Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Our deteriorating democracy

Tim Soutphommasane writes (Age 18/6/12) with some alarm that the trend in our democracy has degenerated into a materialistic low with money and wealth dominating our democracy. Noting that this phenomenon tends to be cyclical which Tim Colebatch (The Age 19/6/12) attributes to the varying quality of past leaders.

That our democracy has degenerated into a competition to find the best leaders to advance our economic status is sad, when we remember that one ex judge believed that the promise of democracy is to enhance morality. Tim Sout notes that the ‘…expansion in education has not resulted in greater political knowledge or civic virtue’. Why not?

Both commentators are disturbed by the fallen standard of contemporary political debate, which they describe in such terms as ‘toxic’, ‘poisonous’ and ‘strident’. Furthermore, cartoonists seem free to express extreme contempt at our elected leaders.

What is clear is that ‘we get the government that we deserve’. If democracy is government ‘by’ the people as Abraham Lincoln observed, and I believe he was spot on, clearly we have failed to keep up with our responsibility to participate in government, and politicians do what they do because they can. They know that material benefit is influential in our midst.

Colebatch heads his article ‘In not so joyful strains’ clearly suggesting that national attitudes expressed in our national anthem have been undermined. There can be no joy when the earlier values of mateship and sacrifice have been swept up in materialistic fear and conflict. After all, our wealth owes more to our lucky mineral resources than the hard, often harsh, experience of the past, which fed a modest personal pride in our country.

We do indeed need a new vision for our country, one which calls for, and builds on, our past national strengths and successes. Our leaders must challenge and inspire us.

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