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Issue #1834      August 8, 2018

The world according to Saul

In 1995, John Ralston Saul wrote The Unconscious Civilisation, and “it came to pass” – as the good book says – that the “unconscious” populace has (as he predicted) been herded into an ever-decreasing corner, while watching the corporations, with the help of politicians, alter and introduce draconian legislation, which cunningly erode civil rights.

Neither Liberals nor Labor can be trusted with our democratic rights.

When I was a girl, just after WW2, governments were elected for the good of the people – what a strange idea? But reading Saul has rekindled those old-fashioned days when ethics and principles were something people lived by. We were actually taught in schools when education was free and public schools were funded on par with private schools. Honest language was also taught, we didn’t have to learn weasel words bandied about by politicians and their task masters, big business, in order to obfuscate real meaning and destroy real communication.

What has been lost in our new Millennium society is communication: business-speak has replaced any real meaning. Saul tells us that “language attached to power is designed to prevent communication” and he’s being proved correct. Corporate language is rhetoric, propaganda and dialect, the latter meaning the language used which is designed to be impenetrable to the layman and which acts as protection for those in power.

Saul also warns of the “babble” of language which assaults us every day on the media and internet: perhaps the reason why Trump tweets. Although we, the public, use social media thinking it empowers us, the corporatist power structures are also using it to even greater effect.

So, what has happened in the past 70 years? How has big business succeeded in inveigling the working class? There has been no lasting peace, which is an anathema to capitalism – the corporations have seen to that. Conflicts since WW2 have led to millions of deaths which are dismissed by the Western world – the world of capital – because those dying are usually in the Third world and aren’t us. These conflicts continue because the international arms trade of the US, France and the UK is much too lucrative to dismiss, and is an important arm of their general trade policies.

In 70 years our civilisation has become a pawn in thrall to the market place, which is insidiously destroying our humanity. For instance, Serco operates in six sectors of public service provision: Health, Transport, Justice, Immigration, Defence, and Citizens’ Services. These huge corporations are taking over in areas which originally were owned by the state, and are being aided and abetted by governments to demolish the public sector.

Privatising public enterprises such as health, energy, banking and public transport threatens ordinary citizens’ welfare. We have become customers instead of owners. The ABC is currently under threat because it actually produces programs which criticise governments and corporations.

We are being made beholden to a new god – the Deficit – therefore anything pertaining to the public good, i.e. schooling, health, or welfare is unaffordable. Strange though that there are trillions available for defence – just in case we have to have another capitalist-driven war? (Note how Trump is now eyeing Iran)! Money is being siphoned off from public schools, diminishing the quality of their education, which in turn forces parents to pay for their kids to attend private schools: a Catch 22 situation.

In order to continue making huge profits, corporations keep producing propaganda as in the furphy to convince us that coal is “clean”, or that there’s no such thing as global warming, etc etc. We are distracted daily with the threat of terrorism, in order to introduce draconian laws which actually are, quite blatantly, removing our civil rights, like the latest Espionage and Foreign Interference Policy Bill slipped through parliament at its last sitting avoiding any Senate enquiry.

Neither Liberals nor Labor can be trusted with our democratic rights, as has been proved by the last two Royal Commissions (supported by both parties): the failed witch hunt into trade union governance and corruption – which showed the government in its true light – and then its reluctance to hold a Royal Commission into the banking sector (it’s “mates”).

Fortunately, people are beginning to realise that the politicians we’re voting for aren’t representing us, but are puppets for the corporations. Unfortunately, because we have been led by the nose to believe their fabrications and propaganda, we’ve begun to dismiss reality and deny our own consciousness and common sense. This has led to a general malaise and self-contempt followed by a loathing of the faceless “elites” who get wealthier by the hour, while most of us battle to make ends meet.

This feeling of impotence by the public has led to anger and a loss of faith in the political process which is supposed to be there for the public good. We’re relying on policies which are powered by the market and capitalism instead of policies being made for our welfare.

What we’re seeing now in the US, UK and Europe, is people desperate for a fairer society becoming swept up in populist dogma and supporting far right dictators. Could anyone have imagined someone like Trump in the days of Attlee or even Menzies? What we’re seeing in 2018 is the kind of rhetoric used by the likes of Mussolini, who has been recorded as saying that the crowd doesn’t need to know, so long as they believe.

Free speech and democracy is tied to our knowledge of history. After WW2 public education and the welfare of the people were considered important and were funded adequately. However, at this point of time in Australia our education system is being undermined, as is our welfare system. Everything is measured according to its economic value: Universities are becoming corporatised – or as Saul says “have become handmaidens of the corporatist system”, with courses designed to produce more managers for the corporations.

The teaching of the Humanities is unwelcome in this contemporary corporatised society: it might lead to people actually thinking – and caring for the community. To quote Saul, again “we have allowed ourselves to be convinced by our own elites that the democratic system is a secondary product of the free market system.”

I really hope that we wake up to what is being done to our democracy before the distinction between public and private disintegrates even further. Government services are being placed into private hands with the government actually adopting private industry standards and methods.

Those actually in work with employment contracts are being castrated and silenced, frightened to lose their jobs. Sound a bit like Nazi Germany in the 1930s? Those who forget their history tend to repeat it. As Saul says, we need to change the system and to do that we need to make the bastards honest.

Next article – Employment gap for people with disability

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