Have you noticed how movies set in the future unfailingly paint a picture of a burnt, bleak and desolate place? Is this simply overly pessimistic left wing propaganda spawned in Hollywood, or is it really going to be the world our children’s children will inherit?
I wonder if — in the same way the once confronting and seemingly exaggerated senseless violence portrayed in A Clockwork Orange has become a daily reality today — a desolate, desperate, anarchic, dog-eat-anything world, a kind of global Mogadishu, might actually be our future.
What I am sure about is that the road ahead won’t take us anywhere good unless we have kind-hearted, honest, intelligent, humane, no-strings-attached people driving the bus.
And I’m equally sure that if we continue to assail the younger generation with an apocalyptic view of the future they might begin to believe (if they haven’t already) the cause is already lost and there is no point trying to change the inevitable — all they can do is accept it.
In other words, to use rugby parlance, perhaps they will feel that in handing over the world we have thrown them a ‘hospital pass.’
We owe them more than that.
Ok, I admit, I’m unabashedly an idealist and to some extent have always tilted at windmills. Whether I’m demented, deluded or just barking at shadows I’m not sure. Nevertheless, I believe the world would be a better place if those in charge were soft centred and made plans accordingly.
As well, while debate is healthy and questions must be asked, I’m increasingly convinced that combative politics serves no real purpose. It’s like trying to move really huge objects by pushing in opposite directions. It seems to me the best way to move anything is to push in the same direction.
But given the nature of politics and self serving, entrenched, incompetent and often corrupt behaviour of elected representatives throughout history, I have no idea how this could be achieved short of revolution followed by a benign dictatorship, if such a utopian state were even possible.
If you believe the polls, Australians agree on some things but are divided about issues like global warming and illegal refugees. And the recent election seems to suggest that the majority of Aussies prefer a hard line approach to both.
Well, you can argue about climate change and the carbon tax all you like, I only care about what’s best for the planet and reducing any form of pollution definitely is.
In our lifetimes we’ve seen some encouraging examples of environments being improved and even species coming back from the brink thanks to a change in attitudes. But right now I’m conflicted about what the prevailing attitude is.
Part of me says there is a genuine desire for greater compassion in society, that we are all sick and tired of the incompetent, profligate and self serving behaviour of governments and certain elements within big business — that we long for a kinder and more humane world.
However, since, as I say, Australia voted for hard liners who promised to torpedo any attempt at carbon reduction and just stopped short of doing the same to illegal boats, it appears that we don’t just need more heart and optimism in our leaders we need it in ourselves.
I know that we don’t need another tax and that there are undesirable desperadoes among the genuinely scared and desperate people seeking out these shores on leaky boats, and I know governments are voted out rather than voted in, but when a government is swept into power by lampooning the ‘loony left’, treating refugees like invaders and reducing climate change believers to the status of Moon Worshipping Morris Dancers, I’m bound to wonder about we the people who elected them.
Has universal compassion and concern for our world and humankind in general been replaced by self-serving myopia? Have we hardened in our hearts, or have we just lost heart?
Have we stopped believing, or is it that we have nothing to believe in?
Given the lack of leadership and vision, back flipping and hypocrisy that permeates every level of government from your local council to Washington DC, is it any wonder we are strapped by chronic cynicism?
If you were a teenager today who would you be looking up to? Who would you follow? Whose vision would capture your imagination and ignite your passion?
It’s half a century since J.F.K (despite his sexual misdemeanours) gave us a brief, shining moment where we believed anything was possible. He stared down the racists in the south and managed to turn back both Khrushchev and those within his own borders who wanted to make the first nuclear strike.
Yes — let’s not forget folks, it’s not so long ago that nuclear warfare was seen as inevitable. It took a bunch of ‘loony left’ protestors all around the world and stroppy little countries like New Zealand to take a stand against the Might is Right mentality — to remind us that no one wins a nuclear war.
