Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


Stupidity is on the rise in our age of enlightenment

*Pic: Flickr, Rubygoes of Barry Jones on Lateline in 2010

Once Science Minister Barry Jones delivered this lecture on August 8, 2012 …

Public debate is dumbed down amid sloganeering, manic polling, managerial talk and pernicious spin.

SINCE Gough Whitlam’s time, Australia has undergone a serious decline in the quality of debate on public policy – and the same phenomenon has occurred in the US, Canada and Europe. British journalist Robert Fisk has called this ”the infantilisation of debate”.

Currently, we are by far the best educated cohort in our history – on paper, anyway – but it is not reflected in the quality of our political discourse. We appear to be lacking in courage, judgment, capacity to analyse or even simple curiosity, except about immediate personal needs.

Debates on such issues as climate change, population, taxation, refugees, mandatory detention and offshore processing, plain packaging of cigarettes, limitations on problem gambling and access to water have been deformed by both sides resorting to cherry-picking of evidence, denigration of opponents, mere sloganeering, leading to infantilisation of democracy, treating citizens as if they were unable to grasp major issues.

Both Whitlam and Keating emphasised the importance of high culture. Other than Malcolm Turnbull, nobody does now. There is a strong anti-intellectual flavour in public life, sometimes described as philistine or – more commonly – bogan, which leads to a reluctance to engage in complex or sophisticated argument and analysis of evidence, most easily demonstrated in the anti-science push in debate about vaccination, fluoridation and global warming.

Media – old and new – is partly to blame. Revolutionary changes in IT may be even more important, where we can communicate very rapidly, for example on Twitter, in ways that are shallow and non-reflective. Advocacy and analysis has largely dropped out of politics and been replaced by marketing and sloganeering. Politicians share the blame.

The politics (that is, serious debate on ideological issues) has virtually dropped out of politics and has been replaced by a managerial approach. The use of focus groups and obsessive reliance on polling and the very short news cycle means that the idea of sustained, serious, courageous analysis on a complex issue – the treatment of asylum seekers, for example – has become almost inconceivable.

For decades, politics has been reported as a subset of the entertainment industry, in which it is assumed that audiences look for instant responses and suffer from short-term memory loss. Politics is treated as a sporting contest, with its violence, personality clashes, tribalism and quick outcomes. The besetting fault of much media reporting is trivialisation, exaggerated stereotyping, playing off personalities, and a general ”dumbing down”. This encourages the view that there is no point in raising serious issues months or years before an election. This has the effect of reinforcing the status quo, irrespective of which party is in power and at whatever level, state or federal.

The 2010 federal election was by common consent the most dismal in living memory, without a single new or courageous idea being proposed on either side.

In 2010 the assertion that Australia’s public debt was getting out of control was largely unchallenged – although figures confirmed we had the lowest percentage in the OECD. Similarly, nobody pointed out that we run 46th in the number of refugees arriving unheralded on our shores. The largest factor is community withdrawal and disillusion. The tiny numbers of people in major parties confirms this.

By any objective measure, Australia has been more successful than any other OECD nation (Canada comes second) in coping with the aftershocks of the global financial crisis. Recent strong praise by the IMF ranking Australia as first in the world was described by the opposition, perversely, as a ”warning shot across the bows” and a conclusion that we must do better. However, Newspoll and the Age/Neilsen poll indicate that of all sectors of government, economic management is regarded as the area where the opposition is strongest and the Gillard government weakest. It flies in the face of common sense but must be recognised, however irrational, as a political reality.

The High Court’s recent decision that Commonwealth funding for school chaplains was unconstitutional was immediately bypassed by a cross-party love-in, hurriedly passing new legislation to nullify the court’s judgment.

This is a classic example of how a fundamental principle – the separation of church and state – is abandoned for fear of offending powerful interest groups and losing votes.

In 1860 in New York, Abraham Lincoln began his campaign for the presidency with a very complex speech about slavery. All four New York newspapers published the full text, which was widely read and discussed. In 1860, the technology was primitive but the ideas were profound and sophisticated. In 2012, the technology is sophisticated but the ideas uttered in the presidential contest so far are, in the most part, embarrassing in their banality, ignorance and naivety, much of it fuelled by rage or ignorance.

