I'm Far Far Away With My Head Up in the Clouds

This page written circa 1 November, 2004.

Last week Australians re-elected their right-wing Prime Minister, John Howard. The main lesson is that educating the populace seems to have little effect upon their capacity to discriminate intelligently between candidates. If I was to be cynical I would reflect that at least George Bush has the courtesy to pay people to let him ruin their country's economy and international reputation. To be honest, I must acknowledge that Howard's fiscal policy has made Australia's economy relatively strong even if he has been dishonest and patently deceptive after the fashion of Mr Bush, while strangling the education and medical systems. It surely is not the truth of a politician's words that get him elected: The proletariat still believe whatever they are told.

Next week Americans go to the polls, and the race is expected to be close. If Bush is defeated, I will consider this proof of my theory that a country does not benefit from widely educating its citizenry, since the breadth and average level of education is much lower in the USA compared to Australia. It is sad to think that education changes this so little, and I have many good friends who would disagree with me, but consider that the average Australian is far better informed, especially about global matters, than the average American, yet they seem no more likely to be swayed by long-term concerns for humanity, nor more likely to reject a politician who distorts the truth. Additionally I watched the best students graduate year after year and promptly leave Australia and generally not return... they took their free educations and ran. Eventually, so did I.

The USA has wasted a great deal of resources in Iraq. I do not think intelligent people accept that any part of this escapade was motivated by compassion, for which the USA is not renowned. If you doubt the lack of institutional compassion, consider this report from New Scientist a couple of months ago:
For example [of useless government agencies] we [Bali bombing rescuers] contacted the US consulate [on Java] and advised them we had one of their nationals in a terrible state with 60% burns. They responded by asking if he had a credit card to pay for his own evacuation. Incredulous at this reply we pointed out that he had almost no skin let alone a credit card - but the official could not offer or suggest any constructive course of action. We subsequently arranged to have him flown to Australia.
If compassion, regard for the long-term future or common respect for honesty were to dominate, Bush would be swept away. We are about to conduct an excellent test of the average American.

On the personal front, a good friend has been diagnosed with a follicular lymphoma, was nearly killed by a very minor oversight in the biopsy, and continues to show up the shortcomings of being at the mercy of the current Australian public health system. You have to accept that the numerous reports of "preventable deaths" in the medical system are absolutely correct. Kay and I found ourselves responding to this by assuring each other that we would be close at hand with a sharp lawyer should this have befallen either of us. It is one thing to find out that your medical insurance (national or private) does not cover a treatment you need, but altogether another to find you are a victim of incompetence, on anyone's tab.

Some of you will respond to the above paragraph by saying that such attitudes only give rise to ambulance-chasing lawyers and huge liability insurance machines. Such is a risk, but would only arise if the legal system deals with the problem by means of the dollar in punitive damage awards, rather than something more constructive. The better purpose of lawyers is to trim the less able by exposing their incompetence, and thus improve the average. This brings us back to the main theme of this essay: The extent to which the average homo sapien exercises his powers of discrimination to ensure that the most able and most honest men prosper, while the short-sighted, manipulative, secretive, and over-elevated do not, be they doctors, politicians, CEOs, or whatever. The aforementioned extent seems to be very limited.

All in all, some would say that it does not look too good for mankind. Such discovery of the worth of the common man is enough to drive you to vote for the right.

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