Thank you to all who comment here

Lyn, in addition to providing links every weekday and Twitterverse and Twitterati regularly, has kept an account of the pseudonyms of those who have commented on The Political Sword since its inception in 2008.

While our statistics tell us that a large number visit here but never leave a comment, there are regulars who frequently leave comments and many who comment occasionally. To these folk we have a deep sense of gratitude. You, who comment here, make this site what it has become, a site where informed, intelligent contributions are made to the debate on the existing thread, and also on a host of items related to politics here and overseas. You also leave links to valuable material from a variety of sources that keep TPS users informed and up-to-date. Lyn’s Links and your contributions have made The Political Sword a hub for the Fifth Estate. From here, users branch out from the hub to a huge range of resources all around the globe.

The purpose of this short piece is to say, on this, the last day of 2012, thank you for all you have contributed to The Political Sword over the years, and to invite you to redouble your contributions as we move into 2013.

Next year the nation will have to decide whether it wants the Gillard Government to continue for another term, or whether it wants to hand the reins of power to Tony Abbott and the Coalition that he leads. There could scarcely be a starker contrast for the electorate to consider. Those who cynically repeat catchphrases that all politicians are the same and parties likewise, show their appalling ignorance of politics here, and a dangerous lack of understanding of the fundamental difference between progressive parties and conservatives the world over. While this difference is most grossly demonstrated in US politics, it is replicated here. So stark is the contrast that reconciliation is not possible, especially with the conservative leadership that exists in this country.

We who endorse the thrust of The Political Sword, which clearly supports the return of the Gillard Government and is opposed to the installation of a Coalition government led by the most negative, conservative, policy light, destructive, pugilistic politician in living memory, have the task of advocating for that end. There are powerful forces in the Fourth Estate who believe that their ideological and commercial interests will be served best by a Coalition government, forces which will be pitted against the Gillard Government, and which will use all the power and influence they can to bring it down, and install the Coalition.

All that you have to offer will be needed throughout the entire Fifth Estate, and here on The Political Sword, to counter the adversarial forces of the Fourth Estate. We need your help.

Here is Lyn’s list of contributors, over four hundred, in most instances along with the date of first contributing, which we present with our heartfelt thanks for all you have done for The Political Sword over the years.


LAST UPDATE 12 DECEMBER 2012

A BOOR’S BOAR 9/10/2011
ABSTRAKTBIBLOS 25/6/2010
ACERBIC CONEHEAD 2010 TPS AUTHOR
ADAM 14/2/2011
ADELAIDE GIRL
AGNES MACKALEX 24/8/2011
ALCYONE 1/11/2012
AMOS KEETO
ANDY 13/5/2012
ANDREW CATSARAS 7/4/2012 - OWN BLOG
ANDREW SMITH 21/2/2011
ANDY S HASTINGS 7/3/2011 - OWN BLOG SENNEX
ANOTHER
AMY RORKE 24/8/2011
ANNIE THROPE 14/3/2011
ANDREW () 1/11/2012
ANDREW ELDER - OWN BLOG POLITICALLY HOMELESS
ANGYBEE 29/10/2012
ANN 18/6/2010
ARBITCHOICES NIEN MACHT FREI
ARCHIE 11/3/2012 - OWN BLOG ARCHIE ARCHIVES
ASH 8/9/2010 - OWN BLOG ASH’S MACHIAVELLIAN BLOGGERY
AUGUSTUS
AUSDAVO 13/9/2012
AUSTIN 3:6 9/7/2012
AUSTRALIA VOTES 13/5/2010 - OWN BLOG PAUL TAYLOR

BACCHUS 20/7/2012
BARRY KAYDE 5/4/2012
BARRY TUCKER 26/10/2012 - OWN BLOG truthinmediaresourcecentre
BEERME16/5/2010
BEN 20/5/2012
BEN JANAAM 9/01/2012
BEN MCINTYRE 23/10/2010
BENNYG 12/5/2012
BERNADETTE CALLIMAN 7/4/2012
BIG SMOKE 28/12/2012
BILL 26/6/2011 - OWN BLOG BILLABLOG
BILLIE 19/02/2012
BILKO
BILEDIGGER
BLOCKY
BOB MACALBA 24/11/2012
BOBALOT 22/8/2010
BUBBA RAY 25/6/2010
BULTACO METRELLA 14/9/2012
BUSHFIRE BILL 2008 TPS AUTHOR
BSA BOB 4/1/2011
BH

CJM 30/7/2011
CALLIGULA - OWN BLOG
CALYPTORHYNCHUS 25/9/2010
CANBRA DAVE
CASABLANCA 25/8/2010

CATEY 8/9/2011
CATCHING UP 12/11/2010
CAVITATION 5/7/2010
CHRIS BLAIR 6/4/2012
CHRIS T 8/5/2012
CHRIS 29/10/2012 http://www.newsflock.com?lrRef=NtNrE
CHRIS OWENS - OWN BLOG SPORTOLOTICS
CHRISTINE H 26/9/2012
CHRISTOL 27/02/2012
CILLE
CLARKIE 27/4/2011
COLEN
CONAN
COSMAN 16/5/2011
COUNTRYHICK 24/6/2010
CROWEY 16/4/2011
CYBERCYNIC
CUPPA 24/10/2011

