"If I cannot listen to the subtle manifestation of rich reality in my environment, I will necessarily try to impose my wilful codes on others. If I am not open to reality and do not obey the voice of reality, a terrible distortion takes place. Sooner or later I will turn the whole relationship around: Instead of listening to reality in people and events, I become convinced that reality in people and events should listen to me."

[Adrian van Kaam, The Art of Existential Counseling, Dimension Books, 1966, 80.]

Course: Beyond Hypocrisy – Saving the West from Itself

Winton Higgins PhD
Jwinton01

Starts Tuesday 12 June
Journalist: What do you think of Western civilisation, sir?
Gandhi: I think it would be a good idea.

Week 1: A survey of Western values before World War II, and after it. How well do we Australians honour them? Or: Mind the hypocrisy gap!


In this session we’ll trace the development of personal, civic and political values in the West, from their ancient sources in the classical civilisations of Greece and Rome, and Christianity, through their ramifications in the European Enlightenment, and the postwar ‘rights revolutions’ – its institutions and culture. Finally, we’ll review our own political community’s actual (as opposed to rhetorical) record in fostering and abiding by these values.

Week 2: The sorrows of neoliberalism, to which ‘there is no alternative’ (Thatcher)
From the 1970s neoliberalism became the must-accept ideology in the West. Virtually all major electoral parties succumbed to its orthodoxy, and now submit to its key international institutions. Yet its effects promote soaring inequalities and social exclusions between and within countries, regions, cities, and even suburbs, as well as climate change. It leaves no room for democratic political communities to pursue chosen national development strategies – ones that promote Western values such as fairness, social equity, equal life chances, adequate public services, and effective climate policy. According to neoliberal logic, all such aspirations are ‘unaffordable’ in practice. Can we break out of this ideological servitude to reclaim Western values?

Week 3: Why doesn’t democracy work for us anymore? The rise of the political class
We’ll compare how our democracy worked in its heyday (the mid-twentieth century) to the way it works now. How is it that professional politicians, their minders, staffers, image controllers, perception managers, focus-group ringmasters, plus lobbyists and powerful interests with ‘the inside running’, make the policy decisions, and inform us about them after the event? How did scandals and trivia deflect us from a meaningful democratic conversation about how major public policies should be shaped to further our values? Is this a case of neoliberal governance fulfilling its own self-serving prophecy that ‘there is no alternative’?

Week 4: Climate change: the unthinkable and the thoughtless
According to incontestable climate science, ‘business as usual’ in our carbon economy is destabilising the world’s climate, threatening the homes, lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people, and making our Western way of life increasingly precarious. Yet this existential threat has had little echo in our culture, is vociferously denied by powerful vested interests, which in turn create electoral confusion and policy paralysis. Is there no alternative to business as usual in the carbon economy? What would we need to change in order to even propose a meaningful response to the climate crisis?

Winton Higgins is graduate of the universities of Sydney, Stockholm and London, he has been a board member of the Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies for the last sixteen years. He is an Associate of the Faculty of International Studies and an Associate Member of Transforming Culture.

Winton Higgins books include:
Journey into Darkness (Brandl & Schlesinger, 2003), a Holocaust-themed travel diary; 
The Magnitude of Genocide with Colin Tatz (Praeger, 2016) addressing genocide worldwide;
Politics against Pessimism - Social democratic possibilities since Ernst Wigforss, with G. Dow, (Peter Lang Publishing 2013), 
Engine of Change: Standards Australia since 1922, (Brandl & Schlesinger, Blackheath, 2005), View/Download from: UTS OPUS;
Rule of Law (Brandl & Schlesinger, 2016) - this last one is relevant to this course.

Presenter: Winton Higgins PhD
Where: Aquinas Academy, Level 5, 141 Harrington St, The Rocks, Sydney
When: Four Tuesday mornings, 10am – 12noon, 12 June - 3 July
Cost: $144/per person 

 

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