The fuss over Japanese whaling

I don’t hold a strong view about whaling. I’m not for it nor against it. My interest lies in what all this fuss says about Australia.

I think that we are very lucky to be living in a country where we are so well off that the media and therefore the public can get so worked up about whaling. Or sport, or climate change, for that matter. It is said that starving nations have no time for philosophy. They are too busy foraging for food. We in Australia have it so good that we look for things to get worked up about and ignore things that are serious.

Because we don’t want to think about increasing violence against Indian students, for example, we console ourselves by protesting about the killing of whales. It’s easy to do that because it makes us feel good. It’s the green shopping bag syndrome which retailers are only too happy to encourage. If it increases sales then why not be bio-degradable, eco-friendly, hormone-free and even cholesterol-free? Anti-whaling is the bandwagon du jour, so why not get on board?

The fact that most of these gimmicks won’t make a skerrick of difference is totally unimportant. The public likes to be seen doing its bit and whatever makes the public happy then business and politicians will go for.

So why does the public like to be seen as caring? Well, in my opinion, it all has to do with feelings of guilt. We feel guilty because we live at a higher standard than most of the world. And we are not hungry!

In fact our biggest obsession is obesity. We spend a fortune on diets and potions and replacement meals. With very little success. So now we have turned to purging or detox, as it is called in polite circles. We actually pay for a starvation plan which will eliminate fluids from our bodies in a sort of apology for having stuffed ourselves too much over Xmas.

Anyone in the rest of the world would think we are crazy but would like to be in our shoes anyway. How ironic but how typical of the human condition.

I predict that in a couple of weeks when the rest of the journalists and politicians have come back on the scene, the whaling issue will fade and in no time at all we will be manipulated into feeling guilty about something else. The sad thing is that it probably doesn’t matter what the latest issue is as long as the media can grab a bit of attention and run with it.

That’s what happens when you live in a lucky country. We had our fright over the financial crisis and now it’s time to get back to the usual concerns of climate change, disappearing animals of all sorts, are politicians overpaid? and, of course, the indigenous troubles. It’s something to talk about, isn’t it?

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