As another federal election looms, I find myself once more in despair mode. Why? Because whichever party comes out on top on September 14, we will still be galaxies away from tackling the most pressing issues of the day.
Politics is failing us. Not left politics or right politics, but politics, period. And not just in Australia, but across the world.
The unpalatable, you could say, inconvenient, truth is that even the very best governments do little more than play at the margins, tweaking bits of legislation here and there but steering well clear of anything resembling structural change, in particular, structural economic change, for fear of ruffling the feathers of their corporate masters.
Ask any group of thinking adults what matters to them in life, and you’ll get a fairly consistent set of answers: secure and meaningful work, a safe and happy future for their children, a peaceful world, a clean environment.
And what have we got? Crippling rates of unemployment (not yet in Australia, but let’s not be too smug), escalating levels of both childhood and adult depression, global terrorism that is all but uncontrollable, and a climate on the brink of total collapse.
Of course, some individual battles are won. I for one am happy when a forest is saved, when we stop discriminating against people on the basis of colour or sexual orientation, when carcinogenic agricultural chemicals are outlawed.
But where is the bigger-picture debate: the discussion not just of single issues but of root causes? Who is really questioning the absurdly revered yardstick of GDP, supposedly a measure of prosperity, yet one that actually grows with every wrecked oil tanker, with every bomb dropped, with every new diagnosis of cancer?
Which party is drawing attention to the broken communities and ravaged environments that are the result of global trade, and the enormous publicly-funded subsidies to big business that make such trade possible?
Name the politicians that are even talking about, let alone seeking to change, the way money is created, by private banks, for profit.
Yes, we will go to the polling stations in September and cast our votes this way or that. But let us not fool ourselves into believing that we have thereby fulfilled our civic responsibility. Remind me, what was happening while Rome burned?
John Page, Byron Bay