DD DOROTHEA DIX 3/7/2011
DD 29/6/2011
DAFID 23/4/2012
DAISY MAY
DALESMAN 6/6/2012
DAN 6/6/2012
DAN GULBERY 13/3/2012 - OWN BLOG THE DAILY DERP
DANNY LEWIS 27/3/2012
DARRENC 27/3/2012
DARYL MASON 14/3/2011 - OWN BLOG THE ORSTRAHYUN
DAMIEN 29/11/2010
DAVID HORTON 2/5/2011 - OWN BLOG THE WATERMELON MAN
DAVID LEWIS 6/9/2011
DAVID M RUSSELL - OWN BLOG
DAVID REES
DAVID
DEBBIE P 2008
DEFNARF 12/6/2012 - OWN BLOG AUSTRALIAN BLOG
DEMOCRACY AT WORK 14/112010 - OWN BLOG
DENISE ALLEN 14/102012 - OWN BLOG DENISE ALLEN
DIRT ARMATURE
D MICK WIER 6/9/2010 - OWN BLOG
DONG 20/8/2010
DOODLE POODLE 14/6/2012
DOUG
DOUG EVANS 11/3/2011 - OWN BLOG EARTH SIGN
DWIGHT TOWERS 6/6/2011

EASYGOING777 2/2/2011
EBENEZER (eb)
ECTRA 25/8/2011
EDDIE 22/7/2012
EL NINO
EMEMY COMBATANT
ENDURING POWER OF ATTORNEY
ETHISTAN
EDDY L 20/6/2010
EK GELIR
EL GORDO 6/9/2011
ERIC 16/11/2011
ERIN 11/9/2012
ESTETIK
EVE WHITE 17/3/2011

FIONA 20/02/2012
FRED
FRED17
F FREDDY
FILIPPO
FIZ 6/6/2011
FLUFFULA 14/3/2011
FRANC 13/5/2012
FRANCO 31/01/2012
FRANK 24/8/2012
FRANKED 12/6/2012

GAFFHOOK 17/5/2010
GARETH PERKINS
GARY 7/9/2010
GARY M 18/4/2012
GILLIAN 30/7/2012
GK 14/7/2012
GEORGE PIKE 14/7/2010
GLENNIS 6/5/2012
GLORFINDEL 29/6/2010
GOLFMAN
GORGEOUS DUNNY 25/10/2012
GRAHAM CLEMENTS 15/6/2010
GRAHAM MURRAY 8/8/2010
GRAMPS 27/8/2012
GRANNIE 26/02/2012
GRANNY ANNY
GRAVEL 21/5/2010
GREG 6/6/2011
GROG - GREG JERICHO - OWN BLOG GROG’S GAMUT
GRUMPS
GUN 25/01/2012
GUSFACE 2010

HADERAK 28/6/2012
HALL CROSSING 5/6/2012
HAMBO 29/8/2010
HARRY “SNAPPER” ORGANS
HELENA HARDCART
HILLBILLY SKELETON aka FERAL SKELETON 2010 TPS AUTHOR
HOLDEN BACK 2010
HOLLYWOOD 21/6/2010
HUGHSNET

IAN
IT'S TIME

JAEGER 30/7/2010
JANE 30/1/2011
JANET 11/8/2012 JAN @ J4GYPSY
JANICE 14/6/2008 FIRST COMMENTER, VIP
JARA 28/8/2011
JAMES HIGGINS 1/3/2012 - OWN BLOG THE POLITICS PROJECT
JAMES ADELAIDE 8/8/2012
JASON 7/5/2010
JAYCEE 12/5/2012
JAYNE
JEAN 6/9/2011
JENAUTHOR 25/5/2010 - OWN BLOG JENNIFER BRASSEL
JENNY 17/3/2011
JESS 24/7/2010 - OWN BLOG
JETSON
JIMBO 3/6/2010
JOA 2/4/2012
JOE 2 8/6/2010
JOE HOMER 24/02/2012
JOHN LAWRENCE 7/4/2012
JOHN 7/3/2011 - OWN BLOG TRUE POLITIKS
JOHN J 25/10/2010
JOHN L 13/02/2012 TPS AUTHOR
JOHN RYAN
JOHNNY BUTTON 13/5/2010
JJ 30/7/2010
JP
JOSH LYMAN
JUST ME

KAREN 14/5/2012
KATE 5/7/2011
KATH
KAY ROLLISON 20/8/2012 TPS AUTHOR VICTORIA’S MUM
KEITH D 31/3/2012
KEN 17/3/2011
KERRY
KEVIN RENNIE 30/7/2010 - OWN BLOG
KIM
KERSEBLEPTES 14/6/2010
KHTAGH 22/7/2012

LADY IN RED 4/5/2012
LAURA 10/4/2012
LAWRIE JAY 3/9/2012
LEFT OF THE RIGHT & RIGHT OF THE LEFT 20/5/2010
LEFTY 20/11/2010
LESLEY DE VOIL 13/9/2012
LEONE BRITT 28/11/2011
LIBERTY JACK 22/3/2011
LIBBY X 33 20/7/2012
LITTLE JAN 28/4/2011
LINDA 12/5/2012
LIZ AITKEN
LOCAL IDENTITY
LOL 23/112012
LT FRED 24/8/2012
LUKE 8/5/2012
LYN - LYN'S DAILY LINKS
LYNE LADY 26/02/2012
LYNCHPIN 18/6/2010

