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The unconsidered life: Gunns' pulp mill edition

The unconsidered life: Gunns' pulp mill edition
by Paul Walter 

In looking for a start to this contribution the writer has returned to an old quote attributed to Socrates, the fifth century BC Athenian philosopher:

The unconsidered life is hardly worth living.

Simon Farnham, writing for the China Daily, 17/3/06, observes:

His point has two meanings: the first is that to not consider one's actions leaves one too vulnerable to the actions of others, while his second is to live the best life possible within one's own agency.

Lest some be tempted to consider that Socrates was advocating a rootless opportunistic existence, bear in mind that he believed we were guided by an inner voice or nous. He had a conscious conception of "ethics" developed upon by his successors Plato and Aristotle. The comment he is said to have made about people requiring more effort to do wrong, than right gives an inkling of that aspect of his feeling and thought.

What would have Socrates made of the sort of mindlessness that Victoria LeNevez discusses in her thread? Methinks he would have concurred with LeNevez on the mindless consumerism that is the antithesis of Socrates. for both reasons given above. as well the almost Hinduistic thoughtlessness and fatalism of lazily leaving everything in one's life beyond the ephemeral as deterministically – formed beyond reversal, by "impersonal market forces".

Lest folk construe this as an attack on market theory or its proponents, let it be said that Smith and co's theories are in the same league as Marx's theories – wonderful as descriptive tools in allowing an understanding of human existence, and scaffolding to be employed in building a better life. Let's remember that free market and Marxist discourse seems itself a dialectic, with point and counterpoint returned as each new variation evolving out of previous conversations is tried out – but not necessarily teleologically – the persistence of corporatist reaction and fascism makes it clear that Utopia is not necessarily just 'round the corner.

Recently, the Age reported on large scale breakdowns again in the Victorian privatised rail system:

Connex announces whole sale cancellation as temperatures reach thirties

screamed the headlines. For a moment I thought I was in the wrong city. I thought I was in Sydney, where we hear of traffic problems and tunnel tolls aplenty and supposed, in an other area of infrastructure provision; water, refusals to consider water-harvesting for example, because this may cheapen the price of water for private operators operating on the basis of a rationed finite quantity of water available for social use at a given price per unit. ( Is water such a naturally rare commodity that some folk, theoretically at least, would need to die of thirst to enable its provision? Don't laugh! Think of "Darfur when you consider the humanity" as aspect of the global system!)

Now, market forces aficionados will argue that these deals were agreed to between private operators and state governments on the basis of government needing a quick capital fix for other requirements and operators being convinced there was a buck to made out of providing commodities to the public for the right entrance fee into the given market.

So, ok. I am not arguing that these processes do not conform to their own rationality.

But within a wider context, how rational is it not to obtain maximum and efficient use of scarce resources, rather than head toward an economy of excess, with artificially constructed market and situation "goods" and dislocated from need and actual capacity?

Why should we accept trillions of dollars wasted on defence against a couple of hundred million a year spent on humanitarian aid (to illustrate the point), simply because there is a demand from imperfect members of an imperfect species to butcher civilisations and ruin or dominate other people?

If we are conscious of market forces, are we not then failing in a duty as human beings if we do not think how to best accommodate needs, wants supply and demand from a detached, rational humanitarian viewpoint? Many Liberals as well as Social Democrats and Socialists have adopted the above attitude, which attempts to balance use value with consumerist exchange value more effectively and from a humanitarian point of view.

The compromise, a form of Keynesianism, did threaten to deteriorate to a form of corporatism, and free marketeers and opportunists were happy to undermine this system in favour of economic rationalism and neoliberalism with the first decade of this century bearing witness to both its, in turn, "fruits" (pretty well much summed up in the careers of GW Bush and John Howard ) – Iraq and the economic collapse.

A Market Theory amendment, like its predecessor Keynesian Social Democracy, in its working out in turn, has showed an unpredicted tendency back to – you guessed it – corporatism (an unadorned term is fascism).

Which finally brings us back to Gunns and its pulp mill and deforestation of carbon sinks.

I'd argue that Gunns since the 'nineties is a subspecies of the privatisation/ PPP's phenomena that occurred over the last generation, forced on communities by burgeoning globalisation coupled with a giant con perpetrated by politicians and corporate interests on apathetic Western publics.

Governments and big corporate interests like Macbank , Babcock and Brown (think I got that the right way 'round) and the US corporation Halliburton (in the background) have cosied up under FOI-restrictive laws, commercial-in-confidence and subversive of rational EPA processes whilst fanfared by opinion-makers like Murdoch and Packer, producing a system that has actually nothing to do with productivity and everything to do with the hiving off of money to corrupt interests and, where necessary, consciously lowering standards of living and opportunity for current and future generations.

