Australia, amongst nations, enjoys a remarkable number of inherent natural advantages. Resources in iron ore, agricultural land, energy and sunshine. A multi-ethnic society that largely co-habits and is evolving into a new integration of peoples.
Overall Australia has many ingredients for continued success. It has as its rock one of the oldest cultures in the world, with millennia of Aboriginal history that informs modern societies, amongst other things, of the holistic connection between the people, the sun and their land, and how fragile environments can be maintained to sustain life in the most drought-prone Continent on earth. Australia has become home to some 25 million people, almost doubling in population since 1975, the year I was first fortunate enough to tread its shores.
And yet, because of a phase in history in which many of the early European settlers were of convict stock, there is an in-built “them and us” culture that knocks down tall poppies, begrudges success and reverts to prize-fighting bully-boy tactics when certain parts of society don’t get their own way. Whether it is the CFMEU flagrantly breaching workplace laws, or bankers riding roughshod over the norms of common fairness, or politicians who put personal aggrandisement above the greater good, the logic of the rightness of collaborative efforts gets over-ridden. Australia seldom quite gets its whole act together. It punches above its weight, but falls at the last fence more often than is seemly!
Sometimes it’s the seemingly tiniest of matters. The removal of music from Australia’s national network, ABC Radio National. Whole swathes of small remote populations now have no resource of musical enlightenment. Their Internet connections are almost non-existent and economic rationalism drives the decision making above all else. Important in the realm of things. Hell yes!
The latest episode of lemming-like self-delusion is the head-long destructive behaviour of yet another toppled Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who can’t accept that his narrow 1950’s view of a world of belching power stations fuelled by black gold from the bountiful earth no longer fits a world now trying to sustain 7.5 Billion people. More specifically; a nation of 25 million people who need water and food that must come from a nation probably better suited to one third of that number. According to polls, when less than 10% of the population are reported to support his views on marriage equality, global warming and the treatment of refugees, he battles on, seemingly more interested in toppling his successor and plunging his party into headlong oblivion, as well as the nation into turmoil, rather than be party to moving ahead as the nation adapts to a fast-transforming new world.
For that new world is rapidly waking up to the reality that the imbalance of excess population, diminished water quality, pollution of our oceans with micro-plastics, disappearing species from climate change and excess land-clearing, have brought about an almost irreversible self-destruction.
The imbalance in incomes between the seriously wealthy, the injustice of large corporations seemingly immune to all normal behaviours of paying their fair share of taxes and dues (through legal webs of behaviour that make a spider’s web look like a model of elegant simplicity) bring that imbalance into stark reality. The streets of Australia’s cities become more and more crowded through the night with the homeless, sleeping in packs, but moved on by City burghers who find it inconvenient and incompatible with their bleached view of a pristine modern City. Another facet of “An Inconvenient Truth.” Al Gore was certainly right about the consequences.
Of course, Australia is not alone in these imbalances of fortune or fairness.
The turmoil in the Middle East since the start of the Twentieth Century has transited between the suppression of religious freedoms and the fight for energy access. The developers that created Aramco and the Sheiks who then formed a nationalised enterprise to assert their influence and power, have led to a constant to-and-fro of failed States, in some cases destroyed through war, in others wholly dependent on imported labour, who enjoy few freedoms of political expression or permanent status in those societies. The current impasses involving Qatar, Iran and other Kingdoms is highly unpredictable as to its outcome.
In the 1960’s and ‘70’s we saw potentially similar partitions in European society, with Germany’s ‘gastarbeiten’. But, over the decades, temporary workers were allowed to stay, and European expansion of the EC re-set the status of many as more permanent, with rights of abode. In Germany we saw such huge changes in the late 1980’s, followed by reattachment to the Eastern bloc. Now a German Chancellor from that Eastern sector welcomes more than a million refugees, often to loud protest from those that fear change. When people don’t like what they see, whether they represent the majority or not, the battle is often for power above all. A view of Islam that enshrines suppression of women and in more extreme cases, the overwhelming of the Infidel to a tied-bound compliance with a single view of society, is sweeping the world. Under threat is the freedom of individuals to their own right to explore faith in their own view. The immediate response of some reactive sectors of society is just to punch back, to defend the status quo or seek return to times that have long since gone. Dialogue or listening just goes out of the window. On both sides of the argument.
