The lessons we can take from America’s troubles
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THE BODY POLITIC
The lessons we can take from America’s troubles
There are two important lessons to be taken from what’s happening in the US. The first is about the fragility of democracy. The warning signs were there for some time that the Trump experiment would end in tears (and tear gas), but it has taken remarkably little effort for undemocratic words and actions to take hold. If we’re inclined to congratulate ourselves that “democracy won out in the end”, we would do well to note a snap YouGov poll taken in the US found 45 per cent of Republicans approved of the storming of the Capitol.
The second is about the consequences of politicians wilfully lying to their constituents. And if we think we’re immune to what happened in the US, reflect on the state of climate change debate in Australia. For more than a decade, senior Coalition politicians have been lying to the electorate about the costs of taking action versus the costs of inaction. Given the existential threat posed by climate inaction, we have been no better served in Australia by the lies of our leaders than Americans have been served by the lies of Trump and his GOP enablers.
More than ever, we need to understand that our democracy cannot thrive – or perhaps even survive – without a strong foundation of truth and the vigilance of its constituents.
Donna Cohen, St Kilda
A blueprint for acceptance
The proposal for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament is taking shape (‘‘Indigenous Voices models for debate’’, The Age, 9/1). It aims to allow negotiation over the way policy that significantly affects Aboriginal people is designed and implemented.
Since all government policy generally affects citizens of Australia, legislation that specifically pertains to Aboriginal people will need to be carefully defined. It may be sensible to implement the Voice in legislation initially. Once any wrinkles have been ironed out over, say, a five-year period and it is functioning to everyone’s reasonable satisfaction, it could then be presented for incorporation in the constitution by referendum.
People may be reluctant to vote for a proposal without first seeing it in action, and to have the concept rejected in a referendum would be tragic.
Peter Barry, Marysville
US Senate voting system is seriously flawed
The 2020 US presidential election saw closer scrutiny by political pundits of the Electoral College system’s gerrymandered structure than in 2016, when the expectation that Hillary Clinton was sure to win meant the flawed voting system was left unexamined.
The US Senate voting system also needs to be seen as seriously flawed. Two Democrat senators have been elected in Georgia (with thin margins), which has a population of 11 million. Texas, with a population of 29 million, has two senators and California, with a population of 40 million, also elects two senators.
If Joe Biden wants to preside over a ‘‘great’’ democracy, the Senate and Electoral College voting systems have to be reformed and he shouldn’t fall into an old pattern of new presidents leaving an undemocratic system intact .
Des Files, Brunswick
A tale of two cities
I can help your correspondent out (‘‘Terrorists and democrats’’, Letters, 9/1) with his difficulty in finding a difference between the demonstrators in Washington and those in Hong Kong.
Leaving aside the behaviour of individuals, who can contaminate any cause with violence, the most obvious difference is that while the Washington demonstrators wished to assert the will of an autocratic ruler and his followers over the rights of a majority of voters, the Hong Kong demonstrators wished to assert the rights of a majority of voters over the will of an autocratic ruler and his followers.
I hope this helps.
Trevor Hay, Montmorency
We still have free speech
There has been considerable debate focused on free speech following the removal of Donald Trump from social media platforms, the blocking of Parler downloads by Google and, closer to home, calls to have Scott Morrison shut down the inane rantings of Craig Kelly and George Christensen following his insipid response to their latest social media outpourings.
It should be remembered however that the right to free speech has not been impacted. Twitter for example is not removing Trump’s right to free speech, it is simply choosing not to publish it. It is no different to arch conservative outlets choosing not to publish the views of people they consider left wing.
You can still say what you like, whether it will be published is a different matter.
Ross Hudson, Mount Martha
An inevitable outcome
Your editorial (‘‘Trump not alone in stirring up violence’’, The Age, 9/1) and the cartoon Moir’s View (The Age, 9/1) perfectly depicted the inevitable outcome of four years of Trumpism and the collusion of some media outlets, who promoted conspiracy theories and preyed on the insecurities of those feeling side-lined, inciting hatred and violence.
Last week’s mayhem in the Capitol Building was terrible but unsurprising.
President-elect Joe Biden’s challenges will include repairing frayed social divisions, addressing health and economic issues and restoring America’s credibility as a world leader.
