Chaos, Continuity And A Fond Farewell
Five months in and the year hasn’t failed to deliver in terms of big political headlines. The Labor Party was decimated in NSW and reduced to a rump in the new parliament. Julia Gillard is feeling some serious heat after announcing the introduction of a carbon tax, leaving Tony Abbott to do his best to encourage the implosion of a fragile minority government. And finally, Queensland effectively has two opposition leaders – one keeping up appearances in parliament while the real one is in the job despite not even having a seat yet.
Look further afield and our political dramas seem like child’s play. Arguing between Republicans and Democrats left America less than two hours away from a nation-wide government shutdown. Elsewhere, Canada’s government fell unexpectedly while Ireland and Portugal teeter on the edge of fiscal catastrophe. In the Arab world we’ve seen numerous uprisings set the region ablaze, bringing about revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, a new war in Libya and possibly more trouble on the way.
Why all the trouble? Politics in most developed countries works in cycles, with history kind of repeating itself. One side wins big and governs for a few terms, loses its way, gets beaten badly and the other side comes back. With each swing of the pendulum the victor aims to undo the work of the vanquished.
Periods of economic strife usually make things a little less predictable, and every now and then a shock comes along – war, revolution, a Prime Minister being deposed by his own party, for example – that throws a spanner in the works, putting the cycle off and bringing unexpected change, and in some cases chaos. Obviously there are exceptions, but that’s roughly what we’re in the middle of now.
Worst of all, in less than four short months, we saw floods devastate Queensland then earthquakes wreak horrific death and destruction in New Zealand and Japan. These shocking natural disasters make our political hyperbole seem ridiculous.
What’s the upshot of all this on our information-saturated world? For many of us – certainly for my generation – we look at what’s happening across the globe and it feels like the most chaotic and uncertain period of our lives. For some, that might well be true.
But the world has always been a pretty crazy place – our elders who remember the height of the Cold War or World War II can tell you about that. We’re just living through our own time’s strife and finding more and more out about it than our forebears.
Why all the big picture reflections? Sadly, this will be my final column for The Beast. After more than four years of bloviating it’s time to step aside. I’m quite sure I haven’t always been the most agreeable read for many, but I’ve enjoyed the opportunity and want to thank those of you who do jump in each month.
This is a great local publication, run by great people in a great corner of the greatest country on earth. I’m happy to have been a part of it. Adios!