Last Sunday outside parliament house in Sydney a woman was wrestled into a paddy wagon by half a dozen cops while she and the cops fought for control of her four-year-old child who was screaming for them to leave mummy alone. One of her crimes was carrying a sign that said ‘if you don’t know your rights, you don’t have any.’ Her other crimes were not maintaining social distance, and refusing to move on.
She was in a small group protesting against the state government’s insistence on keeping us all 1.5 m apart and in our homes unless we have the right reason, and not being in a group of people.
We should all be arguing about whether our present social shutdown justifies giving up some forms of protest, and whether the virus-containment rules themselves are justified. These are both good arguments to have but what this incident spotlighted is the manner in which our state and federal governments are handling the virus crisis.
There are many ways to contain a virus, but the way Morrison and Co have chosen is for them to issue edicts, and then oblige Australia’s 60,000 cops to enforce them. Most of our politicians and bureaucrats are not good at nimble thinking and on the rare occasions they come up with a new idea, they’re always inclined to back it up with batons and paddy wagons.
Instead, how about we hear from a wide range of communities and experts – not just the ones in high corporate and government offices – and let’s convince citizens to go along with decisions because they make sense, as distinct from not making sense, like saying you can play golf but not sunbathe, even if you’re lying 1.5 metres apart.
We are not suffering under the vicious thumbs of a nanny state – we have a bully boy state, led by the Coalition’s Four Horses-arses of the Apocalypse, Morrison, Dutton, Porter and Taylor.
Guardians of the Dis-United States of America
Meanwhile, across the Pacific: America’s political life keeps on making no sense unless you understand that there are hundreds of cultures in America so different from each other that it’s astounding they ever reach consensus on anything.
There is one fundamental belief shared by most people across the Dis-USA, which is that theirs is the best society ever – even if they have wildly different ideas about what it is, or should be.
And of course, soon as you ask what is it that makes America great, you’ll get hundreds of wildly incompatible answers. Unfortunately, the idea that has dominated most of American history is the creed of the top one-percenters, as expressed here by a few elite nitwits of recent times:
- ‘Each person seeks mastery over a world of slaves’, according to economist James McGill Buchanan Jr. in his1975 book The Limits of Liberty. This riff on the maxim that I am NOT my brother’s keeper helped make Buchanan the guru of multi-billionaire ‘libertarians’ such as Charles and David Koch, who have spent tens of millions over the past 40 years electing rabid Republicans. The Koch bros have also written and funded laws that keep America a semi-slave state of which they and their class-mates are the masters.
- ‘Government exists only to protect its citizens’ lives, liberty and property. All other activities of government tend to diminish freedom and hamper progress.’ So said William F Buckley, Jr, in 1955 in his magazine National Review – the fount of wisdom for old white patricians like Buckley since then. In 1963 adviser to President Kennedy and social economist John Kenneth Galbraith summed up Buckley’s creed as a ‘moral justification for selfishness’.
- ‘America’s abundance was created not by public sacrifices to the common good, but by the productive genius of free men who pursued their own personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes.’ This version of I am NOT my brother’s keeper came from novelist Ayn Rand (1905-1982). Thousands of multi-millionaires suscribe to this worldview and millions of poorer Americans do too. Its essential fallacy is that both ‘abundance’ and the ‘genius’ of its creators are devoid of any value or purpose. Societies with an ‘abundance’ of CO2, concrete, and junk food are killing us all – and the geniuses who create the abundances must pay for the bad abundances from the profits they reap from the good ones.
- ‘I do not recognize anyone’s right to one minute of my life.’ So said Donald Trump, allegedy inspired by the hero of Rand’s The Fountainhead which one assumes he read in the classic comic version.
Morrison and his mates come across somewhat softer than America’s Randists. Our current rulers seems to see life as more like a game of rugby, in which brute force, a bit of skill, with a topping of aggressive fundraising and marketing, will keep the wins coming. Wins are won for the sake of winning, which is Randism writ small. And anyone who wasn’t built for the game, was never taught the rules, or can’t afford the many prices of admission, just isn’t trying hard enough. That’s the extent of the four horses-arses’ vision, a vision of unnourished minds and withered spirits.
♦ Phillip Frazer sifts through the daily droppings of political life in Oz and in the Dis-USA, at coorabellridge.com