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ERIC Number: EJ848175
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2004
Pages: 2
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0818-8068
Something to Chew On
Burchell, David
Australian Universities' Review, v46 n2 p10-11 2004
It's never easy to connect long-term social and cultural changes to short-term electoral ones. They're like two different timescales--one incremental, even geological in pace, the other immediate and seemingly will-o'-the-wisp. Opinion polls are like weather reports, where the weather-systems seem to scud around with arbitrary and unintelligible speed. Social changes are like the movements of river-channels, where sand and silt washes and ebbs imperceptibly. In this article, the author contends that Brett (see EJ848172) is surely right to link Howard's remarkable electoral ascendancy over the last eight years to the profound movements in Australian society and culture that have characterized the last two or three decades of people's national life. To put the matter crudely, over this time-frame "progressivism" as a political force has become more and more the preserve of the articulate, well-educated and largely well-heeled, and less and less the natural habitat of those towards whom its solicitations are directed. Denizens of social-justice politics nowadays place a high store on their cultural sophistication and inter-cultural awareness, and prioritise political issues on the basis of their capacity to empathise with vulnerable others, overseas or at home. The problem with this state of affairs--as Brett implies rather than states--is that liberals and radicals have lost the capacity to speak to their fellow-Australians in a shared moral and political language. As Brett also explains, the present Prime Minister has exploited these political frailties of the liberal Left with an assiduity that borders on genius, not least because he himself has a large tincture of the "local" and the "patriot" inside his breast. Of course, knowing something about what the great mass of the population thinks about the world helps, too. When the Prime Minister exclaimed that "We all know Australia is the best country in the world in which to live," he wasn't musing out loud, or reciting a homily from Politics 101. He (or his researcher, or his scriptwriter, or both) was simply repeating the findings of the social attitudes surveys. When the 2001 Australian Election Study asked 2000 Australians if they "would rather be a citizen of Australia than of any other country in the world," more than 85% replied in the affirmative and a mere three percent in the negative. Compare that with the response one would get from a survey of members of one's own Union, and the extent of the different-languages problem becomes painfully apparent.
National Tertiary Education Union. PO Box 1323, South Melbourne 3205, Australia. Tel: +61-3-92541910; Fax: +61-3-92541915; e-mail: editor@aur.org.au; Web site: http://www.aur.org.au
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Australia