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On The Origins Of COVID-19: My full and unabashed thoughts

As I often seem to do, I will start this post off with an admission. Most of last year I was hyper alert to how my public comments and my emails to my former colleague and friend, Dr Shi Zhengli, the lead scientist of the laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology which is world-renowned for their work on bat coronaviruses, might impact her. 

I was aware that, through circumstance, my friend was at the centre of the greatest acute crisis of our time, with all sorts of geopolitical implications, many of them because of the personality of the relevant leaders of the day. And my observation of what had occurred in China through early 2020 suggested to me that her situation was likely both delicate and unpredictable, and that if I was going to openly comment on her – as I would feel compelled to do with anybody who I knew at the level I knew Zhengli (explained in that original post and in further detail below), to effectively give a personal ‘reference’ to an audience that might initially be sceptical – then I knew that I had to balance the level of support that I gave for her, certainly not negative (because that would not be true to the person I know), but not too positive either because of the domestic political situation she confronted.

Everything that I said last year I meant and stand by, and would say again, but I want to be clear that all of the time in the back of my mind I felt that I needed to be very careful about what I said and when I said it. Now, perhaps some of that was just in my own mind, but my regular viewing of logs of my blogsite show that daily my site was accessed from China, or a VPN set to China, and I know that my site was not available for general viewing there.

I have said things in my posts on my blogsite which I believe the Communist Party of China would not appreciate, and even though I consider myself to be balanced in that I am equally quick to point out my perceptions on the failings of the Anglosphere geopolity, domestic politics, and general societal values, we all understand that autocracies do not welcome or tolerate open discussion in the way that political parties in democratic nations must accept (even if some politicians, from political parties that appear to have given up on leading, appear to want to fight back in the courts against criticisms from the public).

So why am I writing this article now? Because the innuendo over the origin of the virus continues, and likely will continue a very long time, because the Anglosphere especially – including very much my own nation of Australia – perceives geopolitical advantage to pursuing that line. However, there are some very obvious points, in the context of how the pandemic progressed, and perceptions towards it, that should be made which have not been.


Firstly it is worth recapping who Dr. Shi Zhengli is and how she is relevant to a discussion of the virus origin. Zhengli is the lead scientist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology for the team that works with bat-human coronaviruses. Zhengli is not the Head of the Institute. I met Zhengli many years ago through her PhD work on crustacean viruses when I visited and later worked in the laboratory where she did her PhD, and I visited her at the Institute in Wuhan when I worked for Biosecurity Australia and was participating in an APEC freshwater aquaculture workshop in China. (While in Wuhan I also visited the scientist who introduced redclaw FW crayfish to China for aquaculture.)

It was Zhengli’s group that identified bats as the source of the original SARS outbreak and after a further 10+ years of exhaustive and painstaking research her group eventually traced the source back to the specific population of bats.

Let me be clear from the outset. I understand that much of the innuendo over the origins of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, stems from putting one and one together – a coincidence, in the purest sense – to come up with a conclusion. The ‘co-incidence’ is the siting of a leading bat-human coronavirus lab with a globally rare capacity to work on the most serious human pathogens with the siting of the first known outbreak of COVID-19.

Yes, that is a rather large coincidence, because of the consequences to humanity of the pandemic, but they do happen, and it is in no way any sort of evidence. What can be said with some degree of confidence is that if there was early COVID-19 disease circulating at a low level elsewhere in the world, before in Wuhan, then the chances of it being detected there is much, much lower than in Wuhan because of the expertise that exists in Wuhan.^

Nonetheless, nobody can ignore the relationship between the siting of one of the few laboratories in the world working with these coronaviruses and the first known outbreak of COVID-19 both in Wuhan.

Moreover, it certainly is a scientific possibility that a serious pathogen can ‘escape’ from a laboratory into susceptible host species, including humans, due to ineffective biosecurity measures or human error.

It is also possible that, even if the initiation of the COVID-19 pandemic were somehow related to the research being conducted at the laboratory, that there was not any wrong-doing or even error by ‘the laboratory’ or any of its staff. It could be as simple as a field researcher or technician, after having been in the field, somehow transferring the virus to Wuhan and/or on to another susceptible species (remember it has a wide host range, and an intermediate host between bats and humans is suspected) without any real wrong-doing or even awareness of the incident.

(I was going to come up with some hypothetical scenarios – which are literally infinite – then I realised it was unwise to mention any given the way wild scenarios are picked up by the ill-informed and are spread by a broad readership of conspiracy theorists far exceeding the level of readership some humble and well-reasoned bloggers attract.)

Of course spillover from wildlife, completely independent of the laboratory, such as in a live market, remains the most likely source.

When I look logically at those early events around the commencement of the pandemic, I believe honestly and sincerely that to be the case – that laboratory staff did no wrong, and that is clearly what Zhengli, herself, thought.

I certainly believe Zhengli when she says that SARS-CoV-2 was never cultured in her laboratory before the pandemic commenced when they first received samples from patients in December 2019. And I believe that once she conducted genetic comparisons she had no scientific or other reason to suspect that the virus originated from her team in any way.

I base that not on anything Zengli said to me in emails, because I would not dare raise such sensitive issues, and not just because I know what a decent human being Zhengli is, but because of what is known publicly.

Nowadays we concentrate on the innuendo raised by Donald Trump and those who were busy trying to win favour with him (e.g. Australia’s conservative Government under PM Morrison) in the deeply polarised and toxic masculinised geopolity he was promulgating.

What is forgotten is that the laboratory, and especially Zhengli who was known within China as “the batwoman”, came under very strong suspicion and criticism from domestic Chinese citizens for the same reasons – jumping to conclusions. 

Zhengli was under such strong pressure from this outpouring of fear and anxiety at the start of February 2020, as the consequences of the virus spreading in Wuhan became evident, that she went online (on WeChat) to defend herself saying “I swear on my life that the virus has nothing to do with the lab”.

Also in an interview for an article in Scientific American Zhengli clearly spoke with candour expressing that she was “relieved” when she analysed the sequences of the new virus and compared them with viruses that they worked with, and had ever detected and sequenced in the laboratory, and she learned that it was not any of them.

Every single human being in her situation would have had the same concerns and would have felt that same enormous relief.

This shows that, clearly, Zhengli was open to the possibility and, like any scientist, indeed any human being, was concerned until the evidence arrived to show that her team was not at fault.

Now those who wish to ramp up innuendo will suggest something along the lines that “of course she would say that, and probably at the direction of the Communist Party of China leadership”.

I would counter that the candour that she spoke with in those first few months, especially at the beginning of February, suggests to me that she was not under any political influence at that time. 

I am perfectly inclined to believe the common view that the Chinese national leadership were at the time in shock and scrambling, and they were struggling to overcome dissonance that this could be happening. And if you have an honest look at how the leadership of virtually every other nation behaved, even when it was clear that we were on the brink of a fast-moving global pandemic, remember the 2020 opening round of the NRL and Australian Formula 1 in mid-March?, then it should not be difficult to understand that they, too, would struggle to come to grips with it.

Imagine for a moment that it was you in Zhengli’s position and you had devoted your entire life, and made enormous personal sacrifices to gain skills to apply to helping solve really big problems for humanity (and I understand some of those sacrifices she did make), and then you are at the centre of something that you are almost uniquely qualified to address and suddenly, it must have seemed, ‘the whole world’, starting with the people of your own nation, and including the person in the position often described as ‘the most powerful in the world’, sees you as an antagonist rather than a protagonist.

That would psychologically destroy many people! I doubt that I would have had the personal strength, myself, to stand up to it.

Zhengli has my full admiration not only for her scientific and professional response but also for her personal courage in the face of those pressures. And my heart ached for her when I saw that she felt the need to go online and personally defend herself like that.

Moreover, if I were her, I too would be expressing a view that I am owed an apology from especially the Anglophone nations that have been most keen to create ongoing innuendo on the origins of the virus:

U.S. President Trump’s claim that SARS-CoV-2 was leaked from our institute totally contradicts the facts. It jeopardizes and affects our academic work and personal life. He owes us an apology.

Dr. Shi Zhengli speaking to Jon Cohen, Science Magazine, 24 July 2020

Unfortunately the American administration, now under President Biden, sees some advantage to continuing with the innuendo, and there were recent reports suggesting that three laboratory staff presented at hospital at the end of 2019.

Many of these reports intimated that the way for the laboratory and their scientists to ‘clear their names’ was to allow their personal medical records to be inspected by international medical experts.

Again I ask the reader to try to see the situation from Zhengli’s position. Ask yourself, would you want your medical records handed over to a foreign institutions and potentially foreign national Governments, even that of an historical ally, let alone a nation which is increasingly acting as if it is no longer exactly friendly to the development of your nation?

Now in saying that, I openly admit that I agreed with the reframing of the relationship between the ‘west’ and China, and more specifically the Chinese political leadership, and I still consider it was overdue. But I also believed that much more would have been gained by letting China know that we stood with them in their hour of need at the start of the pandemic, offering any assistance possible and working together, being mindful that any nation in a similar situation would be sensitive to the implications of the threatening outbreak commencing, or being seen to commence, within their borders.

So again, literally ask yourself, if you are a ‘westerner’, “Would I like my Government to hand over my individual health records to the Chinese Government?” Of course nobody would want that. Now further consider that the Governments that are wanting their health records have been led by people, or showed support for people, who provocatively called it the ‘China Virus’, created innuendo that you were somehow involved in the release of the agent, and/or even worse, created innuendo that you were somehow involved in engineering the virus as a bioweapon.

To those who are inclined to say again something along the lines of “why not give over your personal health records if it is the only way to prove that you are innocent”, I would respond that we know enough about the world and how these matters have historically been addressed, that the truth is rarely allowed to get in the way of the bigger geopolitical picture, just ask Hans Blix (who, for younger readers, lead the UN nuclear inspection team charged with finding out whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction – they did not, but that did not deter President George Bush Jr. from his war plans).

If I were in Zhengli’s shoes, or lab coat, I would not agree to my own medical records being turned over, and I would be extremely sceptical that no matter what evidence is provided there will be many who will simply continue to believe what they want to believe.

Thankfully, Zhengli has the comfort of knowing that the logical and well-reasoned scientific community, free from such political conflicts and influences, understands the situation and that she is well supported amongst that community.

I was personally very pleased to see Danielle Anderson, an Australian scientist who was working at the Institute in November 2019, as the virus was likely beginning to circulate in Wuhan, step forward recently to provide her insights on the open culture amongst scientists and on the lack of indications of a brewing problem at the time that some of their scientists were allegedly falling ill.

Finally I wish to provide a warning on the dangers of continuing on in this direction.


I had the great fortune to travel to St. Petersburg in 1995 when I worked in Finland for 3 months during my PhD. I went with a fellow PhD student from Finland who was experienced in travelling in Russia, and with an American professor and his wife. Now I concede that national border crossings can be confronting, and being prone to anxiety, I feel it often. I know many find entering the US as a foreigner to be confronting, and I am certain there is a element of intention in that, especially in the post 911 world. However, I have never seen anybody more nervous than my American friends crossing their former cold war foe’s border.

The middle-aged professor was so ‘freaked out’ that instead of thanking the guard with the Russian word “spasibo”, he said “placebo” which caused us all to break out in laughter as he hurriedly scampered back to the ‘safety’ of the Finnish side.

What’s more, they were so influenced by a lifetime of cold war propaganda that they could see no beauty in the city which is often referred to as the ‘Paris of the East’, and which our Finnish ‘guide’ said that Finns usually do not take photographs of because they prefer to absorb it into their hearts and souls. Knowing it was likely a once in a lifetime trip for me, and even though it was pre-digital cameras so I was using costly film, I did not hold back from photographing the amazingly beautiful city.

I was again reminded of this in 1998 when I was travelling in a taxi through the decaying inner city suburbs of Washington DC, on my way to the Australian embassy immediately prior to commencing working for the Australian Government, when the driver told me how he hated St Petersburg because it was so run-down and dirty, with decaying infrastructure.

Hello! “Are you seeing what I am out the window?”

The point I am making is that it would be a huge mistake to continue on this path and make all Chinese ‘the enemy’ like Americans did with the Soviet Union. 

We can disagree with the political leaders of nations without disagreeing with their people, no matter how much any particular political leader or party may consider themselves integral to their national identity and culture.

Science is one of the greater unifiers of humanity and it should remain above politics.

Science is vital for human progress and for charting a course towards a sustainable world for all of mankind. Thus, honest and open connection between scientists is imperative in a post-pandemic world in the Great Reset era where a “Global Village based on ‘Quality Globalisation’” will be key to solving our major challenges, including natural risks, of which zoonotic spillovers is now well understood to be one of the major threats, just as Dr. Shi Zhengli and her group has long warned along with international collaborators.

Only the most self-interested and/or inept of political leadership would continue to disregard this truth and continue to use scientists as political footballs.

I am quite certain that Zhengli and her colleagues will never receive that apology.

However, while they will no doubt be comforted in the knowledge that their connections with colleagues over many years means that they remain highly respected for their ground-breaking research, as well as their friendly and open natures, by the communities that they care most about, there are better and formal ways for their contributions to be recognised – is that not correct, Nobel committee for medicine?


^The same thing happened with my own work – for 150 years scientists were interested in FW crayfish diseases, but until I started my PhD research on the first described virus from freshwater crayfish they were unknown. And when I found many of them initially in Australia some assumed Australian FW crayfish are riddled with them, which was not at all the case, but it was just that I had the relatively rare skill in my field to be able to find them and I was especially good at it.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2021

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The Great Reset Era Theme: Investing in family and community connection

Excerpted from “Full Thoughts On Prof. Michael Sandel’s Meritocracy Discourse: Part 2

Prof. Sandel [in “The Tyranny of Merit: What’s become of the common good”] makes almost no mention of the importance of family, which is an enormous pity as this is an obviously critical issue in social cohesion and feelings of attachment within society. I must declare upfront that I have strong views on this which may challenge the views of some readers as it is unlike much of what has been written in recent years on the subject. 

If a personal lens of perspective that has been built up over the last half century is applied then readers may reject my views immediately. However, that would be an error because, if the above is correct, and our sense of contribution and belonging within society deprioritises paid employment as I believe it will, then there is plenty of opportunity for the role of family to grow into that space. Nonetheless, some may allow deep guilt for the present or recent past to overshadow the discussion.

We cannot change the past, but if we are honest about it, we are privileged to have an opportunity to impact the future for the better.  

So I would ask the reader to pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and then as you begin to read look to the deeper meaning in my views rather than reacting without reflection. 

Australia’s recent Federal budget focused heavily on female issues as a political response to the pressure the Caucasian middle-aged male dominant conservative Government was under for failing to respond to the outpouring of emotion, especially from women, at high profile gendered violence and sexual harassment stories that were in the media over the preceding 6 months.

One of the main budgetary measures was a $1.7 Billion boost to childcare as well as very significant funding to build skills in industries dominated by women including aged care. A separate budget women’s statement said “Increasing women’s workforce participation is an economic and social imperative”.

Now I am well aware that this is getting into an area that has strong ties to the feminist movement, with very good reasons related to the history of misogyny and prejudice in the workplace, but I really believe we need to pause to ask whether this really is what is best for society or indeed what society wants.

Here I need to separate first the gender element. As a former world-renowned scientist and heterosexual male who retired at 34 years of age to devote myself to my family when our first child was born, I wholeheartedly support programs to achieve equality of opportunity, pay and rights for working women. Anyone even remotely familiar with my writing will know that is not in question. What I am really talking about here is whether it is best for society for parents of pre- and school-aged children to be encouraged to do more paid employment hours and thus spend more hours with the family apart including by outsourcing the raising of their children to childcare organisations.

Leaving aside whether the evidence really exists that parents want to work more hours in paid employment, research needs to be conducted into why it is that some (or many, as the case may be) wish to work more hours and whether they would, in an ideal world, spend fewer hours in paid employment if they felt they had a free or equal choice.

In other words, is there a real desire to work more hours by parents of children, and if there is, is that really what they want for themselves and their families?

If it is not really what they would prefer but it is a response to other issues, such as the long-running housing affordability crisis or growth in precarious employment conditions, then the real underlying issues that are affecting women and families are not being addressed by facilitating their working of more hours in paid employment.

I do not doubt that the issues here are deeply ingrained in our societies. I have developed an impression over the years through my reading and discussions with other parents that many women carry guilt that being part of a parenting couple they feel unable to devote more time and energy to children. The women carry the guilt because they apply the gender stereotype that it is mainly their fault as that is primarily their role.

I obviously do not agree with that, at all, not least because I consider myself as good a parent as any other father or mother. I do not believe that females are better equipped to be primary caregivers, and I take offence to any suggestion of that when I see it.

I wonder, however, whether many ‘traditional nuclear family’ mothers of young children work because they feel that there is no chance that the decisions over the division of labour with their husband will be based on pragmatism and fairness but instead will be done automatically along gender stereotypical lines.

Thus I wonder whether, if those decisions in all families were based on genuine pragmatism and fairness, because society had progressed to that point, whether families would really seek to increase the cumulative number of hours worked by parents.

The Australian Federal Government along with other Governments around the world say that a major reason for these reforms is to improve productivity in the economy. Many of these programs aim to ensure that more of the income from those extra hours of paid work are retained by the family instead of being lost through regressive taxation or reduced Government assistance, or in additional costs such as childcare.

Critically, these barely scratch the surface on what are the full costs of those extra working hours. They are simply dollar values on a financial balance sheet as if it is purely transactional. But the consideration includes intangibles which are likely more significant.

Decisions to outsource child raising tasks are not just about the affordability of childcare. The first decision is how much, if at all, we wish to outsource the raising of our children to others. Now some families are fortunate to be close with extended family who are pleased to take on that childminding role, and often those arrangements will provide a richer environment for the children because of the obviously deeper and ongoing emotional connection with their family carers. However, it can come at a cost especially to elderly grandparents who can feel used and experience a reduction in their perceptions of personal freedom in their latter years.

In my experience most parents who decide to place a higher priority on family than on career and earning income have stories of extremes in the other direction, and often share observations of large numbers of parents dropping children at opening hours and collecting them at closing from childcare.

At a party just a few years ago I met a couple who had a three year old girl who had been in daycare from the minimum age of 6 weeks. They were a typical ‘high-flying’, upwardly mobile couple who were a lot of fun in a social setting. The mother was animated in her discussions about childcare where she dropped her daughter at opening and collected her at closing time every weekday. The problem she was having was that her daughter was surprisingly energetic when collecting her which was a disappointment to the couple because they wanted to simply feed the little darling and put her to bed. The mother had an argument with the daycare staff saying that her daughter should not be allowed to sleep after lunch along with the other children. The staff said that their little girl was so tired after lunch and they felt bad for keeping her from sleeping while all of the other children did. The mother angrily told them it was only due to ‘peer pressure’ that she wanted to sleep and that she should not be allowed to sleep under any circumstances!

That is a true story from the mother directly. However, discussions with childcare workers over the years have confirmed for me that this situation is not uncommon, that working parents are so fatigued on coming home from work that, after collecting children from childcare, they simply wish to feed and bathe their little ones and put them straight to bed. If that is what occurs for 5 out of 7 days of the week then surely it is not a controversial statement but reality that for these children this is not what would be generally considered a rich or nourishing home life.

Now I am pleased that we live in a country where it is a personal choice on how we deal with very many issues. I would not like to live in a society where people were not free to make the choices that this couple was making, but that does not mean that I want to see Government policy encourage more of these behaviours from people. Moreover, I think that any empathetic human being would immediately realise that there are hidden costs in that situation which will emerge in the years ahead.

Our own family view is that there has never been a period of more rapid change for humanity, so active and thoughtful parenting has never been of greater value to the psychological, emotional and learning development of our children. The more quality time we parents give our children, the better equipped they will be to deal with challenges of their time and thus the more likely they are to lead impactful and satisfying lives.

In this day and age where most things are analysed on a spreadsheet, where a CEO of a supermarket chain explains discounting as “investing in price”, I will explain our own views as such:

Any time spent giving energy directly to family rather than earning income is an investment in families and especially the next generation, and we prefer to invest in our sons above anything else.


Many contemporary parents have responded to this trend by encouraging the participation of their children in many extracurricular activities, possibly as a subconscious need to prove that their children are not missing out on opportunities as a result of their own hectic lifestyles, but also as a benefit of the extra income as many of these activities are very expensive. It also serves as an introduction to the competitive, ‘winner takes all’ society which their parents are striving to succeed in.

Even here, though, I have come to question the benefits to the children of being so active in post-curricular activities and whether benefits are outweighed by costs. When I was a child in the 70s and early 80s I was a good sportsman, but like most Australian kids I played one sport per season – football (in my case rugby league) in Winter and cricket in Summer. Even though each year I played in the representative teams, at most I trained 3 times a week, but most often twice weekly. Critically, however, training times were always centred around family life and children’s schedules; in primary school that meant that our coach (Mr. Fry) would finish work early to train our team at 3pm immediately after school, and even in high school I never finished training later than 6 pm. It was understood that children needed to get home by dark, eat, enjoy a little family time and relaxation together, and then get to bed early for a good night’s sleep. 

I suggest, also, that many employers also recognised the contribution their employees were making in their communities by coaching children, and so leaving early for such reasons was respected not frowned upon.

In my experience with my own sons, even from the age of 9, team or group training times are decided around adult (work) schedules and rarely finished before 7 pm. That is the preference of most parents, not just the coaches. It was not before late primary school (at around 11 years of age) that our sons’ routine weeknight bedtime was pushed back from 7.30 to 8pm, so group sports have always presented a challenge to our children-centric family lifestyle. 


My observation of recent decades is that in most nations technology and culture has resulted in a continual encroachment of employee’s work life into their broader lives – or a ‘crowding out’ of their personal lives. It is not difficult to understand the benefits of this to employers who are benefitting from even more committed employees who define themselves more and more by that role, along with more and more work hours which are not paid for. In some ways I have a unique view of that in that I was a young professional at the edge of technological innovation as the internet first became ubiquitous in universities (I had a professional website on FW Crayfish Diseases in 1995, and later a blog on the RE house price bubble), then in workplaces, and then in homes.

I recall in those latter years of the previous century employees feeling the significant pressure that continual electronic communication brought with it. But then I retired from the workforce as a young man, and I have observed how these issues have progressed amongst friends and across broader society with some objectivity. Those pressures have continued to grow, but most now do not know or remember how it was before email and smartphones. The consequent culture change shows up in many forms in many workplaces.  

Several personal experiences are relevant here. Some years back I attended several Christmas parties where the Country lead for this multinational took considerable time to acknowledge partners present in the knowledge that time their employees spent away from their homes represented a sacrifice for families and personal relationships. She gave heartfelt thanks to the partners as representatives of the broader family. However, in recent years cost cutting and creeping culture change led to the Christmas party being only open to employees, in effect dropping the aspect of the party which acknowledged the broader, richer lives of employees and thanking employees with partners for those personal sacrifices. Instead the evening Christmas party became yet more time that employees spent away from families or partners to be seen to be ‘team players’ for their employer. I found this to be a significantly retrograde development. Of course if cost-cutting really is critical there are many inclusive ways of thanking staff and their partners or families.

When actions or behaviours that have been associated with a certain aspect of workplace culture are changed, then the culture has changed. 

The second experience relates to how increasing stress from modern workplaces had been continually consuming more of the energy of adults thereby encroaching on home life by leaving them, the leaders of their families, with less energy to devote to family. My wife’s workplace and/or work area has been through almost continual review for the past 5 years which has involved three major and prolonged structural reviews, two of which required her to reapply for her job. The most recent review, during a once in 100 year pandemic, was perhaps understandable. But what seems little appreciated is that the continual change in these organisations leaves their employees stressed and drained so that when genuine crises occur, as they will from time to time, they are already low on drawable reserves of resilience.

There has been little respite, also, because even annual leave on the first two occasions was impacted when my wife had to ring in from family holidays in Italy to find out whether she still had a job (the second of those occasions was during the filming of our House Hunters International episode). Because of the inherent anxiety involved in these processes, it effectively took much of the benefit of the family holiday away from her and it impacted the whole family. My dear wife, at the same time, has also had to battle the issues that I raised in “Racial Prejudice And Bias: A matter of degrees“. These issues have impacted my wife and our family deeply and in ways that I will never be able to discuss openly.%

All of these issues are inline with the continual ‘crowding out’ of employee’s personal lives by employers. However, now in the Great Reset era, portended by the COVID-19 pandemic, introspection by many has seen these dynamics questioned and challenged.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the start of the Great Reset era has brought about a reframing of work-life balance especially for families. During lockdowns, with professional parents mostly working from home, there was a noticeable increase in family togetherness while exercising or picnicking in parks and in general strolls around the neighbourhood as in the Italian passion, the passeggiata.

At the time I commented to my wife that, as long as our measures manage to protect most Australian families from experiencing personal loss, then I would not be surprised if this period were very fondly remembered by very many children as a period of genuine connection within their families; a time when they received the most attention ever from their parents.

In the fullness of time I believe it will be recognised as the catalyst for a ‘reset’ in family connection, a major aspect of the Great Reset.

The changes brought on by measures to combat COVID-19 were profound for the work-home life balance. The working from home phenomenon out of the COVID-19 pandemic reversed the work encroachment on personal and family life in a rather counter-intuitive manner, all the more remarkable when consideration is given to the recent trend of increasingly fluid and de-personalised workspaces through, for example, ‘hot desking’ (and even ‘hot officing’ pioneered by WeWork). On the one hand working from home might be seen as the ultimate in encroachment of work life into home life, but it has almost certainly worked in the opposite direction. Through working from home, and especially video conferencing, everybody has seen a glimpse into the lives of everybody else. At first, I suspect, many felt a little more vulnerable for this alone, but the collective experience has allowed everybody to experience that vulnerability together. The experience is best summed up by the glimpses into personal lives in zoom meetings by just seeing personal spaces in the background, and in having children or pets come into the background or into the foreground.

Overall it has been an overwhelmingly positive development as it has served as a continual reminder to everybody that all work colleagues – whether peers, subordinates or superiors – are people with lives that extend well beyond their roles as employees, which in many ways has been critical in feeling connected with others and with humanity through this very challenging period.

Observing commentary through Bloomberg’s various channels already suggests to me that employees are expressing changed values and goals which will become typical in the Great Reset era. Employees are pushing back on what has been this continual encroachment into their lives by employers and this will demand a significant culture change.

This culture change must be driven from top-level leadership, certainly, but mid to high level managers, responsible for perhaps 30 to 100 employees via direct reports, must be the focus for implementation. What will be required is a mindset that says that the employer understands that while an important source of belonging and contribution in society is gained from being actively engaged in worthwhile paid employment, it is only one facet of an individual’s identity and contribution to society. This will require acknowledgment by middle management that most workplaces are not actually involved in saving the world from catastrophe – after all we have already learned through the pandemic that those people are the nurses, supermarket staff and vaccine developers – even if that middle management may be trying to create some sort of sense of that to have a committed workforce that is ultimately being used to elevate their own careers.

There is no doubt, also, that business interests adversely affected by these disruptive changes from the COVID-19 pandemic are arguing that professional workers must be made to return to cities. It is curious that these city-based businesses somehow consider themselves more worthy of saving from disruption than the blacksmith, corner shop, or indeed the video cassette rental store. Whether they can convince their ‘corporate friends’ to force workers to once again sacrifice family time and relationships in the name of creating a vibrant city centre for commercial activity will be interesting to observe over the next while.

Personally I find it a difficult argument to make, and I suspect that through these experiences many parents have realised the benefits to them and their children, and thus the family unit, of far more engagement in the raising of their children with less outsourcing to child-minders. In fact, many may have begun to realise what our family has learned through our experiences that there are very many underappreciated benefits to having one full-time parent in the family, and to sacrificing income from working more hours in paid employment to ‘invest in family’.


Increasingly psychologists are referring to the concept of ‘psychological bandwidth’ meaning the capacity of individuals to deal with complex and/or multiple issues. It has obvious application in workplaces in assessing individual performance, but the reality is that nobody can know exactly how much ‘data’ is being processed by any individual because nobody can ever fully understand all of the issues that individuals are confronting in their work and personal lives. There are many issues that even that person is unaware of that is consuming their ‘bandwidth’, especially if they are someone with low self-awareness or emotional intelligence, or when there are issues that are not widely acknowledged in the workplace (such as issues around prejudice and bias).

The concept also is embedded in the way Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger explain their business and investing success, recognisable to those who intuitively understand the concept, when they say that they have maintained very relaxed work habits throughout their careers with plenty of time for reading and contemplation. They often joke that most would be surprised by how they work and many might even consider them ‘lazy’. Obviously this is an acknowledgment that it is human to have a limited ‘psychological bandwidth’. Successful and effective people know it is critical to not overload their ‘bandwidth’, either consciously or unconsciously. This is essentially the truth* underlying my post “Workplace Flexibility Success” that the smart aspect is the most important of the hard and smart work ethos, and that managers that rely on ‘presenteeism’ (or ‘bums on seats’) to judge their workers are admitting that they are poor managers. As Buffett and Munger continually stress, surprisingly few excellent ideas are necessary to make significant impacts. However, most people lack the self-confidence that they will come up with quality ideas, and, I suspect, fear that managers will be unreceptive and unable to recognise their merit when they are presented with them, so the majority engage themselves in the game of ‘presenteeism’ and attempting to appear busy churning out lots of data rather than searching for those ‘golden ideas’.

To understand that this concept relates to all of us, even the rare geniuses amongst humanity, look no further than this brilliant piece to learn of the mundane issues which occupied Machiavelli and about the court case that so occupied Michelangelo that he never held a chisel for four years!

Understanding this concept early in my life has been one of my great advantages, through my scientific career and in the ways that I run our family household as I describe below.

The use of the concept that I identify most with is in discussions of inequality where analysts highlight that underprivileged people are consuming so much of their ‘bandwidth’ for day to day survival that it is extremely challenging to make logical decisions that have the potential to improve their circumstances over the medium to long term. These researchers point out that this often results in privileged people looking down upon under-privileged people for making poor choices, adding to the concepts around credentialism that Prof. Sandel discussed and which I dealt with above.

I identify with this concept of ‘psychological bandwidth’ because of my upbringing. Instead of referring to it as ‘bandwidth’, however, I have always referred to the concept as one of ’emotional energy’.

I discussed this even in the earliest pages published here at MacroEdgo including my discussion on my ‘Investment History‘ page when discussing the decision to delay buying a home, and under several themes on my ‘Investment Themes‘ page where I made mention of the challenges my family and I confronted in my childhood (which I have now expanded upon most completely in “How Farmers Lose Their Perspective“).

In my concept I see that we all have a ‘bank’ of emotional energy that we draw on to carry out our day to day lives and to respond to the issues that we confront. Obviously in modern parlance it is directly related to our resilience in that this ‘bank’ of energy is what we draw on to be resilient and recover from adversity. If we are unfortunate to face prolonged stress in our lives and/or extreme trauma or a series of traumatic events then our ‘bank’ of emotional energy becomes depleted and we struggle to recover. In my case I had a breakdown when my ‘bank’ had been totally depleted and when I became overwhelmed by anxiety.

Families with close connections obviously have a collective ‘bank’ of emotional energy from all of the individuals in their family – that is where we draw from to support each other when things become difficult for one, some, or all of those in the group – essentially the strength of our ‘support network’. I learned all of this when I was a teenager, when my family’s collective ‘bank’ of emotional energy had been depleted by our fight to keep the farm, and I knew that I could not dip into that as I struggled with normal teenager development. I had to suppress my emotions and I sort to generate some of my own emotional energy for the family by becoming especially close to my father working with him to help make his dream come true. It came at great cost to me, emotionally, and ultimately the family fractured primarily as a matter of individual survival as the pressure was very prolonged and traumatic events occurred.

This is the main reason why I understood the importance of families not living under acute or chronic stress, and that was my primary objective in my earlier blogging activities on the Australian housing bubble – getting Australian families to stop and think before committing to prolonged economic vulnerability to own a home through extreme debt loads just because others are doing it.

My wife and I always, from our earliest family planning, intended that one of us would allow our careers to take a backseat in order to devote most of our energy to our family. As circumstances turned out, the only logical choice was for that to be me, and nobody is more pleased with the situation than me. Psychologically I started out in a challenging position, seeing as I had first to recover from a breakdown from being burned out trying to continue my career as a research scientist, but through a long process of introspection and healing, with and without professionals, I was able to fully recover.

I now see my most important function within our family, in the primary caregiver role, to be the backup energy source for everybody, the big ‘bank’ of emotional energy that is not burdened with many day to day stresses (from work, or school, or social issues) that can be tapped into to provide the support to whoever is struggling at the time, or even the whole family if there is a major issue we must confront together. I do not say that I never get down myself, because I do sometimes – e.g. I have found it an isolating experience to be a male full-time parent – but those moments where my emotional energy is run-down are rare these days. Most of my emotional energy goes to supporting my children, and especially my wife over recent years with those issues that I mentioned above. In truth, the stress that she has had to endure in recent years has been so great that I have feared that I would not be able to provide enough support for her, and there were times when I really feared for the consequences to her and our family. When I think of that I am afraid to even consider what would have been the implications if I was not able to support her to the degree I have over that time, especially if I was still stressed trying to maintain my career.


Having a full-time parent nowadays is considered by some to be an unaffordable ‘luxury’ for a family, but in reality very many Australian families could make the same decision if they were prepared to sacrifice income, and more specifically, the things that their income is spent on buying (e.g. by delaying buying a home and living more modestly). I cannot help but think it is an enormous advantage to emotionally supporting and raising well-grounded children, and to providing a happy and healthy family home life.

Much is made of the contemporary opportunities for two-income families in comparison to 50 years ago, but I actually see the situation as the opposite. Management of family and home in our time is so much more complicated than it was back then, and I have no doubt that the stress from that combined with the stress from two careers in a family home are a large part of the growing levels of anxiety within society and in our children. As just one example, staying on top of all school communication – the many letters from schools and forms to be completed in this increasingly litigious society, emails from teachers, yearly introductions and parent-teacher meetings, involvement in other school activities including volunteering in numerous ways – surely consumes multiples of the time and energy that they did decades earlier. The same goes for sporting activities and the myriad other extra-curricular activities.

It goes much further, however, in a world where increasingly Governments have shifted important functions onto individuals and families. The amount of time and energy taken to sort out insurances for health, house and contents, cars, lives, incomes, against trauma or other mishaps, and to review them periodically to ensure that insurers are not taking advantage of apathy, are enormous nowadays.

Then there is the largest administrative task of all – money management so that the resources of the family can provide for the hopes and aspirations of all in the family, including for a comfortable and secure retirement. This has been the trend with the shift from defined benefit to defined contribution retirement savings programs, and the consequent shifting of risk, thus responsibility, onto individual workers.

In addition to all of that for parents is the standard day to day roles of keeping everybody well fed with healthy food living in a healthy environment that is clean and stimulating. Here I must admit that my wife does need to do some housework as I am more interested in outdoor activities to maintain and improve the amenity of our home, but that is essentially the mirror opposite of the distribution of tasks in the ‘traditional’ nuclear family of the 1960s with the mum at home. 

Unlike the 1960’s, however, there are probably around 500% more gadgets and devices around our (significantly larger) houses and (smaller) yards that must be maintained by someone.

The truth for most modern two-income families is that childcare is only the beginning of the outsourcing of vital tasks that many or even most families engage in. Increasingly in the Great Reset I believe that families will question whether they are actually better off for the two incomes and will better analyse the pros and cons of each outsourced task. 

Families that are capable of making pragmatic decisions based on the broad range of relevant issues, not on outdated stereotypes of gender roles, are likely to reduce their combined hours worked in paid employment. I also believe that even primary or sole income earners will also decrease the amount of time spent in income producing work, if not necessarily by choice then by societal acceptance of reduced working hours with a UBI or other additional Government payments.

These changes will be enormously beneficial to creating healthy connections within families and throughout communities which will lead to more cohesive societies.

My wife and I will forever be proud that the decisions that we made allowed me to contribute to our community deeply. Through volunteering at our children’s primary school I can say in total honesty that I played a role in teaching every child in both of our sons’ year levels to read and to swim because nowadays no child is allowed in a school pool without adult volunteers, and those volunteers have been in increasingly short supply. Moreover I was able to help on excursions and in other fundraising activities.

Irrespective of whether a parent or not, all of these volunteering activities contribute to cohesive societies by creating deep connection and belonging.


Footnotes

^I also wish to be clear that this does not necessarily relate to every sector as redundancy or over-capacity is necessarily built into some critical services in society to handle surge demand, which when it comes to nurses were stretched beyond limits during the pandemic, and other sectors have a long history of under-employment and exploitation, for instance academic teaching, unrelated to ’empire-building’ by middle managers.