I have never been prouder to be a Kiwi than when Norman Kirk ordered our navy to park a ship in the French nuclear testing zone at Mururoa atoll, essentially putting a stop to the testing, and later when we refused to let nuclear armed ships use our ports.
Of course this meant refusing to provide sanctuary for the war machines of our allies and for its treasonous stance New Zealand was dropped from the ANZUS treaty by the USA and Australia, despite Paul Keating later claiming that ‘Australia led the way to a nuclear free Pacific’.
It’s only very recently that the US has forgiven NZ for its stance. I haven’t forgiven Keating for his.
What much of the world failed to see is that the Kiwis were never anti US or France or any other nuclear power, they were simply on the side of the humankind. We were trying to be a voice of reason when so many others seemed bent on the global suicide that nuclear warfare most certainly was – and is.
As for the nuclear deterrent argument, that’s like the NRA’s insistence on the right to bear arms and defend yourselves with handguns in the US, how’s that working out for them?
And it’s the influence of dubious lobby groups on government that concerns me most today. It should be us who control the people in power, not powerful lobbyists with darker agendas that are most often not in our interests but their own.
Arms manufactures thrive when there are wars, as do a myriad of other companies who gorge themselves upon the logistics of warfare. Financial organisations grow fat with impunity by feeding our seemingly insatiable need for personal debt and patently do so without fear that their illegal practices and profane profiteering might ever be punished. Oil and gas companies, and a myriad of other corporations, don’t always tell the truth or act with environmental responsibility, and when they get it wrong, no amount of money can undo the damage.
I could go on but I’m sure you get my drift.
In the same way drug companies have no real desire to cure the common cold when there is so much money to be made treating the symptoms, certain industries need the world to be in a state of constant conflict. Peace is not good for their bottom line. So they wield political influence accordingly. An ambition helped immeasurably by the activities of terrorists.
Yet even the most cursory investigation quickly establishes that many terrorist groups were originally trained, funded and armed by the very people who later sought to hunt them down. This is not some old peacenik’s conspiracy theory it’s fact.
Eisenhower urged us to watch the arms industry like the hawks they are. We either didn’t listen or are too powerless to intervene.
Taking this thought further, when a country relies heavily on carbon-based resources to prop up its economy it’s not exactly a stretch to believe that those industries would lobby heavily to circumvent any attempt at controlling carbon emissions.
And in the financial world not only is greed good, so is debt and you can’t have one without the other. Ergo we are encouraged to take on debt at every level of society while the financial world acts without conscience and profits with impunity seemingly beyond the reach of the law, as the aftermath of the GFC so clearly demonstrated.
Today anyone looking down from space would see the ravages of warfare everywhere, not least the war we humans are waging against the planet. According to an astronaut I saw interviewed recently, evidence of the latter when seen from above is alarming and irrefutable.
War might be good for business but it has little else to recommend it. The removal of Saddam and the bravery of the soldiers who fought in it notwithstanding, I will go to my grave believing the only winners in the Iraq war were those who fuelled it with equipment and arms and gorged upon the logistics. And the direct links with such companies to powerful people in George Dubya’s administration are a matter of record.
Meanwhile Iraq remains a weeping sore of a kind we would never tolerate within the cotton wool shores of our own safe and stable countries.
I don’t pretend that long running global conflicts, based on entrenched religious and ethnic grounds, can be easily solved. I only know that one act of kindness has more power than any act of war — although I’m sure the proponents of cluster bombs would argue with that.
Few of us who’ve watched Doctor Who or any similar time travelling tale has not contemplated what we might change in our lives if we could go back in time. I wonder what those living one hundred years from now might want go back and change in our time. I wonder if it’s something we are doing now, or not doing.
So I urge you to do something.
Do something worthwhile for somebody or something next year. Start with your own friends and family. Let’s try to lead by example. Let’s do our best to fill the rest of the proverbial glass. Let’s keep our leaders honest. Let’s demand more from them and ourselves.
Let’s give the kids something to believe in.
I wish you all the very best for the Festive Season and the year ahead.
Sydney, Australia, December 20, 2013