We live in the age of the information revolution, but it is also the age of the cult of management. Education (like health, sport, the environment, law, even politics) is often treated as a subset of management, with appeals to naked self-interest and protecting the bottom line.

At its most brutal, the argument was put that there were no health, education, transport, environment or media problems, only management problems: get the management right and all the other problems would disappear. Coupled with the managerial dogma was the reluctance of senior officials to give what used to be called ”frank and fearless” advice – and replacing it with what is now called ”a whole of government” approach. This is not telling ministers what they want to hear – it is actually far worse, a pernicious form of spin doctoring.

Paradoxically, the age of the information revolution, which should have been an instrument of personal liberation and an explosion of creativity, has been characterised by domination of public policy by managerialism, replacement of ”the public good” by ”private benefit”, the decline of sustained critical debate on issues leading to gross oversimplification, the relentless ”dumbing down” of mass media, linked with the cult of celebrity, substance abuse and retreat into the realm of the personal, and the rise of fundamentalism and an assault on reason. The knowledge revolution ought to have been a countervailing force: in practice it has been the vector of change.

In Britain in the Thatcher era, and in Australia after 1983, there was a growing conviction that relying on specialist knowledge and experience might create serious distortions in policy-making, and that generic managers, usually accountants, or economists, would provide a more detached view. As a result, expertise was fragmented, otherwise, health specialists would push health issues, educators education, scientists science, and so on. Sport has become very big business. Political parties are managed by factions, essentially a form of privatisation.

Departments contract out important elements of their core business to consultants. A consultant has been defined as somebody to whom you lend your watch, then ask him to tell you the time. Consultants, eager for repeat business, provide government with exactly the answers that they want to receive. Lobbyists, many of them former politicians or bureaucrats, are part of the decision-making inner circle.

Generic managers promoted the use of ”management-speak”, a coded alternative to natural language, only understood by insiders, exactly as George Orwell had predicted.

The managerial revolution involves a covert attack on democratic processes because many important decisions are made without public debate, community knowledge or parliamentary scrutiny.

Under present arrangements in the ALP, there is no possibility Whitlam could have been preselected for a winnable seat unless he was a loyal factional member.

The central problem for the renewal of Labor is: how can a party with a contracting base reach out to an expanding society?

I have called this ”the 1954 problem”. That was the year in which membership of trade unions began to contract as a proportion of the total labour force. In the lifetime of this Prime Minister, the ALP as an organisation has become increasingly unrepresentative of the community at large, and even of Labor voters.

The party’s owners, people like Paul Howes, Tony Sheldon and (until recently) Michael Williamson, think that the priority is for them to keep control of their property. They were not unduly worried when the ALP’s primary vote in the New South Wales state election in March 2011 fell to 25.6 per cent. From the Howes-Sheldon perspective, all was well because they were still running the show.

They regard the opinions of voters outside their unions as totally irrelevant; after all, they haven’t met many.

The ALP must turn outward, embrace democracy and reject oligarchy, thinking in decades, not Twitter moments. We must all search for the ”shock of recognition” which enables us to find ourselves, expanding our understanding both of the universe and of each other, pursuing arts, science and music as avidly as we pursue sport or the cult of celebrity.

*Barry Jones was Bob Hawke’s science minister from 1983 to 1990. He is a writer and fellow of all four of Australia’s learned academies. This is an edited version of the Daniel Mannix Memorial lecture delivered in Melbourne on August 8, 2012.

Simon Schama, New Yorker: A New York Knight … I saw him for what turned out to be the last time a few weeks ago, in his rooms at Cambridge. Illness had shrunk him quite a bit, so that now he not only sounded like the elderly Voltaire but looked like him, too. Like Voltaire, Plumb held up a historical mirror that had become quite dark in old age. He was not sanguine about our chances of survival, and he likened modern America to the late Roman Empire, circa 300: impossibly overextended, beleaguered by barbarians, aware that all its glories of law and engineering might yet be demolished by incomparably less sophisticated peoples for whom destruction is a vocation and life is expendable. …

• Simon Warriner in Comments: … One of the things that is pissing people like me off about politicians is not their acceptance or otherwise of climate change, but their complete bastardisation of the science communication behind it by either telling lies to diminish, or exaggerating for effect. Both are destructive of public trust and counter productive, but hey, that’s what you get from the pointless dick measuring contest that is party politics these days. Oh, and one other thing, if you care to explore beyond the intellectual vallium type comfort of the clueless talking heads in the OZ media you might find that China and Russia have tied themselves together in ways that make the US unable to be besties with Russia while engaging in an arms race with China. Decades of watching the “leaders of the free world” terrorising the rest of the kids in the school yard promotes that sort of alliance, it would seem . Australia would be well advised to stand back and let the yanks find out the hard way without offending our biggest potential market by lining up, yet again, for the schoolyard bully.

