Friday, August 20, 2010

Election Result Forecast; predicted with uncanny accuracy.

The outcome of tomorrow's Federal election in Australia in a very real sense simply does not matter.  What does matter, deeply, is what we all choose to do with that outcome.  So just skip to the bottom if you only want my prediction, but if you're interested in the why of it, and the future of my (your?) country, and how it reflects the future of the world, read on.....

Maybe it seems a tad disingenuous to suggest that the institution of participatory democracy wherein we decide by majority who shall lead our nation is not so relevant to our lives - because it can be, and the very fact we are blessed with some way of exercising individual choice, however corralled and fettered, is nice - but in this particular case, it's really not such a major issue.  I'll try and explain.

More than at any time I can recall, this campaign and the commentary thereon has been hyper-focussed on the process of campaigning and electioneering itself, rather than on the more traditional Western notions of leadership, vision, and appeals to our better natures and genuinely shared values.  Interestingly, the one party to attempt this to any great extent has suffered a seeming conspiracy by the two majors and their friends in the media to stifle and suppress their presence to the largest extent possible.  So in the absence of all but the merest whiffs of future policy positives to differentiate the main combatants, the whole thing has been like watching two opposition parties in action, and has relied most heavily on the negative meme-warfare that has been so widely commented upon.

Where else do we see this sort of rampant labelism?

Speaking of memes, a well-worn and now venerable one is that in many ways "Australia lags 5 or 10 years behind the USA." Stereotypes, as they say, save time, as does an axiom like this one, which I happen to find has much truth in it; although perhaps the time lag is shortening of late.  Note that I say "much truth", not "complete blanket certitude".

It's been a process going on for a long time, but following the G W Bush years, the horrors of '9/11', a couple of disastrous military excursions, and the almost awe-inspiring almost-implosion of the world financial balloon, the accession of Barack Obama to The Holy Throne of the Freedom Loving People's Republic has seen a tremendous tipping point reached in terms of how the USA talks to itself and thus how it then relates to the world.  US politics has always had a bumper-sticker quality to it, but with the great crash of the Republican party, the subsequent splits that have occurred within it, and the newly widespread questioning of the supremacy of life under an unregulated free market system, there has been a massive shift into the meme market.  To quote Roger Ebert, "Why do you need facts if you have catchy memes?"

In his recent blog post Ten Things I Know About The Mosque he opines that "Someone on the right is an Anonymous genius at creating memes." And goes to to point out that Sarah Palin seems to be floating a lot of them - Death Panels, Ground Zero Mosque, 9/11 Mosque, Terror Babies and so on.  Interestingly, Twitter  seems a first-choice medium for launching these little nuggety bites that become the cud for talkfests over all forms of media in the days thereafter, and they're scrupulously planned.  I don't think Ms Palin is doing her own tweeting all the time, at least not since "Refudiate-gate" anyway, as the below tweets on the Laura Shlessinger brouhaha, within a minute of each other, would suggest.

All the great issues in the US since Obama's election have been increasingly boiled down to mini-messages by the conservative side especially, but not forgetting that POTUS himself is quite the master of the game.  Oh Yes He Is.

So here we've had Moving Forward and Standing Up For Real Action.  Nothing unusual in lame slogans though.  The Liberals' four-point Action Contract is as precise as you can get without saying anything about how you would run a country if elected.  It's just a dot-point collection of vagaries about what they hope to stop from happening.  Labor is scarcely better.

There might be a feedback loop in play here.  The public and the media, stymied and starved of any policy or leadership grist have increasingly bought into the short-message syndrome.  Boat people. Stop The Waste. Big New Tax On Everything. Budgie Smugglers.  Pay Back The Debt.  Work Choices - Jerk Choices, even. Sustainable Population.  Political Assassination.  Faceless Men Of Labor.  Ranga.  Mr Rabbit.  We could go on and on as there's a new one or two every day to satisfy the 24/7 news cycle.  This has been harnessed by either side to attempt to perhaps exhaust the opposition but moreover to keep the focus as squarely as possible away from the deep issues that everyone knows are the real ones, the right ones, the ones we need to face but would really rather not thanks very much if it's all the same to you because down that way lies some not-so-nice home truths about how we are behaving and where we really find ourselves in this world.  Because for either side to embrace the ugly truths is electoral suicide.  They have each done a fair job of applying the anodyne ointment to the few pesky souls like the annoying Dick Smith insisting with the weight of all his dollars that we listen to his blatherings about population, thereby opening a genuinely gaping sore in our sense of security about the future and forcing us to confront our morals head-on.

