…Is a question I’ve been asked often this week, most notably by chrismurray0 at fridays collabolab.
So, it’s time for another one of those personal brain dump, rambling, not coherent, emotive, please ignore, not technical postings.
In a nutshell, yes, the effect was profound. There’s monetary impact on the business both now and in the future, some impact on home finances, particularly in the mid term. It’s hard not to be concerned about the longer term future too, and a particular niggle that my long-term dream of getting back to doing some kind of cybernetics work is now even less of a possibility.
All of these things demonstrate the mild, but still important, ups and downs in the course of life. Perhaps the most worrying immediate and direct impact of the current climate is the redundancy of a close and extremely capable friend, although I hold out significant hope that situation will all work out for the best.
And yet… I can’t say I find much of this profound, or even surprising.
As I watched the announcement I have to confess to feeling physically sick. This room full of people, elected by us, and placed in an arrangement of sincere dialectic deliberation were deciding the immediate fates of a huge number of people. The decisions reached would have far reaching short, mid and long term consequences. Now more than ever, reasoned debate needed to hold sway. No cheap points scoring (Except where legitimate ones can be seen, rather than clever argumentative word play) should be seen. All this in a room now filled with cameras, for the whole nation to see the process of government.
I don’t care if you’re in favour of the cuts or not. To cheer and “Here Here” decisions that will put people out of work is simply wrong. It demonstrates beyond doubt a lack of empathy and compassion which should be amongst the first prerequisites for the job of a minister (Closely followed by a skin of concrete and a keen intellect, no doubt!). I was appalled by the behaviour of the government. (With a small hat tip to the front benchers, who did seem to retain some dignity).
On the other side tho, to target decisions taken in good faith, decisions which support the policies and perceived priorities of the elected office and to score cheap syntactic hits, to provide no substantive alternative or critique beyond the bleedin’ obvious is equally wrong. To shout, albeit against the cuts, because you don’t have anything constructive to say, is wrong. To not have a substantial response is wrong. To let things get into this state was equally wrong (Even if it has given us an opportunity). Also, if the CSR is a reckless gamble on the basis of confidence (Which I may tend to agree with, even tho I have no evidence that is the case), it’s hard to see how pointing it out in quite that way can be anything short of equally reckless? Surely quiet critique would be the order of the day, to try and influence policy whilst not treating “Confidence” as tool with which to scare the electorate? Instead of throwing around words like reckless, intended only to feed the electoral machine, chase for details, why this over that, how did you decide. These are the qualitative aspects I expect a well paid mind to chase. Show and document the reckless decision for what it is, instead of parading around.
All my voting life the government of this country has been in an uncontrolled (Or a barely controlled) oscillation between two ideologies which are essentially (To my mind) orthogonal. No doubt there are deep rooted reasons for this (Represented largely by the background and gestalt of the major parties). Because of this, there’s never any compromise on the two axes represented. Each party seems uniquely incapable of providing reasoned coherent and integrated opposition, just as the party in power seems incapable of taking part in reasoned debate.
The voters of this country vote tribally. And we enable appalling behaviour and the bad decisions bred by a system who’s goal is purely short term self preservation, not good decision making across all the dimensions of government. The individuals and ideologies composing government are in a homeostatic relationship with the population of voters, creating a stable system of electioneering which has precious little to do with democracy or good governance.
I am disappointed to be repeatedly presented with pseudo choices (On all fronts) supposed to create the illusion of “Democracy”. “We have no other choice than to deal with the deficit”. At the risk of quoting general meltchett, heres the crowning turd in the water pipe: I have been a supporter of the tobin/robin hood tax for a while. Of all the corners that might have been fought in the opportunity created by this situation, that would have been the one for me. I can see merit to the argument that the deficit must be reduced (And that it shouldn’t have been allowed to get that way in the first place). The leaders responses to the robin hood tax shocks me as much as cheering cuts. In the same way that it’s now OK to agree with an opposition member, “The robin hood tax is a good idea.. But.. Wait for other countries, etc, etc, etc”. If we truly have no choice, then surely the first choice we don’t have involves the substantial reform of banking – even if this needs to be done unilaterally. We have a government for itself (And I include in that the previous administration), not for the people. How else could we not implement the robin hood tax at this time. How could the opposition not drive it as a fundamental opposing point rather than just a bullet on the stage managed bland opposition response.
We badly need to get out of the undecidable propositions foisted on us by this electoral system masquerading as a democratic and political process. Not just for the sake of finances, but for the environment and all our futures.
Sadly, many of the best placed to think us a way out of this seem happy to sit and regurgitate the obvious and mundane. They come up with ever better solutions to already solved easy problems, and duplicate existing analysis of hard problems. Frightningly, they seem to be amongst the worst for becoming entrenched in the very ideological problems that keep us trapped here. Now more than ever we need a metalanguage of governance and serious political reform.
Ultimately, this is all belly-ache I guess. But it raises in me a profound question. How do we know our process of government is any good? When we’re dealing with the uncertainty of the future, what metrics allow us to say this isn’t as good as it should be. Where is the critical reflection, not of the opposition, not of the electoral process, but of the wide process of government itself.
The problem for me is that there’s a whole load of tribal debate going on. This is fuelled by a lack of information. People are arguing ideological positions, filling in the blanks with their own version of what utopia would be. This is good for the electoral process, very very bad for good governance. Lets see the figures. Lets see the financial models being used ON BOTH SIDES. I’m not suggesting radical change here, I am suggesting that our government (As a whole) is woefully poor at explaining to us the problems it faces, it’s decision making process, and it’s reasons for selecting one model, one course of action, one ideology over another. The same is equally, perhaps more, true of opposition. “Here are my projections of this course of action and changing x to y has z affect, why don’t we do that” Now that would be opposition! You don’t get to get away with saying “Well I’d do a better job if I were in power” any more.. Substance both in proposals and opposition! Of course if decisions were made on the basis of evidence rather than ideology, one wonders what would be left to vote for?
I will no longer spend my vote for anyone to sit in the house and shout “Here Here”, it’s not a vote well spent, for anyone. I want more from my vote. I don’t mind hard decisions being taken, but its about time the process got a SHIT LOAD more open and accountable. When we’re right, lets look back and say “We were right”, when we’re wrong, lets look back and try to find out why. Lets drop the ideological debate and all this other nonsense. If you’re going to say something, say it in straightforward documented words, supported and illustrated by models we can run at home. Significant events like this need to be accompanied by high quality information dissemination exercises, not big media campaigns or “Debates”. One might even say “Quality Debate” over “Big Debate”. When I say “Why can’t we do the tobin tax as a part of dealing with the crisis” I want that added to your models, with explanations of the results you anticipate and why you chose or reject that. I expect the opposition to do the same, giving me some substance to prefer one selection over the other.
Perhaps, in better explaining itself to us, our government might better understand itself.