Ask any mainstream politician in our land and they will tell you that the most important thing in their universe is to make sure that Australia has a ‘healthy economy’. This is simply because, for the last quarter of a century, every media outlet in our country has been unabashedly expanding their ‘business’ section to cover the entire social realm.

Until now, in our modern age, every political decision has to be ‘economically feasible’ rather than merely being socially equitable. Moreover, to point out this gross capture of democracy is no longer even considered rude. It is celebrated.

I have to accept that we no longer live in a socialist democracy. Our ‘society’ has become an ‘economy’. In other words; the bastards have won. Both major parties take their marching orders directly from the big end of town. Everyone now talks about our country as if it is a big shopping centre. WTF?

Once upon a time, there was at least the need for a modicum of stage-craft. The politicians had to at least pretend that they were acting in the interests of the majority of the people in society. But no longer. Now we have a merchant banker in charge of our land and the leader of the free world is a bigoted property developer from New York.

I think I have cause for at least mild to medium levels of dark despair and foreboding. If you are poor then, apparently, you have the option of starving to death or working hard, all your life, to just make ends meet, so as to make someone else rich. It’s up to you. After all, we are all equally free to sleep under the bridges in our land (at least out in the countryside where the municipal authorities won’t hose you down).

Anyway, why would you complain? Everyone tells us all, all the time, that we all should simply do what is in our bosses best interests because ‘capitalism won’. ‘Socialism’ was defeated. Greed is now not only good; but right. Just ask our PM, the leader of the opposition, all of the media outlets in the land, and just about every kid (under 25) who are wondering why the hell they can’t seem to make ends meet while all of their parents were able to afford to buy such beautiful homes.

None of our ‘intractable’ social problems can even be approached, let alone addressed because we sold our souls to the idea that everyone could be rich. We have turned our society into an economy and all of our politicians now work for the highest bidder. Now the flower-children are all homeowners, small business people and have generally bought the capitalist dream utterly. They all seem to think that they are sitting on a house that is worth a million dollars. A whole generation has drifted from flower child to shallow corporate schmuck in just twenty-five years. It’s pathetic.

This is why we have ‘intractable’ social problems. In simple terms, in an economy, the one with the biggest wallet always wins. And the biggest wallets in our society are very happy with the way that things are, right at this moment. After all, these intractable ‘problems’ are making them ever richer. The bigger the problem; the better the banker’s holiday. Stuff the reef.

It will now be up to the next generations to fight for the soul of Australia. There is no doubt that our descendants will look back on us and disown us completely. We have lost the plot. The baby-boomers are fools. When the 1% walk away from the smoking carcass of the Australian economy after their twenty-five years of disastrous mismanagement, they will be happy to retire to nearby their money in an offshore haven.

Then we, the baby-boomers, will have nobody but ourselves to blame. Yes, our democracy is broken. We, the smug ownership class, have allowed our system to become corrupt. We surrendered our entire free press and most of our infrastructure to large commercial conglomerates.

Ours is no longer a country run by the populace but rather the corporate sector. We have allowed the concept of our democracy to be perverted. Our children and their descendants will look back on our generation with contempt. We identified all of the problems, and carefully, one by one, totally failed to fix any of the big ones.

We allowed our society and political system to be captured by big money. For all of our constant barrage of self-congratulation, the baby-boomer generation has failed. And now it is simply too late. When our housing bubble bursts and Australia settles into becoming a third-world backwater for a quarter of a century, then the baton will not so much pass-on as be wrenched from our hands.

We have allowed our industrial base to virtually disappear. We allowed multinational corporations to export all the profits of the mining boom. We allowed our public services to be sold off, bit by bit, until we have to pay a toll even to travel from one end of a city to another. We have pissed the opportunity to make a better society, up against the wall. I am ashamed to have been born amidst such a cretinous bunch of imbeciles.

But then the baby-boomer generation have simply carried on the great tradition of mankind. In the last two hundred years, we have consumed voraciously everything we might and done our best to irretrievably damage the ecosystem on every continent, even whilst simultaneously causing a mass-extinction and a climate change event.

Hopefully, our children might do better with the little we leave behind. We cannot hope they will consider us kindly. Perhaps the best that we can hope for is that there might actually be someone still around in another thousand years. It’s a low bar but I think we might just clear it.

Happy Holidays.

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  1. Max Gross

    Ah, James, don’t you know? The fix is in!

  2. Tina Clausen

    Wonderfully written and so very true.

