Current Issue #488

Lost: Our Bright Shiny Courage

Lost: Our Bright Shiny Courage

We are more likely to send troops to a war than adapt the constitution, or even simple things like the flag, the national song. Australia’s leaders seem to think the old ways were best, so they will do very nicely for the future with a bit of tinkering.

The saddest thing about government in Australia is that it looks to the past instead of inventing the future. This leaves enlightened people – our thinkers, inventors, artists, scientists and teachers – stranded with their ideas unsupported, while the nation goes on making the same, or variations of the old, mistakes. I fear it is a fatal weakness.

It shows in all types of government. So-called leaders play on people’s fears to ensure they are elected to do the same old same old. Why is this the case? It is almost as though the nation we have long called “young” came to a screaming halt, despite years of peace and prosperity.

It is fear, but why can’t we look at our institutions and renew them, why can’t we say the word “change” without dread? Why can’t we face challenges like climate change with courage and enthusiasm? We are more likely to send troops to a war than adapt the constitution, or even simple things like the flag, the national song.

Australia’s leaders seem to think the old ways were best, so they will do very nicely for the future with a bit of tinkering. Not so. The world has changed radically. Change has overtaken us. Tinkering will not do. The spirit of our age is fear. Toss in intellectual laziness and you have the picture.

We have even gone back to ancestor worship – witness, Anzac Day – rather than finding new ways of developing heroes, those who will challenge us, who will catch us up and even overtake, countries with far fewer resources that are now ahead. The arts barely rate a mention, though they have so often shown us the way forward.

Money is cut from scientific institutions, despite our having a fine reputation in almost every branch of science. We blame the old for living longer. Afraid of the success our medical research has brought us! But what is unforgiveable is that we tell our young people to lower their expectations. What a terrible thing to suggest to young people at the height of their energy and aspirations.

When did housing become unaffordable to people with jobs? Even if you accept that it could not be foreseen, then why did we so carelessly jettison the hopes of families for a house with a bit of grass for the kids to play on? Without a fight, we did. And just promoted “apartment living”, and even acceptance of perpetual rental accommodation… told our young to lower their expectations.

There is a glut of apartments now and thousands of disillusioned young people. A paid-o ff house was always the best way for most people to provide for old age. It still is. Wasn’t that something worth preserving, fighting for?

Now we have more old people than ever before, decreasing home ownership, and no articulated way of providing housing for old people who can’t afford to pay rent. Leaders appear to have lost confidence in themselves to deal with difficult, but not hard to understand, problems such as this.

We have the tools and the brains, but our leaders are afraid to use them and even actively discourage them. University fees. Say no more. The result is a disaffected populace that spends its energies abusing political figures on social media.

I once saw computers in a country library covered up with hand embroidered doilies. That seemed very Australian to me. The wider world embraces new technology to deal with changing times. Australia invents new technology, but when it comes time to fund it and install new ways of doing things, becomes nervous.

What will the polls say? The NBN is a communications development with a doily over it. Australia is into it, but leaders want a safety blanket, or a doily, to make it acceptable to everyone, so no one can complain about waste, profligacy with tax dollars. Leaders are afraid to be leaders. They can’t explain. They either hide behind slogans or batter our ears with unbearably loud jargon (my head hurts, Scott !).

They forget their ideals to make themselves acceptable to what they believe people want. They don’t live like most people. They get it wrong. People hate them. I am lucky to have young grandchildren while having memories dating back to WWII. I marvel at pre-teen kids who have such confidence in themselves, are unafraid to ask questions, have eager opinions and look forward to their future.

When I was their age, we were of not much account, even if we were loved. No one asked us anything much, and if we ventured an opinion we were sat upon. Yet my generation grew up to take the risks, to change so much. Women joined the wider world, physical punishment was abandoned, parents became more involved in their children’s lives… then suddenly, a palpable resistance to change, a disdain for political life, cynicism about everything. Old people despised. Values cheapened, ugliness risen up, expectations lowered.

I fear that my grandchildren and their friends will soon have their bright, shiny courage knocked out of them. Leaders say it’s the economy, stupid. But only stupid takes their word for it.

 “Old age should burn and rave at close of day” Two Raging Grannies is a film about Shirley (no relation) and Hinda, closer to 90 than 80, who travel on their mobility scooters, searching for answers to the economic mess of our times; doubting, because of their commitment to a healthy planet, that growth and consumption are the answer.

Third Agers will have no trouble imagining the discrimination they encounter in the corridors of power, even just trying to speak “to a human being” on the phone. It is a delightful, funny, tender, feisty movie to be shown at the Mercury Cinema in the Adelaide Transitions Film Festival at 7pm on May 24. Just hope the venue is disability accessible, so check it out, deafies, among others.


Get the latest from The Adelaide Review in your inbox

Get the latest from The Adelaide Review in your inbox