%Giving credit where it is due, however, her employer has been very conscious of employee welfare and preferences through the pandemic, and for my wife, this extended period of working from home has been especially welcome and timely given the underlying issues remain largely unaddressed.

*I realise that I may be criticised for under referencing in my essays, but they are meant to be just that – essays – and not research pieces. In my background as a research scientist I tended to be extremely thorough with sourcing, often overly so (admittedly I was a collector of resources and back in those days nothing was more thrilling than receiving in the post a big hoard of reprints), so this is a liberating benefit of no longer being a professional. I do try to limit my assumptive statements to those which are reasonably self evident, but I recognise that those who wish to disagree will always maintain their blinkered- (blindered-) view and find fault no matter how well sourced my writing. Pragmatically, though, everybody now knows that just about anybody can track down at least one source these days maintaining virtually any position, for instance as whacky as 5G networks spreading coronavirus. I have also noted that the sources in my essays – through hyperlinks – are only very rarely accessed. While I recognise that experts in the various fields that I cover would source their research pieces and articles more thoroughly, and should, I consider that the level of sourcing I carry out for my mostly big-picture essays is entirely acceptable.


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The Great Reset Era Theme: The education revolution

Excerpted from “Full Thoughts On Prof. Michael Sandel’s Meritocracy Discourse: Part 2

In “The Tyranny of Merit: What’s become of the common good” Prof. Michael Sandel, with his experience over four decades as a Harvard University lecturer, provides significant detail on his observation of the growth in competition for positions at universities perceived as being for the elite. He also discusses the consequences of those changes on students and families, including the costs to their mental health as the pressure to succeed has increased, first in being accepted into the university, then in attaining good marks in a highly competitive environment, and finally in their career. Prof. Sandel highlights that increasingly over his tenure acceptance to an elite ‘school’ has been viewed as a pathway to an ‘elite’ career, and all of the trappings that go with it in a culture which places a high value on credentialism (i.e. the lifestyle of the ‘elite’), but that it comes at a significant cost even to those who ‘succeed’ through that system. 

Moreover, because there is a perception that so much is to be gained from that career pathway, most young people (and their families) vying for placement attempt to use whatever advantage they have to put themselves at an advantage in the selection process to those elite schools. Most of these advantages involve generational advantage, including wealth, and some even use those resources to cheat the tough selection process. 

There is also the impact of luck, starting with the fortune or misfortune to be born into a privileged or underprivileged home. Prof. Sandel suggests many ‘products’ (graduates) of the system do not nearly appreciate the role luck has played in their privileged position, thus leading them to insist that their success was a result entirely of their own doing in a true meritocratic system. As a consequence these people tend to believe that they earned, and thus deserved, their ‘elite’ lifestyle whilst others who did not succeed deserved their less favourable lifestyles.

Prof. Sandel proposes that a lottery should be held amongst those vying for placement at these elite schools as an acknowledgment that most applicants are capable of succeeding once they are accepted, negating the role that privilege has in giving varying levels of advantage to some over others, and perhaps most critically, to make it explicit that fortune was the greatest factor in acceptance to elite schools.

The greatest impact of such a lottery placement system over the medium to long term was considered to be the lessening in the role of credentialism in status which leads to polarisation within society because the role of ‘dumb luck’ has been made explicit.

I do consider that Prof. Sandel’s suggestion is both worthwhile and brave of him to raise, though the cynic in me leads me to wonder whether he would have done so if he was much closer to the start of his career than the end of it as many, having gained significant advantage from the contemporary situation, no doubt would like to see it perpetuated. Here I also need to admit that my perception is affected by living most of my life in a nation where the stratification of the status of the various universities is not nearly as embedded in the culture as it is in America. In Australia the ‘sandstone universities’ are the most prestigious, certainly, but the university attended is not (yet) nearly as determinant of career ‘success’ as in America, and is almost insignificant after having entered the workforce.

Still it is the nature of a wealthy society to highly prize the very best and scarcest of all things that are valued, whether it be jewels, well-positioned real estate, or fine wine. Within a society with great wealth, competition for highly prized and scarce resources can catapult market prices to rather disproportionate and, perhaps, irrational heights. Having developed a passion for wine after living in France I will use the wine market as a useful and instructive comparison. 

Rare old bottles of great wines do reach the highest prices at auction, but there is a great diversity of prices paid for wines at their release. That, too, is driven by scarcity, of what is known as terroir (the best sites to grow wine grapes) in the few regions that have a long history of producing exceptional wines, and of great years when weather conditions for growing and harvesting grapes were ideal. The wines from the most prestigious wineries, such as Château Cheval Blanc or Château Petrus, in the best years are very difficult to access and sell for as much as $3,000 a bottle even before they are actually bottled (most quality Bordeaux is sold ‘en primeur’ while still aging in barrels). In other words, elites pay a price equivalent to around $600 per glass for a wine that will not be at its best drinking for another 10 to 20 years.

Now I know that I will never have that experience of tasting one of these great wines – leaving aside the reality of the truism that ‘there are no great wines, just great bottles’ reflecting that after the passage of many years there can be great variability in the quality of the wine for very many reasons not least of them the randomness inherent with the cork closure – but that does not concern me greatly because I know that with widespread education in wine making, and readily-available wine critic reviews, I can purchase wines that are perhaps 98-99% as good as these prestigious wines for less than 1% of their price. It is only for image and perception that someone would consider purchasing a bottle from a prestigious winery from a less favourable vintage (year), for say $2,000, when plenty of other better wine from less prestigious wineries is available for much, much less. The only people for whom purchasing these wines makes any sense, in my view, are the elites who do so to stay in good standing with the winery or merchants to maintain their status as preferred customers in great vintages.

For me, however, with my modest means (compared to elites, not the poorest 4 billion human beings), and with a mind for value, i.e. quality relative to price, I will always be happy knowing that I drink very well for the dollars I choose to divert from the resources of our family.

What does that have to do with higher education?

Groupthink in subgroupings and broader society is not always, or perhaps even often, rational and proportionate and people associate many values with brands and symbols which may or may not even be relevant. Billions of dollars are spent annually on advertising in an attempt to influence and speed up that process. A perception of scarcity can transform a prized commodity into a prestigious one. 

The American culture has ascribed a great many attributes to an education from an elite school. The scarcity of places relative to applicants has transformed acceptance to one of them into the equivalent of winning the lottery such has been the prestige associated with these institutions. 

I am unsure, however, how much of that prestige actually relates to the quality of education provided there. While I am certain that, just as in Prof. Sandel, there are very many fine professors, I truly doubt that, as in the wine market, the quality of the education received there is that much better than what is available elsewhere from other good but less prestigious institutions. 

I believe that, like many things in the Great Reset era, and as a consequence of measures to combat, and as a response to, the COVID-19 pandemic, changes that were already in train within the higher education sector have accelerated and will profoundly change the higher education sector throughout the world. Many of those changes will act to reverse the growing trend of elitism in higher education.

Social distancing and general biosecurity (infection) protocols and measures necessitated the acceleration of technological developments in teaching and learning, and especially proved that it can be done effectively remotely through electronic platforms. Of course this opens up the issues of the economy of scale, and allows the reaching of many more students even across intra- and international borders.

Electronic delivery of education allows elite professors to be more accessible to a more diverse range of students for lectures and special events, even if direct personal contact might be provided by early career academics and postgraduate students as has always been the case. This would effectively increase the supply of positions available in desirable institutions or courses. The main reason why this would not be adopted is essentially because those who are advantaged by the contemporary situation would protest against the perceived ‘devaluing’ of their credentials by the reduction in the scarcity value. I suspect that the leaders of these institutions have always understood the value of scarcity to maintaining the perception of prestige for these institutions.

(Of course, this is the same factor – the potential ‘devaluing’ or reduction in prestige of credentials – that lessens the likelihood of Prof. Sandel’s lottery idea being adopted.)

Thus, I imagine that this is one technological development that might not be harnessed as well as it could be to reverse the elitist trend in higher education as a stepping stone into elite lifestyles. There is another technological development, however, that when taken together with social developments that are accelerating in the Great Reset era, will have a profound impact. These social developments revolve around social justice, equality, diversity and inclusion.


As I discussed in “Quotas Are Necessary To Address Workplace Diversity“, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) holds much promise to address the role of unconscious bias in workplace diversity during recruiting. AI could be used to ‘scrub’ identity from job applications to reduce the incidence of bias in early selection processes, and may even be useful right through to the latter stages (through voice altering software and AI technology when interviewing and answering questions). In that essay I highlighted that one of the barriers to using this technology would be the ego of managers preventing them from letting go of some control, of the need to ‘see and hear’ applicants to gauge their suitability. What people are really doing is observing whether they can find commonalities in how the applicant appears, or in how they speak, or in what they say, which makes the powerful selector feel ‘comfortable’ with that other person. The potential for introduction of bias is clearly enormous.

One particularly strong area for potential connection, and thus bias, is around education and specifically institutions attended by interviewers and interviewees. The truth about the competition to enter elite schools, and the value in attending them even with their enormous course fees, is that it is about the potential for establishing vast networks amongst the elite of society more so than obtaining an elite education. 

If workplaces really want to remove biases, while a lottery system for entry to elite schools would work to expose the underlying truth of selection and thus lead to a realistic weighting of such credentials relative to others, in my view preventing the identification of institutions attended from the selection process would go much further towards eliminating biases in selection processes. While I accept that there is bound to be a difference in the standard of education obtained from one of these elite institutions compared with a lowly ranking one in a very large market, primarily by virtue of the privilege bestowed on the elite institutions with multi-generational donations and endowments, this can be adequately allowed for in the selection process by a categorical ranking system between universities (of no more than 3 levels, and in Australia no more than 2 and even that should be debated as to its necessity).

In truth there is absolutely no need to name a specific institution at any time in one’s career, and whenever it is done it is for ego or for the purpose of establishing cultural connection between some, which by definition, excludes and disadvantages others.

Of course, like Prof. Sandel’s lottery idea, widespread adoption of de-identification of educational institutions would be resisted very strongly by the elite, but I expect that this practice will increase as society becomes more committed to removing all forms of bias. 

It is simply incongruous with a bias-less society to have elite higher education institutions, and in this day and age of instantaneous electronic communication and rapid global travel intellects can share the same space and collaborate without being in the same physical space.

Most significantly, employers suggesting that they are in a never-ending competition for the best available ‘talent’, yet doing little about constructing the best teams – which have been shown to be the most diverse and inclusive – exposes the truth behind these ‘elite’ workplace cultures.

The flattening of the ‘prestige hierarchy’ amongst educational institutions and competition via online delivery platforms, however, is not the greatest challenge that all higher education institutions confront at present. The changing nature of work is an even greater challenge to the sector and one which to this point the more established institutions seem less willing or able to address. 

I suspect that we are on the verge of the most significant shake-up to education globally in over a century which I call the ‘Education Revolution’.


Funding education in the extreme capitalist system that has been adopted by much of the world has been a significant issue for most nations over recent decades. In developing nations the lack of resources and the need to be good debtors has stifled the delivery of education to their younger generations. Developed and more wealthy nations have progressively moved to a ‘user pays’ system which in reality has been students borrowing increasing sums to ‘invest’ in their education hoping that their choices pay off financially lest they remain economically vulnerable. Consequently, the increasing pool of student debt is a significant issue in very many developed nations.

In recent times, however, as technological innovation has progressed rapidly, possibly even accelerating, workforces are being transformed, and, I suggest, quicker than educational institutions have or want to evolve.

Teenagers and even pre-teens are now frequently told that they need to prepare for having many different jobs in their lifetime, as has been the trend for the past several decades, but they are also being told that they will need to be more flexible than earlier generations because of the rate of technological change. They are told that many of their future jobs currently do not exist and that they will even change career paths several times in their lives – some even suggest that many will have 4 or 5 different careers. To move into each new career will necessitate some degree of upskilling, and so it is generally agreed the young and future generations will be continually accessing educational resources throughout most of their lives, unlike previous generations who typically studied a single professional post-graduate course if anything.

It appears, however, that the educational system has not even begun to adapt to this future to meet the ongoing needs of their clients.

Our tertiary education system, for instance, is little different to what has been in place for the best part of a century, about the only differences being that in Australia it was made free for a while and now it is not, again. Three and four year undergraduate degrees and multi-year postgraduate qualifications has remained the standard format for tertiary educators. In recent times the universities have become very dependent on high fees being charged to large numbers of students coming from overseas, mainly developing countries, which has afforded the sector some degree of protection from needing to adapt to provide the education that clients from the developed world will require into the future.

Increasingly over the last half century young people have finished secondary school and then gone on to some form of tertiary learning in either a university or the vocational training system. I was recently surprised to learn from a Grattan Institute report that whereas in 1986 – my final year of secondary education – only 14% of males and 11% of females aged 25-34 had university qualifications, while now around 50% of high school graduates enroll in university courses. I remember being shown in Year 12 a graph of the sharp rise in the proportion of school leavers going on to university to that point in time and being made to feel concerned whether I would obtain a sufficiently high tertiary entrance score to gain entry to my chosen Government-funded course. The Grattan institute report suggested that with the advent of full fees, entry requirements are essentially trivial for most courses as virtually all applicants will be offered a place. While course fees will differ depending on the field and institution, a Commonwealth-sponsored place will cost around $9,000 per year to the student which is often deferred as a debt using the Higher Education Loan Plan.

The trend and numbers are similar throughout most developed nations, though the costs may vary significantly between countries.

What is clear already is that if school-leavers are going to have 4 or 5 careers in their lifetime, perhaps the first one lasting 7 years or less, it seems highly inefficient for society, and imprudent for the individual, to have spent half of that time gaining their first post-school qualification, all of that time accruing debt which may, or probably not, even be paid off by the time that career comes to an end. 

This is all the more relevant when one considers how rapidly the structures of professions are changing. In saying that I have in mind an Insight program (on SBS) from several years ago where the skills of 4th year law students close to graduating were pitted against AI software to carry out a task usually assigned to recent graduates. The software completed the task in 20 seconds while the law student was still working on it at the half hour mark! 

If the upskilling required to move to a new career is anything like the course undertaken for their first career – preferably taken on in a part-time capacity whilst working on the original career, because studying full-time again would be entirely prohibitive – well it is not difficult to see the next generation still on the hamster wheel having to sprint to stay still all the while taking on debt which for many will never be repaid.

It is obvious that tertiary education is going to need to undertake a major overhaul to provide the next generations with the skills that are needed in a shorter, more condensed time frame and at less cost relative to incomes. Universities may well struggle to adapt and the internationalisation of education online will open up enormous opportunities. I already know of English people living in Italy teaching English over the internet mostly to young Chinese who pay instantly by the minute so that the tutors are also paid into their accounts immediately once the session ends.

Tertiary education is an area that has remained little changed for a long time but I believe it will be unrecognisable in a few decades. And the current prestigious universities will need to adapt to find their niche in order to survive. Nonetheless, I suspect that even greater proportions of young people will access post-school, tertiary education into the future with a combination of broad social studies and highly focused, concise and intense technical programs.

I suspect that a growing element of education, from early childhood through into tertiary education, will be broad knowledge and skills that revolve around social intelligence and civic society – essentially the characters that humans will always value and which we will ‘always’ have an ‘edge’ over machines at. I noted that Prof. Sandel highlights the historic value of developing this knowledge in workplaces, with substantial reading facilities in most workplaces of the past and group breaks for mentorship and discussion. I suspect, however, with the reduction in hours spent in paid employment that role will never fully return to that environment. The education environment is an ideal place for this type of civic learning within a global village context which will be even more critical to leading quality lives in our future.


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The Great Reset Era Theme: A global village based on ‘Quality Globalisation’

Excerpted from “Full Thoughts On Prof. Michael Sandel’s Meritocracy Discourse: Part 2

Solidarity at the national level is preferable to having polarised societies, indeed, but the true challenges to a sustainable and thriving humanity depend on cohesion of the global community. That reality is increasingly understood in the battle against the climate crisis and it has been reinforced through the COVID-19 pandemic, and especially in our understanding that we all remain vulnerable while others do due to emergent variants.

A topic which I have long planned to write on is to introduce the concept of ‘Quality Globalisation’ as opposed to the quantity form that has prevailed up until now. This concept came to me over a year ago when watching Raghuram Rajan, former Governor of the Bank of India and before that Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund, on Bloomberg lamenting the pulling back from globalisation by businesses which he was concerned would accelerate in the pandemic. He felt that it was an expression of isolationism and therefore a mistake for the world.

Even though I am extremely pro globalisation in the sense that I desire a cohesive global humanity, I do not agree that ‘globalisation’ need be based only, or even mainly, on shared economic interests. In fact, I can see pitfalls to that conceptualisation – the Australian/Chinese trade tensions, is just one example.

‘Quality Globalisation’ must have its foundations at the human level, at a general level of respect and love for humanity.

The real overriding issue must always be what is good for the people, not what is good for the economy. I believe in free trade because generally it is good for people. However, I have a problem with laissez faire free trade where, even if economic data might suggest it is good for ‘the economy’, benefits mostly accrue to the wealthy owners of capital while some people are hurt by the trade, and while the poor in the low-income country, who should benefit most, only capture a small portion of benefits which permits a lifestyle only slightly above a subsistence existence thus remaining vulnerable to market dysfunction and/or natural phenomena.

Let’s take the textile industry as an example, where production was shifted offshore from developed nations to developing nations because production there was much cheaper. The owners of capital, the shareholders of large retailers, benefited by increased profits which flowed through in dividends and capital gains. The low-skilled workers lost and their continual feeling of being forgotten has been a hallmark of the emergence of ‘Trumpism’. So low-skilled workers lost a great deal while consumers, excluding those who were low-skilled factory workers, in net terms gained a little by clothing cost increases remaining subdued.

Bangladesh is one country that has developed a strong textile industry in recent decades as retailers sourced fabric and finished garments from low cost countries. Every once and while we learn of another tragedy in a textile factory which for a moment focuses attention on the reality that these cheap prices for clothing are obtained by paying poor people low wages and having them work frequently in unsafe conditions. 

The end result has been that the poor in Bangladesh did not gain very much for the loss suffered by the low-skilled factory workers in the developed nation, while the already wealthy gained significantly.

Moreover, if the industry exited the country to either an even lower cost country or back to a developed country (mostly through sophisticated automated industrial production which involves few low-skilled jobs), those jobs will dry up leaving the workers little better off than before. This has been witnessed in real-time through the pandemic where retailers cancelled orders with their Bangladeshi suppliers and many female workers resorted to prostitution to earn an income for their families.

Similar observations have been made in different countries across different industries with the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic proving that the model of industrial globalisation has not allowed  the poor in low-income nations and migrant workers to increase their economic resilience

What needs to happen for globalisation to be ‘worthwhile’ – or of sufficient ‘quality’ – to humanity is that the benefits of production in developing countries be spread to the most vulnerable, in the form of higher wages and better safety standards. This might involve higher costs to consumers, and it should involve less profits flowing to the wealthy owners of capital.

In the developed country, there needs to be greater social spending to spread across the whole of society the costs from the loss of the industry. This ultimately will take the form of a UBI, but before then may be in the form of reactive industry-specific payments to affected workers and programs to support reskilling.

If that occurs then it will definitely be a significant step towards ‘Quality Globalisation’.

There is another aspect, however, that needs to be addressed, and it relates to the quality of the goods produced.


In my post “Coming Soon: ‘Product Miles’ like Food Miles” I highlighted the sheer waste inherent within the move towards a throw away society where ‘westerners’ have become ‘addicted’ to a cycle of continually replacing low quality cheap goods.

Since writing that post the European Union has moved to introduce a border carbon adjustment tax as a pricing mechanism to reflect the environmental consequences of trade in that product, just as I had predicted in my earlier post, which will come into effect in 2023. 

This is only the start of this necessary adjustment and it is a critical step in the progress towards ‘Quality Globalisation’ where only quality goods with working lives inline with the amount of resources gone into producing and ultimately disposing of them will be economic to trade over significant distances and across national borders.

The concept of ‘Quality Globalisation’ goes even further, however; it encompasses a mindset as much as a trade policy regulatory framework for environmental sustainability. It is about bureaucracy and everyone in society identifying closely with the global community – a genuine ‘Global Village’. 

In reality, this is not a new concept as the great four-term US President Franklin D. Roosevelt spelled out the lessons of the period of his presidency in his Fourth Inauguration speech:

We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations far away. We have learned that we must live as men, not as ostriches, nor as dogs in the manger. We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community. 

I have previously argued for the insertion of a Rooseveltian clause in the legal constitution and/or instruments of all nations, presumably as a requirement to sit under the auspices of the United Nations, which is essentially based on these luminous words of FDR. 

It would recognise and focus attention on the fact that to discharge an oath to address the concerns and/or interests of any subgroup of people – whether that subgroup is based on geography (national or regional), or common interests or beliefs – the most basic premise is that caring equally for all members of the human community is the best way to advance the interests of any and all subgroups of people.

The obvious question is this: given a long history of being manipulated into parochialism, including nationalism or religious beliefs, by powerful interests, how do we change the mindset of people so that they identify with a global humanity above these human-defined subgroups?

In “Racial Prejudice And Bias: A matter of degrees” I said that openness to the world is not dependent on the possession of a passport or any particular credentials, but on the possession of an open heart.

Furthermore, without an open heart a mind can never be truly open, because only by loving all people can we be open to the full potential of humanity.

Thus most of this work must be aimed at opening the heart of more in society to connection with human diversity.

Even with superficial thought two things become immediately apparent to me – there are very many ways that openness to other cultures can be cultivated (literally the only limit is one’s imagination), and it must start with children.

In “Racism and Political Correctness” I highlighted how Australia’s education system presently is falling short on teaching about diversity values in my experience, and that it is vital to engage radicalism in schools to decrease societal disturbance including from terrorism.

The ease with which we can communicate real-time around the world, proven in the pandemic, shows that this technology can be opened up to create personal connections for students around the world. Even language barriers are declining continually with translating technology developing rapidly. It should be possible right now, for instance, to co-teach classes across national borders which would allow for working groups of children to work with children in other nations and even across time zones. This is happening now in business, and there is no reason why it cannot happen in our education system.

This type of thinking to create genuine emotional intelligence surely is at least as critical to contemporary childhood and early adulthood educational and emotional development as any other cognitive skill.

A new anecdote on racism and prejudice is pertinent here. In “Racial Prejudice And Bias: A matter of degrees” some of the anecdotes were from a friend who moved to Australia in recent years to take up a high-level managerial role in the resources industry. Thankfully he was well prepared by conversations we have had on the truths about living in Australian society and working from the perspective of being from a minority culture. More recently he relayed that he had a new middle-aged woman commence work under him – his direct report recruited this person – and on her first day, after introducing himself to her, she objected directly to him about his name and asked “where are all the Johns and Jacks?” Seeking to be open-minded to her intentions, and trying to be courteous, he suggested that with a little time she would become comfortable with the different name. Trying to express empathy and relatability he also relayed how he had difficulty on his arrival with names that were unfamiliar to him, at which point another colleague abruptly and indignantly asked “oh yeah, which ones were those?”.

For a long time we have talked about a ‘Global Village’, and, although many of us know its existence to be not only true but vital to humanity’s existence, linked financial interests from global commerce and international travel by the relatively wealthy has not served to embed this reality in humanity’s broad consciousness. Barriers from the diversity of cultures and languages remain even though the technology now exists in much of the world to break these down. What is required is collective determination to do so.

I believe that the series “The Me You Can’t See” by Prince Harry and Oprah, available to stream on Apple TV, is a brilliant example of a ‘Global Village’ approach to addressing an issue of universal importance. Even the format of the final episode, group discussion over Zoom, now ubiquitous as a consequence of the pandemic, emphasises the shared global experience. Moreover, mental health is both an issue for the global community to address as well as an issue that will be improved by growing connectedness within that ‘Global Village’. This series should be a model for future programs.

If humanity came together in a project to embed the concept of the ‘Global Village’ in the consciousness of people across the globe with all of the passion and creativity that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic entailed, even with a small fraction of the money spent on addressing that crisis, the impact would be enormous and enduring. The result would be a genuine ‘Quality Globalisation’ where a cohesive humanity stood in solidarity ready to address the climate crisis that we already know will challenge us for the remainder of this century along with the other crises we are certain to confront.

We need to harness the benefits of our modern technology and communications to create that ‘Global Village’ mindset starting in schools and spreading everywhere throughout societies. Universities, which have long been at the vanguard of this mindset, will continue to be critical in this development but will need to step up their pace of adaptation to maintain their significance.


Gained value from these words and ideas? Consider supporting my work at GoFundMe


© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2021

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Full Thoughts On Prof. Michael Sandel’s Meritocracy Discourse: Part 2

In the first part of this essay I expressed my support for Prof. Sandel’s views with some qualifications on what I believe are the most important factors in the polarised societies many developed nations are now experiencing. Specifically my view is that this polarity is due to the inequality itself more so than distrust of those with credentials more highly valued by society or by ‘the market’ in our current form of extreme capitalism.

I also said that I felt somewhat disappointed that Prof. Sandel did not devote more pages to sharing his views on how societies can achieve greater solidarity or cohesion. I undertook to share my own views in this second part focusing on the global community at the macro level and on education and family at the micro.

Firstly I must admit that for some time I had planned to write on all three topics separately. In fact, “Investment Theme: Education revolution” is the only Investment Theme that I have failed to complete (that section has been ‘half-written’ since early 2020 – it took a back seat to my writing on COVID-19), and around the same time I wrote notes for another post with a running title of “On the Benefits of Full-time Home Parenting” and another with a running title “Quality Globalisation”. So these are issues on which I have long pondered and formed robust views. While in this essay I link these topics to show how they are inter-related and will be especially important in the Great Reset era, I will also ‘break out’ these sections and post them separately in additional posts to make them more accessible to readers who may be interested in those specific topics.


As I stated in “Morals and Merit: WEF Davos Agenda panel with Prof. Michael Sandel” I found Prof. Sandel’s emphasis on the dignity of work to be worthwhile but diminished somewhat by the rapid advancement of technological innovation which is changing many important linkages within society:

the changes that humanity has reached with the fourth industrial revolution is going to affect our relationship with work as artificial intelligence and automated equipment increasingly carries out necessary functions for societies. I discussed this in detail in “Theme 6: More Time For Personal Fulfillment” on my Investment Themes page.

This enormous change is and will continue to necessitate a major adjustment in society in how we contribute and what are our perceptions of those contributions. After reading Rutger Bregman’s “Utopia For Realists” I immediately became a supporter of the concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI) and I believe it must be central to affording a dignified life for all.

I am a little concerned, however, that the attachment of those on the left of politics with the dignity of work meme may cause them to misunderstand these profound changes. Humanity does not need more work for work’s sake out of anxiety that people will not cope with the change. Nor does humanity need to work to justify and maintain political structures based upon them – I do believe in the value of collective representation of workers, but these organisations must meet the needs of society not the reverse. Societies need to embrace the concept of participation including personal reflection and development, as well as other altruistic activities. My experience is that this inflexibility creates a bias against and rejection of UBI by many on the left which I find disappointing as it could be an integral aspect of inclusion in a dignified society.

It is critical that the work that people conduct is worthwhile so that they feel that they are contributing to society, and it is important that income derived from work is fair relative to all other functions performed in society. At the same time, it is important that there is not a proliferation of low value or even pointless tasks – what Davic Graeber described as ‘Bullshit Jobs’ – as some warped view of a social contract between business and society arbitered by the political class who refuses to lead and thus hopes to retain, at least perceptions of, the status quo. 

In my Investment Theme No. 6: ‘More time for personal fulfillment’ I expanded on these views saying that I believed that we will soon embark on a staged decrease in standard work hours. Since writing that piece the COVID-19 pandemic heralding the Great Reset era has accelerated the trends that I discussed. 

Reduced working hours is an idea that has been around since at least the Great Depression, and it is attracting renewed attention with Bregman’s ‘utopian realism’ and perhaps that will increase in the Great Reset through the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. The debate has taken hold throughout Europe, and the Spanish Government has agreed to trial a four day, 32 hour work week without reduced pay. 

I want to be clear that nothing above suggests that huge swathes of employees are currently lazing off – or in Australian vernacular, ‘bludging’ – but I do believe that many doubt that they are adding real value in the tasks which occupy significant amounts of time and even effort. Much of that is due to redundancy as their tasks are not really necessary because they are a part of a process that has become the ends and not the means to an ends, or are duplicated elsewhere within large organisations.^

Another factor, and being a fan of the reality television show “Survivor”, and having gradually realised through life how much of the competitors’ behaviours mirror real life no matter how much they protest they do not behave as such ‘normally’, is that with a lot of human capital and capacity at their direction many ambitious and self-interested managers will direct staff tasks in a manner which advances their own career rather than necessarily adding value to the organisation (much like the questions that I raised in Part 1 of this essay about how much politicians and their staff any longer add value to nations if they have relinquished their role as leaders and decision-makers). Certainly performance indicators might encourage alignment with executive goals, but if those goals are short-term and aimed at superficial factors (with large financial incentives) then that will be the case cascading right down through the organisation. Moreover, if the entire system is built on self-interest and greed, from the political and business elite down, is it really any wonder that most tasks are performed within that framework rather than working towards a broader objective or even a ‘greater good’ bigger than one self?

If working hours for individuals were reduced I believe there would be a number of consequences: even after spare capacity of human capital is absorbed, i.e. unemployed and underemployed people are brought into the workforce, aggregate hours would be reduced, resources would be more critically aligned with organisational outcomes as value creation is prioritised (as the ultimate arbiter of management performance), worker productivity would thus increase, and employee satisfaction would increase benefiting society even before we consider the positive uses of that extra time for people and society. 

This transition would lead to a drift in perceptions of identity for many in society, with that I agree.

However, that is not as great a concern at a society level as many individual readers might infer, or even fear if they transfer their own anxieties, because it has been a folly and unhelpful to humanity to wrap too much of our identity in the role that we play in society from which we earn our income. That trend in itself is a consequence of credentialism. 

The truth is that our potential to contribute to humanity is infinite and the various ways in which we do that need to be more deeply respected and imbedded in our individual and collective identities. In fact, some of these other contributions to humanity are impeded when focus is disproportionately placed on the income-earning role. Hereon I discuss three important roles, being a contributive global citizen, being an educated and informed citizen, and parenting and connectedness within the ‘village’.


A Global Village Based On ‘Quality Globalisation’

Solidarity at the national level is preferable to having polarised societies, indeed, but the true challenges to a sustainable and thriving humanity depend on cohesion of the global community. That reality is increasingly understood in the battle against the climate crisis and it has been reinforced through the COVID-19 pandemic, and especially in our understanding that we all remain vulnerable while others do due to emergent variants.

A topic which I have long planned to write on is to introduce the concept of ‘Quality Globalisation’ as opposed to the quantity form that has prevailed up until now. This concept came to me over a year ago when watching Raghuram Rajan, former Governor of the Bank of India and before that Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund, on Bloomberg lamenting the pulling back from globalisation by businesses which he was concerned would accelerate in the pandemic. He felt that it was an expression of isolationism and therefore a mistake for the world.

Even though I am extremely pro globalisation in the sense that I desire a cohesive global humanity, I do not agree that ‘globalisation’ need be based only, or even mainly, on shared economic interests. In fact, I can see pitfalls to that conceptualisation – the Australian/Chinese trade tensions, is just one example.

‘Quality Globalisation’ must have its foundations at the human level, at a general level of respect and love for humanity.

The real overriding issue must always be what is good for the people, not what is good for the economy. I believe in free trade because generally it is good for people. However, I have a problem with laissez faire free trade where, even if economic data might suggest it is good for ‘the economy’, benefits mostly accrue to the wealthy owners of capital while some people are hurt by the trade, and while the poor in the low-income country, who should benefit most, only capture a small portion of benefits which permits a lifestyle only slightly above a subsistence existence thus remaining vulnerable to market dysfunction and/or natural phenomena.

Let’s take the textile industry as an example, where production was shifted offshore from developed nations to developing nations because production there was much cheaper. The owners of capital, the shareholders of large retailers, benefited by increased profits which flowed through in dividends and capital gains. The low-skilled workers lost and their continual feeling of being forgotten has been a hallmark of the emergence of ‘Trumpism’. So low-skilled workers lost a great deal while consumers, excluding those who were low-skilled factory workers, in net terms gained a little by clothing cost increases remaining subdued.

Bangladesh is one country that has developed a strong textile industry in recent decades as retailers sourced fabric and finished garments from low cost countries. Every once and while we learn of another tragedy in a textile factory which for a moment focuses attention on the reality that these cheap prices for clothing are obtained by paying poor people low wages and having them work frequently in unsafe conditions. 

The end result has been that the poor in Bangladesh did not gain very much for the loss suffered by the low-skilled factory workers in the developed nation, while the already wealthy gained significantly.

Moreover, if the industry exited the country to either an even lower cost country or back to a developed country (mostly through sophisticated automated industrial production which involves few low-skilled jobs), those jobs will dry up leaving the workers little better off than before. This has been witnessed in real-time through the pandemic where retailers cancelled orders with their Bangladeshi suppliers and many female workers resorted to prostitution to earn an income for their families.

Similar observations have been made in different countries across different industries with the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic proving that the model of industrial globalisation has not allowed  the poor in low-income nations and migrant workers to increase their economic resilience

What needs to happen for globalisation to be ‘worthwhile’ – or of sufficient ‘quality’ – to humanity is that the benefits of production in developing countries be spread to the most vulnerable, in the form of higher wages and better safety standards. This might involve higher costs to consumers, and it should involve less profits flowing to the wealthy owners of capital.

In the developed country, there needs to be greater social spending to spread across the whole of society the costs from the loss of the industry. This ultimately will take the form of a UBI, but before then may be in the form of reactive industry-specific payments to affected workers and programs to support reskilling.

If that occurs then it will definitely be a significant step towards ‘Quality Globalisation’.

There is another aspect, however, that needs to be addressed, and it relates to the quality of the goods produced.


In my post “Coming Soon: ‘Product Miles’ like Food Miles” I highlighted the sheer waste inherent within the move towards a throw away society where ‘westerners’ have become ‘addicted’ to a cycle of continually replacing low quality cheap goods.

Since writing that post the European Union has moved to introduce a border carbon adjustment tax as a pricing mechanism to reflect the environmental consequences of trade in that product, just as I had predicted in my earlier post, which will come into effect in 2023. 

This is only the start of this necessary adjustment and it is a critical step in the progress towards ‘Quality Globalisation’ where only quality goods with working lives inline with the amount of resources gone into producing and ultimately disposing of them will be economic to trade over significant distances and across national borders.

The concept of ‘Quality Globalisation’ goes even further, however; it encompasses a mindset as much as a trade policy regulatory framework for environmental sustainability. It is about bureaucracy and everyone in society identifying closely with the global community – a genuine ‘Global Village’. 

In reality, this is not a new concept as the great four-term US President Franklin D. Roosevelt spelled out the lessons of the period of his presidency in his Fourth Inauguration speech:

We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations far away. We have learned that we must live as men, not as ostriches, nor as dogs in the manger. We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community. 

I have previously argued for the insertion of a Rooseveltian clause in the legal constitution and/or instruments of all nations, presumably as a requirement to sit under the auspices of the United Nations, which is essentially based on these luminous words of FDR. 

It would recognise and focus attention on the fact that to discharge an oath to address the concerns and/or interests of any subgroup of people – whether that subgroup is based on geography (national or regional), or common interests or beliefs – the most basic premise is that caring equally for all members of the human community is the best way to advance the interests of any and all subgroups of people.

The obvious question is this: given a long history of being manipulated into parochialism, including nationalism or religious beliefs, by powerful interests, how do we change the mindset of people so that they identify with a global humanity above these human-defined subgroups?

In “Racial Prejudice And Bias: A matter of degrees” I said that openness to the world is not dependent on the possession of a passport or any particular credentials, but on the possession of an open heart.

Furthermore, without an open heart a mind can never be truly open, because only by loving all people can we be open to the full potential of humanity.

Thus most of this work must be aimed at opening the heart of more in society to connection with human diversity.

Even with superficial thought two things become immediately apparent to me – there are very many ways that openness to other cultures can be cultivated (literally the only limit is one’s imagination), and it must start with children.

In “Racism and Political Correctness” I highlighted how Australia’s education system presently is falling short on teaching about diversity values in my experience, and that it is vital to engage radicalism in schools to decrease societal disturbance including from terrorism.

The ease with which we can communicate real-time around the world, proven in the pandemic, shows that this technology can be opened up to create personal connections for students around the world. Even language barriers are declining continually with translating technology developing rapidly. It should be possible right now, for instance, to co-teach classes across national borders which would allow for working groups of children to work with children in other nations and even across time zones. This is happening now in business, and there is no reason why it cannot happen in our education system.

