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You’re Being Manipulated – Believe Me

Image by ebony.com

Image by ebony.com

“Purposeful manipulative social change without a common good caveat is a form of social evil”

It seems to me that in my lifetime a lot of things have changed. But then change is one of the constant certainties of life. However, I am greatly concerned by how manipulated we have allowed ourselves to become. Let me canvas some of the manipulated changes I have experienced and make some observations.

Of course one’s age might bring a different perspective to how we view manipulated change. Obviously if you are very young you will have nothing to compare what follows with anything you have experienced. In other words your ‘now’ might be your norm.

For example, I happen to believe we are, as a society, more manipulated now than I can ever remember. You can see it everywhere. Murdoch’s manipulation by virtue of excessive media ownership. Political manipulation by institutions, lobbyists and corporations more powerful than government. The manipulation by television stations who would have you believe that mediocrity is excellence.

And manipulation by the blatant falseness of advertising. If you think about your everyday life you cannot avoid the fact that a lot of the things you do are manipulated in a way to influence your decision making processes.

I have been retired now for ten years and I have had time to think. In fact, if I had my time over I would not be the slave to the work ethic I had. Thinking is impaired by too much work. We spend so much time at it that we have lost the art of thoughtful observation and creativity.

It seems to me that we have more disposable income, so we think we need to have more things and we become confused with what we want as opposed to what we need. Of course we are manipulated into believing we need things because it creates jobs. Spend up big this Christmas. We are told that even things that are bad for us we are entitled to. I’m thinking salt, fat and sugar that are causing a worldwide epidemic of obesity and in the future might take half the nation’s income to pay the health bill. We have more leisure, but less fun, more kinds of food, but less nutrition.

But conservatives say it’s the individual’s right to free choice.

So we end up spending more but enjoying life less. But we still need the money of course. We have been manipulated into thinking we need a bigger house because Bill and Mary have one. But it will take two wages to pay for it. Who cares that it will mean a smaller family and less family time?

Our possessions have increased enormously. Nothing is repaired anymore. We have become the replacement society. But at the same time our appreciation of the value of our possessions has declined. We have become so manipulated by ‘Affluenza’ that we have forgotten what frugality means. We are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying simplicity. A consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having stuff, and has failed to teach us that doing things is more pleasurable than processing things.

We have confused the cost of living with the cost of lifestyle.

We live in a manipulated, failed economic system where unregulated capitalism (in the absence of anything better) rules the day. But we are manipulated into believing that this failed system is the best economic solution. It is however, a system where a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level.

We want our children to have a better education and they are getting it. The current generation have more degrees than ever before. We have more experts, less judgment and more problems. Probably because education is presented as a means of obtaining wealth rather than as an altruistic pursuit that might better humankind. I call it manipulated competitive capitalism.

We now live in a society where science is respected to the point where it conflicts with the profit that capitalism demands. Then the conservative right together with vested media interests manipulates facts and distorts the truth to discredit it. The environment is but one area where we are being manipulated by un-credentialed fools who are tell us that science knows nothing.

By people like John Howard who would rather rely on his instinct than scientific evidence. It was probably his instinct that sent us to war in Iraq. A decision that certainly wasn’t evidence based.

I wonder what price the people of tomorrow will pay for the stupidity of today’s environmental vandals. We have allowed ourselves to become so manipulated that we have lost all commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry as the best way of providing solutions to human problems.

The ability of thinking human beings to blindly embrace what they are being told without referring to evaluation and the consideration of scientific fact, truth and reason, never ceases to amaze me. It is tantamount to the rejection of rational explanation. We would be a much better society if we took the risk of thinking for ourselves, rather than allowing ourselves to be manipulated and obstructed by the unadulterated crap served up by the media and self-interest groups.

Politicians manipulate truth because power is all important .They have lost any semblance of public morality and duty to the collective common good. And we have seen how they will even manipulate racial hatred if it advances their power.

These are the days of two incomes, a decline in marriage with more divorce, of bigger houses, with empty hearts. And a proliferation of kids with single parents.

Churches, because they mistakenly believe they have an ownership on righteousness manipulate people into believing that love and morality is exclusively a domain of religion. And they don’t allow their own immorality to impede on their self-righteousness. Added to this is the manipulation of minors by men of the cloth.

We have become obsessed with celebrity and the media manipulates us into believing that people of little virtue, talent or character are somehow important. More often than not because they have acquired notoriety, wealth or influence.

We have been manipulated into competitive living while at the same time we have forgotten how to laugh or even volunteer. Now what was the name of that family across the road? And we don’t comprehend the difference between manners and civility.

Enormous advances have been made in medicine and in the future discoveries will increase significantly. More drugs are available for many illnesses but the large drug companies manipulate who gets them and the price paid. There is however, much less wellness.

We have succumbed to domestic violence where men manipulate women. Despite some advances by women, men still rule the world and manipulate it to maintain their physical, academic, corporate and sexual dominance. And history records their manipulation as an ongoing incompetence.

People are living longer but are less happy and the incidence of mental health has become a social problem. We mumble a lot without saying much, we seldom love meaningfully and the joy of sex has degenerated into casual opportunism.

It is a time of enormous profits, little leadership, shallow thinking and superficial relationships. A time in which technology is making extraordinary advances but our intellectual reasoning seems unable to appreciate its capacity for good without the word ‘profit’ attached. We are conquering outer space and diseases, yet polluting our environment and our souls.

We allow ourselves to be manipulated by exaggerated, flamboyant rhetoric that is designed to heighten a sense of alarm, or simply to gain our attention.

Unscrupulous people manipulate our social behavior and the young fall victim to the persuasive influence of debilitative drugs.

And lastly, the purity of our playtime, our sport has been manipulated by the corrosive effect of money and drugs. And the cheats, in turn, manipulate us with their lies.

Consider this:

“We dislike and resist change in the foolish assumption that we can make permanent that which makes us feel secure. Yet change is in fact part of the very fabric of our existence”

John Lord 2012.

However:

Purposeful manipulative social change without a common good caveat is a form of social evil.

“The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages . . . It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile”.

Robert Kennedy, 1968

81 comments

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  1. Nigel Stanley

    Well said, sir!

  2. CMMC

    Gerry Harvey recently stated that consumer confidence had improved, because of the election of Abbott, but sales had not improved – because of “all that red tape” regulation.

    http://www.smh.com.au/business/retail/gerry-harvey-launches-red-tape-crusade-20131104-2wwsj.html

    So he is talking about real economic data or just spinning the usual anecdotes?

    And wasn’t Gerry Harvey previously calling for a big new tax on everything bought online?

    http://www.smh.com.au/business/gerry-harvey-calls-for-gst-on-online-purchases-20101123-1850x.html

    How is that NOT more red tape regulation?

  3. Jen

    I agree in principle with the thesis that ‘we’ (whoever ‘we’ might be) are being manipulated, but there’s more than a touch of the grumpy old man about this. For instance – ‘The current generation have more degrees than ever before. We have more experts, less judgment and more problems.’ Really? You can look across the last century, the last half dozen centuries, and claim that there is evidence of less judgment and more problems?

  4. Carol Taylor

    Every once in a while an article is written that I personally believe has the mark of excellence. John, this is one such article. Congratulations.

  5. Jen

    We are manipulated in every way in this society. Trouble is people have their heads stuck in their ipad or computer or latest gadget and have no idea what is going on. WAKE UP PEOPLE !!!

  6. Jen

    I should clarify my comment Kaye Lee, I mean those people that spend their time looking at stuff that has no relevance to us improving as a society. Kaye Lee apathy is alive and well in this society, that’s why the world is in the mess that its in.

