Today is January 26, 2016, Australia Day.

As in past years , I have reflected in a post on this day what it means to be an Aussie.

The post on January 26 2012, called for a mature debate on the challenges we face as a nation, the real, long term issues, rather than the diet of puffery and bullshit we normally are asked to digest. Quaint idea that, asking for a national debate on real issues.

In 2013, I asked what it was we wanted the place to look like in another generation, and I guess some degree of pessimism came through the words.

In 2014, I focussed on what I thought would be the defining trend that would drive our decision making, individually and for the nation: Data, and the essential truths that data can convey. The observations of what might be coming turned out to be absolutely wrong, about as wrong as anyone can be, and is again a salient lesson to those with a crystal ball hidden somewhere. Last year I think I just had my head in my hands in despair at  the nonsense passing as responsible government, and whilst I am again tempted to head for the bar to sink a few Coopers (the only significant Australian beer left after the foreign invasion) I am going to try and be a bit more responsible and make some serious comment on the state of the nation.

It has to be noted also that as I am now of an age at which those icons of my youth, the Beatles wrote songs, (‘When I’m 64’)it is fair to suspect that my view of the country, and the various carryings on that are happening is tempered by all those years.

  • The cost of housing in Sydney and Melbourne, is it a bubble or not, can I get in for my capital gain before the bust? It is a very common Australian dinner topic. What concerns me is what appears to be a process of parking money in housing, an essentially unproductive asset, and in Australia a moderately tax effective strategy. Those with the money, and it is not just Australians, it seems to be a global phenomenon, protect their money by property investment, to the point where there are more empty residences being built every day that those who need housing cannot afford. Youngsters are either moving to the fringes of cities, or resigning themselves to long term rental. Logic would suggest there should be a move to the country centres with the facilities, but is seems not to be the case. Recently I was in Armidale, a town with many huge  advantages, schools, a university, long term agricultural production and research, proximity to stunning wild Australia, but seemingly devoid of much of the energy that builds long term communities by successful commercial activity.  By contrast, Uralla, 20k’s down the road and only 1/10th the size is buzzing.  Go figure.
  • The internet has changed everything, and there is a generation that was born after the net become widely available  that do not understand what it is  not to have it.  I can remember the first Fax I saw, and recognising that it would change the world, but have not used a fax in 20 years. While the net has completely altered the way we work and live, it has removed the face to face communication human beings have relied on through our evolution, replacing it with digital ‘connectivity’ which is just code for substituting depth of a few relationships for the siren promise of breadth of relationship with many. I am no anthropologist, so cannot speculate on the longer term impacts of this substitution, but the speed with which it has happened, way faster than our evolutionary cycle time, cannot be good for our collective mental health.
  • There is no longer longevity in art. The world of art, in all its forms, is the way we express ourselves and how we relate to our communities. The loss of longevity might be just the next iteration, but I suspect it is more than that, it is a profound change taking us into new territory. Not necessarily a bad thing, change is what art is about, but nevertheless, a source of uncertainty and ambiguity. If Leonardo da Vinci was around today would he spend  4 years painting the roof of the Sistine chapel? No, it would be done with a paint gun in a day and a half, and then we would be wondering why it took so long.     Control of your art is essential, even more than before. In the old days  the record companies got wealthy on the back of bands they promoted managed and screwed, now talent has the opportunity to come through without the friction, but     how do you retain control in a world of streaming and sharing? The exception to this longevity and lack of control seems to be the fixation with tattoos. Showing my age perhaps, but I dislike them and their defacing of young Australians intensely. What will they look like when their carriers are my age? Tattoo removal is about to become a huge boom industry when a viable method is found
  • Our society has a new rat in the foundations, drugs. Not the tobacco of my day, with perhaps a bit of weed and booze added in, but all sorts of stuff that is as available as alcohol, but uncontrolled, very dangerous, and ubiquitous. Even smart kids are killing themselves with shit at concerts, and we have no idea why, or how to change it. They are smart and educated, why would they do it to themselves?.
  • Demographically we are a country in change, rapid and substantial change, but we seem to be able to absorb the change better than elsewhere in the world, but perhaps we are a the limit of absorption, at least in some locations. A long term fiend moved from the home he and his wife built after they were married, as they were now aliens in the suburb they had made home and brought up their kids. Is this a bad thing? I do not know, but it is certainly something that is driving change. It is perhaps ironic that John Howard lost the Liberal party leadership in 1989 largely for comments made about the rate of Asian immigration being too high, thus offending the then widely held view that the more the better, then 12 years later successfully used the Tampa affair to shore up his government. The change in the community over those 12 years represents a complete turnaround in our view of ourselves.  I am unsure of what the next iteration of those changes will be, but perhaps the focus has moved on from Asian migrants to those from the Middle East.
  • We have becomes cynical and disconnected from  the processes that govern us. Membership and activism in political life seems to me to be at an all time low, and the net result is it is being left to those who see it as a road to their own success rather than a service to the rest of the place. Obviously there are exceptions, but there seems little doubt that the politics of the last 10 years have been nothing short of toxic and do our country no good at all. I am just glad that we do not have the full blown circus determining who will be the head clown as they have in the US, ours is just a suburban circus by comparison, so far.
  • On a lighter note, I not only love the Operation Boomerang lamb ads, I also love the fact that the complaints from the usual suspects,  vegans, animal rights, anti-violence advocates (don’t they know it is an ad, a bit of entertainment with a message?) and assorted other anti-funsters got thrown out of court on its tush.

That is enough, for now. The place is changing, quickly, too quickly for many, but along with death and taxes, change is the only constant in life, so we better get used to it.

Happy Australia day.