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November 10th 2017 print

Jim Campbell

At the End of Our Rope

Even the most cursory inspection reveals the integrity of institutions and mores is coming apart. From a failing yet ever more costly education system to defence policies crafted to achieve electoral advantage, rather than national security, the strands of what once held us together are rupturing

rope frayingA wire rope is made to support a load under tension and composed of many woven steel strands. But wire ropes sometimes break, the best policy being to conduct regular examinations and, just in case, never to place any part of your body near the rope in case it fails. When the first strand goes the load and strain on the remaining wires intensifies until, most likely sooner than later, the next-weakest wire fails, and so on. There is nothing that can be done to stop the deterioration or, eventually, the catastrophic failure that sees the severed rope become a whip-lashing peril to all unlucky enough to be nearby at the time. Many a tilt-truck driver has been grievously injured when his winch rope’s unnoticed deterioration became suddenly and catastrophically apparent.

You’ve probably guessed that I’m invoking a metaphor about society. In Australia right now even the most cursory inspection reveals strands whose integrity is either partially or wholly gone. Let me identify some of these strands; I am sure readers can add their own.

Discipline: Today, discipline appears to be absent or marginal in many areas: the schoolroom, the home, public behaviour, even our parliament. Don’t like a former prime minister? Well head-butt him because, well, why not! Arguing your case requires thought and effort and logic. It’s so much easier (and far more satisfying) to make your case with a forehead to the nose. Yes, you might end up in court, but it will be to the cheers of your Twitter admirers and urgers.

Respect: This seems to be regarded as one of yesterday’s virtues, as we see in almost all areas of public and private life: customer service, attitude to the elderly, simple gestures such as opening a door, road rage. Or think of it this way: you are Australia’s greatest tennis player but hold unfashionable views about re-defining the word “marriage”. Expect your center court achievements to count for nothing as activists push to remove your name from the stadium built to honour your sporting achievements. Why extend respect when a public burning is so much more fun?

Education: Where does one start? In no particular order: lack of emphasis on the three Rs; the inclusion in the syllabus — indeed, elevation –  of lifestyle advocacy. Even as Australia slips ever further down the international rankings, the amount poured into “education” grows, yet teacher unions and bureaucrats insist it is still not enough. And it gets worse at the tertiary level. Universities now focus on generating revenue rather than promoting academic excellence. To be fair, this is all they can do, as the schools system delivers every year a fresh crop of minds either half-formed or so polluted by approved doctrine that the critical thought once seen as the essence of university life is beyond them. Ever wonder about the popularity of gay studies, womens studies and all the other make-it-up-as-you-go-along “studies”? The explanation is simple: useless courses are the perfect vehicles to keep the fees flowing and bums on lecture room seats. That a degree in, say, feminist film studies is unlikely to enhance job prospects is never mentioned.

Law and order: In Victoria almost one billion dollars every year is shaken out of motorists who travel just a whisker over the speed limit — respectable citizens for the most part whose only crime is to have money in the bank the government thinks should be better used underwriting its education system (see above) and other follies. Meanwhile teen gangs rampage through the late-night suburbs and police warn that any homeowner who defends home, life and property against push-in invaders risks being charged with vigilantism. Nevertheless, sporting goods stores sell out of baseball bats.

Sport and leisure: Everything in sport is overlaid with money, gambling, razzmatazz, and success at all costs. Sport is pervasive: it has become one of our new, secular religions. Sporting personalities who are held up as role models are too often brought down by drugs, dope, sex and dubious conduct. Oh, and don’t mention the tattoos.

Procreation: In the Sixties, the Pill was the first unnatural technique to change the procreation game. From there we have moved at an exponential rate through IVF, surrogacy, donor sperm, multiple donors and cryogenic storage to name a few current procedures. In addition, because modern feminism insists jobs and careers are far more satisfying than kitchen-sink motherhood, women are conceiving well past the recommended age. I know all of these aspects can wonderful in certain individual circumstances. But simply because something can be done does not mean there will be no consequences: there simply has not been sufficient experience to predict long-term outcomes.

Family: What has happened to the family, that bastion of society and the nation: mother, father, and children? Parents are often there in name only. Mum and Dad both work so that their taxes can subsidise child care, allowing them to keep on working to pay more taxes for more child care. Once in Australia it was possible for families to get by on just one income. No longer. The pressures of work and life in general are sapping the strength and capacity of the nuclear family to function effectively and children are suffering.

Morality and spirituality: Australia was born under a Judeo-Christian umbrella: the Ten Commandments, ‘do unto others as you would have them do to you’, self-sacrifice, and the manners, morals and graces that flow from these principles. Since then we have folded the umbrella and put it away. We worship at the altars of hedonism and materialism, of sport and leisure. It is a significant shift and religion’s vanishing from the public square is telling. Christian thought can be instructive in appreciating and understanding many things, including the beauty of a sunrise, literature, music, art, an attitude, a thought. But do we find the time and have the mind to appreciate these today? In an insightful recent article, (The Death Throes of Common Decency‘) Quadrant‘s Peter Smith highlighted the sad results of this shift.

