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Is it our fault or theirs?

Is it reasonable to expect our leaders to set the tone for the nation? Is it reasonable to expect them to treat with respect the people with whom they disagree? Is it reasonable to expect them to tell us the truth so we can then make informed decisions about alternatives?

How can they achieve anything constructive by shouting and name-calling and misrepresenting or cherry-picking the facts? The only aim seems to be to divide us into warring camps – the greater the differences the better – so they can achieve electoral success.

But it is us that bestow that.

So is it our fault?

Do they, rather than making decisions based on the best outcome, identify our weaknesses and exploit them? Why do we allow them to get away with deliberately manufacturing fear rather than offering solutions?

Just like our politicians, we find it difficult to have a civil political conversation with someone with whom we disagree. On social media it’s a battle zone. Rather than the public uniting together to expect better from our politicians – in behaviour, transparency, accountability and results – people fling insults at total strangers.

Are they fuelling our bad behaviour or are we rewarding theirs?

The blame game is constant. Leyonjhelm’s supporters say he was justified in spreading rumours about Sarah Hanson-Young’s sex life because she thinks all men are rapists – something no-one has ever said because it is patently ridiculous – but that’s become their truth.

Is it Leyonjhelm’s fault that hating feminists has appeal?

We get to choose who we believe.

Why do some people believe representatives of the fossil fuel industry instead of scientists?

Why do some people believe George Christensen and Pauline Hanson about Islam instead of listening to the many members of the Australian Muslim community who continually step up in the media, community and elsewhere to answer any concerns people may have, only to have to defend their commitment to country regardless of how long they have been here and what contribution they are making to our society? Why do they ignore our intelligence services who have repeatedly spoken about the significant role the Australian Muslim community are playing in keeping us safe from terrorism?

It takes a special kind of cognitive dissonance to allow a government to get away with boasting about record company profits and the millionaires flocking to Australia, and how all this investment has created a record number of jobs, at the same time as arguing they need to cut taxation to attract investment. This cut in revenue will be accompanied by increased spending on GST distribution, defence acquisitions, and infrastructure, locked in for decades.

Everything’s rosy if you aren’t interested in the paradoxes.

But how do they get away with it? Are they exploiting our laziness?

Why is it that, in families, the parents set the standards, in schools, the executive set the tone, in business and other organisations, management are responsible, yet when it comes to our government, rather than taking the lead in setting an example, they try to appeal to our worst instincts and exploit our ignorance?

If we demand better will they behave better? If they behave better will we?

Is it our fault or theirs?


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  1. Miriam English

    It is clearly the fault of those in government. They have become sealed inside a bubble that allows very little contact with the real Australia. This is shown by a lot of things: the unprecedented levels of secrecy, the shoring up of dirty deals with fossil fuel companies when 84% of Australians want renewable energy, the wicked attacks on LGBT+ people when about 80% of Australians want to eliminate discrimination, the pushing of extremist Christianity at a time when levels of religion are dropping drastically and when even most Christians find the extremists repulsive, the insane new laws against activists, protesters, charities, and whistleblowers…

    This government is completely out of touch with Australia. They see us as the enemy, instead of the ones they serve. It doesn’t matter what we want; they’re determined to hold to a course corrupted by bribery and secretive anti-science religious affiliations. This is an incredibly dangerous direction.

    They think they can do what they want, change the laws to crush resistance, and cover up people’s discontent with saturation propaganda from Murdoch’s paid-off media. It might even work for a while, but they are building up a reservoir of anger and resentment in our society that is sure to boil over at some point. In the meantime Australia becomes more and more broken and regressive… one of the best places in the world to live is becoming less and less so.

  2. wam

    A great thought for the thinking of.
    Believe fossils or the fossilised? The former is traditional, known and safe. The latter is left according to the former.
    So newton’s first sets the tone the momentum was there in 2009 when the rabbott and the loonies defeated the howard turnbull rudd wong carbon price but rudd blew it by not going DD. Now the for and against are fixed and the compromise is nuclear and we will settle for subsidised coal.
    It may be shocking but in a two horse race the man, used loosely, is a mile in front.

    Miriam, half of Australia think they are doing a good job. As bill shows there is no anger??

  3. Stephen G B

    The fault is the Neoliberal Agenda, look it up, it os clear as the nose on your face!

  4. Peter F

    Wam, Nuclear is not an option, unless you count the sun.

  5. Miriam English

    wam, nuclear fission is, out of all sources of energy, the most expensive, the slowest to come online, and the most dangerous. As Peter F says, the only sensible nuclear option is to use the sun — solar power. Its thermonuclear furnace is safely 150 million km away at the bottom of a very deep gravity well.

    wam, I think you’ve got your numbers wrong. Turnbull has about 30% approval these days, I think. Anyway, I don’t believe the surveys say what they’re interpreted to say. Mostly I think they ask whether Turnbull would be better than Shorten — nearly half the country doesn’t want either of them. And the surveys could also be read as asking whether people believe the propaganda from the Murdoch-controlled press. That number is dwindling to surprising lows.