The transition to more modern societies in many Asian nations in the last fifty years has also seen successive periods of military authority, autocratic “democracy”, blatant power abuse and maverick power-grabbing, with countless periods of ‘emergency rule’ that suggest the successes gained are precarious and fragile at best in many countries. Little by little countries that were a model of post- colonial tolerance are hardening lines. Malaysia is tightening Christian freedoms, despite clear evidence that decades of accommodation have brought widespread benefits to millions.
The hope expressed in South Africa after the long march to freedom, saw the genuinely conciliatory and noble vision of Mandela, complete with forgiveness and reconciliation, rapidly replaced with injustice, alleged life-threatening political manoeuvring and apparent improprieties with the national purse. The imbalance in wealth and educational opportunities in that land had but a brief glimpse of a new order of accommodation between peoples of different colour and race, before the opportunity to abuse power and line pockets became so much more attractive for those who had trampled their way to power following the Mandela window.
In Europe, a new vision of one Community was established in the mid fifties, -The Six, in which hundreds of years of Wars between the French and Germans, of civil wars in Spain and Italy and the fragility of the Low Countries, were overcome to form, initially, a single economic bloc. French President Charles De Gualle saw to it that Britain was not included, despite his accomodation there in the latter part of the Second World War!
The EU has grown into an imbalanced grouping of twenty-seven nations, one of the most reluctant of whom has now almost suicidally voted to extinguish that hope of a cohesive future. Of course there is much that can be faulted in the bureaucratically overblown European Community. Sadly, in the view of this writer, it seems inevitable that Brexit will lead to a follow-on breakdown of the very unifying forces that have thus far successfully prevented outright wars between most nations in the bloc. Now through selfishness and rearward vision there is very real danger conflicts of the economic, military or electronic variety re-emerging after seventy-five years of largely unbroken peace. And all because the populace believed the lies of self-inflated politicians, who, when handed the responsibility to follow on from the referendum success, squibbed the task and walked away, devoid of any sense of responsibility for the consequences of their actions and their mis-truths. Or were they simply lies?
The Great Russian Bear was once ruled by the Czars, until 1917. Then, after that fateful October day, the liberated proletariat saw its hopeful revolution rapidly descend into rule by an elitist and vicious Politburo. After five decades as an expansionist grabber of lands into a quasi-Commonwealth of nations subservient to the Moscow power-wielders, it has once again returned to a new imbalance. The very rich, and rather ruthless, economic Czars and the new political titan, Vladimir Putin, have once again steam-rollered the population into subservience to a new autocratic rule that serves themselves and their lust for power rather than the populace overall. Rattling a few sabres in the name of the nation stirs up the populace in adoring adulation. Rigorous stamping out of alternative perspectives is the tool for retention of the prize.
Enough has been written about the tragedy that is today’s American politics. It’s born of extremism, science-denying and a fear of ‘creeping socialism’. The people of Florida, as just one example, may even be able to contest the teaching of science in schools, if it does not fit with their creationism view of the world.
I leave it to the reader to round up in their mind the consequences of a move to erect walls of exclusion and put the equivalent to the population of Australia, – 25 million people, in a situation without the supporting cradle of available and affordable health-care. How can people of supposedly Christian principles condone such behaviours? How are the millions of hard-working noble people of a nation as great as the USA in this situation? How did they allow a few unrepresentative voices in media and commercial interests subvert their views and their rights so that a precious few could enjoy untold riches and wealth of such disproportionate scale that millions simply live in all but powerless poverty, without hope, healthcare or even their social security fully ensured? And in a country with Trillions of dollars of debt, payment of which is put off ever longer?
