Saturday, January 04, 2003

Shifting to a new home

With a bit of luck public opinion will be moving to Moveable Type this evening and up and running. We just have to zig up a few techo things this evening and we will be sailing on the wide open seas for distant horizons.

No such luck. We---Scott Wickstein actually----got snagged on a few different technical things. It looks like Tuesday for the new minimal launch.

Friday, January 03, 2003

History Battles

I see that the fight over the interpretation of Australian history advanced by the National Museum of Australia continues. In the Battle of the black armband we are given a political background to this cultural conflict.

In this article Richard Yallop tells us that the conservatives took umbrage at the Museum's guidelines, which stated that the Museum should 'challenge ' the visitors to ponder and reflect on the nation's past.' Why the umbrage? Well, the word 'challenge' is seen to have political overtones of challenging authority: political authority and historical authority. For conservatives the word 'challenge ' signifies or marks the way that the National Museum of Australia is introducing politics into Australian history.

Why is this a concern? Isn't politics involved in all history writing? Conservatives find the Museum's rewriting of Australian history questionable on two grounds. It issues a challenge to the monumental history of the inspiring stories of the great pioneers and pastoralists who shaped the landscape and turned nature into civilization. This orthodox history was sidelined by the Museum in favour of the alternative history of suburbia, which conservatives dismiss as a history of trivia, such as the Hills Hoist. The trivia dismissal is a contentious one because the Hills Hoist is treated as a heritage icon rather than a bit of suburbian trivia. What this conflict points to is the need to write a history of urban Australia rather than a history of pioneers. This would be a different kind of history writing.

Conservatives also see the National Museum's as laying down a political challenge to the orthodox history of Australia, which is interpreted as downplaying or denying the frontier conflict/warfare between Aborigines and white settlers. It is a challenge because it both highlights the massacre of Aboriginal women and children and bases its case on Aboriginal oral history.

Behind the conservative unease with 'challenge' lies their unhappiness with the lefty word 'critique' and its implications of deconstructing the conservative interpretation of history. 'Critique' needs to be dampened down, conservatives say, before it gets out of hand. The method used to do dampen down critique is to say that writing of history should be based on historical fact and not the pushing of barrows"---ie not giving a political interpretation of history, or engaging in political bias.

One question that should be asked here is: Why shouldn't the National Museum of Australia introduce politics into Australian history. Aren't its visitors Australian citizens? Why cannot our received views on the history of the nation-state be challenged? Isn't it the responsibility of our national institutions to do this? If they don't, then who will? If they don't then how we citizens begin to question our deeply buried assumptions about our history? Isn't part of being a citizen critically reflecting upon the history that has made us who were are? We have down this with the way the economy has been governed, so why not do it with the turbulent history of the relationship between black and white?

Let me end this post with a straightforward passage from an essay by T.W. Adorno . The essay is about the connection between critique and politics, and its theme is appropriate to the conservative attempts to dampen down critique in our political life. Adorno says:

"Critique is essential to all democracy. Not only does democracy require the freedom to criticize and need critical impulses. Democracy is nothing less than defined by critique. This can be recalled simply in the historical fact that the conception of the separation of powers, upon which every democracy is based, ... has its lifeblood in critique. The system of checks and balances, the reciprocal overview of the executive, the legislative, the judiciary, means as much as that each of these powers subjects the others to critique and thereby reduces the despotism that each power, without this critical element, gravitates to. Critique and the pre-requisite of democracy, political maturity, belong together. Politically mature is the person who speaks for himself and is not merely repeating someone else; he stands free of any guardian."

(Adorno, Critique, in Critical Models, Interventions and Catchwards p.280)

Critique, in other words, is the conerstone of political reason.

There is an excellent post on Windshuttle and the conservative boys on the writing of frontier history by Robert Corr. He has done some good research. Do read it.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

Water Wars in California

I have been keeping my eye on the water wars in California in the light of the water reforms in the Murray-Darling Basin. I was hoping that by so connecting up Australia and the US different perspectives on the water conflicts in both countries could be developed. South Australia, I thought, could be in a similar situation to southern California, since both are confronted by water shortages. Anyhow that is my starting point.

