Australia is on life support – politicians “and” the people are both to blame.

Few people could deny that Australia is not well.

The cost of living is unacceptably high. Home ownership is a long-lost dream. Our mental health is deteriorating rapidly. We are at war with one another over almost every issue. Polite debate has disappeared from our public discourse, and in many cases, from our personal interactions. 

Who is to blame? Because, hey, we must have someone or something to blame. It simply cannot be our own fault! 

Mostly we blame the politicians, but we also hear a lot of talk about how broken the system is, as if the system itself is responsible. 

Systems don’t break themselves, just as they don’t build themselves. They are created from human endeavour, and they collapse from the impact of human force and negligence. 

The tragedy is that we do not lack examples on how to avoid disaster. 

Our political systems and institutions are only as good or bad as the people who construct and manage them. While it is easy to blame the politicians – those who we elect – for the decimation of the framework that was designed to serve us all well, blame must also land on we the people for not paying more attention to how it works, and the calibre of those we send to serve us. 

Most people look to Great Britain for the roots of our Westminster system, but in fact the Western world inherited the core principles of our representative democracy from the ancient Romans. Not only were they brilliant builders and engineers, but they created a political system that would endure for two thousand years. 

It was comprised of three levels of government – Consuls, Senate, and the People. The Ancient Greek historian, Polybius, described it as the best form of Constitution due to its interdependence and reliance on all three elements. 

“For whenever some common external threat compels the three to unite and work together, the strength which the state then develops becomes quite extraordinary.” 

What a rousing endorsement this is! 

While it served Rome well enough during its rise and dominance of the then known world, it deteriorated steadily from the second century BC through lack of preservation, and eventually was replaced by an Empire. Polybius cites its demise as owing to the cycle of political revolution:

“…the law of nature according to which constitutions change, are transformed, and finally revert to their original form.”

Our political systems and institutions are only as good or bad as the people who construct and manage them. 

Cicero, however, places its downfall squarely on the shoulders of men.

“Thus, before our own time, the customs of our ancestors produced excellent men, and eminent men preserved our ancient customs and the institutions of their forefathers. But though the republic, when it came to us, was like a beautiful painting, whose colours, however, were already fading with age, our own time not only has neglected to freshen it by renewing the original colours, but has not even taken the trouble to preserve its configuration and, so to speak its general outlines. 

For the loss of our customs is due to our lack of men, and for this great evil we must not only give an account, but must even defend ourselves in every way possible, as if we were accused of capital crime.  For it is through our own faults, not by any accident, that we retain only the form of the commonwealth, but have long since lost its substance…”

Mankind envisions, and they destroy. And most often the destruction occurs dramatically fast. Cue what we are witnessing now in our own time. 

It remains debatable as to whether it is intentional or a result of sheer incompetence. I argue it is a lethal combination of both. 

The tragedy is that we do not lack examples on how to avoid disaster. The Roman historian, Livy, said it best:

“The study of history is the best medicine for a sick mind; for in history you have a record of the infinite variety of human experience plainly set out for all to see; and in that record you can find for yourself and your country both examples and warnings; fine things to take as models, base things, rotten through and through, to avoid.”

Democracy is a cautionary tale. I’ve presented here examples from the past by some of the finest historical minds, gifted to us in the hope we may learn from their mistakes and misfortunes. 

Alas, the cycle continues. We rise, and we fall. I ponder if there will ever rise a generation who can put a spoke in the wheel of this endless ignorance. Of course, that would require a fundamental shift in the willingness to heed lessons from the past and apply only those new principles where they are truly needed.

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  1. Thank you Gerardine,

    Nations die when they do not reproduce.
    To quote Bob Katter, KAP, “Australia is breeding itself out of existence.”
    I think the nation is 1.8 per couple.
    Replacement is 2.5?
    So for our political leaders then, immigration, instead of assisting Australian couples with economic viability for children, not liability.

    Japan is shrinking, Europe is dying. China is barely alive due in part to the one child policy.
    Africa will peak in a decade,
    So the problem is probably international.

    Sad to see that my generation has seen the best of stability this last century, as the US navy controlled the free trade that kept the worlds oceans safe. Now that is decreasing as well, there will be another to attempt to safeguard the trade routes, but never as well.


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