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Leonard Colquhoun

    November 21, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    IMHO, Barry Jones always seemed more like a data hunter & collector than an intellectual^ – he seemed to have very sharp cerebral skills for dealing with the ‘data’ zone in the \data > facts > information > knowledge > understanding > appreciation\ spectrum, with the sorts of limitations made bare in his now notorious Knowledge Nation spaghetti diagram. ^Not to claim that being one such confers any extra worth due ipso facto to that skill-set.

  2. Keith Antonysen

    November 17, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    Dr John Abraham, a climate scientist writing for the Guardian has indicated that the Trump transition team is not working in the interests of climate change; a number of American papers have commented on Trump’s choices. The views expressed are not along the lines of simply poor choice, but seen to be a disaster in relation to the EPA.

    Similar views have been put by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Vox, Alternet, Scientific American, Think Progress, and Robert Scribbler.

    Dr Abraham, in the first paragraph states:

    “Come on, you can admit it. I admit it. I admit that after Trump’s election victory, I secretly hoped and even though that his rhetoric was worse than its bite. He only said those crazy things during the campaign to get elected. He wouldn’t really follow through on his plans to completely gut the US commitment to keeping the Earth habitable. Oh how naive we were. Trump’s plan to fill positions in his administration shows things are worse than we could have ever feared.”

    The last sentence of the article says it in an even stronger way.


    As stated at No 21, observed and measured data shows in a number of ways that the Arctic is in a real mess.

  3. Keith Antonysen

    November 17, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    No 16, Wining Pom

    We have a snake oil salesman in Josh Frydenberg; while in Marrekech he was trying to push the Adani coal mine; through trying to gain the attention of US Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz. Frydenberg complained that a US group was funding an anti Carmichael mine group in Australia.


    No 15, Robin

    Temperature in the Arctic region has been quite high currently; multi year sea ice is still being lost through the Fram Strait. Normally the freeze has well and truly begun by now. Multi year sea ice provides the foundation for new sea ice forming. In 1979 there was about 20% multi year sea ice, in 2016 it was about 3%.
    The changing nature of the Arctic has meant that huge numbers of puffins and reindeer have died through starvation, high temperature being the trigger.

    A blue water Arctic Ocean means the energy used to melt sea ice can then warm the Ocean. More rainfall is already happening which is what has impacted on the population of reindeer. Rainfall then a freezes which creates much thicker ice than reindeer can cope with which locks away they’re food.
    Permafrost will thaw even more quickly, releasing extra CO2 and methane.
    A recipe for global temperature going up quickly.

    Objective measures in the Arctic at present are:
    .amount of multi year ice
    .thickness of sea ice
    .extent of sea ice
    .volume of sea ice
    .impact on fauna
    .methane explosions
    .erosion of islands

    A dramatic change in climate will make ISIS appear as an irritation.

  4. john hayward

    November 16, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    As Barry’s demostration, we have yesterday’s cuts to ABC Radio, with Murdoch troopers to augment the beachhead held by the likes of Amanda Vanstone. Ex News Corp columnist Tom Switzer takes over Sunday Extra from Jonathan Green, which is a lot like swapping chilli for plaster in a recipe.

    I can’t see much room for First Dog at the coming tea party.

    John Hayward

  5. Robin Charles Halton

    November 16, 2016 at 10:03 am

    #18 The current episode of paleoclimatological variation combined with uncontrolled populations of earthlings placing upwards pressure on resources.

    Everybody for themselves!

  6. Simon Warriner

    November 15, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    Halton, if you listen carefully to those people that work outside in the environment, including some of your forestry mates, you will hear them talking about how the climate has changed. Some of us happen to see those changes as being something we should be just a little bit worried about, given they are result of burning several million years of stored sunlight in just over 150 years. It seems rather ignorant to dismiss out of hand the probability that the amounts of energy involved might just possibly have an impact on the finite environment we inhabit. If that is uncomfortable, my point is being made. And yes it has taken me a long time to come to this point of view.