  7. Kaye Lee

    A few years ago I stumbled across the following information. Whilst I would question its accuracy, the point is still valid. Somewhere along the way we have forgotten what is truly important.

    .Matters of Scale – Spending Priorities

    *Amount of money needed each year (in addition to current expenditures) to provide reproductive health care for all women in developing countries

    $12 billion

    *Amount of money spent annually on perfumes in Europe and the United States

    $12 billion

    *Amount of money needed each year (in addition to current expenditures) to provide water and sanitation for all people in developing nations

    $9 billion

    *Amount of money spent annually on cosmetics in the United States

    $8 billion

    *Amount of money needed each year (in addition to current expenditures) to provide basic health an nutrition needs universally in the developing world

    $13 billion

    *Amount of money spent each year on pet food in Europe and the United States

    $17 billion

    *Amount of money needed each year (in addition to current expenditures) to provide basic education for all people in developing nations

    $6 billion

    *Amount of money spent each year on militaries worldwide

    $780 billion

    *Combined wealth of the world’s richest 225 people

    $1 trillion

    *Combined annual income of the world’s poorest 2.5 billion people

    $1 trillion

  8. johnlord2013

    Gerry Harvey’s world view is seen through the prism of his cash registers.

  9. Michael Taylor

    Gerry Harvey’s world view is seen through the prism of his cash registers.

    Especially his own! 😉

  10. beapierce

    Brilliant article! Thank you for writing it. I sometimes despair at how often people fail to see the myriad of ways they are being manipulated and how little they care – or aggressively deny it if you point it out.

  11. Michael Taylor

    You have a way with words, John. I’ll give you that. You have the gift of being able to write what many of us think.

  12. Dan Rowden

    I feel oddly manipulated.

  13. Kaye Lee

    Jen, whilst you sit at your computer deriding us all, I would like to say that now there is no excuse for not knowing what is going on other than apathy. Those very gadgets have at least given us access to an overwhelming amount of information if we care to look for it.

    And as for John being a grumpy old man, the world would be a far better place if there were more like him. He challenges us to think. He provokes us out of our stupor and questions the status quo. He is intelligent, thoughtful, creative and entertaining, and I greatly appreciate the time he volunteers to share his thoughts with us.

  14. hilderombout

    Thank you John for so excellently expressing what quite a few of us feel. I think though that those of us who are awake to the manipulation have an obligation to show a different way of living, first of all to those near and dear to us but also generally to our communities. Money is not the sole importance in our lives, far from it. The happiest time in my life i can remember was when i was struggling financially and was pregnant with my fifth child. My (now ex) husband had lost his job after spending our savings on some machinery he wanted but hardly every used and then had a small nervous breakdown.It was just before Christmas and we had no income whatsoever. I only possessed $100 and rather than panic i went out and spent $20 on each of the four children, $10 on medicine for my ex and hoped for the best. One of my neighbours had heard of my plight and asked me if i would accept their Xmas leftovers. It was a godsent! We did not go hungry because i grew our own vegetables and made our own bread, but the neighbour’s leftovers meant that we all had something special, even our two dogs who got the bones from their meat (we were vegetarians). It was the best Christmas ever and even now, thinking back on that time i feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the generosity my neighbours. Thank you for letting me share this with you because it underscores the point you are making John.

  15. Billy moir

    manipulation of women as animals? 5 kids how depressing

  16. Jen

    Kaye Lee, there are two respondents called Jen in this conversation. I’m the ‘grumpy old man’ one, and I hold to that because it involves is a failure of argumentative logic that undermines his excellent principle – one with which I agree. The other Jen is the one angry with people who use electronic tools – ironically, expressed by means of an electronic tool . . . But I didn’t see her statement as ‘deriding us all’; it was a comment, no more; and it was no more universalist than your response – or indeed, than John’s insistence on the first person plural throughout his posting.

  17. Miriam English

    All that you said is correct except when you compared it with the past. I know it is hard to believe, but things are actually getting better — you’ve been manipulated into fearing decline. This is partly manipulation by external powers (scared people are easier to control), but is also a self-manipulation that has been around since the beginning of history (I recall the recounting of an ancient stone tablet from a couple of thousand years BC, I think, which deplored the decline of morals and the heedlessness of the youth). In actual fact things are getting much, much better. We still have a long way to go, but religion has lost its power to routinely pervert morality in much of the world, women are no longer owned as property in much of the world, children now have rights, animals are gaining rights, slavery is seen as deeply evil, we have become aware of the terrible damage we’ve been doing to the planet since we took over (look at what remains of the middle-east, which was once a land of plenty, the Easter Islanders completely wiped themselves out with their self-caused ecological catastrophe), we live longer than ever before and most of us are able to read and write. There is a proliferation of ways to access the world’s knowledge (Wikipedia, Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, various free science publishing sites, NASA’s entire free treasure trove). There is increasing understanding of the importance of happiness, The propagandists could one upon a time easily get everybody to joyously romp off to war, whereas most people nowadays hate war and engage in massive protests against it. The propagandists are gradually losing their tools of persuasion — newspapers, radio, TV are all losing audience dramatically, especially among the young, who prefer to use the more free sources on the internet. Politicians are no longer revered, but almost universally despised. The mega-wealthy are generally considered crooks, even though big media try to talk them up and pander to them. The Flynn Effect show that each generation is getting smarter than the previous one. Steven Pinker has shown in his talks and his book “The Angels of Our Better Nature” how morality has been improving and violence decreasing over thousands of years.

    Things are improving and they are doing so at an accelerating pace. We still have a long way to go, but thankfully we can see many of the problems clearly now, whereas in past times it was almost impossible to see. Please do keep your eye on our problems; they are enormous. But realise that they are less than what has been solved in the past and their solutions are coming more quickly. The astonishingly smart youth of today are more aware of the problems than we ever were and are very capable of solving them.

    Be aware of the problems and work toward their solution, but try not to despair. The bad guys want us to despair because that is the path to giving up.

  18. mikestasse

    “I have been retired now for ten years and I have had time to think. In fact if I had my time over I would not be the slave to the work ethic I had. Thinking is impaired by too much work. We spend so much time at it that we have lost the art of thoughtful observation and creativity.”

    ABSO-BLOODY-LUTELY……… I retired aged 41, and have NEVER looked back. If you haven’t accumulated ‘enough wealth’ by the time you reach middle age…….. you’re doing domething really wrong.

  19. Kaye Lee

    I agree that apathy is alive and well. Our recent election is a prime example. People accepted what they were told by Tony’s slogans and Rupert’s headlines and Andrew Bolt’s vitriole.

    But as I read John’s article I found myself thinking less about political manipulation (probably overdosed on that topic) and more about social/personal manipulation.

    As I was driving my son to the station this morning, the discussion on the radio was about cosmetic surgery and procedures and how far women should go to delay aging. Overwhelmingly the callers were saying that it was important for a woman’s self-esteem to look as good as she can seemingly for as long as she can. How many times have you heard women say they feel better about themselves when they get their hair done, or get a boob job, or a face lift. I know I am in a very very small minority when I say CRAP to that. My self-esteem is not dependent on what others see when they look at me. Getting botox injections would not make me feel better about myself. I feel good when I help someone, I feel proud when I achieve something, I feel happy when I see other people being happy. Hair dye is not going to make a difference to those feelings.

    The amount of money spent on cosmetics is staggering. For what constructive purpose? Why is our opinion of our own worth so dependent on such superficial fakery? Is it some primal fear of aging? Is it advertising dictating a perfect image we can aspire to but never achieve? Why is a girl paid tens of millions a year to walk up and down a catwalk or to have her photo taken, while teachers and nurses receive a minute fraction of this? What damage does this do to young girls’ self-image?