MAC 4/9/2012
MACCA
MACONDO 11/8/2012
MANDY MACK 20/02/2012
MAGROVE JACK 13/5/2012
MARILYN 6/9/2011
MARIAN DALTON 25/8/2011 TPS AUTHOR - OWN BLOG THE CONSCIENCE VOTE
MARIAN RUMENS 10/02/2012
MARK HYDE 20/4/2012
MARK LEAHY 24/8/2011
MARKAT 24/11/2012
MARKS 26/9/2011
MARKTWAIN
MARTYN TONKS 31/5/2012
MARY 10/7/2012
MASSIVESPRAY 26/7/210 - OWN BLOG SPRAY OF THE DAY
MATTHIAS
MEDIAMONITOR 18/5/2010
MEGPIE 71 15/7/2012
MEL 20/02/2012
MERCURIAL 15/9/2012
MERLIN 9/9/2011
MICHAEL
MICHAEL CUSACK
MICHAEL Z 23/6/211
MICK 23/7/2011
MICK SMETAFOR
MICHELLE 8/9/2010
MIGLO 17/5/2010
MICK OF KAMBAH 27/10/2010
MIKEY 26/9/2011
MIN 16/6/2010
MISERABLE TROLLING TYPE PERSON
MOBIUS ECKO
MOLLY
MONICA
MWS 10/7/2012
MR DENMORE 4/6/2010 - OWN BLOG THE FAILED ESTATE

NASKING 17/5/2010
NATURE 5 25/5/2010
NEIL
NELLIE MAY 13/9/2012
NEO THE FAT CAT 6/6/2012
NIALL COOK 25/10/2012 - OWN BLOG THE BANNERMAN
NICHOLAS WALMSLEY 25/8/2010
NICK G
NIKE LEBRON8 6/2011
NITE LITE 11/4/2012
NORMAL 29/6/2010
NORMAN K 30/5/2010
NOTUS 18/10/2011
NUDIE FISH 24/6/2012

OLIVER TOWNSEND 5/8/2010
ONE EYED HITMAN 8/9/2011
OPEN MINDED
OSTERMAN
OZ FROG 25/6/2010
OZYMAN 19/9/2011

PADDYBTS 19/02/2012
PAPPINBARRA FOX 3/6/2012
PAT 5/9/2011
PATRICIA LORIMER 30/5/2010
PATRICIA WA 29/6/2010 - OWN BLOG POLLIEPOMES
PAUL OF BERWICK - OWN BLOG
PAUL WALTER 16/6/2011
PAUL WELLO 19/7/2012
PB 15/10/2012
PER ARDUA 30/1/2011
PETER 8/7/2011 - OWN BLOG AUSSIE VIEWS NEWS
PETER MC
PETER P 11/7/2012
PIA ROBINSON 2/4/2012
PIKIRANKU 1/6/2012
PILGRIM 10/10/2012
PJ 14/10/ 2012
PJF 25/5/2012
PHIL 13/8/2012
POLYQUATS 22/8/2010
POMPOUS GOOSE 3/7/2011
PSYCLAW 29/6/2011
PUFF TMD 19/4/2012

QIER 25/9/2010
QZQ 2/7/2012

RAJA CUHE 15/9/2011
RHIANNON 27/6/2011
RHYTHYMZ 5/5/2012
REB OF HOBART 6/3/2011 - OWN BLOG GUTTER TRASH
RGBRG 16/7/2012
RENAE 15/5/2011
REWI LYALL - OWN BLOG
RICCARDO
RX
RN 30/7/2010
ROB 2/7/2012
ROCK 3/9/2012
ROGER 16/3/2011
ROBERT TOBIN 5/5/2012
ROBERT VAN AALST 5/11/2011
ROBYN EVANS 13/5/2012
ROBYNNE 15/10/2012
ROCCO 4/3/2012
ROD
ROD BOULTON 29/6/2011
RON
RON DEKKER
ROSWELL 29/6/2010
ROWAN 20/8/2010
RUSSELL GLENDALE NEWCASTLE 14/6/2011

SALLY 22/5/2010
SANCHEZ 19/7/2012
SANDRA 13/5/2012
SANDY 27/6/2010
SAM 26/6/2010
SAM OF SUNSHINE 6/8/2010
SAPPERK9 15/02/2012
SAWDUST MICK
SCORPIO
SCOTT 3/10/2011
SENEXX 4/6/2010 - OWN BLOG
SHANE 20/02/2012
SHAUN 28/8/2011
SHIRLEY 10/4/2012
SIMON 29/6/2010
SIR IAN CRISP
SMITHE 14/7/2012
SNOOZER
SPROCKET 3/3/2012
STEPHEN LAZARUS GRAYSUN 10/7/2011
STEVE 777 24/8/2012
STEVE OF ADELAIDE
STEVE 9/5/2011
STEVE 1
SUE 9/5/2011
SUE 2 20/9/2011
SUZYQ 2/4/2012

