Monday, August 21, 2017

Monday Forum - is modern political discourse just sound and fury signifying nothing?

So many things have been happening! I have had to tear up (can one use that word today in a more paperless word? Perhaps metaphorically) a number of posts because of event swamping. For that reason, today is both a meander and a Monday Forum post. I'm sorry if it's also a little sad. I'm sorry, too, if it's a little confused. But I am weary, bone weary.

In today's post I’m really a conservative…, a title that surprised me, Neil Whitfield suggested that he was a real conservative as compared to some of those masquerading as conservative today. I wouldn't have called Neil a conservative, but perhaps he is. If so, he is a social liberal if also something (as he notes) of a follower of Edmund Burke. I note that while Burke is often claimed to be the founder of modern conservatism, he was also a radical in terms of his time. But Neil is indeed a conservative in the sense that he believes in discussion, is suspicious of ideology and wishes to conserve the good in society, the structure, while preventing tyranny and making improvements that will preserve liberties and freedom of choice.

Over on My Observations, AC has expressed deep reservations about the attempts by the current Polish Law and Justice Government to rewrite Poland in its desired conservative and law and order image, AC is not a revolutionary. Based  on her writing, I think that she is a liberal conservative who wishes to conserve the gains made following the end of communism, the creation of a free society. She objects to a Law and Justice agenda that while masquerading as conservative is deeply nationalist and reactionary and wants to turn Poland back to an age that never really existed. More precisely, it wants to recreate Poland in a way that mirrors its own social dictates. So did Adolf Hitler in Germany.

Here in Australia, we have caught between the ideologues of left and right. The left masquerades as progressive, the right masquerades as conservative, their operatives work for political gain using and misusing issues, tarnishing by assertion and association. Both are manipulated by those whose ultimate objective is political power. Commentary masquerades as reporting to the point people turn off. There is little scope for objective reporting, less for discussion of the issues.

This creates a feeling of despair in someone like me who feels obliged to read the feeds but actually wants to learn.

It is hard to avoid getting sucked in to this malaise. I have watched people whose support for particular issues or cause has progressively twisted their feeds over time into broader partisan positions to the point that they automatically tweet or retweet only those things that might discredit opponents or support an issue or position. I have seen a friend who I greatly like and respect tweet or retweet attacks on particular issues or initiatives that I know he would have agreed with because they are sponsored by someone my friend disagrees with.

Within this bubble effect, self-sustaining worlds are created that bear little resemblance to reality. Here I see little difference between Mr Trump and some of the left status quo, little difference between the Secular Party of Australia, Get-up, Australia's Christian Lobby, One Nation's view on Muslims and some of the environmental lobby. They all deal with absolutes that are (in their minds) absolutely right.

There is little space left in all this for actual discussion of issues, for modification of positions, for compromises or at least a clear delineation of the differences between the sides. I am not saying that one should not be passionate about positions. Change does not happen without the combination of passion and persistence. I am saying that change is easier if you are aware of other positions and are prepared to engage and to counter.

So much of what passes for current discourse is sound and fury signifying nothing. It may in the end tear things down, but it leaves nothing in its place beyond a base for more sounds and fury. I will follow up this post with some examples to show what I mean, to sketch alternative approaches.


Anonymous said...

"But I am weary, bone weary."

I read somewhere the other day (something in connection to Annabel Crab's latest series) that even with the present imbroglios, the present parliament has passed about 85% of presented legislation. That can't be all bad - surely?

Meanwhile I remain fixed upon recording the first green leaf's emergence on my 40 ft high plane tree. And the weather has been superb, but no doubt will lead to worries of bushfires in a month or so, with no rain forecast.

Neil classing himself as a 'conservative' is no surprise to me. There are different colours and flavours of conservative, and he always struck me as well within the hue :)

If anyone today finds themselves "bone weary" about life, then my gentle suggestion is that he/she actually get one - and one preferably far removed from the moment to moment gasps and horrors which are the fodder for the various electronic offerings which pass for "reality" to those obsessed with same.

Me, I'm really still perplexed as to just how Neil is able to consume his burgers without a knife and fork :)


Jim Belshaw said...

On the 85% passage, kvd, the basic governing system still works. Have you been watching, by the way, Annabel Crabb's The House or Utopia? Both are very good.

I'm sure that you are right on exposure to the electronic "offerings". I can, after all, turn them off and contemplate a tree! My defence would be that as an analyst I need to observe patterns and processes.`The apparent growing rigidity and polarisation suggested by and arguably reinforced by the new platforms does concern me.