Consulting Editor of Eureka Street, Andrew Hamilton, invites us to ask some hard questions of ourselves in the wake of an Australian election campaign in which the two parties capable of achieving government offered only a race to the bottom, appealing overwhelmingly to the baser aspects of human nature. He wonders how we will act, when faced with the increasing economic stresses brought on by an aging population and other strains on resources.
“In coming years we might expect the categories of those excluded from the claims of our shared humanity to become broader. They will include other unpopular, excluded and disadvantaged people within the community. The ageing of the population, the pressure on revenue and the expectation that we shall continue to enjoy the same wealth and services as before will mean that governments will be unable to meet all their commitments.
It is natural for governments in such circumstances to cut the support it gives to the disadvantaged, whether they be Indigenous communities, unemployed or addicted. This is easier when the sense of a shared humanity is weak. They can then be portrayed as other than us, and their claim to a shared humanity to be diminished by such qualities we attribute to them as laziness, addiction, innate stupidity and antisocial tendencies. Their support will then be measured, not by their need as human beings, but by their lesser status. It can be measured out to them as a gift conditioned by compliance with whatever conditions we impose on them.”