As AQIS, the universities and the CSIRO were ringbarked to prevent scientific examination of projects involving vested interests, so the forests of Tasmania will be ruined and removed as a rapidly appreciating asset, not for the economic benefit of the world and humanity, but the short-sighted mad greed of a motley constellation of interests above (or below) politics – "consumers" every bit as mindless in the pursuit of their irrational fetish or fantasy as any consumer described by Victoria LeNevez.

It is great to allow for the individual her choices, even if choice itself is rationed to the favoured few, and eventually irrational in its basis as regards these people, when do the rest need to then make "choices" of their own in legitimate defence of their interests, and will we hear talk of "market forces" by those who fail to realised the skewed nature of what they understand to be "choice"?


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Age article, etc

Firstly, Paul Morella and Alga, thanks for comments. No, they are all bucolic  opportunist bumpkins..

Perhaps the postmodern story involving end of history, values, purpose etc in politics has something to add.  Not so much to do with socialism or liberalism in the trad sense,a "vison thing", just corporatistm and the lack of ability for the citizenry to accurately locate and redirect sources of power relative to whatever proposed ideological variation is in operation at a given moment. More like grubs feeding of a dead sheep while Attilla and his Huns ransack. Yeah, I know. " Market forces", depending on how you define these.

Am offline a bit at the mo because of the heatwave and the advice that it is risky to run computers during them.

Nonetheless, could not resist opening up after reading about the problems of Vic transport that I commented on last week , before the heatwave impacted. Especially after the (unintentionally)  hilarious Tracee Hutchison segment on 7 30 Report tonight  and the gloomy stuff about Dubbo hospital.

Spinning top Bo lt  at the Hun reckons it's all the fault  the Greens, of all possibilities.  Can you believe the cretin?

And the final straw?

"Division over Gunns report" , write Peter Ker and Andrew Darby in the "Age", 30/1.

This is to do with the release of a CSIRO report slamming the project for a massive, filthy effluent plume it will leave, if continued on the basis of the Gunns plan. Gay is trying to hurry the feds into OK- ing it regardless, but Garrett apparently may be stiffening his his resolve (heaven forbid!)  in contradicting Gay that the project will definitely go ahead.


Since mentioning the "Age"article about Garrett, have got back from town to read two more articles of Garrett and Gunns. Neither mention the CSIRO report.

Given the tone of the Murdoch Melbourne rag in particular, am wondering if they are trying to subtly spin it agains the Minister by not explaining some serious aspects pertaining to the backgound to his thinking.

Regulate the regulators

The previous crop of clowns wasn't any more neoliberal (in an economic sense) than the current crop of clowns. In both the United States and Australia.

It's a myth.

A lot like the myth of regulation, those regulations that nobody ever spells out. Talked about by many, and understood by hardly any - yes indeed, a politician's dream come true.


I hope folk get to read, "Not enough spent, says Kosky" ;  Clay Lucas, "Melbourne Age", 28/1.

Those who perused this humbler scribbler's previous, concerning Gunns and Infrastructure (decison making) in general, may grasp that the writer's amusement here is derived of this weeks announcement by Vic Premier Brumby that they will likely go ahead with a $ 300 million rennovation of one of the newer major sports stadiums in Melbourne.

This while Mebourne's trains break down en masse, outside the depths of winter.

In the "Age" article, beleaguered transport minister Kosky lamely proposed that public transport spending had been inadequate for decades, before being forced to admit that her own government had been in power for nearly a decade itself.

This in a week when three hundred million dollars is found to upgrade an already good footy stadium, for Pete's sake?

What else is new

Paul I agree with all you say, being Tasmanian I am fully aware of the direction at any cost of the lab/lib coalition. They are determined to approve a canal estate project at Walsh's Bay on the Derwent estuary which is tidal, the habitat of many birds, some endangered and against the viewable evidence of sea rise and more than 80% of residents. They are also pushing for a number of wood fired power stations, to use what they call, the rubbish of timber harvesting, which means anything not going to the chip mill.

We have to accept the people of god are mentally deranged and extremely primitive in their outlook at life and how it should be approached. They have no interest in anything but themselves and their supposed self esteem, or more to the point, blind egocentricity. It's a complete waste of time expecting those in power to do anything but continue down the same path they have always walked, to be right at any cost, even extinction.

As for internet censoring, they have no choice, their either censor free information or reality will overwhelm them. As for Rudd, I've always said he is dud and no different to Howard, the same goes for Garret and Wong, completely incompetent and extremely ignorant of life. But what can you expect from people who believe and follow primitive myths and brain dead ideologies.

I see the supposed economic criss, as just another ploy to take peoples minds off the end game and concentrate on the illusionary world and not the real one. Everything the governments have done in regard to this supposed crisis, has been to prop up and support big business. Nothing of consequence or meaning has been done to support the people, environment or future. As for Garret and his constant dismissal of the environment, what else is new when you deal with mythical delusionists, but negative approaches and disastrous outcomes as we see worldwide.