TALK TURKEY 15/9/2010 - OWN BLOG OZZIGAMI
TAO DE HAAS 26/10/2012
TEDDY SEA 1/12/2012
TIFFANY232 5/3/2011
TIM BADRICK 21/6/2011
TIN CAN 14/5/2012
TCEPSER 21/6/2010
THE MOOR 14/6/2012
THEODRIC 15/5/2010
THE OTHER BRIAN
THE WETMALE - OWN BLOG MATHEW LEE
TODD 27/9/2012
TOM OF MELBOURNE 5/2011
THORNEY 15/5/2010
TONY S 27/4/2011
TRAVIS
TREDLGT 21/8/2010
TREVOR 11/8/2011
TRUTH SEEKER 29/6/2012
TYLER 11/5/2012
TYPECAST 12/2/2011

URIAH 10/9/2012

VAL 2/3/2012
VALERIE 29/7/2010
VALERIE WOODRUFFE 25/5/2011
VICTORIA ROLLISON 23/9/2012 TPS AUTHOR - OWN BLOG
VON KIRSDARKE 22/8/2011
VOTE1MAXINE, NOW BRING BACK MAXINE

WAKE UP 8/6/2012
WAYNE 15/9/2011
WAYNE BROOKES 1/3/2012 - OWN BLOG CURIOSITY AND CHALLENGE
WEE WILLY 23/8/2011
WHAT IS MORE 26/8/2012
WINNIFRED SWEENY 19/7/2012
WOODPEAR 6/12/2012
WORDS MAY DESTROY 10/8/2012

XIAOECHO 13/8/2012

YOU MUST BE KIDDING

ZAC SPITZER 14/10/2012

42 LONG 13/5/2012
2353 10/8/2010
2 TANNERS

Focus on crap detecting: Postman and Weingartner

This is the third in the end-of-year series that have focussed on aspects of politics. This one uses Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner’s brilliant 1969 paperback Teaching as a Subversive Activity as the framework for this piece. I found this book facilitated more insights into the purposes of education that most of the formal texts on education. I was disappointed when I lost my copy some years ago, but delighted recently when I found a PDF version published online by Oregon State University.

The title of the first chapter was ‘Crap Detecting’, which although written in the context of the educational process, has significant implications for the political process. This piece gathers together parts of this chapter, in italics, which I annotate with comments, in bold, that relate Postman and Weingartner’s words to contemporary politics. Any bolding of the original text is mine.

The ‘Crap Detecting’ chapter begins:

“'In 1492, Columbus discovered America....' Starting from this disputed fact, each one of us will describe the history of this country in a somewhat different way. Nonetheless, it is reasonable to assume that most of us would include something about what is called the 'democratic process', and how Americans have valued it, or at least have said they valued it. Therein lies a problem: one of the tenets of a democratic society is that men be allowed to think and express themselves freely on any subject, even to the point of speaking out against the idea of a democratic society. To the extent that our schools are instruments of such a society, they must develop in the young not only an awareness of this freedom but a will to exercise it, and the intellectual power and perspective to do so effectively. This is necessary so that the society may continue to change and modify itself to meet unforeseen threats, problems and opportunities. Thus, we can achieve what John Gardner calls an, 'ever-renewing society'.

"So goes the theory." 


While facts are important, the most important role of schools must be to inculcate the ability to reason, to challenge ‘conventional wisdom’, to exercise freedom of thought and action. The strong emphasis the Government is giving to education as the foundation for a strong economy, a just society, and a vibrant democracy, is not just laudable, it is essential.

"In practice, we mostly get a different story. In our society as in others, we find that there are influential men at the head of important institutions who cannot afford to be found wrong, who find change inconvenient, perhaps intolerable, and who have financial or political interests they must conserve at any cost. Such men are, therefore, threatened in many respects by the theory of the democratic process and the concept of an ever-renewing society. Moreover, we find that their are obscure men who do not head important institutions who are similarly threatened because they have identified themselves with certain ideas and institutions which they wish to keep free from either criticism or change."

This is what Stiglitz says in his 2012 book The Price of Inequality. Postman and Weingartner were saying it over four decades ago, in 1969. Moreover, we see contemporaneously how some have become so wedded to certain ideas, such as global warming being a hoax, that they are threatened by anything that contradicts their beliefs. Just last week we saw them cherry-pick parts of the latest IPCC report to support their beliefs.

"Such men as these would much prefer that the schools do little or nothing to encourage youth to question, doubt, or challenge any part of the society in which they live, especially those parts which are most vulnerable. 'After all,' say the practical men, 'they are our schools, and they ought to promote our interests, and that is part of the democratic process, too’. True enough; and then we have a serious point of conflict. Whose schools are they, anyway, and whose interests should they be designed to serve? We realize that these are questions about which any self-respecting professor of education could write several books each one beginning with a reminder that the problem is not black or white, either/or, yes or no. But you will not expect us to be either professorial or prudent. We are, after all, trying to suggest strategies for survival as they may be developed in our schools, and the situation requires emphatic responses. We believe that the schools must serve as the principal medium for developing in youth the attitudes and skills of social, political and cultural criticism. No. That is not emphatic enough. Try this: in the early 1960s, an interviewer was trying to get Ernest Hemingway to identify the characteristics required for a person to be a 'great writer'. As the interviewer offered a list of various possibilities, Hemingway disparaged each in sequence. Finally, frustrated, the interviewer asked, 'Isn't there any one essential ingredient that you can identify?' Hemingway replied, ‘Yes, there is. In order to be a great writer a person must have a built-in, shockproof crap detector.'

