USA looms large, affecting the world

Dear Mr Bageant,

I came across your book when looking for "Richistan" on Amazon.com. The book looked interesting so I ordered your Deer Hunting with Jesus. I found it a good, though sobering and depressing read. I have passed it on to my son, a lefty and an artist, I am happy to say. I now understand, a little more, the American attachment to guns. Personally, I haven’t fired a weapon since 1973 and have no desire to do so.

I have a nasty feeling that your description of the plight of the American worker is a vision of the future of Australia. I live in Australia and heard your interview with Phillip Adams last week, my wife heard you talking to Jon Faine in Melbourne. At 59, I am about your vintage. My wife and I met and married in Rhodesia and, given the intractable problems of that benighted country, left to settle in Australia in 1973.

At the time a labour government was in power and education was free, right through to university level. Sixty percent of working people belonged to unions and it was almost obligatory to believe in the "fair go". We have gone backwards a long way since then. Australian governments have, over time, slavishly followed the American lead. They have steadily set about demolishing the pillars of a decent society.

There are very generous tax breaks for speculative investments in shares and real estate, which have driven house prices beyond the means of many working people. The unions have been undermined and white-anted through draconian legislation, now only about 20% of workers belong to a union. The public school system has been allowed to deteriorate and wither through under funding, while government subsidies have propped up private schools.

University education is no longer free but is funded through student loans and its cost increases exponentially. The free health care system is being deliberately run down, while health insurance for private health care is subsidised through tax breaks. Privatisation of almost everything has been achieved, despite the extreme unpopularity of this policy. Working conditions have been eroded and many people now have to survive on casual, part time, jobs.

In many ways Australia is still a decent country and a good place to live, but it has become meaner and harder and the future does not auger well. One thing which I find nauseating and very difficult to comprehend is the determination of successive Australian governments to follow America into every military debacle, from Vietnam to Iraq. I can only hope that we will not be joining you fair nation in attacking Iran in the future.

I am sorry that I haven’t said anything positive about your country, but it looms large in the world, affecting everything and everyone. My views have been further soured by reading Naomi Klein’s excellent book, "The Shock Doctrine" which details the appalling affects of the application of the egregious Milton Friedman’s economic theories on the world.

Anyway, enough complaining. I want to thank you for your book. It’s always encouraging to find that there are a few lefties left in the world.

Regards,

Dave
Australia

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Dear David,

It was most kind of you to take of your valuable time to write.

Judging from my mere two weeks in Australia, I must say that I agree with you that Australia is well along the same path as America. In fact, I would venture to say that it is not terribly far behind America at all, and that current policies will assure that Australians find themselves in the same position at some point in the not too distant future, regardless of whether citizens wake up to their plight or do not. That the majority of Australians may be opposed to such destruction of the social contract all the way, yet it continues, should give some indication of just how far down the road your nation has come.

I have come to be convinced that larger unified global corporate economic forces and institutions at work will ensure the same outcome for most of the so-called developed nations, both of Europe and the Americas. And this is not even to mention peak oil and the diminishing ecology and planetary resources. That America has increasingly spearheaded the worst, most ruthless and destructive sort of policy possible — that of privatization of all and everything into the hands of the few and the powerful — only makes it that much worse. In fact, made it a global malignancy.

It is painful to hear that: "In many ways Australia is still a decent country and a good place to live, but it has become meaner and harder and the future does not auger well." I could have said that exact same thing of America 20 years ago. And today I find the common level of pure meanness completely beyond belief. Like some horrible vision that seems impossible, except in nightmares. And in most cases, among those good people incapable of such meanness, I find utter despair. Interestingly enough, where there is neither meanness nor despair, there seems to be oblivion, mostly due to poor education or trust in the government instilled by our system, or the naive belief that things will simply go along in the right direction of their own accord.

As for Australia following America’s lead into war with Iran, I would suspect Australia has already followed America into a far deeper swamp of affairs, from which neither can ever return. In my heart of heats — which I like to believe is a sort of "rigorous intuition" — I believe both of us have seen the zenith of our respective national cultures. Now we shall see their depths, if not complete destruction.

Too bad. Because at our height we made some damned good beer (though we Yanks seem to have been slow learners.)

In art and labor,

Joe

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