    Are women supposed to just be pretty little things to look at? Is our contribution to society to be purely aesthetic? Is that how our worth is measured? Perhaps that may explain, in part, the treatment of our first female PM. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could evolve past this peacock mentality.

  20. Dan Rowden

    It’s all about the herd mentality and our general lack of consciousness with respect to it. But even when we gain some level of awareness that we’re being manipulated in some way we’ll likely accept that manipulation because the pay-off – social acceptance, membership of the herd etc, has more psychologically power. The herd mentality is an evolutionary strategy that has paid great dividends to us, despite its double-swordedness. It runs very deep – to the core of our egos, in fact. There’s really no such thing as just “waking up to it”. It’s a tad more complicated than that.

  21. Kaye Lee

    I just attempted to answer that comment about 5 times Dan but decided to err on the side of caution

  22. Kaye Lee

    Image, spin and HOW you sell something has become more important that truth, integrity and what you are selling. Just ask Peta Credlin.

  23. mikestasse

    @ Miriam……
    “I know it is hard to believe, but things are actually getting better — you’ve been manipulated into fearing decline.”

    I hate to tell you, but you haven’t been paying attention……… Decline is coming alright, big time. Civilisation will certainly collapse over the next 50 to 100 years, and in fact it’s already begun (I see the election of Cannibal Newman and Rabbott as clear signs of this……)

    All the goodies you mention, “religion has lost its power to routinely pervert morality in much of the world, women are no longer owned as property in much of the world, children now have rights, animals are gaining rights, slavery is seen as deeply evil, we have become aware of the terrible damage we’ve been doing to the planet since we took over (look at what remains of the middle-east, which was once a land of plenty” is all down to the availability of cheap dense fossil fuels. Once we had machines (powered by coal at first, then oil, and now electricity – ALL fossil fuelled) to do all the hard yakka, slaves were no longer needed. http://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/peak-fossilsuranium-in-2017/

    Make no mistake, the industrial revolution fuelled the social revolution. But the party’s over. Peak ALL energy is scheduled for ~2017. Hard yakka is coming back, and everyone, women and children too, will have to put their shoulders back to the wheel.

    And the financial system has no legs. The economy as we know it will crash, not if but when. And I don’t know when.

    You say “we have become aware of the terrible damage we’ve been doing to the planet since we took over”, but have done NOTHING about the biggest issue of all, Climate Change.

    it’s easy to believe we are so clever…… in reality we are manipulated into believing this, when in fact we are clever (and ruthless) at exploiting resources.

  24. Kaye Lee

    Thanks Jen. I hadn’t noticed there were two of you and I agree that “deriding” was an overstatement.

    I still however disagree with your “grumpy old man” comment. It is similar to the discussions I have had with people who comment on grammar and typos (like the one I made in my last post). When I read John’s articles, they make me think. Looking at the variety of responses to his various offerings, he has that affect on many people.

    I understand your criticism of the line you quoted and it is perhaps justifiable. It could be argued that we have more knowledge and different problems. The “less judgement” is not really a quantifiable thing. I would say that, with the knowledge that now possess, yet consciously continuing to irrevocably destroy our environment, that we are showing the greatest and potentially most catastrophic lack of judgement in history.

  25. mikestasse

    Kaye Lee, you are making the classic error of confusing TECHNOLOGY with ENERGY……..

    The computer you are using right now needs 250kg of fossil fuels, just to make it…… I like technology, I use all sorts of toys in this house to reduce our energy consumption, but they are ALL made using fossil fuels to mine the resources needed to make them, and then turn them into useful things.

    Come the day fossil fuels become unaffordable (I almost can’t afford to fill my car already…) you can kiss your technology goodbye I’m afraid…….

  26. Kaye Lee

    Miriam and mikestasse, there is truth in what both of you say. There is no question that we have made progress as a civilised society but there has also been a price paid for that progress, how much we are only just realising.

    We are a resilient, adaptable, intelligent species so I cannot be as pessimistic as you mikestasse. Technological advances are coming at such a rapid rate that we cannot envisage the future. Our reliance on fossil fuels is a grave concern but research into renewable energy must give us some hope. Overpopulation is another challenge we are facing – perhaps terraforming and the colonisation of space and will be part of our future. Who knows. The important thing is to keep striving to survive today while we plan for tomorrow as best we can.

    While there is life there is hope.

  27. Fed up

    I know this comment is silly, but I cannot think of one positive thing to say about this government. Please, there must be something.

    Yes, we are being manipulated, but I feel that they are over reaching themselves, as this week proves.

  28. Kaye Lee

    Though I have to say, this government is really making it difficult to be optimistic.

    “It has proposed that federal environment ministers who fail to consider bio-conservation advice when they make approvals will no longer be exposed to legal action.

    Ministers will still be required to consider relevant bio-conservation advice, but if they fail to do so, the decision will still be valid, and third parties will not be able to challenge approvals in court on that basis.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-15/epbc-changes-proposed-by-government/5093702

    We have also been soundly and justifiably condemned at the Warsaw climate change talks.

    “It’s been embarrassment after embarrassment for Australia at the Warsaw climate change meeting.

    Former UN Climate Chief, Yvo de Boer, upbraided Australia for its failure to send a Minister. Australia was also criticised for its topsy-turvy climate policy in the opening issue of ECO, the non-government organisation newsletter produced at the talks.

    Australia pulled a triple bad start by being awarded Fossil of the Day on the summit’s first day. The award is given by the international Climate Action Network to the country which has done the most to block progress at the climate change negotiations on that day.”

    https://theconversation.com/australia-makes-a-bad-start-at-warsaw-climate-change-meeting-20190

  29. ejdur662

    Excellent article

  30. Sandra Searle (@SandraSearle)

    Great article once again John, thank you.
    Fed Up, you are probably right that the new gov. are over reaching themselves. The ALP are sitting back a little, watching, waiting to see which way to jump. Would love them to bring on a DD tho!

  31. MargL

    Thank you John, great article you have a great way with words. Also, Kaye Lee and hilderombout thank you for your wise contributions – I always find myself agreeing and aligned with your posts. You both articulate how I feel so well.

  32. Dennis

    I have been waiting 30 years to read this, at last i feel i am not alone. Thank you John

  33. diannaart

    The Corporate State: measures everything; values nothing.

    Thank you, John, another thought provoking article -far beyond the mere ramblings of an old man, rather the distillation of experience, knowledge, wisdom and learning.

  34. Soo Jay

    Dear John – this country currently needs a Prime Minister. There is some moronic twat sitting in the PM’s chair, but he is nowhere near up to snuff. Would you consider running for election?

  35. Zathras

    “Work hard, consume, be silent and die” – that’s all that is expected of us.
    Just do those things and all will be well.

    If the purpose of civilisation is to ravage our resources as quickly as possible and convert the planet into landfill then I think we are well on-target.

    I recall back in Secondary school we were told the looming social problem was going to be what to do with all our free time, once technology and automation free us from a 5 day working week.

    It seemed a reasonable notion back then but something changed – probably during the Reagan/Thatcher era – that caused the rise in Corporatism and all the points mentioned in the article.

  36. Gilly

    Yes we are being manipulated, this includes the “1%”. How can this manipulation be so inclusive. IMO we have become subjects to a legal construct, the legal construct of companies and corporations. Corporations are a legal construct which are legally charged with making a profit for share holders. Corporations have all other legal entitlements as a real person except for a voting franchise. However many legal obligation are put on corporations, turning a profit has a legal priority. Corporations, unlike real person, have no social or moral obligations, indeed any such obligation is a barrier to their primary legal obligation, and as a legal construct are not capable of any social or moral obligation, there is no threat to the corporation as an entity.
    The power of Corporations is the wealth they hold and the corresponding influence they hold over all real people. The result is that power and influence is concentrated into the control of a legal entity which can suffer no personal consequences.

