The Dog’s Bollocks

Truth is like a dog’s bollocks – pretty obvious if you care to look.

The Culture War is over. Peace in our time?

DysonThe defeat of the Howard Government marks the end of the insidious Culture War, or at least a temporary cessation of hostilities. The Culture War was waged on Howard’s behalf by a compliant media to foster division and fear within Australian society for naked political advantage – divide and conquer.

Howard came to power when the public had grown tired of Keating’s vision thing and the moral high ground of political correctness. Shock Jocks and rednecks were unhappy with the slow creep of legislation outlawing discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender and disability. With the aid of Pauline Hanson and a number of dog-whistles, Howard set out discredit Keating’s political correctness and restore ignorance and bigotry to its rightful place in the heartland of Australia. The Culture War became a new conservative political correctness waged against indigenous Australians, immigrants, Muslims, Greenies, teachers, universities, the media, the ABC, the leftist-luvvie latte elites, and even sought to recreate our own history. The Culture War was an unscrupulous tool of political manipulation, wielded without regard for the damage to social cohesion, and used as a smoke screen for a radical rightwing economic agenda.

The Culture Warriors are an aging generation of 60s and 70s Young Labor and Young Liberal student unionists. The substance and style has changed little since the heady days of Leftist ascendancy as the Right were forced to into moral retreat on Vietnam, gender politics, history and multiculturalism. It is as though the Right under Howard have been reliving the battles of their youth. For the rest of the population it has been as relevant as flared trousers and body shirts.

Howard’s Culture War has corroded our values, our public institutions, and eaten away at the very heart of Westminster democratic tradition. It has undermined the cohesiveness of family and community and respect for the primacy of law in matters of race, religion and liberty. It has eroded mateship and the ‘fair go’ – values professed to be held dearly by John Howard.

The Culture War has poisoned intelligent public debate by demonising genuine intellectual dissent as the mere delusional notions of evil and envious greenies and leftists. Political discourse has been reduced to a 2-bit black and white polemic with no rational regard for the 256 shades of grey of contemporary society. Political discourse must be lifted from the cesspit of the Culture War if we are to respond intelligently to the pressing problems of developing an environmentally sustainable economy sufficient for a civil and prosperous society

My hope for Kevin Rudd is that he is driven by principle rather than ideology. That he will approach public administration rationally rather than ideologically. Fashions in economics change with the ages. It is insufficient to merely assert that economic rationalism is unquestionably good or that public investment by government agency is unquestionably bad. Effective and efficient public administration must be built on the principles of rationality, evidence-based practice, negotiation and pragmatic compromise.

Democracy is our best protection from those whose particular ideology, socio-economic status or beliefs predispose them to believe they better know the national interest than the rest of us. The swinging voters, formally known as Howard’s battlers, are courted and exploited by political parties even though they are secretly reviled for their lack of conviction by the political classes. Yet they are the great Australian Democratic Bullshit Detector. They protect us from the excesses of extremists. If a government becomes out of touch with common sentiment they are unceremoniously dumped from office by a sceptical and suspicious electorate. Then the other side get a go for a while.

Wild ideological oscillations among the factions of Australia’s political elite are as undesirable as the boom and bust cycles in the economy. Australia is fundamentally a centrist society. Our political discourse needs to be redirected to negotiating solutions for our problems, not waging rhetorical flame wars over irrelevant ideologies from the great class struggles of last century.

Filed under: Australian values, Big Picture, Federal Election 2007, Ideology, Politics

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The Dog’s Bollocks

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