However these things may be the least of out worries, in 2012 we have some very unusual and confrontational cosmological alignments which may well test the human race beyond its capabilities and definitely well beyond ideological humans.

ennui and decline

In a way, I am glad to be on the "wrong" side of fifty, Alga . I'll have seen the best of times, in many ways and that's more than most have, are, or will get to see in future.

I see parallels between our time with ancient Athens - its fortunate rise, "golden era" and infatuations eventually with its own glories, born of a confusion involving the reasons for its rise against the results of that, leading to an eventual, inevitable and consequent downfall arising from that mistake.

When I was at uni, we got to study a text called The Melian Dialogue, which arose of an event that came near the end of Athenian power, where psychotic thinking finally precipitated a consequent hubris-driven, disastrous invasion of Sicily and the end of Athens’s brief Golden Age.

The Dialogue displays the exhausted, lazy ,arrogant and denialist thinking that the Athenians had fallen into, that arguably would lead to the tragic invasion of Sicily. It concerns a war atrocity earlier against a small neutral power that would not join Athens in its long pointless war against Sparta. From there, history again demonstrates that "what goes 'round, comes 'round" e.g. retribution comes very quickly. And we know that if you don't learn from history you are doomed to make the same mistakes again.

For an illustration of what I am concerned about, read Paul Morrella's post, "the shadow boxers", at the Gaza Media Statement thread; also Alan Curran and Geoff Pahoff's most recent there .

If you need a closer approximation of what I am getting at, chase up the Melian dialogue itself, it's a classic and should be easy to conjure up on the net.

On the subject of Machiavellian expediency, an article in the NY Times that probably won't make to Australian outlets describes the pope granting absolution to four ultra-right bishops, including a blatant holocaust denier, in an effort to "embrace" with the far right (I thought it WAS the far right!!). The sheer flagrancy of the move is, paradoxically, incredibly Byzantine in its devious reasoning, especially in the wake of Gaza, the most recent example of what comes of arguably diabolically inspired laziness, cynicism, vanity and expediency.

This is the example set for the likes of Conroy, NSW Right and co, who are already beyond amoral and displays more clearly than anything yet, the trajectory our civilization is taking- an appalling example of the (lack of ?) quality of judgement of a man more than anyone supposedly qualified and responsible for moral guidance to a delinquent world leadership.

Epilogue: requiem for a lightweight

Just a few things at random loosely related to above, as a sort of postscript.

Firstly, the Oz a couple of days ago carried a story in which Wong announced there would be no intervention to prevent further massive "development " occuring on a tributary of the water-starved Darling.

Now my guess is, the situation in Queensland is the same as Tassie. A murky agglomeration of corporate and political wheelers and dealers conspiring to lock science and community interest out of the equation in favour of a quick kill for vested interests. while the political winds are favourable.

No wonder Labor won't act against Gunns. It would mean setting a precedent for action against rorts elsewhere.

But these issues are eventually unpopular for politicians to "sell". Even the Australian public wakes up eventually when their interests are being trashed.Garrett's rubber stamping of a mining proposal last week  will increase scepticism, in the light of the events in the government's first year, for example. 

Hence my next point, concerning the article by Helen Razer in the weekend SMH involving the perverse insistence on Conroy's plan for internet filtering.The article makes clear Conroy's plan is about defacto censorship of any thing the government wants, that they secretly decide is "inappropriate," rather than much to do with concern for  kiddies. For more, concerned readers may choose to visit a thread at "Public Opinion" blog entitled "Thinking of the children", currently up and running, that examines further some of the esoterica of absurd contradictions in that policy, concerning technicalities and cost.

Sufficient to say, please, no more of this rubbish that the government wants only to get rid of  "teh pron". It's a nice issue for some of the religious types in government ,currying favour with sections of the mortgage belt, but  this writer beleives this not about what internet censorship is finally about!

It more likely wants to make sure that stuff that undermines its stance on issues like Palestine, trade deals, environmental and financial shonks and asylum seekers, say, is not undermined by release of adverse material thru the internet.

No, the government is interested in "harmonising" our affairs to suit free trade agreements, paying back cronies and shielding vested interests. "Harmonising" is ultimately about ending diversity of opinion and screening out unwelcome facts that intrude on power, greed or denialism. Rudd Labor may not much more than the continuation of Howardism by other means.

All of which explains the tone of an article in  the Media section of  last Thursday's Oz, mocking recent submissions expressing concern about the deterioration in Public Broadcasting. After all, Glenn Milne was at Conroy's throat last election, demanding internet censorship and we know how close Rudd is to Chris Mitchell, Murdoch's man on the ground in Australia. Let the dumbing down continue!

But then, maybe this writer is just unduly suspicious as he gets older. Time will tell; am sure WD'sts will judge for themselves, as alert adherents of civic duty.

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