  37. Ray Lewis

    Sadly just about everything in this artilce has the ring of truth.

  38. Paul Raymond Scahill (@PaulRaymondScah)

    I am 70 years of age and unfortunately I would say everything that you have said virtually is identical to the beliefs of my wife (of 43 years) and myself. Once again I think people generally think silly old fools, but 1 day they will realise that we were right, as are you.

  39. TimePasser

    Politics without principles,
    Education without character,
    Science without humanity and
    Commerce without morality
    Are not only useless but positively dangerous.

  40. Ruth

    My son was born at PMH and had problems after having abysmal medical care during birth we spent weeks being shuffled between there and RCH as there was no space available to keep h there nothing has changed or improved because he was born 20 years ago

  41. Fed up

    Listening to Capital Hill. They reckon if Hockey does not pull back, he is going to lose this one. Lose it badly and not for three weeks, but three years. No economist , even economic rationalist, are buying it.

  42. kayp2013

    We have though always been manipulated – it is just easier to see it now as we have a very visible media that supports the manipulation. In other times it was t he church that was a significant manipulator getting people to fulfil the roles that helpedmaintain the power of the church over the people. Unfortunately we now have a Prime Minister who thinks that the power and the reputation of the church should be without question. A man who does not like change unless it is his cahnge is not going to enable Australia to develop in a way that respects the needs of our population including our most vulnerable people.

  43. Miriam English

    Yes, things are not good and we need to work to unseat this party of fools who have taken over our government. Yes, oil is running out and we dare not use the filthy coal some lunatics are scrabbling to dig up as fast as they can. But you miss the whole other side to what is happening. Stop reading bloody newspapers! They’re bad for your health. Buy New Scientist instead. It will still give you the bad news, but it will deliver all the good news too, and there really is plenty of good news.

    Here is some of the good news:
    * We have begun to make oil out of thin air using algae, that is, they take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use sunlight to make oil. It works and there are already pilot plants in operation.
    * Computers and other electronic devices are becoming more efficient by the day. I just spent half the day watching a movie and doing some programming on my computer which uses just a trickle of energy, powered by small rechargeable batteries because of lightning storms today.
    * Batteries are about to be replaced by supercapacitors which last for a lifetime, can be completely discharged without damaging them, and can be recharged in seconds for small ones, minutes for large ones, and they can be made from non-toxic carbon.
    * As the third world leapfrogs us to be more efficient, their standard of living will rise to ours, but without the resource depletion and when people achieve a high standard of living their birthrate plummets to below replacement level, solving one of the greatest dangers facing us.
    * Plastics can still be made from oil, or from coal, which there will be plenty of because we won’t be burning it anymore — we should never have been burning coal, as it is too wasteful, too toxic, and dirty, and much more valuable for its organic molecules as building blocks.
    * Nutrition research has enabled the development of a cheap food that fills all nutrient requirements (hopefully) — look online for Soylent — one of the hopes is that it will be a life-saver for the 16 million people who starve to death each year. Another hope is that it will reduce the strain we put on our agriculture.
    * Advances in Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technology mean there may be less pressure on people to travel. Jeri Ellsworth (a brilliant young electronics genius) has raised nearly a million dollars through crowdsourcing for her “castAR” invention. This will enable us to make cheap holodecks (shades of Star Trek!) for communicating with each other and for playing games.
    * Crowdsourcing lets us circumvent the controls that banks and the ultra-wealthy put on new projects. Take a look at Kickstarter online. I live below the poverty line, but have contributed to several Kickstarter projects, and hope to begin my own one next year.
    * Knowledge of climate change is very widespread in society and this knowledge has spread quickly despite the billions of dollars poured in by fossil fuel corporations and corrupt “news” organisations for denialist propaganda. Those who are impatient might say that we have known about climate change for the past 40 years, and yes, we have, but when you view a massive movement like the climate change movement which has infiltrated all levels of government and business as having done so in just 40 years, then compared to past big changes (like ending slavery) that is very fast.

    And I could go on and on. There is plenty to give us great hope. Yes, we have a nasty little prick as our prime minister, but he won’t be there long — just long enough to make people realise how lucky we are in Australia and how important participatory democracy really is. He has also done us the favor of giving a wakeup call to how incredibly dangerous vultures like Murdoch are.

    By all means be aware of the bad things, but don’t ignore the good things. And don’t read newspapers. They poison your mind.

    (Incidentally, I am no spring chicken, being more than 60 years old, so please don’t think that I’m speaking with the blind optimism of youth.)

  44. mikestasse

    Groan Miriam…….. YOU’ve been manipulated!!

    “We have begun to make oil out of thin air using algae” No we haven’t. ALL that still takes fossil fuel inputs. There’s no free lunch. It will NEVER replace oil, because its Energy return on Energy Invested is but a fraction of oil’s. It takes years of studying this energy stuff to truly understand it, but mere seconds of manipulation from the media, ANY media, that technology will save us. I wish it could, but it can’t.

    “I just spent half the day watching a movie and doing some programming on my computer which uses just a trickle of energy, powered by small rechargeable batteries” EXACTLY HOW do you think the stuff in your computer and its battery come from? MINES….. all running on DIESEL. More than that, all the stuff in your computer is made of rare materials (like the Hafnium that’s in ALL LCD screens now) that are due to run out by ~2018.

    “There is plenty to give us great hope.”

    I call it HOPIUM Miriam. Spoon fed by the manipulating media who know you don’t know how all this stuff REALLY works. Trust me, when I found out………. I couldn’t believe we could all be conned this way! All manipulated……….

  45. Kaye Lee

    You are making that judgement with today’s knowledge mikestasse. We all know we cannot eliminate fossil fuel use completely YET. What we can do is wean ourself off it while the boffins keep researching and refining their ideas and their applications. Work on reduction while waiting for those breakthroughs that will allow us to do it better. Elimination is the goal and we have some tools to help us on the path if we choose to use them.

  46. Miriam English

    🙂 Mike, as Kaye points out you are looking at the past and not seeing the future. Yes, my equipment is made from oil and mined minerals. Yes most screens now use nasty minerals, the mining of which supports bloody wars. But there are major changes happening there too. LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) save great amounts of power when used for screens (and for lighting homes) and they have a lifespan of one or two decades. Their production can be a relatively toxic process, but now we have some very cool work on OLEDs — organic light emitting diodes. Some smartphone screens are already using them. There are also organic conductors now to replace metal wiring. If you have an ebook reader with an e-ink screen then that uses tiny spheres of opaque white liguid and a black electrostatically charged particle that can be pushed against the viewing side or pulled away from it. Not only does this get away from dangerous minerals but the screen doesn’t require any power to maintain the display, only to change it. These devices are now extremely common.

    Batteries are a major problem, but as I mentioned, supercapacitors are poised to change that. Already there are youtube videos of people replacing their car batteries with much cheaper and lighter supercapacitors (for example http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPJao1xLe7w ), and others of people making their own supercapacitors.

    Some of the prototype systems that use algae to make oil actually do produce diesel. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algae_fuel They currently produce it slowly, and the existing prototypes still have problems scaling up production, but these are not problems of principle, they are engineering problems. One of the difficulties concerns algae adhering to the inside of the glass tubes they’re grown in and reducing productivity, but other research on altering the microstructure of the surface may well solve that by what we’ve learned from the surface of the waterlily leaf and the surface of the dragonfly wing. That technology has already given us windows that never need to be cleaned and other materials that don’t get wet (for example https://www.ted.com/talks/mark_shaw_one_very_dry_demo.html ). We are surrounded with solutions if we know where to look.