  6. Ella Miller

    Thank you Kaye Lee, for your thought-provoking article. Maybe when the people of our country suffer a lot more…they will wake up…take notice and act. I hope it will be not too late.

  7. Miriam English

    wam, the survey results are presented in a misleading way. A result that shows about 70% of Australians don’t want Turnbull is not any kind of victory for him. Shorten has a similar percentage against him. Turnbull and Shorten are timid and useless followers (I choke at calling them “leaders”) and are not wanted. Neither of them has any courage and both are beholden to big money and religious fanatics. Neither of them appear to consider ordinary Australians particularly important. Shorten makes some of the right noises, but his continued willingness to embrace coal and religious fundamentalists shows he is really not much different from Turnbull.

  8. Terence Mills

    Interesting that the government have decided not to release the Ruddock Review (to determine if Australian law adequately protects the human right to freedom of religion) even though the report was delivered to the Prime Minister on 18 May.

    Yet we are seeing people like Social Services Minister Dan Tehan calling for a federal religious discrimination act and Senator James Patterson offering some vague support on ABC radio this morning.

    I wonder why these boy scouts have been sent out to float the idea of federal legislation, is it just to test the water ? If so it seems strange that the government are holding back the Ruddock report allegedly, until after the super Saturday by-elections. Seems highly manipulative to me.

  9. corvus boreus

    A portion of the blame for the overall decline in civility can be apportioned to sledging politicians, and a partial/personal solution would be not to cast a vote for any pollie who acts like an abusive jerk.

    Blame should also be apportioned to media influences (‘main-stream’ or ‘social’), and a partial/personal solution would be to refuse to consume or feed into media discourse that inflames tribalistic division and diminishes decency.

    Some blame must also go to every single person here who has ever used a hyperbolic pejorative to as a lazy put-down for those of differing opinions. Such venting of vitriol may feel cathartic, but does not qualify as constructive.

    I can’t really do much to stop politicians like Dutton and Leyonhjelm from spouting their vile bile, nor temper the deranged ranting of media opinionistas like Hadley or Jones, but the least I can do is avoid the worst pitfalls of rank hypocrisy by taking responsibility for the content of my own commentary.

    ‘Everybody’s got a lot to say about everybody else,
    but it’s our own transgressions that tend to just melt away
    into the general critique of whose blame, whose fault, who’s wrong…’

  10. Terence Mills

    The rallies in defence of the ABC yesterday were quite revealing and as Phillip Adams noted, this government are committed to destroying anything that is described as public:

    “It’s not just public broadcasting, it’s public health, it’s public education, it’s public transport – If it’s public, public is the adjective, it is now a pejorative”.

  11. helvityni

    …and good people like Kerry O’Brien, Magda Zubanski, Thomas Keneally, Eva Cox et others have joined in the plea to save ABC; heart-warming…I thought that Turnbull is also a friend of our NB…maybe he was?

  12. Phil

    Interesting proposition Kaye. Whose fault is it?

    Our fault if we think that the system of capitalism that the two party state serves up is leading us to some sort of social utopia if we can just tweek it’s nasty bits we can smooth out the road ahead ie stop burning coal, eat less meat, etc etc.

    Not our fault if we think the capitalist system is irreconcilably corrupt and broken beyond practical repair and that forces beyond our personal control will determine the road ahead. Our personal part in this situation is to steer a course using all the skills of human decency that we can muster and face the storm with courage and reasoned conviction.

  13. Kaye Lee

    Interesting article on the ABC positing that our defamation laws make it difficult for the media to hold the government to account at times.

    Eddie Obeid successfully sued Fairfax and Kate McClymont for a series of articles about him being corrupt and collected $1,162,173. When it was later proven that he was indeed corrupt, the decision doesn’t get overturned nor the money returned.

    “While they routinely clothe themselves in the conceit that you need a thick skin in politics, our representatives are notoriously quick to reach for the lawyers when they don’t like what they read. Bob Hawke remains the champion, having sued pretty much everyone in his career and collecting an impressive collection of payouts.

    Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen also sued everything that moved, filing more than 20 suits. His entire cabinet at one point memorably jointly sued the opposition leader for calling them all corrupt. Which, really, they were.

    Liberace successfully sued a magazine for calling him a homosexual.

    In the US, politicians just can’t sue at all.

    Senator Hanson-Young, like any politician contemplating a lawsuit, will hopefully consider these wider issues in addition to the specific questions confronting her.

    Should she sue?

