March 23, 2009 | Ronda Jambe

Creamin it in Canberra

Perhaps cognitive dissonance is a necessary element of our psyche. Our delusions help us to maintain our sanity. A friend suggested I read his copy of ‘Straw Dogs’ by philosopher John Gray. Gray says the Tasmanian Aborigines were so incapable of comprehending the English ships that they could not see them. Instead, they turned away and continued their lives which had lost the capacity for making clothes, or fishing, or fire. Change, innovation, even threat, had become impossible for them to imagine.
Similarly I often succeed in ignoring the confrontations that reason tells me are waiting. It is not just easy to push the future away, it may not be worth the effort to fight it. Gray argues that concern about one’s future may be a typically human, but useless, activity.
In the meantime, my existence in Canberra has to be very nearly a dream. Some religions might call this paradise the reward of special virtue. But Gray attributes the good life more to luck, and living in the Lucky Country, who could argue with that? If I puncture my self-satisfaction long enough to compare 2009 Canberra with the travails of so many other societies, past or present, it is hard to see any special deserving. I’m thinking about the suffering in China in the 1930s, having just seen Children of the Silk Road, but Russia in the 1940s would do as well. Or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or northern Sri Lanka, take your pick of last week’s news.
It is so pleasant to muse over other the problems of other societies from the luxury of the capital of a first world country. Was not our own golden Kevin welcomed as an equal in Washington’s High Temple? Australia has got it right, they all agree, and Kevin nodded his approval of the economic doctrine being laid out. Surely printing money to cover trillions in debt is a reasonable long term strategy, unless you listen to a silly goose like Paul Krugman, who is in despair. But he’s just another Nobel Prize winning economist, so what would he know? If pretty Kev isn’t worried, why should I?
Gray rejects the Enlightenment hopes of humans controlling their fate, and offers a grim view of humanism as a secular form of Christianity. Easily persuaded, I guess I might as well relax. Life in our capital is rich and rewarding, it would be churlish not to be grateful. The TAFE I attend for my cultural and intellectual stimulation is well managed, with beautiful computer labs, skilled staff, and good cafes. The local shops are full of great food, and my computer room window looks out on bright flowers. I have a good crop of corriander coming up. The buses run on time and even the Salvos has gone upmarket, and glistens like any shiny department store.
Clouds of change drift across my sky and evaporate. The day after a bikie was bashed to death at Sydney airport two Canberra bikies were shot dead in a southern suburb. I am keen to chat with a friend who works in the Office of Transport Security about why airport staff wasn’t waiting for the thugs who came in on a Melbourne flight and had given cause for concern before they landed. Shouldn’t airport security training and planning have got beyond demarcation disputes by now?
But it is probably best not to question those who plan the future on my behalf. The ACT government has got their water strategy all worked out, so they tell us. It involves complicated diagrams of water being pumped from the Murrumbidge River to various dams. The next day another article appears, saying the ACT is buying ‘air’, as the water rights they are paying NSW for are just theoretical. Another scientist wonders if Australia can handle the expected population of 44 million by 2050. Did the major parties discuss population constraints in the Queensland election? Even the ACT Greens are mum on that hot potato.
It was 30C today, but comfortable. Aside from a 5 minute intense downpour in Civic yesterday, there has been no break in the long dry spell. We have become so used to dun coloured parks and yards that we did a double take last weekend at the lush green verges in Moruya. The Canberra street trees are dying, but maybe they think I won’t miss them as long as the shops are interesting. And maybe, if I can learn to be more like the animals John Gray admires so much, I can continue my happy dreams.
french cat.jpg

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 7:48 am | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Environment


  1. cognitive dissonance!!!! there is a term you don’t hear every day.
    i agree, i believe that we are kidding ourselves if we think that we can spend our way out of the problem that has been caused by overspending. it is completely counter-intuitive!!! but we nod and smile and delude oursleves that if we somehow do more of the same, then it will all be ok… we are dudding ourselves, it will just put off the inevitable a bit longer.
    if we don’t fundamentaly change the paradigm of our consumption habits and rigourously enforce (we don’t even really need to change them)the existing laws we do have, to prevent unsustainable lending and “casino” investment practices, we will be back here sooner, rather than later.
    government investment is fine!! government “scratch it” card handouts are not………

    Comment by Disapointed — March 29, 2009 @ 10:05 am

  2. Yes, gov short sightedness makes me ‘disappointed’ too. Staying out of debt is one of my few strategies that seem to work so far. Buying second hand stuff is another, but then I’ve been doing that all my life.

    Comment by ronda jambe — March 29, 2009 @ 6:15 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.