Archives for posts with tag: democratic governments

I think many people are questioning the type of people who rise to leadership positions in any society. Some of them do so by force, inflicting brutal regimes on their people. This doesn’t work because subdued people never produce their best work and there is little room for talent to be encouraged except when it relates to enforcing, and usually spreading, their violence.

In so-called democracies, there also seem to be problems. In Australia, in spite of frequent and peaceful changes in leadership, we never seem to produce leaders who reflect the desires of most of their countrymen. My feeling is that most people want to create a fair society, with a fair share of the wealth and goods, usually springing from our resources, for all, regardless of talent and skills. My feeling that as long as we elect rich people, in other words money addicts, to our top jobs we will never achieve this.

These thoughts were triggered last night by a talk I went to given by an Aboriginal, a representative of our poorest people, the original inhabitants. We know that their share in our wealth is less than it should be, with lower life expectancy and educational achievement.

This Aboriginal man is a very successful journalist who happened to write an article last year about our treatment of one of our top sports people, also an Aboriginal, who was called an ape by a 13 year old at a football match. The player involved took exception to this which annoyed the crowd who booed him whenever he appeared on the field, including in subsequent matches. Eventually he took time off as it was all too much to deal with.

This behaviour inspired last night’s speaker, Stan Grant, to write an article about the plight of our Aboriginal people in his newspaper which was read by countless people (it went viral) and inspired him to write a book about his story as an Aboriginal person which is rapidly becoming a best seller. The venue for the meeting last night had to be changed to accommodate the thousands of people who wanted to hear what he had to say, and buy his book.

So what did he say which inspired me to write this blog? It wasn’t so much what he said but his even handed approach to the problems which face Australians in our treatment of the first settlers in this land. No bitterness or rancour, just sadness at what was/is happening to his people, and the quiet response as to how we could handle problems to satisfy those involved.

This led me to the thought that if we had more leaders in the world, with his qualities, we would have a much more prosperous and happier place to live. We would all have the opportunity to achieve to the best of our ability. We would move from a world in which we moved from thinking about ‘me’ to thinking about ‘us’.

Stan Grant’s book which is proving so popular is called ‘Talking to my country’.

 

When our ancestors first changed from hunter gatherers to agriculturalists not only did their way of life improve as they settled, but it meant that they could live in larger groups. This was the beginning of group knowledge which was far more extensive than that available to the individual groups of nomads who went before them.

Today as we live in bigger groups in ever growing cities, this group knowledge is escalating at an ever growing speed. Trips to the moon and instantaneous  communication across the world are examples of this. When I compare my lifestyle with that of my parents I am aware of massive changes just in one generation.

I wonder if we are aware of this phenomena and are taking steps to deal with it? No one brain has any hope of knowing anything other than a very small part of not only present knowledge, but also that which lies ahead, even in the next 10 years. Should we be addressing the situation? Currently we just seem to shrug our shoulders and put it in the too hard basket.

These thoughts have been brought on by major elections this year in both Australia and the United States, and possibly other countries as well. I have expressed concern before about the way candidates are chosen, particularly in countries which have developed mainly two party systems, which in themselves restrict alternative policy thinking.

So many of our leaders, and would be leaders, seem to feel that if they went to University after leaving school then their education is complete for life. This may have been appropriate thinking at the time, probably 30 or more years ago, with the last generation, but is it appropriate today at a time of enormously accelerating gains in knowledge? There are quiet mutterings about lifelong learning but few seem to believe in it, including our political representatives.

Are ideas and information which were appropriate when our leaders completed their education really applicable today for a very different world? Doesn’t this explain why those who seek election to run their country usually seem woefully inadequate for the job, particularly when their ideas have to be constrained within a largely two party system.

Maybe we could find people who don’t necessarily want to be part of the ruling group but who can recognise what is happening to us and suggest arrangements which would enable our rapidly growing knowledge base to be available to, and part of, group leadership at a national and international level. Could we create an international knowledge bank available to leaders facing either national or international problems, which in today’s world are often indistinguishable? Is the current large gap between current knowledge and country, and world, leadership, causing our lack of ability to solve so many of the problems confronting the world’s peoples, both within national boundaries and at a world level? A current problem we seem unable to solve, or even foresee, is the movement of so many migrants and refugees across the world.

