2014 should have been different. The Australian right was in power. Here was our opportunity to show that a conservative government is a safe pair of hands, reliable and dependable, guided by a deep sense of integrity and tradition.
At some point, I’m going to have to let go of the fantasy that a conservative government is going to live up to its rhetoric. At some point, I’m going to have to let the reality of the past sixty years sink in, that there are just too many reasons why conservative politicians are going to succumb to lower nature. At some point, I’m going to have to make peace with the fact that the glossy allure of anti-human libertarianism is going to be more appealing than dry tradition, dignity, and culture.
There was very little reason to be idealistic about conservatism in 2014. Even under the Howard years, there was a pretence that government was about something bigger, a particular vision of society that was worth promoting. We might (and probably should) reject Howard’s vision of society, but we could at least be grateful that there was some vision. I don’t know what Abbott’s social vision is, but it seems to be consistent with sending grotesque comics to asylum seekers, with scoring petty points against cultural institutions, and with promoting the interests of business over those of society.
For me, the worst part about 2014 was that a bill to reform university revenue structures (which I supported) spent ages being debated in Parliament, but a bill to grant the Minister for Immigration increased powers to the disadvantage of asylum seekers went through at rapid pace. We got things fundamentally wrong here.
It seemed appropriate and fitting that we’d end 2014 with conservative Australia claiming that socialists were supportive of Daesh, that people on welfare should be coerced into using contraceptives (while noting the massive effect this would have on Indigenous Australia), and that the real threat to freedom was the regulation of ‘free speech’ (by which Rita Panahi meant uncivilised attacks on society).
At times, I wonder if I’m waging a one-man war against reality. Why be idealistic about how much better conservatives could be when they show absolutely no capacity to change? Why spend my time reading books and essays by some of the greatest conservative thinkers of the past when the dull, beige future shows that we’re not going to revisit those golden ages? How miserable.
Here’s to 2015.