Right to vote

Right to vote

Throughout most of human history, democracy was not the norm. People were governed and told what to do in systems of focal control by kings, lords, chiefs, dictators or a single political ideology. Individuals had little say and even less choice.

The majority of people who have lived could not vote for anything. They just did what they were told or face stern consequences. Casting a ballot without retribution is a recent gift from democracy.

A cursory glance at history should be motivation enough to get down to the voting booth. Yet here we are, a few hundred years into the experiment of democratic freedom, and Australia, a safe, open, and multicultural nation forces its citizens into the ballot box. For the roughly 15 million registered voters in Australia, voting is compulsory.

At every Federal and State election if citizens fail to cast a vote they get a fine. Australia gives its people the right to vote and then punishes them if they fail to exercise that right.

Not surprisingly, Australia tops the table for voter turnout in national elections at around 95% of registered voters.

Surely this stick of compulsion is not necessary.

A free vote is a privilege not afforded to everyone. Citizens must know how important the right to vote is to their sense of self. They must know that many before them have sacrificed everything to make it so.

I’m curious to know why compulsory voting came in. Was there a run of lowly turnouts? Maybe it was because a forced engagement with the political process would encourage greater attention to it.

Most likely it was a government who figured out that they had a better chance of retaining power if everybody voted because most of the previous no-shows would vote for them. This would be classic Muppetville logic.

If politics was relevant and those elected were in touch with voters if politicians were courageous and led the way, if there was confidence in leadership, then there would be no need for a fine.

In the US where the privilege of democracy is entirely voluntary, voter turnout languishes at less than half of registered voters.

I wonder what the 100 million plus no shows think about their lethargy after 100 days of their ginger topped POTUS.

Where does life take you?

Where does life take you?

My youngest son has just taken a trip to London on a one-way ticket. It’s a brave move and even though he only intends to be away from Australia for a year, I recall leaving the UK for Zimbabwe with a similar intention 30 years ago. I’m still to make my way back for anything more than a holiday.

Once you step out into life, there is no telling where it will take you. This is a challenging realisation for a parent. When your son exists the departure lounge the mixed feelings of pride and loss are excruciating.

Through the wonders of Whatsapp we heard from the intrepid traveller a few days into his sojourn. His most acute initial observation was that if a beer is over five quid a pint and most casual work pays less than a tenner an hour, London is expensive.

Indeed it is, although by the beer and minimum wage metrics, probably no more so than Sydney. It’s just that on your own in a new country such sums take on a whole new meaning.

Already his initial plan, which was to find casual work after first having a look around, is fast-tracked. Some of the looking will have to wait. Apparently, a Scottish cousin might have some work in Wales.

And there it is. Life is already taking him in new directions after just a few days. It really does make you smile.

My own journey from a childhood in London to the quaintness of Norwich via Zimbabwe, Botswana, and suburban Sydney to my longest residency the Blue Mountains of NSW makes me smile too. It wasn’t planned especially. It had ambition at times, frustrations aplenty, and a vague logic that joins up the thread, yet really it was just a willingness to let the universe decide.

It is worth doing that I think. Be courageous enough to by the one-way ticket, then, all you need is the belief in what the world can offer.

As for the lad, nothing doing in Wales yet but a bedsit and barista work in Shoreditch, that is, apparently, a really happening place.



Here is what Professor Brian Cox, a particle physicist at the University of Manchester and popular interpreter of science, has to say about those who ridicule or ignore scientific consensus.

Imagine that we’re flying on a plane, and imagine that the passengers decide that they think they can fly the plane better than the captain. So they say ‘come on, we’ve had a vote and we all think that it’s our right as a citizen to land this plane rather than you. It doesn’t matter that you’ve studied it for 20 years

Do you want to be on that plane? I certainly don’t.

Any regular reader will know that I am rarely effusive on the qualities of scientists. I have doubts over the quality of research and the peer-review process that is supposed to maintain it. I question the training of future researchers and lament a seemingly pervasive misunderstanding of inference. The bunkers that scientists hide in restrict their worldview and too often the tug of opinion overrides objectivity.

But these are nuanced gripes of the middle aged.

I have never doubted the core of what science is and does. Any foibles are just that. Even modestly applied, the scientific method builds knowledge and understanding of everything from rockets to growing rocket. Without it we would still be hunting and gathering.

The captain of the plane may not be the greatest pilot on earth but I ‘d rather he have the controls than the elected nominee from random passengers.

Anyone who agrees should have a polite conversation with those who are comfortable that the $5 billion a year US Environmental Protection Agency has a budget cut of 30% whilst the US defence budget goes up by $50 billion, a 10% increase.


Welcome to Muppetville

Welcome to Muppetville

In the Urban Dictionary the top definition for muppet is “a person who is ignorant and generally has no idea about anything”

Muppetville is the place where these people live… in complete bliss.

Imagine for a moment how delightful it must be to reside in Muppetville. You are totally unaware of your ignorance and dearth of ideas. All the people around you are just like you. They are clueless too.

Good coffee is available everywhere and there is never a day you need to pack your own lunch, or dinner for that matter. Rarely are there times when you must be quiet. A comrade or colleague is always nearby and eager for an exchange of glibness. Days are so full that there is not a moment to think. And all the time other Muppets are crazy busy rushing around to normalize your own mania.

There is no risk of some smartarse blasting your argument to the moon with a gentle quip. Ideas people rarely visit. The protection of so many fellow Muppets means there is no reason to doubt anything. And no fear either because as a clueless person you have no awareness of anything beyond the end of your nose.

Most remarkably, and for reasons not fully understood, the real world wants to know what’s going on in Muppetville. Every day, TV cameras and genetically blessed youngsters report on every move, random word string, and hi-vis vests of residents.

And there are many things to see. The revolving doors are always interesting. The gravity defying backflips are cockroach common, but thanks to the accompanying conviction failures, they rarely disappoint. And there are tears, always tears, despite the bliss.

Sometimes a Muppet will put on an extraordinary media performance that stands out from the usual incoherence. Here is a link to a fine example. These episodes are a glimpse inside the minds of people who live without ideas and knowledge.

When Muppets venture out of the ville, never alone and always protected by a coterie of blessed youngsters, they maintain a brave face. This shows tremendous courage. Not everyone can so easily leave the comfort of home to face bewilderment. Perhaps they do this to prepare for eviction that is surprisingly common.

There are many would be residents of Muppetville. Plenty of people want to live there. But it takes ruthlessness, some patience, and demonstrable incompetence to get in. Not everyone is up for that.

In fact, Muppetville has, over the years, drifted away into a kind of never-never land. Its residents and newcomers float with it unable to alter the current. Fewer and fewer people want to go there now. If this were evolution perhaps a new race would emerge from this drift, rife with inbreeding depression.

This could be the source of our fascination. Curiosity over where the current will take this lot next. Perhaps, but more likely, we are equally dumb.

After all, we let them run the country.