Should tackling the problem of providing access to new knowledge be the contribution the current world’s population make to those following us, part of our 21st century legacy? We could do much worse, including our present ‘continue as we are’ policy, or should I call it the ‘muddle through as you are’ policy?

Centuries seem to be a convenient measuring unit for our history with each being accredited with specific human progress. The 19th century was the breeding ground for the industrial revolution, the 20th for two world wars followed by remarkable progress in technology which led to all parts of the world being instantly connected.

Are we now sufficiently civilised and knowledgeable to decide what we would like to achieve in the 21st century (we are now well into it) or will we just randomly move in whatever direction fate takes us? I would argue that since the whole world is connected in terms of easy communication we should be able to move from the selfish ‘I want’ of each country to a worldwide ‘We want’ of the world population. Diseases (pandemics) and climate change are making it very evident that the latter view is the only one that will work. If we accept this argument then can we take human history into our own hands and set goals to try to achieve it? It’s not a new idea, after all that is what the United Nations was set up to achieve, but that was in a different time, with different communications restrictions and different world values, particularly in terms of equality.

Is this early part of the 21st century an appropriate time for the world to decide that the legacy today’s people should leave is one of thinking in terms of a shared earth and setting goals for what we as its inhabitants want to leave for the generations who come after us? Do we want to set the agenda, as far as we can, for the 21st century and our legacy for our grandchildren, great-grandchildren etc.? Given the enormous skills, knowledge and abilities we have inherited from those who have gone before us let’s use them to create a unified, shared planet. Let’s not leave the legacy of the 21st century to chance but rather decide that this is the way to go to benefit the whole world population and plan to achieve that.

Wars, such as those currently in several parts of the world, benefit no-one except a few people’s ego’s and this is usually short lived. The damage to people’s lives lasts for far longer. The current situation where there are millions of displaced people across the world is a sad reflection on our skills as global population managers. We can do better than this. We just need a few people with a genuine passion for a better world for all to unite to push for new goals. In the 21st century we have the knowledge, skills and ability to achieve it. What are we waiting for?

 

I recently received an invitation to speak at a lunch to be held in one of our neighbouring country towns. The event is part of a month-long celebration of ageing in the town, a brilliant idea. I wonder if it has been done anywhere else before? People are so keen to disparage older people that celebrating us really shows the other side of the coin. I can’t wait to be involved in it and to see how successful it will be. They are hoping that this will become an annual event and will become bigger each year. I hope that other places, both towns and cities will follow their lead. How positive it will make both the older people and the rest of the town feel about ageing. Both groups will benefit.

The idea is the brainchild of a not-for-profit organisation which runs 10 sites for the care of older people, ranging from independent living, to residential care, to high level care. I can’t help thinking that whereas smaller centres don’t have the economy of scale available in cities they do have a high level of caring which is often missing in larger communities. I hope to learn as much as possible about it and then suggest to the Minster for Ageing in the city where I live that we should try something similar here.

We have 2 bad news stories which were also brought to my attention this week. One was about a lady whose mother is close to death and tried to get her into palliative care. She was told that there was a waiting list! In heaven or wherever else we go? How ridiculous and uncaring of the authorities who have allowed this situation to arise. At the same time I was told about the management of two aged care facilities who are being taken to court because they are behaving illegally towards the residents. One is a not-for-profit organisation, the other profit-making. It is sad that older people have to live in situations where this can happen and in order to correct the situation they are obliged to take the managers to court. Shouldn’t we be able to live in peace at this stage in our lives. Disobeying the law is not acceptable under any circumstances but when the wrongdoing is against older people to me it is even less acceptable. Have these people no consciences?

Can we ever live in a world where we can all celebrate ageing, not deprecate it? I hope that there are really happy outcomes to all of this.

