Archives for posts with tag: democratic rule

Given the rise and rise of Donald Trump in the US I can only assume that Australia is not the only country to have a mixed approach to desirable standards for its citizens to achieve. If all else is equal then money (addiction) apparently surpasses everything else. We have come full circle since the Christian religion (amongst others) was the dominant force and there was a somewhat half-hearted attempt to spread wealth and assets more evenly so that all could benefit. Now if you are rich (a money addict) you are dominant and your ideas prevail. Your personal education, long since overtaken by your need for more and more money, is no longer important. For the record, it is 48 years since Donald Trump did any formal learning and 36 years for Malcolm Turnbull, in economics for Trump and Law for Turnbull. In both fields there have been dramatic advances in learning to adapt to our changing technological world in the intervening years.

If we turn to the other end of the spectrum, the unemployed and the welfare recipients, we find that there is a different emphasis. Suddenly we acknowledge the need for them to be educated, with both Australia and New Zealand recently assuming that lack of this vital commodity is their problem.

If we turn to our schools we also acknowledge the world we live in and realise that technology, including science and mathematics knowledge, is the way we should be going, equipping our children for this recognised future.

If we really want to create a viable world in which we all share its benefits regardless of our starting point in life, the skills we were equipped with, and the lucky breaks we have had along the way, then we need to work out together what our goals should be as we share this planet. Obviously we can’t all aspire to be like the people we choose as our leaders and potential leaders, collecting as much money as we can off other people. This is a limited goal for very few people and also not a very intelligent one.

So what is the solution? It is many years now since the term ‘lifelong education’ was introduced into our vocabulary but it has few adherents, surprising since the lack of it has so many consequences, particularly given the speed with which modern knowledge is expanding.

It is even longer since early man settled in ever larger groups and as the groups grew so did the pace of new ideas. Not only are we forming ever larger groups today but communication between different groups can be instantaneous, thus rapidly expanding our knowledge base. Knowledge, and its availability, are growing at an unprecedented rate.

Surely we should be capable of recognising the type of leaders appropriate for this new world and abandoning the old stereotype of those only capable of amassing personal wealth, taken off others, dismissing the need for personal knowledge accumulation. This is not a valid path for the world of the 21st century.

Earlier this week Playschool, an Australian children’s TV programme, celebrated 50 years of providing entertainment and learning to Australia’s youngest people. The programme has been, and hopefully always will be, under the guidance of experts in early education. A brilliant idea that children should have the best right from the beginning. If you mention the word ‘Playschool’ to millions of Australians the opening tune pops up in their heads. Not only did the program teach that it’s OK to be different but included such differences through the presenters themselves and the participating children. Music, dancing and singing, which I believe are essential to all human beings, were, and are, a major part of each episode. To those Australians trying to deny their connections to this programme I only have to mention Big Ted and Jemima to bring back memories.

On the actual birthday ABC TV aired their Q and A programme featuring the leader of a political party based on highlighting political and religious differences, and fostering a lack of understanding between them, a group which has recently re-entered our parliament. France has just suffered yet another mass murder based once again on religious differences. And in the US a money addict has been anointed head of one of their major parties and will stand for President later in the year. Not a happy and prosperous world.

If only all these people had started their early lives, and education, by learning that people are different and that these differences should be respected. We all have the right to live together working towards a common good. We all have the right to be different and pull together, through understanding each other, to create a prosperous and safe world for us all. These were the messages that Playschool taught millions of young Australians through love and understanding. I wonder if that is why we live in such a relatively peaceful country today? Thanks Playschool for what you have done for us individually, for our families and for what you contributed to Australia for over 50 years.

 

 

 

 

 

This week, in a country to Australia’s north, students set off, unarmed they claim, to march to their Prime Minister’s office to protest against his alleged rorts, believing he is setting aside, inappropriately, money for his own personal use. The result was police firing on the students, with at least one in hospital and others too frightened to seek treatment. There are no reports of any police being hurt, certainly not shot. The political reaction has been just as bad with parliament suspended for many weeks, presumably so that no awkward questions can be asked, not only about what happened with the students but also about their allegations. Is this democracy and if not, why not?

The situation in the USA is equally inexplicable. How can a man whose only claim to achievement seems to be the ability to collect money off other people have the distinct possibility of becoming the next President? It seems that in the USA the present incumbent of the position is the only non-rich person who has made it to that office. The other current alternative candidate herself fits the rich bill.

In Australia the incumbent prime Minister has the same qualification, that of being able to collect money off others and thus become rich. He had a lot of ability when younger but hasn’t found it necessary to formally upgrade his knowledge base for nearly 40 years, in spite of the massive increase in knowledge in the world.

