Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Politics as if it mattered

There's been some talk lately around the bloggy traps, from Mark at LP and others, about the regrettable nature of psephology's tendency to reduce election-time politics to horse-racing metaphors and mindsets, at the expense of more complex things.

One way of responding to this, and many bloggers (and good journalists) do it on a weekly if not daily basis, is to examine those developments and trends and trajectories in individual lives that are determined by government policy and practice: to see whether this or that person's life is better or worse than it used to be, and whether that's measured in terms of money or peace of mind or something else altogether.

After eleven years of a Howard government, business-minded Caucasian males are doing very well. Who'd have thought.

Workers, women, asylum seekers, Aboriginal children and such, however, maybe not so much. Those of us who value ideas, egalitarianism of class and gender and heterogeneity of thought and belief aren't doing all that fabulously well either, although that's more the effects of repressive tolerance; it would be stupid and wrong to deny that we have, in Australia, been fortunate enough to preserve (despite our various national failings) a kind of independence and scepticism of mind and heart, and that that has been possible partly because even our conservative governments have been relatively liberal. Not only are we are not Myanmar or North Korea or Zimbabwe, we are not even, thank God, the US.

But we've now had eleven straight years of a government that has stayed in power by shamelessly playing to our weaknesses and our worse natures: self-interest, literal-mindedness, mean-spiritedness, fear and greed. And after eleven years of fear and greed being indulged, reinforced and rewarded by policies (and their accompanying rhetoric) in, especially, economics and immigration, you have to worry about what it's done to us as a people: positive reinforcement is a powerful thing, for better or worse. We all take it for granted that it is we who create the government, but that relation is actually a complex two-way street, involving the re-calibration of personal assumptions and the re-setting of social norms.

Politics really matters, all right. And one of the things about it that matters most is what it does to you as a human being. How amazing, if for once we were to stop asking ourselves 'Am I better or worse off than I was eleven years ago?' and ask ourselves instead 'Am I a better person?'

UPDATE, 22/11: Or, to put it another way ...

41 comments:

Mindy said...

I'm a more politically aware person certainly. I'm more concerned about the future and what it could hold for my children. Am I a better person? I don't know. But I will think about it.

Mark said...

Great post!

"After eleven years of a Howard government, business-minded Caucasian males are doing very well. Who'd have thought."

Actually, I remember thinking sometime in 1992 that a Hewson government would be very good for an educated middle class white boy like me... which provided a very good reason not to vote for it!

My big concern with the mindset that the Howard years have inculcated is the way people have individualised the act of political choice so that they rarely look to a broader public good or regard other interests than their own. That's a real tragedy, I think.

Fyodor said...

Mme. Pav, as a bloke who probably fits your description of a "business-minded Caucasian male", I can honestly say that my personal circumstances owe very little to the Howard government. That is, I'm no better OR worse off as a result of Howard's rule. In fact, in terms of government influence on people's economic circumstances, the boom since the last recession owes very little to Howard's reign. He was simply lucky enough to be in power to claim the credit for it.

As for being a better or worse person, the only way is up in my case, but I can't see that the people around me are that much different from a dozen or so years ago. I don't think governments - particularly those of the centrist variety (and Howard is a centrist, believe it or not) - are that influential. IMO it's a fairly common mistake amongst those on the left (and right-wing political junkies too, I s'pose) to overstate the importance of the government in people's lives.

Mark said...

Well, Fyodor, it's easy for an educated middle class male to say that. The whole point is that you're odds on to do well anyway. I think you'd find that politics does affect the lives of many who are less privileged than you or I are.

Fyodor said...

You're assuming that I'm educated and middle class, of course, and I didn't say that I'd done well.

I said Howard had changed very little for me (and by extension people like me), which is the crux of the issue you haven't addressed.

Mark said...

It's a reasonable assumption to make, and I have addressed what you said. As usual, I find myself disinclined to enter a debate with you in part because I'm busy tying up loose ends before my trip to Sydney tomorrow, and secondly because I don't believe you acknowledge points made against you or accurately state your interlocutor's position because I think you're much more interested in "winning a stoush" than having a discussion. I'm no longer interested in the former, if I ever was, so I'll just wish you a lovely day.

