Last night the Australian Government delivered what some are calling the harshest, meanest, nastiest, stone cold Federal Budget in nearly a decade.
Despite boasting unemployment, debt levels, credit ratings and inflation the envy of every developed nation in the world – and an economy that survived the GFC intact – Australia, we’ve been told repeatedly and ad nausea by our conservative government, is actually in quite the economic situation. To use the language those the Budget aims to repeatedly ream – the unemployed, the elderly and students – “we’re fucked”.
Over the past few weeks, Treasurer Joe Hockey has railed against rising debt levels and the end of the “age of entitlement” in justifying the harsh austerity stamped on every page of his magnum opus. Few have been spared. Cuts to education, health and science spending, the national broadcaster, pensions, students and unemployed welfare…the list goes on. Tax rises – the very same Prime Minister Tony Abbott pledged never to introduce – were passed on higher income earners. The Government promised efficiency, and in one aspect it’s delivery was breathtaking: In the space of 24 hours, the Government eloquently and without a hint of remorse or the most basic acknowledgement broke every single pre-election promise. Twitter went into overdrive and the meme-makers had more than enough fodder to fill their mornings while sales reports were left incomplete. When is a tax a levy, and when is a levy a tax. Who gives a toss?
But I’ll leave the Budget analyse to other, more qualified observers. Instead, I want to focus on what I see as the Budget’s ideological keystone – and how the lessons from sound social media practice tears it to shreds.
In essence, this Budget has little to do with austerity and everything to do with ideology. Hockey is using the Budget to promote a shift from a socialist, community-minded country to one of rampant individualism. Less Norway, and more the United States way. It promotes the good of the individual over the good of the collective, and it’s a principle that as social media practitioners, we should rally against.
If it’s one thing I’ve learned in my albeit brief time as a “social media expert” – cringe and guffaw – it’s that the best results from social media come from promoting and developing communities that can support and learn from one another. Hockey wants us to be a “nation of lifters not leaners” but the metaphor is flawed in assuming no one has ever needed support, ever. Patently false, and condescending revisionism. We all need to lean on each other, and our interactions on social media prove that the best results are achieved by when we help and support each other.
This may be a stretch, and you’ll indulge me while I draw an elongated bow, but consider applying individualism to a social media setting. “Me me me” has never been so compelling as “Us us us”. Put simply, it’s the old walking into a party and talking about yourself metaphor that describes so many failed social media campaigns. Engage, educate, enlighten; these are socialist principles in the social media world in that they really take flight in a group or community setting.
I’ve never liked the US-brand of individualism touted by libertarians and conservatives. God help us all if we continue down this same route.
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