But clearly, we're not quite ready to get real about our shared hearts just yet.

Last election, I recall having a chat with a work colleague - a mature, intelligent and very respected woman with a great and level head on her shoulders, and a good heart to boot - who said that she "liked Kevin Rudd, but I'm really not sure about voting for him because I worry about what he'll do to interest rates...."  She'd bought the fear campaign sold by the Howard spin dudes, with the supremely subversive assertion embedded that Prime Ministers control all the levers of the economy and are personally responsible for ensuring that rates do not increase.  Because the Liberals had of course done their level best to grow the economy by creating ideal conditions for a massive housing bubble, and it worked rather nicely.  Except that bubbles...well....

So the meme game is far from new, true, and we none of us are entirely immune to the effects of the advertising professionals.  How apt that the best and highest-rating TV commentary on the election is Gruen Nation, a show focussing entirely on the advertising.  Even the most democratic of fora, Q&A, has been unable to stay completely above the mire of the scripted sword-and-shield duo of one-liner barbs and deflections.  People have bought in more than I have ever known them to.

A major change is that this year Twitter and to a lesser extent Facebook (and other forms of tech-enabled instant forum) have left their cosy dens of denizens and initiates for the small screen mainstream of everyone's lounge rooms and in the absence of substance the short-message-stream has become the entire conversation.

What I'm wondering is are we heading rapidly into the sort of labelistic partisan politics we're seeing in the USA where ideology is used as a weapon, where fear of ostracism runs rife, and where the hackneyed rhetoric of timeworn ideological divide is the substitute for genuine thought and the quest for a new, better way?

I know I'm being overly harsh and generalistic, but I'm willing to bet that there is a substantial number of Americans who would say otherwise.

I have complete faith that it will work out just fine though.

Maybe the twitspeak we now enjoy as a substitute for exploratory discourse will bring us closer to a succinct summation of what we all know is right and true.  Perhaps it will lead us into the damned cul-de-sac of blind self-interest and individualist narcissism that is the hallmark of much of the so-called social media experience.  But then again perhaps this would be a good thing too, for Narcissus always has the chance to thusly come to his senses.

My feeling is that whatever the outcome of this election, the real test comes afterwards, not just for the politicians, but for us.  We have invented and nurtured a dumbed-down discourse about how we want to live as a group and in how we want our group to fit in with the others on this so-far stoic planet.  I believe that this is out of fear of the truth, which we all know deeply inside ourselves.

We can go one of two ways, and this applies to our brethren in the States and elsewhere too.  We can take whatever vicissitudes we heap upon ourselves through our elected leadership and use them as fuel to agitate amongst ourselves and drag the deeper truths inside us out into the light of day and start, each one of us, to refuse to countenance dumbspeak; to insist that we need to face the future with a bright mind, a strong back and a soft heart, and to start to find new and better ways of doing it together.  Or, we could just go on like this, increasingly embracing the message as being the meaning, believing that the system is to blame or that it's all going to turn to shit anyway so let's get down and burn some oil while we still can.

Either way though, the outcome will be the same.  We'll get by, some of us.  There will be survivors, and there will come a time that is more harmonious and fulfilling to all our needs and aspirations than now.  The difference is whether we need more pain and suffering and damage and degradation - whether we need the nightmare to get much worse - to wake us up as a nation or a species; or whether we can just pull a little more firmly in the direction our true hearts lie, talking compassionately to our equally-flawed neighbour, and helping each other through the hard bits.

Tipping point ahead, I reckon.  And I no longer reckon we're that far behind the States in this way.

My prediction for the 2010 Federal Election?

We'll get exactly the government we need to have.


  1. "We have invented and nurtured a dumbed-down discourse about how we want to live as a group and in how we want our group to fit in with the others on this so-far stoic planet. I believe that this is out of fear of the truth, which we all know deeply inside ourselves."

    Amen to that. Problem is, we all have different ideas on how to face 'that inner truth', depending on our backgrounds.

    For example, I have little faith in big government and big bureaucracies. I think slush funds and pork barrels are part of the problem.