    By the tone of your dismissive response you probably think that a woman has little understanding of these kinds of technological things, but my friend, you are wrong. I have been a science nerd since my primary school days more than half a century ago. I have a deeper understanding of science and engineering over a broader range than most men.

    If you want your optimism repaired check out http://www.ted.com for a great number of very smart people doing amazing things to help fix the world. And stay away from newspapers, radio, and TV. They bend your brain to make you think things are hopeless.

  47. Kaye Lee

    “If you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem.”

    “Have the courage to change what you can and the strength to endure what you can’t.”

    “Ask not what your country can do, but what you can do for your country.”

    “If you see something that needs doing, then do it.”

    “Talk is cheap.”

    When you think about it, our collective power is amazing. Our combined human resource is an astonishing thing. We cannot allow this invaluable asset to be taken over by the pursuit of profit for people who don’t give a f.

  48. Kaye Lee

    When we have these sort of conversations I am overwhelmed by the stupidity of our current (hopefully shortlived) government. Who in the world would move away from science and environmental regulation considering the ever increasing weight of evidence? Why would they do such a thing? Look at priorities and intentions.

    As I have grown older, time has passed more quickly but, just at the moment, 3 years is sounding like a life sentence.

  49. Kaye Lee

    I have waffled far and wide on this thread. John’s articles, and the responses they evoke, have that effect on me, and I thank him for that (though I do understand if people feel I talk too much….sorry, my family is glad I have another outlet).

    John originally proposed that we are being manipulated and I thoroughly agree. Somehow Tony’s advertising team have convinced enough people that, by making the wealthy richer, and giving global corporations more power, all humanity will be better off. Yeah….right!!!!

  50. Miriam English

    I am constantly surprised that anybody still falls for the old “trickle-down” economics model, or “crumbs from the table of the rich”. It has never worked anywhere in the world. A simple thought experiment shows why. Consider a set number of people and a set amount of money. Now move most of the money into a few hands and it clearly leaves less for everybody else. The rich say that it is they who start up businesses and employ people and that sounds convincing until you realise that the biggest employer is small business. The ultra-rich in effect destroy the job market by soaking up funds that the middle class could use to employ people.

    Now, I am not in favor of uniformity in society. Any ecosystem that has variety has greater resilience. There should be differences in wealth because not everybody needs lots of money (I certainly don’t), but poverty should NOT exist, and there is a point beyond which individual wealth becomes detrimental to society and frankly obscene.

    Kaye, I don’t think you talk too much. Your family’s loss is our gain. 🙂
    In contrast, it could be argued that I do talk too much. I’m supposed to be writing a bloody book and keep ending up here. 🙂

  51. Kaye Lee

    Miriam the extended family still hears it….ALL the time. Thankfully, they have a social conscience so the discussions are usually stimulating and sympatico to a large degree I have two children aged 22 and 20 with partners of similar ages. It is my parental responsibility to have these discussions with them. They won’t always accompany me to rallies and protests and I admonish them for not fighting for my potential grandchildren’s future. They respond with “we will tell them how hard Grandma fought for them”
    🙂

  52. mikestasse

    WHO’s not looking (or rather understanding) the future? Not me that’s for sure…… everyone who knows me calls me the futurist. And if anyone has changed, it’s me…… I haven’t done or is doing ANYTHING ‘normal’. I am already living in the future, because the past is the past, and the present is sure as hell too scary. I am not part of the problem…… I am the solution. You just don’t like the solution.

    The problem with the people who manipulate you the people who attack me here into believing the future will be ‘nice’, and technology will save us, is that they are NOT big picture people. Yes, there are people working on supercapacitors, yes there are people working on zero resistance transmission lines, yes there are people improving solar power, yes there are people working on making biofuels from algae…….. but they’ve never heard of the three E’s I’ll bet……. HAVE YOU? http://www.peakprosperity.com/crashcourse

    Not only are supplies of oil and natural gas under imminent threat of failing to meet demand for them, but so is a whole range of precious metals, along with indium, gallium and germanium and other vital elements such as phosphorus and helium. Nobody’s watching the gauges.

    A report from the Science and Technology Committee, advised by the Royal Society of Chemistry, warns that indium, used in touch screens and liquid crystal displays, and rare earth elements (REEs) particularly neodymium and dysprosium, used to fabricate highly efficient magnets for electric cars and wind turbines are dangerously difficult to access.

    In developing a low-carbon transport infrastructure, it is proposed that biofuels should be used principally for aviation where there is no practical alternative to liquid fuels. Thus, it is ventured, electric cars will become increasingly important in providing personalised transport while avoiding the use of petroleum or natural-gas based fuels. The knock-on effect is that new sources of lithium must be found along with the means to mine and process the metal, plus the inauguration of recycling technology for lithium.

    Roughly one fifth of all fuel in the UK is used for aircraft, or around 13 million tonnes. At a yield of 952 L/ha and a density of 0.88 g/cm3, to produce this much biodiesel would take 15.5 million hectares of arable land, of which the UK has only 6.5 million hectares. Meanwhile here in Australia we are building cities on top of some our best land to satisfy population growth.

    IF we were to stop growing food crops entirely and just rapeseed, we could still only fuel 42% of our transport fleet.

    Given the 17 million cars on the roads here currently fuelled by oil, the case for a wide-scale implementation of electric-cars might appear compelling. However, the lead-in time to make a dent in that number of vehicles and the 30 million tonnes of crude oil used for fuel (which will need to be imported 100% after 2020 – and you thought raising the debt ceiling was an issue NOW!) would be decades at best, even if the necessary supplies of REEs, lithium and overall manufacturing capacity for them could be achieved. The most practical use for electricity is to power mass transportation, e.g. tramways and railway networks rather than individual vehicles.

    Evidence of peaking is found for a number of minerals, e.g. mercury around 1962; lead in 1986; zirconium in 1990; selenium in 1994; gallium in 2000. The results for gallium are significant, both in that the peak occurred seven years ago and in the size of its total reserve, which when compared with the amount used worldwide by the electronics industry, implies that we may run short of gallium any time soon. Tellurium and selenium are two other minerals that underpin the semiconductor industry and it appears that their fall in production may also impact negatively on future technologies that are entirely reliant upon them, since there are no obvious substitute materials with precisely equivalent properties.

    For vanadium, although a production peak is indicated in 2005, the data in the “mineral commodities handbook” show a later and sudden surge in production, which is not fully explained but thought may potentially relate to uncertainties in reporting from countries like China. So, there may be a real and ongoing upsurge in production from particularly the Chinese economy which is quoted as being “out of sync” with the rest of the world, such is its massive expansion, or it might be a red herring.

    Hafnium, another metal whose days are numbered, is an essential component of computer-chips and is also employed as a thermal-neutron absorber in nuclear control-rods, is thought may literally run-out within 10 years. Peak oil we all know about, but peak gas, peak uranium and peak coal will follow. There is in fact a peak in the production of all materials that were laid down in the distant past, and we are using them up at an expanding rate.

    I could go on….. but I bet nobody’s even reading this far down. I’m no longer manipulated by anyone. I question EVERYTHING. I don’t believe what anyone says until I see the NUMBERS. I just wish everybody would wake up before it’s too late.

  53. CMMC

    The Civic Vacuum, by Mr. Denmore

    “The civic function of journalism has been almost entirely eclipsed by the market function of commercial media.”

  54. mikestasse

    Miriam…… re “Already there are youtube videos of people replacing their car batteries with much cheaper and lighter supercapacitors (for example http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPJao1xLe7w )”

    I had a really good look at that. But don’t be manipulated by what you see! This guy is SCARY AS!

