Monday, 22 July 2013

Fell off the bike

Classified as: reflective journal - updates, discourse

So I fell off my bike last Tuesday in Swanson St and broke my ankle. The wheel got caught in the tram track and I tried to stop myself from falling by putting my left foot down, but unfortunately that didn't work. Many thanks to the kind police women and men who helped me and took me to hospital.
So frustrating because I know about tram tracks and was being careful, but obviously not careful enough. Very common bike accident, one of my colleagues at Monash had almost the same accident a few years ago.

I was supposed to be heading off to Kenya today and then on to Germany in a couple of weeks, but the Kenya part is not going to happen right now. Maybe next year. If I can get some photos of the wildebeeste migration maybe I'll put them up here.

In the meantime, I seem to be recovering well so it will give me a chance to get on with the research. I've finished transcribing all recent focus groups and interviews and started sending them out to people to check, so as soon as I can get into Monash I'll finish sending them out and start analysing them. I'll be on crutches for the next couple of weeks, which is slowing me down a bit, but I'm starting to get the hang of it, and thinking of heading out on my first solo expedition for a latte soon.

For something of interest, here's a link to an article The conversation we need to have about carbon by Lesley Head. Lesley argues that we can't just go on talking about carbon emissions in "gentle themes of continuing growth and wellbeing" but need to talk about "transformation, rationing and self-sacrifice".

I've commented on Lesley's article saying I agree about transformation, but in the public health sector we're seeing opportunities for improved wellbeing through more sustainable living. Rationing and self-sacrifice may be part of our transition to more sustainable living (as in the Victorian water restrictions) but in the longer term it's a positive journey we're on towards fairer and more sustainable living.

What do you think? I'd be interested to hear your ideas here or you might want to comment on Lesley's article at The Conversation.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

It looks like people are going to vote for a party they don't agree with

Classified as: reflective journal - updates, politics, theory

I'm still working my way through transcribing tapes of focus groups and interviews, and I don't want to comment on emerging themes till that's completed and everyone has had a chance to view their transcripts.

So I thought today it might be interesting to look at the broader context of Australian politics. The opinion polls are predicting a Liberal National Party (LNP) victory in the coming federal election. Yet interestingly other surveys suggest the values of most Australians are at odds with the values of the LNP. Both major parties in Australia have been affected by the neoliberal agenda in politics, shown for example in competition policy and the privatisation of government services. This has been accompanied by an increase in income inequality in Australia over the past two decades. The LNP supports the neoliberal agenda more strongly than Labor generally, and is therefore likely to reduce government services and increase privatisation if elected in September.

Yet surveys such as the What Australians Believe survey and the ACTU survey on inequality show that most people don't support this agenda. The majority don't believe in cutting government services or privatisating them. They would also like wealth to be more equally distributed, and they believe governments should work towards this.

It's puzzling then that many Australians are apparently intending to vote for a party whose values they don't support. Of course the internal problems of the Labor party have something to do with this. I have strong opinions about what has happened to Labor over the past few years, and tend to agree with Anne Summer's thesis that what has happened to Julia Gillard is like a form of workplace harassment, or bullying. I won't go into that now however - maybe another time. Whether it is fair or not, clearly people's attitudes towards the Labor government and Julia Gillard are likely to be influencing their predicted voting patterns.

Objectively, it would seem the party that might be closest to the values of Australians is the Greens, and yet the Greens are seen as "too extreme" by a majority of people, according to Essential Media surveys. So what does this all mean?

I'm starting to form a theory, which is influenced by what's happened in the first stage of this project. I suspect people can hold certain values, such as wanting more equality and fairness (equity), but at the same time see them as impractical in real life and politics. For example, the decision by the ISEPICH executive in the first stage to stop supporting this project doesn't necessarily mean that they no longer believed in the importance of equity and sustainability. Rather they wanted to focus on things that saw as more practical, such as engaging with the Medicare Local (as they mentioned in their letter to me). I don't expect to confirm or deny this in the project as no-one from the Executive has been prepared to discuss these issues in detail so far. However it seems convincing and also seems to fit with what's happening in the broader political sphere where people are looking to vote for a government whose values they don't necessarily support - maybe because they see it as more practical or competent.

So on the one hand maybe we have people's values and ideals - and on the other what they think actually happens in the real world - and there's a conflict between them. Which means that any social movement to improve equity or environmental sustainability may be seen as impractical at first?

Links for more info:
What Australians Believe
ACTU surveys on inequality
Essential media survey Greens policies (March 4th, 2013) (it's also worth looking at the March 11th survey on privatisation, same page)