In recent weeks I have written on three subjects relating to what I shall loosely call “The Psychology of Politics.” The first was titled Hidden Persuaders, the second You’re Being Manipulated and the third Political Lies and Who Tells Them. This one deals with Social Engineering.
This week I posted on Facebook the following statement.
“I have seen many governments come and go in my lifetime. All incoming governments naturally implement their policies within the constraints that exist within the two Australian Houses of Parliament.
The Abbott Government, however, seems to have embarked on some form of social engineering.”
I was taken to task for this statement by one person in particular and I told him I was writing an extended piece this week. To put my piece in some sort of context I begin with some quotes.
In one of his most influential essays, (Milton) Friedman articulated contemporary capitalism’s core tactical nostrum, what I have come to understand as “the shock doctrine”. He observed that:
“Only a crisis – actual or PERCEIVED – produces real change”. . . A variation on Machiavelli’s advice that “injuries” should be inflicted “all at once” – Naomi Klein, “Shock Doctrine”
In other words, manufacture a sense of crisis and you can get away with anything starting with maximum harm. Therefore, the conservatives are manufacturing a non-existent debt crisis.
Margret Thatcher said this (paraphrased):
“There is no such thing as society. There are only individuals making their way. The poor shall be looked after by the drip down effect of the rich”.
Abraham Lincoln said this:
“Labor came before capital and is not related to it. Capital is what’s acquired from labour, and would never have come about if it were not for labour. Therefore, labour is superior to capital and deserves the higher significance.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt said this:
They who seek to establish systems of government based on the regimentation of all human beings by a handful of individual rulers . . . call this a new order. It is not new and it is not order.”
This is one of mine:
“The GST burdens the poor and those with the least capacity to pay. It discriminates against the poor and the pensioners who are living a hand-to-mouth existence and spending the bulk of their income on the necessities of life—food, clothing, rent, heating, power etc”.
Before addressing the issue of Social Engineering I should say exactly what I think a Government should be regardless of its ideology.
Good government is about making and implementing decisions that serve the common good. That give security to the people it governs. Follows the rule of law and is truthful about its intentions. When making decisions it must be responsive to the will of the people. It should allow its citizens to be participatory in the function of government. It should be inclusive, equitable and supportive of the people’s right to know. By equity I mean the people have a right to a fair reward for the fruits of their labour. And above all it should be answerable to the people.
What is ‘Social (political) Engineering?’
Social Engineering is when a political party seeks to use selective deceptive, manipulative and insidious psychological techniques to influence and bring about a change in the attitudes of masses of people to its point of view.
Now let’s get to the crux of the matter. You cannot possibly believe in democracy if you believe that your party is the only one who should win. Therefore, any party who wins an election is entitled to govern.
My problem with the Abbott Government is that it has embarked on a programme that is ideologically targeted at changing the way we think. This is social engineering.
Tony Abbott, for six years in Opposition created a negative image of our nation. He has never had a positive word to say about his country. He uses simplistic slogans to talk about complex problems and in doing so suggests he has answers when he doesn’t. He has spread negativity like rust throughout the community. This is because he sees a need to promote a sense of crisis, an Armageddon about everything. Everything is wrong and he is the only one who can fix it. There is a budget crisis when none exists. There is a debt crisis (while adding to it) when none exists. There is a crisis about the cost of living when Australians have never had it better. It’s a deliberate tactic of social engineering. Create an illusion of disaster and people will believe the perception is in fact a reality. And of course keep on doing it when you attain government.
Another form of social engineering is making the people feel threatened. Tell them that the poor souls seeking asylum are below humanity, demonise them so that the people hate them. Take away all their rights and appeal to the base instincts of ordinary people and the racists. Apply a code of conduct and treat them like animals. Even take away the basic human right of association. Tell the people the absurd lie that their borders are under threat. And keep repeating the same slogans in government. Perpetuate the lie that you have stopped the boats when in all probability it was the other party’s policies that were responsible. It’s called social engineering.
The conservative Abbott Government has taken away from middle and low income earners, the School bonus and a superannuation discount to low income earners, mainly women. In addition they have blocked a pay rise to low income Child Care Workers. The annual small lump sum to pensioners to pay for unexpected bills was also abolished. And when the commission of audit reports I should think the assault on the middle and lower income earners will be on in earnest. The abandonment of all these benefits in the name of austerity is a smoke screen. It is taking from one group to give to another. The Paid Parental Leave Scheme comes to mind. Also the 15% tax rebate for the highest wage earners. This is not equity, it is social engineering. If the budget truly demands cuts, they should be equitable.
