Friday, January 08, 2010

When Left and Right agree, duck for cover

Woe betide us when Left and Right wings agree that something should not be an issue. It will barely get on the public agenda. Take, for example, the population crisis. The Left tends to deny it altogether, because "the trouble is not population, but the ownership and distribution of wealth and resources". You must never cross a Leftie with a divergent view, or you will be heavily jumped upon.

The Right, as the ordained political handservant of corporate capitalism, naturally wants as many new consumers as can fit into the sardine can and the mall car park. Bingo! The world's No. 1 issue is practically ignored by all, including the media, because of two sets of blinkers. We might all perish because of the intransigence of the wing nuts whose obesiance to ideology and/or wealth outweighs the common good.

Other examples abound. Another favourite of mine is the dissolution some years ago of psychiatric hospitals in New South Wales. The Right wanted to "rationalize" (flog off) the fabulous public properties -- many in grand old buildings with large grounds on magnificent waterfront locations -- and privatize/outsource mental health services. The Left, from the 1970s abandoning its working class roots and becoming increasingly pro-privatization, wanted the same, and also had a tendency towards anti-psychiatry, with many Lefties viewing that profession as old-fashioned, reactionary and a tool of the elite class. With barely a murmur, the hospitals were flogged off to a breed of people mistakenly called 'developers', and the mad people discharged. The result ... every second person you sit next to on a bus in Sydney is talking to himself.

Another example has been pornography and the sex industry. The Right has a traditional tendency towards Protestant puritanism. In Australia, the Left is disproportionately Roman Catholic. The Left also has a strong tendency towards a feminist view that sex industries exploit women. So these are always Cinderella industries, marginalized, afraid to stick their heads up, and virtually off the agenda of public discourse except in a condemnatory way. Censor the Internet to within an inch of its life? Make Australia's Net as gutted as China's and Iran's? You won't see the Left tackling this issue head on, and the Right is likely to have its way. When Left and Right agree, only a more-massive-than-usual grassroots movement can get a wedge in.

For the same reasons and under the same power dynamics, gay marriage ends up in the bin of lost or difficult causes. The New South Wales Labor government still refuses to allow it, but since the conservative Opposition feels the same way, there is virtually no debate between the parties. When there is no debate between two opposite and competing parties -- the two wingswer -- there is nothing for the media to report, so they will chase ambulances, celebrities and classified advertising revenue as ever.

These are not the only reasons that certain issues sink or swim in the public agenda, and for brevity I've only painted the problem in broad brush strokes, but I have observed public discourse long enough to feel fairly confident enough to posit this theory.


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