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The Forum > Article Comments > Quo Vadis Australia > Comments

Quo Vadis Australia : Comments

By David Wilson, published 24/4/2012

Materialism and individualism are risk factors in our society that need to be closely watched.

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We already have a mechanism in place to try and ensure that taxpayers get the policy they want: it's called 'voting'. Once the Wellbeing and Anti-Obesity party starts to register well in the polls, then we can look seriously at ways to increase our score on vaguely-defined subjective measures of wellbeing. Till then, we should give people what they vote for, which is a stable economy and a growing personal wealth -- which they can spend on any kind of wellbeing they want.

And if you're looking for Drivers, I hear that some of Peter Slipper's are available -- at a suitable cost to the taxpayer, of course.
Posted by Jon J, Tuesday, 24 April 2012 8:32:32 AM
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As is so common with these kinds of articles, the author refuses to contemplate that it's the very foundation our society is built on that's the problem.
The bulk of modern Western wage earners/welfare recipients have no control over their lives at the individual or community level. There is a radical disconnect within community, but more especially between civil society and polity, and no amount of damage-control within community is going to address the real problem. The modern Western State is a travesty compared with the classical ideal, wherein the citizen has such a deep personal investment in their polis that involvement in it constitutes a central part of identity. Polity these days is nothing more than economic rationalism, wherein the State increasingly cedes control to privatisation and there's nothing left for the citizen to idealistically invest in. Membership in political parties and community support organisations is on the decline across the board and society is increasingly catered to by profiteers. Indeed society is no longer an end in itself, driven by ethical/political/cultural aspiration; consumerism is the raison d'etre and profit is the rationale. Increasingly too, the profiteers are loathe to pay their taxes, to fund social infrastructure, unless it in turn, turns a profit--which is what drives public sell-offs.
The modern polis has never been more prosperous and decadent, as reflected in the obesity/mental illness epidemic, but it's also never been more ethically and spiritually bankrupt. It's not a polis, it's a farm and citizens are cattle.
Instead of dealing with the symptoms, the think-tanks should be looking at the disease.
But then that's like expecting a casino-funded drive to get to the root of problem gambling. Gambling's sacrosanct, it just has to look seemly.
Posted by Squeers, Tuesday, 24 April 2012 8:34:49 AM
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Good article thanks David. I agree with most of your points, and those of Squeers. These express the feelings of many of us and I'll add a couple of points.

Forty years ago many authors pointed to a a modern utopia, with most working les than 20 hours a week, with increased wellbeing due to the free time we would all have.

Instead we have what Squeers aptly term 'the profiteers' ruling the show unbridled. They do so through:
- A general 'bastardization' of most workplaces through setting up managers as delusional little kings and queens (of what?) with the 'indians' (those who do the real work)being pressured and having their self esteem reduced or removed.
- A media that is allowed to feed propaganda as news and advertizing as fact.
- A relentless classification of people according to material possessions and workplace status.

Many work 50 hours plus to get more money and possessions and/ or simply more 'manager satisfaction / self esteem. Yes it is individualism run rampant. You don't find nearly so much of this in societies which still have tribal wisdom, such as the Maoris and Timorese. Until the work and workplaces are redesigned from the top down there will be no change.

I am not anti-capitalism but I think the only way to do this is by introducing some intelligent aspects of socialism. The French are at least attempting this. The US and Australia have unfortunately being going the other way, towards more materialism/individualism and making the situation worse. The individual should still have freedom of choice but this should not be limited to consumption; people need fertile ground (a nurturing community) and education to exercise this effectively.
Posted by Roses1, Tuesday, 24 April 2012 10:24:07 AM
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While I essentially agree with the theme of this essay it is interesting to note that David has created the Sophia website.

Sophia has traditionally been associated with the Goddess of Wisdom.

This is interesting because the Bible, especially the New Testament, does not having anything to do any kind of Goddess tradition. Indeed it is an almost exclusive patriarchal TEXT which is essentially hostile to any kind of Goddess inspired understanding, and thus of Wisdom.

Such is also the case with patriarchal Christianity in both its Protestant and "Catholic" forms. This patriarchal animosity towards and suppression of Sophia is most evident in the completely irrational opposition towards even the possibility of women being priests in the "Catholic" church.

Although why any woman would wish to be a priest in a church that is fundamentally opposed to what Woman as Goddess represents (in the form of every particular woman) is completely beyond me.
Posted by Daffy Duck, Tuesday, 24 April 2012 10:53:29 AM
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I agree broadly with both Squeers and Roses1; and would add these comments. We have a media which has replaced literal news reporting with opinion and attempted political control or regime change? We have a generation of politicians who have never ever held down a real job; and are basically paid ultra generously to endlessly stymie any real progress; a problem compounded by their myopic focus and unfailing service at the altar of the 24hour media cycle/spin cycle?
We also confront the very real possibility that power can be bought and or sold; that very powerful power hungry players only need to throw enough resources at it and elections; and or, media opinion can be bought?
What we need is genuine future vision, political rather than professed conviction that can change with every dip in so-called opinion polls? And we need genuine reform that finally addresses the ever widening chasm betwixt and between the haves and have nots. The very best reforms will also incorporate win/win outcomes!
It comes as no surprise that most of our obesity problems are most common in poverty trap post codes? If we would genuinely address this problem and others cited; then we need to first address growing inequality, which clearly has its roots in individualism, and its handmaiden, extreme capitalism/unconscionable exploitation?
We hear all this talk about Christian, do unto others, blah blah values from our pulpit pounding phoney show pony politicians. But are all too often found wanting or missing in action, when it comes to delivering, or living the message? Rhrosty.
Posted by Rhrosty, Tuesday, 24 April 2012 11:24:18 AM
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This is nothing more than advertorial for Mr Wilson's "Sophia Think Tank", and as such may be suspected of over-egging the pudding, just a little.

"Indicators of wellbeing such as life expectancy at birth, high educational outcomes, and self-reports of happiness put us right up there amongst the top countries in the world."

Ok. So where's the problem? Oh, apparently we don't have a Wellbeing Index... hang on a minute, we seem to have one of those as well.

"According to the Wellbeing Index, along with other measures, Australia is doing pretty well, especially when compared with many, if not most, other countries."

I seem to be missing something here. We're ok on life expectancy, education and happiness, and our Wellbeing Index is good...

Ah, here we are, a problem at last

"...indicators that all is not well and that the 'wellbeing' is a fašade that is not very deep in places"

Ummmm... as measured by...?

"There are many who tell us that we are sick, our social environment is broken, and that there is a call for all of us to be involved in its repair"

They must be people who weren't allowed to take part in the other measurements, I guess. And...

"[Richard Eckersley] saw a culture that was exploitative and oppressive, harsh and oppressed, and suffering from spiritual poverty"

Right, that's enough. Everyone here is happy and well-nourished, except the people who are not. On the whole, we measure up pretty well against the rest of the world, except when we don't. And the answer to this is the magic pudding of...?

"Sophia Think Tank. The Bible Society Australia's national think tank on values, priorities, and behaviour in Australian Society."

All is now clear. Would I be over-prescient to suggest that the answer that emerges from Project 217, is going to be Jesus?

The same as the previous 216 projects, I suspect.
Posted by Pericles, Tuesday, 24 April 2012 11:46:22 AM
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