Archives for posts with tag: politics

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?

 

The history of mankind is that we started out as hunter gatherers, then moved on to a more stable life as agriculturists. Industry was the main contributor to us creating towns and then cities. One of the common elements of each type of lifestyle is that we passed on knowledge to each other. The extent to which this happened depended on the size of the group we were part of, with education taking on a more formal approach as our numbers grew and we learned to communicate through writing as well as speech.

Today’s huge cities and the new ways of communicating not only makes knowledge more accessible but it is leading to an astronomical growth in the amount of that knowledge. As our groups increased in size only the elite had access to it and were educated, but gradually we are realising that we can all benefit from universal access. To enable this societies have set up schools, firstly primary, then secondary with universities as the third stage. The extent to which it is available to the whole community is a gradual evolution, with most country’s realising that the more educated the population is, the more prosperous the country is likely to be.

I feel that many countries now accept this and are enabling all education to be available to the whole population as they want it. This raises the question of ‘where to from here’? I suspect that we will come to a realisation that as we progress through the knowledge chain much of our early learning becomes out-dated. Does the information we learned at high school or university 20, 30 or more years ago still apply today and is it still relevant? What has happened to our brains in the meantime? Are they still operating at the high standard we forced them to reach when we reached the end of our formal education?

I often consider this when I hear our leaders, particularly our politicians, expressing their views on topics. Many of them seem to be relying on what they learned during the final years of education and their brains have had a nice sleep since! Not only do they appear out of date and foolish but as some of them are senior policy makers this can be quite dangerous. The statement made this week that the new rules to make it harder for ordinary citizens in Australia to stand for Parliament unless they are aligned to one of the major parties give us a more democratic society is nonsense. I believe that restricting candidates to 1 of 3 major parties is in itself undemocratic. It disallows other views, which can never be an intelligent move.

I suspect that the next move in society’s attitude to acquiring knowledge and learning will lead us to recognise the importance of, and necessity for, lifelong learning. No longer would a high school certificate or university degree be accepted as the end of an individual’s learning. Knowledge is expanding too rapidly, and becoming out-of-date to soon for that. We will need to insert a next step later in life. How we will do it, and who will pay for it, is a problem we aren’t even aware of yet.

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?

 

Just a reminder to those of you over 65 that I am asking people in this age group to let me know their views on the positives and negatives of ageing so I can have a selection of voices in my book on ageing on this topic, rather than just my experiences! They are starting to trickle in but the more I get the better the chapter will be and people who are not in our age group will understand us better. Please send your ideas to YourStory@over65.net so that they will reach me. It will be anonymous so feel free to be candid about both positives and negatives.
Apparently this week new laws have been enacted in Australia to counteract another aspect of sexism. They are very much needed, we only have to look at the figures on the number of women on company boards to realise that women are still regarded as second class citizens. I mention it here because the chances are that whenever anti-sexist laws are strengthened similar laws protecting coloured people (racism) should be looked as well and of course ageist behaviour. All three ‘isms’ have a lot in common and when we strengthen one we should automatically look to see if the problem being addressed applies to the other two. Otherwise changes take forever to filter through. The anti-sexist behaviour battle has been fought for well over 100 years and is still not entirely won. I’d hate to think both anti-racism and anti-ageism wars were still being fought decades ahead. I’d like to think that older people in the not too distant future will be treated the same as other citizens and our knowledge, talents and wisdom recognised so that we can lead an enjoyable life as equals in the community.
I’m always amused when dealing with younger strangers who see my wrinkles and decide how they are going to treat me. Some of them ignore the wrinkles and treat me as a normal person while others decide that since I am old I must be incompetent and treat me accordingly! I have an inner giggle as the chances are that I am far more qualified than them, poor things! I think that that is probably reverse ageism! Why not.
Audrey

I am getting increasingly annoyed by the fact that so often younger people speak on our behalf thinking that they know all about ageing, usually based on what they have read, without realising that whatever they did read was probably written by another younger person.
The other day I joined an on-line discussion group with three people pretending to represent us. Admittedly one was an older person but she obviously lived in academia and had little contact with us genuine older people who lead older people’s lives. The whole discussion was so last century.
Someone suggested very properly that the word ‘retired’ is not appropriate, an idea for change that was first introduced decades ago, although no one has come up with an acceptable alternative. One of the bright young participants in the discussion suggested ‘retirement’ be changed to ‘re-treaded’. How insulting yet he was so out of touch with older people he had no idea that he was insulting us. The convener of the discussion, another younger person, added to the insult by suggesting it was a good idea!
Unless we older people speak out and make our voices heard the insults which are already applied to us will increase. A few years ago I joined a University of the Third Age (U3A) class and we were asked to make a list of words the rest of society used about us. The list included words such as Silly old fools, Forgetful, Childish, Antisocial, Feeble, Repetitive, Losing it and Grumpy. This is only a small part of the list. It parallels the unflattering descriptions given to women and coloured people in the past and to some extent today, although usually more subtly.
If we want to be respected and have a recognised place in society we are going to have to speak up and put our side of the story, that far from being the type of people listed above we are actually useful and play a valuable role in society. During our working lives we made a very valuable contribution to our communities in a variety of ways and can do so today if given an appropriate opportunity. If we don’t speak out labels such as re-treads will be added to the list above.
It’s going to be even more difficult to be respected and have a definite role in society if we don’t speak up. Instead of being classed as ‘retirees’ we could be labelled ‘re-treads’. No thanks.
Audrey