By Darryl Mason
This is downright weird, and a little disturbing.
A piece in today's 'The Australian' claims that our "sense of well-being" has plunged, mostly because we feel so distant, so unconnected with our fellow Australians.
Something called the 'Wellbeing Index' has recorded the "lowest personal wellbeing" ratings since April, 2001 :
Go here for the whole story.
"...the marked drop was directly linked to how we feel about our relationships and connection to the community.
It was also linked to the fact Australians were feeling less threatened by external events and were subsequently less attached to each other.
This in turn caused their personal wellbeing to drop, he said. As people felt more secure within the world, their sense of wellbeing was more attuned to the quality of personal relationships.
"(The Index) showed a marked rise in personal wellbeing following the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Bali bombing and the early stages of the Iraq war...."
Does this explain why John Howard is apparently planning to use National Security as a key platform in next year's federal election?
There may well be a serious threat of terrorism in Australia - we don't really know for a fact if this is true because the details of such threats are now off-limits to the public, journos, lawyers, even those accused of being a threat - but it is a little creepy to think that all a politician has to do is ramp up the "You Will Be Bombed Soon" mantras to unite the country and install a sense of national unity.
Or can they?
In the US and the UK right now, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair are learning that The Threat Of Terror isn't uniting the masses like it used to.
At least, The Threat is not uniting the public behind their leaders.
Recent polls in the UK exposed a mind-blowing statistic : Only about 20% of all Brits believe their Prime Minister when he talked about the threat of terrorist attacks in the UK. And that's after the July 7 bombings last year.
Very, very strange.
One of John Howard's closest mates, and former staffer, is Sydney Morning Herald columnist Gerard Henderson. He stated a few days ago that :
"....John Howard and (Treasurer) Peter Costello have given clear indications that national security will be an election issue, with a focus on the real threat of radical Islamism..."If we go the way of the Yanks and the Brits, John Howard may discover that ramping up the rhetoric about terrorism and Radical/Militant Islam Threats To Our National Security won't work to unit the country behind him like it used to.
It's something like the threat of Bird Flu.
The headlines may well say, "1/3 Of Humanity Could Die," and you can then hear of outbreaks killing people in countries around the world, but until it happens in your own country, until you lose someone close to you, or see lines queuing outside of hospitals or bodies piled up in the streets, the Fear Factor fades after a while, the threat doesn't seem so real, so looming.
The hassles of day to day reality intrude on the sense of being in perpetual danger from something deadly that may or may not impact upon your life. The longer it doesn't, the easier it is to treat The Threat dismissively.
When something terrible happens, it's easy to get The Fear, but then it fades, it always does. You move on, you get on, and the talk of The Looming Threat loses its power the longer the danger remains an unreality in the lives of most people.
How many Australians live with a serious fear of a massive meteor strike destroying a population centre?
Or a tsunami smashing coastal communities?
Or out of control bushfires destroying whole towns?
Or perpetual drought causing a whole city to eventually run out of water and result in tens of thousands of people having to relocate?
All of these are serious possibilities, and all would cause a far larger loss of life and have a far greater impact on the economy and the lives of everyday Australians than a terrorist attack the size of most we have witnessed during the War On Terror.
But what if Attorney General Philip Ruddock is right?
"One has to be clearly focussed, we believe that Australia is vulnerable, a terrorist attack in Australia is certainly possible."What if Australia is hit by a terrorist attack between now and the federal election late next year?
Will Australians' "sense of wellbeing" rise as a result?
Will Australians feel more connected to each other, more united?
And will we then, on mass, unite behind the Howard government?
Or will Australians be like the Brits and, in the majority, blame their leader for any terrorist attack?
Hopefully, we won't have to find out.