Balneus

Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Santayana did not come this year

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-12-28


For Oz politics and society, with 2010, despite changes of faces, little different from 2009, indeed little different from the Howard years, with the same lack of progress on all substantial issues, it’s pretty obvious that Santayana’s warning hasn’t been heeded.

Santayana didn’t visit – we are on the naughty list.

When experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Our experience is not retained enough to guide actions.  Consider:

  • The lessons of past financial crises are forgotten as again regulations on finance houses are diluted to homeopathic concentrations.
     
  • We ignore the lessons of every nation in history since Alexander that has tried to impose a will upon Afghanistan, apart from the successes of perhaps Darius and Babur.
     
  • We are destroying the awareness of history and culture, (especially the classics), by gutting university arts faculties so much that there are calls on the Nature website for scientists to defend arts faculty funding.
     
  • We continually allow political hypocrisy, politicians free to get tough on refugees (where we are responsible for a lot of the chaos they flee) on the basis (inter alia) of resource scarcity, while that scarcity is ignored in economic policy, and forgetting the lessons of the post-WW2 and Fraser years.
     
  • We allow politicians to pander to religious lobbies, forgetting that religion (as opposed to philosophy) has always had a disastrous effect on policy, while at the same time warring on or imposing sanctions on societies dominated by different religions.
     
  • We’ve forgotten how well an independent tenured public service, frank and fearless, served us with long-term vision and funding, how well our infrastructure was created 50 years and more ago, that it has taken decades of neglect for that infrastructure to start failing.
     
  • Australia has forgotten our egalitarian and progressive heritage, such as our early adoption of votes for women.

This is an incomplete list… very incomplete.

What of the coming year?  Same old, same old.

It’s as if our society is Bill Murray in the film "Groundhog Day", but without the intelligence to see the loop, or the will to learn and change.

Perhaps we should not wish for a happy new year, but a year full of crises, barely escaping one after another, until we finally are shocked out of our dreamstate, and get an early start to tackle a new day.

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