    One of the things that is pissing people like me off about politicians is not their acceptance or otherwise of climate change, but their complete bastardisation of the science communication behind it by either telling lies to diminish, or exaggerating for effect. Both are destructive of public trust and counter productive, but hey, that’s what you get from the pointless dick measuring contest that is party politics these days.

    Oh, and one other thing, if you care to explore beyond the intellectual vallium type comfort of the clueless talking heads in the OZ media you might find that China and Russia have tied themselves together in ways that make the US unable to be besties with Russia while engaging in an arms race with China. Decades of watching the “leaders of the free world” terrorising the rest of the kids in the school yard promotes that sort of alliance, it would seem . Australia would be well advised to stand back and let the yanks find out the hard way without offending our biggest potential market by lining up, yet again, for the schoolyard bully.

  7. John Powell

    November 15, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    Barry Owen Jones or “BOJ” as we knew him at Dandenong High School in the late 50’s pre his TV quiz persona. Taught history and in his first lesson 2nd year, held up the recommended history book dutifully purchased by my parents and said “have any of you got this? Well it is useless ” and threw it out the window. He was right then and unlike “nullius Cranium” RCH he is correct about climate change. You have no grandchildren Rob?

  8. Wining Pom

    November 15, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    #15 ‘there is no Climate Change audience.’

    There will be, but by then it will be too late.

    People will buy snake oil before antibiotics.

  9. Robin Charles Halton

    November 15, 2016 at 11:34 am

    No one is interested in Climate Change, quiet literally, no sorry either, its a fact!

    Australians struggle to maintain their jobs, too many walking the streets since globalisation, automation, China and 347 visas cut into our workforce.

    Trump is not interested in Climate Change either, he has other more pressing priorities, aims to restore blue collar worker morale, tougher policy to combat illegals coming from Mexico/CA, restore relationships with Russia and build a gigantic military force to combat China in the Pacific.

    Australia will follow along similar lines and never will never have real mates with China either.

    Given the objectives of the national interest for the two nations that leaves little space for Climate Change politics.

    The Greens can drum as much a they can expel, there is no Climate Change audience.

  10. Christopher Nagle

    November 15, 2016 at 7:56 am

    I do not have a problem with the content of the Climate Council advertisement, Mad Max, Priscilla and Two Million Sheep’ …


    The renewables message needs to be got out there. But I am also very conscious of the warning put out by Marshall McLuhan in the ’60s, that the medium is the massage; i.e., the medium is more significant than the messages it carries.

    It is therefore with some melancholy that I acknowledge and accept the necessity for this kind of messaging to mass audiences.

    The awful truth is that our culture is drowning in thirty second grabs. Consciousness is being shaped by it in ways that are extremely adverse to the capacity for critical thinking that has some depth to it.

    In the Tasmanian Times, Barry Jones’s essay on the crumbling of the architecture of political discourse, notes this lamentable trend (Stupidity is on the rise in our age of enlightenment …


    And the reason that I choose the word ‘melancholy’ is very deliberate in the sense that it is a regretful bowing to an inevitability. The advertising medium does ‘cut through’ to mass audiences, because over a 50-70 year period, that is what they have been systematically conditioned to respond to.

    Barry notes by way of ‘melancholy’ contrast, Lincoln’s 1860 Presidential candidacy speech on Slavery, which was a long form discussion of the issue that teased it out in detail. It was published verbatim by the press of the time and was widely read and discussed by the entire literate community, which was prepared to take the time and make the effort to be fully across a key issue of the day.

    That almost certainly couldn’t happen now. And if we look at the way the equally important issue of climate change is being laid out within our milieu, the climatologist community has been forced out of its normal methods of detailed research based discussion, because the enemies of its disruptive conclusions have been using the modern media much more effectively to get their obfuscatory messages across; i.e., repetitious slogans, images and keywords promoting simple themes that would communicate attitude gestalts which would fit the dominant propaganda/PR/marketing/advertising format, that mass audiences are now used to and immersed in..