Fyodor said...

Mark, the proposition is that Howard has improved circumstances for "people like us". I said he hadn't. You said that I would have been odds-on to do well anyway. This had nothing to do with the proposition.

BTW, I hadn't realised you were Mark Bahnisch, Just Mark; I was discussing the issue in good faith, so lay off the paranoia, dude.

Liam said...

That's a bit unfair, Mark. There's no fine line between a discussion and a stoush, it's an entirely subjective quantity. I thought Fyodor's #3 comment was perfectly reasonable.
Having said that, it's wrong, boxhead. Social democratic governments (of which Howard is true believer, yes) involve themselves by definition into as many people's lives as they can. Fully employed people's economic circumstances are probably more contingent on economics and workplace bargaining power than the activities of the Federal and State Governments, but their access to lots of important things, like public education and health, roads, emergency services, public transport, and so on, are pretty much entirely at the mercy of Government.
I think what you *mean* is that there's not much difference in the way Labor does its social-democracy shiznit compared to the Coalition. If it is, I can't say I disagree.

Pinkie said...

Anyone who describes himself as "a business-minded Caucasian male" would have to be a seriously boring and uninteresting person, by definition, educated or not, middle class or not.

Definitely not swain material or intellectually stimulating. In other words a big fat nothing and nothing to boast about.

Next.

TimT said...

My big concern with the mindset that the Howard years have inculcated is the way people have individualised the act of political choice so that they rarely look to a broader public good or regard other interests than their own.

It seems on the face of it contradictory to vote against your own interests. 'Altruism' and 'selflessness' are important social values, yes - but if you can't be expected to act honestly in accordance with your own needs, wants and interests, then how can you be expected to vote honestly for the needs, wants, and interests of others?

This was - in part - the reasoning that led me to vote in recent federal elections for the ALP. (I've voted for Howard once, on his originally coming to power, more or less motivated by the anti-Keating feeling in the community at the time.) In particular, the ALP policies in relation to arts seemed to be more engaged, imaginative, and slightly more promising than the Coalition policies.

Greg said...

I've been a politics-like-it-mattered voter since I was old enough to cast a ballot, so I'm in large part in agreement with your post, but as an American, I'd say your characterisation of the U.S. as lacking in the qualities you claim for Australia to be tarring with a wide brush. Australia is 7% of the size of the U.S. in population and has avoided many of the dangerous and disruptive parts of history played out over there, but probably not without being able to benefit from them. Are there many who fall into the characterisation you offer? Sure, lots, and they often get more play in the media than they deserve, but they're not everything America is, any more than those business-minded white men are in Australia.

Fyodor said...

Liam, in your rush to disagree, I think you did rather overlook the following:

"I don't think governments - particularly those of the centrist variety (and Howard is a centrist, believe it or not) - are that influential."

So, yes, I DO agree that Howard's "social democracy" is little different from what preceded or what will likely succeed it. That's my point: Howard hasn't changed much in our polity and his influence on people's lives is consequently overstated.

While you're right in stating that the government apparat is highly active in society and its economy, the ability of the elected executive to radically change that pattern of involvement is in practice very small. Thus Howard is decried in some quarters as something of a radical for doing SFA in relative terms.

pinkie, if you can find a boast in "business-minded Caucasian male" you are trying too hard, have low standards or - most probably - both. I'll cop to the tautological "seriously boring and uninteresting", though I doubt you're truly objective on the subject.

TimT said...

To clarify, I might add that this decision to vote according to how I saw politicians representing my interests came about partly because I was (and am) suspicious of the motives of some people and groups who claim to be compassionate and altruistic in a self-congratulatory manner. (I reacted badly to Kevin Rudd's recent self-regarding comment at the Labor Party launch: "For the Labor Party, fairness is in our DNA.") The rest can, I suppose, be laid down at the feet of my own selfishness.

I think the question ... Am I a better person ... after 11 years... is an interesting one, though at any rate, I share Fyodor's scepticism of the role of governments in making me better or worse; that would be more due to many other things - my family, friends, and my own ability (or lack thereof) to engage in self-inquiry (etc).

