[This was published at On Line Opinion 29 Nov 2011.]
It is characteristic of some past societies that their highest accomplishments occurred just before a precipitous decline in their fortunes, according to Jared Diamond in his book Collapse. It is less common that a society’s trajectory comprises a slow rise, a plateau and a slow decline. Diamond does cite some societies that were able to shift their strategy and successfully negotiate a crisis, so a crash is not inevitable.
The former pattern, accelerating into a crash, is a signature of a society oblivious to imminent peril. At least, the leadership of the society is oblivious to warning signs of a crisis, and they just keep on doing what they have always done. Or perhaps they become more and more dissolute, like the later rulers of ancient Rome.
There is an eerie sense of unreality in Australian public life. The things our leaders argue about, and the evidence they pay attention to, are largely irrelevant to our real situation, which is one of rising multiple crises. The longer the crises continue unattended, the worse will be the consequences.