It was reported in the New York Times that Calif. Water Users Miss Deadline on Sharing Pact. Water authorities had failed today to reach a deal on water usage from the Colorado River, and as a result, the Bush administration said it would cut flows from the river to the state's cities and farms beginning in January, making it the first time the federal government has imposed such a penalty.

What I immediately noticed in this story is the similarities between the US and Australia not the differences between the US and Australia. The similarity is that agriculture gets most of the water. In Southern California the agricultural districts get most of the water that comes from the Colorado River, and that most water experts in that state agree that this imbalance must change in order to address the state's chronic water shortages. This change requires the farmers in Southern California to share their water with the state's fast-growing cities. This clawback of water from irrigators is what is required in the Murray-Darling Basin.

What I noticed next was the differences. Water reform in southern California is not about clawingback water from farmers for increased environmental flows, as it is in the Murray-Darling Basin under The Living Murray project. The water wars in California is between town and country. Thirsty Cities of Southern California Covet the Full Glass Held by Farmers. This article states that:

"... in the Southern California desert, about 400 farmers and the local water authority hold Colorado River water rights that 17 million people closer to the coast desperately want. The two sides are struggling to resuscitate a deal that would sell water from the farms to the cities, but the obstacles are formidable, and time is running out."

The plan brokered under a Deal For San Diego Water proposed that farmers in the Imperial Valley would use about 2 percent less water from the river each year, which will go to the three million people around San Diego.

And another similarity---the resistance by farmers/irrigators. The Imperial Irrigation District in Southern California, which stands to loose about seven percent of its allotment of water, is making life difficult for the California state bureaucrats. It is such a familar theme in Australia: it is the water wars in the Murray-Darling Basin because the irrigators are fighting for compensation for the cut back in their water allocations and for their water licences to be converted into property rights.

What is unclear in both South Australia and California is the water shortages/the water resource issue will lead to a policy shift to ecological sustainability.


In Resourceful state has energy to growI see that Dr. Wells, the executive -in-residence at
Flinder's University
School of Commerce, has called for South Australia to get smart and position itself to take advantage of the new global opportunities in wind power, solar energy and water technology. Economic growth will come from these sectors not the traditional manufacturing base and biotechnology. He also added that the biggest resource issue in the 21st century is going to be water. Water will become like gold.

Good words. Keen insight. But no mention of the need for a shift in the policy compass so that SA becomes ecologically sustainable. Ther is no research from Dr. Wells' School of Commerce on the need for this policy shift. Flinders University is way behind the 8 ball----all we have is a light greenwash coming out, with no research substance. Why aren't their research staf adressing regional economic in terms of water resource issues?

And the Rann Labor Government? It has been in power for one year. It was committed to policy reviews, summits and strategic plans during 2002---which basically meant that it had few big policy ideas when it came to power. It has made lots of promises about reinvigorating the economy along neo-liberal lines of industrial relations, taxation and education. The early signals about the bold new direction to improve the prosperity of the state indicate little awareness of the need to shift the policy compass to ecological sustainability. In other words, it lacks the political courage to break with the economic policies of the previous Olsen Liberal Government.

What can we infer from this? Even though South Australia is confronted by water issues, it lacks the capacity to think creatively about its own future in a global world. The thinking that is taking place is a form of purposeful self-assertion within the confines of current economic production that takes the earth, water and human beings as the raw material to be used for a system of technological production. The concern for the health of the River Murray and the greening of the urban space are not seen as first steps towards ecological sustainability. That has been long forgotten in policy circles.
New website

For those who can read Italian do check out this website. Its design is elegant, good in the coverage of subjects, it has an eye on Australia and it is genuinely international. A tribute to European culture.
Merzlog. Dam it, I wish I could read Italian.
Responses to the SMH Iraq War Editorial

As expected the Sydney Morning Herald editorial on the war with Iraq has drawn a critical response. For an example of the low level intellectual level of public debate in Australia as exemplified in the journo-trash produced by Greg Sheridan, see More junk journalism. Read it and weep for democracy.

