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Itís time (to panic)

By Richard Stanton - posted Wednesday, 28 August 2013


Life is filled with unpleasant disruptions. How often do you start out in the morning feeling fine, a spring in your step, a song on your iPod but within five minutes of walking down your street to the train station someone has ruined it. Doesn’t take much to make you mad, right? And there is no way to get over it.

Well you are not alone. Your mood swings wildly from happy to angry within a short space of time precisely because your values and ideals are under constant attack. You know your train will be late, overcrowded and dirty. You know too that you will have to weave and dodge from the train station to your workplace through crowds of people who don’t seem to have any sense of direction. You imagine yourself fainting on the footpath but no help arrives – other people walk over you and around you avoiding looking at you because if they stop to help they will become involved in something that is “not my problem”.

You imagine yourself exactly the same way that others imagine themselves in a society that is experiencing deep rupturing within its institutions — within its schools, its hospitals, its businesses, its corporations, and its local footy clubs.

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In what appears to be a world gone mad – your prime minister promises there will be no carbon tax then promptly introduces one — we search vainly for a way to make sense of the madness. We need to rationalise it somehow so that we don’t feel alienated and isolated. Even though we hate them, we turn to the secular news media. We don’t have the time or resources to invest in finding out about all the stuff that is surrounding us, all the big issues that seem to be taking up space in the world — climate change, global warming, gay marriage, an endless list of big ticket issues — so we rely on television, radio and the internet to keep us informed.

We tweet our anger. We sometimes have opinions but because we don’t have time to forensically investigate issues, we rely on journalism and the media to act objectively and to stick to the facts and maintain balance in reporting stuff so that we can make sense of it. But we know they conspire against us.

We expect leadership and our leaders to exercise their authority in the same way we exercise our authority within our family or within our tight circle of friends. We have plenty of friends on Facebook but we don’t always act the same way towards them as we do towards our geographically close friends and family.

We are confused by the big ticket issues like climate change. We have no clue as to why there is so much anger about it on talk back radio, on the golf course, or at the kids playgroup. We have been taking beach holidays since we were kids and the same old waves are still there at the same level in the same old ocean that we have been visiting for yonks. Who is this Flannery guy and why is he trying to persuade us that sea levels will rise and cause devastation some time in the future? Why is he talking up the possibility of the western suburbs of Sydney becoming a heat-infected ghetto some time in the future?

Up until mid 2013 the media and the federal treasurer Wayne Swan kept telling us that we survived the global financial crisis better than any other country and thanks to him and his government ‘working families’ were better off than they had ever been. If this was true, why does the stuff we buy at the supermarket cost twice as much as it did five years ago? Why are petrol prices higher than most other places in the world? Why do we have to wait for hours at public hospital emergency wards before we get treatment?

And the really frightening questions, why is the government allowing China to buy up all our prime agricultural and mining land? Why does it let boat-people arrive and provide them with housing and welfare when we are doing it so tough? Why do the police let ethnic gangs get away with drive-by shootings? Why are Asians and Indians taking all our jobs?

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We have arrived at a point in time in Australia that appears to have no historical equal. Political commentators talk about the upheaval of the Whitlam years — a time when there was what might now be called managed chaos within the government and within society — and compare now to then. There is no comparison. We have never been here before. And this is the guts of the problem.

The social and political institutions that exist are incapable of managing the monumental changes that are being driven through Australian society. Governments, schools, universities, businesses, corporations, hospitals, and the police are leaderless. Those in control — politicians, chief executives, principals, doctors — are terrified of being sued if they say anything. They have succumbed to a culture of endless argument. Parliament, board rooms, university lecture theatres and school class rooms are now suffering the paralysing constraints of endless argument.

But the arguments are not enlightening. There is no rationalisation. The arguments are polar in the extreme. The ‘progressives’ as they have become known, the left of centre green-type individual is intolerant of all other views. In their quest for ‘change that they believe in’ they have abandoned objectivity and sadly, all sense of irony or humour. The conservatives — a label that like progressive is inaccurate — the right of centre red-neck individual believes that if something ain’t broke it don’t need fixing.

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This is an edited extract from Scorched Earth, which can be bought from Verandah Press for $12.99.



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About the Author

Richard Stanton is a political communication writer and media critic. His most recent book is Do What They Like: The Media In The Australian Election Campaign 2010.

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All articles by Richard Stanton

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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