    The Climate Council advert does the job of engaging its audience with a very snappy presentation that might even win awards as an advertising package. But it is also joining the rush to dumb down democratic dialogue and reinforce the trend to hand democratic constituencies lock, stock and barrel into the hands of propagandists, reinforce the packaging of political agenda as entertainment and reinforce the much larger and more densely pervasive system of totalitarian discourse.and consciousness management.

    The election of Trump has been a sobering wake up call as to just how badly damaged democratic conversation has become, which is why the Tasmanian Time’s republication of Barry Jones’s prescient essay has been so ‘timely’ and why political ‘entertainment’ has now become an irreversible feature of getting heard.

    The consequences of democratic institutions becoming denuded of real political engagement and reflection inevitably means they will continue to fall into the clutches of oligarchies and opportunists. They will be reduced to ceremonial ritual and political theatre, as a constitutional remnant left over from another age, much like the monarchy has become.

    The oligarchs will not need to bother to burn down the parliament as the Nazis did. They will still have a use at maintaining the fiction of continuity and tradition. And this will reinforce the larger fictionalisation of reality of a new kind of totalitarianism against which we have no defences at all; not even the oligarchs themselves.

  11. Peter Bright

    November 14, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    At #12 Wining Pom offers this conundrum:

    [i]”.. Why is it the people offering crazy things get the vote instead of the Greens?”[/i]

    Well sir, I suspect that most folk have simply given up thinking. It’s just too hard and the Aussie bogan mind is not endowed with high intelligence.

    With the planet itself beginning to fry and sizzle ever louder it’s clear to me that The Greens should be the elected governments everywhere.

    Here’s a stark truism: [b]No environment means no us.[/b]

    The increasingly urgent need for the worldwide application of intelligence has never been greater, but intelligent thinking requires effort and it’s so much easier to sit back opiated watching mind-rot on television or to read lies in Australia’s propaganda newspapers.

  12. Wining Pom

    November 14, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    A good article you gave the link to Peter.

    So, the conundrum; with the need for anti establishment and a new way of doing things, why is it the people offering crazy things get the vote instead of the Greens?

    I guess Trump was saying he’ll give this and give that whereas the Greens expect people to pull their weight and change a bit. Very difficult.

  13. John Wade

    November 14, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    What Turnbull and the rest of Canberra politicians have to remember is that oligarchies are not people friendly, big-capital is anti-caring, not interested in the progressives, the leftists, or the other fringe dwellers the furious rightists; and what Turnbull has to remember is that we the people know this, don’t like this and will do all we can to undo imperialist attitudes from people who only care bout themselves and sometimes care about the machine operators (politicians) who give them their leeway over anyone and everyone, (think Federal Hotels and the Farrells).
    Hence, Trump, Hanson, get selected to fix the mess.

  14. Leonard Colquhoun

    November 14, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    About “the late Roman Empire, circa 300” and its ‘Fall’: two of the many factors in its worsening situation were Constantine’s Edict of Milan and Theodosius’s Edict of Thessalonica.

    The first proclaimed permanent religious toleration for Christianity within the Empire in February 313, which in our language decriminalised it. A major consequence was that emperors now considered that this religion’s internal sectarian and dogmatic squabbling and whingeing (no matter how moronically trivial: google ‘filioque’ clause) as state business.

    The very first Council of the Church was called not by the Church itself but by the State, because Constantine (still not singing “I’m a believer”, BTW) wanted an end to potentially divisive theological disputes. (Fat chance, as the subsequent histories of Christianity and later of Islam clearly show, with this month’s mass-murder of harmless Sufis in the constitutionally-Islamic Republic of Pakistan being the latest.) Among other and varied effects, this diverted time and energy, money and resources from SALUS POPULI SUPREMA LEX. One spectacular military idiocy was attacking barbarians for no other reason than their having the ‘wrong’ form of Christianity.

    Worse was to develop over the next eight decades, culminating on 27 February 380 by the three (Don’t ask!) reigning Roman Emperors ordering all subjects of the Empire to profess the faith of the bishops of Rome and of Alexandria, making Nicene Christianity the Empire’s state religion (the first such in our history, I’d say).

    That day is a strong candidate for the ‘Worst Day in the History of the West’, and it didn’t do the Western Empire much good – within a century it was officially gone, because it no longer had an official emperor. The world of classical antiquity had ended, with some historians however saying it ended with the ‘reforms’ of Diocletian a century earlier.

