Following the debacle in Australian federal politics over the last few years, and particularly the last couple of months – and now we have a crisis in the ABC – it occurs to me that a refreshing change would be national leadership via principles rather than personality.
You might think that that’s what we already have: the Liberals represent certain values and Labour represents an opposite set of values (in theory), but I’m talking about something more inspiring than the muddled policies that either side presents. I’m talking about principles that would go beyond any party or particular leader’s four-year term. I’m talking about voting in a set of principles rather than a person.
For example, I would love to see a country governed by principles like these:
- All decisions are considered for long-term effects, especially effects on the Earth/environment.
Whether you believe in the greenhouse effect or not, a clean, green, healthy environment supports the mental, emotional and physical wellbeing of all humans and animals. Smog is ugly and unhealthy, and oceans that are choking with plastic are clearly not sustainable either, so a principle ensuring that development, business and lifestyle practices look after our planet is essential.
- Human dignity is paramount, so all people are treated with respect, including refugees, the disabled, the elderly, minority groups, and criminals.
Those who have attacked others have almost certainly been attacked or mistreated themselves; the cycle has to stop somewhere. Respect is healing. This doesn’t mean that those who have offended get away with it; there must be appropriate consequences, but if reintegration into society is to work, offenders need to be given the opportunity to learn, correct, and desire reintegration; if they feel marginalised and devalued, that’s highly unlikely.
That respect extends to practical forms such as a minimal national wage – so much cheaper than the clean-up bill from crime and the management of organisations like Centrelink. It also encourages companies to treat their employees extremely well: providing adequate holiday leave, maternal/paternal leave, and even ‘wellbeing/mental health days’. Whether a country accepts refugees or not, while on our shores, they are treated with dignity (in forms that are specific and measurable). Our elderly are respected and cared for… etc.
- Life Skills are included in formal education.
Whether we ever need to known the difference between an isosceles triangle and an equilateral triangle after leaving school is moot, but everyone needs to be able to communicate effectively. End of story. (See my last blog and upcoming blogs on this subject.)
While on the topic of Education, I’d propose that it be free both in terms of cost and in terms of content: the correlations between education level and both health and wealth have long been established, and one rigid curriculum for all does not allow for or encourage the diversity we need for a healthy society. NB Finland’s relaxed approach to education (which is publicly funded) has them consistently out-performing most other schools in the world.
And the arts should be encouraged: music and creative expression help with the development of the brain. The arts are most evident in the most advanced civilisations.
- Responsible health practices are encouraged and incentivised.
Once again, a nutritious diet with a significant plant component and minimal refined foods is correlated with health and wealth. What if…?
Clearly, these principles inspire me because they reflect my values, and there are vested interests (such as the sugar industry) that wouldn’t agree with them. And being a diverse world, others are going to have very different principles – a recent article in The Conversation discussed a study into youth spirituality and found six groups: ‘This-worldly’, Religiously-committed, Seekers, Spiritual-but-not-committed, Indifferent, and Nominally-religious. That’s just in relation to religion/spirituality; every topic will see the population splintering into different opinions.
But much as these young people have different views, the predominant attitude across the board was ‘it’s all good’; today’s youth in general lives the principle of tolerance. As the article said, ‘Tellingly, teens are wary of attempts by some to dictate to others what they can and cannot do, or who are disrespectful of those not like themselves. Didactic politicians beware.’
I think these values augur well for our Earth’s future; ironically, practices that care for people and planet are also usually proven to be financially viable. Giving workers plenty of holiday time doesn’t diminish productivity, as logic might suggest; instead, productivity is as good or even better because people are more effective when happy and rested.
Even if proposals like this seem utopian, if the general idea has merit, it’s worth thinking about it and beginning to grapple with the challenges of moving in this direction. Let me know what you think.