Public First Program


Shane Elson


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December 2006 # 4

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Back to Editorials 2006

In a Funk - A 2006 Reflection

I’m sitting here wondering why I’m in such a funk (as I think the Americans would call it). I’m not sure if we Aussies have a similar term but perhaps the closest would be “having an off week”. Here we are speeding headlong into the New Year and supposedly in the middle of the “festive season” and I’m feeling like a drink or three! 

I guess when I look back on 2006 it is certainly far from what we could call a year to be proud of. We started out with liars telling us lies about wheat and we end up with a dictator getting the death sentence while the biggest killers still occupy the houses of representation. Those houses themselves have lost their shine completely through haven’t they? I’m not that old but I do remember when the Liberal party was the party for the middle classes and the small business bourgeoisie and the Labor party was the party of the working class. Both parties are now the parties for the ruling and their technocratic, managerial class mates. 

Boxing Day’s Age newspaper had a very small “Business” section but the real story was still there. In a story titled “Nothing Succeeds Like Excess on Wall Street” Jenny Anderson tells us that, “In recent weeks immense riches have been rained on the top bankers and traders”. She goes on to note, “After a year of record profits, investment houses such as Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley are awarding bonuses as high as $US60 million. And a select group of fund managers and private equity executives may be taking home even more.” Why even the “average managing director … will be getting $US1 – 3 million,” writes our Jenny. Well it’s good to know how the other half live … off the sweat of our brow, that’s how! 

Back in the Saturday before Christmas edition of the Age, again in the “Business” section, we find that if you’re rich enough you can minimise your tax “burden” by setting up a “prescribed private fund.” This fund is being sold to the general public as a great philanthropic good but if you look at the perks and “attractiveness” of the “incentives” offered by the Australian Tax Office to set up one of these funds, we find  they are nothing more than a great way to minimise taxes for the rich at the expense of the working and aspiring middle classes. With a minimum of $300,000 needed to get in and a bevy of “fund managers” willing to help you part with the cash in return for “advice”, we find the rich are now getting more welfare than the poor.

Then there’s good old Alex. Alexander Downer. Again in the Age, we find him bleating the same old “we’ll stay the course” and “we don’t abandon our friends” rhetoric that the Howard government is now globally renowned for. As the last member of the coalition of the willing to admit that Iraq was a big, no gigantic, mistake, Downer, having nothing new or useful to say, launches into his tired vitriol about how a vote for Kev and Jules would be vote for the terrorists. After having a good old spray at the Age and everyone else who has half a brain, Downer, ends with another Orwell quote that he totally misses the point of. 

Then there’s David Hicks. I have no idea what his character is like, who he supposedly fought for (other than the generic term “Taliban”) and what it is he has supposedly done. What I do know is that I hope none of your or my friends ever get into trouble while overseas because it’s apparent that if you don’t have the money or the “right” connections (remember Douglas Wood and Michelle Leslie?) then our government will abandon you to the wolves. 

While Hicks languishes in an illegal US prison system our government does nothing to expedite his release or get a fair trial for him. The only ones who seem content that Hicks is still behind bars are our government. They are now the ones abandoned by their fellow coalition of the willing member, Britain. I don’t like Blair or what he and his government stand for, but at least they had the balls to get their nationals out. 

So why am I in a funk? I guess it’s because I worry too much and take too much notice of the injustice and inequity I see around me. I guess it’s also because I realise how ineffectual and hypocritical I can be. I guess it’s because at the one time of the year I’m meant to feel “connected” to the whole of humanity, I find those who have the power are doing all they can to disconnect from the rest of us. 

The wealthy continue to build their gated and walled communities which exclude at the price of isolation. The ruling class continue to blindly lead each other which means the blind are leading the ignorant. The poor keep doing what they do best, annoying the hell out of the ruling classes and reminding the rich that their wealth comes at the expense of other’s liberty. But what really gets me down is that I’m starting to lose my very positive and optimistic outlook on my own people, Australians. Sure we’re easy going, hedonistic, layback and cool but I never thought I would see us become lazy.  

What I mean by this is that while we can spot a bullshit artist a mile away and don’t suffer them lightly, it seems that when it comes to the political economy, we have either lost this great trait or the propaganda wars have been won by the other side. I’m not sure which it is but if we can accept that some people should be “compensated” to the tune of tens of millions of dollars while accepting that it’s OK for those with profound disabilities to be housed in nursing homes for the aged, then there is something seriously wrong with us as a people. 

If we can allow the lies that are the AWB affair and the Queensland government’s review into Mulrunji’s death to proceed in such a biased and racist manner, if we can allow a fellow Australian, held without charge and in solitary confinement in an illegal and unjust regime, if we can allow those at the bottom of our social system to be humiliated, ridiculed and forgotten, then we have failed to live up to the “fair go” ethos lauded by our Prime Minister. 

We are all diminished when we forget the weakest among us. So I guess the reason I am in this funk is because, to me at least, those who have the power to make this place a better one for even the weakest among us, have turned their back and are writing us out of their script for a ‘brave new world’. 

But then I can’t help remembering what it was like to see and hold and smell my new born sons. Full of only a will to live and nothing more to distract them, they fought their way into the world and continue to fight their way through it. That rush of excitement in seeing new life is also reflected when I look out of the front window towards the hills. Now that the smoke from the bush fires has cleared, I can see the blue hills in the distance and the pond ducks over the road. Both are ‘picture perfect’, both are living examples of the vastness of the universe. My funk has not lifted yet, but given time I hope it will.  

2006 will be, for me, the year I lost my faith in Australian’s to do the right thing. My hope, dream and prayer is that 2007 will be the year we remember who we are and then do our best to become who we could be.

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