Monday, February 22, 2010

The Urge Towards Profundity

Earlier today I was just sitting, pondering nothing in particular, and my thoughts kept drifting back to this blog.  As some may know, my powers of speech are slowly but inexorably disappearing so of course this blog is in some ways an attempt to compensate.  The thing is though, that as my ability to speak disappears so commensurately goes my urge to do so.  Partly I guess that's because it's a physical strain, but also maybe I'm learning some lessons about silence, listening, and the deeper meaning of things when word and defining thought are less attached to them.  Anyway, in a nutshell, I found myself having an attack of the 'shoulds'.  I thought "I really should update the blog now, but I haven't really got anything meaningful to say coming up."

Ah-ha!  I hear someone exclaim, check out the ego on the blogger guy!  What a freakin' control freak! (And I was thinking this at the time too, fyi, once I woke up to myself).  Only wants to be seen in the light of what profundity he feels he can offer - maybe all that down-to-earth honesty stuff is just a self-deluding sham??? And what's with this 'should update' stuff, are we caring about audience response or even - shudder - ratings now?  Don't want to let anyone down here?  Pfft.  So human.

OK, there's something raw and painful to admit there, it's true.  Not perfect, am I.  So there and then I decided to allow myself to just write up here whatever I feel like writing, regardless of subject matter.  After all, I still have all those pesky opinions popping up for cleaning every day.  Maybe I'll learn something just by writing.

So this is Peter Garrett.

Currently he is (well, I haven't seen the news today but at least yesterday he was) Federal Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts in Australia, since being appointed by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd after his election in 2007.  He formerly had a career as the lead vocalist (you couldn't really call it singing, technically, I don't think) with Midnight Oil, and has also been very active in the environmental movement, such as it used to be known, notably as a long-term president of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

He's at the centre of a shitstorm as we speak.  His Ministerial department has overseen this massive govenment-subsidised scheme to insulate houses in Australia, which was started by K Rudd as part of his response to the alleged Global Financial Crisis we 'had' just recently.  Basically a good idea I thought, helping reduce energy use on heating and cooling, and providing jobs too.  Good long-term investment at the grassroots level stuff.  Of course when there's a free feed on, the sharks come too, and lots of dodgy overnighters suddenly got accredited as insulation installers so as to take their place at the trough, and bad things happened.  People have died installing insulation, in a much higher death-per-installation ratio than prior to the scheme.  Houses have caught fire because of dodgy installation practices.  There is talk that a fair percentage of the installations under the scheme may be of minimal actual effectiveness due to lax standards.  And now, of course, in the great modern tradition of media/political democracy symbiosis, there is a baying for a hangin'.

I don't know whose fault it all is, and I don't actually find the question relevant.  Maybe Peter Garrett isn't such a competent Minister, but if not, how has this been let go for so long?  Is that all his doing?  Is it his fault if he finds himself unable to perform his job?

My beef is with this whole "he's got to go" punitive sacking thing.

Let's pretend the government were a business, and some department has failed to manage well enough a situation that was not entirely in their control, but which affected the whole business.  Leaving aside questions of how much control they *should* have attempted to assert in the first instance (let's just pause for a moment and re-remember the fondness Western governments have for unregulated free-market economic mechanisms) do you just sack the manager of the department?  What if they are actually really good at 90% of their job, and have a whole bunch of irreplaceable 'local knowledge' which would be really hard to replace at short notice?  It's such a dick thing, this "buck stops here" mentality.

We all seem to crave the alpha-male protection of having a strong leader who will uphold honour personally, who will fight the good fight, showing no cowardice, failing or foible.  And if they fail, we expect them to fall on their sword.  Not only is this so Howard-era, it is terribly, terribly Fall Of The Roman Empire, don't you think?

What's happened is that all the news headlines and commentary have been wildly gyring about the pole of Peter Garrett's career future, rather than looking really seriously at a) *exactly* what the situation is and b) how best to sort it out and make it all work nicely.  The emotions generated about lives lost and shoddy work performed and unscrupulous businessfolk trying to squeeze a buck without good social consciences are an entirely separate issue.

So if someone is wanting a head or heads to roll, what is their motivation?  Are there still some of us satisfied by the notion of punishment?  Surely we can outgrow this, people.  As if the poor erstwhile muso is not suffering and struggling enough. 

My point is that Peter Garrett is not.  Not the point, that is.

Gee whiz,  all this opinion going on. 

I shall now just spend a minute and clean a bit on the whole show, and care a little for *everyone* caught up in it.  Please join in, if you like.  It can't hurt, this forgiveness and healing lark, can it?

Here endeth the rant. Thank you for bearing witness.


  1. 'Unscruploulous business folk were probably previously just opportunistic uni students and otherwise employeed wage-earners. In other words, ordinary people who couldn't believe their luck. It was a 2.5 BILLION dollar scheme.
    Genuine, experienced insulation installers have been sent out of business because they wouldn't cut the dodgy deals the shonks did.
    Ultimately it is the Australian public that is to blame, loving the 'free' handouts (actually paid for by themselves) and the cheapest possible shonky deals.
    shame Australia shame
    God speed the four dead to greater peace

  2. Very interesting perspective Mrs Hill;) I do see your point entirely that we are all responsible for what happens in our lives. I'm not completely sure that 'blame' is a relevant concept though, except insofar as it may help us to find a way to prevent a recurrence of the damaging things that have transpired from this sort of venture. Lemon, I think ;-)

  3. All good to think about though. What if you replace the word "blame" with the word "responsibility"? Because everyone has responsibilities in their jobs and perhaps those responsibilities are ranked in order of importance and if you don't do the most important ones, like making your boss look good and keeping HIM from getting sacked, then you simply MUST get sacked??
    Politics. Lemon.