This type of thinking to create genuine emotional intelligence surely is at least as critical to contemporary childhood and early adulthood educational and emotional development as any other cognitive skill.

A new anecdote on racism and prejudice is pertinent here. In “Racial Prejudice And Bias: A matter of degrees” some of the anecdotes were from a friend who moved to Australia in recent years to take up a high-level managerial role in the resources industry. Thankfully he was well prepared by conversations we have had on the truths about living in Australian society and working from the perspective of being from a minority culture. More recently he relayed that he had a new middle-aged woman commence work under him – his direct report recruited this person – and on her first day, after introducing himself to her, she objected directly to him about his name and asked “where are all the Johns and Jacks?” Seeking to be open-minded to her intentions, and trying to be courteous, he suggested that with a little time she would become comfortable with the different name. Trying to express empathy and relatability he also relayed how he had difficulty on his arrival with names that were unfamiliar to him, at which point another colleague abruptly and indignantly asked “oh yeah, which ones were those?”.

For a long time we have talked about a ‘Global Village’, and, although many of us know its existence to be not only true but vital to humanity’s existence, linked financial interests from global commerce and international travel by the relatively wealthy has not served to embed this reality in humanity’s broad consciousness. Barriers from the diversity of cultures and languages remain even though the technology now exists in much of the world to break these down. What is required is collective determination to do so.

I believe that the series “The Me You Can’t See” by Prince Harry and Oprah, available to stream on Apple TV, is a brilliant example of a ‘Global Village’ approach to addressing an issue of universal importance. Even the format of the final episode, group discussion over Zoom, now ubiquitous as a consequence of the pandemic, emphasises the shared global experience. Moreover, mental health is both an issue for the global community to address as well as an issue that will be improved by growing connectedness within that ‘Global Village’. This series should be a model for future programs.

If humanity came together in a project to embed the concept of the ‘Global Village’ in the consciousness of people across the globe with all of the passion and creativity that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic entailed, even with a small fraction of the money spent on addressing that crisis, the impact would be enormous and enduring. The result would be a genuine ‘Quality Globalisation’ where a cohesive humanity stood in solidarity ready to address the climate crisis that we already know will challenge us for the remainder of this century along with the other crises we are certain to confront.

We need to harness the benefits of our modern technology and communications to create that ‘Global Village’ mindset starting in schools and spreading everywhere throughout societies. Universities, which have long been at the vanguard of this mindset, will continue to be critical in this development but will need to step up their pace of adaptation to maintain their significance.


The Education Revolution

In “The Tyranny of Merit: What’s become of the common good” Prof. Michael Sandel, with his experience over four decades as a Harvard University lecturer, provides significant detail on his observation of the growth in competition for positions at universities perceived as being for the elite. He also discusses the consequences of those changes on students and families, including the costs to their mental health as the pressure to succeed has increased, first in being accepted into the university, then in attaining good marks in a highly competitive environment, and finally in their career. Prof. Sandel highlights that increasingly over his tenure acceptance to an elite ‘school’ has been viewed as a pathway to an ‘elite’ career, and all of the trappings that go with it in a culture which places a high value on credentialism (i.e. the lifestyle of the ‘elite’), but that it comes at a significant cost even to those who ‘succeed’ through that system. 

Moreover, because there is a perception that so much is to be gained from that career pathway, most young people (and their families) vying for placement attempt to use whatever advantage they have to put themselves at an advantage in the selection process to those elite schools. Most of these advantages involve generational advantage, including wealth, and some even use those resources to cheat the tough selection process. 

There is also the impact of luck, starting with the fortune or misfortune to be born into a privileged or underprivileged home. Prof. Sandel suggests many ‘products’ (graduates) of the system do not nearly appreciate the role luck has played in their privileged position, thus leading them to insist that their success was a result entirely of their own doing in a true meritocratic system. As a consequence these people tend to believe that they earned, and thus deserved, their ‘elite’ lifestyle whilst others who did not succeed deserved their less favourable lifestyles.

Prof. Sandel proposes that a lottery should be held amongst those vying for placement at these elite schools as an acknowledgment that most applicants are capable of succeeding once they are accepted, negating the role that privilege has in giving varying levels of advantage to some over others, and perhaps most critically, to make it explicit that fortune was the greatest factor in acceptance to elite schools.

The greatest impact of such a lottery placement system over the medium to long term was considered to be the lessening in the role of credentialism in status which leads to polarisation within society because the role of ‘dumb luck’ has been made explicit.

I do consider that Prof. Sandel’s suggestion is both worthwhile and brave of him to raise, though the cynic in me leads me to wonder whether he would have done so if he was much closer to the start of his career than the end of it as many, having gained significant advantage from the contemporary situation, no doubt would like to see it perpetuated. Here I also need to admit that my perception is affected by living most of my life in a nation where the stratification of the status of the various universities is not nearly as embedded in the culture as it is in America. In Australia the ‘sandstone universities’ are the most prestigious, certainly, but the university attended is not (yet) nearly as determinant of career ‘success’ as in America, and is almost insignificant after having entered the workforce.

Still it is the nature of a wealthy society to highly prize the very best and scarcest of all things that are valued, whether it be jewels, well-positioned real estate, or fine wine. Within a society with great wealth, competition for highly prized and scarce resources can catapult market prices to rather disproportionate and, perhaps, irrational heights. Having developed a passion for wine after living in France I will use the wine market as a useful and instructive comparison. 

Rare old bottles of great wines do reach the highest prices at auction, but there is a great diversity of prices paid for wines at their release. That, too, is driven by scarcity, of what is known as terroir (the best sites to grow wine grapes) in the few regions that have a long history of producing exceptional wines, and of great years when weather conditions for growing and harvesting grapes were ideal. The wines from the most prestigious wineries, such as Château Cheval Blanc or Château Petrus, in the best years are very difficult to access and sell for as much as $3,000 a bottle even before they are actually bottled (most quality Bordeaux is sold ‘en primeur’ while still aging in barrels). In other words, elites pay a price equivalent to around $600 per glass for a wine that will not be at its best drinking for another 10 to 20 years.

Now I know that I will never have that experience of tasting one of these great wines – leaving aside the reality of the truism that ‘there are no great wines, just great bottles’ reflecting that after the passage of many years there can be great variability in the quality of the wine for very many reasons not least of them the randomness inherent with the cork closure – but that does not concern me greatly because I know that with widespread education in wine making, and readily-available wine critic reviews, I can purchase wines that are perhaps 98-99% as good as these prestigious wines for less than 1% of their price. It is only for image and perception that someone would consider purchasing a bottle from a prestigious winery from a less favourable vintage (year), for say $2,000, when plenty of other better wine from less prestigious wineries is available for much, much less. The only people for whom purchasing these wines makes any sense, in my view, are the elites who do so to stay in good standing with the winery or merchants to maintain their status as preferred customers in great vintages.

For me, however, with my modest means (compared to elites, not the poorest 4 billion human beings), and with a mind for value, i.e. quality relative to price, I will always be happy knowing that I drink very well for the dollars I choose to divert from the resources of our family.

What does that have to do with higher education?

Groupthink in subgroupings and broader society is not always, or perhaps even often, rational and proportionate and people associate many values with brands and symbols which may or may not even be relevant. Billions of dollars are spent annually on advertising in an attempt to influence and speed up that process. A perception of scarcity can transform a prized commodity into a prestigious one. 

The American culture has ascribed a great many attributes to an education from an elite school. The scarcity of places relative to applicants has transformed acceptance to one of them into the equivalent of winning the lottery such has been the prestige associated with these institutions. 

I am unsure, however, how much of that prestige actually relates to the quality of education provided there. While I am certain that, just as in Prof. Sandel, there are very many fine professors, I truly doubt that, as in the wine market, the quality of the education received there is that much better than what is available elsewhere from other good but less prestigious institutions. 

I believe that, like many things in the Great Reset era, and as a consequence of measures to combat, and as a response to, the COVID-19 pandemic, changes that were already in train within the higher education sector have accelerated and will profoundly change the higher education sector throughout the world. Many of those changes will act to reverse the growing trend of elitism in higher education.

Social distancing and general biosecurity (infection) protocols and measures necessitated the acceleration of technological developments in teaching and learning, and especially proved that it can be done effectively remotely through electronic platforms. Of course this opens up the issues of the economy of scale, and allows the reaching of many more students even across intra- and international borders.

Electronic delivery of education allows elite professors to be more accessible to a more diverse range of students for lectures and special events, even if direct personal contact might be provided by early career academics and postgraduate students as has always been the case. This would effectively increase the supply of positions available in desirable institutions or courses. The main reason why this would not be adopted is essentially because those who are advantaged by the contemporary situation would protest against the perceived ‘devaluing’ of their credentials by the reduction in the scarcity value. I suspect that the leaders of these institutions have always understood the value of scarcity to maintaining the perception of prestige for these institutions.

(Of course, this is the same factor – the potential ‘devaluing’ or reduction in prestige of credentials – that lessens the likelihood of Prof. Sandel’s lottery idea being adopted.)

Thus, I imagine that this is one technological development that might not be harnessed as well as it could be to reverse the elitist trend in higher education as a stepping stone into elite lifestyles. There is another technological development, however, that when taken together with social developments that are accelerating in the Great Reset era, will have a profound impact. These social developments revolve around social justice, equality, diversity and inclusion.


As I discussed in “Quotas Are Necessary To Address Workplace Diversity“, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) holds much promise to address the role of unconscious bias in workplace diversity during recruiting. AI could be used to ‘scrub’ identity from job applications to reduce the incidence of bias in early selection processes, and may even be useful right through to the latter stages (through voice altering software and AI technology when interviewing and answering questions). In that essay I highlighted that one of the barriers to using this technology would be the ego of managers preventing them from letting go of some control, of the need to ‘see and hear’ applicants to gauge their suitability. What people are really doing is observing whether they can find commonalities in how the applicant appears, or in how they speak, or in what they say, which makes the powerful selector feel ‘comfortable’ with that other person. The potential for introduction of bias is clearly enormous.

One particularly strong area for potential connection, and thus bias, is around education and specifically institutions attended by interviewers and interviewees. The truth about the competition to enter elite schools, and the value in attending them even with their enormous course fees, is that it is about the potential for establishing vast networks amongst the elite of society more so than obtaining an elite education. 

If workplaces really want to remove biases, while a lottery system for entry to elite schools would work to expose the underlying truth of selection and thus lead to a realistic weighting of such credentials relative to others, in my view preventing the identification of institutions attended from the selection process would go much further towards eliminating biases in selection processes. While I accept that there is bound to be a difference in the standard of education obtained from one of these elite institutions compared with a lowly ranking one in a very large market, primarily by virtue of the privilege bestowed on the elite institutions with multi-generational donations and endowments, this can be adequately allowed for in the selection process by a categorical ranking system between universities (of no more than 3 levels, and in Australia no more than 2 and even that should be debated as to its necessity).

In truth there is absolutely no need to name a specific institution at any time in one’s career, and whenever it is done it is for ego or for the purpose of establishing cultural connection between some, which by definition, excludes and disadvantages others.

Of course, like Prof. Sandel’s lottery idea, widespread adoption of de-identification of educational institutions would be resisted very strongly by the elite, but I expect that this practice will increase as society becomes more committed to removing all forms of bias. 

It is simply incongruous with a bias-less society to have elite higher education institutions, and in this day and age of instantaneous electronic communication and rapid global travel intellects can share the same space and collaborate without being in the same physical space.

Most significantly, employers suggesting that they are in a never-ending competition for the best available ‘talent’, yet doing little about constructing the best teams – which have been shown to be the most diverse and inclusive – exposes the truth behind these ‘elite’ workplace cultures.

The flattening of the ‘prestige hierarchy’ amongst educational institutions and competition via online delivery platforms, however, is not the greatest challenge that all higher education institutions confront at present. The changing nature of work is an even greater challenge to the sector and one which to this point the more established institutions seem less willing or able to address. 

I suspect that we are on the verge of the most significant shake-up to education globally in over a century which I call the ‘Education Revolution’.


Funding education in the extreme capitalist system that has been adopted by much of the world has been a significant issue for most nations over recent decades. In developing nations the lack of resources and the need to be good debtors has stifled the delivery of education to their younger generations. Developed and more wealthy nations have progressively moved to a ‘user pays’ system which in reality has been students borrowing increasing sums to ‘invest’ in their education hoping that their choices pay off financially lest they remain economically vulnerable. Consequently, the increasing pool of student debt is a significant issue in very many developed nations.

In recent times, however, as technological innovation has progressed rapidly, possibly even accelerating, workforces are being transformed, and, I suggest, quicker than educational institutions have or want to evolve.

Teenagers and even pre-teens are now frequently told that they need to prepare for having many different jobs in their lifetime, as has been the trend for the past several decades, but they are also being told that they will need to be more flexible than earlier generations because of the rate of technological change. They are told that many of their future jobs currently do not exist and that they will even change career paths several times in their lives – some even suggest that many will have 4 or 5 different careers. To move into each new career will necessitate some degree of upskilling, and so it is generally agreed the young and future generations will be continually accessing educational resources throughout most of their lives, unlike previous generations who typically studied a single professional post-graduate course if anything.

It appears, however, that the educational system has not even begun to adapt to this future to meet the ongoing needs of their clients.

Our tertiary education system, for instance, is little different to what has been in place for the best part of a century, about the only differences being that in Australia it was made free for a while and now it is not, again. Three and four year undergraduate degrees and multi-year postgraduate qualifications has remained the standard format for tertiary educators. In recent times the universities have become very dependent on high fees being charged to large numbers of students coming from overseas, mainly developing countries, which has afforded the sector some degree of protection from needing to adapt to provide the education that clients from the developed world will require into the future.

Increasingly over the last half century young people have finished secondary school and then gone on to some form of tertiary learning in either a university or the vocational training system. I was recently surprised to learn from a Grattan Institute report that whereas in 1986 – my final year of secondary education – only 14% of males and 11% of females aged 25-34 had university qualifications, while now around 50% of high school graduates enroll in university courses. I remember being shown in Year 12 a graph of the sharp rise in the proportion of school leavers going on to university to that point in time and being made to feel concerned whether I would obtain a sufficiently high tertiary entrance score to gain entry to my chosen Government-funded course. The Grattan institute report suggested that with the advent of full fees, entry requirements are essentially trivial for most courses as virtually all applicants will be offered a place. While course fees will differ depending on the field and institution, a Commonwealth-sponsored place will cost around $9,000 per year to the student which is often deferred as a debt using the Higher Education Loan Plan.

The trend and numbers are similar throughout most developed nations, though the costs may vary significantly between countries.

What is clear already is that if school-leavers are going to have 4 or 5 careers in their lifetime, perhaps the first one lasting 7 years or less, it seems highly inefficient for society, and imprudent for the individual, to have spent half of that time gaining their first post-school qualification, all of that time accruing debt which may, or probably not, even be paid off by the time that career comes to an end. 

This is all the more relevant when one considers how rapidly the structures of professions are changing. In saying that I have in mind an Insight program (on SBS) from several years ago where the skills of 4th year law students close to graduating were pitted against AI software to carry out a task usually assigned to recent graduates. The software completed the task in 20 seconds while the law student was still working on it at the half hour mark! 

If the upskilling required to move to a new career is anything like the course undertaken for their first career – preferably taken on in a part-time capacity whilst working on the original career, because studying full-time again would be entirely prohibitive – well it is not difficult to see the next generation still on the hamster wheel having to sprint to stay still all the while taking on debt which for many will never be repaid.

It is obvious that tertiary education is going to need to undertake a major overhaul to provide the next generations with the skills that are needed in a shorter, more condensed time frame and at less cost relative to incomes. Universities may well struggle to adapt and the internationalisation of education online will open up enormous opportunities. I already know of English people living in Italy teaching English over the internet mostly to young Chinese who pay instantly by the minute so that the tutors are also paid into their accounts immediately once the session ends.

Tertiary education is an area that has remained little changed for a long time but I believe it will be unrecognisable in a few decades. And the current prestigious universities will need to adapt to find their niche in order to survive. Nonetheless, I suspect that even greater proportions of young people will access post-school, tertiary education into the future with a combination of broad social studies and highly focused, concise and intense technical programs.

I suspect that a growing element of education, from early childhood through into tertiary education, will be broad knowledge and skills that revolve around social intelligence and civic society – essentially the characters that humans will always value and which we will ‘always’ have an ‘edge’ over machines at. I noted that Prof. Sandel highlights the historic value of developing this knowledge in workplaces, with substantial reading facilities in most workplaces of the past and group breaks for mentorship and discussion. I suspect, however, with the reduction in hours spent in paid employment that role will never fully return to that environment. The education environment is an ideal place for this type of civic learning within a global village context which will be even more critical to leading quality lives in our future.

In a more equitable world, with a UBI in at least the developed nations, with people spending less of their time engaged in paid employment, with more engagement with society through self improvement via education and/or volunteering, there will also be a significant room for the expansion in the role of families and broader ‘village’ connections in our lives.


Investing in Family and Community Connection

Prof. Sandel makes almost no mention of the importance of family, which is an enormous pity as this is an obviously critical issue in social cohesion and feelings of attachment within society. I must declare upfront that I have strong views on this which may challenge the views of some readers as it is unlike much of what has been written in recent years on the subject. 

If a personal lens of perspective that has been built up over the last half century is applied then readers may reject my views immediately. However, that would be an error because, if the above is correct, and our sense of contribution and belonging within society deprioritises paid employment as I believe it will, then there is plenty of opportunity for the role of family to grow into that space. Nonetheless, some may allow deep guilt for the present or recent past to overshadow the discussion.

We cannot change the past, but if we are honest about it, we are privileged to have an opportunity to impact the future for the better.  

So I would ask the reader to pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and then as you begin to read look to the deeper meaning in my views rather than reacting without reflection. 

Australia’s recent Federal budget focused heavily on female issues as a political response to the pressure the Caucasian middle-aged male dominant conservative Government was under for failing to respond to the outpouring of emotion, especially from women, at high profile gendered violence and sexual harassment stories that were in the media over the preceding 6 months.

One of the main budgetary measures was a $1.7 Billion boost to childcare as well as very significant funding to build skills in industries dominated by women including aged care. A separate budget women’s statement said “Increasing women’s workforce participation is an economic and social imperative”.

Now I am well aware that this is getting into an area that has strong ties to the feminist movement, with very good reasons related to the history of misogyny and prejudice in the workplace, but I really believe we need to pause to ask whether this really is what is best for society or indeed what society wants.

Here I need to separate first the gender element. As a former world-renowned scientist and heterosexual male who retired at 34 years of age to devote myself to my family when our first child was born, I wholeheartedly support programs to achieve equality of opportunity, pay and rights for working women. Anyone even remotely familiar with my writing will know that is not in question. What I am really talking about here is whether it is best for society for parents of pre- and school-aged children to be encouraged to do more paid employment hours and thus spend more hours with the family apart including by outsourcing the raising of their children to childcare organisations.

Leaving aside whether the evidence really exists that parents want to work more hours in paid employment, research needs to be conducted into why it is that some (or many, as the case may be) wish to work more hours and whether they would, in an ideal world, spend fewer hours in paid employment if they felt they had a free or equal choice.

In other words, is there a real desire to work more hours by parents of children, and if there is, is that really what they want for themselves and their families?

If it is not really what they would prefer but it is a response to other issues, such as the long-running housing affordability crisis or growth in precarious employment conditions, then the real underlying issues that are affecting women and families are not being addressed by facilitating their working of more hours in paid employment.

I do not doubt that the issues here are deeply ingrained in our societies. I have developed an impression over the years through my reading and discussions with other parents that many women carry guilt that being part of a parenting couple they feel unable to devote more time and energy to children. The women carry the guilt because they apply the gender stereotype that it is mainly their fault as that is primarily their role.

I obviously do not agree with that, at all, not least because I consider myself as good a parent as any other father or mother. I do not believe that females are better equipped to be primary caregivers, and I take offence to any suggestion of that when I see it.

I wonder, however, whether many ‘traditional nuclear family’ mothers of young children work because they feel that there is no chance that the decisions over the division of labour with their husband will be based on pragmatism and fairness but instead will be done automatically along gender stereotypical lines.

Thus I wonder whether, if those decisions in all families were based on genuine pragmatism and fairness, because society had progressed to that point, whether families would really seek to increase the cumulative number of hours worked by parents.

The Australian Federal Government along with other Governments around the world say that a major reason for these reforms is to improve productivity in the economy. Many of these programs aim to ensure that more of the income from those extra hours of paid work are retained by the family instead of being lost through regressive taxation or reduced Government assistance, or in additional costs such as childcare.

Critically, these barely scratch the surface on what are the full costs of those extra working hours. They are simply dollar values on a financial balance sheet as if it is purely transactional. But the consideration includes intangibles which are likely more significant.

Decisions to outsource child raising tasks are not just about the affordability of childcare. The first decision is how much, if at all, we wish to outsource the raising of our children to others. Now some families are fortunate to be close with extended family who are pleased to take on that childminding role, and often those arrangements will provide a richer environment for the children because of the obviously deeper and ongoing emotional connection with their family carers. However, it can come at a cost especially to elderly grandparents who can feel used and experience a reduction in their perceptions of personal freedom in their latter years.

In my experience most parents who decide to place a higher priority on family than on career and earning income have stories of extremes in the other direction, and often share observations of large numbers of parents dropping children at opening hours and collecting them at closing from childcare.

At a party just a few years ago I met a couple who had a three year old girl who had been in daycare from the minimum age of 6 weeks. They were a typical ‘high-flying’, upwardly mobile couple who were a lot of fun in a social setting. The mother was animated in her discussions about childcare where she dropped her daughter at opening and collected her at closing time every weekday. The problem she was having was that her daughter was surprisingly energetic when collecting her which was a disappointment to the couple because they wanted to simply feed the little darling and put her to bed. The mother had an argument with the daycare staff saying that her daughter should not be allowed to sleep after lunch along with the other children. The staff said that their little girl was so tired after lunch and they felt bad for keeping her from sleeping while all of the other children did. The mother angrily told them it was only due to ‘peer pressure’ that she wanted to sleep and that she should not be allowed to sleep under any circumstances!

That is a true story from the mother directly. However, discussions with childcare workers over the years have confirmed for me that this situation is not uncommon, that working parents are so fatigued on coming home from work that, after collecting children from childcare, they simply wish to feed and bathe their little ones and put them straight to bed. If that is what occurs for 5 out of 7 days of the week then surely it is not a controversial statement but reality that for these children this is not what would be generally considered a rich or nourishing home life.

Now I am pleased that we live in a country where it is a personal choice on how we deal with very many issues. I would not like to live in a society where people were not free to make the choices that this couple was making, but that does not mean that I want to see Government policy encourage more of these behaviours from people. Moreover, I think that any empathetic human being would immediately realise that there are hidden costs in that situation which will emerge in the years ahead.

Our own family view is that there has never been a period of more rapid change for humanity, so active and thoughtful parenting has never been of greater value to the psychological, emotional and learning development of our children. The more quality time we parents give our children, the better equipped they will be to deal with challenges of their time and thus the more likely they are to lead impactful and satisfying lives.

In this day and age where most things are analysed on a spreadsheet, where a CEO of a supermarket chain explains discounting as “investing in price”, I will explain our own views as such:

Any time spent giving energy directly to family rather than earning income is an investment in families and especially the next generation, and we prefer to invest in our sons above anything else.


Many contemporary parents have responded to this trend by encouraging the participation of their children in many extracurricular activities, possibly as a subconscious need to prove that their children are not missing out on opportunities as a result of their own hectic lifestyles, but also as a benefit of the extra income as many of these activities are very expensive. It also serves as an introduction to the competitive, ‘winner takes all’ society which their parents are striving to succeed in.

Even here, though, I have come to question the benefits to the children of being so active in post-curricular activities and whether benefits are outweighed by costs. When I was a child in the 70s and early 80s I was a good sportsman, but like most Australian kids I played one sport per season – football (in my case rugby league) in Winter and cricket in Summer. Even though each year I played in the representative teams, at most I trained 3 times a week, but most often twice weekly. Critically, however, training times were always centred around family life and children’s schedules; in primary school that meant that our coach (Mr. Fry) would finish work early to train our team at 3pm immediately after school, and even in high school I never finished training later than 6 pm. It was understood that children needed to get home by dark, eat, enjoy a little family time and relaxation together, and then get to bed early for a good night’s sleep. 

I suggest, also, that many employers also recognised the contribution their employees were making in their communities by coaching children, and so leaving early for such reasons was respected not frowned upon.

In my experience with my own sons, even from the age of 9, team or group training times are decided around adult (work) schedules and rarely finished before 7 pm. That is the preference of most parents, not just the coaches. It was not before late primary school (at around 11 years of age) that our sons’ routine weeknight bedtime was pushed back from 7.30 to 8pm, so group sports have always presented a challenge to our children-centric family lifestyle. 


My observation of recent decades is that in most nations technology and culture has resulted in a continual encroachment of employee’s work life into their broader lives – or a ‘crowding out’ of their personal lives. It is not difficult to understand the benefits of this to employers who are benefitting from even more committed employees who define themselves more and more by that role, along with more and more work hours which are not paid for. In some ways I have a unique view of that in that I was a young professional at the edge of technological innovation as the internet first became ubiquitous in universities (I had a professional website on FW Crayfish Diseases in 1995, and later a blog on the RE house price bubble), then in workplaces, and then in homes.

I recall in those latter years of the previous century employees feeling the significant pressure that continual electronic communication brought with it. But then I retired from the workforce as a young man, and I have observed how these issues have progressed amongst friends and across broader society with some objectivity. Those pressures have continued to grow, but most now do not know or remember how it was before email and smartphones. The consequent culture change shows up in many forms in many workplaces.  

Several personal experiences are relevant here. Some years back I attended several Christmas parties where the Country lead for this multinational took considerable time to acknowledge partners present in the knowledge that time their employees spent away from their homes represented a sacrifice for families and personal relationships. She gave heartfelt thanks to the partners as representatives of the broader family. However, in recent years cost cutting and creeping culture change led to the Christmas party being only open to employees, in effect dropping the aspect of the party which acknowledged the broader, richer lives of employees and thanking employees with partners for those personal sacrifices. Instead the evening Christmas party became yet more time that employees spent away from families or partners to be seen to be ‘team players’ for their employer. I found this to be a significantly retrograde development. Of course if cost-cutting really is critical there are many inclusive ways of thanking staff and their partners or families.

When actions or behaviours that have been associated with a certain aspect of workplace culture are changed, then the culture has changed. 

The second experience relates to how increasing stress from modern workplaces had been continually consuming more of the energy of adults thereby encroaching on home life by leaving them, the leaders of their families, with less energy to devote to family. My wife’s workplace and/or work area has been through almost continual review for the past 5 years which has involved three major and prolonged structural reviews, two of which required her to reapply for her job. The most recent review, during a once in 100 year pandemic, was perhaps understandable. But what seems little appreciated is that the continual change in these organisations leaves their employees stressed and drained so that when genuine crises occur, as they will from time to time, they are already low on drawable reserves of resilience.

There has been little respite, also, because even annual leave on the first two occasions was impacted when my wife had to ring in from family holidays in Italy to find out whether she still had a job (the second of those occasions was during the filming of our House Hunters International episode). Because of the inherent anxiety involved in these processes, it effectively took much of the benefit of the family holiday away from her and it impacted the whole family. My dear wife, at the same time, has also had to battle the issues that I raised in “Racial Prejudice And Bias: A matter of degrees“. These issues have impacted my wife and our family deeply and in ways that I will never be able to discuss openly.%

All of these issues are inline with the continual ‘crowding out’ of employee’s personal lives by employers. However, now in the Great Reset era, portended by the COVID-19 pandemic, introspection by many has seen these dynamics questioned and challenged.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the start of the Great Reset era has brought about a reframing of work-life balance especially for families. During lockdowns, with professional parents mostly working from home, there was a noticeable increase in family togetherness while exercising or picnicking in parks and in general strolls around the neighbourhood as in the Italian passion, the passeggiata.

At the time I commented to my wife that, as long as our measures manage to protect most Australian families from experiencing personal loss, then I would not be surprised if this period were very fondly remembered by very many children as a period of genuine connection within their families; a time when they received the most attention ever from their parents.

In the fullness of time I believe it will be recognised as the catalyst for a ‘reset’ in family connection, a major aspect of the Great Reset.

The changes brought on by measures to combat COVID-19 were profound for the work-home life balance. The working from home phenomenon out of the COVID-19 pandemic reversed the work encroachment on personal and family life in a rather counter-intuitive manner, all the more remarkable when consideration is given to the recent trend of increasingly fluid and de-personalised workspaces through, for example, ‘hot desking’ (and even ‘hot officing’ pioneered by WeWork). On the one hand working from home might be seen as the ultimate in encroachment of work life into home life, but it has almost certainly worked in the opposite direction. Through working from home, and especially video conferencing, everybody has seen a glimpse into the lives of everybody else. At first, I suspect, many felt a little more vulnerable for this alone, but the collective experience has allowed everybody to experience that vulnerability together. The experience is best summed up by the glimpses into personal lives in zoom meetings by just seeing personal spaces in the background, and in having children or pets come into the background or into the foreground.

Overall it has been an overwhelmingly positive development as it has served as a continual reminder to everybody that all work colleagues – whether peers, subordinates or superiors – are people with lives that extend well beyond their roles as employees, which in many ways has been critical in feeling connected with others and with humanity through this very challenging period.

Observing commentary through Bloomberg’s various channels already suggests to me that employees are expressing changed values and goals which will become typical in the Great Reset era. Employees are pushing back on what has been this continual encroachment into their lives by employers and this will demand a significant culture change.

This culture change must be driven from top-level leadership, certainly, but mid to high level managers, responsible for perhaps 30 to 100 employees via direct reports, must be the focus for implementation. What will be required is a mindset that says that the employer understands that while an important source of belonging and contribution in society is gained from being actively engaged in worthwhile paid employment, it is only one facet of an individual’s identity and contribution to society. This will require acknowledgment by middle management that most workplaces are not actually involved in saving the world from catastrophe – after all we have already learned through the pandemic that those people are the nurses, supermarket staff and vaccine developers – even if that middle management may be trying to create some sort of sense of that to have a committed workforce that is ultimately being used to elevate their own careers.

There is no doubt, also, that business interests adversely affected by these disruptive changes from the COVID-19 pandemic are arguing that professional workers must be made to return to cities. It is curious that these city-based businesses somehow consider themselves more worthy of saving from disruption than the blacksmith, corner shop, or indeed the video cassette rental store. Whether they can convince their ‘corporate friends’ to force workers to once again sacrifice family time and relationships in the name of creating a vibrant city centre for commercial activity will be interesting to observe over the next while.

Personally I find it a difficult argument to make, and I suspect that through these experiences many parents have realised the benefits to them and their children, and thus the family unit, of far more engagement in the raising of their children with less outsourcing to child-minders. In fact, many may have begun to realise what our family has learned through our experiences that there are very many underappreciated benefits to having one full-time parent in the family, and to sacrificing income from working more hours in paid employment to ‘invest in family’.


Increasingly psychologists are referring to the concept of ‘psychological bandwidth’ meaning the capacity of individuals to deal with complex and/or multiple issues. It has obvious application in workplaces in assessing individual performance, but the reality is that nobody can know exactly how much ‘data’ is being processed by any individual because nobody can ever fully understand all of the issues that individuals are confronting in their work and personal lives. There are many issues that even that person is unaware of that is consuming their ‘bandwidth’, especially if they are someone with low self-awareness or emotional intelligence, or when there are issues that are not widely acknowledged in the workplace (such as issues around prejudice and bias).

The concept also is embedded in the way Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger explain their business and investing success, recognisable to those who intuitively understand the concept, when they say that they have maintained very relaxed work habits throughout their careers with plenty of time for reading and contemplation. They often joke that most would be surprised by how they work and many might even consider them ‘lazy’. Obviously this is an acknowledgment that it is human to have a limited ‘psychological bandwidth’. Successful and effective people know it is critical to not overload their ‘bandwidth’, either consciously or unconsciously. This is essentially the truth* underlying my post “Workplace Flexibility Success” that the smart aspect is the most important of the hard and smart work ethos, and that managers that rely on ‘presenteeism’ (or ‘bums on seats’) to judge their workers are admitting that they are poor managers. As Buffett and Munger continually stress, surprisingly few excellent ideas are necessary to make significant impacts. However, most people lack the self-confidence that they will come up with quality ideas, and, I suspect, fear that managers will be unreceptive and unable to recognise their merit when they are presented with them, so the majority engage themselves in the game of ‘presenteeism’ and attempting to appear busy churning out lots of data rather than searching for those ‘golden ideas’.

To understand that this concept relates to all of us, even the rare geniuses amongst humanity, look no further than this brilliant piece to learn of the mundane issues which occupied Machiavelli and about the court case that so occupied Michelangelo that he never held a chisel for four years!

Understanding this concept early in my life has been one of my great advantages, through my scientific career and in the ways that I run our family household as I describe below.

The use of the concept that I identify most with is in discussions of inequality where analysts highlight that underprivileged people are consuming so much of their ‘bandwidth’ for day to day survival that it is extremely challenging to make logical decisions that have the potential to improve their circumstances over the medium to long term. These researchers point out that this often results in privileged people looking down upon under-privileged people for making poor choices, adding to the concepts around credentialism that Prof. Sandel discussed and which I dealt with above.

I identify with this concept of ‘psychological bandwidth’ because of my upbringing. Instead of referring to it as ‘bandwidth’, however, I have always referred to the concept as one of ’emotional energy’.

I discussed this even in the earliest pages published here at MacroEdgo including my discussion on my ‘Investment History‘ page when discussing the decision to delay buying a home, and under several themes on my ‘Investment Themes‘ page where I made mention of the challenges my family and I confronted in my childhood (which I have now expanded upon most completely in “How Farmers Lose Their Perspective“).

In my concept I see that we all have a ‘bank’ of emotional energy that we draw on to carry out our day to day lives and to respond to the issues that we confront. Obviously in modern parlance it is directly related to our resilience in that this ‘bank’ of energy is what we draw on to be resilient and recover from adversity. If we are unfortunate to face prolonged stress in our lives and/or extreme trauma or a series of traumatic events then our ‘bank’ of emotional energy becomes depleted and we struggle to recover. In my case I had a breakdown when my ‘bank’ had been totally depleted and when I became overwhelmed by anxiety.

Families with close connections obviously have a collective ‘bank’ of emotional energy from all of the individuals in their family – that is where we draw from to support each other when things become difficult for one, some, or all of those in the group – essentially the strength of our ‘support network’. I learned all of this when I was a teenager, when my family’s collective ‘bank’ of emotional energy had been depleted by our fight to keep the farm, and I knew that I could not dip into that as I struggled with normal teenager development. I had to suppress my emotions and I sort to generate some of my own emotional energy for the family by becoming especially close to my father working with him to help make his dream come true. It came at great cost to me, emotionally, and ultimately the family fractured primarily as a matter of individual survival as the pressure was very prolonged and traumatic events occurred.

This is the main reason why I understood the importance of families not living under acute or chronic stress, and that was my primary objective in my earlier blogging activities on the Australian housing bubble – getting Australian families to stop and think before committing to prolonged economic vulnerability to own a home through extreme debt loads just because others are doing it.

My wife and I always, from our earliest family planning, intended that one of us would allow our careers to take a backseat in order to devote most of our energy to our family. As circumstances turned out, the only logical choice was for that to be me, and nobody is more pleased with the situation than me. Psychologically I started out in a challenging position, seeing as I had first to recover from a breakdown from being burned out trying to continue my career as a research scientist, but through a long process of introspection and healing, with and without professionals, I was able to fully recover.

I now see my most important function within our family, in the primary caregiver role, to be the backup energy source for everybody, the big ‘bank’ of emotional energy that is not burdened with many day to day stresses (from work, or school, or social issues) that can be tapped into to provide the support to whoever is struggling at the time, or even the whole family if there is a major issue we must confront together. I do not say that I never get down myself, because I do sometimes – e.g. I have found it an isolating experience to be a male full-time parent – but those moments where my emotional energy is run-down are rare these days. Most of my emotional energy goes to supporting my children, and especially my wife over recent years with those issues that I mentioned above. In truth, the stress that she has had to endure in recent years has been so great that I have feared that I would not be able to provide enough support for her, and there were times when I really feared for the consequences to her and our family. When I think of that I am afraid to even consider what would have been the implications if I was not able to support her to the degree I have over that time, especially if I was still stressed trying to maintain my career.


Having a full-time parent nowadays is considered by some to be an unaffordable ‘luxury’ for a family, but in reality very many Australian families could make the same decision if they were prepared to sacrifice income, and more specifically, the things that their income is spent on buying (e.g. by delaying buying a home and living more modestly). I cannot help but think it is an enormous advantage to emotionally supporting and raising well-grounded children, and to providing a happy and healthy family home life.

