Humans like to bottle up knowledge into simple narratives. Stories to be told around the campfire or to help us understand the world. Our conception of history is shaped by two grand narratives which sweep beyond their remit to inform our politics and society as well. The fall from grace and march of progress do make for appealing stories, but with one major caveat. They aren’t real.
As workers without the freedom of capital, we have two choices. Either we sell ourselves to an employer in whatever role the labour market has decreed for us, or we starve. Most of us take the first option. We rent out our bodies and minds to the slave owners, bound by contract to obey their bidding. But this isn’t enough for the capitalists. Like the medieval aristocrats, they don’t want to be seen as the petty tyrants they are. The term ‘benevolent job creator’ fits much more nicely. So it isn’t enough that we rent out our bodies and minds. Capital wants our spirit as well.
I’ve tried to write about other things. But my mind keeps coming back to the one thing which has haunted me. Something which I said I wouldn’t write about, because it was just too damn depressing. Climate change.
The IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC was released two weeks ago, chronicling in exhaustive detail the impacts of worldwide studies on the impact of climate change. The relative impacts of holding warming to 1.5ºC instead of 2. Projected pathways to get there, and how many magic beans would be needed to keep us there. The long and the short of it is – we’re fucked.
Once upon a time, I was an odd kid with all the potential in the world. Not just in my fevered imagination, but officially – as my high school proudly proclaimed through its Students with High Intellectual Potential program (which has probably changed acronyms several times in the intervening years). Not content with recording some of the top school results in the state, I went on to become a qualified rocket engineer. But what use is there for rocket engineers in a nation whose primary exports are shiny rocks, or even a society whose driving force is the accumulation of profit?
We have a senator not only peddling conspiracy theories derived from the Nazi idea of cultural Bolshevism on the floor of parliament, but even calling for ‘a final solution to the immigration problem’. Sky News calls upon neo-Nazis like Blair Cottrell to share their opinions on immigration and policy. Our major papers decry Jews who form colonies. The ABC’s august Four Corners decided that Steve Bannon deserved their platform to gaslight the nation. This isn’t normal. How did we get here?
Malcolm Turnbull today brought on a leadership spill, where he beat back Peter Dutton’s challenge by a narrow 48-35 margin. This pre-emptive strike is unlikely to hold the conservative forces for long, and as I write, senior ministers are resigning from their posts. So today I ask the question, who is Peter Dutton?
The ‘only credible plan’ is dead. Much like Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership, the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) was a spineless compromise between reality and the intransigent conservative elements of his own party. As it passes into the nether realm, our PM is set to soon follow. The future of the Liberal Party and Australia’s action on climate change hang in the balance.
Nine and Fairfax have announced a merger, with the resultant company to be called Nine and Nine shareholders to control the majority of shares. This isn’t a merger, but a takeover. Fairfax, as we know it, is dead. With the death knell of Fairfax comes the confirmation that online advertising isn’t sufficiently profitable to fund serious journalism.
So emphasising a humanist education rather than training builds reasoning, critical thinking and creativity. That’d be great, except that none of those skills are at all useful in the festering wound which is our society. Teaching children to learn and follow their interests only creates a fantasy of adult life, whereas training them for the reality of wage labour avoids any such delusions.
What is the point of schooling? Is it to expand your intellectual capabilities and widen your range of thought, or just to train you in the techniques required for future employment? These objectives are not just competitive but actively contradictory and held in constant tension in our education systems.