Saturday, January 18, 2014

Are we due for a revolution in global consciousness?

In 1788, in France, the court must have tried to control public opinion but the behaviour of the French court was so outrageous (and inept) that in the following year the Revolution started. The global situation today is not incredibly different; we have a high elite (Koch Bros, Rupert Murdoch, the late Marc Rich, Gina Rinehart etc) so far above us that the contempt they exhibit for the fate of ordinary people seems not that different to Marie Antoinette etc. In turn they reward and fund groups like Pelerin, and an army of bloggers like Andrew Bolt .. and the Australian public are left to choose between extremists like Abbott and (let's face it) their opponents in the ALP who were only slightly more environmentally aware and a self-destructive parody.

I reckon the establishment must really fear (or at least be irritated by) social media - not just in China * but even here .. eg if we relied even on the ABC how far would we be in the dark? Social media and the internet are kind of accidental tools for democracy. I know the internet had a lot of idealist founders and contributors and that Mark Zuckerberg thinks Facebook can help democracy. Others claim the chatter on FB and twitter etc is largely of groups talking to themselves, rather than truly influencing the opinions of others. But, for me, social media and the internet are the most powerful tools reformers have. Even so, there is a great distance to go.

Australia is still one of the richest and free-est places on the planet. Suffering is intrinsic to life, we can't have paradise here and probably not in heaven. But I believe we in Australia (and some other places with free speech) have a valuable opportunity to contribute to the struggle; there are many ways to do this. The dark fate of civilization that former Czech President Vaclav Havel fears is not yet inevitable. We have to contribute to the struggle to rescue ourselves from ourselves; it is hard of course, but I find many people to be sympathetic to this.

When I was much younger I used to think that the big struggles in history (at least in the West) were over; we had achieved abundance, a life expectancy of over 75 .. the task was to extend that abundance and health globally. I now think that we are passing though the end of a "sweet spot", that the global development project (if ever sincere) has been a shell for at least 35 years - and even worse - we are eroding our own environmental foundation. We may well collapse as a civilization but it could be decades away .. though the decay has already started. In any case I think we have to develop our awareness, contribute how we can. I met former Australian leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, in about 2010, for 30 minutes and discussed some of this with him - he genuinely seemed to understand, especially about the "tertiary" effects of climate change, which already include higher food prices and conflict. It is not quite hopeless.

We need a revolution of consciousness, and people like the Pelerin Group and climate sceptics like David Murray and Maurice Newman who have influential role in Australian society need to be marginalised. That requires better information, more democracy, and the decline of the Telegraph, the Australian etc. Even the Australian public radio (ABC) is too intimidated to fairly report on the erosion public environmental goods; they instead underestimate the risks that civilization faces. Carry on!

*The Chinese government is trying to fight this site; it is often down or overloaded. A backup service is at