Disclaimer: this post isn’t perhaps as polished as I’d like, but it’s time to get it posted.
I love nostalgia. How many blog posts have I written that fondly look back? 78, apparently.
But I’m acutely aware that rose-coloured glasses distort our view of the past.
And while we might like to visit the past, when we think rationally about it, we wouldn’t actually want to go back there.
The trains and trams of the past might be beautiful things to behold, but it wasn’t actually that much fun sweating in non-airconditioned carriages on hot days, waiting 40 minutes for a train on a Sunday, or having a super-slow trip to the country, and yes it was dangerous when doors didn’t close and lock by themselves.
The video games of the 80s are probably those I enjoy the most, but good stuff came afterwards, and I don’t really want to go back to when computers cost a fortune and did almost nothing (by today’s standards), programming languages were primitive, mobile technology was non-existent and the Internet was a text-only impenetrable, impossible-to-navigate jungle confined to a few big universities.
Waves of immigrants have brought the best of their culture with them for us to enjoy. Much of the food we love today came with them: Pizza, pasta, tacos, kebabs, curries, bagels, gyros, pho… and lots more. They also brought new thinking, new ideas, initiative and entrepreneurial spirit.
Whether it was acceptance of different cultures or a mix of other factors, in recent decades mainstream Australia has come to accept indigenous culture and rights. Incredibly it took until the 1960s for Aborigines to have the right to vote throughout Australia, and be counted in the census. In America, huge advances have been made in black rights. Nobody should want to go backwards to less enlightened times.
Much of the architecture of the 20th century is beautiful. (I love art deco, myself). But many of the mod cons we take for granted now at home just didn’t exist. Washing machines, fridges/freezers, microwave ovens, air-conditioning and central heating, even the humble television — none of it — or it was so expensive almost nobody could afford it.
We can learn lessons from the past, but we don’t really want to go back there.
We can get better. But we can’t go backwards.
Trump’s cry to “Make America Great Again” smacks of this. And Australians such as Cory Bernadi and Pauline Hanson apparently share this view.
Make Australia Great Again pic.twitter.com/hL595FI59S
— Cory Bernardi (@corybernardi) November 6, 2016
Let’s assume for a moment that Trump doesn’t want to reverse gear back to some mythical golden age; he just wants to resurrect factory jobs.
The idea that you can resurrect the great American industrial age of manufacturing might come from the heart, but the world economy has moved on. Western world wages and living standards have increased. The economies of Asia have developed enough that they can do many of those manufacturing jobs more cheaply, so of course companies and consumers have switched allegiances.
Western economies have moved instead into services and research & development and tech. Things have moved on. You can’t magically isolate one sector of the economy from everything else and hit the Rewind button.
And even now, America is great.
In my house, we have computers, and iPads, and mobile phones, and Sonos. All invented in America, but manufactured in China.
A similar shift has happened in Australia. You’d struggle to find Australian-made clothing in the shops these days, and local car manufacturing is winding up.
The coming closure of the Hazelwood power station is another shift. The displaced workers have to be taken care of, given assistance to help them find new jobs. But it doesn’t mean we can keep propping up nonviable industries.
In true Trump style of course, he doesn’t really articulate how he would make America great again. It’s motherhood statements, telling people who have been through the economic wringer what they want to hear.
There are plenty of other reasons not to vote for him of course. As the Huffington Post so neatly summarises in the footer of some of its articles: Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims – 1.6 billion members of an entire religion – from entering the U.S.
Hopefully America will do the right thing today. Hillary may be a long way from perfect, but a President Trump would have dire consequences for everyone. We’ll know in the next 24-48 hours.