Much is made of the contemporary opportunities for two-income families in comparison to 50 years ago, but I actually see the situation as the opposite. Management of family and home in our time is so much more complicated than it was back then, and I have no doubt that the stress from that combined with the stress from two careers in a family home are a large part of the growing levels of anxiety within society and in our children. As just one example, staying on top of all school communication – the many letters from schools and forms to be completed in this increasingly litigious society, emails from teachers, yearly introductions and parent-teacher meetings, involvement in other school activities including volunteering in numerous ways – surely consumes multiples of the time and energy that they did decades earlier. The same goes for sporting activities and the myriad other extra-curricular activities.

It goes much further, however, in a world where increasingly Governments have shifted important functions onto individuals and families. The amount of time and energy taken to sort out insurances for health, house and contents, cars, lives, incomes, against trauma or other mishaps, and to review them periodically to ensure that insurers are not taking advantage of apathy, are enormous nowadays.

Then there is the largest administrative task of all – money management so that the resources of the family can provide for the hopes and aspirations of all in the family, including for a comfortable and secure retirement. This has been the trend with the shift from defined benefit to defined contribution retirement savings programs, and the consequent shifting of risk, thus responsibility, onto individual workers.

In addition to all of that for parents is the standard day to day roles of keeping everybody well fed with healthy food living in a healthy environment that is clean and stimulating. Here I must admit that my wife does need to do some housework as I am more interested in outdoor activities to maintain and improve the amenity of our home, but that is essentially the mirror opposite of the distribution of tasks in the ‘traditional’ nuclear family of the 1960s with the mum at home. 

Unlike the 1960’s, however, there are probably around 500% more gadgets and devices around our (significantly larger) houses and (smaller) yards that must be maintained by someone.

The truth for most modern two-income families is that childcare is only the beginning of the outsourcing of vital tasks that many or even most families engage in. Increasingly in the Great Reset I believe that families will question whether they are actually better off for the two incomes and will better analyse the pros and cons of each outsourced task. 

Families that are capable of making pragmatic decisions based on the broad range of relevant issues, not on outdated stereotypes of gender roles, are likely to reduce their combined hours worked in paid employment. I also believe that even primary or sole income earners will also decrease the amount of time spent in income producing work, if not necessarily by choice then by societal acceptance of reduced working hours with a UBI or other additional Government payments.

These changes will be enormously beneficial to creating healthy connections within families and throughout communities which will lead to more cohesive societies.

My wife and I will forever be proud that the decisions that we made allowed me to contribute to our community deeply. Through volunteering at our children’s primary school I can say in total honesty that I played a role in teaching every child in both of our sons’ year levels to read and to swim because nowadays no child is allowed in a school pool without adult volunteers, and those volunteers have been in increasingly short supply. Moreover I was able to help on excursions and in other fundraising activities.

Irrespective of whether a parent or not, all of these volunteering activities contribute to cohesive societies by creating deep connection and belonging.


Concluding Remarks

As a child in the 1970’s I was transfixed by “The Jetsons”, a cartoon television show of a futuristic nuclear family with two school-age children living in a raised city in the 2060’s. I think every child of my era could see the enormous benefits of robotic assistants to do all of the chores around the house and even dressing the family. No more cleaning our rooms! Just drop cloths wherever and the robots immediately dispatched them to washing! What’s not to love!

In his flying car the father, George, jetted off to work for 1 hour, twice a week. Originally made in the 1960’s, for relatability in that era, the mother, Jane, was a housewife who was actively engaged by her full-time parenting role and by consumerism along with several community-related volunteer roles. Even with this high degree of automation within their lives, the parents, and especially the ‘highly-strung’ George, is stressed by the demands of keeping all of the gadgetry working effectively. Sadly there seemed to be few robotic services to fix the domestic robots!

The writers of the show are often praised for their futuristic foresight. Reflecting back on the concept of the show, even now I can marvel at its interesting and continually relevant premise. I cannot deny that I still get excited at the idea of automation making redundant our involvement in all of those mundane but vital chores. I believe it is that same thrill that many who have bought any number of automated smart machines, like robotic vacuums and mops, or pool cleaners, have experienced.

Yet, when we transfer that to industrial or commercial environments, the degree to which many in society has tied their identity to what they do for paid employment creates a reluctance to have an open mind to the benefits of automation. Moreover, the idea that many, or even most, of us do not have a choice in this progress likely creates anxiety in many. I imagine that the idea of a two hour work week would scare many adults who watched the “The Jetsons” as a child, and while I agree that would be extreme even in the future I can foresee, it is a very great pity that our contemporary societies struggle to imagine a time when we spend much less of our time engaged by paid employment.

In “The Jetsons” the underlying premise is that humans are driven to automate as much as possible to maximise the amount of leisure time available to us, or at least maximise the amount of time that is entirely at the individual’s discretion as to what they do. Now that we are getting a glimpse of how that might look for us, given that the recent experience has been to increasingly move in the opposite direction, within cultures where it has become typical and even applauded to develop a ‘side hustle’, or even a few of them, the idea of having extra ‘down-time’ is to many ‘lazy’, and to some almost ‘amoral’. (Again, Prof. Sandel draws some linkages on the history of this attitude in “The Tyranny of Merit” as does Rutger Bregman in “Utopia For Realists”.)

(Note that in no way do trivialise the existence of poverty and the ‘working poor’ in developed nations, and it is one of the major reasons why I believe a UBI is necessary, in fact overdue.)

I believe that we all need to find that open-minded child in all of us that watched “The Jetsons” in wonder and remember how then we had little problem in keeping ourselves actively engaged in pass-times connecting with ourselves, through reading and multitudes of other activities, or connecting with our family, friends, neighbours and broader community through gameplay, sports or by helping with something important to others.

For me I think it is entirely a reasonable premise that society should seek to develop automation# to such a level that more of our time is at our discretion knowing that the goodness at the core of humanity will result in it leading to greater connection within societies and broader humanity, and thus creating that much needed social cohesion.

Much of the discourse on meritocracy, by myself, by Prof. Sandel, and by others, also revolves around identity and connection, from hiring managers seeking to identify with and connect with applicants they employ, at the same time introducing a myriad of biases, right through to identity and connections within families and community.

Importantly, a reduction in working hours for employees will never negate the need to eliminate biases as the foundation of capitalism will always be the market efficiently awarding the benefits for hard and smart work relatively. The active guidance and oversight of markets by democratic institutions is vital to ensure proportionality of those benefits, this being the aspect of the system which has faltered in recent decades in our extreme form of capitalism. The conditions of that work, however, will continue to evolve, as it always has, as technology and societal views evolve and adapt.

I accept that for humans ‘what we do’ has always been important in our identities, so much so that many family names are derived from societal roles of some distant relative. Over the last 50 years, however, as the contemporary extreme form of capitalism emerged, our identities became more and more bound up in what we do for paid employment. Perhaps that is in part a consequence of living in larger communities where smaller proportions of people in our communities interact with us in those roles, so people seek to indicate their status and means, thus identifying themselves superficially as ‘successful’, with clothing, vehicles and houses which often leads acquaintances to enquire as to what it is that they do ‘for a living’.

With the advent of the fourth industrial revolution, however, that increasing role in identity played by ‘what we do’ (for paid employment) is being confronted as roles are increasingly challenged by technological progress and/or entirely displaced or lost.

An abrupt change in ‘what we do’ in our society, through retrenchment or forced retirement, often leads to serious impact to individual identity. I understand this as well as anybody because it was an important factor in my breakdown. I also learned about the significant impacts on retired men in their 60’s and 70’s through my involvement with a men’s club where many described feelings of ‘loss’ and ‘irrelevance’ after retirement.

The typical full-time worker in a developed nation, under present conditions, is compelled to work for around 8hrs, 5 days a week. Even when those conditions are met, i.e. without any additional encroachment on home-life, and allowing for 8hrs of sleep each night, paid employment consumes half of the time spent awake for 5/7 of every week (excepting time on personal or other leave). Moreover, a significant amount of the remaining 8hrs of time spent awake, perhaps a quarter of it or more, is consumed in preparing for and travelling to and from work. In most developed nations workers expect to work in paid employment for around 50 years with the retirement age at 65+ years, and the retirement age has been retreating of late.

Given that full-time workers, even without additional encroachment of work-life into personal-life, devote so much of their ‘quality energy’ of their entire lives to the roles they play in paid employment, it is hardly surprising that they desire to be highly engaged in that work, and to be fairly rewarded for it (monetarily and in other forms of recognition), and to feel a sense of inclusion and ‘belonging’ from it in the workplace, such that the degree to which that occurs affects how they perceive themselves and how they perceive others perceive them, thus impacting on their ‘identity’.

Over recent decades, as paid employment has occupied increasingly more time and energy, workers’ identities became even more conflated with their roles as employees, and increasingly managers and organisations came to see their employees more narrowly as just workers rather than people with broader and richer lives within their communities. That trend was hastened and exacerbated by the encroachment of modern communication which made workers contactable 24/7.

Measures to contain the pandemic have reversed that trend, and in the Great Reset era people are reflecting on how things had been before COVID-19 and are now pondering whether they wish to permanently change their work-life balance or even turn it on its head be making a more significant change such as changing careers or quitting all together.

In many ways, Governments introducing structural reforms to facilitate people to work more hours in paid employment are addressing the issues of the previous era. 

The issues in the new era are about how we introduce better balance into lives so that people can lead richer and more satisfying lifestyles which will ultimately achieve greater cohesion and more compassionate societies with greater connection.

This is playing out in all sorts of ways which will require adaptation by businesses. For instance surveys show that while international travel is one of the most missed activities through the pandemic, it is all about personal travel and surveys suggest business travel will not come back the way it was before. This is yet another case of personal fulfillment and family activity and togetherness being prioritised above professional/work activity on several levels.

In Part 1 of this essay I highlighted that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic societies in developed nations were in a ‘funk’ with many feeling ‘rudderless’, meandering without direction.

In my “The Great Reset” essay published 30 March 2020 I said:

If this battle against COVID-19 proves nothings else it shows that all our fates on this beautiful planet are inextricably linked. The only sustainable way forward for humanity is united and time and effort spent moving in the other direction is an utter waste and dangerous to us all

In another post shortly afterwards I expanded on my views around the new era:

The Great Reset” provides us all with an opportunity to dream of a world that we want for ourselves and the people we love most, and ponder how we can realistically bring that to fruition, not instantaneously but with enduring commitment and innovation. Goodness knows humanity has proven to itself, once again, even still in the early stages of this pandemic, that human ingenuity and endeavour is without limits.

Then in July 2020 in “How Society Will Change If A COVID-19 Vaccine Is Elusive” I stated that the Great Reset era had commenced and it was irreversible, concluding that:

High quality, effective leadership will nurture it so that the best outcomes are realised to the benefit of humanity. Scoundrels will try to harness it to bend society to a more warped and less inclusive version. We all must show leadership and engage with the process to achieve the best outcome for ourselves and those we love, and those who succeed us. And we should all prepare to be flexible and supple in thought to make the best decisions that we can with the information that we have as we emerge from the shock of our altered existence and as our future comes into clearer focus.

The evidence is increasingly emerging that a new era did indeed dawn, and it will be marked by individuals asserting their preferences and acting upon them. While in nations ravaged by COVID-19 the significance of certain social distancing and infection control measures will stay forever etched in the neural synapses of many for the remainder of their lives, such as the 6 feet/1.5 metre gap to others, and general hygiene including the wearing of masks especially when even slightly unwell, the forced disconnection with extended family and society, and the extraordinary opportunity for reconnection within same-household family groups, has reminded all of the importance of that connection in feelings of belonging and satisfaction with life.

This, in and of itself, will create more cohesive societies that naturally seek to work towards the ‘common good’ with the potential to create a virtuous cycle of increasing solidarity and connection.

I believe that this virtuous cycle will expand and revolve around the following three critical, intertwined pillars: the importance of the ‘global village’ and humanitarianism, the changing roles of employment and education, and connection with community and family.

I have always had a deep and optimistic love for humanity, and that has never been stronger than it is today. I do believe that the ‘common good’ is making a revival, and I am certain that will please Prof. Sandel as much as it does me. It will still take, however, good people to stand up and be counted and lead, but from where I am sitting right now, here in the Great Reset era, there appear to be many prepared to do just that!


Footnotes

^I also wish to be clear that this does not necessarily relate to every sector as redundancy or over-capacity is necessarily built into some critical services in society to handle surge demand, which when it comes to nurses were stretched beyond limits during the pandemic, and other sectors have a long history of under-employment and exploitation, for instance academic teaching, unrelated to ’empire-building’ by middle managers.

%Giving credit where it is due, however, her employer has been very conscious of employee welfare and preferences through the pandemic, and for my wife, this extended period of working from home has been especially welcome and timely given the underlying issues remain largely unaddressed.

*I realise that I may be criticised for under referencing in my essays, but they are meant to be just that – essays – and not research pieces. In my background as a research scientist I tended to be extremely thorough with sourcing, often overly so (admittedly I was a collector of resources and back in those days nothing was more thrilling than receiving in the post a big hoard of reprints), so this is a liberating benefit of no longer being a professional. I do try to limit my assumptive statements to those which are reasonably self evident, but I recognise that those who wish to disagree will always maintain their blinkered- (blindered-) view and find fault no matter how well sourced my writing. Pragmatically, though, everybody now knows that just about anybody can track down at least one source these days maintaining virtually any position, for instance as whacky as 5G networks spreading coronavirus. I have also noted that the sources in my essays – through hyperlinks – are only very rarely accessed. While I recognise that experts in the various fields that I cover would source their research pieces and articles more thoroughly, and should, I consider that the level of sourcing I carry out for my mostly big-picture essays is entirely acceptable.

#This should not be interpreted that I have a laissez faire attitude to AI development and adoption as I agree that we must have very stringent oversight to ensure safety for humanity.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2021

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Humanity Needs Good People In Tough Jobs

Firstly an admission – I am bogged down in writing part 2 of my response to Sandel’s ‘meritocracy’ discourse because it encompasses three large areas which I had intended to write individual posts on and for which I had developed extensive notes. That highlights how important that response is to me, but it also means that I need to take my time to formulate my ideas and explain them with some degree of coherence.

So I am taking time out when ideas or events arise to write briefer posts. This is one that I have had in mind for a while. In reality I have been formulating my ideas on this for at least 20 years, but it is foremost in my mind when I write many articles on MacroEdgo or elsewhere where I mention ‘elites’.

I cannot deny that most of the times when I use the term ‘elites’ it is not in a positive way. It typically denotes a mindset of elitism, of being atop the ‘meritocracy pile’, irrespective of how much genuine merit went into that, enjoying that privilege and using it to broaden and embed that privilege for themselves and their heirs.

Yet I have been clear, also, in my writing that there are many ‘elites’ whom I respect and know I would like if circumstances arose. These people are ‘elites’ by virtue of the privilege that they enjoy within society because of their status and/or wealth, but their actions do not accord with the above. They are the people with humanility, understanding and respectful of the various pieces of fortune and the people that have acted in their lives and were pivotal in them reaching their privileged position. As a consequence, usually these ‘elites’ are relatively busy ‘giving back’ to humanity in various forms which do not involve personal gain or vanity (as opposed to the ‘elites’ who just seek to take more from humanity).

Perhaps there is a third group that enjoys their privilege, and while they do not negatively impact others with that privilege by seeking to broaden that advantage, neither do they seek to ‘give back’ to humanity and society in any form or when they do they are mostly vanity projects that cause no harm. I am inclined to agree that, too, is not good enough – but in “How Might Milton Friedman Respond To The COVID-19 Pandemic?” I explained it is my belief that it is incumbent on all to give to others as in my travels I have seen even the poorest give, even their energy and goodwill to smile and be friendly when their existence was so much more challenged than mine.

I spell this out because I do wish to draw a distinction between myself and those on the extreme left that consider wealth obscene or abhorrent. I could go on here with further qualifications and a discussion on monetary and other rewards being commensurate with the roles we play in society, and that being truly representative of broad societies’ views rather than being increasingly skewed by the political advantage that the privileged ‘elites’ enjoy to produce our contemporary extreme inequality and which has resulted in executive salaries increasing at rates a factor higher than for the majority of workers. But that is not the point of this post.

What I really want to discuss is people, as individuals and not as tribes, nor with tags attached such as ‘elites’.

Earlier I said that I had developed thoughts on this 20 years ago. When I worked for Biosecurity Australia I developed a strong view, from my personal experience, that much political influence occurs in decisions on what biosecurity risks are acceptable when importing animal and plant products into Australia. A lot of that political interference acts to prevent trade in products from low-income nations because they are disadvantaged in their ability to fight cases in the WTO arbitration processes. Moreover, they are also dependent on developed nations in a number of critical areas and so are vulnerable to accepting unfair decision and ‘trading away’ issues for others which are even more critical to them.

I have been clear in my earlier writing at MacroEdgo about this period and specifically the pressure that was placed on me to alter my scientific advice to a position that was satisfactory to the Minister who was under pressure from Australian groups that wanted to stop trade in certain products. I was under so much pressure that likely I would have either been sacked or removed from certain projects if I was not fortunate to receive a timely research fellowship to move on to (in France).

For a while I was quite annoyed with all of my colleagues for being more accommodating to those political masters. Then the penny dropped. I knew these people and I knew they are good people doing their best in a difficult position. Many, especially in the plant biosecurity area, were from minority backgrounds and were sensitive to the broader issues of fairness and equality.

I also wrote specifically about my former boss, whom I thought very highly of, and I often wondered why he agreed to play that role when it was fairly clear to me that he, himself, most of the time appeared uncomfortable with the political element of the job.

What I realised is that these are the exact people that we want in these positions. It is true that these positions will be held by someone if not them, as I discussed in “The Authenticity Piece For Leadership Is Right In My Wheelhouse“, and that person may well be one of those sociopathic/psychopathic types that will do anything asked of them by the politicians without any pushback, and without even a fleeting moment of reflection of the consequences or impacts on others, in order to get themselves ahead.

I am certain that if we look across the roles in society, those tough jobs that you or I would not like to do, or are not capable of doing, there will be a lot of good people doing their best to balance the pressures that they face.

That also includes a good slice of the people whom some of us might collectively tag as ‘elites’, like a central banker, or a hedge fund manager, or even many contemporary titans of commerce and industry including the head of an airline or of an integrated energy giant.

That is something that we all need to keep in mind at all times, and that is the basis of one of my most important essays, “The Great Reset: Building the bridge“.

The other element of this, of course, is that it is up to all of us – the broader community – to collectively act to provide the background support for these good people in tough positions to do right by humanity. That is what I am especially optimistic about now that we have entered the Great Reset era.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2021

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Spotting shaving cream froth on fluffy snow piled high in a long blizzard from 50 feet

I am well aware that the ‘Macro(economics)’ element of this blog has taken a backseat in my writing since COVID-19 broke and I have not updated my views on investment markets for almost a year. 

There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, these times are unprecedented – in fact I believe we have entered a new era which I refer to as the Great Reset – and I consider that it is far more important to write about the social and socioeconomic issues of the time.

Secondly, my views on the market have not really altered over this time. I consider that we have been in a highly irregular and unsustainable period of extraordinary support for asset market prices, and that commenced well before most of humanity came to understand that coronaviruses contain RNA and are covered in spikes.

The exuberance has been around a long time, this time around, and irrational exuberance is evident in many places, even beyond the erratic trade in cryptocurrency. I would suggest that handing over money for, or erratic trading in, blank cheque companies – or special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) – often marketed by celebrities will become emblematic of the late stages of this period.

I believe that anybody active in this market is gambling and is over confident that they will foresee the change of tide before others. That does not mean that everybody holding assets is a gambler, but there is an argument for locking in returns for those strong characters who will resist the desire to plunge back in if the madness continues a while yet.

Like ‘my mate’ Tom Keene on Bloomberg, I am looking for an entry point in keeping with my long-term investment strategy. That entry point is well south of here.

Absolutely the market is frothy – very frothy – but the reason why some continue to disagree with this view is that spotting this froth is like trying to spot shaving cream froth atop of fluffy snow piled high in a long-running blizzard from 50 feet!

(Note, having lived only a brief period of my life in a region with Winter snow – indeed, outside of the tropics or subtropics – my snow analogy might be a little non-sensical but it seemed to make more sense than my first, cappuccino froth…)

And of course, by this stage of any such period, so many have been making so much money out of clipping the ticket of fund flows from the increasing activity that there will be no shortage of superficially reasonable arguments for why the party will surely continue.

The problem is that after a decade and half of expansionary monetary policy – ranging between extremely loose to ridiculously loose – it is really, really difficult to find any assets that are not overvalued on a reasonable assessment of long-term value. Thus, if over a long-term basis purchasing at these prices is not likely to be profitable, and here I have to point to GMO’s (the home of Jeremy Grantham) prospective returns analysis released monthly as one example of similar thinking to mine, the only reason to buy these assets is ‘tactical’, i.e. short-term, which is a strategy dependent on greater fools sending prices higher allowing an exit from the ‘trade’.

There is one asset which I would buy, if my circumstances were different, because it is one of the long-term premier assets (valued for centuries) which has not increased sharply in price over the last decade. In fact, this asset class has actually fallen over that period because of local economic circumstances, and now those circumstances have deteriorated sharply in the pandemic. Curiously, prices have not fallen sharply, as I had expected, which perhaps suggests that prices are about as low as they ‘can’ go. 

I believe that well-located, quality property in a premier tourist city in Italy, I looked especially at Florence, represents a very good prospect for long term investment in the current climate. Unfortunately my means precludes me from buying quality in this market, and I am not certain that scraping together funds for a subterranean well-located apartment, that may or may not meet cadastral requirements for habitation, would meet the brief. 

If I could buy a quality apartment in such a premier city that will always be of interest to humanity I would do so confident that I would receive a positive yield for the entire duration of my holding, and I would be extremely confident that over the long run I would make an excellent capital return. In my view, such assets are rare at present while trillions are invested in negative-yielding bonds and long-duration bonds at very low yields.

I do intend to give a full update on my investment views and my (admittedly muted, given I am allocated mostly to cash and gold) investment performance when I finish some important writing assignments including the second part of my response to Prof. Michael Sandel’s ‘meritocracy’ discourse.


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How Farmers Lose Their Perspective

What was running through my father’s enraged mind that night I will never know — he is too emotionally repressed to ever be able to even acknowledge it happened let alone give me closure on what he was thinking as he was fully loading his revolver — but I have had to live my life remembering my worst night…


It was my parents anniversary. I had celebrated my 15th birthday just three months earlier, and was in my penultimate year at home before going to university.

Mum and Dad had been fighting a lot over recent years, ever since the global prices of agricultural commodities including sugar dropped at the end of the 70s.

The emotional capacity of my family to absorb stress had been totally used by the dream of my father to develop the farm that had been in his family almost the entire time since the imposition of British law removed Indigenous rights over the land that they had occupied for over 40,000 years.

I had come to understand my parents’ inability to deal with additional stress over the previous years as I entered my own difficult development period in life. After my mother told me that I was “becoming a real bastard” — which was uncharacteristic for my typically nurturing mother — I realised that I would not have the opportunity to even begin to rebel like most other kids of my age were doing.

If I did rebel, I stood to lose my family.

Being in a triumvirate of siblings, where my elder siblings were closer to each other than me, and with both of them more social and significantly older than me, I was much more dependent on my parents for my emotional security. Suppressing my own ill-feelings, exacerbated by the stress of living in an emotionally-taught environment, I began to take a great interest in my father’s work and became his ‘offsider’ on the farm.


Mum and Dad had been at each others’ throats for months. It was clear that we were going backwards financially — it’s difficult to explain the feeling of a family working towards a goal with great dedication and diligence, yet being further behind financially even after producing a good crop. They would often go over the books at night, mostly in silence interrupted with periods of abrupt and emotional discourse indicative of bewilderment at how they had arrived at their (our) predicament.

When Dad originally approached banks in the mid 70s to organise financing to purchase the farm from his Uncle, the pre-deregulated capital gatekeepers were ultra conservative and suggested that the manner in which Dad described how we would live to make things work was unrealistic. They told him “This is the 70’s and nobody lives like that anymore”. However, Dad managed to cobble together the finances by borrowing from his parents, a brother and from the bank, and with vendor finance also.

We reclaimed an old cane cutter’s barracks from regrowth and grass — it stood like a time capsule of how the workers left it over a decade earlier — and Dad made some minor repairs and additions to make it livable. My brother and I shared a room which had no door and was open to the elements via an open veranda. My sister’s room, between ours and my parents, only had a door fitted as she approached her teens.

We lived very frugally, to say the least, and of course the entire family worked together on the farm. Being the youngest and well under 10 years of age, when removing remnant wood from cleared paddocks I drove the tractor or truck. But I quickly progressed to driving a tractor and working in the field on my own as a pre-teen.

Life was full of hard work, but we were all happy being together.

In the midst of a commodities boom, prices for sugar were so good that with the early improvements Dad made to the farm they had earned enough money to be debt free. However, the Industry and Government representatives were positive about prices being maintained at those high levels and were actively encouraging farmers with capacity to further develop their land to do so.

Fatefully, Dad listened to that advice and borrowed more to clear and develop more land. He had a dream to quadruple production over what his Uncle had achieved by clearing all of our land and by improving drainage and the layout of paddocks.

The newly deregulated banks were much freer with their lending which Dad was pleased about at the time.

If global prices had remained at those lofty levels for even another 5 years Dad probably would have achieved his dream, but it was not to be the case.


When I heard the Landcruiser pull into our long driveway I had a feeling of dread. An eerie quietness had fallen over the kitchen where Mum had set the table over an hour earlier when she completed cooking a special meal for their 23rd wedding anniversary. My sister was fortunately away at university but my brother was still living at home.

It seemed that the only time my father appeared happy was when sharing a few beers with friends, and one particularly persistent couple had become his favourite drinking partners. I could just imagine them cajoling him to stay for just one more — as his presence there provided a buffer to soften their own marital tensions and prolong their enjoyment — while he mildly stated that he should leave. For some reason he stayed later than usual this night.

As the Landcruiser pulled up to the house my brother was about to descend the few steps out of our old workers’ quarters-converted home to shower in the makeshift bathroom area attached to the side of the building at ground level. Our home was rudimentary to say the least — a few years later when friends from university dropped in they drove right past our home heading towards the back of the farm because they were in disbelief that people would be living there.

Mum asked my brother to remove the keys from the Landcruiser before going for a shower.

My brother passed by Dad while fulfilling Mum’s request.


The fighting erupted immediately on Dad ascending those few steps straight into the kitchen-dining room which was contiguous with our living room where I sat apprehensively.

The encounter was brief and it ended as abruptly as it began with Dad storming out yelling “I don’t even know why I bothered coming home!”.

I heard the door to the Landcruiser open, and then a moment later shut as my father would have noticed that the keys had been removed. Then a few seconds later I heard through a window opposite me the brush of grass, and then I heard the rock from the old one-piece concrete set of stairs which always gave a dull thud as it’s centre of balance shifted about the fulcrum with an ascension.

I knew where he was headed and I knew what he was doing. But I was paralysed with fear and sat there motionless, feeling like I was quaking.


After what seemed like a long time but must have only been perhaps a minute, my mother asked where did my father go. She knew all that I knew.

As she approached me still sitting on the couch (sofa), she gestured for me to stand. And then we crept along the dark open veranda towards the still darkened room of my parents. All along Mum cowered behind me as if I was her shield. I cannot blame her for also being scared.

When we reached their room she hung back. I was alone as I peered my head into the even darker room which was oriented at right-angles to the direction of the veranda. I needed to step a metre or two into the dark room beyond the line of large closets to be able to see to the right and to the foot of the bed where the cupboard was which housed Dad’s guns.

He was not there. But as I slowly panned my vision further to the right through the darkness I caught sight of my father, standing flat and motionless against the closets aiming to avoid detection.

When I said “Dad, what are you doing in here?” he knew his efforts were in vain and he stepped forward. I did not get a glimpse of the gun in his hand until he was half way towards me.

I cannot say with certainty when it was that I first gripped the revolver, the next few moments have always been a blur. I do remember that by the time we were back on the veranda with my mother I had the gun in my hand and I had collapsed on the floor sobbing uncontrollably, repeatedly saying “why, why, why would you do that”.

Before long we had moved back into the main living space of our home, and Mum and Dad began yelling at each other again. The fighting escalated and at one stage Dad tried to push past Mum to take the gun out of my hand but Mum just kept punching him in the arms and shoulders.

It was at this stage that my older brother came up from his shower to see his 15 year old brother holding his father’s gun — without knowing how it got there — and with Dad attempting to surge past Mum to get it from me.

I am certain to this day that he has never been told how the gun got to be in my hand, but I doubt that he needed any explanation — everybody at home that night sensed the build up and knew that things were going to explode that night!

We were still standing in the middle of the living room, with my mother between me and Dad, with the gun sitting limply in my hand as I sobbed and turned to protect myself whenever Dad surged at me.

My brother took the gun from my hand and disappeared briefly. At that point things began to settle down. Dad placed all of the 6 bullets which would have fully loaded his revolver onto the fridge which overlooked our kitchen table, sat down and began eating.

We all quietly joined him, each in our own lost bewilderment, and began to slowly eat. Mum occasionally repeated “I now know what I have to do”. I think I knew then, but it certainly explains a lot about their relationship since then, that what she meant is that she knew that she could not challenge him and she needed to be subservient to Dad.

A few months later while rummaging through the large closet in our bedroom which held nearly every football jersey I ever owned I came across the gun. I quietly showed Mum and asked her what to do with it. She said to put it back in Dad’s cupboard.

Those 6 bullets, 3 standing and three lying on their sides, remained as Dad placed them on the fridge that night looking down over our kitchen table as a reminder for many months.


I never spoke of that night for nearly 10 years. One day I asked Mum for confirmation that it all happened. Her eyes glossed over like she entered a hypnotic zombified state and she at first denied it, followed by “never mention this to your father — he would be so embarrassed”.

Later in life when I was challenged emotionally by a number of significant stressors, I knew that I could no longer run from my fears and anxieties that grew from that night. In the lead up to that period of my adult life on a visit to my parents (new) home I did not sleep at all one night — I placed a mattress on the floor while placing pillows under the sheet on the bed to make it appear that I was lying there, all the while listening and watching anxiously for my door to open.

As I began the process of sorting out all of my deepest fears and anxieties in many sessions with a therapist I soon realised that I had many questions stemming from the main one – why was my father fully loading his gun that night? – had haunted me all of my adult life. What could have happened if the gun was loaded when I entered the room in the dark as he hid flat against the closet? What could have happened if he refused to let go of the gun? What could have happened if he decided to surge past mum to take the gun back from me, because I do not think that I was in a state, emotionally or physically, to be able to keep him from taking back the gun?

Even though he never explicitly expressed it, I knew he had a pious belief that it was his right to take from the world what he brought into it.

Ultimately I had to accept that I was never going to know the answer to these questions, and that it did not matter because it is irrelevant to my life now.

What DID happen is that I found the courage to step up and protect my father and my entire family from a build up of suppressed emotion which could have destroyed us all on so many fronts.

This is why it hurt so much that, as I began the process of recovering from this difficult period and trying to deal with the psychological baggage that I had repressed, my siblings turned their back on me and we became estranged.

I had saved my family, yet in turn I became the lightning rod for all of the ills of my family. I was the convenient excuse for all that went wrong for each of them.

In my brother’s case, having gone onto the farm when I decided not to return after University, I was the cause of all of his lost opportunities and his needing to knuckle down to a disciplined and (in his perception) impoverished life on the land. Moreover, he felt that I was disloyal to the family because I did not stay committed to keeping the farm in family hands.

Of course, my family has needed to make sacrifices to keep the farm, but the reality is that with such a significant asset as backing my parents and my brother’s family have never been as impoverished as they perceived. The rhetoric of the rural “battler” has been absorbed into them, together with those early struggles, such that they have developed a victimised and besieged culture.

Such a culture is not unique to my family. It is a culture that is widespread in rural Australia.

It does, however, reach it’s greatest penetration in farming families, I believe.


I recall watching a program some years back about a young lad from a farming family who committed suicide as he was overcome with emotion during a battle to keep the farm in family hands when battling a mining claim on the land.

I suspect the reader would not be surprised that I became quite emotional watching the show. I felt hurt and empathy for the young lad, but I also felt angry — angry towards his parents and even the television producer for presenting the story in the way they chose.

I understood that they were being respectful and sensitive to grieving parents. But the one big question that was never asked is inferred in the title of this post.

How can a grieving father sit there and express all of his anger and disappointment at the mining company and Government for putting his family in that position, but not look at why this young lad, with his entire optimistic and wonderful life ahead of him, became so despondent and withdrawn that he saw no other way but to end it?


My family has now sold our property. For the first time in over 100 years it is owned by other people without our surname. After the earlier very difficult period, where Mum and Dad were convinced that the bank might foreclose at any time, they experienced a better period where they and my brother’s family enjoyed a more prosperous period. However, a series of cyclones, forecast to increase in prevalence and intensity due to climate change, and the debt taken on to recover from them, made it impossible for them to earn a living from the land.

Whereas 20 years ago he explained to me that it is appropriate that the son that stays on the farm rightly is entitled to all of the assets of the family on his and Mum’s passing, Dad is now so angry with my brother, who he blames for their financial predicament, that he plans to give him nothing from whatever proceeds were left from the sale of the farm.

My father is so angry with the world that, to his own family, he is constantly irritable and impossible to be around for any length of time. I love my father, but as my previous posts show, the differences between us are becoming expressed so strongly that there is a real cost to my life and wellness, and to that of my family’s, from spending time with him.

My mother has battled mental health issues for many decades and before an family intervention a few years back, which I instigated, gave all of the appearances of having given up on living life.


My family fractured under the weight of the stress from the battle to keep the farm. When I look back now there was a progression. First, as the stress from not being able to meet debt obligations due to low global sugar prices increased, Dad became totally consumed by work and pressure increased on myself and my older brother to join with him in his toil. The only time that he appeared to enjoy spending time with either of us was when working.

As the battle intensified, when prices remained low, at some point the concept of family became entwined with the farm such that they were synonymous. The two were inseparable and alone were irrelevant.

Then the farm became more important than the family, and certainly more important than any one family member. It seemed that everything, including us, were just resources to be used up in the battle to keep the farm. At this point it honestly felt that the death of any one of us would just be considered collateral damage to the end goal of keeping the farm.

I think the entire family felt that, and it created a bitterness within and amongst my siblings and I, and I think it created a deep repressed guilt in my parents that they will never acknowledge. Instead of recognising this it is easier for them to develop narratives about each of us to explain why our family is so fractured.

“Oh Brett moved away and married an Asian woman — that is why he does not get along with his siblings. His brother, who stayed on the farm, married a woman who was spoiled and pampered, wanted nothing but the best, and managed money poorly.”

Years back Mum relayed to me a story. When rummaging through old documents, she and my brother found Dad’s uncle’s dairy where he entered the date at which he sold the farm to Mum and Dad. Mum noted that it was approaching the 30th anniversary and suggested they organise a celebration. My brother responded that there was nothing to celebrate.

My brother was always very bitter at me for not returning to the farm as I had intended to do as a 16 year old. My return would have been his opportunity to escape.

Problems between my sister and I arose while I was still at university and she was in the first years of her career having just finished a degree. I pressured her to do more to help Mum and Dad financially to aid in the battle to keep the farm, and I considered her selfish for not doing so.

I now realise how deluded I was and I find it surreal to think about just how warped our perspectives had become. Sadly Mum and Dad remain right there and, I am certain, will until their end.


The anger that has been most difficult for me to deal with has centred around why my parents chose for our family to remain in that situation even though the damage it was doing to us as individuals and as a family was clear. It is pretty hard to deny that to yourself after you have taken the step of loading a revolver to end your life and potentially those in your family who were at home that night.

There is no point, either, in suggesting that they felt trapped because selling was always an option.

Worse still, I recall my father getting off the telephone one night no more than a year after that terrible night, potentially just a few months after it (that period of my life is hazy because of the shock in which I lived), telling my mother that the caller had just offered to buy the farm and for a price greater than what they eventually sold for 35 years later. He said that he rejected the offer outright.

All I can remember is sitting there on that couch wanting to cry because it was our chance out of the hell in which we had been living and my father, on behalf of our family, just refused to even consider an alternative life for us. His ego could not bear that.

Dad always felt a strong sense of duty to keep the farm in family hands. Nobody bestowed that duty upon him other than himself. The power was always in his hands to abdicate from that duty and choose to prioritise the wellbeing of the family that he made over honouring the family he inherited.