"It seems to us that, in his response, Hemingway identified an essential survival strategy and the essential function of the schools in today's world. One way of looking at the history of the human group is that it has been a continuing struggle against the veneration of 'crap'. Our intellectual history is a chronicle of the anguish and suffering of men who tried to help their contemporaries see that some part of their fondest beliefs were misconceptions, faulty assumptions, superstitions and even outright lies. The mileposts along the road of our intellectual development signal those points at which some person developed a new perspective, a new meaning, or a new metaphor. We have in mind a new education that would set out to cultivate just such people - experts at 'crap detecting'."

Here is the nub of the problem we as a nation need to resolve now. Although it has always been so in Australian politics, how many would disagree that these last two years have been beset with an unprecedented avalanche of political crap, whether it is about global warming and the effect of a price on carbon, about the economy, about the Government’s stewardship of it especially through the GFC, about the HIP and the BER, about the best way forward in health and education? And almost all of it has come from the Coalition and its leadership, and faithfully echoed by the much of mainstream media. If ever we needed ‘a built-in, shockproof crap detector’, we have needed it since 2010. All but the rusted-on have installed a crap detector, and as a sad result, many are turning away from political discourse. It is in our schools that crap detecting needs to be taught and learned.

Back to Postman and Weingartner: "There are many ways of describing this function of the schools, and many men who have. David Riesman, for example, calls this the 'counter-cyclical' approach to education, meaning that schools should stress values that are not stressed by other major institutions in the culture. Norbert Wiener insisted that the schools now must function as 'anti-entropic feedback systems', 'entropy' being the word used to denote a general and unmistakable tendency of all systems - natural and man-made - in the universe to 'run down', to reduce to chaos and uselessness. This is a process that cannot be reversed but that can be slowed down and partly controlled. One way to control it is through 'maintenance'. This is Eric Hoffer's dream, and he believes that the quality of maintenance is one of the best indices of the quality of life in a culture. But Wiener uses a different metaphor to get at the same idea. He says that in order for them to be an anti-entropic force, we must have adequate feedback. In other words, we must have instruments to tell us when we are running down, when maintenance is required. For Wiener, such instruments would be people who have been educated to recognize change, to be sensitive to problems caused by change, and who have the motivation and courage to sound alarms when entropy accelerates to a dangerous degree. This is what we mean by 'crap detecting'. It is also what John Gardner means by the 'ever-renewing society', and what Kenneth Boulding means by 'social self-consciousness'. We are talking about the schools cultivating in the young that most 'subversive' intellectual instrument - the anthropological perspective. This perspective allows one to be part of his own culture and, at the same time, to be out of it. One views the activities of his own group as would an anthropologist, observing its tribal rivals its fears, its conceits, its ethnocentrism. In this way, one is able to recognize when reality begins to drift too far away from the grasp of the tribe.

"We need hardly say that achieving such a perspective is extremely difficult, requiring, among other things, considerable courage. We are, after all, talking about achieving a high degree of freedom from the intellectual and social constraints of one's tribe. For example, it is generally assumed that people of other tribes have been victimized by indoctrination from which our tribe has remained free. Our own outlook seems 'natural' to us, and we wonder that other men can perversely persist in believing nonsense. Yet, it is undoubtedly true that, for most people, the acceptance of a particular doctrine is largely attributable to the accident of birth. They might be said to be 'ideologically inter-changeable', which means that they would have accepted any set of doctrines that happened to be valued by the tribe to which they were born. Each of us whether from the American tribe, Russian tribe, or Hopi tribe, is born into a symbolic environment as well as a physical one. We become accustomed very early to a 'natural' way of talking, and being talked to, about 'truth'. Quite arbitrarily, one's perception of what is 'true' or real is shaped by the symbols and symbol-manipulating institutions of his tribe. Most men, in time, learn to respond with favour and obedience to a set of verbal abstractions which they feel provides them with an ideological identity. One word for this, of course, is 'prejudice'. None of us is free of it, but it is the sign of a competent 'crap detector' that he is not completely captivated by the arbitrary abstractions of the community in which he happened to grow up. In our own society, if one grows up in a language environment which includes and approve such a concept as 'white supremacy', one can quite 'morally' engage in the process of murdering civil-rights workers. Similarly, if one is living in a language environment where the term 'black power' crystallizes an ideological identity, one can engage, again quite 'morally', in acts of violence against any non-black persons or their property. An insensitivity to the unconscious effects of our 'natural' metaphors condemns us to highly constricted perceptions of how things are and, therefore, to highly limited alternative modes of behaviour.

"Those who are sensitive to the verbally built-in biases of their 'natural' environment seem 'subversive' to those who are not. There is probably nothing more dangerous to the prejudices of the latter than a man in the process of discovering that the language of his group is limited, misleading, or one-sided. Such a man is dangerous because he is not easily enlisted on the side of one ideology or another, because he sees beyond the words to the processes which give an ideology its reality. In his ‘May Man Prevail?’ Erich Fromm gives us an example of a man (himself) in the process of doing just that:

"The Russians believe that they represent socialism because they talk in terms of Marxist ideology, and they do not recognize how similar their system is to the most developed form of capitalism. We in the West believe that we represent the system of individualism, private initiative, and humanistic ethics, because we hold on to our ideology, and we do not see that our institutions have, in fact, in many ways become more and more similar to the hated system of communism.

