As I intimated in a comment on my previous blog, I was going to strike out in a philosophical direction for this, my latest blog.
I thought it might be especially pertinent in the light of the two major tragedies that have occurred in the Western Hemisphere over the End of Year/New Year break. That is, the cataclysmic floods in our own country, most especially in Queensland, and the horrific massacre and attempted assassination of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona.
In the light of the moving eulogy that President Obama gave at the Memorial Service for the slain and the wounded there:
And also, considering the magnificent response to and superhuman effort of Anna Bligh, her Emergency Response Team, and Queenslanders in general, but also as a result of a conversation I had with my son about the concept of 'Belonging', I thus decided to put my thoughts about all of it down here.
So, I think we have come to a new inflexion point in the 'Culture Wars' between the Left and the Right, or, as I now prefer to characterise the two sides of politics, post Globalisation, and post the Cold War, between the Regressives and the Progressives, wherein we are fighting against the forces that would see our societies go down the path of atomisation and the supremacy of the individual, as opposed to fostering the sort of society which sees us all 'belonging' to a 'Great Society' and being part of, and contributing to, the Common Weal. As best as each one of us is able, within reason, according to our talents and capabilities.
Now, don't mischaracterise this desire as my support for 'The Communist Manifesto', or a Chinese Totalitarian One Party State. Both of those 'Left Wing' ethos sets have been shown to be seriously flawed. In the Chinese case, despite its economic success; or unworkable, as in the example of the USSR.
Actually, I don't mind a bit of Capitalism, just as long as we don't get too greedy, insulated and isolated from a sensible reality by it. Such as occurred recently in the environment which precipitated the Global Financial Crisis. This Uber Capitalism destroys our sense of 'Belonging', our sense of connectedness to the most of us and the least of us.
I mean, it is essentially that concept of maintaining connectedness and empathy for all in our society that motivated me to come down on the Progressive side of politics. The fact that it strove to unify the human race rather than atomise and 'individualise' it, as the Regressive side seem intent on doing.
Ever since Margaret Thatcher declared, “There is no such thing as Society”, I have said to myself, “Wait a minute, lady, yes there is”, and I was intent to do my bit to keep it hanging together. I think that although, since the time of Reagan and Thatcher and their desire to see the supremacy of the individual in society, the 'Field Evidence' (as Howard was wont to say was the ultimate arbiter of a case), has firmly come down in favour of 'society' as a concept. It's something that, in the absence of a concerted effort by Progressive politicians to carry out their aim to work towards a 'Great Society' concept, by being out of power in influential Western Democracies such as America and Australia for the most part in the recent past, we have nevertheless, through our desire to feel a part of a social whole, and that unquenchable desire to 'belong', come together in other ways naturally to form social groupings anyway, e.g. in everything from sporting groups to knitting circles to 'Get Up'.
Although I must admit that this may have been exactly what Regressive politicians desired as they tried to dismantle the Progressive ethos of 'Egalite, Fraternite, Solidarite”, and form discreet, little atomised groups. I, however, do not agree.
Now, by harking back to that old French concept I am not saying that I am in favour of 'Socialism' per se, involving support for public or common ownership of the means of production and a rigidly-organised hierarchical society in the One Party State model that was tried by the USSR, and, as I said before, which ultimately failed spectacularly, or, as it is being played out in China now, with a few Capitalist tweaks. No. Instead what I am advocating, so as to heal the ruptures that have opened up since Thatcher's day, which has seen the re-emergence of Religion and Militarism as controlling and determining forces in our societies, is instead a 21st century hybrid that might forestall the worst excesses of the sort of societies that are therefore resulting; such that we instead work towards societies where all labour is valued fairly and the Middle Class is no longer hollowed out, resulting in the 'Employer' and 'Employed' Classes, and that we maintain the concept of 'A Fair Day's Pay for a Fair Day's Work'. Also, importantly, that output for individual consumption is distributed through markets, and distribution of income is based on individual merit, effort and individual contribution.
Also that we realise that we all 'Belong' to our Nation and that we must therefore provide, as good and right-thinking citizens, for the Common Weal, such that we recognise there will always be those, not as favoured in life as we may have been, who will need to be supported in our society by the rest of us – the Disabled, the Disfigured by accident, the Down on their Luck.
Not that we should carry bludgers, but that the unfortunate indigent belong to our society as well, and the health of our society is best served, as the research released in Britain recently attested to, by us not being self-serving individuals, but by being 'Caring and Sharing' members of society.
I think the best example I can give to show how this idea can be put into practice is to refer to how we can best fix up the mess that the Queensland and Victorian floods have left in their wake, literally, but also how we deal with Global Warming and the inequity that Mining creates in our country by producing a 'Two Speed Economy'.
On the one hand you have Tony Abbott rabbiting on about the fact that the Gillard government wants to “Introduce Three New Taxes: the Carbon Tax, the Mining Tax, and the Flood Tax”. This line by Abbott speaks to people's innate greed and desire to keep all their earnings for themselves and their family by having to pay as little tax as possible, and not to care about the environment we all love and live in daily and hope will keep supporting us; not care that the Mining Companies are getting away with Blue Murder and Super Profits and not putting their fair share back into the economy to aid the people who do not directly benefit from the Minerals Boom but who, as citizens, are the owners of the minerals they exploit and dig out of our ground; and, finally, not to care about the dire straits that our fellow citizens in Queensland and Victoria face after their worlds have been washed away. Basically, the “I'm all right, bugger you, Jack” attitude writ large.
On the other hand we have the Prime Minister trying to make us see that we all belong to the Commonwealth of Australia. Thus, we must collectively face our responsibilities as grown-ups and realise that we need to introduce a Carbon Tax on Greenhouse Gas emitting businesses to provide the Price Signal they need to change their ways and pivot into the new, Low Carbon Economy; we need to make the 'Rich as Croesus' Mining Companies put back into our economy a fair fraction of what they take out; and, finally, we need to agree that at about the rate of $1/citizen/week it is only right and proper that we put our hands in our pockets to help our mates in Queensland and Victoria through the tough times that are ahead.
I don't think it's too much to ask.
What do you think?