Mary Cole, Richmond
A stark contrast
I applaud your editorial ‘‘Trump not alone in stirring up violence’’ (The Age, 9/1), in particular your pointing out a stark contrast.
On one hand, Rupert Murdoch’s media machine, led by Fox News, stirred up trouble. On the other, the ‘‘elite’’ mainstream media (led by newspapers such The New York Times and The Washington Post) incurred the wrath of the rioters for telling the truth.
Furthermore, without Mr Murdoch’s support, Donald Trump could well have been defeated in the November 3 election in a landslide of mountainous proportions, impeached over his role in the Ukraine affair, or not elected to the world’s most powerful office in the first place.
Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin, ACT
Expect more of the same
As the conservative desertion of Donald Trump becomes a stampede, Tom Switzer joins the herd (‘‘Remove the stain of Donald Trump’’, Opinion, 10/1). Switzer has blown hot and cold on Trump.
He has called him ‘‘a man of his word’’, opined that Trump saved America from a radical left agenda, and was cruelly robbed of his economic achievements (tax cuts for the wealthy) by the pandemic. Mueller was, apparently, a witch hunt.
The economic and social ailments that Switzer says underpinned Trump’s rise are the product of the neoliberal, free-market ideology pushed by right-wing think tanks like his since the 1980s.
More importantly, Trump’s populist rhetoric is clearly rooted in the devices used by conservatism since the advent of the culture wars: Political correctness, virtue signalling, inner city ‘‘elites’’, identity politics, the ‘‘mainstream silent majority’’ – in this country all too familiar since John Howard, and adopted with such gusto by people like Switzer, it has has become almost a defining feature of their ‘‘analysis’’.
The perversion of conservatism spawned Trump. We should fully expect more of the same until that is reversed.
Michael Hinchey, New Lambton, NSW
Failing the pub test
A measure of democracy is the extent to which major parties go to prevent citizens voting or their votes being counted.
Democracies must encourage or even insist their citizens vote. In this, the United States fails the pub test. It has consistently, since its Civil War, attempted to stop minority groups from voting. The Republicans at the last presidential election even went so far as to try to prevent legal postal votes being used.
Rather than call the US a great democracy it should be called a failed, or possibly, a developing, democracy. Its greatness, like Great Britain’s, was based, in large part, on greed and self-interest not democracy.
Adrian Tabor, Point Lonsdale
The ‘terrifying truth’
Elizabeth Farrelly incisively identifies the powerful forces driving the case against Julian Assange, whereby the key principle of disclosure in the public interest has been ‘‘twisted’’ into a misplaced fixation on Assange’s ‘‘personality’’ (‘‘The personal conveniently distracts from the political in the Assange story’’, online, 9/1).
Never have the stakes been higher – both for Assange and the future of public interest journalism – matching the heights of systemic ‘‘widespread moral cowardice’’.
Indeed, as Farrelly fearlessly asserts (despite her professed fears) there is a ‘‘terrifying truth about our imperial system’’. Making an example of Assange like this (where he seems to have already been found ‘‘guilty’’, any which way you look at it) because of his temerity to show the world the truth (the Iraq War Logs and the Collateral Murder footage showing air crew shooting unarmed civilians) is a hard thing to wrap your head around.
But, the ‘‘bad guys’’ (operating within an imperial military-industrial complex) dressed up as the ‘‘good guys’’ are rationalising their ‘‘whatever-it-takes kinda world’’ – of the ends justify the means – at the expense of the cornerstone principles of truth and justice.
Just because they can.
Jelena Rosic, Mornington
When facts don’t matter
Spot on, Joyce Butcher (‘‘I believe this, therefore it must be true’’, Letters, 9/1), people will believe what they want to believe, regardless of the facts; it is not truth that matters.
However, this time is not the first, or the most relevant, or the most obvious one in which these statements have been played out. Religions of the world have been for many centuries demonstrating that it is what people believe that matters, although based on poor evidence and running against the many advances in science and human knowledge.
And this attitude has very serious consequences, as Voltaire warned us: ‘‘Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.’’
George Fernandez, Eltham North
Why are they in charge?
While Donald Trump steals media attention, things slip under the radar locally. For example, the state government is considering a 2021 duck shooting season while scientists say native duck populations have fallen 90 per cent since last century, as climate-change bites and habitat shrinks.