    Leaving the bare copper wires aside (GASP!) all capacitors have voltage limits. To achieve higher voltages, several supercapacitors are connected in series, which is what he has done. This has disadvantages. Serial connection reduces the total capacitance, and strings of more than three capacitors (and his has SIX) require voltage balancing to prevent any cell from going into over-voltage. IF any one of those capacitors goes into overvoltage…… it will EXPLODE! And it will almost certainly cause the ones next to it to explode too.

    The specific energy of supercapacitors is low and ranges from 1 to 30Wh/kg. Lead acid batteries hold 41Wh/kg, Lithium-ion 128Wh/kg. So the fact his ‘battery’ only weighs five pounds is no advantage at all, because its capacity is at best 75Wh. The discharge curve is another disadvantage. His car starts quickly, which is just as well, because if there was a mechanical problem stopping the car from starting immediately…. the pack would be flat in seconds… Whereas the electrochemical battery delivers a steady voltage in the usable power band, the voltage of the supercapacitor decreases on a linear scale from full to zero voltage.

    I’ll bet it won’t last long. If this was a true breakthrough….. ALL cars would have them under the bonnet.

    His car insurance is now null and void, and he better not cause an accident that damages someone else’s property…..

  55. Michael Taylor

    Me too, mikestasse.

  56. diannaart

    Miriam

    What excellent advice – stop reading newspapers ; start reading NewScientist – so straight forward and simple even the Rabbott could understand – except he doesn’t have to, he is one of the puppetmasters, actually that should read puppetmiddlemen, he is one of the players who, in turn, is played.

    Loved your post BTW – except for the “soylent”; images of Charlton Heston are forever, therefore a name change would be good for fabricated nutrients to catch on. I have a background in Landscape/Environment and know one can grow veggies everywhere.

    @ Kaye Lee

    You can send me some of your “talking-too-much” energy any time – I admire your posts and the work you put into them.

  57. mikestasse

    New Scientist is indeed an EXCELLENT publication…….. which agrees with ME!

    The return of interest in “The Limits to Growth” continues after decades of ridicule and insults. The value of the 1972 study and of its sequels is more and more recognized. The latest item in the series of revisitations is the article published by Debora McKenzie in the New Scientist on Jan 10, 2012 and titled “Boom and Doom, revisiting prophecies of collapse” (can be read on the New Scientist site after registration)

    On the whole, the article by McKenzie is very well done and it summarizes all the main points of the story: how Limits never made the mistakes it was accused to have made, how the study was demonised, and how its scenarios are 100% relevant to our situation today. The article has been extensively researched and it cites the opinion of most of the researchers who have been working on the reappraisal of the study and of its methods, including Ugo Bardi’s book, “The Limits to Growth Revisited”. http://www.springer.com/environment/environmental+management/book/978-1-4419-9415-8

    The powers that be has everyone enthralled with some magical future, by manipulating everyone into not rioting, because the future looks so rosy.

    When I was a teenager, we were promised flying cars, and heaps of leasure time because robots would be doing all the hard work……

  58. Miriam English

    Of course I read to the end, Mike. 🙂

    Quite correct, there are limits and we are running up against them, just as has been warned for decades. What most people don’t realise is how many scientists and technologists are turning to biology to learn its secrets of how to make materials with unexpected qualities from fairly ordinary and abundant elements using very little energy. Take the hardness of an abalone shell, for example. It uses chalk and protein laid down in a microscopically interleaved fashion to produce something with a hardness that rivals some of our toughest ceramics, and it does it at ambient temperatures instead of a furnace. Deep ocean sponges make silica fibers and lenses of a purity and quality traditional glass manufacturers struggle to achieve, and they do it in the cold of the ocean depths, using sea-water as their source material.

    Work on quantum dots has produced novel devices that don’t rely upon dopants to achieve their characteristics, but use shape instead, with light-emitting devices created by tiny cavities.

    Nanotechnology is a field that is surging ahead with new discoveries every day and the promise of fabricating complex materials using low energy out of common elements, most particularly carbon. Carbon is used so successfully by biology because of its remarkable capabilities, in its pure form making the hardest material, diamond, as well as ultrathin, flexible sheets of graphite, more conductive than copper, and microscopic capsules and tubes in various fullerene configurations (the tubes, tantalisingly have tensile strength far beyond anything else known and are a potential candidate for the cable of the much desired space elevator). In combination with other elements carbon forms all the billions of materials found in nature… all synthesised at room temperature.

    Composite materials are being developed that make the old ones look primitive. Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) has developed a car made from carbon composite materials that is stronger, lighter, cheaper, more energy efficient than steel. Such vehicles require a fraction of the energy to drive them and are far safer.

    RMI has, for decades, been a vocal promoter of solar and wind technologies. Their institute, built into the hillside up above the snowline in the mountains of Colorado, USA, has some banana trees and a tropical iguana as evidence that low energy technologies can provide a luxurious lifestyle. They have laid out a roadmap that would let the USA wean itself entirely off oil (for fuel) in the near future. They are skeptical of any big government having the foresight to make the hard decisions so they’ve been partnering with small local governments and business to get it done. Surprisingly the US Pentagon has become interested in their work as they’re sick of successive governments wasting soldiers’ lives in oil-driven conflicts that make their country less secure.
    Their book Winning the Oil Endgame is available as paper or free online: http://www.rmi.org/Knowledge-Center/Library/E04-07_WinningTheOilEndgame
    Their book Natural Capitalism is likewise available: http://www.natcap.org/
    Both are pragmatic solutions that leverage existing technologies while encouraging new ones. They appeal to businesses while cunningly inserting social conscience under the radar.

    As for the flying cars, I dreamed of them too, but they were sadly always a pretty stupid idea, however a more energy efficient variation on that theme may still come about with the recent resurgence of interest in lighter-than-air craft.

    Robots are definitely still coming. I predict that we have to wait til 3D printer technology, just starting now to really spread, hits its stride. Then every kid will be designing and redesigning robotic parts that they share online and boom! it will explode the way early hobby computers did. Artificial intelligence (AI) is closer than you think, with Grok, a company formed by the brilliant Jeff Hawkins (of Palm Pilot and Handspring fame) open-sourcing a technology for developing AIs. They have had remarkable successes lately.

    Yes, those of us who keep doing things the same old way are in for a bad time. Considering the very cool work I’ve seen on cheap, cool, new technologies, many of which I have right here in front of me, I think it’s a good bet that much of society will adapt, while those heavily invested in the old ways will fall (petroleum companies, car companies, paper industries, mines, steel companies, etc.) and while I’ll feel for the individuals involved, quite frankly I won’t be sad to see those companies take a nosedive as they’ve badly abused their social position for far too long. There will definitely be problems and some very uncomfortable dislocation, but we seem to need discomfort to get our sorry arses to move, don’t you think?

  59. Miriam English

    I had to chuckle at them choosing to name it “Soylent”. And I’m actually unconvinced that Soylent will be what they hope. I’m too uneasy with memories of other “complete” foods that have resulted in the deaths of people trying to live entirely on them. I’m also suspicious of extremely low residue foods and am convinced that with little poop we will end up with intestinal disorders. But as an attempt to alleviate starvation I think it is nevertheless praiseworthy.

