Wednesday, December 06, 2006
"Howard's Brutopia" - the thoughts of Kevin Rudd
In a recent article published in The Monthly, Kevin Rudd discussed Howard's political offensive on thinking people who see through his simple minded pitch to fear and exclusion, and set out an alternative template based on principles of decency, fairness and compassion.
In "Howard's Brutopia" he takes aim at Howard's "culture wars", which he sees as "essentially a cover for the real battle of ideas in Australian politics today: the battle between free-market fundamentalism and the social-democratic belief that individual reward can be balanced with social responsibility. Howard’s culture war is in large part an electoral strategy drawn straight from the Republican Party’s campaign manual. Its organising principle is fear, and it is deployed in two parts. The first of these is the conscious exacerbation of fear, anxiety and uncertainty – all of which are powerful (though, in effect, disempowering) emotions capable of overriding everything else in the human mind. The second part is to proffer the healing balm of “certainty” in the midst of all the anxiety-inducing “uncertainty”, by running a series of falsely dichotomous arguments in the public debate: tradition versus modernity; absolutism versus moral relativism; monoculture versus multiculture."
Mr Rudd is calling for a broad based movement to re-capture the centre ground of Australian politics.
I think many people will be attracted to this idea, as they become increasingly uncomfortable with the subliminal dog whistling of Howard and his "mates":
" Working within a comprehensive framework of self-regarding and other-regarding values gives social democrats a rich policy terrain in which to define a role for the state. This includes the security of the people; macro-economic stability; the identification of market failure in critical areas such as infrastructure; the identification of key public goods, including education, health, the environment and the social safety net; the fostering of new forms of social capital; and the protection of the family as the core incubator of human and social capital. These state functions do not interfere with the market; they support the market. But they have their origins in the view that the market is designed for human beings, not vice versa, and this remains the fundamental premise that separates social democrats from neo-liberals.
It is no coincidence that when the government’s entirely self-regarding asylum-seeker legislation was recently blocked by the parliament, it was blocked by a coalition of political forces, including a conservative Christian from the National Party, long-time social Liberals, several community Independents, Democrats, Greens and the Labor Party’s full complement. Given that John Howard’s neo-liberal experiment has now reached the extreme, the time has come to restore the balance in Australian politics. The time has come to recapture the centre. The time has come to forge a new coalition of political forces across the Australian community, uniting those who are disturbed by market fundamentalism in all its dimensions and who believe that this country is entitled to a greater vision than one which merely aggregates individual greed and self-interest."