One of the interesting things, to me, about visiting Prague was talking to a number of local academics – at the Anglo-American University and the Institute of Industrial and Financial Management – about how globalisation was often viewed through a local lens. Both of my interlocutors – expats themselves – thought that Australians would have much different perspectives on global issues than Europeans. That shocked me out of my own insularity a little. You have to go somewhere else to get your own take in perspective.
We often don’t realise, I think, how closely paralleled some of the social, cultural and political forces at work on our national governments, politics and institutions are with those of other nations. If we look to those parallels, we’ll often draw them with the United States and the United Kingdom. To some degree, that’s understandable – both because of the similarity in culture and linguistic ease which facilitates such comparisons and because the impact and the cross-pollination between us and the UK and the US is higher. (Think either the ‘Tea Party’ or ‘New Labour’ 0r the ‘Big Society’.)
One of the ironies of this limited lens is that global civil society – mediated through the web and social media – is gaining in strength. Yet we too often still see national politics as bounded. Of course, pace Max Weber, part of the stateness of states is the ability to exercise hegemony over a defined territory. But there’s still loss – analytically and practically – from not seeing cross-border forces at work on national polities.
This is by way of wondering what implications two little snippets might have for us:
(1) In Australia, a Billionaire businessman with a large persona creates a political party built largely on a media persona and cash and takes a big slice of the vote, while in the Czech Republic, a Billionaire businessman looks set to enter Parliament riding a wave of disgust with government corruption and the inward looking focus of the political class;
(2) In Australia, The Greens’ forward movement at national level is halted for the first time, internal squabbles appear, and tensions between governing and policy and activism and idealism start to collide. In Germany, The Greens go backwards, and their thunder is stolen by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s denuclearisation, leaving them without a totemic issue and with the fruits of incorporation into the political-governmental machine.
I have my own thoughts, which I’ll set out later, but I’m interested first in hearing from others.