A retired academic friend and I were ruminating the other day about how in God’s name we had gotten to where we are now — well into the twenty-first century, in a country rich in natural resources, an unusually cold start to winter means sky-rocketing energy prices and the distinct possibility of blackouts. Whilst recognising there are many short-term explanations (excuses) for the timing of this national crisis, and that the details are complex, we agreed that this has been a long time coming.
The surreal contest at the recent federal election, in which all political parties (save for a handful of small, very unsuccessful ones on the right) plus a gaggle of so-called ‘independents’, competed with one another to show just how hairy-chested they were on the matter of getting to ‘net zero’ emissions as quickly as possible, embracing renewable energy, demonising coal and gas and refusing to even discuss the potential of uranium as a clean source of base-load supply. All in all it was a startlingly depressing wake-up call, a further demonstration of just how far and fast this global warming/climate crisis juggernaut has progressed in this country, and how deep the myths and misrepresentations sustaining it have permeated.
My friend and I acknowledged the dismal reality we as a country have to face is that a disproportionate number of those who have signed up to this global warming religion, because that is what it is, are denizens of the comfortably-off middle-class suburbs – predominantly female, and tertiary-educated in the humanities and the arts, in health, legal and business studies. Most have gone on to jobs in teaching, in the public sector and qangos, in NGOs, the media and the human relations departments of major corporations. The climate ‘meta-narrative’ they were fed during their school and university days, the false consciousness it instilled in them, the group-think it encouraged, all this they carried into the workforce and beyond, at each stage being reinforced by their fellow students, their workmates, their friends, by those they married or with whom they cohabit. Like rising damp, this ideology has now reached into the upper echelons of society – its board rooms, cabinet offices and harbourside mansions. The spectacle of the congregation lined up like cardboard cut-outs behind Albanese and Bowen in an Oval Office-type document-signing photo-op in mid-June, pledging to the UN their government’s commitment to a 43 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030, illustrates the point. Included in the line-up are not only the usual suspects from the union movement and the deep green NGOs, but also rent-seeking useful idiots from the Australian Industry Group and the Business Council of Australia.
So how did it come to this? How is it that so many supposedly well-educated fellow citizens have fallen for what can quite easily be, and often is, demonstrated to be a scam, one that is not supported by the very science they resolutely declare is settled? Why are they either ignorant of, or have chosen to ignore, the evidence garnered from long-range meteorological records and rigorous observation from satellites and other sources, that clearly refute what they have been sold? Why are they happy instead to be persuaded by self-styled climate experts pedalling computer models with such long histories of being inaccurate, often wildly so? Why are they accepting, seemingly witout a scintilla of doubt, policies and practices so inimical to our continued prosperity and national security, but without having any measurable impact upon the problem they ostensibly are meant to solve? Why are they being spruiked with such gusto by politicians who clearly do not know what they are talking about?
The uncomfortable truth my friend I were obliged to admit is that we old guys had its genesis on our watch, during our tenure as academics. Along with most of our colleagues we either were unaware of the seismic shifts that were beginning to register, were not prescient enough to realise their consequences, or were wilfully blind to them.
We agreed sadly it was probably a consequence of all three. It is cold comfort but, in our defence, I think the mea culpas can be spread wider to include all Australians of our age, along with those in the same cohort across the West from whom we imported so much. We are those born just before or during the Second World War, the so-called ‘silent generation’, wedged between the illustrious ‘greatest generation’ of our parents and the chattering ‘baby-boomers’ that follow us. As such we are often the overlooked generation. We were the first to grow up into the sustained period of economic growth and prosperity our parents made possible. No-one much talks about us, but our impact upon how things are turning out, for good and ill, has been enormous.
Our collective soul-searching needs to go back at least as far as the 1960s, when we were coming of age.
We were, after all, the ones who celebrated the sexual revolution, the peace movement, San Francisco’s flower power, Woodstock and all that, of the late ’60s-early ’70s, without overly examining or caring too much about their impact upon the moral constraints and taboos that have held our societies together. This was the dawning, we were promised, of The Age of Aquarius, ‘a time of expanded consciousness, when we can take control of the earth and become more mindful of human rights.’ (Curiously, astrologers tell us December 2021 ushered in another such alignment of the stars.)
We either were unaware of the post-modernist philosophies sprouting in the ’70s, failed to comprehend them or didn’t appreciate, until they had well and truly taken root, how much they were to undermine our received notions of reason, logic and our understanding of society and history. They brought us such notions as ethical relativism, moral equivalence and truth as a social construct, that led inexorably to today’s full-monty wokery.