My relationship with my father is now almost totally gone. During his last visit he made a number of racist comments, which I have mentioned in other articles, and which he is well aware would hurt me deeply. I think his bitterness and repressed guilt has caused deep self-loathing which has taken its toll and he has set about proving he is a bad father and pushing away his family, or at least me.

During that visit he also told my Mother, his wife of almost 60 years, and I that at the time of their courtship he was contemplating moving to New Zealand. It was news to my Mother. We were both taken aback to think that these things are in his mind after all of these years. No wonder my Mother and Brother have lived with their insecurities which my Father has done little to assuage.

I have no doubt that if he had become successful on the farm these things would have been long forgotten. Even if sometimes he acknowledges achievements in his life, mostly he stews on his regrets, feeling sorry for himself and about the loss of the farm.

One night during that last visit I woke in the morning crying from a dream that culminated with my father lying cradled in my arms dying. In the dream we had been running across grassy hilled fields carrying heavy rucksacks in a frantic rush from one station to another in some sort of orienteering-like race. I kept looking back and pushing Dad to hurry up, and at some point I pushed him too hard and he collapsed.

I do not know whether it was a message from a greater power or my subconscious, but I understood its meaning. I am pushing my father in a way he cannot deal with, and if I continue then I am going to have to let go of him.

When I woke and dried my tears and emerged from the bedroom he was already up moping around. After a brief discussion where he was short and sarcastic to me, as usual letting out his hurt on those closest to him, I told him that he needs to stop feeling sorry for himself and start to move on.

He retorted sharply, totally ‘dropping his bundle’, and unwilling to receive compassion and understanding. Later that day he celebrated my 50th birthday by lying for hours on a couch at the beach-side unit we rented barely talking to me. My parents did not even hand their gift to me, they just left it on the counter for me to collect at some stage. I threw it away because I did not want anything physical to remind me of the day. My wife, who had put so much effort into planning, along with my family were so upset for me.

On the farm when we were young we were told all of the work that we were doing was for all of us. Then when I did not go back to the farm after university I was gradually being told that it is their preference that my brother receive all the benefits of that hard work in passing down everything to him in return for his loyalty. And then, finally, when he learned of the financial predicament that necessitated the selling of the farm, and with my brother looking to move off the farm searching for some financial security for his family, Dad was so embittered that he then felt that my brother deserved nothing of the proceeds from selling the farm after all debts were paid.

That final point was the final straw for me because it showed that nothing any of us did was good enough if he did not get what was most important to him, to keep his farm. What’s more, it made a lie of all of their talk about money not being important.

Ultimately I cannot escape the view that he meant what he was saying at the time, but by now his perspective has become so warped and deluded that he has totally forgotten all that was important and those who helped him along the way. None of us mattered to him without his farm.


I do not hate or dislike my father. I’m not even angry at him any longer. In fact I love him very much. But I have had to accept that I cannot give him that love, that I had to give up on that. While many will have difficulty in understanding that, others, perhaps more, will understand this situation for what it is and will relate to it.

You cannot give love to somebody who does not wish to receive it because they do not love themselves.

I have also had to accept that there will never be a ‘breakthrough’ moment like in the feel good movies, and there will not be a last minute reconciliation. Whoever leaves this world first, my father or I, will do so without him saying that he is proud of me and who I have become, and I will always know that in his mind he did not (even if, at some earlier times in our lives, he was – like when I was a promising rugby league player or when I received my PhD). And I have had to accept that it is an entirely rational and prudent response on my part to avoid spending time with him when all he wants to do is project all of his hurt and disappointments in life onto those closest to him. Doing so without guilt has been one of the greatest of hurdles.


My favourite song of all time is “The River” by Bruce Springsteen. In recent years I attended a Springsteen concert with my eldest son and during a lull in the crowd I yelled my request. To our delight The Boss heard me and played “The River” immediately! I was a bit of a hero to my son for a moment, but he did not understand the dark and very sad undertone to the lyrics which meant so much to me.

It tells the story of a very young couple raised in a small town who marry when she falls pregnant. Their hopes and dreams are curtailed but they enjoy their early years together. Then they fall on hard economic times and “all of the things that seemed so important… vanished right into the air… now I just act like I don’t remember, Mary acts like she don’t care”.

The final verse poses the same question that I wrestled with all of my adult life:

At night on them banks I’d lie awake
And pull her close just to feel each breath she’d take
Now those memories come back to haunt me
They haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
Or is it something worse
That sends me down to the river
Though I know the river is dry
That sends me down to the river tonight, yeah
Down to the river
My baby and I

The day after the concert I was driving in my car alone and I played this song at full volume while crying my eyes out. I had not finished when the song finished so I played it again.

I remember a wedding when I was perhaps 10 years of age when my father gave the speech for the bride’s family. He was big and strong, still only 38, and full of confidence and optimism for life. He had the room in stitches recounting stories of shared experiences he and Mum had with the bride’s parents. I felt so proud of him. He felt so proud of himself.

I occasionally wonder what life would have been like if that man survived a little longer, for me and for my family.


In honour of my sons. While I remain unsure whether you will ever read these words, I hope that you realise that I have devoted my life to unlearning the negative aspects of my early mentor’s behaviours, and that is why I talk to you a great deal about a great range of topics, and it is why I endeavour to always share and express my feelings. Already I am certain you have learned these positive behaviours and I am confident that you will retain them.


Gained value from these words and ideas? Consider supporting my work at GoFundMe


© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2021

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Full Thoughts on Prof. Michael Sandel’s Meritocracy Discourse: Part 1

I have now finished reading “The Tyranny of Merit: What’s become of the common good?” by Prof. Michael Sandel which I purchased after watching his panel at the WEF Davos Agenda.

It is brilliant and one of the best-written books that I have had the pleasure of reading.

Firstly let me say that from my perspective Prof. Sandel is accurate on the major points in his book. I believe that I have stated many of the same or very similar views in my own writing, and his conclusions are not only consistent with mine, they are also in tune with my values. However, he brings these points together to form his narrative far better than I have and ever could, and he backs up his views with sound reasoning drawing on his extensive academic experience as an economic philosopher. 

To be clear and forthright, I agree that a society centred on authentic merit, if it were ever truly possible, in the absence of a deeper commitment to social cohesion, is unsustainable on several levels (as discussed previously in much of my writing e.g. “Social Cohesion: The best vaccine against crises” and “The Great Reset“). Thus I agree that the ideal situation for humanity is for social cohesion to be the overriding factor in how we organise our societies. To do that we must continue to work towards eliminating all forms of bias and prejudice, along with all forms of corruption that exist to acquire advantage over others. That is the only way that our various and infinite lots in life are due to unadulterated luck rather than unfairness, and so that the consequences of experiencing less favourable outcomes (fortune) than others are not nearly as significant as they are now.

It is my firm belief that we are in the midst of taking a significant step towards that future in this the Great Reset era, and I believe that the timing of Prof. Sandel’s publishing of “The Tyranny of Merit” was particularly propitious and will prove to be a key event and resource.

Before I go on to discuss some critical issues raised by Prof. Sandel, however, I need to make an important admission.


Like many, I am certain, his compelling reasoning has made it intellectually and emotionally impossible to deny something to myself. Prof. Sandel has shown me that I have become a biased elitist even though I congratulate myself on being less elitist, by virtue of my humble upbringing and my conscious effort, than many who have developed the same level of credentials, and the associated skills, as me.

Understanding how unconscious bias slips into our rationalising I must accept that my writing to this point invariably contains an elitist subconscious bias.

I realised emotion around credentialism from early in my postgraduate studies in the early 90s. On one occasion I realised that I had been describing myself as “only” a student. I noticed how as I continued in my PhD program I began using more complex language with less slang from my regional upbringing and it was beginning to irritate one sibling in particular. Perhaps instead of balancing my academic life with my broader life I allowed the former to dominate in my behaviours which some found confronting. 

I also began to notice how a simple statement about my own educational credentials, a minor detail in a story I was recounting, usually was what people took from the recount and mirrored back at me: “Oh you are studying for / have a PhD – I never went to uni”, said with emotion indicating regret, or with defiance often with a hint of righteousness.

For a while, noting that this truth – if not highly significant for me – invoked negative emotions for the person to whom I was speaking, I began to withhold such information. If I did mention it, in a longer conversation where it appeared ‘safe’ to mention my credentials if relevant to an anecdote or story, I would immediately seek to minimise or even downplay my achievements.

Being a strong empath, I have often observed myself doing such things to minimise emotional impacts for others. But then I have realised that downplaying all of my achievements, for the benefit of others, ultimately impacts me by negatively impacting my own self esteem.

At some point I decided I cannot be responsible for others’ life disappointments or feelings of regret while I am authentic and humble in my dealings with others.

Nonetheless I must admit that my own views of lesser credentialled groups had drifted less favourably and unhelpfully, especially as the cultural gap widened and as a growing proportion of the lesser credentialled became more angry and aggressive. At the same time I recognised the growing lack of humility and compassion amongst many elites.

The genius of Prof. Sandel’s writing is in showing the link between these developments, and in doing so allows greater empathy and understanding by those who seek to remain open to other points of view.


I am extremely pleased that I read this book because it expands on arguments that were mentioned only briefly or not at all in Prof. Sandel’s videos I had watched and discussed in “Merit and Morals: WEF Davos Agenda panel with Prof. Michael Sandel“.

Nonetheless I consider that my commentary in that piece remains highly relevant to the discussion of Prof. Sandel’s views on meritocracy as presented in all of these media.

The fuller picture gained from my reading of his book, moreover, provided the impetus to pick up on some additional points where either I slightly disagree with his view (e.g. the most important factor in the appeal of populists and also views surrounding the future importance of work in society) or where my preference would been for him to have expanded on his views in other critical contexts at the micro (e.g. surrounding the importance of families in society) and macro levels (e.g. surrounding the importance of a global framing of society). 

Particularly pertinent to the latter point is that it is not until page 213 (of 227 pages of text) that discussion turns to suggested remedies and alternative ways of organising within society to achieve cohesion. Perhaps it is understandable that much effort must be expended to counter the deeply entrenched ‘winner takes all’ philosophy to contemporary societies. And as a writer, myself, I often state that I do not have all of the answers – in part to show humility and lessen perceptions of righteousness, and in part because these issues are so complex that no one person can possibly know all answers. As I often say of myself, while he may not be able to provide specifics, his writing provides a robust context to the way we must move forward.

Nonetheless it is a little disappointing that Prof. Sandel did not devote more pages to society moving forward with greater cohesion. Perhaps a sequel is already in the planning.


My first point is minor but still worthy of mention. On credentials, Prof. Sandel highlights how the ‘elected class’ are even more removed from the majority in society on an educational basis now than when higher education was limited to ‘old money’ aristocracy, and draws a direct link to the disaffection with societal progress from many of lesser educated. Substantial examples of highly effective politicians from the past century, without tertiary education, are used to support his contention that people from all walks of life can and should feel able to engage in decision-making, and that when this occurs it is better for social cohesion.

Ultimately I agree with this viewpoint but I believe it relevant to highlight that, while still in most societies more people do not have tertiary degrees than do, a far greater proportion of people now do study for tertiary degrees. In 1982 as I entered high school only 8% of females aged 25-34 had university degrees, while it was 13% for males. I recall by the time I was applying for university how much it was being stressed that we needed to attain high tertiary entrance marks to be selected for our preferred university course such was the competition relative to the number of available places. By 2018 45% of females and 34% of males in this age group had university degrees.

So the relative proportions have changed substantially over that time, and it is little wonder that shows up in the backgrounds of elected decision-makers.

Still, that around half of society (more in some countries, slightly less in others) on an educational basis is entirely unrepresented in the ‘elected class’ is a poor reflection on society, and it definitely does suggest to non-university educated members that their value to society is lesser than the tertiary-educated. This is clearly something that must be addressed since it is self-evident that representative Government should genuinely represent and mirror the society it governs. Moreover, I agree that more diverse decision-making groups will make better decisions for society.


On my first major point, I found especially interesting the discussion at the conclusion of the ‘Credentialism’ chapter on the challenges to achieving consensus on the most significant issues facing societies when some, perhaps a large, proportion of society “do not trust government to act in their interest, especially in a large-scale reconfiguration of the economy, and do not trust the technocratic elites who would design and implement this configuration”.

This is something that I have pondered and written on, most recently in “The Great Reset: Building the bridge” where I essentially stated that we need to regain our respect in and our trust of each other to perform the roles that we have taken up in society. I have also pondered on this in relation to the centrality of the rejection of ‘Obamacare’ to Trumpism, especially in the 2016 election, and I think that most of us fortunate to experience high quality, relatively cheap universal health care in other countries find this difficult to reconcile. I often think to myself, “Why would those who stand to gain the most by the measures most vehemently oppose reform and become the ‘foot soldiers’ to undermine it so that the benefit is lost to them?”

I agree with Prof. Sandel that a backlash against credentialism and the inclination towards technocracy are partly at fault. However, I cannot escape a conclusion that more relevant is the more direct relationship between increased inequality and the extreme form of capitalism that has developed in the US over the last half century (as I discussed in “The Magic Sauce Of American Economic Dynamism Is Not Based On Personal Greed“, “Your Life: Something the elites have always been prepared to sacrifice for their ends” and “How Might Milton Friedman Respond To The COVID-19 Pandemic“). That extreme form of capitalism is more a result of the corruptibility of power and the influence of wealth and greed than of credentialism. 

While I agree that trust in Government is the key issue, I consider that the erosion of trust is more directly related to the increasing precariousness of the lives of many. The ‘have nots’ have witnessed the increase in wealth amongst the elites, and have perceived that it relates to increasing greed by them to skew even further the distribution of wealth and power within society in their favour, so much so that they have become fearful that they might lose what little safety net or societal benefits from being a US citizen remain. In fact, they have become so fearful of a further progression in this direction that they can not even countenance that reforms would improve their lot in life because it is the opposite of their lived experience. That suspicion makes the disaffected highly vulnerable to influence by populists.

Certainly the ‘unrelatability’ of the disaffected to the technocrats, i.e. the senior bureaucrats and their subordinates who are charged with implementation of policies and regulating their use, is an important aspect of perception of a high degree of ‘regulatory capture’ due to power and influence, and ultimately greed, by the wealthy elites meaning that all reform proposals ultimately are viewed as being aimed at increasing their advantage. However, credentialism is likely a minor factor. What really embeds the perception is that all in these groups (politicians, bureaucrats, wealthy elite businesspeople) have undergone the same communication skills training, including for video-rich media, and thus speak the same vernacular, in the same manner, and even use the same or similar (usually forced) mannerisms especially hand gestures. All this does is emphasise to all the heightened state of ‘political spin’ deployed now to benefit the ‘political class’ and the wealthy elites which the middle class and the less wealthy perceive to be at their cost.

In other words, the ‘show’ has trumped substance and authenticity, and those less practised in these skills consider those who are a part of the ‘show’ are fake and insincere. That is why the populists are listened to – they are perceived to be authentic and thus honest about the views they express. It is true that Trump is perhaps one of the greatest ‘showmen’ politicians of recent times, but he has developed his own unique style of show and vernacular, including his own style of hand gestures, which separates him from the others, and his followers believe he is authentic and honest about his views.

It is all of these developments over recent decades that have emphasised that the groups within society that once balanced the ‘greater good’ with the influence of power and wealth in a more equitable manner have been corrupted to favour the elites. Importantly that perception pertained to both sides of the political aisle. Trump took this growing perception of the link between wealth and political power, which of course is real and many academics agree it has grown in most developed nations, and he turned it on its head. He told the disaffected that he was on their side. Moreover, he told them that by virtue of his wealth, only he was so powerful that he could stand up to the ‘political class’ and other wealthy elites, which he referred to as the ‘swamp’ and which he excluded himself from, to drain away from them their power and influence.

Trump told the disaffected that he would save them from the tyranny of greed by the elites as did Robin Hood, and they loved him for it.

The emergence of the populists was aided by both sides of the aisle in another very critical point which relates to the technocratic style of governing.


A technocratic style of governing is an obvious consequence of the narrowing of the ideological differences between political foes. If both the left and right agree that free market capitalism, with minimal government regulation, is the preferred manner for society to organise, then the political discourse is reduced to arguing about less and less significant issues of only tangential relevance.

Leaving aside for a moment whether the majority of society truly believes that the consensus actually delivers for them in the manner they expect, let’s examine in isolation how society perceives the actions of the political class and the consequences of that perception. 

If all of the major debates have been had and are settled, then the only truly relevant work is that of the technocrat in making the minor adjustments at the periphery to ensure that the system stays fit for purpose, through technological changes for example.

So if the ‘machinery’ of society has reached its final ‘perfect’ design and only routine ‘maintenance and servicing’ is required, is there any longer a serious purpose for the designers – the decision-makers – and if not, what exactly are they doing with all of that power and influence that still resides in their hands?

It is my contention that these questions are behind the growing perception globally that there has been a dearth of political leadership in recent decades. I began writing about this in Australia over a decade ago and had a letter read out on our 60 Minutes television program in 2010.

Last year, much to my surprise – no, to my amazement – an Australian elite from the ‘political class’ confirmed all of this for us in a very public manner, but little has been made of it in the Australia press. Joe Hockey was a Minister in the Howard Government for 6 years, was Shadow Treasurer for 4.5 years, and was Treasurer of Australia for 2 years under Prime Ministers Abbott and Turnbull. Mr. Hockey was then the 28th Ambassador to the United States for a four year term until January 2020.

Speaking on 7.30 shortly after his return to Australia from his Ambassadorial duties he had the following exchange with Leigh Sales:

LEIGH SALES:  Do you think that ministerial standards are at the same height that they were 20 years ago?

JOE HOCKEY:  I mean, it’s all changed, Leigh. Social media has changed everything. Social media has made the voice of the critic much, much louder than the voice of the advocate.

And the second thing that’s changed is disruption.

Everyone keeps calling for government to initiate reform, but really, what’s happening is the private sector is initiating reform, on a scale that we’ve never seen before.

LEIGH SALES:  Is there something fundamentally wrong with that though, if Government is not leading?

JOE HOCKEY:  No. Because it empowers individuals and we all believe that individuals should be their best.

So one of the most important political decision-makers of the recent era in Australia admitted that the Government has essentially given up on leading and have left the future of the nation to the ‘market’ or the (social media) ‘mob’. Now most close observers had long suspected this; that readings from social media and focus groups in the mornings were setting the agenda for the day. But for it to be confirmed was rather astounding.

This opens up a number of important issues. Firstly, if the ‘political class’ no longer leads then they are not really making the critical decisions for society like they did in the past because they no longer see that as their role. If that is no longer their role than why as a society should we spend so much on the political administration of the nation – surely we could save significantly by reducing the number of MPs and associated staff, as well as by reducing their remuneration. After all, Mr. Hockey has admitted that they have left the leadership of the nation to the private sector. So all those who are occupying positions that formerly were ‘decision-makers’ are clearly enjoying the trappings of their status while not adding value for the nation. If they object and say that they are indeed working hard, then who are they working for since they are not working for the ‘common good’ – working at maintaining their status in Government is not the ‘common good’.

These are obvious and uncomfortable questions that should be put to the Government as a consequence of Mr. Hockey’s comments.

In recent weeks Peter Dutton has threatened that he will pursue users of social media for what he considers defamatory statements and has initiated one such action. Besides the obvious mismatch of power, I find this an especially troubling development given that these political ‘non-leaders’ have now admitted (with Hockey’s comments) that social media is the new form of governing. As such, when debating political issues, a certain level of parliamentary privilege should be afforded to bloggers trying to have their voices heard amongst the mob. Frankly a politician who can not stand up to that level of scrutiny only proves my point above – that they are not nearly worth the money we are paying them.

Journalists have not really taken on these issues as yet, notwithstanding the other serious issues going on in the world right now, but it would be letting Mr. Hockey and the remainder of the political class off lightly to just centre on those questions. Of course there have been serious issues that have required leadership all along over the last few decades, from all of the factors that affect a cohesive society right through to the greatest long term challenge humanity faces in climate change. Mr. Hockey’s final speech to parliament provided a perfect example of this where he admitted all of things that he and the Government that he was a part of should have done.

What sort of leadership is that, setting out a vision on the way forward as he heads out the exit, never to be in such a strong position again to argue for his vision and effect the necessary change? 

The lack of willingness from the ‘political class’ to even set out a vision for the future has deep implications for societies, in my view.

I suggest that without a real contest of ideas by the political leaders of many nations the majority in society feel insecure. Everybody is well aware that technology has brought on significant and rapid change, and can easily predict that it will continue to do so. The lack of leadership creates a perception in society that we are on a rudderless ship where nobody has any real idea on where we are heading. Worse still, nobody is speaking up with conviction to outline a plan on where it might be good to head, let alone displaying any suggestion of possessing the wherewithal to lead us there. The majority agree on a direction to head in the morning, and that decision is open for revision at lunch and in the evening (for the 24 hour news cycle), and it is little wonder that many suspect that we are meandering directionless in the middle of the ocean.

Representative democracy is a wonderful gift to humanity, but it only works if leaders are courageous enough to spell out a vision for the future and argue for it, accepting that they may fall out of favour with the citizenry if they fail to convince enough of the virtues of their vision. Those elected to lead have largely set out to be small political targets – the least bad option – and have outsourced decision-making to the masses. 

As I said in “How Might Milton Friedman Respond To The COVID-19 Pandemic“:

I see social media platforms as modern day arenas; Facebook the Colosseum… The truth is that individuals can not fill that void and that is creating widespread insecurity and thus anxiety (no matter how much I and others, like Brene Brown, might attempt to inspire and\or cajole all to have the courage to lead). That is why behaviour on social media often resembles that of a mob.

This lack of contest of ideas and leadership, and the anxiety that it caused within society, made many nations ripe for the emergence of populists. Populists like to be political targets as it plays to their strengths and allows rapid, widespread and cheap promotion of their platform. Trump stood up and proclaimed he had a vision and that he was not afraid of being a target – in fact he said that he was so powerful that he could withstand being a really big target, which only emphasised to his growing legion of supporters of how ‘right he must be’. 

Ultimately I consider the lack of trust in technocratic government to be more a consequence of the withdrawal of leadership by the political class than suspicion of the highly educated.


As with any good book, I was left wanting more. I believe that Prof. Sandel’s discourse is an excellent portrayal of where societies could have been at this point in time, thus pinpointing where we departed from the better path. However, the ‘more’ that I wanted to read related to the future with an understanding that the conditions underlying society are changing rapidly and can reasonably be expected to do so for the foreseeable future. 

I believe that all sobre-thinking people realise that solidarity and cohesion in society is absolutely vital for humanity to address the serious challenges that we must to ensure sustainability. However, it is important that it be understood that that cohesion must be at all levels from regional right through to the global society, and so I respectfully suggest that Prof. Sandel has chosen the wrong great US President to champion – instead of highlighting JFK’s more domestic focus (in his dignity of work theme), we need to focus on FDR’s more global focus (in highlighting that we are foremost ‘citizens of the world, members of the human community‘).

Then again, thinking globally we must act locally, not just in relation to the environment but in the values that we choose to live our lives by. 

This is where I felt Prof. Sandel missed an opportunity to ensure that “The Tyranny of Merit” was even more impactful. Perhaps a sequel is already planned to give more specific indications of Prof. Sandel’s views on how society can achieve that solidarity.

In the second and final part of this essay I offer three specific areas important for consideration in achieving more cohesive societies, two discussed by Prof. Sandel in education and the workplace, and another area left untouched by Prof. Sandel, the family.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2021

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My Fraught Journey To Women

Prologue

It’s fitting that even the prologue I commence with an admission. Rarely for my posts, I sort advice on whether to publish this because it contains embarrassing, personal information that I felt that I would rather not make public if my confidants suggested that this article was unlikely to have any impact. I also was hyper alert and anxious to the possibility that it might add to the taught emotions of the time especially for women, in a negative and/or unhelpful way. That would be a particular disappointment because in all honesty it is my hope that this might in some way dampen some of the hurt by adding some tiny element of understanding. I also recognise that equally, being my story, it could be seen as narcissistic and self-absorbed. I then began to feel anxious that my opening might offend LGBTQ readers, or even other heterosexual men who are comfortable expressing their emotions. In the end I realised that, although I cannot expect of myself to perfectly read the mood of the nation and of the many subgroups within society, and knowing that my own self-awareness is imperfect, so many brave women and (some) men have stood up to talk about the most personal details to them in the hope that doing so makes a difference. Now that I have written this piece, I no longer have the right to squib through lack of courage. Any embarrassment that I might feel is utterly trivial in comparison with the bravery required of victims. I have not heard back from my confidants, but I offer forward this piece in the sincerest hope that it helps someone. Note that this is a very long piece of at least 30 minutes reading time.

From the heart with complete sincerity.


I consider myself an uncommon male in that I am a heterosexual, without any inkling of ‘metrosexuality’ or ‘campness’, who is able to connect deeply with emotions and is prepared to speak honestly.

That, I believe, is one important aspect of the courage, honour and authenticity I endeavour to live by and role model to my two sons.

I also admit to enjoying being somewhat of a ‘sentinal’ – in the sense of being sensitive to conditions within society – and exposing them to others who had not quite managed to put their finger on the trend; i.e. being ahead of the curve or contrarian.

What I hope to offer with this piece is an understanding of how to deal with the gendered violence culture by speaking plainly of my own development and experiences. Obviously, in doing so I assume that my history is similar to that of other men in many ways.

On the one hand I have been a victim of male violence, as I alluded to in “How I Remade Myself After A Breakdown” and which I explicitly stated, without detail, in “Nobody is Perfect: We men must keep trying“, when I was 15 – less than 2 years before commencing university in a different town to where I grew up – and when I needed to take action to prevent my father from harming himself as well as potentially the other members of my family who were also home at the time.

The scarring from that incident, and the general confusion of those times, caused extensive disturbance in my development along with some level of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

I will draw on some specifics from those pieces, but wanting to minimise repetition in my writing I simply refer the reader to those earlier pieces for additional background. I also advise that it is my intention to post on the next R U OK Day my full recount of that most traumatic incident that occurred on the night of my parents’ wedding anniversary when I was 15 in a post entitled “How Farmers Lose Perspective On What Is Most Important”.

This was not the only male violence to which I was subjected, however. Coming from a multi-generational, poor farming family on my father’s side, and he being the youngest of 5 boys (with 2 older sisters), male aggression was an aspect of our inherited culture. When my brother was young he witnessed our father being beaten up by his eldest brother after he had pulled Dad up while driving. My brother, who was in the car, once recounted to me the shocking details of the assault. Family folklore goes that my Uncle Charlie, who could by himself load 44 gallon drums full of petrol (weighing over 200kg) onto the back of trucks, and who was very close to Dad, retaliated and beat up his more aggressive brother. 

One day when I was still 15, just a few months after the traumatic events we both experienced on our parents’ anniversary, working together doing one of the most frustrating and hardest chores we needed to do on the farm – loading 1t planting trailers with hairy, sharp-leafed sugarcane – my brother’s frustration and pain boiled over and he pinned me against the planter trailer and yelled in my face like a madman “don’t forget you’re still a little boy!” Eight years my senior, around that period it was clear my brother was struggling even in his 20s to process what was happening around and to us, and always appeared frustrated and angry.

Besides describing the haze in which I lived my adolescence, I also reveal in my writing my very real and almost debilitating awkwardness towards girls in my adolescence and early adulthood. 

I have no research experience in this field, but I cannot help but wonder whether, based on my own experiences, much of the discussion about ‘consent’ and education around it in the current national discourse misses the point – in some ways it may be responding to the ‘disease’ rather than preventing the condition.

To explain, and in the hope that it will genuinely help, I am prepared to embarrass myself and to delve deeply into hurtful emotions. Truthfully it should not embarrass me now in my 50s, well beyond my adolescence and happily married with sons of my own, but vestiges of the masculine peer pressure remains deeply enmeshed in my synapses still causing some level of discomfort and embarrassment. I do so in the hope that it helps all – women, men and others on the gender spectrum – by providing clues on a better way forward, and also in part to atone for my prior sins.


In “How I Remade Myself After A Breakdown” I discussed my awkwardness towards girls at university:

Even though I was popular, big and strong, no doubt a “real country boy” for the “city slicker” students who were common in my marine biology course, I was still extremely shy and unconfident behind those shoulders that could bench press 130 kg by the time I was 18 years. In my second year at college a meeting was held with just the first year students to find out why they were not joining in the social activities, and I snuck in with a mate and sat on the billiard table at the back of the room. After some discussion a common theme emerged, and then a young female stood and said that she was afraid of me. Virtually everybody agreed, and the story went along the lines that when walking along the long corridors towards them they found my size intimidating, and that I only “grunted” at them. A senior female friend assured them that I was really a nice guy if they just looked past the muscles. The truth was that I was more afraid of them, especially the girls, and the prettier I considered them, the less able I was to get out any intelligible words.

I had a good relationship with my mother and sister, but home still was not a supportive environment on how to develop healthy relationships with women.

While my parents generally were affectionate to each other, they also fought a lot because of the pressure on them due to financial precariousness with the farm. Moreover, while the ruminating thought from what I repeated over and over on the night of their anniversary was “how could you do this”, for my mother it was (as she repeated over and over that night) “I now know what I must do”. I have never doubted that it was to be subservient because my father was incapable emotionally of being challenged by her.

The challenges to my developing an understanding of how to have an intimate relationship with a female were more extensive than role-modelling issues, and are exemplified by my ‘birds and bees’ talk, if you would describe it as such.

At the dinner table one night when I was perhaps 12 the topic of sex came up. Somebody said that it should probably not be spoken about in front of me, as an ‘inside joke’ between the remainder of the family, because I probably did not know about the birds and the bees. It was an open question to me in front of everyone, to which I answered that my cousin 2 years older than me, who attended a private catholic school and was taught sex education, had explained it to me. With my whole family barely containing their laughter through gritted teeth, I was then ‘challenged’ to relay what I thought happened during sex. I said that “the man puts his peepee in the lady”, to which I was further  challenged to specify where as laughter broke out in the room. I then ran downstairs to hide in the toilet, and as the laughter died down my sister was sent to confirm that I knew where exactly the penis goes. I do not recall how long I hid in the toilet that night, but as the youngest I often bore the brunt of laughter for my ‘shameful’ naivety and immaturity.

That was the extent of my ‘sex education’ as a teenager, but amongst my father and uncles with their mates there were other ‘helpful’ lessons such as assertions “it’ll fall off if you touch it too much” along with the threat of having my hands wrapped in barbed wire to ensure “[I] don’t touch it”.

Perhaps funny to adult men, it just added to my confusion. That together with the reality that ‘wanker’ is a derogatory term meant that, being a very impressionable and anxious boy and lad, I never did masturbate and it came as a serious shock to me late in my first year of uni that it is in fact a very normal part of most people’s development. I was so shocked about it that I could not sleep and I woke an older mentor at uni to talk about it to confirm it was true.

It is only really now in my middle-age that I can fully comprehend the shortcomings of my senior mentors. It would be remiss of me, here, to not mention the bravery of my cousins’ daughters in exposing and legally pursuing one of those mentors, my father’s brother, their grandfather, for sexually assaulting them as children. His actions tore apart their family and had major repercussions through our extended family by unearthing varied opinions on the significance of such crimes which led to split allegiances.

My confusion on what it was ‘to be a man’ was compounded by attention I received from a man in an influential position in rugby league circles as I entered ‘manhood’. Once when I was naked in the dressing room after a game when I was 13, and another time when I was 14 or 15 when I was standing beside my father in a packed clubhouse after senior football on Sunday, he tickled my penis for a few seconds. I was left with a ruminating thought – is this really what men secure in who they are and in their heterosexuality do to others to show affection? It might seem odd to be confused by that, but it appeared common for professional sportsmen especially to act in ways which seemed odd to me, personified by the antics of the cricketer Merv Hughes who was fond of patting his teammates on the backside and kissing them. To be honest even now I question what was at play – was it grooming, normalising his touch even in public, in front of my father who probably did not notice it, in case an opportunity would present for him to actually molest me; or was it an ex-footballer with reduced inhibition due to alcohol consumption and likely concussions from his playing days as my therapist had suggested.

Many might assume that all of this stuff comes naturally, but for me it did not, and perhaps for many others it does not, especially when nature clashes with societal pressure from peers and mentors.

That is not the only aspect of my sexual development which did not come as naturally to me as many believe it does or should, and certainly not easily.


During my second year at uni, then 18, I was the most consistent with weight training I ever was. Through genetics developing strength and muscle came very easily to me and while I did train often, I was nowhere near as committed or as regular as many who used the poorly equipped campus gym. I had rowed for the local surf club over summer and the good conditioning together with a training partner who made my training regular saw my strength increase significantly. We sort support from the student union to attend the Australian university games to compete in power lifting, and were rejected, but when the results were published I was lifting heavier in training than the gold medal winner in my weight class (89kg).

My training partner was a former ‘legend’ of our college, around 3 years older than me, and he still hung around because he was hung up on his ex-girlfriend, a stunning aerobics instructor. In actual fact she was one of the first girls I saw at uni – after being given my key at the office, and carrying my bags up to 3rd floor with Mum and Dad, she bounded past us in the shortest shorts I had ever seen. I always reckoned Dad must have been thinking “half your luck, son” but Mum still talks about “leaving her baby boy there with scantily clad girls running around”. 

I still recall the pep talk that my training partner gave me which was essentially a handing over the torch to me and went along the lines that there’s always the big guy in college, and that was now me so it’s time to take advantage.

I have no doubt it was in part because there was talk that I was yet to be with a girl. I had ‘made out’ with a few girls but still was very much a virgin. I suspect that some were starting to question my sexual orientation – and that was confirmed the following year when a mate from another college confided as much to me. But in that second year I had developed a crush on someone who had an older boyfriend back home. The pep talk was meant to tell me to step up and be the alpha male that my size ‘suggested’ I should be.

The truth is I had developed a very embarrassing problem which continued to happen well into the following year when I was then 19. When with girls I had become so anxious that, well let’s just say, what happens naturally for boys when excited did not happen. I even convinced the girl that I had a crush on to come with me to see a doctor about it – even though we never had or did really progress past ‘first base’, but we did have an emotionally deep connection. She was in effect my ‘first girlfriend’, but I was only her ‘uni boyfriend’.

It was not just anxiety causing my issue, however. It might have had a little to do with alcohol, because of course, like many guys, I could not really talk to girls, and certainly would not dance, unless drunk.

More significant, however, was the reality that I had basically gone along with any girl who liked me – and for a while after my first ‘girlfriend’ I did the same – I basically allowed myself to be dragged in like a puppy dog. So I was with any girl that wanted to because I felt pressure to gain experience with girls and most especially I wanted to lose my virginity because I did not want to feel like a hopeless loser any longer. And the fact that I was with girls that I barely knew, or felt more like friends with them than genuinely attracted to, or even felt like I was not deserving or good enough to be with them, or because they too were so inexperienced that neither of us knew how to build up the intimacy and first enjoy being together, I kept on failing so that I felt even less confident with girls. I even wondered whether the more experienced girls at college might be laughing at me like, I assumed, most of the blokes were.

In first year I liked a much more mature woman who was wonderful, and who broke my heart gently saying she was finishing her degree while I was just starting. Then I liked another first year who had lived at another college and moved in across from me, initially to live nearer her boyfriend (a senior) but they had broken up. I had no idea how to start a relationship with her so I asked her out – she seemed so mature and classy – still it is not exactly how it was done at uni. The night before our date, she invited me to her room for coffee late after she had finished studying. She wore a nighty with a lace gown. Later that night trying to go to sleep in my room I wondered if she might have wanted me to ‘make a move’ – to move over and sit next to her and maybe even ask for a kiss. The next night on the way to the Chinese restaurant she said we were going out as friends and soon after she was back with her boyfriend.

Towards the end of my first year I liked an attractive girl, younger like me, who had had a footballer boyfriend and her brother was a good rugby union player, also a front rower (so big like me). Her group of girlfriends was fairly close with my group of mates but I had no idea how to talk to her, not even when drunk. 

The truth is I had convinced myself she was too good for me.

In fact, I had been placing girls, especially pretty girls, on a pedestal. While that might sound like respect, and it was at first, the consequences became that they felt entirely out of reach for me.

At high school I liked the same girl for almost all of the 5 years and never spoke to her once. It might seem odd that you could like somebody you don’t know at all but this sort of thing is common with young people. As a father of young boys it amazed me how they continually chose to invite popular boys to their birthday parties even though I knew they spent no time with them at school and when our restrictions on numbers meant that boys they did spend time with were not invited. 

When it comes to ‘romantically’ liking someone, I am reminded of what Curley said about his only true love in the movie “City Slickers” – on seeing her for the one and only time he turned and rode away safe in the knowledge that she was and always will be perfect in his mind.