In the world’s largest nation, China, on the weekend of June 30th, 2017, we have seen video footage of the elected ruler of 1.4 Billion people parading down the streets of the former colony of Hong Kong largely unwinding the very freedoms set down in a written treaty between the people’s Republic of China and the former Colonial Power, Great Britain. That treaty guaranteed the freedoms of Hong Kong’s 9-million population for fifty years. ‘Two Chinas’ policy – it trumped. That document is seemingly inconvenient to those who now rule. It therefore is increasingly ignored, or as the Peoples Daily newspaper reported, no longer relevant. We also witness jackbooted police pulling protestors to incarceration, even if temporary. Despite being a signatory to various global conventions set down by the UN, the establishment of Chinese occupation of disputed Territories in the South China Sea has occurred with a blind indifference to rulings against them, indicative of simply bullying their way to occupation. To quote the true words of Lord Acton from nearly 150 years ago: “Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority, still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.”
China is not the first to do this. The British, Dutch and Portugese did this for centuries with impunity as they colonised the world. So it’s hypocritical to say China is abusing power. All prior Powers of consequence have done much the same over the centuries, as long ago as the Roman invasion of Europe. Send in the gunboats!
And if Eastern Asia was not already challenging enough, we have the imbalance of a starving populace in North Korea, with a complicated leader who rules by inheritance, and who spends what little the country has left economically to prove that they can eliminate any major threat of their choosing, even by nuclear destruction, if he deems it necessary or desirable. Naturally America steams threats, and both Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping sit on their hands, at least publicly, ensuring further anxiety and instability.
For this writer the tragedy of all this is how long this list of abuse and imbalance seems to be. In a few paragraphs one can touch but a small scrap of those global imbalances that these observations represent. The more you investigate the detail of how societies actually operate, the more you see that influence peddlers, those with large cheque books and people who are simply bloody-minded through the filter of their own self-image, have gained the ascendant in the world. Perhaps now more than any time in history. Is it worse now than before?
It is certainly hugely troubling, unjust and destined to cause massive dislocation in coming decades, should the trend continue. Ongoing “Peace in Our Time” is a fading hope. The leaders of multiple nations just never seem to address the bigger picture. Instead they eye the election cycle and the door-stop interview as the only prize.
And yet, perhaps there is a glimmer of hope. The recent French election, where more than half of the deputés elected were first-time elected representatives (and without political backgrounds or tutoring .) They were also 50% women. Surely such people will behave more beneficially to their nation than their predecessors? Perhaps this IS the turning of the tide. A lot is riding on the hope of a young President macron and his Parliamentary deputés.
As the earth sends ever more visible warnings of protest at excess population consuming the air and polluting our waters, at a rate that Gaia cannot support, our societies may take personal power and wield it through holocausts hard to imagine. Ultimately, at its worst extreme, the aftermath will force a complete re-set. Such a reassertion of balance would of course enable a new form of equilibrium to arrive. But at what cost to life and humanity, what little is left of it? Such observations, born of history and science, are largely unspoken today. The power despots and the bullies in the media don’t want to admit that their behaviours have unthinkable consequences and outcomes. The counter to that is that ideas as generated by indivduals and diffused through the Internet may ultimately gain traction. If you are reading this it’s a product of dissemination not available to earlier generations. It’s a power for good, and sadly also for bad.
So when you open the papers, more often than not on-line, and you see reports of another politician grand-standing in a largely irrelevant and hedonistic speech, giving out curb-side 10-second video grabs or blurting out yet another three or four-word staccato slogan, be wary. Wake up. In fact be very wary!
It’s yet another step towards imbalance, in a world that is flinging itself apart as populist slogans outweigh science, logic and humanity. The greater good becomes subservient to abusive power-mongers, whether political or financially self-interested. The natural balance that our nomadic Aboriginal forefathers in the land of Australia and their descendants understood so intrinsically and holistically, is trampled under in the name of progress.
If we are to avoid the fate of the Gadarine swine, running wilfully over the edge of the cliff as recounted in The Bible, it is up to each and every one of us to make a stand and be counted, in the name of balance and fairness.
All Rights Reserved. © Copyright John Swainston, 2017.