  3. Zoltan Balint

    Privatisation was sold by telling us that private sector can do things for less money and this will off-set the income the goverment was getting from these utilities and it will end up in our pockets. The issue was that the goverment realised they will have to spend money (and this would end up in the budget as a negative) to upgrade and maintain the individual utilities. In privatising they also said it will introduce new players which will drive prices down, no – it only introduced prices at the world average so any world company can charge anything they like (profit is good). Over 40 years ago there was NO Parlimentary question time on TV or any type of media that can inform the public the minute it was said in parliment so the public only received what was fed to the press. These day the public knows what was said the minute it happens so there is no debate in parliment between the players just aggression for differentiation. Roads are built by the private sector and a toll is the price. Do the toll road companies pay for the feed in from publicly owned roads – no. In the old days people were told what was good for them because education was limited and thus they knew their place. If you were a factory worker your son will most likely work in the same factory. Universal education by Labor in early 70’s broke this as the public started to understand what was happening. The Liberal party realised that this would be their end and have been trying hard to destroy this as people with education do not know their place. Social equality is poison for the LNP as this would require one thing – equal distribution of wealth.

  4. John Richardson

    A great piece James … thank you. I can remember in one of my very churlish letters sent to Prime Minister John Howard, criticising his government for one puerile action or another, I recounted how at University in the late 60’s I was taught that the economy was a very important part of our society, but under Howard & his acolytes I had come to understand that the economy was our society. I think that the ills that have overtaken our society have been a long time coming, as anyone who has read Donald Horne’s “The Lucky Country” could attest. I personally believe that one of the worst things that befell our nation was the politicisation of the senior ranks of our public service & with that, the enormous expansion of power gifted to the executive arm of government. A nation once proud to act on principle, to espouse aspirational values, to want to share the benefits of its future with others, accepted Howard’s view that the only things of worth are those that have an economic value; hence we now live in a nation where everything has a price & everything is for sale. What an achievement that is.

  5. Freethinker

    Great article, I have been posting comments and few articles about the subject, my last one here:
    Australia has the Government that want and for more than 30 years the macroeconomic model, neoliberlism, that like.

  6. Joseph Carli

    I repeat time and time again..: Once the entrepreneurial / speculative middle-class gains control of the governance of a nation, it is only a matter of time before it is destroyed…only a matter of time..because the middle-classes, having as their mark of “success” their mark of control, a set of economic measurements that can ONLY be achieved by a small percentage of ANY population, there has to be arising alongside of the accumulation of capital a policing force to maintain the security of their means of production..and if the unions become too powerful, theirs is the fear that they will lose control of that means of production and next their status and “living standard”…and with that comes all the strategies required to keep a sympathetic political class..a “consciousness of kind” class in charge in governance….which brings us to private schooling education . . .

  7. babyjewels10

    How did we not know we were being sold a pup?

  8. James

    Well written I enjoyed the read, however whatever this country once was that time in now past, we’re never going to be what we once were, to many snouts in the trough

  9. stephengb2014

    Sorry James et al,

    That was a self pitying diatribe, blaming the baby boomers for something that was totally out of the control of 90% of the baby boomers.

    The current situation the world is down to greed that is true but greed was not created by the baby boomers or any particular generation.

    There are two kinds of human animal,

    1.Those who care; and
    2. Those who don’t.

    and 2. have existed in every generation and have done since recorded history, the very beginnings of so called civilisation.

    I am sick of this myth that the baby boomers were/are the greedy selfish generation, and of you are a baby boomer get of the self pity truck.

  10. townsvilleblog

    Unfortunately since WW11 Australia has been bombarded with ruthless yank capitalism brainwash and has turned our once proud nation into a duplicate of their own dog eat dog society. We were once proud Aussies however these days our society has been turned into a consumer driven society where we ‘must have’ the latest iphone, its ridiculous but that is the brainwash, young Aussies even laugh at yank comedians so thorougher has the brainwash been. As a socirty we have lost what Aussies used to have “common sense.”

  11. Yes Minister

    I’d appreciate advice from management / moderators regarding exactly what is acceptable on this site. For example, I’ve had considerable experience in the capacity of an advocate for victims of the guardianship racket (white, born here adults of mostly anglo-saxon ancestry). The racket is extremely well organized and official perpetuators enjoy total protection. Mainstream media absolutely refuses to expose the grubs and every politician / church / watchdog / human rights organization in Australia runs a mile at the mere mention of kangaroo tribunals. That saId, the group I represent has achieved a few significant victories and we will continue to do so by way of a number of ‘out of left field’ ventures. FWIW, the guardianship racket brings in something north of half a trillion dollars per annum across Australia and it is responsible for hundreds of premature deaths per year in cheap and nasty institutions. Is AIM prepared to assist in exposing this racket ?