Digital Technology: Forty years ago this strand was not present but today cannot be ignored. The genie is out of the bottle and there is no controlling it. Yes, digital technology can and is doing much good, but with it come other consequences: pornography on a massive scale; lack of personal relationships; bullying; identity theft; mental stress; personal worth and employment. Worse than that is the digital “echo chamber”. Once, back when newspapers were the chief vehicles of expressed opinion, both sides were given a guernsey to one extent or other. Today, in the age of Facebook and Twitter, bodies of thought divide into mutually exclusive and abusive camps. Express the view that Donald Trump might not be Satan incarnate and you will be “unfriended” in short order, meaning those of like mind reinforce each other’s views and, rather than engage in debate, self-polarised online communities fling abuse at each other.

At the outset I cited the strands of a deteriorating steel rope. What are the consequences of the breakdown of the above strands and others? Well, lack of common sense for starters, plus an inability to make effective and realistic plans. On top of that, moral decay, poor “systems thinking” and weak leadership.

The eventual outcome of these deficiencies will be long-term, but I suggest we are witnessing some of the early results today. Consider the performance of the successive federal governments over the past ten years: the NBN fiasco; the ruinously wasteful pink batts/school halls response to the GFC; NDIS funding for lawnmowing outfits; money as the solution, the only solution, to the education’s systems worsening failures.

And what of the parliamentary citizenship debacle? Is that not a manifestation of the attitude that rules apply to some, but not all?

Or how about blowing $50 billion — it will be much, much more than that by the time of the first boat’s delivery — on submarines conceived not for defending the nation but to save the seat of an alleged conservative who turns to GetUp! for help in white-anting members of his own party. Then there is the power crisis and the absurdity of an energy-rich nation facing blackouts while being burdened with some of the world’s highest electricity tariffs. I could go on, but will leave readers to expand the list with their own favourite failures of will, principle and leadership.

Can this deterioration be reversed? Brand me a pessimist but I doubt it. Essentially, what we are witnessing is the collapse of a nation’s capacity to cope with the increasingly complex world we are creating. The strands are popping, the rope coming apart. Where will this end? In tears, I’m afraid.

Safety note: If you have to cross a wire rope that is under load and of disintegrating integrity, keep your fingers crossed. If you’re lucky it will be a repairable injury, rather than a fatal gutting when all the separating strands give way suddenly and at once.

Comments [13]

  1. Bill Martin says:

    Yes Jim, all of that and infinitely more. Articles of this genre always seem to me to be cries in the wilderness where nobody listens. Not only those with the opportunity to engage in remedial actions fail to hear the alarm, the overwhelming majority of the common people are also either ignorant or apathetic, most often both, of the avalanche hurtling towards us.

    I would add a couple of items to the list of the danger signs.

    Foremost is the steady islamisation of most western nations. To raise the alarm on this account results in the swift accusation of islamophobia, xenophobia, racism and worse. After all, Islam is just another religion, a religion of peace, in fact, isn’t it? Far too few are those who recognise the danger before they are woken up by the call of the muezzin to prayer five times a day. It will be too late by then.

    A further issue is identity politics, especially in connection with Aborigines in our case. It is now taken for granted that any person self-identify as Aboriginal – regardless of the extent of Aboriginality, if any – is entitled to an unlimited degree of special considerations and entitlements as well as a mythological superiority over lesser mortals. Most regrettably, this phenomenon is seriously eroding the originally abundant goodwill towards Aborigines of society at large.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      Bill:
      Muslims want to emigrate the West largely because their home countries are such economic basket cases, except for those endowed with oil; and even there, with clerics controlling education, Islam stifles independent and critical thought. It has to, to survive; hence the severe Islamic penalties for apostasy.
      Islam has a declared intention to take over the world. But it is a two-way street. Muslims in the west can resent the culture they are immersed in, but they can’t ignore it; or its influence on their own culture and community, especially re the next generation.
      The race is therefore on. Will Islam take over the world, or the world take over Islam? Every Islamist atrocity can be read as a statement of some Muslim’s belief that time is not on his side, and that the contest is not going well for Islam.
      Which is understandable, as it is such a godawful religion, with or without SBS programs that try to show it favourably.

  2. ianl says:

    > “Can this deterioration be reversed? Brand me a pessimist …”

    Not just a pessimist, but cynical. That’s the conversation killer, and once it is (all too easily) deployed, there is no coming back. It’s somewhat akin to being accused of kiddy-fiddling – the accusation is sufficient. There is a reason my other chosen nom-de-plume is Cassandra.