    Like you I’m more interested in the idea of growing veges everywhere. I’d like us to give up meat entirely (I’m vegetarian), but I know that’s not going to happen in a hurry, so I like the idea of this company that is growing cruelty-free meat in vats developed originally to grow replacement organs.
    http://www.ted.com/talks/andras_forgacs_leather_and_meat_without_killing_animals.html

  60. Miriam English

    Mike, the capacitors in series don’t decrease capacitance, they just don’t increase it. Yes, it is a rough and ready piece of work, but that’s what garage experimenters do. The first computer I built had a body built from a wooden packing crate and all the keys on the keyboard bare-wired up painstakingly by me. It didn’t look glamorous, but it worked. (Still does.) Today’s supercapacitors don’t hold much power (though that is changing with the new graphene-based ones), but it doesn’t really need to do much more than start the car. True that if there is something making it difficult to start then you could easily deplete the capacitor, but at least if you do it doesn’t damage the capacitor. If you lose more than about a quarter of the stored energy in a battery then you have damaged it, possibly permanently. Batteries don’t have as much usefulness as they at first seem.

    Yes, the supercapacitors are not a perfect solution yet, but graphene is changing the game entirely.

  61. mikestasse

    Miriam…….. for an artist, you seem to thinkl you know a lot about eletricity. You are wrong about capacitors in series….

    Capacitors Connected in Parallel and in Series

    The equivalent capacitance of two capacitors in series with capacitance 10 μF and 20 μF can be calculated as

    in series

    1/C = 1/(10 μF) + 1/(20 μF)

    = 0.15 (1/μF)

    or

    C = 1 / 0.15 (1/μF)

    = 6.7 (μF)

    http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/capacitors-parallel-series-d_1388.html

  62. Michael Taylor

    Mikestasse, I hope you weren’t trying to type that from a mobile device. 😉

  63. Buff McMenis

    It’s hard to get to my age and find that nothing has changed from the Menzies era!! It is still the boys as the big end of town who manage to milk the little fellows and revel in their dismal lives!! I loather the L-NP and with justification! But even Ming wouldn’t have acted as badly as this .. he at least gave us colourful and succinct reports on what his government was doing … the secrecy of this current mob smacks more of a dictatorship! I’m scared. 🙁

  64. mikestasse

    No Michael, I copy/pasted it…….. otherwise I would have made a typo for sure! 😉

  65. Jan

    Thank you so much John for you brilliant article. Now I don’t feel so alone in this crazy and manipulative world. Got to fight the good fight.”Live simply so others may live”. Core principle of Vandana Shiva.

  66. Miriam English

    Oops. Mike, of course you are right. A stupid mistake. Capacitors in series do have lower total capacitance. Sorry about that. Yes, I’m an artist, but I’ve also been building electronic circuits since I was about 12 years old.

  67. mikestasse

    Hopium is the drug to which we’re addicted. It’s the desire to have our problems solved by others, instead of by ourselves. It’s why we keep electing politicians while knowing they won’t keep their promises, but finding ourselves too fearful to give up the much-promised future of never-ending growth on a finite planet.

    Knowing we cannot occupy this finite world without adverse consequences for humans or other animals, but afraid to face that truth, we turn away. We watch the television, go to the movies, gamble at casinos, play on Facebook, and pursue similar avenues of using up our precious time. Many Australians applaud while the world burns and we take a flame-thrower to the planet. Nietzsche nailed it, as usual:

    “Hope in reality is worst of evils, because it prolongs man’s torment.”

    Finally, I’ve come to the conclusion that Nietzsche was right. I used to think hope differed from hopium, back when I had hope. Gradually, I’ve come to see hope and hopium as one. Let’s get off the crack pipe and onto reality.

    Lest the reader forget, I am by no means suggesting we abandon (1) resistance or (2) joy-filled lives. Life, including human life, is a gift. Let’s live as if we appreciate the gift. Let’s live as if we appreciate the others in our lives, human and otherwise. Let’s live as if there is more to life than the technological treadmill onto which we’ve been born.

    Let’s live.

  68. TimePasser

    mikestasse November 17, 2013 • 7:23 am
    “…finding ourselves too fearful to give up the much-promised future of never-ending growth on a finite planet…… Let’s live as if there is more to life than the technological treadmill onto which we’ve been born.”

    Miriam English November 15, 2013 • 11:55 pm
    “There should be differences in wealth because not everybody needs lots of money (I certainly don’t), but poverty should NOT exist, and there is a point beyond which individual wealth becomes detrimental to society and frankly obscene.”

    Well said mikestasse and Miriam. Many of us are happy with a simple life but we don’t insist that others live quite so austerely. Yet we can all recognise a level of poverty below which no one should be forced to live because it would not be necessary if humans took only a fair share. We should enjoy nature according to our need but not rob Nature of its resources to satisfy our greed.

    You both reminded me of a quote from Mahatma Gandhi, which is something like…
    “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not for every man’s greed”.

  69. mikestasse

    Timepasser…. “we don’t insist that others live quite so austerely”

    WHAT makes you think we have a choice? There are way too many people for diminishing resources. Austerity is coming, like it or not. In fact, starvation and disease is on the cusp of decimating civilisation through economic collapse, followed by lack of energy, finished off by climate change….. literally the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

    ‘Sleepwalking to Extinction’: Capitalism and the Destruction of Life and Earth

    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/11/15-3

  70. Fed up

    My gut instinct tells me this is a rotten toxic government. Now relying on ones gut instinct is dangerous indeed.

    Therefore a prudent person sets up the hypothesis to prove ones instincts wrong.

    They have to be wrong as many voted for this government. Enough, to allow them to have control of the lower house, but not the upper.

    I have, in fairness and too ensure I get things right, looked to find the many things one would expect this government has got right. Yes, looking for positives, to compare with the negatives, that are like a sea around us.

    Now as hard as I try, I can find none.

    It could be my personal prejudices that is making me blind. I have asked for help from others, those that support this government, No help there. I have not had one taker. Yes, plenty attacking the previous two PMs but none willing to talk about the current one.

    Could it be, that my gut instincts are correct.

    I really do not hope that is the way things are, as I love this country of mine, and want to see it prosper, mostly for my children, their children and all that come after them.

    I want this government to succeed.

    I am listening to the CC debate in the lower house. Nothing there to change my mind. All I am still hearing from the government, how bad where the ones that went before them.

    Not hearing why they believe thy have a better solution.

    Nothing there at all, except to say business, not the environment or people must be looked after.

    Yes, we are being conned, by a manipulative government.

  71. Fed up

    It is not about all being equal. It is about equity, a different concept altogether. About the right for all to have the opportunity to reach their full potential and desires.

    It about serving people, not the economy or the powerful.

    Yes, money and government should be a tool of the people, not it’s master.

    We are now being sol

    One I cannot but. We have never been able to say as we like. There has always been consequences for this. Yes, people and countries have always reacted, often leading to war.

    In recent centuries, there have been be laws of libel and defamation. No, one cannot spread lies about another.

    Every right carries responsibilities.

    One has the right to have a child. One has the responsibility to raise it to be a healthy and well rounded adult.

    I cannot thing of one right, that does not carry responsibilities. To some, this seems outrageous. I have been asked why I think this is so.

    Please tell me why it should not be so.

    Maybe, the word I should be using is duty. An old fashion word that one.

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  74. Alan Smith

    I really cannot see that there is any serious manipulation going on here.

    While “average” Australian voters might vary in levels of intelligence and comprehension, I have yet to see any evidence that the bulk of our population – including the vital “swinging voters” – are so moronic that they can’t work out that an opinion expressed in a newspaper owned by a rich media magnate will not be conservative. This is the age of the internet, when input is available from a wide source.

    Surely no-one with an IQ high enough to enable them to go to the toilet without help is unable to work out that certain people (Andrew Bolt being a prime example) hold ultra-rightist opinions, and that when casting a vote, it is as well not to do exactly and uncritically as they say. Or that a newspaper owned by a rich media magnate is going to be biased in their reportage and editorial content.

