a little east of reality

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

the lucky country

It's no secret that I think our current Prime Minister is bad at his job. His policies have made life in Australia a lot worse than a decade ago...unless of course you are in a certain category of business ownership and then things are dandy. The tax system, education, student unionism, industrial relations law, media ownership laws, indigenous affairs ~ the Howard government has had a negative impact on it all. And let's not even touch on his relationship George W Gump.

The point is that I often feel we are becoming the not-so-lucky country. But last night I had a rather excellent reality check. I was watching TV with the (for a change not so) smarmy toothpick and this ad came on. For those who can't view the youtube video, it's a political ad that basically has John Howard turning into Pinocchio as they discuss one of the core promises he failed to keep. It's pointedly critical and blatantly accuses him of being untrustworthy. This conversation followed:
ST: That is so good!
Me: The ad?
ST: No. It's...you can say this bad things and not get trouble.
Me: You can't criticise your government at all?
ST: No. In my country if someone say this kind of ad, they will get much trouble and arrested. And the company who did the broadcast will be shut down. It's no really democracy.
Me: Yeah we can say pretty much whatever we like about our government. And a lot gets said, especially in the months before an election.
ST: In my country people not vote for new government because they are too scare that there will happen a coup and then we will have war again.
I then taught him the English idiom, "better the devil you know".

Now I've had conversations with him before about Cambodia's government and their tendancy to add exorbidant taxes to any luxury item (cars, computers, etc) in order to raise revenue for themselves. But the corruption of the system is so widespread in Cambodia that it goes far beyond that. I told a friend who works in Immigration about this conversation and she told me that people there are so used to corruption that they have trouble grasping why Immigration cares about verifying their information and it makes the information terribly unreliable. For them it's a money transaction ~ they bribe someone at a government office on their end and that person changes their birth certificate, or falsely verifies in an official statement that the person's father is dead so they can get a certain kind of visa. She said that this is so common that sometimes literally all they have to go on, to know if Cambodians are telling the truth about their circumstances or not, is intuition.

No matter how bad John Howard can be, those ads will run. On election day, if the Liberal Party is ousted, little Johnny Hobbit will gracefully concede, not start a civil war. And even if the whole world knew who wrote this blog in real life, I wouldn't be arrested for the criticisms I make of his government's policies. So yeah, maybe this IS still the lucky country.