Sunday, 24 July 2016

Adjusting to the new reality that's quite like the old one, or maybe not

Classified as: reflections, updates, politics

So the election has not brought any apparent policy change in regard to equity, environmental sustainability and health. There also appear to be some worrying trends such as the election of Pauline Hanson and possibly some other One Nation representatives in the Senate. This is likely to mean continuing verbal attacks against Muslims, and probably against Ms Hanson's previous targets of Asians and Indigenous people. What this will lead to I'm not sure. Previously in Victoria, it seems One Nation was largely defeated by strong positive leadership on multiculturalism and non-violent civil action. I hope this can be repeated but it also needs to extend to other parts of Australia, and we need to understand what the appeal of One Nation is.

Similarly I would say we need to understand what is the appeal of boat turn backs and detention camps for asylum seekers, which are policies of both major parties, so they are not just appealing to fringe groups. I think advocates are doing a really good job of drawing attention to the inhumane nature of detention camps, and that is probably achieving some change of attitude. (Will try to reference this at a later time when I am not working on my mobile). However I think we also need a stronger discussion on why people support those policies and what the alternatives are - I'm sure that's happening but I'm not seeing much of it in the public arena, so it needs to be brought out somehow. I guess it's always an issue of defining the problem AND presenting solutions, for effective policy and political change.

The broader political front is also pretty depressing, not just because of constant news of violence such as the latest shooting in Munich, but because of political decisions like Brexit and the nomination of Trump as Republican presidential candidate in the USA. It seems clear that those movements reflect people's concern over inequality to some degree, but they also reflect fear of immigrants and the 'other'. Thinking about what is happening with inequality world wide (where approximately 64 people, the majority of them white men, hold half the world's wealth in monetary terms), the fear of immigrants and the turning to someone like Trump as a saviour is deeply, deeply midplaced if it is a reaction to inequality. However there must be some social meaning to this and I think it is important to understand it.

In the USA it seems pretty clear that Trump's appeal is related to old style white patriarchy - the feeling that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are illegitimate upstarts. That was pretty clear in Trump's convention speech, where he and his supporters were saying Hillary Clinton should be jailed, without any resort to due process (indeed one of them claimed she should be shot). Of course, this is also 'Strongman Dictatorship' of a classic type, that's not only directed against women or people of colour, but I think a key reason he can say these things without provoking more outrage is that many people do see women (in this case) as not being legitimate players and therefore not entitled to the protection of the normal rules of the game. The same was true when Julia Gillard was Prime Minister here, when very nasty verbal attacks, of the kind that are not usually made in Australian political life, were made against her (including sexualised attacks, remarks that she should be drowned or culled like an unwanted animal, and attacks on the occasion of her father's death).

In the UK however the reaction seems a bit different - with the election of Theresa May, it seems more as if people have turned to a woman to clean up the mess that men (largely - eg David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage) have created. That's certainly not an unheard of thing in politics though!

Both of these phenomena fit with my 'grand theory' about competitive, hierarchical patriarchy - that it has a dominant ideology of competition, inequality and reliance on violence, but that the underlying assumption of this is that someone is around to do the caring, the cleaning up, to keep things going no matter how violent and chaotic the world becomes. It is this assumption that climate change in particular calls into question.

Big leap there that I'll discuss later. This will be updated. Also my earlier post on Malcolm Turnbull and climate change will have to be updated because the speeches I analysed all seem to have disappeared from his website. To be continued ... 

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