Snapshot of a nation losing its faith

That’s the lead feature in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.  It is reporting the findings of the latest Scanlon Foundation social cohesion survey. Details may be found on a Monash University site.

Even though I took on board the idea in last night’s Q&A that we do tend to exaggerate, or over-react to, the parlous state of Australian politics, I still find much in this latest survey report tickles my schadenfreude.

WE ARE growing distrustful and gloomy; we doubt government does the right thing by the Australian people; most of us don’t trust one another; and though we are generally optimistic about our futures, there has been a sharp rise in the number of us who fear being worse off in two or three years’ time.

This unhappy picture emerges from the fourth survey of social cohesion conducted for the Scanlon Foundation by Andrew Markus of Monash University. He blames the conduct of politics. "What goes on in Canberra doesn’t stay in Canberra. That style of politics is having ramifications in the outside community. People are being told the government is so stupid they can’t even solve the simplest problems."

The problem that looms largest in the survey is the political controversy over boat people, which Professor Markus argues has had a "direct negative impact" on social cohesion. "It is an issue that fuels disillusionment with government and heightens division within the population."

The surveys, funded by the businessman Peter Scanlon, focus on the impact of immigration on Australian society. Here the report card for this year is by no means all gloom. Though almost all of us think migrant numbers are rising when they are actually falling, most also think the intake is "about right" or "too low". The fear of a big Australia seems to be dissipating.

Read more: David Marr’s report.

Consider these:





The last two confirm my suspicion that Lib/Nat voters have mental and emotional difficulties and really should be pitied. But then I wore my teeth out by grinding them so often during the Howard years…

At the same time my cynicism – or should that just be disillusionment – knows no bounds. And I don’t look to the Greens with any joy either, ersatz parsons that they are…

Billy Joel sang me long ago:

Give a moment or two to the angry young man,
With his foot in his mouth and his heart in his hand.
He’s been stabbed in the back, he’s been misunderstood,
It’s a comfort to know his intentions are good.
And he sits in a room with a lock on the door,
With his maps and his medals laid out on the floor-
And he likes to be known as the angry young man.

I believe I’ve passed the age
Of consciousness and righteous rage
I found that just surviving was a noble fight.
I once believed in causes too,
I had my pointless point of view,
And life went on no matter who was wrong or right. OHHHHHHHH

And there’s always a place for the angry young man,
With his fist in the air and his head in the sand.
And he’s never been able to learn from mistakes,
So he can’t understand why his heart always breaks.
And his honor is pure and his courage as well,
And he’s fair and he’s true and he’s boring as hell-
And he’ll go to the grave as an angry old man.

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