Australia continues on it’s path to dumnation. Intellect is spurned and academia is neglected, our economy is dumb and education is disrespected.
Australians are gullible.
A leadership challenge gave us a prime minister who is nothing more than a re-branding exercise for the Liberal National Party (LNP). At the time, Scott Morrison was called the caretaker PM. Some even referred to him as the night-watchman in reference to a tactic used in cricket in which a less competent batter is sent in for the last moments of a day’s play, in order to protect the more competent batters for the following day. If the night-watchman is dismissed, it doesn’t really matter – he is expendable, a sacrifice to protect the team. Morrison was a sacrifice, a less competent politician chosen to fill a gap. Then Australians voted him back in. They fell for the PR spin of the carefully-crafted persona, a man devoid of substance who is himself a marketing man. Australians continue to succumb to the marketing spin and support a man who is leading the country on the path to dumnation.
A carefully-crafted persona has kept Morrison in office. He is successfully sold as the daggy Dad, the typical Aussie bloke who loves beer and footy. He occupies his days with endless photo opportunities. Photo opportunities that are lame, predictable and vacuous, but successful. In his latest photo opportunity, he pretends to nail gyprock into a wall. He holds a hammer and pretends to hold a nail between his fingers. Only, he’s not holding a nail. A quick zoom in of the image reveals he’s holding fresh air. The Australian prime minister can’t even pretend to hammer a nail in correctly. For a man who is nothing but photo opportunities, this is a major failure.
He is sold as a leader of the workers, a man who identifies with the construction worker, farmer and tradesman (yes, tradesman, not woman), and yet he and his PR team can’t even manage a staged photo opportunity. Does it matter? Does it diminish his standing in the eyes of his new constituents? No, they still fall for the PR spin. Many experts predict he will win the next federal election. All Morrison needs to do is appear in high-vis, in lab coats, in footy gear or with his family, and Australians love him. It’s that easy.
The gullible Australian is a political creation. The Labor Party, and especially the LNP, have created the gullible Australian through the mainstream media and the public education system.
An uneducated population is easier to control. Leaders like the Sultan of Brunei know this, and deliberately underfund their public education systems. The current government also understands this. Government schools in Australia are grossly underfunded and teachers are overworked and underpaid. The nation ranks very poorly among OECD nations for basic educational standards in literacy and numeracy. It is impossible to develop critical literacy without basic literacy, and this motivates the current government’s attack on public education.
Citizens who lack critical literacy will not see, or even look, behind the marketing spin of the government. They will not question announcements and policy decisions. They can be fooled with targeted language, numbers and statistics, and controlled with slogans. The current government is a master of slogans – and the slogans work.
Tertiary education is also suffering. Universities are poorly funded, but for different reasons. Universities foment anti-establishment sentiment and dissent. Students and professors have a prerogative to reject the status quo, especially a status quo led by a conservative government. Universities often lead the dissent and robust discussion that is central to a functioning democracy. The current government has successfully stifled the debate that traditionally emerges from universities.
Technical education is also under threat. Funding has been stripped from TAFE (Technical and Further Education) colleges. The result is a labour shortage. Subsequently, labour was sourced from overseas (pre-COVID). Foreign labour disadvantaged local workers, who found less employment opportunities. Foreign labour benefitted large corporations, who could source cheaper, more compliant workers. Ironically, the tradies, labourers and construction workers who form the new supporter base of the LNP, are directly disadvantaged by their chosen representatives. They are one group of Australians who have voted against their best interests, but they are too gullible and uneducated to realise.
While the Labor Party has not attacked public education with the same vigour as the LNP, they have neglected the system for many years and left government schools crumbling. The undereducated masses blindly follow the current government on the path to dumnation.
Cool to be a fool.
Many Australian school students live by this mantra. It is considered cool to not study, not care and not pay attention at school. The attitude is typical of teenagers in many countries, but in Australia it stems from a cultural disrespect for authority and intellect. A country built on convict transportation from Britain naturally carries a disrespect for authority figures, including teachers, and this partly explains the behaviour of many students in class. Disrespect for intellect runs deeper, though. Australian identity is based on the images of the farmer, the soldier, the bronzed Aussie and the athlete – all exalted for physical prowess. None praised for intellectual prowess.
Australians can revel in this image for as long as they want. Other countries won’t mind. Other countries will leap ahead of Australia is education, technology, social policy, trade and economics while Australia celebrates its ignorance. Other countries will see Australia as an opportunity to be easily exploited.
