Ok, thought i would rename this thread and link to what i see as a moderate article analyzing aspects of the fall out from the recent Arizona shootings. (He articulates the position that sits comfortably with me far better than i could state it.) http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/extremisms-explosi
Extremism's explosive effects remind us to take all things in moderation
January 14, 2011
Divisive, sound-bite politics does great harm to the cause of democracy.
AMERICA is paying a high price for the demonising of democracy and smashing of the public-interest lens into a cacophony of simplistic sound bites, policy-by-slogan, bigotry and vitriol. The integrity of language, trust and public interest is too readily confined to the back of a bus hijacked by the extreme and marginal.
But this problem is not America's alone.
Too many people in leadership positions become victims of PAIDS - politically acquired integrity deficiency syndrome - and eschew their responsibilities. That is bad enough, but then the media fuel and elevate the virus of conflict and celebrity, and the internet removes usual protective barriers of time and distance.
A simplistic analysis might cite Sarah Palin as evidence of the trend to simplification but she is only one player on a stage that has had many players for many years.
As the world becomes more connected and complex, and as communities struggle to keep up without losing their soul, so leaders and media can easily become partners in the crime of reducing or distorting issues into a fast-food diet.
The people of Arizona are not so different to Australians, but they have become victims of polarised and simplistic debates about gun laws, immigration, economics, religion, health and presidency.
When issues are polarised, the voice and influence of moderation is lost, whether that is Arizona, Australia or Afghanistan. When moderation is lost, the lunatics feel free to say and do as they please, and sometimes end up in charge of the asylum.
This newspaper has argued that a national conversation about policy should be based on evidence, but even a well-intentioned newspaper sometimes struggles to provide evidence over emotion, dialogue over demonisation, intelligence over insults, sophistication over celebrity, substance over sound bite.
It is a challenging environment, and it is difficult to see change and history when you are going through it. Distance gives us some perspective, making it easier to see the problems in places such as the US, where senior politicians, policymakers, judges and academics lament the din of bigotry, ignorance, irresponsibility and self-interest.
The imam behind the so-called Ground Zero mosque, Feisal Abdul Rauf, has highlighted the challenge: "The real battlefront is not between the West and the Muslim world. It's between the moderates of all faith traditions and the extremists or radicals, and I include in that the agnostic and atheist community. The radicals are unwitting partners. They fuel each other.
''The moderates have become the silent majority, but we are the majority."
Australians might disapprove of and dismiss the extremism we see overseas, but the country would benefit from a deeper reflection on how this polarisation has become so ingrained in the lingua franca.
Australian political and business leaders are, generally, a moderate breed, but the US has issued a severe warning about the consequences of distorting the integrity of democracy, language and accountability.
A good sound bite might make for a feel-good news headline today, but it might also sow a poor legacy for many tomorrows.
If we seriously think we are better than the worst of American politics and society, then we ought to be seeing less polarisation in our conversations on issues such as immigration, education, water management, environment, mining and taxation.
The silent majority are moderates and they need to apply pressure to those who seek to win support on any issue on the basis of polarisation and oversimplification. Otherwise it is difficult to see how we will get sustainable, commonsense policy and increased civility and fairness.
We don't want our leaders saying it's time to reload against opponents, ban Muslims, seek divine retribution against rivals, kill Julian Assange, or assassinate foreign leaders. But if we don't want to risk descending to that level, we must find a way for all the people, other than the polarised, to be in the game.
[Steve Harris is executive director of the Centre for Leadership and Public Interest at Swinburne University.]
Can't help noticing there is an uncanny likeness to Nana Mouskouri. Perhaps this is a big part of her subliminal appeal.