It worries me that whenever I am invited to a forum which discusses the needs of older people many of the other attendees seem to be people who have their own personal axe to grind and don’t seem to be very involved with, or interested in, the rest of the older community. They also don’t appear to think things through for themselves- they just repeat what they have heard, or misheard.

It happened to me again the other day. A varied group of older people were invited to a meeting to discuss planning for this region for the next few years. I’m not sure how many of the people attending came to be invited, including the lady who couldn’t speak English! One problem was that we were only provided with 3 very short questions which we weren’t obliged to stick to. One man connected together two very separate events, which had already been planned and had nothing to do with each other, to use one to oppose the other! Another used the meeting to express his displeasure at being called by his first name whenever he had to deal with the Government agency which provides his pension! Nothing to do with planning but all about his ego. If he were actually involved with something worthwhile, i.e. if he had a purpose in life, he wouldn’t have time to worry about his status.

This led me to think about how one does draw together a group of older people to represent all older people. The government tries to do this by choosing a Ministerial Advisory Council but the selection process for this seems to be faulty. I applied at one stage but a young woman in her 40’s was selected instead which to me which I felt was insulting. Her only knowledge of ageing was based on what she had read; she herself had no personal experience of ageing. One of my friends, who has done an enormous amount of work for older people in retirement villages, of which she is one, was selected one year and said that few of those elected turned up; in other words it is used as an ego trip.

I still don’t know the answer to this selection question. An obvious route to take would be to approach the two major groups which purport to represent us but my criticism of them is that from what I can gather they largely employ younger staff (they won’t actually provide the statistics which in itself is suspicious). To me this does not indicate a real commitment to older people. One of these organisations even used to pay younger researchers to write their policies (and may still do)! How insulting and how inaccurate. The only group which seems to really represent older people is the U3A. This is an organisation which is run entirely by older people for older people and is highly successful in this. If the branch I belong to is anything to go by it is growing rapidly, indicating its success. Its members would have the ability to represent us but unfortunately this is not their brief.

In the meantime I hope that other groups, including those that had representatives at the meeting I was invited to, would work out what their intention for older people is and make sure that those chosen as their representatives are really up to the job. We older people are a very valuable part of society and we need to be represented as such. To claim that we have had input based on this ragtag collection of older people is misleading.

I have been following a course on anthropology looking at the ways in which the management of countries evolves, from tribal groups, through chieftains to democracies which most seem to trend towards. This all happens slowly in western societies, most of which have reached what we refer to as democracies. We tend to lose sight of where we came from, and where we could go to achieve a fairer democracy which would result in greater equity for all citizens.
Early groups depended more on reciprocity in which gifts, of time or goods, were exchanged. Once money took over as an intermediate bargaining tool the personal aspect of reciprocracy was lost. The early system seems to have led to a fairer share of wealth to all. Currently statistics seem to show that the gap between rich and poor keeps rising in democratic countries. The trouble is that those who are suffering most under this system are hidden from view so we tend to be less aware of them.
From my own personally biased view it seems wrong that any society could allow some of its older people to be homeless. Ageing, and the physical deterioration which accompanies it, is not easy to live with when you are surrounded by all the mod cons but it must be even more difficult when you have no roof over your head. I’m sure those working with other disadvantaged groups would make the same arguments.
This raises the question of what we mean by an advanced society. It tends to be measured by gross domestic product, in other words the value of total production in any country. This puts countries such as India and China right at the top of the list, simply because they have large populations producing goods, even though this wealth has to be shared among huge populations, resulting in enormous levels of poverty.
This takes me back to the original question about democracies. Are the current versions of them the best way to run countries? Could we produce a better model and are we looking for one? Because this aspect of our progress towards successful societies, in terms of wealth fairness, tends to move slowly, or even not at all, are we just accepting that this is what it is and should be?
If current efforts to move on to other planets is successful have we thought about the type of societies we would want to set up there? Will we replicate one version of the democracy we currently have on earth and if so which one- the American, the British etc.?
If we start thinking along these lines maybe we will come up with a better one to use on earth, one in which there will be more equity and people will be discouraged from amassing large quantities of wealth for themselves and taking it, albeit indirectly through use of money as a tool, from those who are disadvantaged. The early groups of people had much more openness about who had what.
One primitive tribe used yams as a measure of wealth. The chief had a house outside his own, with the size dependent on the number of yams he had, to house them (they were later distributed to the rest of the tribe). I couldn’t help comparing this with our own wealthy people who display their wealth through large, well equipped houses, for their own use, and numerous expensive cars, again for their own use. In many ways we have come a long way backwards!

