the new ussr illustrated

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a plea for political climate change [as if…]

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Hats off to the Philosophical Primate for a stirring defence of education and critical thinking, to halt the decline of political-economic literacy, and other literacies. He’s writing about the US, a nation some of us look upon with jaw-dropped, and jaw-grinding, astonishment – how did a nation with such bone-headed candidates for political office [all the Republican front-runners for the presidency can be named here] ever achieve political prominence in the world?

In Australia, though, the situation hardly seems any better, with the political debate over the pricing of carbon, for example, rarely rising above kindergarten level. As I keep saying, I wish the media would play a greater role in shaming politicians for their many inanities, and try to raise the bar a little. Carbon pricing, industrial productivity and flexibility, refugee policy, renewable technologies, literacy and disadvantage, mental health, all these are serious and urgent issues, but the media seems just as addicted to playing political football with them as many politicians are.

The lengthy post by the Primate raises concerns that, in the USA, a politically and economically ignorant populace are, in a sense, colluding in their own impoverishment, and in the economic downfall of the nation, because they are not sufficiently au fait with and outraged by the legislative and political processes that have exploited them and diminished their rights and their power. Of course, in the USA things have become much more dire than they are here, and yet we suffer the ludicrous claims of fat, mega-rich mining magnates warning us that any increase in mining taxes will send them to the wall, destroy untold numbers of jobs, and cause an economic collapse of catastrophic proportions. Similarly ludicrous claims were made about Work Choices by the union movement in 2007 – that is, if Work Choices wasn’t scrapped in toto, we would have a nation of slave labourers and gleeful whip-wielding bosses. The success of these campaigns was due to their over-simplification, and the inability or unwillingness of the populace to dissect and probe them more thoroughly. What we need in our education system is an encouragement of questioning, and trying to work out solutions to problems. What is a fair taxation system? How do we create relations between employers and employees so that we can best balance productivity and fairness? How should we deal with refugees fleeing from war-torn or poverty-ravaged regions? How does this square with the country’s future, its resources, its cultural mix, its environmental footprint?

Obviously we can’t educate everyone to treat complex issues in a complex way, but if we could at least promote insight and the recognition of spin, pointless oppositionism, cheap sound-bites, frenzied media focussing on the evanescent and irrelevant, etc etc – if we could increase the demand for more enlightened and less partisan political debate, yes even from our politicians – we might just get better policies, more co-operation, and less waste of breath and energy. I’ve always found adversarial systems tedious and irritating [e.g. here], and I should also say that this system is one of the great failings of democracy. The current political mess of the USA seems proof of that. Now if only politicians could be more like scientists…

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Written by stewart henderson

September 6, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Posted in politics

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