STRAWS IN THE WIND : by Max TeichmannNews Weekly
More than a sandwich and a milkshake / Golden Goose / Surfing the Sunday soufflés
, June 5, 2004
More than a sandwich and a milkshake
Melbourne University held their student elections the other day, and out of about 40,000 enrolled students, 1307 votes were cast. Last year when voters were offered $8 food vouchers, 10,000 voted. There were no food vouchers this year. All Melbourne students pay $382 a year compulsory union fees, giving their union a budget of $13 million per annum.
The 15 new student members elected will sit with management to draw up a new constitution for a new student body, in place of the one put into liquidation last year following "a host of suspect deals which were investigated". Jeremy Calvert's words in the Herald Sun
He reported the vice-president of the union now in liquidation, as saying that this compulsory levy "could not be justified", given the dismal participation rate and "you can't really say the people voted in are representative in any reasonable way". The vice-president added that students were apathetic because they were compelled to pay these hefty fees but were powerless to stop them being squandered.
He suggested that if people only paid if they chose to use the service, then those who did, would be much more attentive to the kind of candidates for whom they were voting. And candidates realising that they would be under intense scrutiny, would have to shape up or ship out.
The ALP uses student activists - often publicly and student union-funded - a great deal. For example, in anti-government "protests" - Liberal Government, that is - including disrupting meetings. So they oppose voluntary choice, while administrators are glad they don't have to pay for necessary student services, as they should ... also support the present system.
Most students, and the non-ideological majority of the people, see the present arrangements as virtually a non-elective dictatorship costing students an arm and a leg. What input would the fee-paying foreign students be likely to be making here?
The city Liberals should bite the bullet and campaign for decompulsification of student union fees; with a rider that the universities themselves should pick up the tab.
After all, the problems of Melbourne - viz a general withdrawal of student interest and participation, and cliques easily tempted into political grandstanding at best and financial malfeasance at worst - are not only Melbourne problems but exist nationwide, and the sums of student money acquired by compulsion, must run to over $100 million a year.
No wonder the National Union of Students, the ALP and the fringe parties want this extortion racket to keep going.
But given the deep apathy and the by now extreme atomisation of Australian student populations, even organising for reforms seems beyond their capacity. Seeing that the Far Left are the only ones still playing politics, protests against higher HECS payments are an organisational option, but student choice vis-à-vis union fees is not.
Reforms will probably have to wait from above.Pressure points
While the Western media spend their time talking about the state of some US military jails in Iraq, very fateful processes are unfolding which show how precarious is the grip on the world economic system, and the kind of problems which the West in general are likely to be encountering, before very long.
Firstly, of course there is the hike in oil prices which are only being kept in check by Saudi Arabia. The overthrow of that regime, and its replacement by a Taliban-style state, as Mr Downer has foreshadowed as a real possibility, could trigger off a collapse of the pro-Western regimes in the whole area - starting with the Gulf States.
It is unlikely that the US will want to go into war again in this area for a very long time unless she can achieve a favourable result in Iraq. The blackmail power of the oil states will then be overwhelming and their ability to plunge the world into Depression unparalleled.
The argument against this occurring has been that the Arab ruling elites would suffer, possibly greatly, in the event of a major world economic collapse. They depend on the West for their wealth, which is their main legitimiser.
But ... were these elites to be thrust aside, there is reason to believe that new fundamentalist governments may not be nearly as interested in wealth as they are in politics - ideological politics.
Believing that Western wealth, culture and mores have not only corrupted the West but are corrupting Islamic societies, they may for a time be quite indifferent to the plight of the US economy or that of Europe and Asia. A great deal may be hanging upon what happens in Iraq.
The second major economic problem is China. So overstretched is the West, having based economic expansion upon the indefinite growth in overseas trade, and the disposal of surplus capital into offshore investments ... that any noticeable slowing in China's growth rate has a disproportionate effect upon the West, and many Asian countries.
China is a command economy, so can for whatever reason, cut growth by squeezing credit and reducing imports, whether her people suffer or not. In a Western society, the same cutbacks would trigger off social chaos, even regime change. But not in China.
If present Chinese cutbacks are involuntary, so to speak, the situation could be serious for us all. But if they are timed on an on-off basis to remind her neighbours and the United States that they are not masters of the universe, or even of their economic fates, then the rich of the West will fall over to prostrate themselves. As they did to the Axis.Golden Goose
On the other hand, having a vested interest in a global economy where they are doing so well, China, unlike those with a Taliban scale of values, is not likely to want to greatly damage that golden goose until she can duplicate another.
But, for example, China is watching Nepal edging towards some kind of semi-Maoist solution which would greatly weaken India's strategic position. China, while playing no overt military role, could warn off Western interference by applying various economic pressure points to impetuous Westerners.
And what price Taiwan?
Overall, whether the US wins, loses or just draws in Iraq is vitally important - but the basic problems for the US, and a hopelessly divided West, are going to continue, with no plausible exit strategy showing itself, so long as we advance into globalism - Me Too capitalist style.
By the way, Paul Gray wrote a very thoughtful piece on Iraq in the Herald Sun
"We - those with a moral courage to stay - have no option but to remain until that country is stabilised with a competent government which does not rule by force and fraud, or as a puppet of some Muslim tyrannies around it."
As he said, we should not repeat the shameful escape tactics of the Americans and the Whitlam Government of that time, viz leaving millions of Vietnamese and Cambodians to suffer Stalinism and Pol Pot Maoism with people who worked with us clinging on to departing helicopters.
I can't see that Latham and his media buddies or the British or American Left have any plans: other than those.Surfing the Sunday soufflés
I look through the cinema advertisements, not to find out what's on, for the wall-to-wall ballyhoo makes it impossible not to know: and a bedraggled collection of contrived ephemeral, identikit fabrications they mainly are ... but to see how The Passion of the Christ
Amazingly, it is still running at four or five cinemas at this time. Mel certainly burnt off his competitors and his critics. But you would never know his film is still showing and where - except by going through all the small print. No mention of his film on show - with the usual rating system.
Mel originally got two-and-a-half stars from the local genius. But now Mel has disappeared entirely. Not so long ago when he was still allowed to be mentioned, The Passion
was listed as showing at one cinema - out in suburban Melbourne. In fact, it was then showing at four cinemas (including the city centre). But at present ... silence.
Nor could I find how much The Passion
has grossed nationally: but on last reports Mel has shown a clean pair of heels.
There are some bitter hearts among the anti-Catholic, anti-religious members of the West's media - and most of them have blown their cover. The sado-sexual sleaze coming from the anomic lumpen-Americans in Baghdad's prisons is part of the American popular culture, as increasingly it is part of ours. So the bare-faced hypocrisy of our media speaks for itself.
Incidentally, the recruitment of women into the forces, to make the chaps more principled and less macho, does not seem to be working. Of course not - neither gender has the monopoly of vice or virtue.
Howard, Bush and Blair are all unfortunate in a sense, for they have all stood out in their various ways against the evil messages of the capitalist media, the marketing of the images and the subliminal moral messages of violence, crime, greed and perversion - but failed.
The tide was too strong.
Islam has proved its point about the salacious, prurient, depraved West - where everything is for sale, everything is permitted.
No wonder Islam fights to keep out the Western media garbage. Their grounds are supposed to be political - but not necessarily; for many Muslims, they are moral and cultural. Which is not to say that Islam doesn't have some big problems.
Mel, and those who think like him, seem to have the ball at their feet for the moment. All sides, all political parties in the West are defective; without a guiding personal, or social, or political moral point of view (although many members still do). Gibson has shown one way out and the public has indicated they want to follow. Who's next?