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Tag Archives: Socialism

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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Debating Marx’s ‘Labour Theory of Value’ and ‘Marx on the Environment’ on the 150th Anniversary of Marx’s ‘Das Kapital’

A look at Marx’s notion of ‘Labour Theory of Value’ on the 150th Anniversary of ‘Das Kapital’. Also a consideration of Marx on the natural environment. At the ‘ALP Socialist Left Forum’ Facebook group we’ve been discussing Marx’s ‘Labour Theory of Value’. This is notable because this year is the 150th Anniversary of the publication…

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Young Liberals

Speak to a Young Liberal about why they are part of the movement and you are sure to hear the words “nanny state” and “socialism” very early in the conversation.

They describe themselves as

“a centre-right, mainstream political organisation with a political philosophy focussed on limited government power, low taxes, individual responsibility, a focus on the family and a strong belief in rewarding initiative and private enterprise.”

Considering membership is limited to 16-31 year olds, I found these to be unusual priorities for young people. Don’t they care about education, the environment, fast NBN, social justice, corporate greed, wars, income inequity, unemployment, affordable housing, discrimination, human rights, climate change – the sorts of things that usually interest and affect the young people of the world?

I decided to find out a little more about what makes them tick. I started by looking online at their national webpage. Under News, the last entry was 19 May, 2013, titled “National pledge for action launched.” It talks about their “latest weapon” to oust Gillard – a social media blitz. Apparently nothing has happened worthy of posting on their page since then.

In their newsletter, “The Young Australian – Summer 2012/13”, they give advice on how to get your facebook page ahead.

ENGAGE YOUR FANS

“LIKE this if you agree that Gillard is useless!”

Those updates are annoying, right? But they can be very effective. Don’t employ this tactic all the time but try it out at least once with an image or link you are posting and see what kind of response you get. You can also ask questions of your fans, conduct a poll, or prompt your followers to ‘share’ your post. Engagement is critical on Facebook and this is an easy way of doing it, even if it is annoying.

Trying to keep up with the times, I then checked their facebook page to get more recent news and views. Their last post there was February 10, 2014,

“We’ve compiled the real story behind the Griffith by-election results and it’s not pretty for Labor.”

The post before that invites applicants to be flown and accommodated, at party expense, to marginal seats in Tasmania and South Australia.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to build and develop your campaigning skills and have a lot of fun on the way.”

In January, the Young Liberal Movement of Australia held its 2014 Federal Convention in Fremantle, Western Australia. I went to the event page – it was enlightening in a way I am sure they did not intend. Here is a sample of the comments.

In. Pumped.

I am sooooo in!!!!

do I qualify as a young lib im 31????? if so ill be there depending on my wife’s status with the pending birth of the twins,

-you can only come if you out drunk (name deleted).

-come along to the social functions – you’ll have a blast

Can’t wait. Better start organising tables

Will I get a specific birthday function on the 27th?

Question: Is Bundy Rum readily available in Perth or should the QLD delegation just BYO its own?

Like John Farnham I keep promising to say farewell but I just can’t resist the lure of a good convention!

I really hope I win the iPad Mini

When someone finally asked in December if there was an itinerary they were given this

Friday, 24th January

7:00 pm: Welcome to WA Cocktail Party

Saturday, 25th January

10:00 am – 5:00 pm: Conference sessions (with lunch break)

7:00 pm: Gala Dinner

Sunday, 26th January

10:00 am – 12:30 pm: Conference session and AGM

1:00 pm: Lunch event

Monday, 27th January

ALL DAY: Optional informal events to be arranged by the WA Division

In answer to the question “Will the gala dinner be black tie?” they responded

Young Liberal Movement of Australia: As is tradition, Saturday night’s dinner will be black tie and the Victorian delegation, in a fit of self-importance, will ignore the dress code.

Eventually they provided a link to the conference details so I went there in the hope of finding out a bit more about their agenda. There was a lot of information about the cocktail party and the gala dinner – in fact, for a mere $195 you could purchase the “social package” which gave you entrance to the functions without having to bother with the conference sessions. The only information about the actual conference was as follows

Conference Session One will include policy debate and a host of guest speakers from Government and other fields.

Conference Session Two will include policy debate and guest speakers followed by the Movement’s Annual General Meeting.

I have been unable to find anything further about who spoke or what they discussed, other than

“Congratulations to Ben Riley and Chris Browne on their respective elections as President and Vice-President. Thank you to the outgoing President, Tom White, and Vice-President Henry Pike for their hard work steering the organisation over the past 12 months.”

If it was anything like the Liberal National Party Conference in Queensland last year, they come up with some rather disturbing ideas.

At the conference in July 2013, Young LNP state president Hermann Vorster presented three proposals:

  • Reinstate cracker night
  • Random illicit drug testing for long term unemployed and welfare recipients
  • Remove Australian content quotas for free-to-air television

In a rare display of common sense (or perhaps political survival), the state LNP party rejected the second two suggestions, but they briefly considered the first. Mr Vorster urged the government to adopt the policy saying

“I think more than anything this is about sending a message that we don’t necessarily subscribe to the notion of the nanny-state. If something is safe and can be done in a reasonable way and it is in keeping with reasonable expectations, then I guess we ask, as the Young LNP, why not?”

Someone older must have remembered the maimings associated with firecrackers before sales were banned in the 1970s because that proposal was also eventually defeated.

In a further attempt to understand these young people, I engaged in an online conversation with a couple of Young Liberals. The mantra “nanny state” came up immediately and the word socialism was spat with abusive distaste. When asked if they thought that the government should subsidise their very affluent private schools, they responded that their parents pay taxes and they were entitled to the contribution. When asked if they would in future insist on paying the full price for any health procedures or medication they may need, they seemed a little confused. When asked about giving handouts to polluters under the Direct Action Plan’s Emission Reduction Fund, they seemed to know nothing about it

In fact, they were so repetitive, using the exact same phrases, that they could have been one person. Online that may well have been the case, except I find the same phrases repeated everywhere I look.

I am sure there are some very thoughtful, intelligent, caring Young Liberals out there but they are keeping themselves well hidden. Conferences seem to be parties for the privileged, policies are thought bubbles that come straight from the IPA (the home for aging and not-so aging Young Liberals who haven’t cracked a corporate or political job yet), debate is the regurgitation of phrases without understanding or thought, and tactics are more important than truth.

I remember the years from 16 to 30 as a wonderful time full of questioning and learning, passion and protest, caring about causes, searching for truth, as well as plenty of dancing and partying. People cared about each other. We had a weekly charity collection at school where kids would give a few cents and then, at the end of the year, decide what charities to donate the money to. As a school, we sponsored children overseas that were living in extreme poverty. When Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin we immediately collected money and goods to send as we did with the devastating floods in Bangladesh. We visited aged care facilities to do musical performances or help with bingo. As individuals we were challenged to think about what we personally could do to help, not only in times of disaster, but in our everyday lives. We were encouraged to become engaged and assured that we did make a difference.

To the many young people out there who truly care about the future, to those who feel empathy and compassion for their fellow beings, to those who want to make the world a better place for all humanity and the plants and animals that share our planet, to those that believe in tolerance and acceptance of differences, I would urge you to become involved. I can fully understand your disillusionment with our current political circus but, regardless of how much we would like to ignore them, politicians make decisions that affect the direction this country takes and every individual in it. Stand up for what you believe in. If the system is broken then help fix it. We cannot allow the shallow, greedy, and selfish to have the loudest voice and to exploit our country’s wealth for their personal enrichment.