The politicians right to change their mind.

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Democracy defined on Wikipedia:

noun
A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives
A state governed under a system of democracy.
Control of an organization or group by the majority of its members.
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It is not a crime for a politician to  change their mind, in fact, in an every-changing world it would be odd not to at times. New facts come to light, the political landscape shifts,  events outside of your control change the trajectory of the future.  A strong and flexible mind is a wonderful thing.  However, when you are an elected member of a democratic system your ‘mind’ is not completely your own.  What I mean here is that your public mind, what you stand for what got you elected is something bigger than you,  that is your mandate.
mandate
an official order or commission to do something.
the authority to carry out a policy, regarded as given by the electorate to a party or candidate that wins an election.
If, as a politician  you want to change your mandate you should be able to put aside your own ego and follow due process in order to avoid undermining the democratic system and losing political capital.
Well that’s the theory anyway.
It does seem to have become the norm to expect politicians to say anything to get the job then do anything to keep (or progress) their power.  Not all politicians do this of course, one doesn’t stop becoming a free-willed (to whatever extent that exists), morally grounded individual just because they got elected but some do behave in a way that leaves you questioning their motives and when they do certain sections of the media seem to love it, possibly even encourage it.
This race to the bottom has, in my opinion made it so easy for people like Trump to get in while saying things that are, at times outrageous, by contradicting himself and even telling it how it clearly isn’t – bare-faced lying.  We have a situation where the boy cried wolf so many times that some are now outraged when these political types actually do what they said they would do!  Seriously, on the Trump issue, in his defence, he is at least getting on with the stuff he promised and didn’t contradict  which I reluctantly applaud him for while at the same time cringing at what this says about us as a society.  And no, I wouldn’t have voted for Hillary and neither do I fawn over Obama but that’s not a discussion for today and this isn’t a discussion about Trump.
I attended the Blue Mountains council meeting last night where councillors were asked to publicly state their support for the councils position (opposition) on the proposed Badgerys Creek Airport.  Two didn’t vote in support of maintaining the councils opposition and that’s fine – council is exactly the place for good, robust debate and discussion to take place and there is no crime in holding a counter view.  However, this whole situation came about because of an article published in the Daily Telegraph on 21st December.  Here it is if you are interested.
I can only speculate at why the two councillors involved opted for this course of action (running straight to the media on 21st December rather than respecting the official channels) and that won’t be helpful as speculation is not fact. I was disappointed see the way these councillors turned on their mandate and their fellow councillors and did this.  While disappointed I wasn’t entirely surprised, I kind of sort of felt this brewing for a month or two now but am not really in a position to do much more than write on here which is fine.  My disappointment stemmed from the depth of the bile and posturing displayed in how this played out both in the newspaper and on the radio.  I am not ashamed to say that I expected more from these two people.
So some background/ context. 
 Both of these Councillors are on the public record as having voted for the councils current position with regards to Badgerys Creek on previous occasions and are also on record as opposing the Airport when questioned before the election (which was only a short time ago). One of the councillors had been present and voted for the spending that has been questioned and has been on council long enough to be aware of its financial position.  In a time when many councils have faced mergers after failing the Liberal State Governments Fit for Future audit the Blue Mountains got through – a fact that wasn’t mentioned in the click-bait headline.
The bottom line here for me is that two councillors are playing games with our democratic process,  disregarding their mandate and dragging the councils name into disrepute.
And that’s not all.
Not only did one of those two councillors see fit to take their gripes to the media (he’s not the first, I lived in the UK long enough to see this all the time but like we always say to the kids – two wrongs don’t make a right), that same councillor also felt entitled enough to spend the whole 1 1/2 hours of the meeting time when this was being discussed on his Facebook messenger to two colleagues in the audience who just happened to be standing next to me. I won’t out them on here but I just hope they understand what they are contributing to and I really do hope that one day they care (again I’m talking about the democratic process and not specifically the airport)). Further,  there were even giggles at one point when one audience member (another) suggested that the behaviour of these two councillors was ‘just politics’ insinuating that we should somehow just accept that as par for the course.  Well I’m not prepared to do that.
So lying and wasting everyone’s time and bringing a council whose mayor got re-elected with a dramatically increased majority vote into disrepute is funny?
That saying one thing before the election then doing another when elected and without first taking your changed mandate to the people is just what politicians do?
There was nothing funny about last night.
And there is nothing funny about the trajectory the world is on.
If people keep behaving like this Badgerys Creek airport will be the least of our troubles.
Politicians do have a right to change their minds but that right comes with responsibilities and in this case it is to respect the democratic process.
So can we all do that please?

Groomed For Apathy and/or Anger.

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apathy
Lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.
anger
a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.

groomed

prepare or train (someone) for a particular purpose or activity.

What have we become?

Why?

When?

How?

These questions fill my head this week after reading the letters in my local newspaper, letters that make my conclusion easy to justify.

Yes, this is correspondence about the airport again.

Yes I know that some of you want it.

Yes I appreciate that your reasons ‘for’ might be as justified as mine ‘against’.

But that’s not what I’m talking about here.

What I’m talking about is apathy.

Apathy either for or against.

Look:

Letter 1

‘I worked outdoors in the mountains over all four wards and was never conscious of any impact from these 230 per day aircraft (the number of over-flights currently passing the mountains – over the highway usually and usually at between 13,000-30,000 ft).  So what’s all the fuss about?”

What indeed?  I feel absolutely put in my place now thanks to that sort-of-angry outburst.

The writer finishes with a neat seasoning of apathy (in my opinion).

