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Radical conservatives

Con-serve: (transitive verb) – protect something from harm or decay.

Just as the political terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ lost their currency, so have the names ‘conservative’ and ‘radical’. There may have been a time when conservative meant steady as she goes – business as usual. But times have changed and ‘business as usual’ is a death warrant for so much of the planet.

It’s natural that the rich and powerful don’t want to change, because it’s by maintaining the status quo that they became rich and powerful. But with resources being squandered on unsustainable consumerism and the planet being cooked, maintaining the status quo is now a very radical act.

For many of us old-school lefties, being radical means opposing the excesses of the status quo and trying to sustainably conserve the planet while retaining the best of being human – so many radicals are true conservatives.

Our ‘conservative’ prime minister wants ‘economic growth’ to head the G20 agenda, ahead of that annoying blowfly – the environment. In Canada ‘wilful blindness’ is a crime. To have a prime minister and most of his cabinet indulging in wilful environmental blindness is infuriating.

Now our commander in chief has taken us into another war, supposedly funded by cutting back on foreign aid, while Syria haemorrhages millions of refugees. As the northern winter closes in, it would be far more humane to deploy the war budget and personnel to feeding and sheltering displaced Syrians. Then perhaps we Australians won’t draw the fire of vengeful IS fighters.

There are a couple of lines in a W B Yeats poem The Second Coming, written on the eve of WWI, that resonate today: ‘The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.’

Every time I see our knuckle-walker of a prime minister, I am reminded of the final lines of that poem: ‘And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?’

I hope the best can find some more conviction.

Michael Balson, Upper Wilsons Creek


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