"Religious indoctrination is still another example of this point. As Alan Watts has noted: 'irrevocable commitment to any religion is not only intellectual suicide; it is positive unfaith because it closes the mind to any new vision of the world. Faith is, above all, openness - an act of trust in the unknown' And so 'crap detecting' require a perspective on what Watts calls 'the standard-brand religions'. That perspective can also be applied to knowledge. If you substitute the phrase 'set of facts' for the word 'religion' in the quotation above, the statement is equally important and accurate.

"The need for this kind of perspective has always been urgent but never so urgent as now. We will not take you again through that painful catalogue of twentieth-century problems we cited in our introduction There are, however, three particular problems
[summarized below] which force us to conclude that the schools must consciously remake themselves into training centers for 'subversion'. In one sense, they are all one problem but for purposes of focus may be distinguished from each other.

"The first goes under the name of the 'communications revolution’ or media change…Very few of us have contemplated more rigorously what is happening through media change than Jacques Ellul who has sounded some chilling alarms. Without mass media, Ellul insists, there can be no effective propaganda. With them, there is almost nothing but. 'Only through concentration of a large number of media in a few hands can one attain a true orchestration, a continuity, and an application of scientific methods of influencing individuals.' That such concentration is occurring daily, Ellul says, is an established fact, and its results may well be an almost total homogenization of thought among those the media reach…

"Still another way of saying this is that, while there has been a tremendous increase in media there has been, at the same time, a decrease in available and viable 'democratic' channels of communication because the mass media are entirely one-way communication…No one can reach many people unless he has access to the mass media." 


Remember, these words were written over forty years ago. Today we know how prescient they were. And we now know that the only way we can counter the mass media, the Fourth Estate, is via the burgeoning Fifth Estate.

"We come then to a second problem which makes necessary a 'subversive' role for the schools. This one may appropriately be called the 'change revolution'. In order to illustrate what this means, we will use the media again and the metaphor of a clock face. [Remember, Postman and Weingartner wrote their book over forty years ago.] Imagine a clock face with sixty minutes on it. Let the clock stand for the time men have had access to writing systems. Our clock would thus represent something like three thousand years, and each minute on our clock fifty years. On this scale, there were no significant media changes until about nine minutes ago. At that time, the printing press came into use in Western culture. About three minutes ago, the telegraph, photograph, and locomotive arrived. Two minutes ago: the telephone, rotary press, motion pictures, automobile, aeroplane and radio. One minute ago, the talking picture. Television has appeared in the last ten seconds, the computer in the last five, and communications satellites in the last second. The laser beam - perhaps the most potent medium of communication of all - appeared only a fraction of a second ago…" [And social media just a few microseconds ago.]

"All of which brings us to the third problem: the 'burgeoning bureaucracy'. We are brought there because bureaucracies, in spite of their seeming indispensability, are by their nature highly resistant to change. The motto of most bureaucracies is, ‘Carry on, regardless'. There is an essential mindlessness about them which causes them, in most circumstances, to accelerate entropy rather than to impede it. Bureaucracies rarely ask themselves Why?, but only How?... "

Postman and Weingartner conclude their chapter on ‘Crap Detecting’ thus:

"What is the necessary business of the schools? To create eager consumers? To transmit the dead ideas, values, metaphors, and information of three minutes ago? To create smoothly functioning bureaucrats? These aims are truly subversive since they undermine our chances of surviving as a viable, democratic society. And they do their work in the name of convention and standard practice. We would like to see the schools go into the anti-entropy business. Now, that is subversive, too. But the purpose is to subvert attitude, beliefs and assumptions that foster chaos and uselessness."

During these last two years of unremitting political crap, we all have needed Hemingway’s built-in, shockproof, industrial-strength crap detector.

PM Gillard admonished journalists with: ‘Don’t write crap’, but they carried on doing so nevertheless. We have had crap dealt out about climate change, the economy, the competence of the Government, the integrity of our PM, and as recently as last week we had Justice Rares deliver a harsh judgement about the attempt of James Ashby and his co-conspirators to bring a sexual harassment case against the Speaker of the House with the intent of bringing him down and the Government with him. Although he didn’t use the word, Rares could have aptly described the Ashby case as ‘crap’. So, he threw it out, presumably onto the growing political ‘crap heap’. Then last week we had Tony Abbott heap more crap on the crap heap as he used weasel words to camouflage his involvement, and that of Mal Brough. He’s still at it, walking away from questions about Brough as recently as yesterday at the presser he called to gloat over the now-doubtful budget surplus.

The lesson for schools is that as the crap mushrooms, we need urgently to help our young to learn how to analyze, integrate, and synthesize information, concepts, and understandings into a meaningful whole, all the time looking for and detecting crap with their inbuilt crap detector, and consigning it to a place where it can do no harm. The health of our democracy depends on it.


What do you think?

Focus on political ideology: Joseph E Stiglitz

This is the second in the end-of-year series on The Political Sword on political ideology. It is based on a Stiglitz’s book: The Price of Inequality

Stiglitz’ book was published in mid 2012 in New York by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., and in London by Allen Lane, part of the Penguin Group.

Stiglitz is a Nobel laureate in economics, is currently a professor at Columbia University in the Department of Economics and the School of International and Public Affairs, and has taught at Stanford, Yale, Princeton, and Oxford. He was chair of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, and was Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank. He has pioneered theories in the fields of economic information, taxation, development, trade, and technical change.

The summary that follows is provided by Project Syndicate, an international not-for-profit newspaper syndicate and association of newspapers that distributes commentaries and analysis.

