By Steve Davies
Australian Federal Election May 2022
Judgment Day – A quick guide for voters
About this guide
Now that the noisy political campaigning is officially over we all have time to think and reflect. Over the past few weeks we have all been bombarded by candidates and the media alike. The next few days gives us all time to think and reflect.
For many people this election is far more important than most. It is the election that will determine our future, the shape of our society and, indeed, our very existence. The impact of Covid-19, climate change the state of the real economy and so much more tells us that.
The purpose of this guide is not to preach to you about how you should vote. Its purpose is to provide you with a thoughtful and proven lens, a set of glasses, through which to judge the behaviours, actions, policies and beliefs of current politicians and political parties.
Such a guide is necessary since this election will determine the future of ourselves and generations to come. All at a time when the world as we know it has been upended.
The need for this guide is also crucial due to the behaviours, actions (not forgetting failures to act), policies and beliefs of the Morrison Government. That course was set by the Abbott Government in 2013 and, despite attempts at moderation, persisted with the Turnbull Government.
Courtesy of serendipity my good friends at Reclaim the News released a movie on 18 May 2022 that perfectly shows the serial nature of the destructive behaviours, actions, policies and beliefs of the Morrison Government.
Before continuing, please spend four and a half minutes viewing:
You’ve viewed the movie, now for a little more context.
While any organisation, including governments, can become dysfunctional Australia certainly cannot afford to continue with a government that has serially displayed its toxicity and, worse still, thinks it is normal.
Which leads us to the question of what drives the toxic behaviours of the Morrison Government?
The answer? Moral disengagement.
Moral disengagement – Background
This quick guide is based on the lifelong work of Professor Albert Bandura (1925-2021).
Professor Bandura is regarded as the fourth most influential psychologist of the twentieth century. He was awarded The President’s National Medal of Science (President Obama).
He is known as the originator of social learning theory. His (2015) book, Moral Disengagement: How People Do Harm and Live with Themselves, provides us with a powerful lens through which to judge the behaviours of the Morrison Government and, for that matter, any organisation.
There is a dire need for such a lens in these deeply troubled time as it helps us cut through government and media propaganda and spin. Not to mention its use of behavioural insights data to nudge and manipulate us.
Professor Bandura’s work on moral disengagement is crucial to understanding how otherwise good people do bad things in organisations. Of how organisations become toxic and destructive.
The prevalence and persistence of moral disengagement within organisations tells us how normalised it has become institutionally. In turn, that tells us how unhealthy that organisation is.
Depending on the size, status and role of an organisation it also gives us an indication of spread of moral disengagement. So, for example, where moral disengagement is normalised within a government it will spread to public service agencies.
That is exactly what has been taking place across the Australian Government. Think robodebt, the persecution of whistleblowers, abuse of legal power and more.
Let me share a useful analogy with you. The behaviours characteristic of moral disengagement spread like a virus. Where those behaviours take hold, they shape and corrupt everything. They are normalised. That’s what the Morrison Government has done.
Moral disengagement – Your guide
The most practical way to think of moral disengagement is the process by which organisations and individuals suspend morality and behave in ways that cause harm to people and society.
People, government, like us to think that that is something that only happens in dictatorships. That is not the case.
Where moral disengagement is normalised and institutionalised the result is toxicity and dysfunction that harms people and the society we live in.
That’s exactly what we have been seeing and experiencing with the Morrison Government. Too many good people within government have shut up about this issue.
The video produced by my good friends at very clearly shows the extent of the problem.
If you didn’t view it earlier, please do so now.
Each and every instance shared in that video ticks every box in terms of moral disengagement. Looked at collectively and the only conclusion is that we are in dire straits. To think that the Morrison Government is going to somehow heal itself makes no sense.
Below are listed the element of moral disengagement. Look at any behaviours, practices, actions, inactions or policies of the Morrison Government and see what you think.
Beneath each of the mechanism I have provided some short pointers to assist you.
Discuss what you think with friends, family members, colleagues and contacts.
Do the same with any incoming government. We all need to be vigilant to fix this mess.
Thank you for taking the time to read all of this. Now it’s over to the mechanism of moral disengagement and your judgments:
Moral, social and economic justification
It’s the right thing to do. It will help them. It’s cost effective
Burying harms being done to people in the clinical, dehumanising and legalistic language of bureaucracy rather taking responsibility.
Describing harmful acts or processes as the lesser of two evils
Displacement of responsibility
I’m just following orders.
Diffusion of responsibility
It’s ‘just’ the process. Everyone must follow it.
Disregard, distortion and denial of harm.
Disregard of harms caused. Victimisation of persons who expose harms and wrongdoing.
People who raise issues others do not want openly discussed are ruthless attacked. Think of the Grace Tames of this world along with, for example, whistleblowers such as Richard Boyle, David McBride, Bernard Collaery and Citizen K. In fact, think of anyone who speaks out.
Denying the humanness of a person or group. Enables victimisation.
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