Uneducated people passively consume mass media. Discernment and critique are nowhere to be found. Driving this consumption is one man – Rupert Murdoch. NewsCorp owns most of Australia’s national and regional newspapers, and the climate change-denying, racist, sexist, bigoted news empire is a powerful propaganda tool of the LNP. Not only does the news network spread propaganda, but it publishes content which is offensive in its quality. The simplified language is aimed at 13-year-olds. The content is over-sensationalised tabloid rubbish, and the targeting of people such as Indigenous Australians, left-wing thinkers, migrants, ethnic groups, environmentalists, women and other minorities is shockingly obvious to anyone with a modicum of intelligence. Unfortunately, this is lacking in its readers, and the Murdoch-led mainstream media is leading Australia on the path to dumnation.
At the same time, the current government is stripping funding and influence from the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) because the national broadcaster is famously objective, admittedly left-leaning in some cases, and trusted for its history of investigative journalism. The LNP is weakening one of its critics, but in doing so is weakening an important community service. Victims of natural disasters such as floods and fires turn to the ABC for updates and information which literally saves lives. Gutting the ABC could cost lives, as extreme weather drives further natural disasters, and pandemics become more likely. Some of those who will suffer voted for the very people who are destroying this vital public service.
Australia exports almost nothing that requires a university degree to make. The country’s economy relies heavily upon mining and livestock agriculture. While intelligent, tertiary educated people work within those industries, the act of farming and mining are not complex. Mining involves digging a hole, and farming involves animal husbandry.
Such a simple economy is not economically sustainable. Especially in a globalised world in which other countries are deliberately and actively diversifying their economies to withstand changes and progress, as well as unexpected events such as COVID-19. Mining and agricultural exports suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, with border closures interrupting export activity and transport. Countries and businesses in the IT industry, in contrast, prospered during the pandemic as anyone who had access to technology used it to stay in contact, stay connected, stay employed or stay sane. Australia, meanwhile, runs on a nationwide internet service whose speeds recently placed it at 61st in the world.
Slow internet speed has no justification. There is no excuse for such a poor national internet service. It is simply the result of political incompetence. A country with slow internet speed, in a digital age, is heading towards dumnation.
Mining and agriculture dominate Australia’s economy, alongside construction and tourism. International tourism has halted due to the pandemic, and it is impossible to predict when it will resume and pour more money into Australian businesses and the national economy. Income from foreign tourists was previously considered a guarantee for Australians, but the country is now paying the price for the failure to diversify the economy.
Concurrently, the nation is destroying the very thing which lures so many international visitors: nature. Tourists flock to the country to see the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, pristine beaches, rainforests, national parks and native animals. Most of these are under threat from climate change, over-development, mining, agriculture and poor regulation. Failure to protect Australia’s natural wonders will damage post-COVID tourism as well as destroying the nation’s biodiversity.
Destruction of the natural environment is not unavoidable. It is the result of direct action by Australian people since colonisation. It is the result of actions which have given Australia the highest rate of native mammal extinction in the world, the largest per capita carbon footprint of any nation on earth, and the number two world ranking in biodiversity loss.
What’s more, scientists predict the possible extinction of koalas in the near future. Only a country on the path to dumnation would knowingly destroy one of its most famous and loved national symbols. How many tourists will visit Australia in the post-COVID world if they know they can’t see a koala?
An ignorant nation does not recognise the importance of its natural environment. An ignorant nation believes the lies perpetuated in the mainstream media. An ignorant nation believes the lies told by politicians beholden to the fossil fuel industry, and the agricultural and construction sector. An ignorant population is a sign of a nation on the path to dumnation.
A useful barometer of a nation’s intellectual health is its mass media consumption. In particular, it’s free-to-air television content. Reality TV dominates this content in Australia, and every year it sinks to a new low. Scripted, manipulative shows in which contestants are rewarded for their selfishness, greed, betrayal and lies are surging in popularity and dominate the content on every commercial station.
Voting habits also indicate a nation’s intellectual standing. Fringe parties based on extreme ideologies such as racism are growing in strength in Australia. One such party is Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, named after Australia’s most famous racist.
Parties such as One Nation win support through outrageous statements. They also promise without fear because they know they will never have to fulfil the promises they make, because they know they will never form government. Of course, every politician makes promises, and most of those promises are not kept, but fringe parties can make more outrageous statements and promises, and attract more of the disgruntled voters, because the members know they will never have to deliver, and will not be voted out for failing to deliver. Members of the major parties make empty promises, but risk being voted out at the next election if they don’t deliver at least some of their promises.
Unfortunately, the people who vote for the fringe parties don’t understand this dynamic. They are ignorant, ill-informed, lowly educated or simply quick to judge and condemn, and they believe the extreme statements and policy announcements of the extreme right wing candidates. They possess the ignorance of a Trump supporter, and are a symptom of a nation on the path to dumnation.
The path to dumnation is the path to damnation. Australia will be left behind economically, socially, intellectually, technologically and academically unless it develops a respect for the enormous intellectual talent which resides in the country. Australia’s brightest minds must be recognised because they will save the nation from dumnation.