    Whatever, the Dark Ages had begun, although some historians claim there weren’t any – maybe none of their ancestors were mass-slaughtered in forced conversions, a ‘religion of peace’ feature we are again witnessing in ISIS-held territory. Wonder if intellectuals from the 600s to the 1600s said “(this latest slaughter of infidels & heretics) has nothing to do with Christianity”?

    We had to wait for another 1300 years for the Enlightenment – which is now under attack by some of our oh-so-clever and ever-so-highly-credentialed intellectuals. And who, BTW, lead oh-so-safe-and-cosy lives in their favourite inner-urban precincts, far away from any of those really awful ‘deplorables’ who’ve not got a credential among them!!!

  15. Peter Bright

    November 14, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    Wining Pom at #7 says [i]”Does any rational person in the USA believe that Trump will bring back manufacturing jobs? No. Rationalism has gone. People are just frightened.[/i]”

    Frightened yes, and too desperate to reason logically? I believe so.

    At http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article45841.htm there’s this …

    [i]”Trump is emblematic of what anthropologists call ‘crisis cults.’

    [b]”A society in terminal decline often retreats into magical thinking. Reality is too much to bear. It places its faith in the fantastic and impossible promises of a demagogue or charlatan who promises the return of a lost golden age. The good jobs will come back. The nation will again be prosperous. The decrepit cities will be rebuilt. America will be great again.[/b]

    “These promises, impossible to achieve, are no different from those peddled to Native Americans in the 1880s by the self-styled religious prophet Wovoka. He called on followers to carry out five-day dance ceremonies called the Ghost Dance. Native Americans donned shirts they were told protected them from bullets. They were assured that the buffalo herds would return, the dead warriors and chiefs would rise from the earth and the white men would disappear. None of his promises was realised. Many of his followers were gunned down like sheep by the U.S. army.”[/i]

    Supplementing the above is the notion that foolish people will elect fools.

    It’s only natural. They recognise one of their own.

  16. John Biggs

    November 14, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    And to think this was written 4 years ago. Now he would make even more depressing reading. In particular having described Turnbull then as one of the very few intellectuals in public life and see what the poisonous culture in Canberra and particularly that of the Coalition has done to him. He has abandoned probably all of his high minded ideals, and is turning into a clone of Abbott, snarling, shouting, spitting insults, and enacting vicious cruelty. It seems individuals can’t turn this around, a whole culture has to be changed. How? Could a trumpian earthquake shake up the old system enough to get us really thinking about who we are and where we are going?

  17. Wining Pom

    November 14, 2016 at 10:09 am

    A pity politicians like Barry Jones do not exist anymore. There are some who hold the right principles, but believe that too much time on the public purse corrupts.

    Most politicians now are so far removed from everyday life, all their news comes from social media and not town hall meetings.

    I just can’t imagine deciding to transport personal pets using a taxpayer funded chauffeur, or blowing $5,000 of taxpayers money on a ten minute helicopter ride.

    The most important thing in a politicians life is to get elected again. As Barry pointed out;

    They were not unduly worried when the ALP’s primary vote in the New South Wales state election in March 2011 fell to 25.6 per cent. From the Howes-Sheldon perspective, all was well because they were still running the show.

    But then the puzzle. With people wanting more truth and openness in parliament, they elect Hanson and Trump.

    Does any rational person in the USA believe that Trump will bring back manufacturing jobs? No. Rationalism has gone. People are just frightened.

  18. Simon Warriner

    November 13, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    I always enjoy Barry Jones. That said, I think what Christopher might be getting at is this. Barry Jones identifies the tumour and other symptoms of the disease, but fails to recognise and address the fact that there is a carcinogen at the root of the problem.

    Bathed in the carcinogen that is endless conflicted interest, it is inevitable that our body politic will become diseased and dysfunctional over time.

    see here: http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/article/conflict-of-interest-the-cancer-within-our-public-life/

  19. john hayward

    November 13, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    The idea that there’s an awakening suicide gene in the human psyche is beginning to look good.

    John Hayward

  20. Christopher Nagle

    November 13, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    Barry Jones was a politician whose like we are unlikely to see again, for precisely the dolorous reasons he lays out in this article. As a former minister for science in the unusually talent intensive Hawke/Keating government, watching the decline of democratic governance and the disintegrating architecture of its discourse must have been excruciatingly painful to watch.

