Despite continually proclaiming the importance of educating young Australians, our political leaders all seem to have overlooked the fact that Thursday, November 20, 2008 is World Philosophy Day. It is a day that we should not allow to pass by unmarked.
In my article "Australia: a nation at risk" I referred to Future Directions' call in 2007 to strengthen our Australian identity. In "Australia 2050: An Examination of Australia's Condition, Outlook, and Options for the First Half of the 21st Century", they suggested that:
... given the reality that globalisation and wealth creation have ensured that society's focus is increasingly in the short term, it is essential - if Australian society is indeed to prosper as a unified nation-state until 2050 and beyond - that Australians understand how they will sustain their societal spiritual values in an environment of enormous secular pressure ... History has shown, for example, a withering of spiritual values in times of great secular distraction: rising wealth, short term focus on material gain, etc. But will society be ready to return to (or have the core memory and structures) a recognisable spiritual set of values and hierarchy when times become less easy and more challenging?
Less easy and more challenging times are now upon us, and the difficulties and challenges we face are likely to increase.
Seduced by the carefully engineered neo-liberal push, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said that “There's no such thing as society, there are individual men and women”. Although she later relented to allow for families, Thatcher’s polarisation of individuals and society completely failed to give any weight to culture. Regrettably, our political leaders have followed a similar, although ostensibly more moderate, neo-liberal path. They have also failed to understand what culture is, why it is important and the critical role government plays in creating circumstances whereby culture can be developed and nurtured.
Faced with the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression of the 1930s - and without cultural or social cohesion - it is no surprise that we are hearing and reading more about Australians seeking a sense of purpose. Fed by the media and advertising industries, many Australians try to fabricate their own identity by having “that” job, buying “that” car, wearing “that” watch, or living in “that” house. So what happens to their sense of identity when the job evaporates and the kitty is dry?
Strength is the redeeming virtue in adversity, but modern life has encouraged a nation of self-centred, consumption oriented "sheep" rather than creative and critical thinkers with real inner strength. Do people nowadays really possess the internal resources and personal skills which would allow us to face and overcome the difficulties that confront us?
The problem doesn’t just affect adults. Our children see our deficiencies and feel the same uneasiness.
In their report “Children's fears, hopes and heroes - modern childhood in Australia”, Joe Tucci, Janise Mitchell and Professor Chris Goddard noted of children and young people aged between 10 - 14 years:
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