”America likes to think of itself as a land of opportunity, and others view it in much the same light. But, while we can all think of examples of Americans who rose to the top on their own, what really matters are the statistics: to what extent do an individual’s life chances depend on the income and education of his or her parents?

“Nowadays, these numbers show that the American dream is a myth. There is less equality of opportunity in the United States today than there is in Europe – or, indeed, in any advanced industrial country for which there are data.

“This is one of the reasons that America has the highest level of inequality of any of the advanced countries – and its gap with the rest has been widening. In the “recovery” of 2009-2010, the top 1% of US income earners captured 93% of the income growth. Other inequality indicators – like wealth, health, and life expectancy – are as bad or even worse. The clear trend is one of concentration of income and wealth at the top, the hollowing out of the middle, and increasing poverty at the bottom.

“It would be one thing if the high incomes of those at the top were the result of greater contributions to society, but the Great Recession showed otherwise: even bankers who had led the global economy, as well as their own firms, to the brink of ruin, received outsize bonuses.

“A closer look at those at the top reveals a disproportionate role for rent-seeking: some have obtained their wealth by exercising monopoly power; others are CEOs who have taken advantage of deficiencies in corporate governance to extract for themselves an excessive share of corporate earnings; and still others have used political connections to benefit from government munificence – either excessively high prices for what the government buys (drugs), or excessively low prices for what the government sells (mineral rights).

“Likewise, part of the wealth of those in finance comes from exploiting the poor, through predatory lending and abusive credit-card practices. Those at the top, in such cases, are enriched at the direct expense of those at the bottom.

“It might not be so bad if there were even a grain of truth to trickle-down economics – the quaint notion that everyone benefits from enriching those at the top. But most Americans today are worse off – with lower real (inflation-adjusted) incomes – than they were in 1997, a decade and a half ago. All of the benefits of growth have gone to the top.

“Defenders of America’s inequality argue that the poor and those in the middle shouldn’t complain. While they may be getting a smaller share of the pie than they did in the past, the pie is growing so much, thanks to the contributions of the rich and superrich, that the size of their slice is actually larger. The evidence, again, flatly contradicts this. Indeed, America grew far faster in the decades after World War II, when it was growing together, than it has since 1980, when it began growing apart.

“This shouldn’t come as a surprise, once one understands the sources of inequality. Rent-seeking distorts the economy. Market forces, of course, play a role, too, but markets are shaped by politics; and, in America, with its quasi-corrupt system of campaign finance and its revolving doors between government and industry, politics is shaped by money.

“For example, a bankruptcy law that privileges derivatives over all else, but does not allow the discharge of student debt, no matter how inadequate the education provided, enriches bankers and impoverishes many at the bottom. In a country where money trumps democracy, such legislation has become predictably frequent.

“But growing inequality is not inevitable. There are market economies that are doing better, both in terms of both GDP growth and rising living standards for most citizens. Some are even reducing inequalities.

“America is paying a high price for continuing in the opposite direction. Inequality leads to lower growth and less efficiency. Lack of opportunity means that its most valuable asset – its people – is not being fully used. Many at the bottom, or even in the middle, are not living up to their potential, because the rich, needing few public services and worried that a strong government might redistribute income, use their political influence to cut taxes and curtail government spending. This leads to underinvestment in infrastructure, education, and technology, impeding the engines of growth.

“The Great Recession has exacerbated inequality, with cutbacks in basic social expenditures and with high unemployment putting downward pressure on wages. Moreover, the United Nations Commission of Experts on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System, investigating the causes of the Great Recession, and the International Monetary Fund have both warned that inequality leads to economic instability.

“But, most importantly, America’s inequality is undermining its values and identity. With inequality reaching such extremes, it is not surprising that its effects are manifest in every public decision, from the conduct of monetary policy to budgetary allocations. America has become a country not “with justice for all,” but rather with favouritism for the rich and justice for those who can afford it – so evident in the foreclosure crisis, in which the big banks believed that they were too big not only to fail, but also to be held accountable.

“America can no longer regard itself as the land of opportunity that it once was. But it does not have to be this way: it is not too late for the American dream to be restored.”


Stiglitz’s book is in harmony with the last piece: The ideology of politics: Ross Gittins in which Gittins comments on Professor Jeffrey Sachs’ book: The Price of Civilisation.

Using the US as the context, Stiglitz talk of matters we have discussed here before: the inequality that gives the top earners almost all of the income growth thereby widening the gap between the very rich and the rest, the growing role of rent seekers, the fallacy of ‘trickle down economics’. Stiglitz examines particularly the social effects of inequality – slowing growth, rising unemployment, downward pressure on wages, underinvestment in infrastructure, education and technology, adverse effects on the health of the middle and lower classes, and social discord.

It’s now over to you, readers of The Political Sword.

What do you think?


Focus on political ideology: Ross Gittins

This is the first of a series that will be posted periodically over the end-of-year break on The Political Sword. It is designed to give you an opportunity to comment on the important ideological and philosophical issues that influence contemporary politics.

The centerpiece of this first post is a lucidly written and challenging opinion piece by Ross Gittins, the Sydney Morning Herald's Economics Editor, which appeared in the National Times on 5 December 2012. It is titled: A warning as market pipes tune in America.

