To Tony and others>
Jurgen Habermas said as much in the 1970's in a paper called the
Legitimation Crisis. People are 'encouraged' to look to their careers or
lifestyle rather than involve themselves in government or the questioning
of government. But in the case of some the main concern is holding heart
and soul together. As a member of a semi-traditional Aboriginal clan I
see this all the time. Consequently all such people do is vote.
However the power of the vote to change much at all is eroding fast as
government puts all it can into administration, or divests functions to
business and puts them on a 'user pays' footing. Much including
essential services ends up in the hands of national and transnational
businesses. ( I don't read the New Internationalist but I own a
secondhand bookshop and read everything I can on the subject, and I have
post grad. qualifications in sociology).
People who feel they have much to lose - job, reputation, house, family
can be compromised and government and business know this well. For
example a senior public servant and family man discovered that a fault in
the design of powerlines was responsible for bush fires which were
putting people's lives and property at risk. But his superiors would
know the information came from him, he would lose his job and so despite
his obvious anguish he refused to become a whistleblower, quit and left
An alderman on Darwin City Council back in the 80's I was outspoken on
Aboriginal issues at a time when many didn't seem to recognise that
Aboriginal people were even human. Like other politicians and public
servants who buck the system (systems cannot cope with diversity. It
causes uncertainty) I was squeezed; papers I wrote for consultants never
reached them; staff wouldn't cooperate; I couldn't bring about
improvements in my ward. After, despite my qualifications I found it
impossible to get government work.
On the issue of the environment local scientists refused to get involved
in certain issues eg the Stuart Park mangroves and the Chestnut Rail,
having been warned their jobs would be jeopardised. Not ever having been
employed by Government they couldn't do much to me except to refuse to
sell my wildlife books! I did receive the odd death threat and hate mail
(and still do).
But worse has happened. Paige Mulhollan, historian under Lyndon Johnson
in the White House and Professor of History and Political Science, Uni.
of South Carolina and personal friend told me recently that accusations
of child abuse were sometimes made to silence the outspoken. But it
doesn't only happen in the US. There is evidence that it is happening in
On the question of my poor Aboriginal relatives who have been mistreated
by the authorities, I've discovered some powerful allies among the
Anglican Church and there's an idea for the environment. The Church or
some arms of it (I'm not too clear on this not being a believer) is
apparently beginning to come around to the idea that God is the
environment. However there is another solution.
The anthropologist Colin Turnbull once wrote, "For the hunter in his tiny
close-knit society, kindness, generosity, consideration, affection,
honesty, etc, are not virtues. They are necessities for survival. " (The
Such values are necessary for human survival, in every human relationship
and community whether hunter-gatherer or post-industrial. And here is
the key for people who feel threatened. Use your altruistic feelings by
getting involved in issues that don't touch your job, or issues that
occur in other states or countries. For instance while local scientists
wouldn't back me over the mangroves, birdwatchers and scientists in other
parts of Australia and the world did. Dozens of them sent informed,
caring, impassioned letters espousing the importance of mangroves and the
Chestnut Rail to the NT Government. (This issue may erupt again. Watch
Put arguments in economic and non-emotive terms. One of my most
successful campaigns was on housing. Chief Minister Paul Everingham told
me the media was to blame for would-be workers (and sometimes their
families) thinking Darwin was a 'boom' town. Hundreds if not thousands
travelled all the way here and finding few jobs. Many, unable to find or
afford housing had to camp on the beach. As secretary of NT Shelter I
wrote to dozens of magazines and newspapers setting out facts and figures
and reiterating the Chief Minister's words, that the media was to blame.
So I continued, tell your readers not to come to Darwin. That letter had
quite an impact.
A simillar tactic can be used for the environment eg, tourism is a major
growth industry in Australia, and birdwatchers are a large component (by
far the largest component of natural history tourism). Destroy bird
habitat and birders won't come costing the town, state, territory so many
millions of dollars in lost income.
Think and act in terms of what is possible for you even if the issue is
impossibly large. Others may be inspired.
Find like-minded people. I think I've just found a few more.
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