With reference to Brexit and to the rise of Donald Trump in the US, and in view of our own tumultuous political scene, Waleed Aly writes of “the declining purchase of mainstream parties on our political imaginations” (SMH, July 2-3, 2016). The July federal election results will not be finalised for some days, but one trend seems clear – voters are disillusioned with the major parties whose adherence to modern global liberalism leaves an increasing number of people feeling the establishment (political class) has no genuine interest in their well-being.
In the absence of much-needed 21st-century economic philosophies with the power to inspire sustainable local and global communities, we see disenchanted materialism and wanton consumerism, fearful and frightening expressions of nationalism – resentment, racism and bloody-minded intolerance (toward immigrants, asylum seekers, those experiencing unemployment or homelessness). Soft targets may include those outside the heterosexual norms, women and young people, environmentalists and the natural environment.
In the context of dysfunctional political systems and cultures, George Monbiot (Guardian, June 29, 2016) writes of “a great opportunity for renewal”.
“Let’s use this moment,” Monbiot says, “to root our politics in a common celebration of place, to fight the epidemic of loneliness and rekindle common purpose, transcending the tensions between recent and less-recent immigrants … In doing so, we might find a language in which liberal graduates can talk with the alienated people of Britain [or Australia], rather than at them … So yes, despair and rage and curse: there are reasons enough to do so. But then raise your eyes to where hope lies.”
Locally, we celebrate the victory of Linda Burney in the seat of Barton – our first Indigenous woman elected to the lower house. We welcome the promise of a federal member with proud connections to an ancient, living tradition as well as strong commitments to her constituents and nation. A deeply hopeful moment amid the democratic process we sometimes take for granted.
We affirm opportunities, in a prospective minority government, for negotiations with the cross-benches – for listening, for understanding, for new ways forward.
We thank the Greens and other parties and candidates for their insistence on communal values (civility, compassion, cooperation) and renewable energy investments – for maintaining a sense of responsibility toward neighbours in space and time (our Pacific neighbour nations vulnerable to climate change; future generations with rights to a safe climate, clean air and water).
And we congratulate our re-elected local member Tanya Plibersek for her integrity and leadership – her championing accessible education and health services, employment opportunities and welfare provisions, her advocacy for refugees and marriage equality.
Last and by no means least we acknowledge the many ways in which people locally, in the politics of the everyday, reimagine and reinvigorate community life. The SSH thanks the many volunteers (including, of course, those who ensured our polling booths were safe and social spaces) and creatives (artists play a crucial role) who enrich our lives in so many ways.