“Council, the No Western Sydney Airport action group and the majority of local residents are fighting a losing batter against inevitable growth and progress. It’s time; time to move on”

Awesome.  I’m as good as told, what a wally I was for thinking that the majority of local residents, our representative council and a community action group could actually be listened to or at least heard in a democratic society.  I really do need my head looked at and by the looks of it I’m not the only one….

Letter 2

This part of the letter comes after the writer apologies for the offence caused when said writer told us all to ‘shut up’ in the last correspondence.   Bless….

“All the bickering has got to me because I and many others know that the development is a given and that many thousands of people will be relying on it for employment and travel well into the next 50 years or longer”.

Well that’s Ok assuming the next 50 years will be like the last 50 years and that the accounting world fight off the global push for not only triple-bottom-line-accounting but full ‘six capital’ accounting that takes things like emissions, environmental degradation and social costs into account.

I’m certainly not as confident as the writer on that score. 50 years ago we didn’t have the internet, could only account for value in terms of solid items traded and iconic books like the Club of Rome’s ‘Limits to Growth’ and Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ was so new and so niche that business didn’t rate it a mention.

The use of the word bickering did resonate with me though. As much as I don’t mind sticking my neck out and standing up for what I believe in (even if it seems pointless to everyone else- I’ll be the judge of that thank you) I HATE arguing.  I mostly hate it because it usually happens when people are angry, wound up, hurt and feeling vulnerable so what we end up doing is arguing not about the issue but about how we feel or, more accurately, how the other people have made us feel.  As such I feel the use of the word ‘bickering’ (and its stronger cousin ‘arguing’) give us (the ‘no airport’ side) a powerful insight into how we are coming across.

I’ll park that thought for a moment as there is another thing said here.

That the development is a given.

We use the words ‘development’, ‘progress’ and ‘growth’ freely without really questioning the value system that they are framed within and I feel that is dangerous.

Our economy is stridently neoliberal in its values – the word liberal in this sense doesn’t mean the liberal party, both liberal and labor politicians follow the neoliberal school of economic management which, in a nutshell is basically ‘money trumps everything’.  I am not a fan. It’s not the only way that capitalism can play out.  I am a fan of capitalism by the way – well, for now I am – I think we could move beyond that but probably not for a couple more hundred years so for now it works.

So when we say that the development is a given we are really saying that given the fact that we live in a neoliberal society where money trumps everything the airport was always going to go ahead no matter what as nothing is more valuable than money and money is more valuable than trees,  24 hour over-flights, a bit of air pollution that, let’s face it can land anywhere on the planet, a few birds and some noise.

I reserve my right to question the neoliberal agenda that underpins the way we currently justify developments such as this in areas such as Western Sydney.

I also reserve my right to disagree with the notion that this IS progress.  As a business owner myself and consultant in the global beauty industry I witness every day what people power is doing to the beauty industry supply chain.  More inclusive company accounting is coming and if I was about to invest millions in an airport that has to operate 24/7 to make its returns I’d be worried about getting my investment dollars back.  Accountants might just kill this off and what then?

Anyway, I go on too much.

There was more from this writer but I’ll leave it at that other than to say that the writer finishes off by questioning the mental health of all residents up here by referring to the way our council areas are called ‘wards’ and not districts or zones. It is par for the course to attack the character of ones opponent in order to gain more support for your own cause.  This parting line really does sadden me. It’s so Daily Telegraph.

On to the last letter, letter 3.

Now I must say I like a bit of humour but this last letter wasn’t my kind of funny.

“My partner lives right under the flight path at Lilyfield in Sydney. The aircraft roar over at 1500 feet. Her tomato plant has been producing for some nine months and only now is showing signs of having had a good innings. So perhaps some of the Blue Mountains Nimbys could advise if this is a direct consequence of the aircraft flying overhead’.

Right-oh.

When the Chernobyl-fall-off disaster happened in 1986 it didn’t happen in England, where I lived but the wind carried the pollution to the Welsh and Scottish countryside as well as over Scandinavia. 369 farms including 190,000 sheep were affected and as this article shows, by 2009 some farms were still feeling the effects.

Now before I get lambasted (excuse the pun) for that and told ‘The chernobyl disaster is nothing like an airport, stupid’ I know that.  My point is that air pollution travels.  My other point is that it takes a lot for plants and life to stop completely,  usually things will continue to grow and look normal, whether they are normal can often only be known by testing.  I am a chemist and as luck would have it I tested roadside vegetation for lead and heavy metals as my honours project for my Uni Degree.  I found that lead levels in roadside vegetation were significant up to a couple of metres from the road, this is in spite of the fact that petrol had been practically lead free for at least ten years prior to me carrying out the test. So I’d say to this tomato loving writer,  I’d be sending those samples off for analysis before dismissing us as Nimby’s and minimising our legitimate concerns.

So to conclude I strongly feel that we, as a nation of citizens are being and have been groomed for one of two things – apathy and anger.  These are traits we see in families affected by domestic violence, not in free, intelligent communities.  Is that really what we want?

For my activist friends my concern is that the public can easily turn against us because of this and because of the lack of framework and support that exists for challenging the status-quo in this neoliberal world.  I know there is another way and I know the fastest way to get there is to fight this with facts and alternatives – including alternative transport methods, job investment, accounting methods, business values etc – but it looks like many others have lost hope and have taken to attacking us because it is just easier.

I thank the letter writers for continuing to make me think deeply about what I’m doing. I am more convinced than ever that it is the right thing to do.

No airport for Western Sydney.

I am not angry or apathetic because I am not under their control.

six-capitals-full

 

PS:  This is a good book. If I had money to invest I’d be having a read of this.  The world is watching and it has an opinion.