People tuning out from bad news is a threat
15 March 2023
TUMBY BAY - A lot of my friends, most of whom are elderly, tell me they’ve given up watching, listening to or reading the news.
So too have some of my younger acquaintances, including my son and daughter in their early forties.
The general consensus is that it’s all too depressing.
I’m thinking of joining them after this morning’s sortie through my usual news and current affairs websites.
It appears that Australia is going to spend $368 billion (K870 billion) on nuclear submarines over the next 30 years.
To what purpose is still unclear but it appears to be less a defensive proposition than an offensive one – to follow the Americans in attacking China.
The leader of the opposition, Peter Dutton, is right behind the government. He has even suggested taking money out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to help pay for the boats.
Meanwhile the government is still adamant that it will not touch a legislated gift to our wealthiest taxpayers of $254 billion (K600 billion) over 10 years beginning next year.
On climate change we hear that the government’s Safeguard Mechanism Bill will allow Australia’s biggest polluters to buy carbon credits – always a shonky idea - to sidestep an actual reduction in their emissions.
And to boot, the government is refusing to block the development of new coal and gas projects, which will effectively negate any emission reductions that are achieved.
Oh, and the Biden administration is approving a $7 billion (K25 billion) oil and gas drilling project in the environmentally fragile north west of Alaska, an area which they swore and declared they’d never approve a little over a year ago.
So on it goes, one depressing report after another.
The abandonment of the news by me and my elderly friends is probably understandable.
At our stage in life, except for the terminally fatalist, avoiding getting depressed by things we have no hope of changing in the short time left to us is a sensible strategy.
However it’s a different matter for the younger generations, as represented by my son and daughter.
They are well educated and should be keen to be kept informed about what’s going on in the world - except they aren’t.
They are the people in the next decade or so who will be stepping into positions of power, both in business and in politics.
That they are less than interested doesn’t bode well for the future.
An uninterested populace opens up all sorts of opportunities, not only for carpetbaggers and conmen but also for fanatics and autocrats.
If the ennui continues, history tells us that these subversives will seize the opportunity to take over, just as they did between the last two world wars.
The demographers tell us that we are undergoing a fundamental shift in voter power.
The ageing baby boomer generation, which includes me, is giving way to a numerically larger cohort of younger voters - Generation X (born 1965-79), Millennials (1980-94) and Generation Z (1995-2012).
The electoral success of independents in the last federal election, the so-called Teals (after their favourite campaign colour), has been put down to this shift in demographics.
This may very well be a good thing but could also result in a political rabble going in all sorts of unpredictable directions. We already have among the independents a fair cohort of nutters.
If the demographic shift doesn’t play out well, Australia could see itself reduced to the kind of political shambles that exists in places like Papua New Guinea.
If the ancient progressives of my generation have no effective successors it doesn’t bode well for the future of the planet.
How you excite those potential successors when you have all but given up yourself is a very tricky conundrum.
The last 30 years or so have been dominated by the idea that the market is the infallible distributor of goods and services, with government's essentially reduced to the role of bystanders.
An entire generation of politicians has grown up with this idea firmly in their minds, especially amongst the conservatives.
In the world's western democracies, the result has been a spectacular binge of consumerism laced with heavy doses of hubris, sanctimony and indulgence.
The authoritarian regimes have followed suit as best they could and many have created a rapacious economic elite as well as lifting many people out of abject poverty.
To fund this post Cold War extravaganza of consumption, the world's financial system has succeeded in generating levels of debt never seen before in human history.
Now, in the immediate aftermath of the initial impact of the Covid pandemic many of the basic socio-economic flaws and fissures that arise with unbridled consumerism have begun to be revealed.
The deeply destructive environmental impact of a rampant consumption based economy is at last becoming manifest, yet the truth of years of scientific warnings is denied or honoured merely with words rather than action.
Simultaneously, some of the oldest, most deplorable and most dangerous of human ideas such as ultranationalism and its partner racism, as well as imperialism, have emerged once more.
All this is the context for the stream of bad news that assaults us on a daily basis.
The world is being assailed by climate phenomena of unparalleled ferocity including, most recently, the most powerful and long-lasting cyclone ever recorded.
In the last week 3 US banks that previously were thought to be safe organisations with which to deposit money have failed. Only rapid action by the US government has prevented the market imposing its own far more drastic solution to the problem.
Despite this, it is clear that other major banks are in some jeopardy, most notably the gigantic Credit Suisse Bank, which is regarded as systemically significant.
In other words, if it fails then it may drag down the whole elaborate financial house of cards with it.
Turning away from this because it is too dispiriting will, as Phil suggests, merely encourage people who have clear, simple and entirely wrong solutions to offer a wearied and fearful populace.
We have been down this road before in the 1930's and the results were ugly.
Let's hope that those who are now rising to positions of power and authority do not unwittingly repeat the mistakes of the past.
Posted by: Chris Overland | 16 March 2023 at 08:09 PM
I come from a generation that listened to my grandparents about the First World War and the Depression then my parents about the Second World War.
I am currently viewing at the British TV program "The Second World War' again and can see all the same mistakes and confusion that led to the millions of deaths, misery and the disasters happening again through most people not wanting to believe what so called educated and reasonable people could and did to their fellow human beings. e.g. Holocaust etc.
The same thing is now happening again and our so called younger generation aren't either listening and are not interested in learning how to prevent it happening. Bilo wanem? Activities like football and other distractions like 'social media' echo chambers are just too tempting instead of learning what is actually about to take place.
It seems like humans have evolved with a number of self destruct flaws to naturally keep overpopulation in check.
If that is the case, logically anyone who creates more children than they can look after and feed is therefore guilty of causing what will naturally follow.
Has anyone seen or heard any national leaders voicing this axiom however? Nogat? I wonder why?
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a higher authority to set a better course. Even some who claim this apparent divine right, seem to be 'hell' bent of causing the oncoming disaster to happen faster.
Posted by: Paul Oates | 16 March 2023 at 11:16 AM
These quotes from the late Tony Benn are well worth reiterating:
“If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people.”
“There is no moral difference between a stealth bomber and a suicide bomber. Both kill innocent people for political reasons.”
“A faith is something you die for, a doctrine is something you kill for. There is all the difference in the world.”
More about Tony Benn here - KJ
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 15 March 2023 at 10:08 AM