Presiding over this natural disaster is Victoria’s Game Management Authority established in 2014 by Peter Walsh – the current leader of the National Party in Victoria. An independent review by Pegasus Economics in 2017 found GMA conflicted and in danger of ‘‘capture’’ by the shooting lobby. Why are they in charge of our irreplaceable native wildlife? It’s like mice looking after the cheese.
Only 0.1 per cent of Victorians shot ducks last year and 0.2 per cent the previous year, but together they slaughtered 300,000 waterbirds. Last century, replacements came from profuse breeding but climate change ended that and many species face extinction. Shooting must end, allowing wildlife tourism to thrive.
Neil Wilkinson, Mont Albert
The pandemic has made us realise the importance of science. It is science that has identified the agent that has caused the pandemic and developed tests to determine whether someone carries the virus.
Science has also played a key role in treatment and in the development of vaccines and drugs to prevent and treat this disease and many others.
And yet despite the obvious importance of science, a proportion of the population refuses to accept the findings of many scientists that show clearly that our planet is warming. It really is hard to understand why this is so.
Alfred Poulos, Thornbury
Questions on notice
Why did the Andrews government agree to having the Australian Open at all given what we Victorians have endured to get to where we are with this pandemic? Do our co-operation and sacrifice account for nothing?
Why was there no consultation with the Westin Hotel’s residents? Maybe they knew what the answer would be. Why is another hotel any more safe? What guarantees can the government provide that we are not at risk on a huge scale given that many people circulate in the city and considering the dilemma currently of people queuing for hours with the existing possible exposure to the virus. Why is the grand prix question any different to the Australian Open? Is it too late to avoid a possible return to lockdown?
So much for ‘‘we have learnt a lot about this virus’’. You cannot control the unknown.
Christine Baker, Rosanna
The answer’s on the plate
Mike Foley’s recent article reminding us that livestock production causes 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, was startling in its implications, but offered some hope with the news of progress in substituting seaweed-based feed for grass, thereby reducing emissions (‘‘Smells like a seaweed solution’’, The Age, 7/1).
What an irony that the biggest cause of land clearing in Australia is also one of the biggest contributors to our emissions profile. If we used more meat substitutes we would not only reduce the need for cattle, but provide more land for reforestation. If that took root, we could extend it to dairy products, too.
When I read of the need for emergency action on climate change, the solution is right before us on a plate.
David Lamb, Kew East
Crunching the numbers
Debates about hard v soft lockdowns focus largely on economic impacts to business, with soft lockdowns seen as less economically damaging.
Has anyone factored in the economic cost of massive, far more prolonged contact tracing and testing efforts which are a factor of soft lockdowns where the virus is suppressed slowly over a much longer period? Not to mention the cost of border restrictions that inevitably occur. Surely short, hard lockdowns cost us less.
Catherine Miller, Chewton
AND ANOTHER THING
The United States
Wouldn’t it be interesting to know how many of the protesters at the Capitol building voted in the most recent American election.
Gerry Danckert, Armstrong Creek
Part of Donald Trump’s Mexican wall should be placed around the Capitol in Washington.
Peter Caffin, Ringwood North
Why is the Republican party referred to as ‘‘conservative’’, the past two weeks, and indeed the past four years, have been far from anything conservative.
Greg Bardin, Altona North
America’s worst enemy is not Russia, or China, or North Korea or anyone else. America’s worst enemy is America.
Terry Kelly, Fitzroy North
The recent riots in Washington were most certainly not unpresidented.
David Hay, Greensborough
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have blocked Trump. Pity it’s four years at least too late as the damage has been done.
Jack Morris, Kennington
Australia’s election didn’t go the way I’d hoped. It must have been rigged.
Geoff Phillips, Wonga Park
Australians should never take democracy for granted.
James Moseley, Frankston
I can imagine Crocodile Dundee telling Boris Johnson “That’s not a Lockdown. This is a Lockdown” and proceeding to point out all Dan Andrews’ restrictions that turned Victoria’s scary numbers around e.g. masks worn outside of home, places of worship closed, etc.
Juliet Allen, St Kilda West
Shane Warne is in danger of becoming the cricket version of Sam Newman.
Chris Del Prete, Pascoe Vale South
So, Archie is one of last year’s top baby boy’s names? This year could it be Jughead?
Susan Munday, Bentleigh East
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