    I think a heavily progressive tax system wins on the politics of fear and envy, and most punishes those who work up from poor backgrounds to improve themselves.

    I think government is run by people who create themselves cushy jobs by peddling the politics of envy, greed and fear. The community should be organic, not based on bureacracy.

    When it comes to government, we need less, not more.

    See the problem? In many ways, although we both may identify a problem, you and I may feel essentially the opposite about solving it.

    Ideology IS used as a weapon in this country. It is the invisible fuel behind almost all political conversation.

    We make a million (mostly uninformed or unexperienced) assumptions every day when we choose hoe to view the world. Usually, we can't see those assumptions, and how they shape our views.

  2. Thanks Lisa, I see what you're saying but disagree that any differences we might have on the best way to face these truths are a problem. Indeed, difference is what will help us find the way best for us as a whole. My point is that dumbed-down discourse prevents proper thinking and communication. For example, the concept of "big government" is a meme oft trotted out as code for "get regulation out of the marketplace" and is supported by appeal to concerns about waste and less obviously through envy of those bureaucrats and pollies with their 'cushy jobs' and power over us. I would say that the size of the government in and of itself is an irrelevance, and is best determined by what we want our governments to do. There are some things a government does well, and others it does not. i want a government of an appropriate size to do the things a government can do well efficiently, and no more. Then its size properly becomes a by-product of its raison d'etre, not some target to attain for an ill-defined end. for the record, I have no problem with the *concept of an entirely unregulated market, as long as it is *entirely* unregulated, there are no tariffs, unequal taxes or protections, and when failure occurs it is allowed to be so, despite how many might suffer or even die. That will give us true proof of concept - or not. harsh perhaps, but to get to the heart of something, to get to its truth and feel it wholly we need to either live it in totality, or do a very good job of imagining it. Without recourse to theory-as-gospel and reliance on dogma or memespeak. Darn, there I go again :-)

  3. The concept of 'big government' is intrinsically related to the concept or assumption that government is not operating efficiently, and is therefore 'bigger' than it necessarily be.

    A problem is, of course, that any organisation like any organism, tends in the end to be self-serving, with a preference and tendency for growth.

    A market system is generally read as shorthand for a 'law of the jungle' where the arts, and other non-income producing goods (such as care for the disabled) is seen to fall by the wayside.

    In making this assumption, however, most people ignore the importance of PEOPLE within a system. Most sizeable donations, be it to the arts, or to medical research, or to other non-income producing 'goods', are made by the very wealthy.

    The wealthy, of course, also contribute overwhelmingly to the tax receipts that are spent by a government. Those earning of $180,000 contribute the lions share of PAYG receipts in this country.

    Small business owners may generate a large amount of PAYG, on behalf of themselves and their employees (not to mention GST and other taxes) but actually have the net income of a lower paid employee. This is a common experience of business owners, and readily accepted by entrepreneurial 'types' as a risk of doing business in this country.

    Of course, it is political suicide to suggest that those generating and paying the most tax should get tax relief. Generally tax relief is 'sold' to those paying the very least.

    In this way, our tribe supports the least 'productive' (as measured by production of income), and those that set very little store by the generation of their own means of support.

    Everyone has issues with money. But it would be a grave error to assume that only the rich are greedy, or wish to maximise their position.

    Everyone, even those who prioritise very few of their own life-hours to income production, generally prefers to have money or their version of a maximally 'comfortable' lifestyle.
    In this way, the poor are no different from the rich.

  4. Going back to your interesting idea of a *total* free market economy, with no government presence whatsoever.
    Hm, I don't think it would work because there will need to be a central organising factor for infrastructure needs such as roads, public transport, ports etc. Government is also necessary to provide an international profile in the global community. For this reason, a totally free market economy (aka neo-liberalism?) will never actually exist.

    However, much as government promotes itself as the answer to everything, in actuality it provides incredibly poor solutions to many important aspects of life.

    Individual decisions, such as the choice to be pro-active in sorting out reliable life insurance for family members, for example, can provide much better outcomes than simmply paying large tax reciepts and expecting government to sort you out.

    That being said, there are many examples of individuals that really do need help.

    Government gains important credibility by its apparent position of helping these needy groups.

    Generally however, the government does an incredibly bad job of really reaching these people.