Nabakov said...

I put on 30 pounds during the Howard years.

Zarquon said...

Oh come off it N. Under J. Ho it only seems like we're living pre-decimalisation.

suzoz said...

Well, today a friend who's just been discharged from hospital after a hip replacement as a public patient was told she couldn't have physiotherapy for at least three weeks due to lack of physios.I'm sure if she had private health cover she'd be getting the physio she needs. I can't say categorically that this is a worse situation than it would have been 12 years ago under a federal Labor govt, but what I can state is that the federal coalition govt has had and would have no intention of improving that situation for public patients and that they've in fact acted to strengthen the private health sector at every turn. Which is a very negative development for Australia, in my view, and especially those Australians, like my friend, who has three children to support, who simply can't afford private health insurance because she's too busy paying for income protection insurance, because as a self-employed contractor she of course gets no sick pay. Howard has overseen the increasing privatisation of health care and of employment entitlements.

Paulus said...

" Those of us who value ideas, egalitarianism of class and gender and heterogeneity of thought and belief aren't doing all that fabulously well either ..."

This post would have been better without the implicit sneer at Liberals, who apparently do not value ideas and insist on homogeneity in thought and belief.

Personally, my life has been slightly better in some respects, slightly worse in others, over the last 11 years. I've been unemployed for much of the time, and have faced ever more irritating and tedious pressure from the Coalition's Job Network. But that ain't going to change after Saturday.

I've been studying part-time for several years; the number and quality of courses at Adelaide Uni is more or less what it was before Howard. I haven't had to pay compulsory union fees for the last few years. Thankfully, that isn't going to change either.

I've used the public hospital system on a few occasions. They've always been efficient and I have no complaints.

Basically, speaking as someone at the bottom of the income distribution, I have no great issues with the Howard government. Nonetheless, this Saturday I will be voting ALP on the grounds of policy and competence. Rudd's social and fiscal conservatism is a very strong positive factor in my decision.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Suzoz's comment is one biggish piece of the kind of jigsaw of policy-driven change I was talking about -- a whole landscape of incremental change over 11 years ("What do we want? Incremental change! When do we want it? In due course!")
indicating Howardian values that privilege certain groups.

Mark, thanks for the link -- look what a very superior comments thread it has generated. La crème de la commentariat -- well, some of it.

Fyodor and others, actually I have nothing against business-minded Caucasian males as such; goodness knowns I'm a Caucasian one-woman small business of sorts myself, and middle-aged to boot. My point was that the policy generated by Howard and the values driving it have consistently been reflections of himself. I don't think anyone would deny that under Howard the well-off have been further privileged at the expense of the struggling; business has been privileged at the expense of labour (most recently WorkChoices, but Howard has largely destroyed Bob Hawke's great work in industrial relations in this country); the white have been privileged at the expense of the non-white; the sports stars and millionaires have been privileged at the expense of artists and intellectuals (who have been consistently ridiculed and cheapened by bonkers tags like 'elite' used as an Orwellian term of abuse); the men have been privileged at the expense of the women (much women's-affairs-and-rights infrastructure and policy gradually dismantled and replaced by token cash payouts to stay at home barefoot and pregnant where we belong); and so on and so forth.

That said, given your excellent point about how Howard can't claim credit for the boom or blame Labor for the opposite, how come he keeps getting away with it?

Liam, you rock. That said, you are, of course, completely wrong, you tax-eating commie LIAR uh-oh whoops wrong voices in the head. Ahem.

Fyodor said 'the proposition is that Howard has improved circumstances for "people like us"' -- but that actually isn't quite what I said. The point was that "people like us" have done better out of Howard than anyone else, and again let me stress that I am talking not about clear monetary gain so much, but more about being positioned by his policies and their effects to get maximum benefit from them, whether that benefit is financial or something more intangible, like repeated, if only implicit, reaffirmations that business-minded Caucasian males are the über-Australians.