New technology, and other new knowledge, is rapidly changing our world but our leaders seem to feel it unnecessary to keep themselves up to date and we as electors seem to feel that the only criteria for leadership is the ability to collect money from others. If we look at the messy world around us it seems to be true that people get what they deserve when they vote yet there are so many others striving to create a better world in an infinite number of fields.

There is at least one movement in Australia trying to choose our representatives in a way that more accurately reflects what ordinary voters, and hence the majority of people want. I suspect that means a fair go for all and settling disputes through conversation, not useless violence followed by conversation. After all, it is ordinary people who suffer the violence and aftermath of it. The current refugees are testament to this.

Meanwhile the pot of gold at the end of this story continues to be overlooked. The enormous wealth of knowledge, information, experience and ideas locked up in older people continues to be dismissed as a burden, with older people regarded as second class, dependent citizens. I only hope that those who come after the present generation of leaders will have learned more from their education and recognise the knowledge, expertise and value, not burden, of older people. Then we can have the sort of world ordinary citizens, including older people, really want.

 

The last couple of decades in particular have seen us make huge advances in communication and other areas of technology which seem to have affected the lives of many people in the world. The ones who have missed out are those who seem to miss out on everything- food, clothing, shelter and medical expertise. And we don’t seem to care.

Does humanity have to be like this? Is there one country in the world which is going against the trend and reducing the gap between the top rich 1% and the bottom poor 1%? If there is such a country I would guess that its leaders are not rich, as are currently the leaders, and potential leaders, in the most influential countries in the world.

Citizens in the USA seem to be heading in the direction of having to choose between two rich citizens for their next leader even though I am sure that there are many, many, people who would make better leaders because they have more knowledge and ability and are not tainted by being money addicts.

So many countries in the world have this problem of admiring the rich, presumably because they wish they were in that position themselves. In Australia the media is listing the top people on our rich list presumably lauding them for having this particular trait, which in the field of medicine would be labelled an addiction. In the past so many rich people have used their wealth to honour their names and families by putting their money into charitable trusts or noteworthy buildings, both of which honoured their memories for generations to come. Today’s rich seem more intent on spending as much of their wealth on themselves and leaving their offspring in the same situation rather than leaving a lasting memory. Is this because the Christian church, which encouraged the former behaviour, is no longer as influential as it was?

Is there no one today with the power and influence to encourage a fairer sharing of resources? Could I be right in feeling that if we did have fewer rich people and fewer poor people the world would be a much better place? We can’t just assume that those at the bottom leg of the ladder are brainless and untalented. Many of those who have reached the top today have done so because they got a leg up and opportunities from their rich families, rarely just from their own abilities.

Could we measure the degree of success of today’s world by the extent to which the basic necessities are available to all, and all have access to a good education and the opportunity to make use of it to the best of their ability? If we could make such a measurement I suspect today’s world  would end up with a big ‘FAIL’.

This isn’t good enough. In the past the plague affected everyone, rich and poor, and today’s superbugs are threatening to do the same. We need to pull together to make this world a happier successful place which we all share. Technology and other modern advances can’t do this on their own- it needs a caring human race to facilitate it.

Australia is currently preparing for a general election at the beginning of July. This time it is for the whole of both houses because the prime minister told upper house members that if they didn’t vote for two pieces of his legislation he would cause a spill of all their positions. Bills should be passed on their merits, not because members are being bullied to pass them or risk losing their jobs. This undemocratic behaviour was accepted without a word of dissent by parliamentarians and members of the public. Is bullying so entrenched in our society that we don’t even recognise it?

A couple of years ago one lady saw her former husband murder their son very publically- he then killed himself so he avoided retribution. She had suffered years of bullying from him before this event and had a police order against him approaching her. Unfortunately the death of her son took place at a public event ( cricket practice) so the order would have been difficult to apply.

As a result of her ordeal she set up a campaign to raise awareness of physical bullying which has now resulted in a series of television ads showing scenes of physical bullying. I think that this is a wonderful outcome of the mother’s suffering and will result in their being less of this type of violence. It also shows how one ordinary citizen can make a difference to other people’s lives.

My concern is that there are two types of bullying- physical and mental and unfortunately the latter is harder to recognise and prevent, hence the ease with which the prime minister got away with it, even though it violated our democracy.

One of the huge problems with the present situation is that to my knowledge there is no research into what makes a bully, which it is why it is hard to recognise and deal with. As a teacher I was aware of it, particularly amongst the staff. It was mental bullying, in which these people were determined to establish their superiority, which is what motivates bullying of either type. It was so successful that one teacher rose to be head of one of the largest public schools. He certainly didn’t have the normal leadership qualities.