The corporate media take no responsibility for fostering the quality of public debate in this country. They do not see themselves as accountable, even though they strut the public stage as the 'watchdogs of democracy' and write beautiful prose about the freedom of the press when being criticized by politicians. The lifeblood of a vibrant democracy is vigorous debate on public issues.

A more considered response came from The Australian,which stated in an editorial that Case already made against Iraqi regime. This responded to the statement by the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that Iraq was co-operating with UN weapons inspectors and that he could see no basis for the use of force against Baghdad at present. It defended the position of Bush administration as right and reasonable.

The editorial did adopt the old straw dog tactic. It defined the Australian war sceptics as being those who see 'President George W. Bush as a warmonger intent on attacking innocent Iraq remain little more than an exercise in whineing-whimsy' and who portray the [Iraqi] dictator as a victim of a sinister American conspiracy to secure control of Middle East oil. So it avoided addressing the diferent and far more considered position of the SMH.

(Can our journo's only think in terms of black and white as warring opposites? Maybe they need a course in Hegelian dialectics to learn how to think in terms of both contradiction and shades of grey. However, our universities are in such a run-down state that such a course could no longer be provided. So we have to put up the black and white zapping one another out in the heavens whilst we go about our daily life on earth).

Things pick up after tilting at windmills with an acknowledgement of a more considered opinion. The editorial says,

"The opponents of the Americans' desire for regime change in Baghdad appear on firmer ground when they argue that reasons for war do not exist and that the US is seeking to coerce the world into supporting an attack. However, this is equally incorrect."

Note the caricature---of the SMH position: the reduction of geo-political strategic interests of the US not being the same as Australia's---to 'the US is seeking to coerce the world into supporting an attack. 'Still , we should be thankful for small mercies, since the editorial did get the key bit, that the reasons for war do not exist. And the rest of the editorial adresses this. It states:

"The dossier on the Iraqi regime's development of biological and chemical weapons and interest in acquiring a nuclear war-fighting capability, published in September by the British Government, is ample evidence that Saddam has flouted UN resolutions since weapons inspectors left in 1998 ....That the UN inspectors are yet to find any evidence that the Iraqis have active research and development programs for weapons of mass destruction is hardly surprising .... Last month's release by Iraq of a 12,000-page dossier which purported to prove the regime had no illegal weapons was merely a repeat of its 1998 tactics. Indeed, much of last month's information was simply copied from the previous document. The Iraqi strategy is to endlessly delay in the hope that something will turn up and that time will erode the UN commitment ....There are already good and sufficient reasons for a war against Saddam. His regime has brought misery to the Iraqi people, destabilised the Middle East and continues in breach of existing UN resolutions."

What is of interest here is what is not said: editorial does not engage with the SHM position that though the US has good strategic reasons for going to war with Iraq it is not obvious that Australia has. All we get from The Australian is a defense of the Bush administration:

"Bush has been careful not to appear inexorably committed to unilateral action and has worked carefully to get all his diplomatic ducks in a row"; and "For a man allegedly looking for an excuse to attack Iraq and seize its oil, Bush looks remarkably like a leader who does not wish to act in isolation and is anxious to see a case for military action that will impress all but the conspiracy theorists before the bombers fly."

The Australian seems to have forgotten that is the national newspaper of Australia not the USA. Our two countreis are still separate nation states. Or is The Australian tacitly arguing that US strategic interests and Australian strategic interests are identical? If so, then this is the very point that the SMH addressed and began teased apart. So there is a failure by The Australian to engage with the actual positions in the actual public debate. Is this a failure of nerve? An inability to think strategically? Or do we have here what Hegel diagnosed:an inability of Western culture to think outside of black v white and either/or?

Shed another tear for democracy.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Les Murray says it well

Its Les Murray, the poet I've in mind. He has written an op-ed piece A taboo breached loses its power. I read it against the grain.

This is the insight that I reckon is good:

"Since September 11, 2001, Australians have had a new theme to reflect on: human sacrifice. As distinct from suicide or self-martyrdom, human sacrifice means the public killing of innocent or defenceless people to lend awed support to some view of the world. It may be offered to a divinity, but it sure as hell is meant to impress mortals as well."