My real point was pretty much the same as Ratty's borrowing today from Keating: that when a government changes the country changes, and so do the norms of what is regarded as acceptable (or not): the populace (often uwittingly) recalibrates its own values and expectations, thereby changing, however subtly, its own collective nature.

The earliest example of this under Howard was his signal failure to loudly denounce Pauline Hanson when she first emerged from the primeval slime; by failing to condemn her he opened up a space of acceptability in which some people felt empowered to be as vile and igonrant AND as loud about it as she was herself, a point Judy Brett made at the time.

Greg, I'm sorry, I honestly did not mean a wholesale trashing of Americans. That sentence about the US refers to the one immediately before it, about having a conservative leader who is comparatively liberal. (Fyodor is right, Howard is esentially a centrist, a point I sort of made in the post.) Your own conservative leader, however, could not in any sense be regarded as liberal. Also -- forgive me -- Howard may be many things but he is not, unlike Bush, a fool.

TimT, you said "I share Fyodor's scepticism of the role of governments in making me better or worse; that would be more due to many other things - my family, friends, and my own ability (or lack thereof) to engage in self-inquiry (etc)."

Yeah, see, I think that eleven years is long enough for all of these things/people to have been themselves subtly changed by the kind of values-shift I'm talking about, maybe in ways they didn't even notice themselves. Your own ability or lack thereof to engage in self-inquiry, for example, will be a fairly direct result of your education. And education ... well, you get the picture.

Nabs, so did I.

Zarquon, that was hysterical.

Pavlov's Cat said...

... and Paulus, no, I don't think the Coalition values ideas. They -- Howard most of all, actually -- have demonstrated it again and again. Their anti-intellectualism is rampant and always has been. The point about heterogeneity of thought requires a little amplification; I was thinking there of Howard's ignorance of the discipline of history (I'm not saying he knows no history; I am saying that his approach to it is 70 years out of date), as demonstrated in the culture wars, and his insistence that there is only one narrative and only one point of view.

Pavlov's Cat said...

'Igonrant' is a new word I just made up.

genevieve said...

So,
"when a government changes the country changes, and so do the norms of what is regarded as acceptable (or not): the populace (often uwittingly) recalibrates its own values and expectations, thereby changing, however subtly, its own collective nature."

Have to agree with TimT that there are plenty of other institutions/bodies/communities that contribute to changes in an individual, not just the political estates (including the fourth, of course).

Perhaps your question might do better if it were not addressed at the individual level, PC - after all the statement on which you peg it talks about 'collective nature'.

As such, your question reminds me of what a friend once said about the difference she and her cousin, psych and social worker both, between each of their professions: that the psychologist has a tendency to focus on the individual, whereas a social worker is trained to see him as part of the community he belongs to.

genevieve said...

Oops.

A verb is missing - should read:

"the difference she and her cousin, psych and social worker both, perceived between their professions"

Mark Lawrence said...

Thank you, PC. that is a great post. and thank you for inspiring me.

Su said...

Would people close to the government have been distributing literature that evokes racial hatred just to win an election 12 years ago? Imagine what it is like to be a muslim citizen in times like these. Instead of leading the way in fostering inclusiveness our government is actively inciting people to think and behave in the worst possible ways. This was unheard of before Howard. I completely agree with Dr Cat.

Helen said...

Pavlov, this is an absolute cracker of a post. I love it. If you could just work in some kind of death-of-feminism trope, you could send it to the Fairfax editorial people :-)

Ampersand Duck said...

IGONRANT is my new favorite word.

I'm certainly an older and wiser person. I've never voted for J.Ho, but now I realise that there really are enough people who do. I hope they're now older and wiser too.

BTW, in case you haven't visited lately, I'm hoping you'll pass this TAG on to the Brontes... sorry, indulge me :)

Pavlov's Cat said...

I'm still trying to get my head around the fact that there are 32-year-olds in this country who have never voted in a federal election that J-Ho didn't win.

I did indeed visit you today and and see the meme tag. And once I get home from Laura's Austenfest, my life will become more leisurely than it has been for at least a year and I plan to revive all blogs.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Helen -- the last time I wrote an op ed about feminism for Fairfax was 20 years ago on the subject of Lindy Chamberlain and the way she was being represented in the meeja. I got hate mail for weeks.