    Will it achieve something meaningful?

    Will it shut Senator Leyonhjelm up?

    Hard to say but, if any politician ever had a just cause for defamation proceedings, then she is top of the list.”

  14. king1394

    Is it reasonable to expect our leaders to set the tone for the nation? Considering the high expectations burdening football players nowadays, I think it is reasonable to expect our leaders to also maintain a façade of politeness and courtesy. When a footballer comments on a game he always shows respect for the opposition. When a footballer does something stupid it is discussed for days and the player is often put through a severe disciplinary process, often including suspension. We seem to have raised the standards of behaviour so much that footballers now seem like leaders, while our leaders are frequently appearing as the most thuggish people in our society.

  15. New England Cocky

    @ Kaye Lee: Eddie Obeid and his Labor government have a lot to answer for still.

    Yet in fairness, the Member for Northern Tablelands (Ind) achieved significant improvement in public assets by following the required directions on how to vote on specific motions. After 12 years of nothing the electorate began to think that maybe, just maybe, Macquarie Street politicians had learned that the metropolitan belief that “there be dragons” and “you fall off the edge of the world” beyond the magic circle of Pearce’s Corner, the Nepean Bridge and the Royal National Park was truly an an urban myth.

    Waiting for Godot and the National$ to achieve anything for a regional electorate are about the same …. nothing ever comes.

  16. Kaye Lee

    Very good point king1394.

    But the mentality seems to be, as Abbott infamously once said, “sometimes you have to throw the first punch to be best and fairest”.

    I was at that rugby game. He threw a punch because the opposition had successfully niggled him and because he wasn’t capable of answering the niggling by outplaying them. He was an ordinary footballer – slow and easily riled up. Just ask Joe Hockey. Abbott, as captain coach, punched Hockey at training giving him two black eyes. They played for the same club. Tony’s temperament and tactics haven’t changed.

  17. Florence Howarth

    At the end of the day, voters are to blame. Either for not speaking up or voting for them.

  18. Ill fares the land

    Interesting question to pose. in my view, it is “our fault”. It is us who have allowed and actively participated in the decline in social standards that segued into us becoming the perpetually outraged “Facebook” generation – the media play to this “need”, by asking us to tell us what you think. We are all convinced that out opinions actually matter and worse, that they are rational and intelligent. Now we have the perennially stupid and intellectually vacuous who are convinced of their genius and even the intelligent whose opinions are flawed – showing that in many cases, our opinions are not, at their core, a function of our intellect.

    The neo-liberal agenda of governments, (most notably starting with the utterly evil Thatcher) has been embraced by society at large. You disagree? Just look at the frenzied phenomenon of “visible affluence”. Our houses get bigger; our cars get bigger (SUV’s and dual cab utes now prowl our urban roads; driven often by those whose core attitude is belligerent); our holidays are more elaborate and to farther flung exotic locations (the world has many fascinating places to visit, but we now do it for bragging rights – especially the perpetual teenagers – the boomers); our TV’s get bigger; our fridges have internet connectivity. The neo-liberal agenda has engendered in us a staggering level of self-interest and selfishness – we now accept that our problem is the poor, the unemployed, the disabled, the indigenous and the vulnerable, which allows the government to continually attack those groups – when in truth, the problems in out society and our government are the outcome of acts by and the influence of the rich and powerful

    We allow numbats like Hanson and Leyonhelm (the guy is so vile I am not bothering to check the spelling of his name) into our Parliament because despite the fact that they are both of limited intellect, they give a voice to the hatreds and fears of the electorate. We voted Abbott into power – not because we liked him, but because we didn’t like Rudd anymore. We “like” turnbull more than we “like” Shorten, but what’s that about? Turnbull is presiding over a government that is actively abusing refugees; allowing the environment to be trashed; veering unhealthily towards an authoritarian state (think much of the business of government is now devoted to quelling and squashing dissent). We give a voice to the Bolts, the Murray’s and the right-wing Sky brigade – because we watch them for crying out loud. We think they offer the voice of balance and of reason!!

    WE did all of that. WE can do something about it, but the damage is done because the above things all reflect the society that WE created or allowed to evolve.

  19. helvityni

    Florence, Ill fares the land,

    Good posts from you two, totally agree, those no-hopers don’t get there without our assistance…

  20. Miriam English

    Ill fares the land, it’s not quite that simple.

    Murdoch’s media set much of the agenda. I don’t know how much of the population consume its vile lies, but there’s something decidedly strange going on because it has been running at a loss for ages. Nevertheless, its subversive reach is significant. I’ve talked to otherwise intelligent, moderate people who have been infected by Murdoch to spout such absurdities as that the refugees are illegal queue jumpers, that aborigines cause their own problems, that overpopulation would be fixed by a good war or large-scale sterilisation, that Saddam Hussein really did have weapons of mass destruction and was harboring al Qaeda, that death sentences should be reintroduced, and other similar gems. After talking to these people for a while I can usually restore some sense of balance to their thinking, and as far as I can tell it tends to stick, as they then become suspicious of Murdoch’s crap. But this doesn’t help the vast numbers of people whose thinking is permanently skewed by that monster.

