Friday, August 31, 2018
We have been lucky, very lucky. We are probably the luckiest in many generations, if not ever. We are the people over forty in the developed world.
We grew up after the war. We have had technology to ease our life, social systems to support us. Our health was taken care of, and so were our kids’ education and our pensions. Working a reasonable number of hours, we could afford good quality of life and holidays. Most of all, we have had freedoms: the freedom to live where we want with whoever we want, the freedom to travel, the freedom to choose our work, the freedom of speech.
In Australia we have been particularly lucky. We have had clean water and air, fresh affordable food, reasonably priced accommodation, and a beautiful nature for our holidays – if we chose not to take them abroad.
None of it was our doing. It was our ancestors who fought, often risking their lives, to make us lucky. But we who inherited this luck have taken it for granted. We barely stop to think about it, hardly ever fight to maintain it – as though our luck is a law of nature.
We view our freedom as a birthright: we are used to believe that our good is on our political representatives’ agenda. We consider countries like Syria and N. Korea abomination, not realizing that being ruled by tyrants, dictators, kings, or landlords has been the norm throughout history. It is our way that is the exception.
Until recently Syria, Iraq, N. Korea were the common governing models. That is, countries the people served their masters, not the other way around. People were exploited as the source of rulers’ wealth and power. Rulers bestowed favours on those they favoured. Rights were not guaranteed.
But being born into a free world, we can imagine no other way, so we have forgotten we must protect it. We have been blind, unable to see that things have changed fundamentally.
Australia today is not the country it was thirty years ago. If you lived here all this time, the change might have been too gradual to notice. But having returned after over a decade away, the change is staggering. Before I left good public schools were plenty and available for everyone, and so was adult education. Australia science and the health system were among the best in the world. There were barely any homeless people in the streets, and despite our political disagreements, we all felt that our representatives cared about our interests.
It was John Howard who initiated the change. Copying the American model, he started moving power from the average Australian to the corporate and the wealthy. From a culture that believed in fairness and supported the underdog, we have become a materialistic culture undisturbed by leaving the deprived behind.
You could have agreed or disagreed with Howard, but his heart was in the right place. At the time, America seemed like a story of success, a story of unlimited opportunities, a model worth copying.
Twenty years later, America is a very different place. Nowadays it is widely acknowledged that America has abandoned the majority of its citizens in favour of the wealthy minority. American politicians have come to realize that it is not the voter that is important for their success, but rather the lobbyist and the donor. Nowadays politicians believe that if they have enough money, they will be able to manipulate the voter to elect them. To get the money their policies support their donors, regardless of what their constituents need.
A Princeton University research has shown that over 90% of all American legislation favoured the lobbyists and not the voters. That is, contemporary America is now an oligarchy, not a true democracy.
This has been a secret well understood by politicians but hidden from the public, until Trump has brought it to light. As a result, politicians around the world are realizing that if America can do it, they can do it too. This is what we now see in Australia.
In recent days Australia, private schools get funded over public schools, companies like Adani get political support despite the negative public sentiment, and despite their negative impact on community, jobs, and the economy. Healthcare has become unaffordable for many, CSIRO budget has been cut, TAFE has been sold, and budget for most social programs has been slashed. This is the result of a system that our representatives do not feel that they work for us anymore.
But while, in the not-so remote past, these changes were done in stealth. Following the Trump model, our politicians, too, feel that they do not need to justify their acts, that they, too, should not be embarrassed by taking care of themselves and their sponsors, ignoring the people of Australia. Now they feel comfortable to bluntly cut worker’s protection, reduce penalty rates, forcing people to work overtime, while, at the same time substantially increasing their own packages, while at the same time passing the most sinister regulation of all, the limitation of free speech, giving them the power to put in jail everyone who criticizing them.
So if you ever wondered why we are still following the failed American model, the answer is that while the model has failed the people it has favoured the politicians. Following Trump’s example, our representatives are busy enriching themselves, securing their position, making it harder for anyone to oppose them. Once politicians have stopped working for us, our very democracy is as risk.
This might sound farfetched. But just remember how the Nazi party was elected to destroy German democracy. Nobody is immune.
Trump has shown our politicians that they matter, not their voters. Let’s wake up, protect what we inherited, and show them that they are wrong. That for them voters are the only thing that should matter. Because we do not work for them. They still work for us.
Monday, April 11, 2016
Thursday, January 28, 2016
Friday, December 25, 2015
Monday, December 14, 2015
I love animals, especially birds. My entire backyard is filled with bird-feeders and nesting boxes. It’s wonderful to have my breakfast in the morning watching the birds having theirs. At any given moment during the day, I can see a few dozen birds, a family of rats, and some squirrels. The bird life is amazing, and so far I have spotted 30 over species coming to the feeders. The one I am missing is the house sparrow.
Last time we lived in London, about a dozen years ago, sparrows were the most common birds in our backyard. They were pests that scared away the other birds. But this time I saw none, not until this morning, when a single sparrow approached the feeders.
I never thought I could get that excited about a sparrow.
Saturday, December 12, 2015
A recent business discussion reminded me of the following story
Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson went on a camping trip. After a good meal and a bottle of wine they lay down for the night, and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend awake. "Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see."
Watson replied, "I see millions and millions of stars."
"What does that tell you?" Holmes questioned.
Watson pondered for a minute. "Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?"
Holmes was silent for a minute, then spoke. "Watson, you idiot. Someone has stolen our tent."