We need to recognise this cancer within our society, and through recognition, eliminate it. It isn’t good for society and is a detriment to genuine progress. It is going to be interesting to see the outcomes of the election – whether the prime minister’s bullying paid off or not  and whether it eliminated what he felt was an obstructionist upper house, or strengthened it, and whether he himself is re-elected.

To finish off my story about the two bullies I worked with. Both of them were called in to their sons’ primary schools over bullying issues- one son was also being a bully, the other was being bullied (apparently his behaviour attracted the school’s bullies). Is this where bullying is learned, at home?

 

For some time now I have been concerned at the way democracy seems to be rapidly disappearing from the political scene in Australia and in the USA. In the case of the latter country, I find it unbelievable that someone with a limited amount of adherence to acceptable standards could be seriously considered to be the next President, particularly given the powerful role the US has in the world. I understand that even if he is endorsed by the time of the election, his party may overrule this which is not only a relief but does question the democracy behind the procedure.

Meanwhile in Australia there is constant speculation about when the election will be held and whether it will only involve the lower house of parliament, or if both houses will be involved as punishment to the upper house for not passing all the government’s legislation. I find it hard to align either of these with a genuinely democratic government. In the latter case some members of minority party’s are likely to lose their jobs. There is the presumed message, either you pass our bills or you may lose your job. This is not democracy, it is bullying. As for the timing of the election, one gets the impression that the date will be decided by the current government to enhance their maximum re-election chances. None of this has anything to do with democracy or the best interests of Australia. This presents a good case for fixed elections which are beyond any tinkering by the government in power.

These are only two of the world’s countries but I wonder if other jurisdictions are going down the same path or if genuine democracy is being upheld in other places? Is it a world trend or just two wayward countries which are exceptions?

As people gathered into towns and cities for work, mainly originally manufacturing, the bigger numbers living in close proximity to each other found the need to form some sort of protection in the form of government for these people. As numbers grew, even bigger areas felt that they had a lot in common and needed protection and other rules and regulations were enacted to protect all of these citizens. Natural boundaries, such as coastlines and rivers, were used to define these areas, where available. Otherwise manmade boundaries were created, not always successfully.

Eventually these countries found it beneficial to work together and the league of nations was formed, later the United Nations. Not all countries recognise the benefits of working together: North Korea is a current example of this.

As for those countries which do see the value of cooperation and have democratic governments, I wonder if all are going through a continuously evolving process or if some have already plateaued. As the world continuously grows and becomes more knowledgeable, does democracy have to keep changing to match this and can we ever guarantee that this evolution will always be positive? The current situation in the USA and Australia suggests not.

The other day I listened to an interview with a scholar who has recognised the importance of this attribute in the world and at all levels of society. It was not something which had been brought to my attention before but the more I thought about it the more I realised that this may be the missing link in modern societies. The more we crowd together in cities the more it seems to become a survival of the fittest. We come to know fewer people around us and the rest are regarded as strangers about whom  we know little, if anything.

During the interview mention was made of an exhibition in Melbourne, Australia, on the topic. The exhibition was apparently made up of people who are more disadvantaged than the rest of us and who had recorded their stories and left a pair of their shoes. Visitors to the exhibition were asked to stand in a pair of these shoes and listen to the person’s story. This physical contact was very important and those who visited it came away saying that it had been a very emotional experience and had changed them. They had experienced life through the eyes (and feet) of somewhat more disadvantaged than themselves. It was based on the old suggestion that we walk a mile in the shoes of someone less privileged than ourselves to better understand them.

It is many decades since the last world scale war and the cessation of these could be a measure of our progress towards a more peaceful planet, but there are so many wars going on at any one time, creating millions of refugees and injured people, as well as those who lose their lives, are we really making progress? Does the problem lie with the sort of people we choose as , or who are able to become, our leaders, whether we have a western style democracy or a dictatorship? We don’t realise, or we fail to admit, the extent to which empathy should be part of any such selection process.

During the interview I was listening to, the comment was made that rich people tend to have a lower level of empathy than the rest of us, which fits in with the definition of them as money addicts. Certainly in Australia we would have a very different type of person in our Parliaments if the degree of empathy of potential candidates was able to be measured and was taken into account in the selection criteria. This would also seem to apply in the USA in the current Presidential election process.

Is the study of empathy, and ways of measuring it, our key to a more successful and prosperous (for all) planet? What a breakthrough that would be. No more competition to build the biggest and most effective weapons with their power to kill and maim the greatest number of people as a measure of a country’s success.

I hope that the exhibition mentioned above will be able to move to many more places and many more countries so that it can be experienced across the world and take on the importance it seems to deserve. Maybe the missing link in our search for a better world is the lack of recognition of the importance of empathy as a human trait.

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?