Bali, rather than S11, would be more accurate for Australia. But we do now confront death in our daily existence. We affirm our life through the possibility of death from a terror attack out of the blue.

And more insight from our heritage poet :

"The horror of Bali has increased fear but not frankness. Political correctness has led to government by double-talk and stealth. For many years, Australians have feared Muslim immigration as no other, but this fear has been silenced, everywhere but at the ballot box, by the very real menace of being called a racist, or a bigot, or a redneck and then mobbed or ostracised."

Fear (and anxiety) are now a part of the public mood. But we find it difficult to express this mood publicly. Do we do so privately? Probably, though very unsurely, because it taps into deep undercurrents that stand in opposition to the liberal Enlightenment. We are not sure how to handle both at the same time.

And Les Murray says there there is good reason for the public fear and anxiety.

"One can be very sorry for our Muslim fellow citizens. Militancy has put them under the shadow of the gun or the knife within their own community, and at the same time made hostages of them in the wider Australian community. In the same way, the rest of us have been made hostages for our Muslims. If we harm them, vengeance from abroad will fall on us. But the effect of terror is terror, and it can bring on mad acts.

No lofty censure can snub or bully us out of the new fear of becoming casual human sacrifices as we try to live our lives. We may need to get a lot more impure and intermarried and intercultural, as of course we have been doing even as we were made to dissemble about it. And we may need to say all the bad things openly which have been muttered in secret and which have had their effect in secret: they may well be transformed by fresh air, and grow kinder and more decent."

The poet has his finger on the pulse of unspoken things----that is why poets are useful to have around. It is a pity we do not have more of them plying their trade in public life. Confronting death on a daily basis changes things dramatically for us. We tend to say what we feel and think and not worry about how others may take it. Of course, a lot of people will want to close things down.

Well, how about that. A leftie agreeing with a rightie. What next? For a different take on the Les Murray piece see Les Murray Talks Crap.

Beyond Good and Evil

What with the holiday session, problems with Blogger and whipping myself up to paint the innercity electronic cottage, I nearly missed this editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald on 27th December 2002. It can be found here. What it says is interesting and it needed to be said by the liberal media. Nay, it had to be said, if we are to have a public discussion about our foreign policy.

I will allow this voice of the liberal media to speak for itself, since it is bound to be misinterpreted by those who see things in terms of a war with Iraq as one between good and evil. You can see almost imagine the old conservative war horses gulping down the last of their Xmas cheer, shaking the Xmas spirit off and taking time out from their holidays to enter the fray. For one such intervention, see more junk journalism.

The SMH editorial says:

"...despite what US President George Bush says, that there is more to this than a simple case of good against evil. President Saddam Hussein is a brutal tyrant. But he is not alone in that. The threats to world peace from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction is real. But these dangers are complex and their causes are not limited to or even primarily associated with Iraq and the desirability of regime change there.

Whatever else it might be, a war against Iraq will also be a war about oil, partly driven by the US determination to secure its future energy requirements. The official American rhetoric after the terrorist attacks of September 11 last year has been about a war on terrorism and the threat from weapons of mass destruction. But before this, there was another discussion in the background, by military strategists and other participants in the conversation which informs the development of US military policy. Often in that background discussion there has been a frank assumption that the defence of the US can extend to the use of US military power to protect and secure vital economic resources such as oil."

We dont get much in the way of national strategic interests from the politicians. The closest we get is Strike on US could 'cripple economy'. And that only came with a drumming up support for a possible war against Iraq by the Bash Administration after the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan had said there was no argument at present for a US strike. Mr Annan said that since Iraq had co-operated so far with UN weapons inspectors, so it would be "premature" to take military action before they reported to the Security Council on January 27. So what did Bush say in response? Raised the level of anxiety by saying that 'An attack from Saddam Hussein or a surrogate of Saddam Hussein would cripple our economy.' What is still left unsaid is the strategic considerations of the US in the Middle East.