But Ms Oppenheimer's heart is in the right place (I assume you are referring to the woman bewailing the disappearance of women from Howard's sentimental-nationalist view of history?), even if her thinking is a bit muddled. The cunning Ratty has indeed been stealthily dismantling all manner of women's affairs and women's rights programs, policies and infrastructures, and replacing them with bribes to stay home and procreate -- and it's had a rather odd effect on people's thinking, I reckon.

ukaih said...

The differences the Howard Gov't has made to me:

I am now ashamed to be Australian

Since the Tampa incident and its gut-wrenching, mind-altering brazenness and cruelty, I have become psychically stateless - the dry continent and I have had a very painful divorce

Since Tampa and Iraq I have learnt to write cogent and scathing political messages to Senators and Ministers of many stripes, congresscreeps, my Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the ACLU, MoveOn, GetUp and others, in about 20 seconds flat

I can now support activist organizations in several currencies, while being able to vote in the homelands of none

I am now virtually unable to sell fiction in Australia: the small magazines that used to buy/were on the verge of buying are no longer supported by the Australia Council

In short my old socio-political identity and individual voice have been silenced or destroyed. My new voice is purely political and merged into a group. I have lost all social and cultural capital, if you want to put it in those terms.

I am interested in your assertion that John Howard is not a fool: he has hitched Australia's waggon to a falling star, and is every bit as stubborn as Bush himself.

Do you mean by "not a fool" that he managed to wriggle around in the Big Chair for quite a while?

I'm also interested in your assertion that JH is a centrist. The centre of what? I see him as a neo-con/neo-liberal/corporatist/fascist.
WorkChoices is classic Mussolini.

The American hegenomy is clearly over: it ended the day the tanks rolled into Iraq.

"Independence and scepticism of mind" are all very well. Healthy, even. But they are no substitute for a Bill of Rights. Australia is indeed not the US - but that's not always a good thing.

Ampersand Duck said...

fairy nuff, Pav.

I wish I could be Janefesting. I'm sure it will be brilliant. I expect blow-by-blow descriptions. Or should that be slap-by-slap?

Fyodor said...

Excellent thread, Mme. Pav. Sorry to come back to it so late.

"I don't think anyone would deny that..."

# Actually, I would deny a lot of that, as least in terms of policy specifics as opposed to the "vibe" (upon which more later).

Have the well-off been "further privileged at the expense of the struggling"? Not really. Look at the key indicator, income tax: the top tax rate was 47% when Howard came to power; it only dropped to 45% LAST YEAR. Under Hawke-Keating the top rate dropped from 60% to 47% (http://www.ato.gov.au/individuals/content.asp?doc=/content/73969.htm), a much bigger drop. And if you compare the current tax proposals of ALP and Coalition there's not a huge amount of difference when it comes to the rich screwing the poor - the fact is that budget surpluses have enabled tax cuts, which have bipartisan support.

Granted, the super changes last year were egregiously favourable to the wealthy - and especially the aged wealthy - and capital gains tax is also concessionally treated but, as I note above, the ALP did far more for the wealthy than Howard.

Likewise, WorkChoices has been a fizzer - it's an unwieldy, bloated and illiberal legislative abortion that has resulted in very few people suffering a change (let alone a negative change) in their working conditions, largely as a result of Howard being forced to water it down to include the "Fairness Test". Remember also that it was the ALP that put the country on the path towards AWAs when it introduced Enterprise Bargaining, to its credit. There are plenty of smart heads in the ALP (and ACTU for that matter) who know that you can't put the djinni back in the bottle, and that's why Rudd's "abolition" of Workchoices is likely to be very mild indeed.

The rest of your dichotomies really don't have much to do with material conditions so much as the vibe/Zeitgeist. Now, Zeitgeist is important - and a big part of why I'm voting ALP tomorrow, f'rinstance - but I think it's really hard to demonstrate that non-whites, women or intellectuals are worse off than they would have been under an ALP government. These members of the society may feel that the Howard government has been working against them, but I think it's bloody hard to identify the tangible differences Howard has made to their lives in terms of government policy. Again, Howard's cultural bluster has obscured the fact that he's done very little to change the way the government treats the non-white, non-boofhead people.