    Permanently disabled people and single mothers are two groups that I feel have been badly served by government.

    Generally government operates as a type of 'social conditioning centre', which as propaganda central is an important area of social control and 'smoothing'.

    However, as you can see, I feel government in concept and practice thinks entirely too much of itself...and lulls the populace into a misplaced faith and security in the process!

    As for a total market-based community, with all income support provided by insurance? I don't think our populace is generally that self-reponsible, in any case. Most middle aged parents don't even have life insurance.

  5. Lisa i am loving your vehemence here, thank you. I admit there's a voice in me that wishes to just remain silently dumbfounded at some of the assumptions (and assumptions of assumptions) you appear to be making with your comments, but here I am responding anyway. Good job! I'll just reiterate a line from my post above by way of steering things back to the point I was making - where I opine that we would do well as a group to wake up to "the deep issues that everyone knows are the real ones, the right ones, the ones we need to face but would really rather not thanks very much if it's all the same to you because down that way lies some not-so-nice home truths about how we are behaving and where we really find ourselves in this world."

    Yet you seem to be talking a great deal about problems you see with governments, and how we are currently governed in particular, if my reading between the lines is correct.

    My intention is to speak of how we *create* our governance, as I believe this is the key process which shapes what sort of governance we enjoy or endure.

    I essentially agree with your assertion that "any organisation like any organism, tends in the end to be self-serving, with a preference and tendency for growth. " What if were to see ourselves as not actually separate from our organs of governance, instead as one whole organism? The illusion (or fallacy) of separation is one that quite simply is perpetuated by those who would seek to empower themselves at the expense of others. And I'm not sure that's such a great way for us to live.

    Clearly there needs to be a better way for us to discuss concepts like inequities in taxation, especially the costs and benefits of a system that essentially redistributes wealth downwards for the benefit of those less wealthy versus a system that further exacerbates inequality of wealth distribution - not counting the natural assumption that left to their own devices the very wealthy tend to be great benefactors to the poor and otherwise 'deserving'.

    Perhaps that will come a bit easier when we decide to empower leaders who have a clearly articulated vision and position on such things, to attempt to change the way we all agree to live with one another, rather than a system which seems to have degenerated into a farce of merely rewarding the one who offends us the least.

  6. The illusion (or fallacy) of separation is one that quite simply is perpetuated by those who would seek to empower themselves at the expense of others. And I'm not sure that's such a great way for us to live.
    - Yes, this is indeed the point.
    Alas, the 'status quo' is ultimately what we as a herd chosen colectively to have.

    I have voted now, I feel ... kinda empty. haha

  7. Reading back over my last comment above, I am not entirely happy with what I see. I see that it can read as being dismissive, superior, and personally insulting to the author of the preceding comments - this was not my intention, and for any offense or hurt against Lisa or any other reader I apologise. I considered deleting the comment, but that would be dishonest. I shall let what sins have have committed stand for posterity; I have never pretended to be less flawed or more enlightened than any other person.

    My sin as a writer (which I have oft repeated and shall do again) was not to consider more objectively the reading of the reader; my sin as a person was to not treat others as I would be treated. For this, I am sorry.

    I shall not deny there is a tone evident, but it was intended as stir, not derogation. My comment about being dumbfounded by assumptions should have more properly explained that I was dumbfounded by the assumptions seemingly being made about me personally and my views, based on my comprehension of the commentary prior, and I do admit that my reading of these incorrect personal assumptions (rightly or wrongly) caught me at a fragile and vulnerable time, so my feelings were hurt and I unthinkingly seem to have acted out some shitty game there. This is a reason, perhaps, but not an excuse.

    I suppose also the subject matter at hand lends itself to argument and strong opinion - as my original post alluded to - and I am of course not immune to the attractive lures of competitive (and thus narcissistic) behaviour on occasion. Again, I am sorry. But my opinions are as stated. I have no problem with the opinions of the author of other comments, and indeed concur with much of what she has said. My hurt reaction was to perceived insult to myself by way of incorrect assumption by the author, which may be wrong on my part. My reaction was certainly regrettable.

    I seek no forgiveness here; that's a matter for myself only. I just wished to straighten a record and make an offering to rebalance things outwardly - perhaps.

    Oh well. We're like that, us humans, sometimes. My apologies.