The Sydney Morning Herald editorial then mentions a strategic study done by the Council on Foreign Relations and the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy----commissioned early in the Bush presidency and released in April last year (2001). Note what it is said---the war with Iraq is also----not solely----a strategic war to protect and secure vital US resources. This is spelt out clearly:

"Yet the theme of US military strategists (justifying the use of force to secure oil supplies) has been, if not as loud, at least as consistent as the politicians' rhetoric (justifying pre-emptive action against sponsors of terrorism)."

The editorial then introduces Australia into the equation by posing a question. Again, what is said needs to be spelt out to avoid the charge that it is anti-Americanism.

"If a war in Iraq is a war about oil, what business has Australia taking part in it? Australia's commitment to support international military action against terrorism is principled and correct. It has the support of the Australian people. The same could not be said about a prospective conflict that, however fervently it is represented as a conflict between good and evil, is essentially a war in pursuit of the economic interests of the US. It is just possible that the American people, in their consideration of this question, might decide that war for America's economic advantage is justified. For the Australian people the question is different."

Rightly argued. Australia's strategic considerations are in South East Asia not the MIddle East. Australia is not a superpower. It is a small regional power. Finally, we are beyond the rhetoric of good and evil of the conservative politicians. And Australian's commitment to support international military action against terrorism can only be principled and correct if the evidence is forthcoming about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and that it will deploy these, or enable terrorist groups to use them.
More fires in detention centres

So there is no crisis about mandatory detention in Australia? Well other detention centres have been torched. The detention centre at Christmas Island was on fire yesterday. And the Villawood detention centre is torched.

Lets see if this post works. Yes. And some of the earlier posts have reappeared but without working links. (I will try and go back and redo them.) Blogger is very disappointing. I'm moving over to Moveable Type for sure.

What do the fires say about we Australians of the present? What if we were all to disappear and the world remembered us by the mandatory detention policy of the Howard Government? What would their judgement be? That we Australians have been ruined by our history? That we feel in terms of legalities? That we modern Australians suffered from a weakened sense of compassion? That we feared that our love of life would be paralysed by a flood of foreigners streaming in and embraced a prudent, cautious practical egoism that quelled our passion for life and turned us into cynics?

If we look at ourselves this way could we not say about ourselves that we Australians of the present knew how to preserve life but not to engender it? That we had not learnt the art of using history to enhance life? That many of historians and those in government with a historical sense of the monumental acted to let truth prevail but allow life to perish?
Testing again

Yet more posts disappearing into a black hole. I have lost the mornings work. It is like losing our history. Maybe we should develop an unhistorical sense---we should feel in terms of facts? Should we develop a culture of a people, a nation, we Australians of the present?

Can we say ---I am paraphrasing Nietzsche here----that compared to past ages, we Australians dwell in a carelessly inaccurate copy of American conventions: a comportment to which all comings and goings, conventions, clothing and habitations bear witness? And we thought we were being natural.

Can we say that, we Australians of the present?
Testing testing testing

Is this working? Previous posts have been eliminated. We have big problems at public opinion. I will try doing this again for the third time.

Check out this great new OZ website
William Burrough's Baboon. Its another masked weblog as it is by wbb. There are some excellent posts. Go check it out. Link now works. Also check out this eddress home page.
Conflict between Aborigines and Europeans

There was a forum on this at the National Musem of Australia (NMA) which can be accessed here. The National Musem of Australia has yet to publish the papers of this forum--which is a pity because I was going to explore this in terms of the use of history as the gravedigger of the present.

Now my links do not work at all. (I've redone them).There is little point in continuing with this--- I was going to write about the conflict over culture: between high and mass culture that has been opened up by the conservative attack on the celebration of the creativity of popular culture by the National Musem of Australia in the name of an authoritative and objective account of history. The National Musem of Australia is not doing this so the Federal Howard Government reckons it needs a bit of disciplining and its populist impulses need reigning it. I was then going to say how governing culture was informed by a historical sense.

