Conversation with Kevin

09 Nov

Kevin and I are the most unlikely pair of conversationalists. He came my way via Tim Blair’s blog, but unlike most stayed. We have very different views on very many things, but a shared liking of toast. Except that his state was not up for elections this year (I think that’s right), I am sure he would have voted Republican. We have resolved not to call each other nasty names, and have so far kept our bargain. See how the conversation is going here. My contribution today is more a post in its own right than a comment.

Later: Remembrance Day November 11

I don’t usually suggest how to comment, but in this case I ask my readers to confine themselves to positive presentations of their political and/or social standpoint. I welcome positive, and one hopes brief, accounts of what you regard as “Australian” in this area, as I think the early contributions here really point to significant differences between at least one strand of popular American thought and what most Australians see as “normal”. And try to stay polite!


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7 responses to “Conversation with Kevin

  1. Kevin

    November 11, 2006 at 4:49 pm

    In America we vote on Senators every 6 years, and House of Representative members every 2 years. So I did vote for my House member last Tuesday, and I grudgingly went Republican. Grudgingly because for the past 4 years, Our Republicans have acted almost a weasily as Democrats typically do. Some more so. They are, for the most part, no longer conservative, and need to go. It was just too hard to vote for a Democrat and watch our nation hemorrhage for two years to accomplish that goal. Plus, my Congressman (Rodney Alexander, a former Democrat) is still fiscally conservative, so there was no good reason to bump him.

    This is going to be a loooooong post, I hope someone reads it 🙂 I had to abandon blogging because I’m unable to do it daily for a few months. So I’m posting on your blog, in the form of a comment. Heh.

    The reason I read your articles is because you appear to be a sane left winger. I’ve been looking for one for years now, to compare viewpoints. There’s actually a lot we probably agree on. Unfortunately if you read the daily kos or atrios or any other left wing blog than this one, they are nothing but hate. They hate the Jews. They hate the Christians. They hate Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Amerikkka. Try to disagree with them and you get f-bombed and name-called to the point where there is no real dialogue. You are a refreshing change from that. I hope we can better understand each other’s viewpoints. I really need that, because from what I’ve read so far on the left in America, the only think I walk away knowing is that; Bush is Hitler, We are as bad as Saddam Hussein because we put underwear on the heads of terrorists at Abu Ghraib, and Republicans are rich fat evil white old men who prey on the poor and enjoy burning oil to destroy the world. It’s a tough starting point for dialogue.

    So, here’s where I think we disagree.

    1 – Conservatives (and Libertarians… same thing up here) believe that the government is a necessary evil, and should be kept as small as possible. We need it to build roads, pay policemen, run our public schools, and protect us from enemies abroad (secure borders, pay for our military). EVERYTHING else is someone else’s job. We believe that the government can, and always will, find the most inefficient way to accomplish a goal, and will likely fail to accomplish it anyway.

    2 – We believe that when the government gives to the poor, it keeps them poor, because they come to expect the gifts to keep coming, and they never try to make anything of themselves. Giving a leg up is great, but putting people ‘on the dole’ (did I say that right?) eats away at the soul of a person and ends up destroying them. We believe that the key to ending poverty is teaching the poor how to make money, not just giving him a pittance to subsist upon.

    3 – We believe that Christianity and Judaism are not evil, and whoever wants to practice them can do so wherever they want, even if it’s within earshot of an atheist, and even if it’s on government property. As an atheist, I’m embarrassed that my peers who have no God demand that others not mention theirs. Especially since there are no Jews or Christians trying to kill us in their God’s name at the moment. My opinions will change if they start murdering us.

    4 – We believe that everybody benefits when taxes are low and the government stays out of the economy. The rich get richer, the poor get richer. Sometimes the ultra-rich get much much richer, but we don’t care, because the poor get richer, and that’s all that matters.

    5 – We believe in fiscal responsibility. Our current Republican politicians apparently don’t, and that’s 50% of the reason they are no longer in power. Republicans primarily didn’t vote this year because of the fiasco in Iraq, the right’s inability to secure our borders, and their fiscal irresponsibility.

    6 – This may be more of my own opinion than of the Conservative opinion, but I’ll put it in the ‘we’ form anyway. It sounds more ‘regal’ ;). We believe that war must be brutal to be effective. If you are too civilized to dole out that brutality, then you should not go to war. You’ll have to wait for it to come to you, which it will, only on a much larger scale.

    That’s pretty much the conservative world view, at least up here in America. What’s the liberal view, in a nutshell? Oh, and ‘liberal’ means ‘left-wing’ up here. What do you call them? I assume it’s not ‘liberals’, since John Howard (the greatest politician in power at the moment) is the head of the liberal party…

  2. ninglun

    November 11, 2006 at 5:35 pm

    That is a very neat summary of your viewpoint, and as I have a whole blog to argue mine, I will leave it at that.

    What will strike most Australians, especially those like me in their 60s, is that there is no equivalent in mainstream Australia to your position, not even John Howard, who may come nearest. Just goes to underline a point I made about Australians not being Americans, and I am not being rude to you when I say that.

