Where do people find the time to blog? I'm flat out like a lizard drinking (many apologies Mr Pratchett) and can never find the time to commit my righteous indignation to paper/pixel. On the positive side, look out for new Reluctant Geek titles, starting with How To Write Essays and Democratic Theory Essentials.
Woo-hoo, we finally have a government here in Australia. Isn't that grand! Well, isn't it? Of course it is! The independents have had their barrels filled with pork, the major parties have whinged or exalted, and most of the faceless men in both party machines have gone on holiday (you can tell that some have remained behind by the way the names of the ministries keep changing). Thankfully, the whole election process is over and the Australian people no longer have to pick between two flavours of bland. Tony Windsor, in the (mercifully short) speech he gave abandoning his independence for a large barrel of pork from the Labor party, observed that philosophy had been chased out of Australian politics ten years previously (by the faceless men, obviously).
Tony's comment got me thinking about the weird campaigns that both major parties ran this year. The both used charismatic candidates that had been sanitised, cleansed, and centralised to within an inch of their personalities, giving them a wonderful beige aspect. Tony is right. Politics in Australia is now an idea-free zone, ideology has been banished, and no one is allowed to think lest they offend a statistically important segment of the polling sample.
The level of cynicism during this election has been at astronomical levels, and in the light of Tony's comments, it isn't surprising. We, the voting public, ain't stupid despite what the spin-doctors think. We can tell when people are bullshitting us. A real Gilard and a gentle Abbot are concepts that are obviously the product of the spin machines, and they didn't work.
If the major parties want to impress us, the righteously cynical public, then they need to lose the spin-doctors, drop the beige facade, and give us an indication of what the hell they actually stand for. As near as I can tell, all they stand for is winning the election for the sake of winning the election, which simply is not good enough. When John Howard introduced a GST after vowing on his cricket whites that it would never happen, the Australian public didn't get too upset. We all knew Howard held the GST close to his heart. He may have broken a promise, but we were all expecting him too. To be honest, if he hadn't introduced a GST in his first term, we would have been a bit suspicious about what the wily old bastard was up to.
Which just goes to show that here, in Australia, we can take the lies. In fact, we expect it from politicians. We can absorb the broken promises and the policy back flips. After all, it's politics. What we don't like is this annoying dishonesty of the soul that has crept into our political landscape. Lie and cheat to your heart's content, as long as there is an ideological foundation for the dishonesty. Don't just lie because you think it will help you win an election. Hearing Abbot proclaim that Workchoices was 'dead, buried, cremated' made me cringe almost as much as watching the new Julia try to explain how she differed from the old Julia. Surely, no one on the entire Australian continent fell for that bullshit.
I reckon I can pin the day that philosophy in Australian politics died. It was was way back in the 2000 election. Howard was unpopular. He'd introduced the GST. He'd put limits on gun ownership. Pauline Hanson had eroded his supporter base. So how did the Australian Labor party exploit this weakness? How did they take advantage of Howard's teetering popularity? They did NOTHING, that's how. Can you imagine the meeting when it was decided that nothing was the way to go? I can see the faceless leader of the faceless machine, still young and feeling his way, addressing his charges. 'Okay folks,' he would have said. 'We've got this in the bag. Everybody, stop thinking this instant!'
On that day, ideology and politics in Australia parted ways. For some bizarre reason, this non thinking spread out and infected both parties, despite the fact that Labor lost to Howard and his Coalition minions. It would be nice to think people learned their lesson this time and this will be the last we will see of non-thinking politics, but I doubt it.
What an amazing month it has been on the political front in Australia. A hung parliament, a care taker prime minister trying to keep the jackals in her party at bay, a handful of independents who can't wait to get their hands on those pork barrels, and an opposition leader who can't believe his luck. To top it all off, The Adversary himself called one of the independents to try and cut a deal but was told in no uncertain manner that he would have to get to the back of the queue and consider his position on a number of core considerations the independent in question held close to his heart. Or something like that.
The media is in frenzy mode, screaming headlines at the merest provocation. The pollsters are polling on possibilities that range from the outlandish to the just plain stupid. Any day now, we will see a headline that reads 'POLL SHOWS LABOR VICTORY IF NEW ELECTION HELD DURING A FULL MOON'. A rival newspaper would then run with 'OPPOSITION IN CRISIS TALKS ON FULL MOON MASSACRE POSSIBILITY'. The blog sphere would light up, Facebook would carry millions of unwanted opinions, and the surge in activity on Twitter would cause the internet to melt. Or something like that.
On one hand, I wish the buggers would just hurry up and form a government so we can get on with life. On the other hand, I know that there are processes and procedures that need to be adhered to, considerations to be considered, and stuff like that. It's important that the democratic process be allowed to run its course and those barrels be filled to bursting with tasty pork.
Am I being too cynical? Possibly. But whenever the smiling mugs of the band of four (or three + one who will remain one) float across my television screen, or the words of the National from WA who isn't a National from WA come through on the wireless, I can't help but recall my philosophy on politicians (in the top right corner of this blog). I'm sure they want what is best for the Australian people. It's just that the value of 'best' ranges from zero to pork barrel.
The 2010 Australian federal election, which will definitely return a hung parliament, has taken forever to count. Four days after citizens cast their vote and there is still no clear indication of how many seats each of the major parties has won,. It's time for the Australian electoral authorities to look at how they can improve the electoral process and their gaze should be directed towards India and Geneva. India, the world's biggest democracy, has been using electronic voting machines for years now and the results have been overwhelmingly positive. The canton of Geneva in Switzerland has gone a step further and allows citizens to vote online.
The benefits of electronic voting are many. Votes count are measured in minutes rather than days and election results are known far sooner. There is also evidence to suggest a reduction in the informal vote count. But, as many of the strident opponents of electronic voting have contended, there are also negatives such as the alienation of some voters who distrust technology and the security of the votes once cast.
Obviously, India and Geneva have overcome these problems and are reaping the benefits of a more efficient voting system. Shouldn't we be following their lead?
It seems to me that the whole climate change debate is an irrelevant waste of time. The only reason we need to reduce the pollution that damages our environment is that pollution damages our environment. The benefits of reducing pollution make it a worthy exercise regardless of any impact our activities may or may not be having on the Earth's climate. It is an end in itself and does not need to be attached to any doomsday scenario in order to be a worthy goal.
If we were to succeed in making low immission, low noise vehicles, then it would no longer matter if a person lived near a six lane freeway because the air would be sweet and the noise unnoticable. If we created renewable and low pollution sources of power for our homes and industries, then it would not matter where we built our power plants because they would not spew filth into the skies. We could leave the lights on at night and damage only our wallets.
Reducing pollution will improve the lives of all, regardless of what the Earth's climate is doing. Many make the mistake of thinking that they and their environment are discreet entities, but they are missing a very important relationship. The air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat are all part of who we are. Keeping them as clean and unsullied as possible is in everyone's best interest.
When considering the actions of politicians and their minions, it is impossible to be too cynical.