Conservatives understand the value of history. The past has to be remembered in a certain way. History has got to be a written in certain way. History has to instruct the people properly so that we learn to cultivate our virtues in the right way. We are then supposed to forget what lies outside the authoritative and objective history.

This kind of history coupled to a historical forgetting is supposed to make us, as individuals, a people and a culture, healthy and flourishing. It is supposed to fire up our courage to go on living in a risky and dangerous world, but it teaches us resignation. It dampens the fire of questioning our own history as a nation.

Thats what I was going to write.
Big problems

Testing testing----we cannot post at public opinion. Previous postings have disappeared, appear for a while, then disappear.

Monday, December 30, 2002

There is No crisis in our Detention Centres?

The big news on SA is that the new Baxter Detention Centre was burnt on Sunday. And Fires burn in Woomera and at the Port Hedland facility in Western Australia.

The PM, John Howard, says that Australia's detention centres faced unrest but no crisis.

Oh yeah? Well what about this? Rann to bill PM for Baxter arson. FIGHTING fires at Baxter detention centre at Port Augusta on Sunday cost South Australian taxpayers more than $10,000 – and Premier Mike Rann wants the Commonwealth to pay the bill. Its the old story of the states bearing the costs of providing services and the Commonwealth refusing to pay.

Well what about this where a Port Augusta Magistrates Court ordered the arrest of a former Woomera guard after he failed to appear on charges of having assaulted and bashed an unaccompanied Afghan boy.

Or this Refugees beaten with batons: report

Or this issue, which continually keeps surfacing in the press, is denied, but never goes away Asylum seekers being tortured, report claims.

Now this unrest is being managed by the commonwealth government, as indicated by through PM changes tune on asylum seekers and through Ruddock backs new Woomera managers Because it is being managed it is not a crisis.

And we find this position accepted in our public culture. The general line here is so whats the fuss? We all know that we should associate mandatory detention centres in the Australian deserts with "five-star accommodation". Isn't the crisis talk just ageing baby boomers nostalgic for the excitement of the anti-Vietnam War movement seeing the refugee issue as a chance to relive their youth? Its only a case of Labor being dragged back to the '60s by ideologues on high horses

As a good citizen concerned about public things I am not that dimwitted. I do interpret the sayings and expressions as the symptons of a crisis in the body politic. It is being managed to prevent it from getting out of hand and becoming a crisis.

So you can see why we citizens are not welcomed when we state that we would like to have more say in the running of our country than just voting at election time. We told by those who run things that we clearly don't understand what is involved in 'managing unrest' to keep a lid on things, or why such a policy of containment is needed. We are told to butt out, just like the states are told to butt out when they want a greater say in whats going on in their territory.
Washington Scraps
I haven't read the Washington Postfor many a year. I sort of gave up. I cannot recall why---it was about the time I also tossed in reading the New York Review of Books I found them, well, liberal flaccid and toooooooo bounded by their US. liberal horizons. That was some time ago now.

I was pleasantly suprised when I stumbled into The Washington Post because I came across this piece Questions That Bother and Bewilder by William Rasberry. Its a great read on the war on terrorism. It has bit and snap----not liberal flaccid--- and a long way from what is produced in Australia by our celebrity journalists. Few of these are asking questions that express our bewilderment.

I just love the line in the article about the US knowing that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction.

'("We know he's got those weapons of mass destruction," satirist Mark Russell explained the other day. "We've got the receipts!")'


And this question.

"One of the key questions in my mind is how those who make our policy see the role of the United States. Do they see us as the only adults in a room full of squabbling children -- the only ones with both the clarity of vision and the military wherewithal to undertake the unpleasant task of belling the aggressive cats of the world? Do they see us as Johnny Appleseeds of democracy?

Or do they see us, as I sometimes fear, as some sort of international Dirty Harry, packing lots of heat and requiring only the thinnest of pretexts (and little patience for procedural and evidentiary niceties) to rid the world of its scum?"

Nicely posed. As I said this has bite. But it is not dark. Nor does it cut to the quick.