    Frankly, if people are not researching their opinions (and deciding how to vote) beyond reading “The Australian” or watching Andrew Bolt interrupt the ads on commercial TV then they have got the government they deserve. However, there is little evidence that this is the case. Would a normal person REALLY start believing the earth was flat. after reading a report by the president of the Flat Earth Society? Or change from being a Port Adelaide to a Collingwood supporter after being urged to do so by a letter from the Collingwood Supporters’ Club?

    In other words, are the majority of Australian voters totally unaware of the phrase “consider the source???”

    Judging by what I was hearing in the street before the 2013 election, it was disunity in the ALP that was the deciding factor in casting a vote for the Coalition, not anything they read in the right-wing press. Since Australians are naturally conservative in outlook anyway (compare the number of years we’ve had an ALP government against the years spent under a conservative one) it doesn’t take much for Labor to be wiped out at an election. The ALP’s only hope seem to be when people vote *against* coalition policy, as in Howard’s embracing of “Work Choices” or Fraser’s austerity measures.

    If the ALP win the 2016 election (or some double dissolution election before then) it will be due to voter hatred of life under Tony Abbott… not because right wing commentators have had a change of heart, or that the Murdoch press has ceased to operate.

  75. Miriam English

    @Alan Smith — Actually, I have some experience in this matter. I come from a progressive family. We pride ourselves on openness, humanist outlook, embrace of science and knowledge in general, and blindness to race. My brother has in recent years had a job where he is exposed to lots of right-wing broadcasts. I was recently appalled to hear him give voice to racist and anti-science comments quite out of touch with reality.

    He felt that the USA (and backers) were warranted in invading Iraq because of the attack on the Twin Towers. This delusion is promoted, as far as I know, only by Fox “News”. I patiently explained to him that members of Al Qaida hated Saddam Hussein as much as the USA (perhaps even more!) and that Iraq was attacked by USA & Co. to steal oil and to gain a strategic position in the Middle East. The planes flying into buildings had nothing to do with it, other than making people want to hit something.

    He also astonishingly said that continental drift was ridiculous. This is another delusion peddled by the right-wing creationists on Fox. I showed him the evidence.

    There were many more — “Wikileaks are terrorists”, “Greens are murderers because of asylum-seeker boat deaths”, “prison sentences should be harsher”, and much, much more. These are all from right-wing extremist propaganda that has seeped into his brain. It is completely at odds to the culture in our family, but continued exposure to this garbage really alter people’s minds.

    I’ve become a Kickstarter backer for a documentary being made about this very effect. The documentary is called The Brainwashing of My Dad. Jen Senko began making the film after her father, who was always a tolerant, good humored man, became increasingly bitter and racist through being constantly exposed to right-wing radio propaganda. He had to drive long distances to and from work and listened to talk radio each day in the car. It changed him.

    This is a very real effect. People can be good, humane, intelligent people, but continued exposure to this stuff bends their brains. It’s effect can be subtle and even alter your thinking while you are dismissing it. Inducing fear has a way of opening your mind unconsciously to their way of thinking. This is how brainwashing works: create constant fear, then offer a way out. It is a rare person who can resist. Being intelligent isn’t much use against these kind of underhand tactics. Inoculation by knowing how it works is a partial defense.

  76. Alan Smith

    @Miriam English: This is actually quite scary. My assumption that swinging Australian voters did not vote right wing because of being brainwashed by the Murdoch Press has to – in the light of your anecdote – be subject to revision.

    I guess my opinion was based upon a variant of “Occam’s razor” – that.there was an *obvious* reason that most people I spoke to in 2013 shifted to the right, and no need to seek any other explanation. It is however possible that (a) The ALP’s leadership issues were *part* of the general thrust of the rightist press’ argument, and this is the one that most fixated upon by the people I spoke to, and (b) that perhaps the influence of the rightist press on their opinions was unconscious, and therefore not cited as a reason.

    You did not state whether or not you challenged your brother with the question “did watching Fox News give you these opinions?” and if so, whether he cited this source as the reason for his change of heart. I would be intrigued to know if people who shift to the right are actually conscious of the influence of the propaganda that led to their new opinions, or is it a kind of subtle brainwashing along the lines of the way religious cults work.

    I confess, I have, in the past changed my opinions (political or otherwise) after reading or otherwise consuming a well researched and argued piece that took a stance opposite my original viewpoint. However, afterwards, I was able to trace back to the reason for my change in mindset, and cite the specific source.

    Giving personal details here simply because they relate to this point, I confess to holding some opinions generally considered as “conservative” – for example, beliefs that volunteering in the armed services if your country is under threat is a noble act, that children suffer from a total absence of parental discipline or that free trade works better economically than sanctions – all of which would no doubt win the hearty approval of the Fox News hierarchy. (I doubt they would concur with my views on gay marriage, welfare, treatment of refugees, the tax system, racism or evolution though!) – and I wonder just what percentage of my views (rightist or leftist) have been formed by this “saturation of opinion” concept. A chilling thought!

    btw on a totally unrelated issue I loved your sketch of the dancer on your site. Commiserations that the project it was connected to did not work out as you’d hoped.

  77. Miriam English

    @Alan Smith — Thanks for checking my site and for the compliment.

    I should have mentioned that although I think the mainstream media had a very large part to play in the recent election, I think it wasn’t so much that people were converted to the Coalition’s point of view. I think rather that their dislike for the Labour government was heightened. Australians are notorious for voting governments out rather than in. Perhaps this was an intentional ploy by the mainstream media to enhance an existing tendency, or maybe Tony Abbott is such an unsympathetic character that it would have been too hard to make him look good, I don’t know, but all the guttersniping from the mainstream media worked.

    I haven’t voted Labour since the “children overboard” scandal and the way the two major parties competed with grubby, immoral fear tactics for scaring up votes. Since then I think the Greens are the only party with any moral fibre. I was hoping that they would win an unprecedented vote (like they did during the “children overboard” insanity). Unfortunately the proliferation of small, scam parties (the animal rights party was a front for Pauline Hanson, for example) sucked votes away. I think this was how the Libs gained power — through preferences. It is my understanding they didn’t win government on transparent votes. When people say the Libs have a mandate to do one thing or another, they overlook this.

    Your views sound like what I think the majority of Australians believe. Mostly they are good sense. (There are a few I’d differ on — I don’t think military action is ever honorable, even when justified; children need reliable boundaries, though if properly done this shouldn’t need punishment.) Australians, on the whole have been a pretty good and moral bunch. This is what annoys me more than anything about the current brainwashing. We have had a pretty good thing here. I’ve happily called Australia the lucky country for a long time. I am worried that Murdoch and Abbott, with some unwitting help from the Labour Party are going to wreck all that and draw out and emphasise the worst in us. When you consider the similarity in Coalition tactics to those of the Nazi Party (secrecy, breeding hate against the helpless, incestuously close connections to big business, using unjust laws to clamp down on free association, flagrant and confident lying, etc) it really makes me edgy.

    My main hope at this point is that the good and moral members of the Libs and Country Party (and, yes, they exist) try to take their party back from those who have usurped it. Tony Abbott is not a conservative. He has a very radical agenda, and this must be getting up the noses of a lot of people in his party. Best case: this could begin a swing back to a more left-leaning, socially responsible Australia.

    I also hope that the Labour Party will find someone with brains and moral backbone. Even Julia Gillard, who I think was frankly brilliant and did a lot of good, didn’t seem to have a reliable moral compass (blocking gay marriage, calling Wikileaks criminal, continuing offshore concentration camps for asylum seekers, attempting to censor the internet), and was unfortunately not especially charismatic.

    Maybe after a few calamitous seasons of climate change, the Greens will finally be able to penetrate the ignorance the mainstream media have wrapped themselves in and they’ll get the votes they deserve. Australia could benefit from a Green government the way Germany did recently.

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