As we watched Christianity recede as the dominant spiritual bedrock of our societies, as more and more its mores were judged to be anachronistic and its institutions corrupt, we failed to apprehend that many of our young would either adopt destructively nihilistic views of the world or, in order to fill the spiritual void, seek meaning in materialism, hedonism or the pagan Gaia-worshipping of extreme environmentalism.
We grew smug and complacent after the apparent ‘End of History’, brought on by the fall of the Soviet Union in the late ’80s-early ’90s, with promise of the triumph of liberal democracy, and the heralding of a post-ideological world for the 21st century. In so doing, we failed to heed the warnings that there were looming other serious ideological threats to our culture, in the form of radical Islam and the belief in climate change dystopia.
Moreover, in our complacency we left largely unappreciated the fact that the Red menace was far from over, but continued to flourish elsewhere, mostly notably and ominously in China. In our hubris we thought we could charm and convert that dragon with our winning ways. Look at how well that is turning out. But also, much more insidiously and mostly unremarked, the menace was thriving in our own universities, amongst deluded academics and clear-eyed fifth-columnists. Their susceptible charges, too young and poorly schooled to have an understanding of the horrendous impact communist regimes, such as those under Stalin in the Soviet Union, Mao in China and Pol Pot in Cambodia, have had on the lives, livelihoods and human rights of millions of their own citizens, instead have been taught to regard communism as a benign source of good, and that capitalism is the root of all evil.
What the Italian communist Gramsci dubbed socialism’s ‘long march through the institutions’ proceeded apace on our watch, largely under the radar. It spread out from the universities into schools, the media, the public sector, the military and police, the judiciary, the churches, sporting and community organisations, banks and other large corporations, the United Nations, its affiliates and other international bodies.
We embraced multiculturalism, without fully realising that as we celebrated everyone else’s cultures we first neglected to champion our own, and then, even more unforgivingly, actively taught our young to be ashamed of it and to despise it.
We have acknowledged that whilst our past efforts to reconcile our advanced Enlightenment-forged culture with the prehistoric stone-age hunter-gatherer cultures of our indigenous peoples were patchy at best, we have increasingly abandoned real, practical, and methodical ways of closing the gap, and opted instead for more and more symbolic gestures, such as saying ‘sorry’ for everything, performing faux ‘welcome-to-country’ type ceremonies, tinkering with the National Anthem, giving them flags to rival our own national flag, and so on, failing to anticipate that going down this path could lead to where we are now – seriously considering changing The Constitution to entrench what is clearly apartheid – dividing the country by race.
We embraced globalisation in our brave new, supposedly ideology-free, world order, without fully appreciating that along with enjoying cheap imported goodies and affordable overseas holidays, we were being dangerously rendered vulnerable by our ever-lengthening and fragile supply chains for vital commodities, such as fuel, fertilizers and medical supplies, drastically reducing our self-sufficiency in key industries and seriously weakening our national defence and security.
Wanting to be seen as good global citizens we have also embraced internationalism. From being a foundation signatory to the charter establishing the United Nations in 1945, successive Australian governments have either signed up to, or have toyed with signing up to, numerous other international treaties, conventions, protocols, accords and assorted agreements. The combined impact that these commitments have upon our sovereignty and our capacity to protect and advance our national interests have not always been fully anticipated or comprehended. Most germane to our present crisis is how much our obligations under the Paris Accords of 2016 and the GOP 26 Agreement of 2021 have exacerbated our problems.
We welcomed the arrival of social media as free, open platforms for the exchange of news, views and ideas, to seriously rival the closed shop that had hitherto been the preserve of the print and broadcast media, but failed to foresee, much less to block, the capture of this medium by a small number of self-important individuals to use for their own ideological purposes, and to stifle dissent, shut down free speech and cancel anyone who disagrees with them.
So here we are, the generation that led us to this point. As the last of our parents’ greatest generation pass away, we are now the elders of our culture. Their fantastic legacy, built with hard work, stoicism, great sacrifice, and a high degree of consensus about what they stood for, is what we should be taking responsibility for defending, preserving and passing on to subsequent generations. Instead we have squandered our inheritance.
Whilst we grew up in the era of unprecedented economic growth and prosperity they made possible, we have failed to grasp the lessons they taught us. We were too busy congratulating ourselves on our good fortune and enjoying its fruits to remember the old adages that good times do not go on for ever, and that no-one owes us a living.
Bob Dylan, our generation’s troubadour, told us ‘the times they are a-changin’. So exciting, but we didn’t know then just what this would actually entail. Too late we have come to realise how much of what we cherished about this country we bit by bit have traded away or have had taken from us, until here we are where we no longer are sure what is left that we agree upon and that we stand for. So rather than confidently taking up the mantle we have remained the silent generation, and even though we stuffed them up, we have left those that follow to cope with the mess.