  12. Christian Marx

    Excellent article.

  13. Egalitarian

    Everyone must watch Michael Moore’s Documentary “Capitalism A Love Story” it explains it all.

  14. David Stakes

    Bit hard on Baby boomers, not all of us Boomers have our nose in the trough. The Boomers who keep voting LNP are the ones to blame. Always voted Labor and always will.

  15. Egalitarian

    Agree David They forget how the working class benefited from a fair minded egalitarian driven system. Many now own several residential investment properties; that’s why they vote for the LNP. Greed is Good for them.

  16. Freethinker

    stephengb2014, I do not think that the blame is on the baby boomers (my generation), we worked hard and we purchsed cash with our savings, we did not have credit cards or houses larger that 14 squares.

  17. PK1765

    This can be fixed I suggest you all read Professor Bill Mitchells book called “Reclaiming the State”.

  18. Zoltan Balint

    Blame and divide, as long as you fight eachother the power hungry rich do not have to fight you. Baby boomers are a social group that finally achieved freedom of choice all generations after that still get that choice. The individuals that had the power during the baby boomer generation are the ones that still control and limit equal distribution of wealth and it is not the majority of ‘baby boomers’. Rampant consumption was not introduced by the baby boomers it was invented by the generation before in the 50’s with ‘marketing’.

  19. Robert REYNOLDS

    James, I am about a third, perhaps fourth generation Australian. I was born in 1947. So, I qualify as a fully-fledged ‘baby-boomer’. I do not think that I have ‘lost my marbles yet’. Yet, no matter how hard I try, I simply cannot recall this Australia that you talk about in your opening paragraphs.

    ‘Egalitarianism’ has always been an elusive goal in this country. We have always had the Tooraks, Point Pipers, and at the other end the Newtowns and Broadmeadows.

    When you said,

    “Just after World War II, the Australian government wanted everyone in the world community to understand that Australia was a socialist democracy.”

    I nearly fell off my chair. To suggest that the likes of Liberal Prime Minister, Robert Menzies at the Federal level, or Victorian Premier, Henry Bolte at the state level, wanted this, is utterly beyond belief. Menzies sought to ban the Communist Party in 1950. Apparently Menzies was not too enamored with Labor Party leader Ben Chifley’s suggestion that the banks should be nationalized, as he did in the 1949 election, either.

    I was involved in the campaign to have Gough Whitlam elected in 1972. One of the main reasons that Whitlam was successful in that election was the ALP policy to bring Australian troops home from Vietnam. Sure, Whitlam ran on a policy to “Buy Back the Farm” but he did NOT run on a socialist platform. In fact he was from the right-wing of the party and was often at loggerheads with those on the left, who, like myself, genuinely did want a socialist platform.

    In the years following World War II we certainly did have publically owned telecommunications, gas, water, electricity, banks, airlines, ports, etc. and no doubt the gap between the rich and poor was somewhat narrower. We also had many fewer people sleeping in the doorways of our city streets too. We had excellent training schemes for apprentices and a top class technical school system for budding tradesmen. Unlike today, many occupations offered permanent employment, holiday pay, sick pay and long-service-leave and a career path. Those excellent conditions were sold out in favor of an economic model that was championed by right-wing economic zealots, so we could buy cheap shoes, shirts and cars that were made overseas.

    I believe that the most significant reason by far for the deterioration in the economy and general living conditions for many in the community, lies with the decision of the ALP under the stewardship of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating to adopt the neo-liberal economics favored by the economic rationalists, in the early 1980’s.

    As you indicate in your essay James, there was a great deal of triumphalism from the capitalist class after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Quite frankly, I was not sorry to see it go either. The sort of ‘socialism’ that wall represented, was not the sort that I want anything to do with.

    After the wall came down and the USSR dissolved, we had people making declarations along the lines that this event represented the “End of History” and that capitalism had triumphed over socialism. I never believed that for a moment and I still do not. When events such as the demise of the wall occur it is best to take a long term view. And by that I mean in terms of decades, even centuries.

    Once the capitalist class think that they have complete control they start to become ever more strident and viscous in their exploitation of worker and consumers. That is precisely what we have seen happen over the last 3 decades or so.

    What will be the eventual response of the masses to this exploitation? It will mean that in one form or another, the battles that were fought in the 19th and 20th centuries will have to be fought all over again.