"That said, given your excellent point about how Howard can't claim credit for the boom or blame Labor for the opposite, how come he keeps getting away with it?"

# Because sheeple only remember the last recession and don't have the economic nous to realise that interest rates have only been low under Howard because the ALP burned inflation out of the economy first. They also forget that Howard as treasurer gave them the equally bad recession of the early 1980s.

"Fyodor said 'the proposition is that Howard has improved circumstances for "people like us"' -- but that actually isn't quite what I said. The point was that "people like us" have done better out of Howard than anyone else, and again let me stress that I am talking not about clear monetary gain so much, but more about being positioned by his policies and their effects to get maximum benefit from them, whether that benefit is financial or something more intangible, like repeated, if only implicit, reaffirmations that business-minded Caucasian males are the über-Australians.

My real point was pretty much the same as Ratty's borrowing today from Keating: that when a government changes the country changes, and so do the norms of what is regarded as acceptable (or not): the populace (often uwittingly) recalibrates its own values and expectations, thereby changing, however subtly, its own collective nature."

# Yes, I think this is the crux of your argument: the impact of Howard on the prevailing Zeitgeist over the past decade.

However, I disagree that he changed us, the people. He certainly gave voice to conservative, bigoted reactionary types, but they already existed.

Commanding the agenda, as the government of the day does, gives one the right to privilege certain voices that one favours, but it's a mistake to believe that because those voices are loudest that they represent the society around us. I think it's a very long bow to draw to assert that the rest of us who were not so favoured by the prevailing vibe changed/conformed as a result. I just don't see that people HAVE changed, and I'm consequently very optimistic about the future under (hopefully) a different government.

su said...

"However, I disagree that he changed us, the people. He certainly gave voice to conservative, bigoted reactionary types, but they already existed."

But giving voice to, and privileging the voices of these reactionary people has an impact upon real, actual lives. The discourse has a real world effect; it changes the lives of people. People are harrassed, have to move multiple times. People feel threatened, go to ground, become isolated, all because of those voices, or worse they suffer physical harm. In an era of callous unconcern for the mentally ill a schizophrenic woman is imprisoned for five years! And people who disagree also feel threatened and begin to hesitate before they disagree loudly or publicly. Society changes.

lucy tartan said...

I wish you could be Janefesting too, ducks. Really really wish that.

I'm going to take lots of photos and blog about it at tiresome length when it's over, but probably there won't be time for blow-by-blow descriptions. (for those you might have to keep an eye on the Good Weekend over the next couple of months...)

On topic, I just think Howard's politics (rhetoric and policy) have been incredibly divisive and fragmenting, and even though Rudd's victory speech was a bit bland, I took him to be saying that his govt would not be governing in that manner which is a truly wonderful and cheering prospect.

Liam said...

Aaaaah, now that I've woken from my two-day drunk, I can respond to Fyodor.
I totally disagree about people not suffering major change under WorkChoices. The major effect hasn't been people losing their jobs, since unemployment is so relatively low, but rather that low-skilled and unskilled workers have lost bargaining power. The legislation made it much easier and more efficient for toxic managers and incompetent employers to shit on their staff, something that's not reflected in ABS stats.
This goes double or triple for people in the most vulnerable employment category; those people just getting into employment from periods dependent on welfare payments. The perverse punitiveness of the Work for the Dole scheme works in combination with WorkChoices to reduce workplace agency at the very low end. How can people bargain if they face welfare sanctions and labour conscription for turning down a job?
This is the one area in which I'm most hopeful for change out of Rudd: purge Centrelink, I say, stake it through the heart, stomach, kidneys, colon and crotch, burn its mangled corpse, salt the remains in a zinc coffin, have a priest bury it at the crossroads at midnight, and start a new bureaucracy of social welfare from scratch.

Fyodor said...

