JUST A JUMP TO THE LEFT
What is right? This is a loaded question in the age of political correctness, when for whatever reason, it feels as if our society is collectively walking upon egg shells, scared to hold opinions that may offend, however much they ring true and resonate with the individual. Part of Wheeler Centre’s Festival of Questions, What Is Right? What is Left? was intended to be a crucial opportunity for such concepts as this to be discussed. This may have been successful without the inclusion of Tim Wilson, who makes the political back footing of Peter Garett in his brief stint as Minister for Environment look graceful in comparison. Hosted by Sally Warhaft, a local broadcaster, writer, and in the context of this discussion, and perhaps most interestingly, anthropologist, the panel collectively dig up the past to understand the current state of play here in Australia. Human rights activist Shen Narayanasamy as always provided insight and presented facts in plain light. Lauren Duca continues her work in educating Australians about America’s fast crumbling society. Trained in neurobiology and the history of science, Kenan Malik also joined the panel, and in true political commentary, cartoonist Oslo Davis completes the panel.
A discussion of lightening speed, it is not long before we have dived head first into a topic that is hot on the lips of many inside and out of the political system: immigration. Discussing the many waves of migrants that have helped form our beautiful diverse and bilingual society, but on the flip side, the associated fear that each new tide brings, in essence this is the common fear of the unknown. They attempt to distinguish immigration from other social issues by adding to the weight of this contentious issue all the vast benefits immigration brings to the Australian collective – for example, the skill shortages within particular industries and our ageing population. The Australian mainstream media cops a deserving slap across the face for their role in fanning the fear of migrants, and the way their influence results in further ostracism. We need only look back 200 years or so to see the irony in such concepts being put forward.
It’s about half way through this debate that the whole conversation becomes little more than a platform for Tim Wilson to begin on a tired and quite frankly offensive push for the Liberal Party Agenda, going so far as to suggest that we place a cap on immigration to this country. His commentary becomes perhaps the most abhorrent when issues regarding “handouts” and our class system are introduced and again when the discussion delves into one of the most contentious and on-going issue in the last decade of Australian history, and that is the granting of equal rights for all to marry, rolling back the changes to the Marriage Act made by John Howard many years ago. To this it is interesting to note Wilson’s prominent absence from such events as Mardi Gras and more locally, Pride March Victoria.
Climate change, populism, Brexit, Trump, tribalism, empathy towards others, or a lack there of, and the disconnection between our political parties and the people they are meant to represent – it’s all here in a hot bed of debate on the Australian identity and ideals in the year 2017. What Is Right? What is Left? aside from the derailment of conversation by the hands of Tim Wilson, was a fantastic opportunity for new insights and the passing on of true facts and knowledge to be had. Australia needs more of these heated discussions, and we need to have them now if we are to collectively move forward and combat the ever-growing number of threats to our lives and livelihoods from sources close to home and those further away.
Photo credit: Jon Tjhia/The Wheeler Centre