I grew up in England when ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland were very much in the news, particularly when they often spread to England through the killings. The war as I understood it was between the Anglican Irish and the Catholic Irish who were intent on wiping each other out. This didn’t make sense to me as it involved two branches of the Christian church, all affirmed followers of the God of love, each trying to kill off the other group. The cost was horrific, both in financial terms and in terms of human lives either wrecked or lost yet it continued for decades. Imagine growing up in a world in which each day you didn’t know whether you or a family member would be killed.
About this time the leaders of the two branches were starting to communicate with each other- it was regarded as a breakthrough in the Christian church. What I could never understand was why they didn’t make a joint visit to Northern Ireland to bring peace. After all, if the two leaders could do this what was the point of the two sets of followers killing each other, if there was any point in the first place?
I am reminded of this as Islamic terrorism tries to spread across the world. Some Muslim leaders say that violence is not part of the Islamic faith but they say it very quietly. Instead of the current waste of ammunition and lives wouldn’t it be possible for Muslim leaders in every country where ISIS is a problem, and this seems to be most at present, to organise their own demonstration marches condemning what is happening and saying that it is not part of their beliefs and isn’t being done on the prophet’s behalf.
We are now questioning how we elect our civil leaders given the mess each party seems to land us in, particularly financially. Shouldn’t we also be questioning how we elect our religious leaders, particularly where violence by their followers is involved . Why can’t they stand up for what they believe in and be real leaders of their followers, whatever their faith. We all share this same planet and we should all be working to make it the best place possible. Murder has no part in that.

You would have to have a very short memory to think that change isn’t occurring all the time. It mainly happens incrementally and we are not aware of it until we look back at the way things were even a few years ago. Mainly change happens in small increments and we may not even be aware of it. If we do realise it is occurring unless it is regarded as obviously harmful to society we just let it happen.
Every now and then these small changes are not enough and we realise that major changes are needed and we need to deliberately start them.
Health seems to be one area where such changes are necessary, not just in individual situations which seem to carry their own momentum for change, but in the way we view our overall attitude towards its provision. At one time I used to get very angry because health care was disease based- tell the doctor your symptoms and he would give you a prescription to cure them. Then it was realised that the path the disease took was reliant on the patient who had it and we gradually changed to our present patient centred treatment.
Our medical world has become much more complicated as we are able to recognise, and treat, so many more illnesses and problems. So complicated that we can’t sit back and let normal evolution in treatment provision take its course. A few years ago a massive earthquake in Christchurch in New Zealand led their health care staff to realise that they were faced with a massive problem and this led to a review of their whole system. What emerged from it was the evolutionary move to patient based care in which the patient and their problems became the centre of the path to recovery. A cost analysis indicated that this would actually provide a cheaper and more successful plan for a better health system than the previous one which was proving to be ever more costly. Basically it provided a better system at a better price. This led other health systems to look at applying this new philosophy to their systems and ultimately to make the change to it themselves.
You would think that other areas that had unsatisfactory and expensive systems would be eager to look at it with a view to applying it to their own situations. Unfortunately this is where human factors come in to it. By the time people get to the top in their areas of work, particularly if it is a public service area where there is no competition in provision, they are many decades away from their early training and are comfortable with what they are doing and don’t want to change. If we add to this national leadership which can’t recognise the benefits of particular major changes, and wield a big stick to bring them about, change is almost impossible.
I believe that this is currently where many health jurisdictions are, such as in the ACT, and change is really hard to accomplish. I hope I am wrong. Otherwise people are suffering unnecessarily and costs are rising when they don’t need to.

