The Number One Culprit Is You
If you are reading this, in all likelihood you're from a Western country, and probably one whose government isn't some repressive monstrous hydra of demagogy.
In actuality you are the government.
Yes, it does sound like American ideology at its sappiest, but if you point your finger at government and claim it to be a great evil, you're only insulting yourself.
Because, as we all should know, the government isn't some monolithic dinosaur, but an amalgam of the best and worst of us- and the beauty of it is that it still can be changed and influenced when it lags behind the progressiveness of the general public.
Yes, no-one can deny that politicians (especially those in NSW Labor) do seem duplicitous, devious and set on personal glory rather than public service but really, they're just filling the void of public inaction.
Well if democratic government ran as well as it could, then it would operate as Athenian democracy did- directly- rather than through representation.
We would gather in halls around the country listen to people convince us one way or another on an issue and then vote over which sounded more practical.
Or to put it in to modernity, maybe we'd give more local power to choosing hospital administration boards to local people, or maybe there'd be more discussions with choosing teachers at schools, or maybe we'd even have regular internet forums to share ideas and work out ways to install them locally.
Or to put it more simply we'd think globally, and then act and vote locally.
Now of course most people think localising government is impractical; councils already struggle to get turn outs for important issues, only hearing complaints once plans have been put into action.
And really this truth is what's stopping us having direct democracy- people don't have time and that's where filling the void with representative democracy comes in.
Yet, instead of writing our representatives constantly, or thinking they actually represent us, most Australians seem to separate themselves from their politicians and follow the Don Chipp line that they all must be bastards.
The truth is we'd much rather watch tv than go to a council meeting, we'd much rather read a book than join a local nature rehabilitation group, and we'd definitely much rather have a nap then go to a panel on how to run public transport.
So as long as you do nothing don't be surprised when nothing get's done.
Anyway, apart from that cynical stab at public indifference there are some notable runner-ups for failure:
Having been elected, and then inaugurated on the greatest tide of goodwill and hope imaginable, the world waited to see what imminent goodness would spread.
Unfortunately, that goodness has been scarce on actions that show the US to really have turned a corner.
There have been some successes though:
- He and Time's 'Person of the Year' Ben Bernanke launched a stimulus package which kept the US and the world out of a catastrophic depression
- He got a watered down health reform package through a procedural vote at the Senate.
- He might get his climate change bill through.
Largely though, this has been a self-assessed B+ effort, yes he's come up against conservatives who seem harder to move than Palestinians for Israeli settlement, but an A+ President is one who can shift popular intransigence.
Franklin Roosevelt for instance was great at this, turning the tide of conservatism and bringing in the New Deal while debate still raged about fiscal prudence, and balancing budgets.
If Obama wants to be 'the change we can believe in' then he must do a better job of changing public opinion.
So after 12 years of waiting since Kyoto we can be excused for thinking that this meeting would result in an agreement that was binding and powerful.
Of course we were wrong, and the cynics, sceptics and deniers must be over-the-moon as leaders plodded around as impotently as an eighty year old.
There are other notable failures like Australia's ETS, Malcolm Turnbull, and Michael Jackson at living- but I think we get the picture.
This truly was another year that wasn't.