    If you look at my small collection of links on the right under “Politics” you will find a few sites that explain Australian politics very well. You say I am Left, but in Australian terms I am really nearer the centre. Even people on the Right, perhaps up to John Howard, accepted as right and normal ideas and practices you might think of as “socialist”. The same is true of Britain, whose politics are much closer to ours, or have been, than America’s. Jim Belshaw’s blog is interesting in this respect, as he was for a period in public service in Canberra and associated with the National Party, the coalition partners in several “right wing” governments over the years.

    We have tended not to mind governments being responsible for certain things (until recently) as being a very big country with a very small population there was no alternative. Similarly, until recently we have actually tended to value trade unions (I am still the member of one, the NSW Teachers Federation). You may have noticed the link to the ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Unions) at the bottom of my blog. We have, until recently, seen trade unionism as an aspect of “mateship”.

    “Liberal” in Australia has never been a term of abuse; at its best it reflects the British Liberal tradition, as in John Stuart Mill. Check “liberalism” in Wikipedia.

    Despite appearances, maybe, Australians do not like war and suspect “patriotism”. Even our most important national day, Anzac Day (which really matters more than Australia Day) is about loss in war rather than martial glory. It in fact commemorates a notable defeat!

  3. Watchman

    November 11, 2006 at 5:54 pm

    Hello NINGLUN
    I just tonight linked to your blog through KEVIN, who posted a comment on my blog. I have been reading the discussion of Nov 9th between you and KEVIN and want you to know I respect you both as very informed intelligent gentlemen whom I can learn from. No..I don’t agree with every opinion of either but do agree with most, as they are well grounded and well thought out. In other words you are people I know are worthwhile listening to and if you do not mind, will continue to enjoy.

    I spend a lot of time on my own blog, so won’t drop in often, but occaisionally from time to time. I am quite new at this blog business, but have been on message forums for years, only this time I find myself a learner in building my website.

    About myself…I am 72 yrs old, Married 52 years to my soulmate, three girls from 45 to 47 with 6 grandchildren. I spent half my lifetime (30 years) in the military (USA)Ret.,so I have a pretty good perspective on military and how we think. My experiences were Infantry,Armor,Artillery,Signal
    ComSec which was one heck of a trip. Was a Chief Warrant Officer 3 when I retired.

    I am very opinionated, maybe too much so, but I love my country, have been a patriot and have problems with those who are not. Therefore, I am against the liberals in this country who I see as enemy, against everything America that I serve believes and stands for. I do not believe in either political party, but am Independent as all Americans should be. The democrats here have been infiltrated by Anti-American liberals for several years, and lately have engineered their way into being the majority, so America is in deep d..d.. for the time being. The timing is unfortunate at a time we are under attack and at war with crazy terrorists the world over, but we will overcome.

    I consider myself, being a veteran, to be a watchman over the forest (country) as my name implies, with experience enough to recognize the enemy and stay above the individual trees (political problems of the day).I do not say that to be pompus, as I believe all veterans who love this country are not only qualified but active, whether they realize it or not. Liberal vets are very rare for obvious reasons.

    Well, time to go back home to my blog. I would welcome you both to pop in anytime, as I value your opinions.

  4. Kevin

    November 11, 2006 at 7:23 pm

    Did you guys see the latest Newsweek cover? I for one am looking forward to reading it 🙂

    Heh, just kidding. Dang, I wish I knew I had a 70 year old veteran reading my blog. I wouldn’t have quit! Thanks for keeping us safe all of those years Watchman. It’s hard for some to determine what would have happened to us if you didn’t, but not for me. I’m proud that people like you exist in my country.

    Ninglun, yes, I call a lot of liberal ideas ‘socialism’. Not with condemnation, but rather with accuracy. Socialism is a great idea. Everyone helping each other to live in peace and harmony… what could be wrong with that? Unfortunately, I believe socialism/communism will go down in history as ‘the best idea for world peace that just doesn’t work’. The problem with it as I see it is that it discounts laziness. I’m pretty lazy, and I suspect I am not alone in my laziness. For example, if I (ever played and) won $50 million in the lottery, I’m pretty sure I’d quit my job and goof off for the rest of my life. Socialism is very similar. If you pay me $1,000 a month because I’m poor, or I could work 40 hrs a week for $1,500, you are leaving me little incentive to work. Nevermind the fact that I could parlay that $1,500 a month job into bigger money if I kept at it… I’m just going to take the $1,000 and relax.

    Bafflingly, socialist advocates seem unwilling to acknowledge this problem. The historical solution (in countries like the USSR, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Angola etc.) is for draconian measures that don’t seem to work, but instead create slavery. The shining light in mild socialism is Sweden, but the best they can produce is stagnation. I’m all for caring for the elderly, since they have done their bit for the world, but beyond that, we’ve all got to work to make this world a better place. ‘Work’ is the keyword.

  5. ninglun

    November 11, 2006 at 7:44 pm

    Did you know that Australians are apparently among the hardest working people in the western world? See Give us a break: Australia is hard at work.

    Even with four weeks’ annual leave, Australians are already the hardest-worked citizens in the Western world. We bear an average workload of 1855 hours a year – more than workers in the United States, Japan or anywhere in Europe.

    Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews wants his changes to allow workers to swap two weeks of annual leave for money, but in fact our four weeks is already in the lower half of Western leave levels.

    Whether you look at annual leave, public holidays or total working hours, comparison with other Western countries suggests Australian workers are far from being the bludgers we think. Koreans aside, no Westerners spend more time in the office, shop or factory than us.

    In a book of statistics, How Australia Compares, Sydney academic Rodney Tiffen and Age columnist Ross Gittins found that Australians have the longest working year of any Western nation for which data is available.

    Australians on average work 1855 hours a year, or 38.6 hours a week if you assume they work 48 weeks a year. That Australia also has the West’s second highest rate of part-time workers, Tiffen and Gittins add, “makes its position at the top of the league of hard workers even more remarkable”…

    Much of our Australian attitude really does come from the way we have had to work in this very different environment, the vast distances, the small population, the chancy climate. Jim Belshaw has thought a lot more than I have about such issues.

    We have been individualists up to a point, but collectivism has so often worked here that it has given rise to the quality that even the very unAustralian (in some ways) John Howard acknowledges: mateship. It seems weird to most Australians still that telephones should not be state owned, or we prefer to say publicly owned, but we are having to get used to that, though the consequences for people in the Bush seem to be quite disturbing. We have traditionally preferred public ownership, or a substantial public stake, in all manner of vital services so that they might be distributed fairly. We tend not to believe that being down on your luck is a moral or personal failing; we have preferred, in the past, to err on the side of too much support rather than too little.

    I am actually very proud of those qualities. I am not alone. Many of us are sad to see globalisation robbing us of them.

    Finally, the role of religion in Australian politics is very different. While we have a range of religious politicians, the Australian consensus is such that no Australian politician would dare say that the country is “God led”. We value our secularism and religious tolerance (hard-won I might add) too much. There is a discussion going on about that on another post.

    I write as one who has studied history, including Australian; I also write as a person proudly descended from the Dharawal Aboriginal nation (40,000 years) and from a convict family (1820s), both on my father’s side, and so on… (See links on the right under “Personal”.) Guess I am saying I belong here, even if my views are not shared by all Australians. Feel well fed tonight, having had falafel and salad from the local Lebanese/Palestinian restaurant where the Australian flag rests next to the carved invocation of Allah’s blessing. That’s Surry Hills for you!

    I still treasure The Governor-General’s Centenary Of Federation Speech (2001) because it is so much my own vision of Australia. We don’t always live up to it. Some would say we have lost sight of it recently. I hope we haven’t.

  6. Kevin

    November 12, 2006 at 12:44 am

    1,855 hours a year? Nice! Sounds like you haven’t been bitten by socialism nearly as much as America has. 48×40=1,920, so the average Australian works almost 40 hrs a week. Up here, the average American works 50 hours a week for 48-50 weeks, or works 0 and lives off of the other guy. Personally, I find it amazing that the sum of those averages is as high as 1,835 hrs/yr. I’m not sure how that correlates to ‘mateship’, but it doesn’t make me feel very mate-ish.

    Oh yeah, it is also my opinion that socialism leads to drug addiction and alcoholism. Idle hands…

    We tend not to believe that being down on your luck is a moral or personal failing; we have preferred, in the past, to err on the side of too much support rather than too little.

    So do Americans, as demonstrated by our vast charity system and our bailout of earthquake victims, tsunami victims, and hurricane victims. (Despite what you’ve heard, the government went ridiculously overboard in helping my state’s hurricane victims, of which I was one. The people who were complaining the loudest were the ones who didn’t want to work and preferred to be taken care of. Trust me, I’m here, and see many of them still choosing not to work a year later.)

    It’s great to help a person when he’s down. The problem arises when the person is consistently ‘down on his luck’. That is where our opinions part ways, because it becomes clear to me that it IS a moral or personal failing.

    We value our secularism and religious tolerance (hard-won I might add) too much.

    Be careful with that hard won religious freedom, or you might soon lose it. It’s the first casualty of multiculturalism when those cultures contain different religions. Denmark certainly learned that earlier this year.


    Also, this is the face of liberalism in America. So, yes, it is considered a bad name here.

    NOT SAFE FOR WORK, OR ANYWHERE REALLY. There’s nudity, and not the kind that’s enjoyable. I’d love to say that this is not the typical left in America, but I’d be lying. Liberalism’s not about helping the poor up here, it’s just disestablishmentarianism.

    Two posts combined by ninglun

  7. ninglun

    November 12, 2006 at 7:34 am

    Multiculturalism without different religions is, um? Too much to respond to adequately, Kevin, and I ask any future commenters to resist the temptation to get stuck in as that would wreck the point of this post. I am sure you will be all thinking about what Kevin has said though.

    Kevin, you might like to visit my more professional pages. There I present my position as a teacher in the NSW school system and those items were publicly addressed to parents, students and staff in a major Sydney high school whose population is 80+% language backgrounds other than English drawing on just about every religion you’ve ever heard of, and none.

    See also Multicultural Australia, a government sponsored site.

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