Thursday, July 11, 2013

Voting with a conscience - By Justin Latif

Last night I came across this quote from Robert Kennedy’s fateful presidential campaign of 1968, found in Thurston Clarke’s wonderfully written book, The Last Campaign ( 2008).

[For] too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values for the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product, now is over 800 millon billion dollars a year, but the GNP – if we should judge America by that – counts air pollution and cigarette advertising. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of redwoods and the loss of our natural wonders in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm, the cost of a nucluear warhead and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yes the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit or our courage… it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

This excerpt leaped at me for a number of reasons on a chilly Wednesday evening.
Firstly, it saddens me to think that there are so few politicians today who would have the skills, intellect and courage to exhort such common sense values in an electoral campaign. Kennedy was obviously a man before his time, and tragically he never got to enact his principles in office, as he was murdered less than four months after this address.

Secondly as the conscience vote of the Sky City Convention centre looms, I’d like to think our politicians could capture some of these sentiments. I realise this decision will be framed as one that’s good for our economy, but it would be nice if our nation’s leaders could look beyond measures like GNP and GDP in their calculations. What if we could build institutions without splintering families and miring addicts into more debt. What if we looked past a few hundred jobs to the thousands of lives which may well be damaged by the increase of these callous pokie macines. Perhaps this is an over-simplified, overly optimistic perspective. Perhaps profits and pleasure for some, are more important than the harm to those who are deemed by many as our modern day lepers. Perhaps we look down our noses at these unfortunates and say ‘they reap what they sow’ and wash our hands of their plight.

But I'd like to hope that today we would see our leaders cast off this cynical individualism and regain a principled politics - one that votes authentically with a conscience.
The saying goes that we get the government we deserve, and if as expected the vote goes in favour of creating special exemptions for the Sky City Casino, then I hope this would motivate more of us to demand a higher standard from our elected representatives. The optimism of Robert Kennedy's campaign does not just have to be a nice footnote from history, instead it can be a pointer that it is possible to lead with values and make decisions based on principles not just profits. And while such an approach may consign us to be a little poorer as a nation, I think it would make us a little happier as a people.

By the office admin guy

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