EDITOR’S NOTE – MARCH

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Winners and losers

American politics has always been sold on it’s entertainment value to a highly discerning, holier-than-thou audience in Australia. Yet do we really care who won a caucus vote in Iowa, or which ‘Big Oil’ company donated millions of dollars to a Republican candidate’s campaign fund, or even who kept their nerve in a nationally televised debate? Of course not.

No, we watch because we love to laugh at how dumb American’s are for even considering voting for a procession of seemingly even dumber politicians like George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Donald Trump. It’s like watching an archery tournament through binoculars, we can observe from a safe distance without (bankers and economists aside) having to consider the potentially negative consequences if things go wrong. Which is just as well, what with candidates like Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz packin’ heat an’ all. Remember Back to the Future’s 1955 version of Doc Brown? Incredulous that America would vote for an actor as president, he later concedes; “No wonder your president has to be an actor, he’s gotta look good on television!” Actors also have to be good at learning and delivering scripts, written by the right people of course. Though his suggestion that Jerry Lewis could be Vice President is not so far fetched when you consider Australia had a political, and some would say comedy, duo that went by the name of Abbott and Costello.

So if we love to laugh at the state of US politics so much, why are we intent on adopting key aspects of American models in critical areas like healthcare, taxation, education and infrastructure?

Which brings me back to the question of winners and losers.

Americans love to win. So do Australians, but our ‘winning’ has historically taken a different form – we don’t mind there being multiple winners, spreading the wealth a little, making sure everyone does well. The American model, which has lately become our thing of fascination and admiration, is a ‘winner takes all’ model, where for every winner, there can only be multiple losers. Many will wave the US constitution, written in 1787, implying that it states the right to profit (and profiteer) by any means, even if a further degradation of the fabric of society is the result. It doesn’t, but wealthy and conservative Americans would still rather pay zero tax and just ignore/avoid the inevitable ballooning ghetto belts than empower government to invest in social safety nets, without ever considering the obvious question – how much money (or conversely suffering) is enough? Some ordinary Australians think that’s what they want too, partially because they’re afraid of the changes brought about by our finally becoming closer to the world and it’s problems, and also because they’re confused by mega-corporations who not only constantly cheer from the same sideline, but by way of instruments such as media ownership, have now jumped the fence and joined the (fixed) game.

Thankfully, I don’t get this feeling in the west. I live in the hope that the Westsider vibe will permeate to other areas of Australia, not the other way around. We’re lucky to live in such a diverse region, a diversity which has perhaps given us a head start in understanding and acceptance of cultural, regional and global issues, and the importance of community.

Which sounds like winning together to me.

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