    I have met many people who dislike Labor almost as much as they detest the LNP, but they still vote for Labor as the lesser evil. When I ask them why don’t they vote for the Greens or the Reason Party, or some other social justice party, they almost invariably respond that it wastes their vote. If all the disaffected Labor voters realised how wrong this is and voted instead for the Greens we would have already got rid of the influence of big money on politics, increased spending on hospitals and education, would have free dental care, probably free universities, would have stopped and perhaps reversed much of the damage to our environment, would have broken the cruel grip of extremist religion on politics, and would probably already have cheap, subsidised electric cars phasing out petrol clunkers. But we buy into the lie that we need Labor to sheild us from the LNP, enabling the creeping corruption we see of Labor’s values.

    And then there is the effect our nominal “leaders” have on the tone for the rest of the country. If they express callous and shallow racist intolerance then great numbers of people come out from under rocks and do the same. These people are still a tiny percentage of the population, but they are enabled by our vacuous “leaders” to become dangerously vocal and active in spreading their fear and hate.

    So, yes, some of the blame must lie with the people for not being smart enough to defend their minds against being broken by Murdoch and his pet politicians, but I think the real weight of the blame must go on the politicians who should be acting like leaders instead of disgusting shits, and Murdoch whose media deliberately distorts people’s minds with lies, fears, and hate.

  21. David Bruce

    Is it the fluoride in the water or political correctness and gender equality helping to divide and rule? The blow back from males is predictable when women can now serve as front line soldiers. My values were based on “women and children first” in an emergency. That has now changed. We appear to have lost our self respect and self discipline as a result of the blame culture we live in. We are now a “snitch” society (reminds me of George Swartz – Soros). Perhaps we should remind politicians of the “Australian Values” new immigrants are expected to adopt and get them to sign the oath too? I don’t have the answers, I can only observe in dismay at the direction this great country has taken…
    PS we are now on the Gold standard, as Jim Rickards pointed out last week; Gold is pegged at 900 SDR’s per ounce…

  22. Miriam English

    David Bruce, you said, “I don’t have the answers”. Boy, you can say that again. Frankly what you’ve shown so far is extreme delusion. Honey, it isn’t the 1950s anymore.

    Your values are based on women and children first… unless they don’t act like, or say what you want them to. White males rule forever!! Those are your values.

    P.S. We have not been on the gold standard since 1983.

  23. Stephen G B

    I suspect that the general public are the victim. Oh yes let’s hand wring and flagellate, self abuse, because clearly the oligarchs, the politicians, the elites and born to rule mob had nothing to do with it.

    Clearly it was the public’s fault for the Great Depression and the Great Recession, and yes yes we must ensure the banks rich and financiers are rewarded for taking no part in the boom and bust cycle characterised in a neoliberal world, where the only people making and hording obscene amounts of money.

    The general public, have no kdea about macroeconomics, they even think economics is a pure science and that the rules of economics are similar to that other great myth the ten commandments, thy shelf have but one econmic Dog, the Neoliberal Dog !

    The public have not a smitten of interest ineople such as Adam Smith, Heyek, Friedman the fathers of the Neoliberal Agenda. 99% of people do not know of the part that Lewis Powell Jnr played in the creation of the Neoliberal movement. They may have heard of Thatcher, Reagan and even Ayn Rand, but I ddon’t doubt that they have not heard of Arthur Laffer.

    All of these men are the architects and builders of the Neoliberal world in which we live, and have systematically destroyed the great social strides, the massive growth in economies, and the egalitarian way that the wealth of our nation’s was distributed, as now known as The Golden Age 1945 to 1971, an age created by politicians who understood the scourge of the Great Depression, and the first and Second World Wars, they had the courage to implement the economcs of John Maynard Keynes (another name that 90% of the population does not know about).

    How has this happens, well I urge you to read the memorandum of Lewis Powell Jnr, to the American Chamber of Commerce, dated August 23 1971. It makes eye opening reading.

    Here is a link to ne siite that gives a bit of annalysis as well, but there are other sites.

    The Powell Memo (AKA the Powell Manifesto)

  24. Kaye Lee

    Stephen G B,

    I agree we have seen the corporatisation of the world designed to enrich the few regardless of consequences but the only institution capable of controlling or changing that is government and the people in government are there because we put them there.

    Unions are another institution that could organise the power of labour to challenge this inequity but we have chosen to abandon them.

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