Our nation is made up of citizens who are also consumers of goods and services. As citizens we have rights and responsibilities, as consumers we shop.
Citizenship builds communities, consumerism cheapens and devalues.
After 30 years of rampant market consumerism, isn’t it time to focus once again on citizenship and the social fabric of our nation? There are over a quarter of a million children living in poverty in this land of plenty. The market and the relentless pursuit of profit have concentrated wealth to obscene levels and the price we pay is to sacrifice our children. Is this what we really want?
Now is the time for the politics of citizenship, a more equal distribution of the fruits of our land and the guarantee of universal rights.
Universal human rights are well established over many decades by the agencies of the United Nations. People are not just guaranteed individual rights such as freedom of expression but they are also guaranteed collective rights such as freedom of association and the right for all to be able to afford safe and nutritious food.
The latest corporate policy prescription favours investor rights at the expense of the democratic rights. This is manifested in the trade and investment treaty, the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) which our Government intends to sign without any parliamentary process. The TPPA will remove the rights of our children to pass laws of environmental and social protection. They will be constrained by being sued for our taxes as corporate compensation.
Most citizens can no longer afford to be comfortable consumers. For many families, housing, health and education, food and clothing take all of the household income. Consumerism in recent decades has been fuelled with debt, making the financial institutions rich and the citizens indebted. The financial bubble burst in an overdose of derivatives and the banks demanded that citizens save them by incurring greater public debt. In the global financial crisis of 2008 the losses were socialized after decades of profit privatization.
Citizenship means learning about the rights that all people should be accorded and the democratic responsibilities to ensure those rights. Such learning should begin at an early age in our schools. Children should be taught that we can no longer sustain communities or indeed human life itself, in a system where 1% of people control most of the world’s resources and concentrate power and influence towards their own enrichment and in ways removed from democratic constraints.
Children should be taught what taxes are for. Taxes are required to redistribute wealth so that all peoples can have access to health, education, housing, social security and infrastructure.
In modern teenage slang ‘to be taxed’ is to have something stolen from you. This is the power of messaging; that individual disposable income must be maximized at the expense of social need. Decades of advertisers have equated social acceptance with spending power.
Citizenship means working collectively to keep people from poverty so that everyone can realize his or her potential without suffering hunger and humiliation.
Citizenship is learning to live in civil society and civil society has regulations to protect and enable.
Citizenship should not enable individuals to trample all over the rights of others in grabbing excessive money, power and influence.
Stand up politicians and take a stand for a collective society that educates about citizenship and allows all to live in dignity. Tell us about your determination for all to have access to education, health and housing.
Citizenship also means we have to work to earn a living if we are able to do so.
Our labour is the axis on which society turns.
The primary purpose of our work is not so we can all consume more, but that we can all contribute to our collective society where we can live well together and meet our needs, enjoy life and live in dignity.
Work and society are inextricably linked. We cannot have a fair and sustainable society without people working in dignity.
Tell me Mr Prime Minister, how do we work with dignity, collectively build our nation, develop a sustainable economy, reduce the crime rate, build mutual respect between diverse groups and live productively in civil society when there is a deliberate policy to drive down wages and diminish our very ability to work together by reducing access to collective bargaining.
You propose to allow employers to set the wage and working conditions of a new worker where existing workers have already joined together to negotiate the terms of employment.
You do not respect the rights or the dignity of working people. You seek to increase inequality in society and further concentrate power and wealth. You demean the office of Prime Minister and you cannot expect respect.