As a protest marcher from way back (being older I rarely participate these days!) I couldn’t help looking at the recent climate change marches objectively. The good thing about such events is at least it wakens others to the realisation that there is a problem that they should think about. I’m sure that most of the world is currently aware of the problems the residents of Hong Kong are undergoing. If China was more conscious of, and cared about, world public opinion it would be more effective than it apparently is at present. Thanks to modern communication no country can entirely silence its people these days. The effectiveness of protests internally depends on whether a country cares about how the rest of the world sees it.
Back to the climate change marches. The problem with this topic is that it is a very complex one with many other issues tied in with it. If we care about the climate shouldn’t we also care about the way we treat the planet we live on, not just the atmosphere around it? It really worries me that we are using the limited resources the world has without even a second thought. When I grew up after the second world war everything was scarce so we had to recycle everything we could. This involved repairing, not just discarding.
I was reminded of this recently when a male relative asked me if I would darn his socks. Even I was a bit rusty with this process! It led me to contemplate how little we recycle anything but fundamentals these days. We just accept, for example, that electrical goods aren’t built to past standards and have a limited life after which they are discarded. Yet so many of the limited resources used in them are ever really considered. We add to the problem by wanting the newest of every gadget and just discarding the old one.
As I watched the climate change marchers I wondered if preserving the world’s finite resources was ever a consideration to them.
All this occurred about the time my electricity account arrived. The solar panels on my roof insured that I had a credit even though it applied to the coldest part of the year.
People who march do a good job but it would be even better if they thought through the whole issue. Climate change is only part of the threat to the planet we live on.

At one stage I think many of us looked forward to every nation in the world having democratic rule rather than the dictatorships which seem to be prevalent in many places. Recent events suggest that even in countries where there is what we call democratic rule there are still many problems including the ‘fair go for all’, which many of us equate with democracy, not being applied.
In Australia we have just had the first Abbott (liberal and national parties) budget. So many promises made before the election have been blatantly broken, such as ‘this will not be a government of surprises’ yet so many changes have been made which were not expected. India has a new government. Someone was surprised they had been elected considering their published platform but the comment was made there that what was promised before the election wouldn’t necessarily happen. Thailand is supposed to be a democracy but elected governments appear to be toppled regularly.
Are we getting the leaders we want? There seems to be two problems with the current way we elect our so-called democratic governments. The main one is the type of people who stand for election. If we don’t have good candidates then we won’t get good government. The current criteria for election is to want to be a member of a parliament (or whatever the ruling body is called) and to have enough support to be able to get the requisite number of votes. In Australia this largely means joining a major political party. Few people would have opinions and desires which exactly fitted a party so compromise comes in from the start. What about ideas no party has, mainly because no one at the political level has thought of them? These never get an airing even though researchers believe that they would create a better and more prosperous country for all.
Another factor may be that particular types of people are drawn to this role and these are not necessarily the best leaders. Their psychological health is questionable. They are drawn to the job by their sole need to have power over people and self prestige.
The second factor is the knowledge people bring, or don’t bring, to the role. Very few, if any, people who want this role bring anything but out-dated knowledge with them. Most of them haven’t been to University for decades and have to rely on personal learning, if any. This means that modern ideas and theories about so many issues by-pass our politicians. None of them believe in formal life-long learning despite the fact that all are conscious that the world is moving forward at rate never seen before. This is why there is still debate about climate change, including among our politicians.
With the current Abbott government they apparently still believe that progress should only be in the hands of the favoured few and that the rest of the population doesn’t really matter and we can kick them ever further downwards. History tells us this doesn’t actually work. The plagues and the fires in London hit every one, not just the poor.
We are on this world together and we should be working together for everyone, not just the favoured few. It is people with ideas such as this who should be running for, and being elected to, our governing bodies. Then I believe we would have genuine democracy with everyone being given the opportunity to contribute to their country and the world.