Ideologies always assume that one idea is sufficient to·explain everything in the development from the premise, and that no experience can teach anything because everything is comprehended in this consistent process of logical deduction. The danger in exchanging the necessary insecurity of philosophical thought for the total explanation of an ideology and its Weltanschauung, is not even so much the risk of falling for some usually vulgar, always uncritical assumption as of exchanging the freedom inherent in man’s capacity to think for the strait jacket of logic with which man can force himself almost as violently as he is forced by some outside power.
— Hannah Arendt, 1951, The Origins of Totalitarianism.
Sitting back to watch the propaganda play since the ‘surprise’ election of Scott Morrison’s Coalition to government, the only surprise is that I’m not more shocked or appalled.
Maybe the election of Donald Trump in the USA cured me of any illusions that most people are decent, ethical, and respectful of their fellow citizens. Something I always had direct experience of in Australia. Until Tony Abbott became prime minister. Since then the country has become divided against itself along lines of socio-economic class and in terms of egalitarians against authoritiarians.
Scott Morrison is worse than Abbott. He is not just a bigot. He is a pig-ignorant one who has no idea of where he is leading Australia. Abbott at least knew he wanted a Gilead.
That’s where the Arendt quote above comes in. Morrison thinks only in terms of ideology and the means to achieve the ends he thinks are dictated by ideology. By any means necessary. Including destroying an egalitarian, democratic Australia for the sake of pursuing a demonstrably failed neoliberal economic agenda; conducting a dangerously volatile natinalist scare campaign that has seen neo-Nazis gain unprecedented prominence, even within the youth movements of the Liberal and National parties; pursuing a campaign of class warfare to permanently marginalise and demonise the poor for the sin of being poor; and persisting with a campaign of warfare by budget cuts on Australia’s social, cultural, and even political institutions.
As Arendt implies, Morrison is among those so blinkered by ideology that even the lived experience of the failure of his ideological approach will not make him change his course to a more rational, sane one. To a direction that actually represents Australia, and the majority of its citizens, rather than its destruction. And in Arendt’s terms, he is a vulgar man, with all his homophobia, bigotry, and climate change denialism.
If he is indeed a Christian, as he claims, he manages to carefully suppress any Christian ethics, like charity, kindness, humility, and forgivingness. Morrison isn’t necessarily straitjacketed by ideology, he is simply too dull-witted to recognise the harm he does. But other, more purposeful totalitarians are watching in the wings. Dutton, Corman, Porter, Cash, Wyatt, and so on.
One thing is very clear: passively accepting or even openly supporting the Morrison Coalition is equivalent to collaborating with fascism in Italy, Spain, and Germany during the 1920s and ‘30s, no matter how clichéd such a statement might seem.
The slew of comment pieces arguing that support for the Coalition does not make people bigots (see, for example, AC Griffiths in the Sydney Morning Herald), or climate change denialists, or class warriors intent on persecuting the poor, were simply wrong. If you did support any or all of these things, you now have to wear the odium of what that stands for. No ifs or buts. There’s no hiding behind nonsense arguments about economic management: under Coalition stewardship the economy is tanking. Not far from recession.
Idiots arguing economic management credentials for the Coalition should read “‘Socialism for the rich’: the evils of bad economics” by Jonathan Aldred, director of studies in economics at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Neoliberalism in the vein of Reagan and Thatcher undermined economies rather than securing them, and created the phenomenon of the rich no longer reinvesting in productive capacity rather than hoarding wealth in tax havens.
As for fatuous commentators like The Age’s Aubrey Perry, who babbled that Coalition opponents should just accept the election ‘gracefully’ and shut up, such opinions merely illustrate the appalling state of ignorance about history and politics that exists among contemporary journalists, who are supposed to know enough to inform and illuminate the subjects on which they write. To Perry I’d just say: ‘Watch the lights go out all over Australia under the Morrison government. And remember Neville Chamberlain.’
Support for the Coalition, or just silence, which is always assent, makes of the people in those categories collaborators with Australian neo-fascism. Too strong a term? Not at all.
Morrison’s Coalition courts a bigoted nationalism, the same way this occurred in 1920s to ‘30s Italy, Germany, and Spain, plus contemporary Republican America.
Morrison’s Coalition has created a massive secret police, under the baleful direction of hardliner Peter Dutton, with powers to spy on and persecute citizens, curtail free speech, and shut down any reportage of its activities. Home Affairs is the Gestapo or North Korean SSD by any other name.
Morrison’s Coalition didn’t invent offshore processing centres for refugees, but certainly took pride in doing everything possible to transform them into nightmare concentration camps without any real need to do so, and at a massive cost to taxpayers whose value is highly suspect.
Morrison’s Coalition has been and remains busy, by slashing budgets, dismantling Australian cultural, social, and political institutions which once marked our nation as one of the most advanced liberal democracies in the world.
- Where will we be when funding cuts eliminate bulk billing altogether, and creates hospital queues that become waiting rooms for death?
- Where will we be without an independent ABC to counterbalance the manic rantings of the Murdoch propaganda empire?
- Where will we be when lack of funds prevents the Australian bureau of Statistics from reporting meaningful figures to give us an accurate picture of our nation’s demography and performance in key domains of striving?
- Where will we be without cultural activities and archives when those institutions are no longer funded at all?
- Where will we be when the poor are sick of being persecuted for the crime of being poor and decide to live up to Coalition propaganda about them?
- Where will we be when the Coalition has finished asset-stripping the country with privatisation and delivering rents to the already rich, leaving it a hollow shell of its former self?
If that were not enough, our prime minister admits to admiring Donald Trump, America’s all-time most amoral and corrupt president. Does this means Scott Morrison’s ambition is to be Australia’s most amoral and corrupt prime minister? We must at least consider that possibility.
As if to reflect Morrison’s admiration for Trump, in March this year Australia slipped out of the top ten rankings of nations globally adhering to the rule of law according to the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index. This is not a partisan party political barb, but what should be seen as a sobering pointer to the fact that the Morrison Coalition has no respect for the rule of law and favours autocratic imposition of ideological dictates instead.
It is unarguable that Australia is in a dark place right now.
Not just because we have a neo-fascist government. But more so because there are many Australians who think this is OK.