    His article goes a long way to being an epitaph for our age, but I came away from it with something of an unfinished feeling.

    Sure, he faithfully lays out the awful facts and connects them to the institutions, ideologies, practices, key individuals and technological impacts that are their proximate causes, but I think that is only the tip of the iceberg.

    I would assert that these outward and visible signs of decay reflect a much more powerful and deeper inward and invisible reality, that would explain why marketing and sloganeering, the managerialism that articulates it and the media that leverages its baleful influence, is so overwhelming, destructive, protracted and end game threatening.

    When one gets down into the much more challenging environment below the surface of this iceberg, one starts to appreciate the true dimensions of how much trouble we are in. It is the difference between being seemingly treatably sick on the surface and dying underneath.

    If you look through Barry’s eyes, all the problems he identifies, while bad, can be tackled piecemeal, bit by bit. But what if we found when drilling down further that these phenomena were systemic and intractable? What if they represented a form of totalitarianism that is as pervasive as it is invisible, as it is apparently benign, right under our collective noses? What if it is designed to evade traditional threat recognition software that might alert us as to just how deeply colonised we all are; not just ‘the other guy’ on the other side of the ideological fence, who ‘just doesn’t get it’?

    What if indulgence capitalism is a Golden Gulag* that is not an autocracy with guards and walls, but self-regulating, because the prisoners cannot bring themselves to leave? What if they have not been arrested or deported there, but been driven in by visions of paradise, proudly brought to them by the sponsors?

    What if this Golden Gulag is a rogue organism that has become so energised and plantlike in its voracious intelligence, that it now co-opts, consumes and throws away its creators, slaves and critics alike, including their social/existential software and capacity for governance and consequential reasoning, with the same alacrity as it wolfs the resources of the planet and drowns it in its wastes?

    What if what Barry is pointing to is a world order starting to crumble under the prodigious pressure of its own life denying processes and spectacular success in overrunning itself….and us? What if Barry’s picture is just the pixelation you get when a software program is crashing and the hard drive starts to smoke?

    What if we are living inside a dysfunctional universe where cause and effect, faith and reason and fantasy and reality no longer connect, or they do, but perversely? How do you confront irrational rationality without being made to look a fool by the conventional wisdom of our day, and the abnormally normal business-as-usualism that can go on going on, even when you can hear the approaching guns on the eastern front?

    Sorry Barry…..It was just a bad dream….If we all worked a bit harder and paid a bit more attention it would all be good….Ho hum….

    * Gulag was a term coined by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his book. ‘The Gulag Archipelago’, that documented the Soviet slave labour camp ‘islands’ that dotted themselves all over the USSR, especially during the 1930s.

  21. Jean

    November 13, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    I agree with almost everything in these articles, as I’m sure many readers will too. BUT the problem is what do people like us do about it?

    For the reasons quoted, plus the rise of political correctness education has been dumbed down and bureaucratised and taken out of the hands of teachers. Therefore there is less and less hope of real thinkers emerging.

    How do we change political thinking in a “me” oriented culture? We’ve got Pauline Hanson for the same reasons the US has Trump – a great many uninformed and uneducated people who believe what they hear and think only of themselves.

    I’m afraid I have to agree with Plumb – I don’t see the future looking any brighter than it is now.

  22. Mick Kenny

    November 13, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    The rise of the managerial classes and their jockeying between assorted political, corporate and regulatory and lobby ponies on the media carousel does little to inspire hope of original thought and an open, participatory application of government.

    Disreputable nationalistic memes and online Degrees in Social Media Outrage present some particular challenges to the establishment of more effective and engaged public modes of representation.

  23. Robin Charles Halton

    November 13, 2016 at 9:53 am

    Nothing more silly than the safe schools program, three toilets and now seperate change rooms for exclusive use by transgender individuals with an entry opening directly onto play areas so rostered teachers can observe for any bullying that may occur.

    Honestly what is the world coming to, this type of lifestyle should not be promoted as it is not normal.

    If a poor bastard want to wear a dress then let him, the consequences of those actions are those of the individual alone to bear.

    Teachers are there to teach not to spend excess time as social workers dealing with strange behavior that is beyond redemption.

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