TIME TO HARDEN UP
Sam Trethewey is a third generation Victoria farmer. He's an opinionated writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media and commentates nationally on Australian agriculture.
THE frenzy of knee-jerk tantrums and narrow views some Australians have shown in response to this year’s federal budget highlights a few issues.
Scott Pape, the impressively politically independent ‘Barefoot Investor’ put it beautifully in his post-budget review: “We’ve been conditioned to look at the budget the same way a nine-year-old looks at presents under a Christmas tree — what’ve you got for me? And for far too long far too many politicians have behaved like they're Santa Claus”.
The economic situation we face today is similar to 1996, where a new Liberal government was met with an unexpected mound of debt due to years of previous treasurers not rolling up their sleeves at budget time. The response was similar then, with waning polls and much unrest among Australian voters. But this time it’s worse. Why?
Aside from huge rises in the number of Australians on welfare and snowballing sentiments on social media, the Australian culture has also changed. It seems to be eaten away by people shunning personal responsibility, accountability and newly stained by narcissism.
Last week I listened to ‘All In The Mind’ on ABC’s Radio National. One of the guests was Dr Jean Twenge, professor of Psychology at San Diego State University. For 35 minutes she discussed her new book, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement.
Coincidentally, the next day I watched Treasurer Joe “the age of entitlement is over” Hockey front up to a foolhardy audience on ABC TV’s Q and A, that seemed to feel well informed enough to ask probing questions of the Federal Treasurer on national TV after reading dot-points on the budget in the local paper.
Looking around, and according to Jean Twenge, unfortunately for this government, they may be battling a new culture. And along with the tyranny of political correctness that cripples progression in western society, it’ll be near impossible to manage this one.
Getting a part self-obsessed culture to look past their own prejudiced opinions enough to consider something bigger than themselves is a gutsy move.
Dr Twenge has tapped into the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) that was documented in 1988, and has since combed through 15,000 tests from students between 1982 and 2006 and done numerous studies and papers on narcissism.
Aside from the NPI, they’ve assessed a wide range of key indicators, from changes in baby names to make kids stand out, through to the language used in books from 1960 to 2008. Apparently, we’re using "I, me and mine", a lot more than "we, us and team". Values on materialism and vanity have risen dramatically and we’re prone to more shallow and dysfunctional relationships.
Dr Twenge also blows apart the fallacy that self-esteem is necessary for good grades at school or even success. She claims that by trying to boost children’s self-esteem, we’re breeding a generation that think they’re special, and when confronted with a world that doesn’t think they are, they can spiral into feeling lost and confused. The sugar coated conditioning painfully erodes as reality in later years sets in. Unsurprisingly, Dr Twenge has then dealt with studies that show a correlation between spikes in narcissism and rises in depression and anxiety.
On Facebook last week, I saw people protest and attack with poor and misinformed arguments. Nothing new there, but I was repeatedly fired upon after commenting on Sydney Morning Herald posts simply for being a farmer, who apparently gets handouts and government assistance all the time; they couldn’t be further from the truth. It reminded me of spoilt little children after a treasure hunt, elbows out, hoarding their goodies and peeking either side to see if someone got something they didn’t.
At home on the farm, aside from a diesel fuel rebate, we get nothing else. And the diesel fuel rebate is simply a refund of the ‘road tax’ component per litre of fuel as we don’t use our machinery on the roads. Other industries get a similar deal.
A combined effort is required by media and voters to be more informed on the big picture not forgetting the long-term. How else will we achieve national economic resilience and feed the wave of new pensioners soon coming in for a feed?