For me the idea of liking a pretty girl gave me something to think about and to romanticise about a ‘perfect’ girl. But I had no idea what to do about it, and I was not even sure I wanted to know her because I was afraid.

My school mates knew I liked her, and most of our group immaturely enjoyed sharing before long who was their current object of obsession, most often one of the popular girls in school, and we all derived pleasure in teasing each other about it. On occasions my mates would intimate to the girl that I liked her, and even on a few occasions took my bag and left it near her amongst her group. It was an embarrassment to her, so it led towards her disliking me, but like an attention-deprived child chooses being in strife rather than receiving no attention at all, it was better she know who I was and acknowledge my existence than nothing. She played tennis often next to where I played football on Saturday, and being the dominant player I usually scored many tries, but I always made sure I scored on that end of the field when she was playing in the hope she would see and be impressed. 

Briefly I was besotted by a very attractive girl who I met on a family camping trip. I never spoke to her as I swam with her in her pool with my cousins, just lifting my cousins and showing off my physical prowess. Several weeks later I wrote a letter and sent it to her at her boarding school confessing my love for her. I never received a response, unsurprisingly. When I saw her next I was in my first year of university, and still all I could do is show off my strength from afar, and I was too shy to approach her to speak.

The only attributes I possessed and could use to be noticed by girls were the very primordial characters of strength and power. In fact, being so shy, those characters were in many ways counter productive to initiating relationships.


At the end of first year of uni this girl who had an interest in football seemed like the ideal choice. But still I did not know how to go about getting her to be my girlfriend. So one night when I had drunk too much, which was the college culture that I was a part of for a year before reaching legal drinking age, I decided to wait by her door until she came back. I fell asleep and woke up in the early hours – still to this day I don’t know whether she had come back to her room and saw me.

Some time later at the university club when intoxicated I decided to tell her brother about the ways in which his sister is not as pure as he thought. That led to her speaking to me for the first time when she came to my room to give me a much deserved taking to about how that is not a way to treat girls. And it became a big issue around campus me facing up against the brother in the next football game – unfortunately it was his preferred code, not mine, but I acquitted myself well – that is not the point.

At this point of my life I was extremely frustrated that I possessed none of the skills I needed to enjoy the company of girls (even in the purest sense), that to me they seemed entirely out of reach for me, and I was embarassed that I was so sexually inexperienced. 

Looking back now I can see that I was vulnerable and had become increasingly so, and if I had an aggressive constitution, I might have been to women.

The following year developing a crush on a girl, who reciprocated to the point of enjoying my attention and company all year, but never breaking up with her boyfriend, arrested that progression. But I was still vulnerable.

On a university holiday I visited her at her home and later that night went with my cousin to the nightclub where she told me she would be with her boyfriend and his mates. When my cousin left I stayed on, having a couple of dances with her, but mostly looking on from afar.

Earlier that term at uni I had been partying with mates when I began to miss her – my mates came to know that I would often go missing and I would be with her, increasingly drawing their ire – so heading into the city, only knowing she and her friends were clubbing, it seemed ‘meant to be’ when I walked into the first nightclub and she ran to me excitedly kissing and hugging me and was all over me for the rest of the night. And just a few weeks before those holidays she had chosen to spend most of the night with me while her boyfriend was visiting. When she left me in the early hours of the morning she said that she intended breaking up with him.

Now on holidays in that nightclub, the more I realised she was not going to break up with him, the more I drank, and the more sad and hurt I became. At the point that I felt my 18 year old heart could not bear any more hurt I impulsively sort to hurt myself as much physically as I was hurting emotionally. I smashed my glass with a headbutt. Thankfully it did not cut me badly. At that point a bouncer walked up and asked if I had had enough – I can only guess that they had been observing me, and realising I was not likely to harm others simply asked whether I was ready to stop hurting myself. I said yes and he walked with me out of the club.

I avoided my ‘first girlfriend’ for a few weeks when back from holidays until her friend came to tell me how much she missed me and wanted to continue our relationship. We continued our romantic but non-sexual relationship till she left at the end of the year after which she studied by correspondence presumably to be with her boyfriend.

She did return to the university once. One Friday around 18 months later mates were looking for me before heading to ‘bludger’s club’ – the weekly booze up – to alert me that she was there and that she had broken up with her boyfriend. We spoke but I had nothing left in my heart for her, not so much because of our history, but because I was already in love with the woman who was destined to change my life.


As soon as my ‘first girlfriend’ left, and well into my third year at uni, I went back to being a puppy dog dragged in by any girl who liked me. In retrospect it was the only path I could follow as I had no skills to understand my feelings let alone act on them. Some I did genuinely like but I just was too anxious, and we both were too inexperienced.

Some things had changed, however. First I had been in a relationship that allowed me to feel all of the love inside of me in such a strong way that I never could have hidden it. Being well-known in college, and elected sports rep and a part of one of the ‘popular groups’, everybody was well aware of what had played out with my ‘first girlfriend’.

More importantly, girls in college who saw what happened realised that I was shy not aggressive. And that broke down a lot of barriers.

I had a second girlfriend briefly but I still had the same issue mainly because I never felt really comfortable, partly because she was older, and partly because I did not feel connected with her. I took our breakup hard, though, because I wanted to be in a relationship.

The year before I am certain that my issue would have been resolved because I was in love with my ‘first girlfriend’, but by later on in the year – after all that had happened – I was so confused and insecure about where I stood that I never took her hints, talking to her girlfriends in front of me, that she had enjoyed our intimacy and that she would not mind if it were repeated and progressed further. Basically, if anything were to happen it would need to be because she was very explicit directly to me because I was incapable of taking the initiative.

Late in my third year at uni I commenced my first sexual relationship with someone whom I felt comfortable with and who was nice. I still wonder at how it happened – some times I feel like I was almost guided. Yes, I had been drinking but was not at all drunk. I knew her a little, not well. We were together with a group in a room talking and having fun. We were sitting close, I think maybe legs touching. She left and went to her room. I soon followed and she was happy to see me at her door. We did not go out together, but on occasions went home together after parties. We never spoke of any sort of commitment. I think I was also her first and I believe it was a positive for each of us. The last time we were together we both knew it because I was in love with the woman who would change my life even though we were not yet going out.


As a grown man I came to realise that through my youth there were girls with whom I was friends and shared a connection. Some of them I had an affection for that could have grown if I first was able to recognise it and then had the skills to allow those relationships to develop and follow whatever course transpired.

One of those girls I knew for several years including at university. She is a lovely person, always has been. Years ago a mutual friend told me she had developed an eating disorder at uni and mention was made of something I said late at one of those many drunken, hazy Friday evenings at the university club – I immediately recalled telling her while dancing together that she “would be really hot if she lost some weight”. In my stupid 18 year old brain I thought I was giving a compliment to her – it was anything but! The truth is I should have had the guts to get to know her better to see whether the affection in which I held her might have grown and might have been reciprocated.

One of the biggest problem teenagers face is caring what other teenagers think of them, often no matter how stupid are those other teenagers.

There were few teenagers more stupid than me. And it is only with the love of the woman who changed my life that I can accept who I was before, warts and all.

It is true that none of us is perfect, and that we all must learn how to be good humans. It really does take a village to grow a person – a family, an education system, and other societal structures from mentors through to the system of bureaucracy. The scaffolding around each of us in a truly progressive and compassionate society must be strong enough to compensate for one or more of those pillars being weakened or even missing.

Protests and debates show that very many in our ‘village’ care deeply about female rights and well-being. The debate about ‘consent’ is worthwhile, but my experiences suggests to me it misses the point – it certainly missed the point over the basis and causes of how I personally hurt females.

In my view much more effort needs to go into providing environments where from our youngest years through into our late teens we learn how to have relationships (friendships) across genders. Of course I remember in those awkward pre-teen and early teen years this can be challenging, but I have little doubt that it can be normalised with concerted effort and thoughtful programs.

I am not saying that there should never be gender-specific activities, and I am well aware that many will argue that there are positives also to be gained from them. Men especially tend to be concerned about having a culture of teaching young men to be men. But I don’t see that a man is ever any less a man no matter what the gender composition of the group in which he finds himself. I believe that priority in society must be given to mixed-gender activities.

Note here that I wrote that passage not in reference to gender-specific schools or colleges, and I pass no judgment on them, simply saying that I attended both co-ed schools and colleges and I was still hopelessly inept with developing cross gender relationships.

Systems should also be in place to identify less socially confident individuals to scaffold them in improving these vital life skills. The importance of emotional intelligence to life success, through career and other general well-being issues affecting connectedness to society, is now widely appreciated. 

I have said previously that I have been impressed with the experience of my sons at how modern education is equipping them with negotiating and conflict resolution skills. So I recognise that advances in developing emotional intelligence are being made in early education. We need to ensure that those programs also involve healthy cross-gender relationships, as well as broadening the programs so that the progress made in the education system is captured and translates through to a more cohesive, harmonious and healthy society.  

The latter point is critical because even though early education has gotten better at teaching conflict resolution and general emotional intelligence, observations within society suggest that aggressiveness amongst adults may have increased.

Of course it is not all about the ‘village’. The benefits to the individuals from greater emotional intelligence and self awareness are significant and are being increasingly understood at least in professional workforces. As the fourth industrial revolution continues to result in the loss of low-skilled jobs, greater emotional intelligence will be a key determinant of financial security success on top of general life satisfaction, and by virtue of value to individuals will be of enormous benefit to economies as well as societies.

I have been clear in my writing that I spent many hours with a therapist coming to terms with the events of my life. One statement by my therapist, amongst many, that I have used as a touchstone in my introspection and healing was that the trauma that I experienced when I was 15, even though I suppressed the processing of what happened for years, caused such a shock that I re-evaluated the role model that I concentrated most on. I have and will always love my Dad, but unconsciously I decided that his emotional framework was not one on which I could build a satisfying life so I ‘took after’ my mother more. I took on more of her nature.  

My father is not a bad man, and in my estimation he is liked by women, of all ages. Like many of his age he did not have it easy. His mother, my Grandmother, worked in the sugarcane paddocks, and in the home garden, as hard as any man. His father was gentle, and the gentle side of my Dad – which is there if often hidden especially to those closest to him – comes mostly from him. Being the youngest, most of the nurturing my Dad received was from his eldest sisters who he describes as raising him. For the first few years of his life he only drank milk from their goat. Their clothes were washed once a week and gathering their clothes for the week from the line when dried was a Darwinian contest which meant that Dad, being the youngest of 5 boys, usually wore clothes that were much too big for him (that nobody else wanted). He left school to start working at 14 and he married when he was 19 after Mum became pregnant (she was 16). As my father, I never remember him playing alone with me because he was always working, though in groups when camping or at Christmas he would relax and join in games. He has only ever once told me that he loved me, that was after I told him first and I was surprised he responded but I was happy he did. Then again I never doubted his love. Once visiting, together with my sons we stood in a circle and passed the football. Later I confided to the boys that was the first time my Dad had played with me. I don’t blame him for anything. With other tools things could have been different, but he just never had those other tools. I have little doubt that, while he does not understand all that I do and all of my choices, he respects the relationships that I have built with my sons. The only time I ever felt Dad was truly comfortable with me and/or my brother was when we were working.

I am incredibly fortunate that I had a caring and nurturing mother. Even with her I still was challenged to find my way in how to have relationships with women. I honestly believe that there is something in that that needs to be learned to benefit our society.

I also want to say that I do not feel that my impact on women was from a basis of aggression or entitlement, at least no more than is ambient in the patriarchal society I was raised in. The alleged rape detailed by the woman, who was born the year after me and who took her life last year, which took place when she was 16 and the boy was 17 (and which he denies), involved anal rape. I am not in any way a trained psychologist, but it is my opinion somebody who would do that to another must possess a great deal of anger and entitlement and privilege which may be indicative of psychopathy or psychopathic tendencies. Thus I feel I should be clear that a person with that level of hatred towards women requires an altogether other level of intervention than what I have described here.

I have a final serious admission. I lay out my story with a high level of apprehension, not just because of the natural inclination to be embarrassed about the personal details I have shared, but because of the things I do not know as I write. Now understanding unconscious or subconscious bias, because it has impacted my life with my minority wife, I am a little afraid of what ‘unknown knowns’ might emerge. There may be other ways in which I have hurt women in actions of which I am aware that I still do not realise is hurtful. I realise beyond a shadow of doubt, being raised in a sexist patriarchal society, just as many Australians have much unconscious bias against minorities, many of us – me included – still harbour unconscious biases that affect my attitudes and behaviours, no matter how much I desire to unearth them and rid myself of them. Moreover, I know that my state of understanding of these issues has never been greater than it is now, so what “damage might I have done in the past that I did not realise?” is an ever-present thought.

Worse still is the more terrifying thought that there could be some ‘unknown unknowns’ that might ‘surface’. On my first night at university, Valentine’s Day 1987 – when I was 17 and 1 month to the day – after having spent most of the afternoon after my parents left me at college in my room, the seniors in college went door to door getting everybody out into the corridors mixing and meeting, and drinking of course. It seemed so wild, so grown-up, so frightening, so exciting. I recall a guy doing tumbling passed down the corridors. From then until I fell in love with my future wife in the fourth and final year of my undergraduate degree seems a blur. In between I had become a bit more confident, at least outwardly, through countless pub crawls, college balls, every Friday arvo blotto at bludger’s club and then back partying late into the night, and ‘corrupting’ diligent first years heading off to lectures, any day of the week, by sitting on a balcony and calling them up to our rooms to party instead. My life seemed set in stone – I was to return to the farm after finishing my degree, to all of the stress and social stunting that entailed for me – so I had nothing to lose by partying. In fact by failing subjects I might, and did, gain an extra year of freedom at university. If I had studied diligently I would have finished my degree in 3 years, when I was still 19, and returned to work on the family farm with my father. I would never have met my wife.

For those three and a half years at uni before meeting my wife I partied at least every second night drinking so heavily that very many of those nights had blank spots in my memory. I would be lying if I said that I had no concerns that I might have done something more of damage to women which I do not recall. This, I suspect, is what many men fear when they hear of reports of incidents from decades earlier. That is why I have released a companion post to this on the involvement of alcohol with violence, and I note that much of the concerning coverage of what occurs in Canberra involves excessive alcohol consumption from the mostly university-educated staff and politicians, some into rather mature ages.

Critically, however, I know myself. I know that I did not have anger in my heart, and I know that when females are intentionally hurt by men, under the influence of alcohol or otherwise, it is done with aggression and anger. That is why I have the confidence to put myself out there in the hope that it can help.

If, as a result of my speaking out, I learn of other ways in which I have hurt women then I need to be prepared to stand in that truth and accept the consequences. After all, I know that the consequences of my stupid sexism have been real and long-lasting for others.

Moreover, we will never get to the root of the issues if we men remain afraid of opening our minds and our hearts to the truth of our impacts on women. Only that is authentic to the courage that we have been raised for millennia to believe is our preserve. The women in our society have shown just how courageous they are – now is our time to prove that we men are also capable of genuine courage.


Even though many transferred their perception of my physical presence onto my personality, I was a very immature, mixed-up, hurt, frightened, unconfident, young man. I was lost and fumbling around in the dark. I had a lot of love inside of me, but I did not know how to find my way to giving it to a woman I could trust. I was lucky, and there are so many reasons why I shudder at the thought of what might have become of me had I not met my wife when I did.

I do not seek to minimise or to resile from the impacts that my actions had on my female friends and women more broadly. Neither do I seek sympathy for the conditions or events of my life. 

There are many others much more deserving of sympathy than me, such as Caroline Wang, but I suspect she also is telling her story in the hope of effecting positive change to help others.

Caroline, Grace, Brittany, and the teenage girls along with other woman and men who were victims of sexual assault and harassment and have found the courage to speak up, along with all of the other victims who have retained their optimism in humanity to endure scarred but defiant, your authentic strength inspires me and boosts my optimism that humanity will find its way in the Great Reset era to a better future.  

I am grateful for the opportunities I have had in life to continually seek a better path, and I have implored my sons to continue that journey with and then after me. I have told them that I am proud in the belief that I have been a better father to them than mine was to me, and I sincerely hope that they will be better fathers – if they choose and are able to be – to their children than I was to them.

Still I must be careful not to burden them with the emotion and guilt I carry for my own mistakes. And I must grant them the space to be imperfect and to learn from their own mistakes as they continue to develop into proud, loving and strong young men.

To the women I hurt and negatively impacted with my prior actions, I am truly sorry. If I could take them back I would. Because I can not, I promise to continue to try to help with the changes we need in society so that you feel safe, empowered, confident, and most of all equal to all others – by listening, by believing, by working to understand, by being compassionate, by advocating for the change you seek, and by taking all of this into account when I decide to which political decision-makers I will give my vote. Above all else I promise that I am, together with my wife, doing my best to ensure that the two men who I brought into this world will be your allies and will fight alongside you and your daughters, support you, value you, respect you and love you in the purest of senses.

I am not, never was, and never will be, a perfect man, but I promise to keep trying.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2021

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Australia Must Pivot To COVID-19 ‘Normality’ Once All Residents Are Offered Vaccination

In February 2020 I was one of the first to speak publicly of the need for Australia to shut the borders and aim to eliminate what was then referred to as ‘the novel coronavirus’.

In my first post on the topic published 3 February “Social Cohesion: The best vaccine against crises” I highlighted the unique situation we faced and what were the likely consequences:

Writing in Australia, in the southern hemisphere, the outlook is somewhat more frightening if I am correct in my analysis that the virus will not be eradicated this northern hemisphere winter. I would be unsurprised if more draconian measures were introduced in Australia than elsewhere in an attempt to prevent its introduction as we will endure a full cold and flu season without any chance of administering a broad vaccination program. This will produce a great deal of anxiety amongst Australians.

As the Australian Government was slow to react, I drew on my experience in biosecurity policy and underlined how our approach to this very serious disease of humans was inconsistent with our approach to diseases affecting primary industries – i.e. for some animal and plant disease we follow what is essentially a zero risk policy, yet with this shaping up to be the most serious pandemic of our time we were even flirting with following a herd immunity strategy after Boris Johnson’s lead in the UK (which I mentioned in my FB post above from 16 March 2020). 

Thank goodness for our federal system and for our independently-minded State leaders whose instincts were more compassionate and whose leadership is most responsible for our favourable position through the pandemic to this point.

I have sort to maintain pressure on all decision-makers to work towards minimising human impacts on a range of issues from arguing against a herd immunity strategy (highlighting that the full human impacts were not at all understood, including long term impacts), in favour of following an elimination strategy, to monitoring abattoir workers and managing risks with cold storage chains, to discussing the risks posed by the broad host range of the virus, to factors around vaccines and their rollout in Australia.

At the same time I tried to be a contributor to the discourse on the Australian economy, and more importantly, on seeing humanity progress through the Great Reset era in a more inclusive and fair manner to produce cohesive societies which are necessary to address the major issues we confront.


From my earliest posts on COVID-19 I stressed the importance of seasonality in the global and Australia’s experience of the pandemic.

Even though at that early stage seasonality was not understood with the newly emergent pandemic disease, the similarity of symptoms to other respiratory viral diseases suggested it likely would be an issue, and even if not, the co-occurrence with those seasonal respiratory viruses would create management issues and create a general level of anxiety in society.

I stated those concerns frequently in my daily “Coronavirus Updates” from early March, including on March 5:

It is clear that all European countries are desperately hoping that warmer summer will arrive and provide some respite, give health authorities time to regroup and get ready for the presumed re-intensification in autumn sic (fall), and hope (or pray as the case may be) for an effective vaccine to be administered in the northern hemisphere before the depths of the next winter.

As I have been saying from my very first report, this is something that we in the southern hemisphere cannot even dare to hope for – this will be a long, tense winter down under.

And on March 9:

I want to address something specifically in what I have been saying about the “special” circumstances that Australia faces being unique amongst the developed countries being situated in the southern hemisphere, and thus heading into the cold and flu season of winter instead of heading out of it. The WHO has been careful to ensure that it is understood that there is no evidence that the pandemic will let up in the northern hemisphere as the weather warms up. I have said frequently that if the northern hemisphere countries are fortunate then they will have a seasonal reprieve.

The reality is that they will receive a benefit regardless of whether spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 slows in warmer months in that we already know that cold and flu viruses certainly will. Thus, even if COVID-19 continues to spread in warmer conditions – and I won’t get into the probability of that because I cannot contribute anything of value other than to add that I do not know how valuable observations are that COVID-19 appear not be spreading in countries with more equatorial climates – the reduction in other respiratory infections will aid in detection and thus containment efforts.

Again, this is something that Australia will not experience as we are heading into the flu and cold season. That is why I have stated all along that Australia must be advanced ahead of all other nations in the fight against COVID-19, and I have been clear in my views that our federal Government has not made the most of our opportunities.

I draw particular attention to my post “Australian ‘Followship‘”, posted on 23 March 2020, to give full effect to the situation at the time and my efforts to see Australia’s response improved.

I humbly suggest that the reader consider these arguments now in the light of what has occurred in the northern hemisphere and especially in Europe since I wrote those passages.

Europe did experience a reprieve with much lower pandemic pressure during the warmer months of Summer 2020, but the pandemic exploded again as weather cooled in Autumn. 

The re-emergent pandemic has been traumatic to a level that much of Europe has been almost continuously in some form of lockdown for the last 5 months.

The current situation in Europe is summed up well in this article and there are real concerns that Europe will not be ‘open’ this Summer as it was last.


Australia has experienced lesser impacts from the pandemic than very many other nations to this point. That is because the measures that I argued for from those first few weeks of the pandemic were ultimately adopted, primarily because the State political leaders and health officials supported them and/or enforced them in their own jurisdictions.

Having observed closely the spread and impacts of COVID-19 globally I have continually warned of the need for Australia to not become complacent to the very serious risks we continue to confront. Realising that even Europe had slipped into complacency in Summer 2020, partly out of the desire for economic reasons to have a more normal intra-European tourism season, I warned against complacency in Australia and proposed awareness programs for the public and businesses.

State Premiers together with their respective health officials have very effectively contained the outbreaks of COVID-19 that have occurred over this Summer (with all sources being returning Australian residents in quarantine or in hospitals), quickly moving to enact lockdowns and masking mandates, and using contact tracing to contain chains of transmission. Undoubtedly the warmer weather with more people spending more time outdoors has benefited our containment efforts.

One of the major benefits of success at containing COVID-19 in Australia, that I have continually highlighted from early in the pandemic (see the FB post on 25 April 2020 in the slideshow above), is that we have bought time and flexibility in terms of how we continue to respond to the pandemic, especially in relation to vaccines.

The timetable for the rollout of vaccinations in Australia has become a political issue, much to my disappointment, but what is emphasised mostly are comparisons to vaccine rollouts in other countries and the risks to the Australian economy from further shutdowns. Those country comparisons barely acknowledge that these other nations, especially the US and UK, have been severely impacted and needed to roll out vaccines quickly to protect lives due to inadequate response measures to the pandemic. Moreover, these countries have suffered more serious impacts to their economies, while still suffering much more loss of life.

The well-publicised complications with the AstraZeneca and now the Johnson & Johnson vaccines due to blood clots has meant that Australia has limited the use of the former vaccine to over 50s and will not seek to order the latter (even though the latter is a one-shot vaccine, and if the likelihood of clots forming after each injection was equivalent would mean a reduction of risk by 50% using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine). The bulk of the almost 54 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine Australia has ordered will be produced on-shore by CSL which is already producing doses.

When the blood clotting issue was first discussed by Dr Michael Kidd, Acting CMO, he sort to explain the situation using probabilities of adverse outcomes – he said that the probability of developing a blood clot after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine was 1-2 per million, but that the probability of death if infected with the virus causing COVID-19 is 1-2 per hundred. Thus in a nation where the probability of being infected with the virus is high the reward of significant protection from serious disease after vaccination is well worth the very low risk of developing blood clots from the vaccination.

Since Dr Kidd delivered this explanation, however, European officials have suggested that the risk of blood clotting in young adults following AstraZeneca vaccination is 1 in 100,000. Moreover, in a nation where through adept biosecurity measures there is not a high likelihood of being infected, as in Australia, the risk-reward balance is starkly different to where the incidence of the virus is high.

Even in Europe, however, where official figures record one million lives have been lost in the COVID-19 pandemic, national health officials have sort to better balance the risks of taking the AstraZeneca vaccine with the benefits by introducing restrictions. Think about that for a moment – with a population around 750 million, more than 1 in 1,000 Europeans have died from COVID-19.

However, whereas Australia’s limit for recommending against using the AstraZeneca vaccine is 50 years, most of these European countries more impacted by COVID-19 have set more stringent recommendations either discontinuing its use or limiting its use to those older than 60.

The mRNA vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech will be recommended for under 50s resident in Australia and now 40 million doses have been ordered which is enough to vaccinate 20 million. This and the other mRNA vaccine developed by Moderna has proven to be highly effective, and have been used predominantly by wealthy countries (that can handle the cold-chain logistics required) and especially the US. Australia will receive the bulk of the 40 million doses late 2021.

The other highly prospective vaccine currently being rolled out is by NovaVax and Australia has orders for 51 million which will also be delivered late in 2021, and may be produced on shore by CSL.

So residents of Australia, while being mostly unvaccinated this southern hemisphere Winter, can have a reasonable expectation of being vaccinated prior to Winter 2022.

That is in strong contrast to low-income countries, most of which have been severely impacted by COVID-19, one exception being Rwanda which largely followed the MacroEdgo playbook of ‘throwing the kitchen sink’ at minimising spread, that have received just 0.2% of all COVID-19 shots given to this point. Even Europe has had an “unacceptably slow” vaccine rollout according to the WHO regional office.


I knew very early in the pandemic that our world had changed, and I spelled out that humanity had a difficult challenge ahead. I stressed that we needed to be on a war footing to respond to the pandemic.

I implored all to hope with their hearts, for an attenuation in the virulence of the virus or for speedy and effective vaccines, but to prepare for the worst. In my “Coronavirus Update” of 11 March 2020 I explained it this way:

In my SMSF positioning paper I said that I hoped, for the sake of humanity, that I was wrong but I had to invest with my head and hope with my heart. Unfortunately my head was right but my heart still hopes for the quickest vaccine or pharmaceutical remedy in the history of mankind.

In many different avenues I stressed that this is “the battle of our lives” and that we all would remain vulnerable while others remained vulnerable.

Our scientists – from Dr Shi Zhengli, whose group rapidly detected and isolated the virus, through to the vaccinologists, all standing on the shoulders of humanity’s curiosity and enduring thirst for knowledge – responded wonderfully and we are in about as favourable a position with vaccines as anybody would have dared dream.

When I look back at what I wrote in February 2020 about scientists rushing to have a vaccine by the next northern hemisphere Summer, some times I have questioned myself on how deluded I was to think that might even be possible (out of shock at the size of the challenge humanity faced). Yet our scientists did achieve just that!

Still, the simple reality is that vaccines are not likely to eradicate this virus because it is likely to continue mutating faster than vaccines can be produced and delivered across the globe. In fact, present indications are that it will take several years to deploy the first generation of vaccines to the original strain even though variants are already more common in most regions. 

Humanity finding a better way to balance the loss of human life with the profit imperative of the pharmaceutical companies using their legal rights to prevent broader manufacture of vaccines with the capacity that already exists, and which could be used but for enforcement of intellectual property rights, would certainly speed up the process. Even so, while better for humanity in terms of reduced loss of life and economic impacts on poor nations, eradication would still seem unlikely.

Hopefully the vaccines will confer a reasonable level of protection as the virus mutates, but measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are likely to be with us for many years and COVID-19 will be associated with deaths, concentrated in some regions, perhaps seasonally, and perhaps worse in some years if significant mutation occurs, for example, by passing through animal hosts.

The point is this, unlike in wars where there is a definite conclusion with the declaration of peace, there is unlikely to ever be a moment when we will all be able to claim victory against this foe.

There will be no joyous day where people dance in the streets with confetti drifting and floating through air laden with laughter and music, and young effervescent and ebullient people rush to embrace the heroes of this war with careless abandon.

The scars of this period will not be soothed in any way. We will just move forward in the knowledge that humanity is as vulnerable as any other organism on our beautiful planet.
With that in mind, we in Australia cannot live indefinitely as we have since March 2020; we will need to pivot to our ‘COVID normality’.

We are very fortunate to live in these times with the tools we have had at our disposal to fight this ultra-microscopic foe, as well as to have developed such highly effective vaccines so quickly.

There is the hope that broad-spectrum coronavirus vaccines or treatments may be developed in the future, but we cannot know when or even if these will be successfully developed.

At some point, however, we will need to go about our lives accepting a certain level of risk above what we did, or at least most were aware of, pre-COVID. The exact level of risk we each accept, as always, will be determined by individual decisions and behaviours, within a framework that society accepts as sufficiently protective of broad society while providing civil liberties and freedoms that are broadly accepted.

I would suggest that that point for Australia would be early to mid Autumn 2022 by which time most people resident in Australia should have had the chance to be vaccinated.

While the original vaccine rollout strategy envisioned an October 2021 completion date, the truth is – as has been our experience this past Australian Summer – pandemic pressure is lessened over the warmer period and our biosecurity know-how has proven adept at protecting our residents.

In other words, since few Australians will be protected this Winter, and because we have proven ourselves adept at protecting ourselves over Summer, we need to think altruistically and compassionately for other people suffering far greater impacts than us in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Australians have a rare opportunity to stand up and be a beacon for good for humanity. In a global community where co-operation has given way to vaccine nationalism, we can tell vaccine suppliers that we will wait. Furthermore we can divert vaccine supplies produced onshore to poor nations directly and/or via the COVAX program.

And we should speak loudly and proudly of our actions, and forthrightly let it be known that this is how things should be done, and that we are in this fortunate and privileged position to help humanity because we are a progressive and innovative nation that understood early the implications of the pandemic and we decided to put the protection of lives at the centre of our response.

If over the next 6 months these actions led to the vaccination of perhaps 20 million people, then we will have saved thousands of lives.

To make that decision we need to accept a little more risk, accept a higher likelihood of additional measures impacting economic activity, and exercise patience.

For a nation with a growing ‘image’ problem for being slow and even obstructionist on addressing climate change, thus being increasingly viewed as conservative and lacking an innovative and forward-thinking culture, such altruism and innovative-thinking will certainly help with our international relationships and attract significant goodwill.


While maintaining a positive attitude since the beginning of the pandemic towards the chances of humanity’s scientists achieving effective vaccines, in my seminal post “How Society Will Change If A COVID-19 Vaccine Is Elusive” I allowed myself to contemplate a future where humanity must continue under the shroud of a prolonged COVID-19 pandemic.

If we are very fortunate at least one of the 140 vaccine candidates currently being developed might be effective. Or perhaps a protocol with one or several might be effective. However, as we approach the end of this year, as the northern hemisphere enters autumn (fall), then I expect that we will begin to hear more honest assessments of the chances of success.

If success seems to be more elusive than humanity has dared to hope, then we will move into a new phase for society and individuals to deal with the challenge…

In the event that at the end of the year assessments of the likelihood of herd immunity being achieved by a mass vaccination program are not optimistic, then everyone will need to begin to consider exactly how we will go about our lives for an uncertain but prolonged period with COVID-19 severely impacting us increasingly as we age.

As hinted at in that final sentence, I went on to discuss how people would need to accept that life expectancy would fall for the first time in modern history in many nations, and as a consequence middle-aged people would confront their own mortality as the first generation in many that are unlikely to live longer than their parents.

Humanity’s scientists have excelled and we are in the fortunate position of highly effective vaccines being rolled out within a year of the pandemic commencing.

On the other hand, the virus is so widespread, and the variants that I feared have emerged, and it remains unclear how that will affect current vaccines and whether the virus has developed the “characteristic of mutating sufficiently within a year so that immunity from prior infection does not make the person refractory or immune to infection when exposed the following year”.

Even though we are going to live with this uncertainty for a number of years ahead, and while I realise many have considered me extremely risk averse, and so may be surprised by this view, I believe that once all Australians have been offered vaccination than we need to pivot to opening back up to the world.

When I argued passionately for a strong biosecurity response by Australia to COVID-19 in late February 2020 I was clear that measures must be temporary:

Australia’s isolation really is a huge advantage for us, and it is time that we made use of that very significant advantage. As COVID-19 begins to rage globally, we should strongly consider whether we should close our borders to people flows and tightly manage vessels carrying freight to and from Australia.

It really is as simple as that; we could close our borders and significantly cut down the opportunity to reintroduce the virus while we threw everything at containing the virus within the country. That would minimise the human cost while we wait for a vaccine to become available.

There is no doubt that we have the biosecurity know how to manage a very significant program.

The politicians just have to decide to enact that program…

Being very much a globalist and extremely pro multiculturalism, I do not say such things lightly. These measures need to be enacted in a way that makes it clear to the world that in this time of crisis we are doing our best to combat the disease not only for our people but for all of humanity. As comments from the World Health Organisation make clear, every country has a responsibility to all other countries to proactively manage this outbreak in their own country. Where we can, we should also assist other countries that could do with the help as the WHO has been pleading.

So in enacting any such program it must be made crystal clear that this is absolutely an extraordinary and temporary measure, and that when the pandemic is over we will proudly open up and take in even more people from the rest of the world, especially our brothers and sisters from our Asian neighbourhood, to continue proudly building one of the most successful multicultural societies in the world.

It was always my view that humanity deserved the chance to be protected from the pandemic in buying time for our scientists to apply all of the knowledge and tools we have at our disposal. However, once that is done we must again acknowledge that we cannot live risk-free lives, as we human beings have always needed to accept.

Once everyone in the nation has been offered vaccination, which should be possible ahead of the southern hemisphere Winter 2022 by an intensive vaccination program over Summer, by that time around 2 years after the pandemic began, would be an appropriate time for us to collectively accept that our scientific knowledge and skill has been applied to its fullest. At that point we should pivot to our form of ‘COVID normal’ which will be based on individual perceptions of risk and consequent behaviours, and how that feeds through to Government policy.

One of the most challenging risks to consider and manage will be international movements of people. In many ways the degree of risk that we will accept when travelling in our new ‘COVID normal’ world will be, I imagine, much as it was 40-50 years ago when mass international travel really ‘took off’ after the development of the jumbo jet. Less risk averse people, or those who perceive greater rewards from international travel, for personal or professional reasons, will be first to travel internationally. Extra biosecurity measures are a certainty and will likely include mandatory masking during travelling, attestation of vaccination, testing for COVID-19, possibly quarantine periods, and there might even be a seasonality applied to travelling to and from certain regions.

Exactly how many measures and for how long they are applied will depend on the success of the international vaccine campaign. How quickly poor nations can get access to vaccines and how humanity deals with the intellectual property challenges will be a key determinant.

In my personal view, humanity needs to question how much of that intellectual property belongs to all of humanity from the thousands of years of curious people and through the centuries of scientific endeavour which have culminated in our present understanding of DNA/RNA, virology and immunology. In other words, during times of crisis normal business protections need to be modified to acknowledge that all businesses have and must make sacrifices for the greater good, and that it is to the ultimate benefit of the business community.


In Australia, PM Morrison has shown interesting developments in recent weeks which at first glance might suggest a change of attitude towards greater risk aversion with respect to the pandemic, for example warning Australians that cases would reach the thousands per week if borders were opened. Certainly it is clear that his political challenges, dealing with outpourings of public concern for a broad range of issues from gendered violence and sexual harassment to indigenous deaths in custody, have resulted in him seeking out any and all opportunities to augment his public image with empathy and sincerity. Far be it from me to criticise anybody from seeking to undergo personal growth as a consequence of recent experiences exposing personal shortcomings, and he has certainly been humbled by the damage to his political reputation. Nonetheless, it is entirely possible that the apparent changed attitude is in fact a crafty attempt at using reverse psychology to encourage Australians to think forward to how they really want to live going forward in our COVID normality.

It is of little consequence, however, because the public has squarely laid the blame for the widely held perception of a stalled COVID-19 vaccination program at PM Morrison’s feet, a perception of his own making given earlier remarks about the vaccination timetable, so that politically his Government is certain to pay a very high price for any serious incursions.

Even though business stakeholders continue to seek certainty and rapid progress towards reducing measures which have protected Australians from experiencing the personal loss residents of other nations have experienced in the pandemic, it will be necessary that stringent measures are maintained until the critical Winter period has passed and until all resident in Australian have had the opportunity to be vaccinated. Then, and only then, must we pivot to our ‘COVID normal’ existence knowing that we are more vulnerable than we were, or at least realised we were, before the COVID-19 pandemic. That is the nature of our existence and always will be, and that is what we must accept in the knowledge that we have learned before, that we must be ‘citizens of the world, members of the human community‘.

The first World War lasted four and a half years and the second lasted six. We are just over one year into our generations’, and though it seems an eternity, as the actual wars must have, this will likely last longer even if the intense period may be over in much of the developed world in the next year.