    Capitalism is a house of cards that is being supported by large dollops of ever increasing private debt, speculation, and unsustainable levels of immigration. Not unexpectedly, lessons were not learnt from the GFC. Donald Trump has contributed mightily to the demise of his beloved capitalism system with his insane tax cuts. Eventually this will have ramifications for Australia.

    I am hoping that I can live long enough to see the pendulum start to swing back, this time to a more humane form of socialism.

    “Happy Holidays” to you to too, James.

  20. stephengb2014

    Please read the article again. James clearly states that the blame for our current situation is on the baby boomers!

    I also worked hard and studied and worked and studied and worked again, to try and pay for my house at 18% interest, to keep food on the table and drive a car because there was no public transport, worth a damn.

    People need to understand that there has always been those with and those without.

    The world (following WWII) was getting better up untill the mid seventies when the “free marketeers” managed to get Thatcher and Regan on side, and its been down hill since then.

    I came to Australia because the “fair go” and egalitarianism was legendary, but in 1983, Hawke and then Keating launched Australia on the free market band wagon.

    Yes Thatcher, Reagan, Hawke and Keating are baby boomers, but that was thirty five years ago, Gen X has kept the free market bullshot going, since then.

    If you want to blame someone blame Hayak and Friedman, they were the true architects of the so called “free market”. Blame Lewis powell Jnr, for his 1971 memo to the American Chamber of Commerce, blame Arthur Laffer etc, the so called economic genius who made a fortune out of an economic theory of tax cuts to those that did not need a tax cut..

  21. stephengb2014

    Well said Robert Reynolds

  22. Matters Not

    It’s not the history I recall. Sounds like a golden age – a pity I never lived through it.

  23. stephengb2014

    Look up “Golden age”, ot did exist!

  24. Kevin Arnold

    A few months ago I tried to write on just this subject. I failed to express it as elequently and brutally. Thanks James

  25. stephentardrew

    Couldn’t have said it better James. Great article. Sad but true.

  26. JohnI

    Hello stephengb2014 (@December 16, 2017 at 1:02 pm)

    The term “baby boomer” refers specifically to people born after World War II, up until the early-to-mid-60s-or-maybe-early-70s. (it’s very rubbery. In the US the birth rate dropped off quickly after 1964, whereas in Australia it dribbled away some time after 1970.)

    Whatever. Reagan (born 1911), Thatcher (born 1925), Hawke (born 1929) or Keating (born 1944) are definitely not baby-boomers. Even by whatever Humpty-Dumpty, words-mean-what-I-want-them-to-mean, FAKE NEWS standards that are applying this five minutes.

    The whole ‘generation’ thing is a crock. What is being said is: “blame the people in the 50-to-70 age group, who are the ones occupying positions of power at the moment”.

    The baton is being passed to ‘Generation X’ even as I type – Justin Trudeau (born 1971), Emmanuel Macron (born 1977), Jacinda Ardern (born 1980) – and that’s just in the something-approximating-English-speaking world. Let’s see if they can do any better. I’m guessing – not.

    And as I like to point out: does the term ‘Generation X’ come from a book about Baby Boomers…

    …or from the band that launched the career of Billy Idol, whose members were Baby Boomers?

  27. Matters Not

    JohnI re – term “baby boomer” refers specifically to people born after World War II – Who says? Is there some independent authority that determines these matters that I might consult? Perhaps you have a link?

    After all you also follow with: it’s very rubbery. Then you provide some real insight:


    Yes the meaning(s) given to words change(s) over time. As you then point out.

    Shit meaning making is complicated. Isn’t it?

  28. Wam

    BBs are the children of the first BBs whose fathers were fcked in the head by war and by social change. Gen X are the children of fathers who were fcked by vietnam and social change. Those like the swiss profited from the products of war and their ‘largesse’ paid the wages.
    What drivel, ‘we allowed our society….’? Do you not think the ‘we’ is narcissistic? My guess is we had f*ck all to do with it. The poor are far richer than they ever were. The rich are more generous than they ever were. Politicians no longer say ‘two wongs don’t make a white’ but do they think it? Women are equal, well nearly. Aborigines are, as they always have been, treated as a single entity and, too thunderous applause, endowed with a cashless card. Perhaps thatcher was right about society??
    Sorry, Jamsie, unlike the lies of the rabbott, your questions are not being posed by anyone of consequence to anyone with the power to get an answer.

  29. Rob

    Very well written James and oh so very true. John Howard and his ‘aspirational diatribe’ Eagerly supported and encouraged by a compliant media wanting to feed the 24/7 media cycle

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