I still cannot shake off my thoughts about death. With all this war talk and enemies popping up all over the place I have a sense of vulnerability and powerlessness in the face of war. The exposure to death now threatens me constantly. It is the other side of the public mood of anxiety. I now become ever more acutely aware that my life matters to me since it can be taken away from by war (death). I now worry about my life being snatched away from me.

Anxiety leads inexorably to death and the realisation that the public world of John Howard and his boys cannot really protect me against death. They are about spin and shaping the public mood of anxiety to retain their power. So the ties between myself and Canberra----and Washington for that matter---become broken and the meanings and truths making up the fabric of the Canberra/Washington world become increasingly more alien.

Dark thoughts huh. See what I mean about liberal flaccid now?
NY Scraps

If anyone things that the Bush Administration in the US is pretty good about getting its hands on the levers of power then sits on its hands apart from the war of terrorism then read this article by Paul Krugman from the NY Times. He concludes his op-ed. piece Quo Vadis, Karl? with the following:

"It may be that the bad few weeks the administration has just had were the result of random events. But I think the public is finally waking up to the fact that the people in the White House know a lot about gaining power, but not much about what to do with it."

That's what it looks like from over here too.

Does it sound familar? Are we Australians thinking this way about the Howard Government's domestic policy?

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Fading of the Green? part two: Dems respond
The story of the rise and rise of the Greens from the early days of Bob Brown fighting to save the Franklin River is contested by the Australian Democrats.

Their story is told here. Their key claim is that:

"The Democrats were at the Franklin in the 1980s and, with seven senators still effectively holding the balance of power and four MPs in state parliaments, we are still chalking up wins on the environment, in case anyone should think otherwise from the present spate of revisionism."

The Democrats are full of good intentions, but intentions don't count for much in terms of historical understanding since histroical actions have unintended consequences and these consequences may not be anything like the intentions the Democrats had. Now the Dems are:

"...getting fed up with our history being ignored or hijacked by the Greens party acolytes, who capitalise on the work of genuine parliamentary reformists".

This is what happens when a political party is on the slide in the polls. A political vacuum is created and others step in to fill the breach. This indicates that our historically situated understanding is practically embedded in the political projects of historical agents. This historical undestanding is shaped by power and in these terms the Australian Democrats are fading. As things stand at the electoral moment Senators Aden Ridgeway and John Cherry will not be re-elected.
Anxiety sweeps the nation

It was bound to happen. Do a lot of spin and publicity about terrorists stalking the land and you get this and this. What else do you expect?

You cannot expect that the government sponsored newspaper and television advertisements to encourage Australians to report suspicious behaviour on the one hand, and "inform" and "reassure" the public on the other. Such a heady brew stirs up the paranoia in the lucky country now that we know that ASIO has been told that JI training camps have been held in the Blue Mountains.

Does liberalism have anything to say about our public mood? Does it have the tools to say anything meaningful about the 'public mood' of anxiety that so undermines our sense of self and the network of relations in our world? Anxiety is akin to things breaking down and it reveals that the taken for granted cultural background of the network of purposes and projects of our mode of life is becoming dysfunctional--just like a broken piece of equipment.

This process of unsettling and breaking down is particularly acute for those left of the political centre and we have great trouble in coming to grips with the unsettling deep truths about our being and world. We seem to falter at developing a deeper understanding of things and communicating this to others we share our lives with. Yet we are afraid of being silent about the current shallow understanding of things---moral clarity as us versus them. Yet we dread becoming absorbed in the noisy chatter that never questions or gets below the anonymous public understanding of things of the political and media publicity machines.

We are not sure what is happening to us in these strange times.
*More Sinful Confessions

Just a test post, to make sure it works....

We have been experiencing awful problems at public opinion. We cannot post new material, the text formatting has shifted to the left and the archives are shot to pieces. There is an error in the template somewhere and we cannot find it. I have been looking for it all day Sunday but I am not a programmer. I need to call in help. It was answered by a caring and concernful Scott Wickstein at Eye of the Beholder.

I have started a weblog called philosophy com.Take a look while I work on a new post. I am having trouble getting started.

I have been advised by Scott to move out of Blogger and over to Moveable Type. What do others think?