We must maintain flexibility – of thought and in action – if we are to maintain our hard-won advantage over this foe. What we have achieved thus far, and what we must do in the future, has an underlying humanitarian truth – that human life is more cherished and valued by society than percentage points of national GDP (gross domestic product, a questionable measure of economic output in any case) or the financial earnings of our legacy ‘national carrier’ and dividends paid to shareholders. Even if the GDP of the US surpasses ours in the next few months, who honestly, in the absence of the largest of life’s enticements being love, family or career, would rather have been there over here in Australia in safety in a society that has shown that it values human life above wealth?

The long term benefits to our society and economy from our compassionate actions through the COVID-19 pandemic are incalculable.

Over the next few months and years there will be times when it feels like we are experiencing a genuine victory day, like the opening of a travel bubble, then there will be hiccups such as news of a new variant reducing vaccine effectiveness or the waning of vaccine immunity more rapidly than hoped. Nothing will be smooth or easy, and little will be predictable, so nothing can be certain or set in stone. Flexibility has been our great ally thus far, and for us to continue to be successful then it must remain our ally for the foreseeable future.

Out of the shock and hurt of the COVID-19 pandemic emerges a significant opportunity for Australia which is so rare that it would be squandered only by the most inauthentic of non-leaders.

For a nation of people, especially its men, lost amongst outdated, non-inclusive, patriarchal, white-washed imagery of a colonialist outback frontier, larrikin bravery of past war heroes from a century earlier, and a fictional crocodile-wrestling caricature, let this be the moment Australians stand in our modern truth and where we live up to the ideals of authentic bravery and generosity of spirit.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2021

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Navin’s Beautiful Memoir For His Courageous Mother

To celebrate the 100th post on MacroEdgo I am honoured to publish for the first time the work of an extremely talented young man who is destined to make a real difference for humanity, my 12 year old son. This is a school assignment which was just too good to not be read by a wider audience.

Coming to Australia

By Navin Edgerton

As I saw the figure that I least wanted to see rise on the horizon of the school cricket pitch, my feet stuck to the ground, high pitched noises piercing my ears. My head got dizzy, I became disoriented. It felt like seconds ago that my grandmother had been crying on my porch, in Sri Lanka about my Australian citizenship being approved. My whole life had been left behind other than my parents and brother. It had not been long since I had moved to Australia and being asked to a fight wasn’t a great start. The words that dreaded figure had spoken to me rang in my ears, “You and me, fight”.

The teasing hope of the possibility that my father’s advice would work taunted me. The previous day I had come home and asked my father what I should do. It was difficult to talk about it before breaking out in tears. In my new school here in Mackay, there were only six black people, I had encountered much racism in the few weeks I had been in Australia. I tried to avoid it but deep inside I knew that the reason this girl asked me to fight was because she was prejudiced, the thought of my skin colour making me not an equal made my lip tremble. She got closer and closer, my near constant heartbeat was threatening to stop my body functioning.

As she finally approached me, I started feeling my legs give way. She bent over next to me and whispered, “Meet me at the water tank after school”. My bones shivered once again threatening my collapse, the soft grass certainly felt like an amazing escape from this reality. I had to face her though. The water tank was the place known for fights. I summed up the courage to use the advice that my father had given me. I hesitated. I couldn’t stop thinking about the possible backlash. I remembered all that I had left behind. “No, let’s fight now”. I had done it, a gush of wind knocked me, but I was confused because it was a still day.

I quickly realized that the gush of wind had come from the fleeing of the girl that asked me to fight. I tried to move but I couldn’t. My father’s advice had worked. For the next few weeks, I thought about it. I couldn’t get why she ran. Years went by and I didn’t hear from her. She was still at the same school, but she seemed to always perfectly avoid me. Although I was able to face one bully, I knew I would never be able to escape racism. What this made me realize though, is that bullies aren’t strong, they speak confidently and act strong to cover the hole in themselves or their confidence.

Note: This story is about my mum. She still encounters lots of racism to this day, and she is undervalued because of that. She is the strongest person I know for putting up with that daily.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2021

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The Great Reset: Humanity demands leaders walk while chewing gum in the 21st century

The criticism most often levelled at President Franklin D Roosevelt – President of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945 – is that he did not tackle racism and inequality.

Excuses are made that the Great Depression and then World War II were such serious issues that political capital and attention had to be focused there at the expense of progress on other worthy issues.

There are many parallels between then and now in this what I have termed the Great Reset era.

Climate scientists are rightfully concerned that the longer the battle humanity necessarily wages against the COVID-19 pandemic the more focus may be diverted from battling the Climate Crisis, which if left unchecked may render the planet uninhabitable for much of extant life on Earth, including humanity. 

Moreover, many top-level international bureaucrats believe that a robust recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is imperative to provide the economic platform to support the necessary restructuring to address climate change.

Actors in the civil rights space, now some 90 years after commencement of the Great Depression, are concerned that both issues will divert focus from finally addressing diversity and inclusion even though both crises have highlighted inequality as a major vulnerability for worsening and perpetuating them.

In the US in recent months it has become apparent that even though ethnic minorities have been disproportionately impacted in the COVID-19 pandemic, disproportionately high numbers of Caucasian Americans have been vaccinated early in their programs.

In other words, even with the social justice campaigns including Black Lives Matter raising awareness to unprecedented levels, systemic biases have led to Caucasian Americans being favoured to receive protective vaccines ahead of minorities due to insufficient foresight or effort gone into addressing these biases.

There is no medical or scientific advantage to this. On the contrary, an argument could be made that a vaccination program aimed at reducing the impacts of the pandemic most promptly would result in minorities being favoured for early vaccination.

If on a social cohesion basis this were considered untenable, for fear of an uproar about “reverse racism” – there’s that timidity about being frank about what is (and what is not) racism – at the very least care should have been taken to ensure that the vaccine rollout occurred proportionately across society.


Recent events prove that there is much to do to address diversity and inclusion within society – systemically in our bureaucratic systems, in our workplaces, in our education systems and especially in early education, and broadly throughout society.

Just as in FDR’s time, it first requires committed key leaders amongst our political, bureaucratic and private enterprise leaders to drive that change.

It will not be a quick and easy path, however. Like the climate change response and pandemic preparedness for future challenges, developing sustainably cohesive, diverse and inclusive societies is a multi-generational process.

Some nations have started down that path already even though the challenges remain significant. It is noteworthy that there is a parallel between those progressive nations acting on diversity and inclusion and those nations that acted compassionately to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic and in doing so placing their societies and economies in the best of positions for recovery.

Other nations seem to be held victim to some form of virulent toxic masculinity which has prevented their leaders from authentic recognition of the severe human impacts from the pandemic, as well as affecting their response to other key issues, because vulnerability is the last character these leaders are comfortable expressing publicly.

Note, I like many others credit mostly our State leaders for Australia’s fortunate position with COVID-19,  and from early in the pandemic I voiced serious concerns at the PMs ability to manage the national response.


As I predicted in March 2020, shortly after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, humanity has shown in so many ways that it will not settle for returning to the status quo within political and civil society that prevailed as 2019 closed.

Even before then my writing consistently highlighted that cohesion was the necessary ingredient to combat the major challenges humanity faced.

This Great Reset era is a time of change – it is inevitable. Unlike earlier periods, though, it is not just activism by the young and ‘naive’ – naive because their optimism has yet to be squashed by the “politics is the art of the possible” narrative.

No, this period of change is for all to be involved, even the less young and the cynical, because we have already proven just what can be achieved when we really set our minds to it!

Who would have thought we could do the things we have in society to protect each other? Who would have thought within a year of the pandemic commencing some people would already be vaccinated with vaccines 95% efficacious!

Who will accept now that change is not possible or that it must be iterative and slow with so little momentum as to be continually susceptible to reversal?

Yet the pandemic has opened up the fissures in our society revealing the underlying racism, prejudice and bias, and the brutality of those with an inhumane sense of privilege and power.

It is true that there have been catalysts that have led to collective action on a scale not seen in decades. Of course I allude to the Black Lives Matter protests in the US, Australia and throughout much of the developed world, as well as actions to protest against gendered violence, along with other issues.

I wonder, however, if the scale of the responses would have been so great if we were not in an era where people, having experienced the most significant shock to humanity since WWII, collectively are saying “we do not accept that we must return to the status quo that prevailed before last year – we are not satisfied with leaders who say that change is not possible!”

I wonder whether the scale of the responses would have been nearly as strong and deeply resonating if we were not already in the Great Reset.

Leaders who attempt to sweep change back under the mat suggesting that their attention must be prioritised, as if they can not walk and chew gum at the same time, in this day and age with the technological sophistication and human capital at our disposal, do themselves and all of us a great disservice.

In this charged climate of the Great Reset such incompetent leaders run the risk of tripping on their own gum and falling down the chute (or snake) without a redeeming ladder in reach…


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2021

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For A Moment Consider That Meghan Might Actually ‘Complete’ Harry Not ‘Contaminate’ Him

There is a subtext to the story revolving around Prince Harry and Meghan Markle that you probably would not recognise if you are a part of the dominant majority in society. You might not even recognise it if you are a part of a suppressed minority, especially if new to it through migration.

I recognise it because I witnessed it as a boy and young lad, and then I have lived it for over 30 years. Let’s see if I can explain.

In “The Great Reset: A letter to my Father and my ‘Sliding Doors’ self” I was clear that it was only because of my Asian-Australian wife’s influence that I was able to become the best version of myself.

I know that many who read that would disagree viscerally – perhaps some who knew me in my younger life would do so partly out of parochialism, but objections are mainly out of xenophobia.

It is absolutely true that the life that I created with my wife allowed me to enter a path towards reaching my full potential as a human being, not that I claim in any way to be there yet as described in “Nobody Is Perfect: We men must keep trying“. Furthermore, my recent post “Morals and Merit: WEF Davos agenda panel with Prof Michael Sandel” should make it clear that it has nothing to do with our “success towards wealth’. 

As explained in “Racial Prejudice and Bias: A matter of degrees” for many reasons this past year has been a breakthrough for me standing in my own truth about my racist upbringing. I truly shudder at the thought of who I would have become if I had not walked through that ‘sliding door’.

Of course if I had not I would have been none the wiser at the greater potential I possessed. I was fortunate to be raised by pretty decent human beings in the context in which they have lived their lives so, because of them, I was always destined to be a reasonable human being myself. 

None of that is inconsistent or contradictory even though many may immediately reach that conclusion. Of course I love my parents and appreciate the start in life they gave me along with the genetic and learned elements of my personality that I gained from them which I cherish such as my capacity for empathy and compassion. I could not have become the man I am without those characters, and I have them because of my parents.

Equally, of course I shudder when I hear them express racist beliefs like recently when my father stated to me “who would want to live next to Indians!” I feel embarrassed especially when I look at my wife and our sons and many of our friends knowing that most Australians can not and do not distinguish them as being of Sri Lankan descent from people of Indian descent or other Asians for that matter. Anyhow, it would not matter if it was said about indigenous or African-Australians, it is still a sharp reminder of the racism and prejudice I was exposed to in my younger years and a glimpse of the culture I would have been immersed in if I had not stepped back from it in my decision to pursue a different life.

So what does all of this have to do with Prince Harry and his wonderful wife Meghan Markle?

Let me delve further and go back into my upbringing. I recall how a family close to ours had a daughter who married an indigenous man and I recall how the men would make fun of her father about that, and about his grandchildren when they came along.

Her father was a good bloke, and he just tolerated the racist nonsense. To protest would probably incite more of the behaviour from them and would likely mean the ending of his closest friendships since his adolescence. Outwardly at least these jibes did not appear to bother him nor did it appear he allowed this to affect how he behaved towards his daughter or grandchildren.

I even recall it being said on occasions by a close mentor in relation to mixed marriages, and I paraphrase, “you notice when someone marries an ‘abo’ they always go down to their level rather than raising them up?”

Now I readily admit that those memories are from my upbringing 30-40 years ago, and much has changed. But a lot has not changed, and when I recently watched Sacha Baren Cohen’s superbly crafted, often confronting, “Who Is America” television series some parallels were uncanny. Specifically the piece where his character Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello holds a community gathering to provide information on his plans to build an economically-beneficial mosque there, some of the dialogue was identical to what was relayed to me by my parents when they with other members of the committee objected at a recent meeting of a sporting group to the President commencing with (the now standard throughout most of Australia) acknowledgment of country to show respect for local indigenous communities. My indignant parents finished their recount saying “she won’t try that sh!t again!” It almost beggars belief that they would share the story with me, and I cannot decide whether they did so thinking I would share their righteous indignation or whether they were expressing pious passive aggression towards me and my family and at our values.

As they say, the more things change the more they stay the same…


I feel a great deal of empathy for Harry and Meghan, and I think many others who have lived mixed-ethnicity relationships will do likewise. I relate to their anxieties and pain that are difficult to overcome and which explain their need to be heard, even though many will consider this latest interview as a grab for celebrity and money at the expense of especially his family.

I have been estranged from my siblings for over a decade. The event that brought everything to a head was superficial and a convenient excuse to avoid dealing with the very real and deep underlying emotional issues. Undoubtedly a major aspect of those strong emotions was the difficult financial environment under which we lived in the whole-of-family mission to keep our family farm from bank foreclosure.

Still I am certain that my family’s inability to deal with diversity had a great deal to do with it. Racial issues were never far below the surface within my family from early in my relationship with my wife. Moreover, I think it is an entirely natural development for ‘expecting’ parents to prepare the environment in which they will raise their children, as we both were drawn to, and that greater drive to provide a safe family environment forces all to either truly accept the diversity in the family or reject it. I suspect that many people in mixed relationships naturally distance from their families of origin when their inability to accept the diversity becomes apparent with the next generation on the way.*

I need, also, to state emphatically that nothing here should he taken to infer that I suggest it is only Caucasians that are predisposed to these behaviours, not by a long stretch, and it is also true that in many ways the degree I have been accepted into my wife’s family has been less than she into mine.**

Alas, just as children from mixed relationships can feel like they fit nowhere, so too can their parents. For us we tend to search for belonging in our friendships, from within our close families that we create together, and from the roles that we inhabit trying to contribute towards better societies including ones that are inclusive and accepting of diversity.


I relate to Prince Harry in another way, though my experience of this is on an altogether other scale to his situation. As I explained on my “About” page my roots are a pioneering family in the northern Queensland town of Innisfail where my Great Grandparents moved when there were only 5 houses. My whole extended family is, rightly, very proud of our history with the town.

Having commenced university just one month after turning 17, then deciding at 20 years of age to not return to the family farm but instead starting a postgraduate degree, even my closest family insinuates that I am not a true ‘Innisfailite’. When I reminded them that I returned many weekends and every holiday period through my undergraduate years to work on the farm, and even returned when requested each year for a month to help at busy times well into my PhD program, my contributions were laughed off as insignificant.

I sometimes laugh to myself how they nor the broader township never applies the same logic to one of the greatest sons, Billy Slater, who left the town at a similar age (for an apparently more ‘noble’ contribution to Australian society) and who was given a town parade for scoring a try in a State of Origin rugby league game.

In many ways I have felt like my family has turned its back on me. (And you will understand that the hurt is all the more deep if you have read “Nobody Is Perfect: We men must keep trying” and realise that as a 15 year old I was actually the one who stood up to save our family from catastrophe.)

Yet they will tell you it is me who turned my back. And there has long been a very strong undercurrent of perception that I was disloyal to my family.

In recent years, however, I have grown more determined to reclaim my family history as my own and that of my sons. That is why I have been forthright in discussing the truth about my history on these pages.

Just because I chose a different path, living in a different place with someone who might not meet the expectations of many in my family or town, does not mean that I lose my birthright as a member of my proud family or my home town.

That, I believe, is why Prince Harry is determined to make sure that he continues to speak up. Just because he has taken a step back from his royal duties does not mean that he is no longer a member of his family, and he likely intends to remind all that is a birthright that nobody can extinguish!


It is well understood that prejudice and bias is not isolated or new to contemporary ethnically-mixed societies and they have long existed within societies across many artificial subgroupings of people. One form particularly relevant to the elites of society is based on social standing or ‘class’. Among royal families that can trace their ancestry for centuries and have jealously guarded their ‘bloodline’ this type of elitism is embedded in their culture.

Royals marrying below their rank was rare even in the 20th century but has become commonplace in the 2 decades of this century. Nonetheless, a quick google search of “Prince William or Harry and commoner” results in a plethora of articles ranging in quality and credibility listed over hundreds of search result pages confirming that this remains a topic of interest and discussion in societies.

All three most recent marriages of the highest ranking English royals were to ‘commoners’ – first Prince Charles to Camilla Parker Bowls (also a divorcee), then Prince William to Kate Middleton, and finally Prince Harry to Meghan Markle.

Prince Harry, however, is the first member of the English royal family to marry an ethnically diverse partner as well as a ‘commoner’ and divorcee.

As I explained in “Racial Prejudice and Bias: A matter of degrees” a major belief underlying racism is the genetic – i.e. bloodline – superiority of Caucasian people.

Even sexism plays a role in these matters in patriarchal societies where, contrary to the outdated though still highly prevalent view that behind every great man is a good woman, by inference behind every man of significant potential who is perceived to have diverted from a good and proper path must be a manipulative and deceitful woman.

Clearly in cultures with endemic, systemic racism, views over ‘contamination’ of the thinking and actions of a Prince who married a ‘common’ woman, in parallel with implications for the royal ‘bloodline’, are on steroids.

From this way of thinking, while Prince Harry might not have previously been ‘perfect’ in his actions, having been a bit of an ‘English lad’ at times, his pure ‘blue blood’ meant that he retained the potential to be the best version of himself, but with Meghan that is no longer possible as he has moved down to her standard.

On the contrary, I believe with the insight he is now gaining into humanity he has the greatest chance of reaching his full potential, as his Mother also instilled in him by her influence and example, and together with his wife and their family as role models may make significant inroads into some of the most deeply entrenched problems humanity confronts in reaching our collective full potential.

Sexism, classism and racism are each powerful undercurrents to oppose in isolation. This brave young family is battling all three, simultaneously. I sincerely wish them all the best.

From where I stand I have to say emphatically that Meghan is complementing and completing Harry in every sense, and I am enthralled to be an observer of how they continue to challenge outdated and entirely pernicious biases and prejudices within our societies.


Addendum 11 March 2021

*Firstly an admission – being Australian I was naive to the degree of concern the couple had raised over the race-based coverage of them in the UK media. I am not an ardent ‘royal watcher’ so I had not paid especially close attention to their press coverage even in Australia.

As for the interview, I have to admit to being surprised myself by the comment by a family member to Harry about the potential looks of their future children, which he and they assumed was a reference to their potential skin tone.

Before anything else it needs to be accepted that he and they took this not as a naïve question, and not as a question at all. He and they interpreted it as rhetorical – i.e. a statement – which Harry said in that moment shocked him and made him feel uncomfortable. 

It has been amazing to see the ‘armchair experts’ swing into action and if not deny the racist undertones of the conversation, at least seek to cast aspersions on how Harry and Megan interpreted the conversation.

I consider the arguments about lack of context given for this conversation to be an utter furphy because they neglect the most obvious of contexts.

First, Meghan and Harry are intelligent people capable of interpreting contexts themselves. 

The subtext of these points are that Harry and Meghan are so emotional that they jumped to the wrong conclusion.

But mentioning the discussion publicly has serious consequences, of which they were well aware, so it is inconceivable to suggest that Harry especially had not challenged himself rigorously before stating it and allowing it to aire?

The alternative, of course, is that they were being deliberately manipulative.

Either way, again there is the subtext that Meghan negatively influenced Harry’s thinking and actions.

The most important context, however, is that these people are not unknown to them. Harry grew up in his family. Context around racism within his family has been built up for Harry through his whole life – in specific events he recalls, and in less memorable events he has forgotten and a general feeling that he has experienced through his life.

In other words, Harry knows who in his family is racist better than anybody else outside of his family. And it does not matter when he became conscious of it, or when it became a significant issue to him, or when he was prepared to verbalise that to another or others. 

Raising ‘context’ by people who have ZERO appreciation for the actual context is entirely without merit.

Moreover, that many who do raise this point have ZERO appreciation for contexts in which these conversations occur from the minority positions means that, yes, their viewpoint is of less value. And it is obvious that the media, in their scramble to make a soap opera of this very personal and hurtful situation, is trying their best in attempting to address this point by who they are interviewing on the subject.

The simple truth is that the only people of value listening to about those specific conversations are those who were directly involved.

Now that might not sell media advertising if those involved wish to remain discrete but that is the simple reality.

Interestingly, I personally had the opposite experience of Harry. In the lead up to the birth of our first child, with racism having been an ongoing uncurrent, even though the likely appearance of our children was a topic that was avoided, on an occasion where my heavily pregnant wife was absent I sat down with my sibling’s children and discussed how we were excited that their aunty would soon bring another baby into the family. And I subtly mentioned that, just like their aunty, our baby would be browner than I was.

The adults were around the periphery and stayed silent while the kids listened intently and excitedly. In reality it was a non-event from the kids perspective, as usual it was forgotten as soon as it was said, as it should be, because that was my aim – to begin to normalise this simple reality. But the quietness of the adults alluded to their displeasure, and soon after one of my siblings showed that annoyance with a sharp and irritated comment to me. 

I have to give this person their due in that, previously when the partner of my other sibling hurt us greatly by relaying to our extended family (in the presence of my uncles/aunts/cousins, etc.) a story about how an “Asian bitch” had mistreated them (according to their expectations on the standards of service) during a shopping trip, they supported us by confirming to other members of the family that yes, indeed, that was a racist thing to say (and yes, that is what we have dealt with – denial that even that was racist – and then an expectation that even if it was ‘tactless’ that we should just suck it up and not make an issue of it).

At the time I was unaware of the classic historical research on how black children see race – e.g. the ‘doll test’ – but I think all parents instinctively understand the importance of providing an environment for their children where they feel they truly belong and are accepted for who they are.

I should also say that I do not consider myself blameless in our deteriorating relationships, and with this sibling in particular I was unduly critical and judgmental as a consequence of developing a sort of neurosis over saving my parents as a result of my post traumatic disorder from the event that occurred when I was 15.

Still this incident proves that my family was so sensitive about the issue of ethnicity and appearances that they would rather just try to ignore it and avoid any recognition of the plain and simple, and harmless, truth that our baby will be browner than others in our family. 

That anger was expressed at an “insignificant issue” being raised only exposes the truth that it is a significant issue for them that they would prefer to avoid.

No doubt context is important in these conversations. Need I spell out the difference in an adult at the very early stages of a relationship questioning what inter-racial children might look like, when their full life experience ensures they know the answer as well as know that raising the issue then is likely to offend and hurt the person to whom it was directed as well as the couple, in comparison to excitedly discussing with children the imminent arrival of another family member?

The people present are the only ones who have any understanding of that context and even then sometimes some of those people may not have a high degree of awareness of their own racist or prejudiced frame of reference.

That may seem an entirely inappropriate viewpoint to those who tend to deny the existence of racism, prejudice or bias, but that is exactly why much effort at improving diversity and inclusion within society is and must be aimed at subconscious or unconscious bias.

 

**As I reread this piece and reflected further I realised that there is point which many racists and prejudiced readers will raise as ‘proof’ of internal inconsistency in my argument. I recognise it because of immersion in a prejudiced culture and my awakening to it.

The racist and prejudiced will argue that their beliefs are ‘natural’, thus all humans – regardless of cultural background – are inherently racist unless forced by society through political correctness or morals to suppress those ‘natural instincts’.

That is why the common refrain of the racist is “why would we be anti-racist when all of these other cultures are racist?”

Of course that racism and prejudiced views is not limited to one culture, or even may be common, does not make it a core, or ‘natural’, human characteristic. 

On the other hand there is no doubt that these behaviours are learned.

Thus when I said in “Racial Prejudice and Bias: A matter of degrees” that my wife did not conceive that she may be treated differently in Australia because of her ethnicity, and in fact that her prior experience had been that Caucasians were treated as special in Sri Lanka, I can easily anticipate the prejudiced reader’s viewpoint as a mix between denial that this is the actual case while at the same time taking smug colonialist affirmation that Caucasians are special and naturally superior because even the indigenous inhabitants recognise it.

And in this piece above, when I stated the lack of acceptance of me by my wife’s family, that would surely be taken by the prejudiced to confirm their racism or prejudiced attitudes.

It was not and is not racism or prejudice, and this is why.

I first met my ‘in-laws’ when I was 20 and was extremely fit and muscular (at the time I was often asked if I was taking steroids, which I was not). I was also about as confident and forward as I ever was in my life. 

My wife comes from an extremely conservative culture of patriarchy which is even greater within her family for idiosyncratic reasons. She was meant to go to university to study, and only to study, to pay respect to her parents’ sacrifices including migrating for a better future for her.

Any boyfriend would have been a shock to them at that time. That I was extremely well-built and confident was especially confronting to them.

Moreover, my wife was my first true love and as is clear from “How I Rebuilt Myself After A Breakdown” I was extremely inexperienced with women and relationships. I finished the last exam of my undergraduate degree on the last Friday of exam period, went to the club to party with mates, but celebrations felt empty without her after she had been (quite literally) summoned home a week earlier when her exams had completed. I called her and asked if I could visit and she mustered the courage to ask her parents, and to their credit they agreed to a visit over the weekend. I then went to bed and woke at about 1am and drove the 6 hrs straight arriving around breakfast time. 

Now I realise how confronting that must have been to them, but for me I just wanted to spend as much time with my love as possible as we were to be 800kms apart for 3 months.

From this visit and our earliest interactions it was clear that, while I was respectful, at least from the perspective of my own cultural background, I was intelligent and strong, and it would be difficult for me to simply accept situations without discussions. In reality, my wife has her parents’ strength, and I have little doubt that subconsciously she was searching for somebody who was capable of allying with her to try to have her voice heard, even if that often placed her in challenging situations (anything else would be inauthentic to who she is, and she is the most authentic person I know).

In other words the differences are cultural and they persist to this day. 

Over the years I have come to understand my in-laws better, perhaps they me, and with understanding comes appreciation even if our inherent incompatibility remains meaning that the relationship will always be one of tolerance rather than real acceptance.

I have noticed that many migrants seem to conservatively hold onto the culture that they left out of emotional security, and in saying that I am reminded by how the Greek people reacted negatively to the depiction of Greek-American culture in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. Out of anxiety, migrant parents often try to hold their children to that culture within the tight cultural circles that they create, which increases pressure on the children as simultaneously they try to fit in at school. Thus these young people must straddle two highly conformational cultures at highly impressionable ages which creates enormous potential for emotional intelligence.

Many migrant families are rightfully proud of how they have found a way to simultaneously juggle the cultural terrains they must to establish flourishing lives. 

It is, however, an altogether other scale for a strongly conservative, patriarchal family to fully and seamlessly integrate a person, especially a male, from a culture where respect is not a birthright but is bi-directional and earned every moment by actions, and where the basis of healthy relationships is unconditional love. And it is difficult on the other hand to accept that one’s partner’s parents’ prime objective is to be shown respect at all times, irrespective of how much they may be hurting their child in attempting to extract from them the behaviours that they perceive demonstrate the appropriate level of respect. 

If that seems like superiority on my part I admit it is something I have challenged myself on at times and I am aware that self awareness is never perfect even in hindsight. Rather I believe it to be borne of hurt at knowing what has been the impact of this continual contest of culture, especially on my wife, but also on myself. And I cannot in all honesty say it is without anger because I came so close to losing everything on more than one occasion. 

I am not an assertive ‘man of machismo’, and our authority within our own home is very evenly divided between my wife and I, but I found it impossible to standby and allow her (very assertive) father to enter our home and assume ultimate authority, for example to sit wherever he chose including in my seat at the head of the table if he so chose (which he often did), and to even pick up our newborn out of the bassinet without asking and without any consideration for whether he was asleep and for how long and how difficult it had been to get him to sleep – in other words regardless of whether it was good for the baby (which he also did).

Around the birth of our first born it became crystal clear in so many ways how their insecurities led them to assert that our baby must be inculcated with their culture; for instance during the early stages of childbirth they were in our room with us both chanting Buddhist mantras (thankfully the nurses moved them on), and in the first weeks they did help out by cooking for us at times, but refused to reduce the level of spice when we said that our baby had an upset stomach from it. Their insecurities were very strongly expressed at this time and were placing tremendous pressure on us as a family, but my wife – sensing that delivering their first grandchild was an opportunity to earn favour with them when she had been disfavoured for so very long – was too weakened to enforce appropriate boundaries.

Moreover I could not do them the honour of calling them Mother and Father because they felt it was their right to be shown that level of respect no matter how they had treated me or continued to treat me, irrespective of whether they reciprocated with respect let alone showed they even liked me (love was obviously a non-issue), and when they treated their son like he could do no wrong while every problem in the family was laid squarely at the feet of their significantly less favoured daughter and now me.

Nonetheless, because these tensions are rooted in the anxiety of potential loss and cultural difference, not perceived superiority due to culture or ethnicity, I do not consider it either racism or prejudice.

The ‘inherent incompatibility’ which prevents close family bonds, which sadly occurs in many families, is due to personalities, including mine, more than anything else even if the strength and manner that those personality traits are expressed are heightened due to anxieties.

Perhaps the biggest test is how we ‘feel’. Knowing our parents better than all others outside our family, our feeling is that with my wife’s family there has not been a moment or event where they have been embarrassed or felt conspicuous with me as a member of their family; in fact there have been many times that we have felt that they were obviously proud in public that I was a family member.

I cannot in all conscience leave this conversation without some deeply personal anecdotes of how this all translates to the life of our family. My wife and I had not been together as a couple for long – certainly less than 2 years – when we had a terrible fight. It was so long ago that I cannot remember the details but it was borne of cultural difference and a result of my wife being between me and her parents. In a rush of blood and anger she said and did something that was wrong (universally across cultures). In that split moment she realised that she had crossed a line and immediately began crying and dropped to her knees, and bowed down with her hands on the ground in prayer position at my feet as she sobbed asking for forgiveness. I immediately began crying and fell to my knees to be at the same level as her and asked that she never do it again, as I told her that she is and will always be my equal in every way no matter what happens. We were very young, and I only partially understood the cultural significance of her gesture which came from deep within her in that moment of extreme emotion. I admit I still do not completely understand why she did it. I reacted to it as if it was a gesture of subservience, and though that was part of it I now understand it was more about respect. She never has felt compelled to do it again, and I sincerely hope that I forever gained her respect and trust that I would never seek to use culture or any other means to assert dominance over her.

The second anecdote is that my wife has taught and encouraged our children to adopt this ritual – the same position – to their grandparents at Sinhalese new year as is her custom. The children enjoy it as a small part of Sinhalese custom of which they can follow as they have come to understand very little of it in our lives straddling the two cultures. However, on one occasion my parents were visiting and observed it happening. They were outraged. Somehow it was an affront to them. 

I feel enormous gratitude to my wife for choosing to spend her life with me. Straddling culture was always going to be a way of life for her in migrating, but her path has been challenging and she never chose the easy options. She has fought for me, for us and for our family. She also has fought for her culture, her parents and her family. I hope she always felt she fought for herself, though I am certain at times she was unsure. Sometimes it pushed her and us to the brink. But we have loved each other with all of our hearts and as soon as I came to know her there was never room for another. She is my one and only, and it is because of her that I can accept the shy, socially awkward, lost young man I was up to the moment I fell in love with her. She completes me and I would be lost without her – that has been the universal truth of my life…


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Racial Prejudice and Bias: A matter of degrees

Bias and prejudice is expressed in varying degrees across society, and that makes combatting it challenging as detection is often problematic even for those it is directed against.

Why is it that a salesperson treated you with condescension?

Why was your application to rent a home rejected even though you are an executive in a high-paying industry?

Why did that person in authority lose their temper with you when you did nothing and you have seen others behave or speak towards them in a truly marginal manner without invoking a response?

Why did this group of workers express extreme frustration during your presentation as a manager when other managers never experienced such an emotional response? And 

Why do you keep getting overlooked for promotion when other lesser experienced and skilled colleagues are moved ahead in their careers, sometimes even suggested as an effort to address workplace diversity?

These are all examples from the lived experience of members of my family or friends, or events we have personally witnessed.

In “Racism and Political Correctness” I stated that a major issue in Australia is the political correctness around calling out racist behaviour. It is obvious that a problem will never be dealt with if it is rarely identified let alone discussed.

Another critical issue is in identifying individual instances of racial prejudice, or even repetitive racial prejudice against one or a number of people, when plausible deniability exists.

As I said in “Quotas Are Necessary To Address Workplace Diversity” the insidious nature of prejudice in society, including in the workplace, is that it can be detected relatively easily at the aggregated top-level by under-representation and/other disparities in measurable parameters such as income, while granular detection – unless explicit – is extremely challenging.

How can a particular event be examined and it be determined to what degree that outcome is due to prejudice and what part was played by other factors that creep into the natural complexity of human interaction?

For example, those workers definitely showed a lower level of respect for your high position in the organisation, lower than ever expressed towards another in that same or similar position in recent corporate experience, but how much is that due to you having a different skin colour and cultural background to the majority, and how much was it due to the circumstances (including the general buildup in emotion across society and in the workplace in challenging times), and how much was it due to your communication skills generally and how you employed them there and then (dependent on your own emotional state at the time)? 

That’s part of the reason why bias and prejudice is so oppressive – the subject of the prejudice or bias will always naturally question why they were not “good enough” on this occasion – leading to questions such as:

What was it about my experience that led me to not be a contender for the role?

Did I not answer the interview questions well enough? or

In my presentation to staff did I appear less empathetic or was I unclear in my answers and that caused their frustration to boil over?

On the other hand, sometimes we learn about people who have reached very high level positions in influential organisations who have risen through the ranks while maintaining inappropriate views which translate to antisocial and destructive behaviours.

One recent example was a zoom presentation by Australian-expat Bill Michael, KPMG UK Chair, paid a 1.7 million pound annual salary, when he said:

Now is the time to say: do you care enough? Right, I don’t think this point of, what do you call it, unconscious bias? I think unconscious bias is complete crap, complete and utter crap for years, it really is. There is no such thing as unconscious bias, I don’t buy it. Because after every single unconscious bias training that has ever been done, nothing’s ever improved.

According to the article there were some in the audience who took exception to his comments – clearly as otherwise it would not have been publicised – but his were not mild or marginal comments, nor were they made in person to a small number of like-minded peers.

One wonders the volume of other inappropriate comments this senior executive has made on his long and “successful” career, to whom and to how many, within this organisation and others including amongst his privileged social circles, and what impact that has had on promulgating and embedding prejudice and bias within those cultures.

The subjectivity of interpreting comments, however, was even on display over the reporting of Mr. Michael’s expressed views when another writer in the left-wing ‘Guardian’ said:

[KPMG] regularly appears in lists of the best firms to work for, and boasts about its flexible working schemes. So it is possible that Michael was being held to a higher standard than many other bosses.

Perhaps this ‘Guardian’ writer is correct, perhaps managers in other organisations are not held to the same standard, on diversity and inclusion along with workplace flexibility, but if that is true it just proves the point. If this type of commentary is acceptable by a manager in any organisation then it is a sad indictment on the state of that workplace.

I do suspect, however, that there is a large element of truth to this writer’s inference, that strong scepticism towards the existence of subconscious bias and thus prejudice is commonplace in workplaces, especially in the major Anglophone countries, and I discussed elements around this, including the selection for sociopathy, in an early MacroEdgo article “The Authenticity Piece For Leadership Is Right In My Wheelhouse“.

The reality for most of the subjects of instances of bias and prejudice is that, unless the degree of behaviour exhibited by perpetrators makes it explicit, they will be unaware of the bias. The level of frequency they are the subject of bias then becomes a major factor in detecting the prejudice.

There comes a point where it becomes clear that outcomes are consistently unfair, and the likelihood that other factors, effected by the subject themself, have played a significant part in this repetitive behaviour is exceedingly low. While people who refute the existence of prejudice and bias often suggest that “would-be victims” are quick to blame others for their lack of success, in my experience the subjects of this behaviour are reluctant to accept that such unfairness would be perpetrated against them. It hurts them to acknowledge it because they want to believe that they are fully accepted and safe to be themself in the environment where they spend the most and best energy of their days.

At that point the victim has essentially eliminated all other potential causes for the repeated outcome – such as being passed over for employment opportunities or having their work performance rated harshly – but what can be done about it? Even if there is a channel to make a complaint, how can they prove repeated prejudice or bias when so much of that assessment is subjective?

Moreover, if proven somehow, what can be done retrospectively and restoratively to remedy all of those instances of prejudice which have impacted their career and income, and worse still their sense of value and contribution to the organisation and to broader society?