"I totally disagree about people not suffering major change under WorkChoices. The major effect hasn't been people losing their jobs, since unemployment is so relatively low, but rather that low-skilled and unskilled workers have lost bargaining power. The legislation made it much easier and more efficient for toxic managers and incompetent employers to shit on their staff, something that's not reflected in ABS stats."

Glad to see you back in action, Haiku Hanky. I raised a dram or three to your tear-sodden, misshapen pillow on Saturday night, ya big sooky softcock.

I wasn't talking about people getting sacked, as it turns out, but the decline in working conditions suffered by employees, and the data don't suggest a lot of people got hurt.

According to the Workplace Authority [yes, don't laugh - it still exists for the moment, at least in caretaker limbo: www.oea.gov.au], 1,447,713 employees are covered by workplace agreements signed since Workchoices began in March last year.

Of these, 64% were covered by collective agreements with unions or other employee collectives.

Only 36%, or 522,576, were covered by AWAs where the employer was negotiating directly with individual employees. Many of these were forced to pass the so-called "Fairness Test", and many probably had little negative impact on working conditions. Many would have resulted in improved working conditions (e.g. miners on top dollar).

So the proportion of the working population (which is around 10.5m people) that MAY have had a negative change forced on them is probably a couple of percent, maybe 5% at best/worst, of the working population. Now, this is too many for some, but it hardly qualifies as an IR holocaust.

Pavlov's Cat said...

It's not that I don't want to reply to several of these, it's just that I'm too flat out to do it properly.

In the meantime, however, it looks as if I was completely wrong.

*sniggers*

feral sparrowhawk said...

I'm afraid I don't understand your last comment PC.

The comment that really resonated for me was ukaih's reference to being "psychically stateless".

My father told me a story once about going to see the cricket in South Africa. Blacks weren't allowed/couldn't afford it/weren't interested (not sure which was correct) but the somewhat more privileged Coloureds did attend in their own area. And they supported whoever the visiting team might be.

I don't want to suggest that Howard was on a level with Apartheid, but I had the same reaction. I couldn't support Australian sporting teams throughout the Howard years - I felt a little like a "Cape Coloured", that is in a situation of relative privilege, but a spiritual outcast to the point that the sports teams looked like the enemy.

The other day I heard the cricket scores and had trouble readjusting to the fact that the Australian team now is in some way my team, as it wasn't for eleven years.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Hi there FS, Happy New Year. Re your own last comment, my comparable experience was spending the two weeks or so after the election automatically picturing Howard whenever a newsreader said 'The Prime Minister ...' and then having (joyfully) to readjust.

When you say you don't understand my last comment, do you mean the update (which was a link to something in the papers by Keating the next day arguing something very similar to what I've said here, but the link may no longer work, I haven't checked) or the bit before that?

If the latter, I was simply kind of summing up the argument I'd put and reiterating that I thought 11 years of Howard's government had changed Australians for the worse -- that we were LESS better people, so to speak, and that one of the reasons for that was that we had been governed for eleven years by people whose fundamental philosophy was fairly naked material self-interest, and wouldn't it be nice if we could snap out of that and ask ourselves different questions indicating different and, one would hope, better life values.

feral sparrowhawk said...

Hi PC,

Neither, I meant "In the meantime, however, it looks as if I was completely wrong.

*sniggers*"

Still not sure what that means.

While we're on it though - I think the Keating piece is quite right, or would be if written by anyone else. However, for the Prime Minister who oversaw the introduction of mandatory detention to bag Howard over his treatment of refugees is extraordinary. There is also a remarkable blindness in his claim that "trust in government wasn't an issue in 1995".

Pavlov's Cat said...

Oh, I see!

Check the date on that comment -- it was made two days after the election. And the election demonstrated very clearly that Australians are still a decent lot after all, so my theory that we had all been made more like Howard after eleven years of him was completely wrong. The snigger was to do with how pleased I was about the reason I was completely wrong.

feral sparrowhawk said...

Ah ha. However, I don't actually think you were wrong. I think the fact that over 47% of the population (2pp) voted for a government that was clearly tired, out of ideas, looked like a rabble and were behind disasters like the Lindsay leaflet indicates that collectively we have become worse during the Howard years, but not enough worse as to keep re-electing him.