His piece is prefaced by a video where he reviews a book: The Price of Civilisation. He begins: “Libertarianism is the notion that the only ethical value that matters is liberty, but one of America’s leading economists, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, isn’t having a bar of it in his latest book, The Price of Civilisation.

You will get the gist of Gittins’ article if you first view the video. Click this link and play the video.

The entire article, as it appears in the National Times, is in italics below:

"Just as it's taking the world a lot longer to recover from the global financial crisis than we initially expected, so it's taking a lot longer than we might have expected for voters and their governments to learn the lessons and make the changes needed to ensure such devastation doesn't recur. But the penny has dropped for some.

Jeffrey Sachs, of Columbia University, is one of the biggest-name economists in the world. Yet in his book, The Price of Civilisation: Economics and Ethics after the Fall, he admits America's greatest problem is moral, not economic. Actually, he says that at the root of America's economic crisis lies a moral crisis. He puts into words thoughts most of us have hardly dared to think.

Sachs says America's weaknesses are warning signs for the rest of the world. ''The society that led the world in financial liberalisation, round-the-clock media saturation, television-based election campaigns and mass consumerism is now revealing the downside of a society that has let market institutions run wild over politics and public values,'' he says.

His book ''tracks the many ills that now weigh on the American psyche and the American financial system: an economy of hype, debt and waste that has achieved economic growth and high incomes at the cost of extreme income inequality, declining trust among members of the society and the public's devastating loss of confidence in the national government as an instrument of public well-being''.

Even if the American economy is on the skids, he says, the hyper-commercialism invented in America is on the international rise. So, too, are the attendant ills: inequality, corruption, corporate power, environmental threats and psychological destabilisation.

''A society of markets, laws and elections is not enough if the rich and powerful fail to behave with respect, honesty and compassion toward the rest of society and towards the world. America has developed the world's most competitive market society but has squandered its civic virtue along the way.

''Without restoring an ethos of social responsibility, there can be no meaningful and sustained economic recovery.''

America's crisis developed gradually over several decades, he argues. It's the culmination of an era - the baby-boomer era - rather than of particular policies or presidents. It is a bipartisan affair: both Democrats and Republicans have played their part.

''On many days it seems that the only difference between the Republicans and Democrats is that Big Oil owns the Republicans while Wall Street owns the Democrats.''

Too many of America's elites - the super rich, the chief executives and many academics - have abandoned a commitment to social responsibility. They chase wealth and power, the rest of society be damned, he says.

We need to reconceive the idea of a good society. ''Most important, we need to be ready to pay the price of civilisation through multiple acts of good citizenship: bearing our fair share of taxes, educating ourselves deeply about society's needs, acting as vigilant stewards for future generations and remembering that compassion is the glue that holds society together.''

The American people are generally broadminded, moderate and generous, he says. But these are not the images of Americans we see on television or the adjectives that come to mind when we think of America's rich and powerful elite.

America's political institutions have broken down, so that the broad public no longer holds these elites to account. And the breakdown of politics also implicates the public. ''American society is too deeply distracted by our media-drenched consumerism to maintain habits of effective citizenship.''

Sachs says a healthy economy is a mixed economy, in which government and the marketplace play their roles. Yet the federal government has neglected its role for three decades, turning the levers of power over to the corporate lobbies.

The resulting ''corporatocracy'' involves a feedback loop. ''Corporate wealth translates into political power through campaign financing, corporate lobbying and the revolving door of jobs between government and industry; and political power translates into further wealth through tax cuts, deregulation and sweetheart contracts between government and industry. Wealth begets power, and power begets wealth.''

How have American voters allowed their democracy to be hijacked? ''Most voters are poorly informed and many are easily swayed by the intense corporate propaganda thrown their way in the few months leading to the elections.

''We have therefore been stuck in a low-level political trap: cynicism breeds public disengagement from politics; the public disengagement from politics opens the floodgates of corporate abuse; and corporate abuse deepens the cynicism.''

Sachs says globalisation and the rise of Asia risks the depletion of vital commodities such as fresh water and fossil fuels, and long-term damage to the earth's ecosystems.

''For a long time, economists ignored the problems of finite natural resources and fragile ecosystems,'' he writes. ''This is no longer possible. The world economy is pressing hard against various environmental limits, and there is still much more economic growth - and therefore environmental destruction and depletion - in the development pipeline.''

Two main obstacles to getting the global economy on an ecologically sustainable trajectory exist, he says. The first is that our ability to deploy more sustainable technologies, such as solar power, needs large-scale research and development.

The second is the need to overcome the power of corporate lobbies in opposing regulations and incentives that will steer markets towards sustainable solutions. ''So far, the corporate lobbies of the polluting industries have blocked such measures.''

In Australia, of course, the public interest has so far triumphed over corporate resistance. But the survival of both the carbon tax and the mining tax remains under threat."


We acknowledge our indebtedness for this piece to Ross Gittins, one of the finest writers in the mainstream media.  You might find the comments that follow his article informative.  They reveal starkly the variety of attitudes, and the wide variation in philosophy of his readers.

If you found Gittins’ article interesting you may also enjoy reading the rather dire account of the economy in the US: Debtpocalypse, Austerity and the Hollowing Out of America - Modern US history and the archeology of decline by Steve Fraser published in Common Dreams – Building Progressive Community.

It is now over to you, the users of The Political Sword, to express your views.

What do you think?