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?
(T)o describe the so-called ‘safe schools’ and ‘gender fluidity’ garbage being peddled in schools as ‘cultural Marxism’ is not a throwaway line but a literal truth.
-Fraser Anning, maiden speech to the Australian parliament
We have a senator not only peddling Nazi-derived conspiracy theories 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 (publishers of The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Canberra Times) 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.
It is a commonly held truism that sports and politics should never mix. Sport is an oasis, untouched by the mundanities of life. But to watch a game of football is to break apart this illusion. Representatives of two nations clash in a contest of strength and skill. A referee enforces strict conformance with arbitrary rules. The crowd’s passions are subsumed in the game. How could this be apolitical?
We spend our days endlessly repeating simple tasks, and even outside of work we refuse to grapple with higher order ideas and concepts. Politics has been reduced to squabbling over petty resentments, a kind of spectator sport. Even our art has given up on the profound, simply packaging up nostalgia and spectacle to be sold back to us. We cannot call ourselves grown men if we act like infants.
At the core of the liberal philosophy which guides our modern societies are two principles – free people and free markets. It has generally been assumed that these are in harmony. But as the populist consequences of the GFC continue to reverberate through our world, establishment liberals are being forced to choose between the two. Time after time, unelected officials have chosen to protect the markets against the consequences of democracy in a way that lays bare their true priorities.