    My contribution to the list of issues above is that of the beloved greenie notion the “Precautionary Principle”, generally presented to impose a Guilty Until Proven Innocent pall over scientific debate. The deliberately pernicious damage from this can only be appreciated by surveying the current widespread fear and loathing of the 6th element in the Periodic Table; almost the entire panorama of life on earth is built upon the C atom and it’s huge number of compounds, photosynthesis of CO2 provides basal sustenance for almost the entire food chain as well as atmospheric oxygen, 0.04% atmospheric CO2 levels are re-greening the planet, but most of the population are convinced that all this is destroying the planet. In fact, all it has destroyed is the gravitas of science, which was built on enormous effort, blood and hard-won treasure from the Enlightenment and together with its’ practical application of engineering and mathematics has provided the base for real progress (not progressivism). I regard this as wanton destruction, vandalism.

  3. Aftermath says:

    Thank you ianl. I think you have just defined the new identity problem of Mendeleevism. I am glad you recognised the 6th element, but don’t forget number 92.

    • ianl says:

      :) Even the mention of elements at the higher end of the Table is enough to turn the meeja and consequently most of the population into real-life, frothing zombies. Then, being labelled as “cynical” is almost like a warm, gentle bath in comparison to the Coventry that is bestowed upon one.

      One of the high-placed greenie NGO persons opined that supplying cheap, limitless energy was like giving a loaded machine pistol to 7 year old, or something like that. Systematically removing a cheap, reliable supply of energy from Western societies is the surest way of reducing consumption and living standards – a giant Robin Hood scheme – and neither fission nor fusion fit that notion, so they’re just not allowed.

  4. Keith Kennelly says:

    Jim

    I feel your frustration.
    But it is not the steel wire rope that is deteriorating.
    Basic truths never change and that is the great truth of western philosophy.

    That wire will always be there. It’s just that less and less individuals actually bother to read the ‘Great Conversation’ today than people did yesterday.

    It is the widespread lack of knowledge and the application that knowledge which is the problem.

    As an analogy the wire rope of achievement and betterment is still there and is always strong but it is covered in the grease of debasement of all the sibboths of the elites and along with the lack of gloves of self discipline the climbing to its heights are just more difficult for most.

    To some degree this achievement has never been an easy path, and as you are suggesting there are now hordes more with a supposed education now running riot with great ideologies but little wisdom.

    Those with real wisdom gained from the real knowledge which only comes with an understanding of how we have become the way we are will eventually hold sway.

    The great body of people will understand this wisdom if talked about.

    Each of the points you raise can be countered by pointing to a growing desire among the wider community for a desire to return to the ways of the past.

    The reversal of the preferred policies and rejection ‘leaders’ of the elitists is becoming increasingly evident.

    I fel the best way to approach this issue is to talk about the things that once improved our lives and to leave the talk, whether positive or negative, of the impact of the negatives where it belongs… unspoken.

    People respond to positives, negativity turns them off.

    I’d encourage you to write of the positive that would reverse the corruptions you list, and challege the fundamentals with truth.

    Eg Ian has nowhere to go with his climate claims now that data shows his fundamental belief is challenged. He is becoming less ardent about his position and is actually considering his opponents might not be as delegitimised as he once thought.

    Eventually Ian will abandon his belief as he is conquered by greater knowledge and wisdom.

    That’s what westernism does best.

    Westernism has always been challenged but as Ghandi said
    ‘Throughout history the ways of love and truth have always won’.

    That is a basic truth and cannot change.

    Take heart my friend not all is lost, and have faith in the wider community as all philosophy is from them. They decide our future it cannot be imposed from the top down and that is where all the corruptions come from.

    Cheers

    • ianl says:

      > Ian has nowhere to go with his climate claims now that data shows his fundamental belief is challenged. He is becoming less ardent about his position and is actually considering his opponents might not be as delegitimised as he once thought.”

      Utter rubbish … now tell us exactly what this “fundamental belief” is, please. No straw men permitted. I make no “claims” – that is a yet another straw man.

      That people are hopelessly irrational is uncontested. Now please try to overcome this.

      • ianl says:

        Your comment is so intellectually dishonest that at first I thought it was from the trollster and so to be ignored. Despair is the appropriate response – I was there 20 years ago when I finally realised how illiterate people actually are and how little they care that they are.

        Now I’m laying odds on just how unresponsive any reply to the actual details and evidence you make will be. About 15:1 against.

  5. Keith Kennelly says:

    Not you Ianl, the other Ian, Ian the Denier, the climate warmer Ian.

    I wasn’t exact, and should have been.

    I just didn’t see your name or associate your comment with my post. And in no way intended to disparage you or your views.
    Your view is perfectly valid, I just don’t agree with you. That’s all.

    I think this will clear up any misunderstanding, on both our parts.

    Cheers

  6. Keith Kennelly says:

    Any management is poison to me.