When a Government seeks to backtrack on election promises like the Gonski reforms and reimpose its own elitist inequitable policy with not the slightest thought for those who can least afford a better education: it is practising social engineering.
When it deliberately downgrades a policy like the NDIS on the basis of unaffordability but at the same time gives tax breaks to the wealthy industrialists including the richest women in the world: it is applying social engineering.
This Government came to office saying they were adult and trustworthy. That there would be no surprises. Yet what we have seen is an attack on the less well-off. It is making it very clear that there are untouchable cohorts and there are those that will have to support the untouchables.
The refusal to pay a miserly pay increase to Child Care Workers was an attack on Unionism. Taking money from aged care workers by dumping the Workforce Compact which provided a $1.2 billion fund to give aged care workers a much-needed 1% pay rise is another example.
The very premeditated, deliberate government induced exodus of GMH is not just the expulsion of the car industry but also a government attempt to rid the country of unions. There will be no government assistance for companies with union shops. It’s called social engineering.
If there were just a few instances of stamping a Governments ideological philosophy on the community you would say, fair enough. But there is a have, have-not form of serfdom running through this government’s work. They came to government without any policies and are more intent on destroying Labor’s legacy than governing for the common good.
We now have a Prime Minister for undoing, not for doing.
It seems the Abbott Government is attempting to socially engineer the minds of people. Nowhere is this more evident than its willingness to downgrade education and in particular, science. Any pretext to the scientific understanding of environmental impacts has been thrown out the window to appease the sponge of capitalism. We have seen in the past few days the reversal of Australia’s ocean reserves. A policy hailed throughout the world. God only knows what they intend for the Murray Darling.
To belittle science in order to create doubt in the community is social engineering of the very worst kind. And to suggest that excellent learning should only be available to the well-off is yet another example of social engineering.
In the area of communications we have a concerted attempt to eliminate the reasoned voice of opposing views. The dual attack on the ABC by the Murdoch Empire is an attempt to stifle debate. When a government condemns a perceived bias of one outlet without acknowledging the bias of another it is practicing social engineering
And when it appoints a person like Tim Wilson from the right wing think tank, IPA to the position of Australian Human Rights Commissioner at $330,000 a year (an institution that he and the IPA advocate eliminating) they are saying loud and clear that they are intent on telling you how to think. It’s called social engineering.
On his appointment he tweets this.
“To those who have welcomed my appointment, I give thanks. To those that have not, I welcome the chance to defend your free speech.”
Lying of course is the Social Engineers most effective tool. Throughout his career Tony Abbott has used this tool most effectively. He admits it and the people accept it but its effectiveness is in its persistency and continuity. Abbott has reached a stage in his Social Engineering where he is convincing people that truth is what he convinces us to believe rather than truth based on fact.
Here is an example:
“Let’s be under no illusion. The carbon tax was socialism masquerading as environmentalism”.
The statement has no basis in fact.
Another tool of Social Engineering is secrecy and the Abbott Government has displayed a propensity for it. It’s called lying by omission.
We also see Social Engineering in policy and decision making. Here are a few:
- The broken promise on the NBN will effectively mean that those who can afford it will become information rich and those who cannot will remain information poor.
Done deals with every state and territory government to gut and downgrade national environment laws by giving approval powers to state premiers further erodes the public’s capacity to disagree. It removes the community’s right to challenge decisions where the government has ignored expert advice. By removing funding to the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia it has taken away the participatory role of the people in government.
By challenging the ACT Marriage Equality laws in the High Court it has ensured the ongoing discrimination against same-sex couples despite the vast majority agreeing with the proposition. By moving to repeal protections in the Racial Discrimination Act it is flaunting public opinion. By scrapping the Advisory Panel on Positive Aging, established to help address the challenges we will face in coming years as the number of older Australians grows it has taken away the voice of the people. And in abolishing the Climate Commission it has sought to silence science.
All of these things contribute to how we think act and feel. By manipulating society into thinking that the entire realm and ownership of knowledge is found in one ideology, one individual or cohort of individuals is a form of Social Engineering.
Collectively I believe these four pieces make a solid case that Abbott in Opposition and in Government is embarking on a course of Social Engineering. A course of inequality, of privilege and serfdom. Of manipulating society into believing that if the rich become richer their lot will advance at the same rate.
I remember Peter Costello being asked at the end of his tenure as Treasurer about the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. His answer was to say “but at least the poor have not become poorer.”
I will leave you to ponder that.
PS: And I didn’t even mention the malevolent treatment of women. Yet another example of Social Engineering.
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