The complexities around this issue allows nongs like Mr. Michael, who have experienced privilege throughout their lives, including in the workplace, to have a long and influential career without any appreciation of the privilege they have enjoyed and the impacts that has had on others.

I would place this in a similar category to a manager telling staff – individually or in a group – that they ‘believe all lives matter’ as I discussed in “An Explanation Of Black Lives Matter“.

It is easy for many to dismiss these behaviours as rare or of little significance. They are neither, and the consequences of bias and prejudice is significant at the individual level. Moreover, across societies and economies it wastes significant amounts of valuable human capital. 

Of course bias and prejudice affects various groupings of people, from women to ethnic minorities to religions to sexual orientations or gender identity to age and more. As I explained in “Quotas Are Necessary To Address Workplace Diversity” some people will be subjected to multiple prejudices. Hereon I will concentrate specifically on racial prejudice, discussing indications of its existence in contemporary Australian society.


The Scanlon Society has conducted surveys on attitudes towards multiculturalism in Australia since 2007. Their surveys conducted in the second half of 2020 found that:

  • 84% agreed with the statement that “multiculturalism has been good for Australia”, 
  • 82-83% agreed that “immigrants improve Australian society by bringing new ideas and cultures”, 
  • 81-83% agreed that “immigrants are generally good for the economy”, and
  • 71% agreed that “accepting immigrants from many different countries makes Australia stronger”.

That is all extremely positive, but the survey also pointed at some deeper currents. Over one-third answered that Australia has been accepting too many immigrants (and that measure has remained above that level in recent years) and 60% agreed that “too many immigrants are not adopting Australian values”. 

Over half of the one-third who thought that Australia has been taking too many immigrants – i.e. around 20% or 1 in 5 of all those surveyed – agreed that “immigrants take jobs away”.

Clearly the survey suggests there is a large swathe of the Australian population with negative feelings towards migrants in society and in workplaces.

Moreover, that such a large proportion (60%) wanted migrants to work harder at assimilating is suggestive that even a significant proportion of the 84% who had positive views of multiculturalism (and agreed with the benefits of immigration) harboured some level of disapproval at recent migration. Likely some of this is due to earlier migrants and their families, e.g. post-WWII, believing that their migration was beneficial while harbouring feelings that more recent migration is not so positive.

In the most recently published Government data on migration (to 30 June 2019) 30% of all Australians were born overseas, and at the most recent census (in 2016) the proportion of migrants and their next generation born in Australia amounted to almost 50% of the population.

Prejudice and racism by earlier migrants, many of whom were themselves subjected to ethnicity-based bullying and prejudice and bias, is an issue rarely discussed in Australia but I believe it to be a significant factor from anecdotal observations.

In response to my posting on FaceBook of my explanation of Black Lives Matter to a long-time friend, which formed the basis of my MacroEdgo post, a conversation developed with a post-WWII migrant from central Europe who was defending the views supported by our mutual friend and was criticising the Black Lives Matter movement.

He had several concerns with BLM; the initial one that it was divisive. I made some initial points on FB and my post “The Lie Of Reverse Racism” was a more detailed response. He ultimately agreed with my points and complimented me for my writing.

What came next, however, was a rich learning experience for us both. He tapped into how he felt in those early years not being accepted into the broader Australian society in northern Queensland, and said “all my mates were indigenous growing up and we were ‘all in this together’!”.

Sadly he then retreated behind a blanket statement that BLM is a marxist movement because the website for one group stated those beliefs. 

I wondered aloud to him, privately, whether that might just be a convenient excuse, and I suggested that perhaps “the fear of being different, again, when you are now accepted into broader society, prevents you from speaking up about what you know, including from your own personal experience, within the community?”

Naturally sympathetic and appreciative of what he shared, though, I added “I have no idea how difficult that must have been, but I genuinely feel guilty that my ancestors may have played a role in making you feel unwelcome.”

It is a real shame when those who have personally experienced racism and prejudice do not speak up and teach us all, including their own descendants, about the dangers and personal consequences of it. While perhaps the long-lasting emotional consequences of being subjected to social exclusion and bullying and prejudice explain a reluctance to be conspicuous, it does not excuse becoming indifferent, or worse still, taking on those racist and prejudicial views and behaviours against others.

It seems to me that there is an element of thinking that “our migration was good for Australia and we integrated, but more recent migration has not been as good for Australia because these recent migrants are different and are not integrating”. Of course that was the common refrain of those objecting to earlier waves of migration.

Besides the inherent bias in those views, the prejudice and bias of Australians is highlighted by the contradiction visible within the wording of the survey questions. That is, if over 80% of people agreed that diversity leads to changes beneficial to society and to the economy, why would 60% of people want that diversity lost by assimilation to a homogenised pre-existing society?

To this point I have concentrated on what might be considered reasonably strong bias as a result of racial prejudice. To emphasise the varying degrees of bias I am going to discuss one example of how what might be considered more mild bias, not necessarily based on prejudice but more on ignorance or just plain lack of understanding or appreciation for difference, which can have serious impacts on the significant number of people it affects.


Like for a lot of people of Asian ancestry in Australia, experience from my wife’s family and friends has shown that many people do not naturally have a good appreciation of their age. Several times when approaching her 40s colleagues stated extreme surprise at the fact that my wife had two children which raised the question of exactly how old they thought she was.

A friend had a more remarkable experience. She was an academic also in her late 30s and during orientation week a workman on campus asked her “Are you lost young one?” indicating that he had confused her for a first year less than half her actual age. 

While at a personal level these professional women recognise the humour in these instances, they are also acutely aware that there are more serious consequences to these grossly erroneous assumptions.

Their natural small frame and skin tone confuses many in Australia as to their age. In the workplace a subconscious assessment of age and life experience will have consequences on subconscious perceptions relevant to relationship-building and functioning within workplaces.

Just like small men fight against instinctive reactions to their size, often resulting in suggestions they displayed behaviours consistent with a theorised inferiority complex often referred to as a “Napoleon complex” or “small man syndrome”, small younger-looking women have to battle a perception of cuteness and immaturity. And if they are in fact a strong personality in a small body, they are especially prone to being patronised and demeaned as being “feisty” by males and females alike. 

Moreover, in a society that highly prizes as attractive fit and youthful looks, insecure individuals may be prone to ill-feeling towards them. That may be exacerbated if the female prefers to present herself in a way which emphasises her femininity while still expressing professionalism. 

How a female chooses to present herself can draw strong emotional responses from others. It has no bearing on their performance or their ability to perform in the workplace, but that does not mean it does not affect perceptions of them which introduce biases affecting such assessments. Moreover, how people prefer to present themselves is deeply personal, and this article is a wonderful example of how this relates to prejudice against and personal power for young African-Australian women.

Undoubtedly difficult to manage, these factors can introduce biases which impact significant numbers of workers, especially around perceptions of their professional experience and maturity to take on higher roles, and so critically impedes workplaces, broader economies and societies from experiencing the full benefits from multiculturalism.


A few days ago I had an epiphany as I listened to my wife explain her earliest  experiences of racism to our youngest son. He was interviewing his mother for a school assignment on somebody he knew who has faced challenges in their life.

As she explained to our son that she did not have any concept of what was racism until she migrated to Australia when she was a little younger than he, I already knew all of the information. I knew that in her country of birth, Sri Lanka, as a child she found that Caucasians in the country were treated as if they were special. Perhaps that was emphasised in her household as her grandfather was a strong supporter of the British and had taken on much of the British culture in eating at a dining table with properly set cutlery, and so on. Sadly for him, his love for sharing his interest in Shakespeare and English literature with his grandchildren set them up ideally to move out from under his roof and emigrate.

(Please note I do not suggest that prejudice is absent in Sri Lankan society as it certainly does exist there between cultures and castes and more.)

As my wife discussed that it had never occurred to her that people in Australia would treat her differently, I realised that, all these years later, with all she has experienced, in many aspects she remains naive to what underlies racism.

In the past I explained in my writing why it is that Anglo-Celtic Australia truly understands the breadth, if not necessarily the depth, of racism and prejudice in our society. It is people like me that grew up frequently witnessing the hushed conversations or jokes in the street, often preceded by a quick glance around to see who is nearby, that I discussed in “The Lie of Reverse Racism“. It is a critical point of great relevance to this discussion which many still refuse to concede. (I do accept, however, that others might not have witnessed racist attitudes to quite the degree I did in northern Queensland*.)

After a shared life together over 30 years, this has been a watershed year for us. Several things have coalesced – the step up in civil rights actions, events and realisations of relevance to our family and friends as discussed above, and especially an apparent reduction in the willingness of my own parents to be tolerant of diversity (and by extension ours) – that have led to me being more open about what is the real nature of the racism and prejudice that I witnessed and participated in as a youth.

My epiphany was that partly out of shame, and partly out of loyalty to my parents as well as not wanting for my wife to feel hurt and less connected to them, I have been politically correct in not explaining to my wife the deeper core beliefs underlying racism. But I now realise that it is important that she understands exactly what this belief system is that has impacted her life in Australia so greatly, and will impact our children, and what are the widespread but less visible signs of it.

We recently discussed, for instance, how prejudiced people will argue that suspicion of strangers is “natural” and biologically hard-wired into animals including human beings. Along with a belief that non-Caucasian “races” are inferior (and there are historical “scientific” papers attempting to argue that point including by Darwin himself and even the “moral superpower” Swedes), racists and prejudiced people will justify their beliefs and actions by inferring that racism is natural. Consequently they believe, either consciously or subconsciously, that all attempts to counter racism – from their perception of a top-down imposition of “political correctness” through to explicit measures at progressing diversity and inclusion goals – are ultimately doomed to fail.

From my early life I heard it said that indigenous Australians – Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders – were lazy and not good employees, and that on the sporting field they lacked courage and grit (in my experience many Australians consider grit and steely determination the preserve of Caucasians). This seems constant no matter how many hard-fought premierships and State of Origins are won by diverse sporting teams! I also learned from others in my community to be suspicious and a bit fearful of people who looked and behaved differently – I recently recalled to my children how I was even anxious on my first trip outside of Australia as an adult, to Singapore of all places, when I was 25 and on my honeymoon.

These were the views and fears that I was taught in and by my community as a child and into my youth, but I learned differently when I entered a more diverse community beginning at university.

I learned that strangers do not stay strange for long when you have an open mind.

I also learned and experienced that an open mind is not dependent on the possession of a passport, or a university degree, but on an open heart. 

For this same reason the possession of a passport or degree does not guarantee an open mind.

So the question is how to open the minds of those who, like the highly paid Australian executive Bill Michael, have chosen to keep theirs closed?

Because the problem is systemic, so must be the answer. National anti-racism and anti-prejudice/anti-bias programs must encompass all aspects of life from early education, the workplace and into every dark and difficult-to-reach corner of our society.

Earlier I asked what can be done restoratively about all of those instances of bias and prejudice in workplaces. I partly answered that in one of my earliest articles on MacroEdgo “Quotas Are Necessary To Address Workplace Diversity“:

some times an applicant from the unfavoured group with less experience will be given a chance to prove themself in a position above someone from the favoured group with more experience. After all, some of that extra experience was gained at the expense of other individuals who did not really have equal opportunity. What is important is that when somebody is chosen to correct diversity that that person is authentic and of a high calibre, and is not necessarily somebody who shares more in common with the favoured group rather than the unfavoured group.

That may translate to giving multi-level promotions to and/or accelerating the development of talented and authentic leaders from minority subgroups. Without a culture change, however, such measures will be susceptible to undermining by antagonists, in many forms, because the need for the measures is not deeply appreciated and accepted. Herein lies another reason for why a perfect meritocracy is not ideal for a healthy society as argued by Prof. Sandel – because it would embed all of the advantage and disadvantage that exists.

All Mr. Michael’s comments prove is that a tremendous amount of work is required to address subconscious bias in workplaces and broader society, as well as how little effect the corporate training to this point has had especially if his employer KPMG is indeed one of the more advanced organisations.

What is needed is honesty over what is the cause of biases along with individual honesty over retained prejudicial attitudes.

To be effective, the aim of diversity and inclusion training must be to assist all to stand in the truth of their own individual degree of racism, prejudice and/or bias as well as their privilege.

That training needs to be deep, diverse and persistent because some of the most impactful biases are subtle and the degree to which they exist challenging to detect.

Now that is what we should all care about. Surely there are many more ‘Mr. Michaels’ in corporate Australia and elsewhere. It is to be hoped that diversity and inclusion training would reform their faulty perceptions, or at the very least create a culture which reinforces to all – no matter what their position – that expressing scepticism towards the existence of subconscious bias, which actually is a subconscious effort on their own part to perpetuate their privilege, is completely unacceptable and will be dealt with in the strongest terms. 

It is patent that Mr. Michael did not care nearly enough about combatting prejudice and bias. 

If KPMG are authentically progressive he will pay a justifiably heavy price.

And to demostrate how the answer to Mr. Michael’s rhetorrical question is obvious, infact children’s logic (often the most brilliantly direct), I leave it to the genius of Dr. Seuss from “The Lorax”:

 “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

But that in itself is ironic since it is now accepted that the author of Dr. Seuss, Theodor Seuss Geisel, while ahead of his time on understanding environmental issues, did not show enough care himself over diversity and inclusion in some of his books.


*I realise that I will be challenged on this because the common refrain of many in northern Queensland is to reject the notion that racism is an issue there – instead of reeling off all of the instances of racism that I recall witnessing and later in life being offended by, and in all honesty they are too numerous, I will simply recount one particular interaction because it says a lot about the common culture (the attitude and the feeling of impunity with which highly offensive racist comments can be made – this person did not bother to check who was nearby). In my first professional position after completing my PhD I worked for the Queensland State Government and a very high level ranking member of staff (second in charge at the facility) said to me as we walked to the staff room together discussing a Category 5 cyclone out in the Pacific, in response to my concern for the poor people living near it, “Nah, nothing to worry about mate, there’s only coons in grass huts out there!” I was entirely taken aback, even with my upbringing, because I never expected anybody in a workplace to make such an offensive statement let alone somebody in such a high position. I was so shocked that I never responded, and was disappointed in myself, but I stayed ready whenever I spoke to him and did not have to wait long. I was in the photocopy room with two others, including a colleague whom completed his PhD with me, and the secretary came in to say that somebody from our former university department had called and wanted to know whether we had left any biological samples in the freezer. They were trying to ensure the material was not hazardous before discarding it. As the secretary left this same high level Government employee said “they should just suck it up into a syringe and inject it into some gooks, they’ve got enough of them out there now”. The other two were silent, but I was quick to say that he should not assume that others would agree with his vile and offensive comments and walked off, later informing my direct boss of the interaction. I should have made a formal complaint but did not out of concern for career implications.


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The Lie Of Reverse Racism

The lie of reverse racism is one of the chief tools of the racist to create division and draw people to their side.

I realised this early when I first began to reflect on the racism which I learned from my upbringing in conservative northern Queensland.

“Oh they receive so many hand-outs from the Government and free housing, and did you even know they get free taxis – it’s just not fair!” is an accurate paraphrasing of many conversations I heard non-indigenous Australians have when I was a child.

Of course there was no discussion of the realities of what it was like for indigenous Australians as their lands were occupied by Europeans, they were killed or moved to missions, and their children stripped from them to “assist” in assimilation into the European-based society enforced on them.

I strongly doubt whether any of the gossips had the slightest idea of what Government assistance indigenous Australian actually received, but it sure bonded the “us” and drove in the wedge further from “them”.

Hansonism has ensured that this narrow-minded division has also been applied to recent migrants with darkened skin, especially those from Asia and Africa.

When I wrote my explanation of Black Lives Matter, specifically when I explained the inferred 4th word, I was thinking of addressing what the racists suggest is that word – instead of at the end “Also” they suggest the movement is saying “more”, or even at the front “only”.

That is utterly preposterous given the history of racism in our and other nations, and the deeply ingrained inequity and systemic racism embedded in our systems.

The concept of reverse racism is wrapped up in white privilege, and it is patent in the objection to Black Lives Matter. “Why only say black lives matter, are you not being divisive (yourself)?” is the question of the racist or the ill-considered privileged. 

To divide assumes that first we must be whole.

When in Australian history, or American, have we ever been whole or all equal? That is precisely what Black Lives Matter is all about – making us whole – making us all equal.

But the only ones who do not realise that are the ones who have enjoyed a privileged position their entire life, even though many prefer to see themselves as victims because of other changes in society associated with, for instance, automation and globalisation.

The power in Black Lives Matter, and leaving the 4th word silent, is in assertion. It says that irrespective of what others who have enjoyed privilege in their lives say or think we assert that black lives Do matter. 

Now, in this assertive tone, even placing an emphatic “Do” is a disservice.

Black Lives Matter.

To many of us who have enjoyed that privilege our entire lives even the concept of equivalence shocks them so greatly that they immediately misread that for preference, and then scream “reverse racism”.

They confuse assertion for aggression, and their fight or flight stress response is activated – often leading to responding in kind with the aggression that they erroneously perceived – rather than placing themselves in others’ shoes and considering what it must be like to live in a society where for hundreds of years your life and the life of your family, ancestors, loved-ones and friends have not been valued as equal or as important. 

As the father of two black lives, and the husband of another, you better believe we, too, assert that their lives matter! Just as much as any human being that has ever walked this Earth!

Is that not all our birthright as human beings?

It is not lost on me, either, that some might perceive that I may be expressing my own white privilege insisting that my own blood and loved-ones would enjoy the same privilege that I have enjoyed. But that leads to a whole other discussion which I am currently working on for a post on the racist undertones to much of the reporting on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

I must admit one thing, however. I Do enjoy spending time with migrants and/or people who have spent a significant proportion of their life outside of Australia because many are humble, considerate, appreciative and sincere, the characters we valued and upheld before entitlement and anger grew so strong…


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An Explanation of Black Lives Matter

To A Good Person Who Did Not Understand

I have just had a conversation on social media with somebody who I have known since childhood, and who I know to be a lovely, and true and honest spirit.

It was not just that conversation, however, that prompted me to publish my comments in full here. Last night I was informed about a discussion that took place with somebody in a position at such a high level that they should have understood well, and had been trained also, to not make the statement that they believed all lives matter after having discussed diversity and inclusion in the workplace and the murder of George Floyd. It almost beggars belief that a person in such a position would be so ill-equipped for that discussion. To say any more of it would be to betray trust so I cannot, but it does prove to me just how far we still need to go!

Finally, just to get an indication of exactly how difficult are these concepts to understand, on the drive home from school today I asked my 12 year old and 15 year old sons whether the statement “all lives matter” is a good thing to say in today’s context, and why. They both immediately said “no”, it was not a good thing to say, and they made all of the key points that I would and have made. The reader can infer from that what they will, but I will say that I infer that a reasonably intelligent and open-minded person should understand by now why it is inappropriate to make such a statement.

Below is the conversation I had with my friend after she very sincerely stated that she was confused and wanted me to explain it to her. Please feel free to share this or to use the text if you find yourself in a situation where you need to explain the significance and symbolism of Black Lives Matter.


I know you don’t have a mean bone in your body, so I would be happy to explain (and perhaps some others might follow and understand too).

Can you hang in with me while I explain?

That message [her post stating “Police Lives Matter (share if you are brave enough)”] is actually like walking around town smiling and waving with one hand, but looking at some and giving them the finger with the other hand.

I know you thought you were being inclusive by saying something like “hey, I care about police officers because I care about all people” – right?

But what many people are doing by sending this message around is attacking the sentiment and people protesting for Black Lives Matter.

So sending a message that causes hurt amongst some of course is being divisive, even if that was not your intention.

How can I infer all of that – well we all do it all of the time – infer things from all sorts of gestures (on the face, body, images/symbols or in slogans).

Can you imagine living in a place where people don’t understand what is “flipping the bird” – people would just laugh at you wondering why you are poking up a middle finger. Believe it or not, in some countries the rudest thing you can do is take off your shoe and wave it at them 🙂 We might laugh if someone did that to us, but somebody from that culture would be highly offended.

One harmless example of the power of symbols – when my first-born was still 3 on a Friday night he saw me watching the channel 9 crew talking about the upcoming game, and just from seeing the commentators and footage of the empty field he asked “who is playing footie tonight, the telephones and the beers?” He knew from the people and the field that a football game was likely to be played and he already associated the Telstra symbol with telephones and the VB symbol with beers 🙂

The point is that these symbols and gestures are deeply embedded in our minds, including from young ages…

I will pause for a second here and continue on in another message – but while I do I ask you to think about what was the most evil symbol of the 1900s and think what about that symbol depicts the atrocities committed under it (blood, guns, gas chambers?) – nothing – but most people, especially those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis, feel fear and anger towards the symbol…


OK so I hope that you have followed and understand how symbols and gestures can send powerful messages.

So to understand why ….. Lives Matter, including All Lives Matter, is hurtful we need to recognise a few things.

Firstly it is important to understand that the symbolism behind Black Lives Matter existed first, so all of these other statements followed, and they are not stand alone statements.

They are, in reality, a response to Black Lives Matter.

Then we have to think about what is the symbolism behind Black Lives Matter. Well the first thing is that there is a fourth word inferred in the statement at the end – which is the whole point of it. Do you know what it is?

“Also”

It is again inferred in the “response” that you posted, except because it is said by many in anger and disapproval at Black Lives Matter, for them it is underlined and/or bolded (not in reality, just inferred remember).

So why is it necessary in this day and age to make the point that Black Lives Matter?

Well because of the history of America and Australia and other countries where racism has been so embedded in the culture since Europeans arrived in the country.

For 450 years in America and almost 250 in Australia black people have been treated as if their lives don’t matter as much as others.

Black American slavery treated people as commodities (like loaves of bread, bought and sold) and today racism deeply affects their lives. In Australia many Aboriginals were killed by settlers, it was only in the 60s that they were accepted into law as citizens of Australia, and of course racism deeply affects their lives.

The history on that is undeniable, even though racists do deny it and aim to confuse the issue (many racists also deny that the holocaust occurred).

The murder of George Floyd bought all of this to a head last year. Do you know how he was killed? A policeman stuck his knee into his neck for 9 minutes as he lay pinned unable to move and as he tried to say “I can’t breath”. 

Can you even begin to imagine that? Perhaps you might want to set a timer and wait in silence to understand just what a long time that is, let alone if they were the last minutes of your life as your lungs are gradually deprived of air.

Can you even begin to imagine the hate in that person’s heart to do that to another?

In most developed countries we are so concerned about animal cruelty that we insist that food animals die quickly and painlessly.

I hope that explains exactly why there is such strong symbolism behind Black Lives Matter and why responses against it are so offensive.

But I know you and I know you are a good person who cares about people… just one final post to come


So finally, if you did not mean to be offensive why should you do anything about it?

Well if you did walk down the street flipping the bird at everybody but not meaning to be offensive, would you not feel bad once it was explained to you and then try to make up for it by apologising and ensuring you understood why it was offensive and make sure you didn’t do it again?

You already started that by asking me why it was offensive, right 🙂

People who say others should not be so sensitive about these issues are as much as saying to people who suffered at the hands of the Nazis they should just forget about it and move on. The problem is that we know that if we do not learn our lessons then we are sure to repeat them, and as I said above, racism has been with us for a very long time. What is more, if we do nothing about it things will never improve and likely they will get a whole lot worse again.

People who spread these posts fall into 3 categories – those who understand all of this and spread these responses deliberately to be offensive and counter the Black Lives Matter message, those that understand it is not entirely polite (they understand the double meaning to “share if you are brave enough” and take up the “dare” aspect) figuring it can’t really hurt anyhow, and then there are others that have a very honest spirit and just do not understand the offense, instead thinking that they should be “brave” to stand up and say that I care about all people including …. (whoever was the group of people before “Lives Matter”).

On the internet people do not know you and they cannot determine in any way what category you belong to and most people assume that it is a statement of support for racism (even if people will deny that they are racist – that is the strange thing about it – most racist people, besides those who are actively involved in far right movements and who feel righteous in their racism, actually consider themselves to not be racist). These messages are shared and shared – going viral – so that in the end, regardless of your intention, you end up contributing to increasing division.

So when you do want to express support for people you are better off doing it in your own way. And when you see posts that you think are likely to be racist or otherwise divisive, the role that you can play is by just ignoring it and not adding to the spreading of those divisive views.

Doing nothing with these messages – not sharing, not liking – is an important part of getting towards that inclusive world that you and I both want for ourselves and all of the people that we love and care about.

I sincerely hope that this helps you to understand what is definitely a complex situation, which is getting more and more confusing because the people who want to create division amongst us are getting more and more sophisticated in the way that they spread their messages.

If you want to talk it through more, don’t hesitate to message me or talk it through with other friends (perhaps including some Aboriginal friends).

Sincere thanks for asking me to explain this for you. I look forward to catching up next time.


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Nobody is Perfect: We men must keep trying

On the morning of Thursday 21 January 2021 in Australia I sat and watched transfixed on the television in awe as somebody spoke to and for all of humanity. That person described themself as “a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother” who now knew it is possible that they might be President. As tears formed in my eyes all I could see was a brilliant and beautiful young woman who possessed the rare ability to change the world.

Amanda Gorman became my first hero of 2021!

In the days since the inauguration of President Biden, Ms. Gorman has never been far from my mind, her evocative words deeply enmeshed in my neural synapses already. I recall reading about how the aim of repetitive advertising is to link emotion with brands so that when we drink branded cola, for example, our brain fires up all of the neurons associated with emotions such as fun and excitement, not just taste.

When the stage is huge, and the timing momentous, just one brief moment is enough to embed and link those emotions forever. I will never forget the day I heard Amanda Gorman recite her “The Hill We Climb”, and it is for that reason that I will never forget President Biden’s inauguration.

That, I suspect, is exactly why she stole the show – she was meant to – and gee did she stand up with the courage she exalts from all of us to provide all of the youthful optimism tinged with mature (beyond her 22 years) realism that perfectly encapsulated the times.

The only problem for me as a writer is that her brilliance only proved to me my own inadequacy, for I have lamented this past year my inability to reach my contemporaries with my words. Then my own realism sets in and I know that Ms. Gorman is an exceptionally rare talent, and I find comfort in pondering on how we share such a similar view of the world and what our future must be. 

I also appreciated the use of the imagery of the bridge in this passage, “If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made”, immediately recognising the echo in my own writing in “The Great Reset: Building the bridge“.


I have also been reflecting upon my belief in my own writing, and something that I have understood intuitively since I was 16 years of age based on how my sister loved receiving my (admittedly rare) letters from home while she was at university. That I, as a male, have always had a rare ability to connect with my emotions and to express it in a clear – if typically “unconcise” – manner. For some reason I was a male who realised that he was emotionally “deep”, as my sister again recognised and described me as such to a friend when I was in my early 20s, and was proud of it.

When I was younger my innate shyness – that I can now observe with mature eyes as it is mirrored in my first-born – prevented me from sharing that depth of emotion and insight with others outside of my family, and even within my home I was often criticised for being “too sensitive”. Maturity and confidence, along with other opportunities to understand the world from studying for my PhD, strengthened my voice. 

As I explained in “How I Remade Myself After A Breakdown“, even though I was very muscular and fresh off the family farm as a lad, I was never a man’s man, or a blokey bloke, or however you might wish to express machismo. One of the sharpest reflections on that came at my brother’s buck’s (bachelor’s) night when everyone was crowded around the typical stripper’s performance cheering and, while not wishing to be singled out as being disinterested (out of fear of it being confused for being of ambiguous sexual orientation), I gathered with everybody looking upon the performance but all the while was wanting for it to be finished as soon as possible. Thankfully, an over-excited mate of my father rushed forward towards the performer bringing an end to the performance. When it was my turn for a buck’s night the one thing my mates knew for certain was off the table on the night was a stripper.

I dislike being within large groups of emotionally charged men. I feel uncomfortable with the unpredictability of over-excited testosterone. Perhaps it is one of the many consequences, together with post-traumatic disorder, of needing to bravely step up on the night of my parent’s anniversary when I was 15 years of age to take my father’s gun from his hand when he was overwhelmed with emotions – anger, hurt, confusion – at fear of loss of our family farm through foreclosure. The ambiguity of his intentions in that moment of rage has never left me, neither the image in my head of those 6 bullets sitting atop our fridge, as he left them that night, looking down upon our family table as we ate every meal for seemingly years.

None of that makes me less of a man than any other. It took me some time to realise it, but if the old stereotype that bravery is the reserve of real men, then confronting real emotions is the ultimate in masculine expression.

Of course the expression of courage is not just reserved for real men, but I use this to highlight just how cowardly are many men who fear emotion and so bottle it up, often to release, sadly, on those significantly less physically strong than them in women, children and youth.

The strength that I admire most is emotional strength, as embodied in Mandela’s definition of courage as being able to summon the strength to act even when scared, and that is in no way reserved for men. Off the top of my head some of the most courageous people to my mind are Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg. And yes, Amanda Gorman, who stood on the brightest stage mere mortals have and courageously said that she knows the way forward if only humanity has the courage to be it.


Western society in general does now seem to be moving in the right direction with the challenging of gender stereotypes, and here, after being critical of the Australia education system over racism, I need to say that I have long been singing the praises for early educators for teaching a level of emotional vocabulary and intelligence that remains elusive to many adults. At least in the (public) schools that my children have attended, the level of conflict in the school grounds has been orders of magnitude less than I witnessed in my schooling several decades ago and much of that must rest not only with parents but with teachers.

The changing societal view of male gender identity, however, is something middle-aged men especially seem to be struggling with, and elected male politicians in Western nations have recognised there is significant advantage in appealing to the imagery around what it is to be a real (white) man.

That is especially true in my home country of Australia where the idolised image of masculinity is so tightly tied to “the bush” or “outback” in characters such as 19th century Bush Rangers and especially Ned Kelly, the fictional Crocodile Mick Dundee, or in many stories of the “larrikin” soldiers fighting in Gallipoli.

My role as a stay at home Dad has provided an opportunity for rare insights into Australian male identity. Early on I witnessed my father struggling to accept my new role which seemed so alien him – on occasions he introduced me to friends in an intentionally derogatory manner by describing me as a “house wife” – which drew us into argument where I told him that he needed to get over his own embarrassment about the role that I had chosen to play for my family. 

In wider society there were also challenges. I have found being a male home parent to be incredibly isolating as women in the primary caretaker role, and with free time to build connections within the school environment, were reluctant to develop closer relationships with males. 

Moreover, as a male frequently in the school environment, around young children, I felt extra pressure to always be exemplary and never place myself in a position where people might develop the slightest suspicion of improper behaviour on my part (in the early years, still very much recovering from a breakdown, that added extra anxiety). As one example both of my sons in Prep loved that I volunteered to assist in their swimming classes and liked me being on hand in the dressing room to help them. But I felt awkward going into the dressing room, recognising the risks to perceptions of me, and only did so briefly and for the first few weeks even though mothers frequently went into both male and female change rooms regardless of the gender of their own children. 

Still I accepted that this is the nature of current society, and it is preferable that people be alert to the risks of children being hurt rather than underplaying the risks and disbelieving hurt children as occurred in the past.

The truth is that the identity of the Australian male has been confused for decades with rural-urban migration conflicting with the popularised version of the fun and care-free knock-about Aussie man. Nothing exemplifies that more to me than the angry young men tearing around our cities in their rarely off-road 4×4 tradies utes, such as the one I discussed in “The Great Reset: Teaching what we left behind“.

Given that the rural-urban migration pattern is far from unique to Australia, such conflicting identity especially for less socially-adaptable men is likely an issue in many societies.

It is hardly any wonder, then, that many male politicians go to great lengths to contrive a “rugged” masculinity into their carefully crafted public image, which necessitates a rejection of vulnerability and sensitivity. That is how you arrive at a PM who infers that people, and especially men, anxious about the risks of contracting COVID-19 in the most severe global pandemic in a century, are “whimps” lacking the courage to “come out from under their doonas”. 

That is the definition of toxic masculinity, and the current Australian PM is especially prone to it as was another recent conservative Australian PM in Tony Abbott.

Even Mr. Morrison, though, came to understand that building such a persona comes with significant risks when interacting with authentic rural Australians, especially when emotionally fragile such as the people of Cobargo who suffered greatly in the fires last Summer.  

I have to admit that I consider having had a breakdown to be an advantage in developing a strong sense of self and emotional awareness. Whilst never a high testosterone man’s man my self awareness was poor. Much of that was a coping mechanism to deal with the pressure I lived under as a boy and lad, and through my recovery I realised it is characteristic of my family, but that flaw in my life skills stayed with me well into adulthood.

Having a breakdown stripped me bare emotionally and was frightening and confronting. But it did provide me with the opportunity, through absolute necessity, to rebuild myself with a far stronger foundation based on much introspection of myself and of the formative events and relationships in my life. Necessity, that is, if I was to achieve a good quality of life again and be the father and husband I aimed to be.

Still I would not recommend a breakdown to anybody and there is nobody happier than me that this period of my life is behind me.

Few have the ability to make major changes in the way they interact in and with society without first suffering a major shock or unless their incentives/reward system is seriously altered.

That is precisely why men need good role models in society, including our elected male politicians, who are able to authentically show their true self rather than attempting to cobble together a public image encompassing the improbable trinity of an urban man with the knock-about likeability of Mick Dundee who in diplomatic circles is smooth, sure-footed and worldly enough to chart a safe course for the nation in an increasingly fractious geopolity.

I would note, also, that in “The Great Reset: A letter to my Father and ‘Sliding Doors’ self” I stated that “an open mind is not dependent on the possession of a passport but on an open heart”. That is precisely why the much-loved Australian fictional character Mick Dundee was so relatable – his nature appealed to our better selves – but the ironies abound, not least of which is the lack of genuine openness in Australia, particularly in rural Australia, especially around race.


I am proud that I have come a long way in my life, but I know that I am not perfect – far from it. I am not any longer so ignorant to suggest that in the hypothetical survey that I put forward in “Racism and Political Correctness” I could honestly select the best level for diversity and inclusion attitudes no matter how much I may want to believe I could. I am aware that the faulty thinking that I learned from the overt racism I witnessed and participated in as a child right through to my early adulthood, and then the systemic racism to which we are passively exposed still daily, has impacted my thinking so that I undoubtedly am affected by unconscious bias towards all sorts of groupings within humanity.

In truth, in our global humanity at the commencement of the 21st century, I honestly doubt that very many people would be truly free from these unconscious biases. That is why I firmly believe that artificial intelligence technology must be employed within workplaces, for instance, along with quotas and other active measures, to address diversity and inclusion in an anti-prejudice program.

For me, Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas, completely missing the point at the 2020 AGM that a truly diverse company had not been achieved just because they had a gay man as the CEO and several female board members demonstrates this point amply.

My experience, however, does suggest to me that belonging to, or becoming a part of, a minority is an advantage to understanding and becoming sensitive to issues surrounding diversity and inclusion.

The irony of racist attitudes, as I alluded to above, is that many of the most strongly racist and prejudicial people are likely to overstate, through ignorance, their acceptance of diversity and inclusion, while those less extreme on the spectrum are likely to be capable of a far more realistic self assessment.


A breakdown gave me an understanding of what it is to acutely and confrontingly address my identity. An unconfident young man, with a weak voice at expressing my views and my own identity, my confidence grew as I excelled as a research scientist and increasingly become identified as Australia’s expert in my field (as I was introduced at the World Aquaculture Society Symposium in Sydney in 2000) and as an emerging world leader (as was frequently being stated to me in person). With the clicking of the “send” button on the email announcing my retirement, all that was gone. A very key aspect of my identity was removed as if it were erased because it would have zero relevance to my life from that point onward.

Few people understand better what identity means to us as human beings as those who have had a breakdown due to an abrupt end to their career. Since my breakdown I have heard sports people, venerated within society especially when still competing, increasingly speak about their struggles with the challenges of retiring especially when done prematurely.

I have always remembered a line in an interview with Brett Kenny, who probably would have been considered one of Australia’s best ever rugby league five-eighths if not for a guy by the name of Wally Lewis, when someone in a bar asked him “didn’t you use to be Brett Kenny?” For me that sums it up so perfectly!

Male identity, wrapped up in testosterone and its byproducts of aggression and power, is vulnerable. Yet that is the one thing that is seen as emasculating to admit.

Male leaders who continue with this ridiculous cultivation of an urban or rural Mick Dundee identity for Australian men do a disservice to themselves and to Australian boys. 

But nobody can say all of this better than Amanda Gorman:

If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy 

and change, our children’s birthright.


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Racism and Political Correctness

It is time that I explicitly state my views on racism. The issue which I consider goes right to the heart of dealing with racism in Australia is political correctness, which is ironic because political correctness is perhaps the most often stated justification by racists for the need to express their beliefs. 

The racists’ argument infers that it is entirely natural for humans to be suspicious of others who are different, and that turns to anger and resentment when a “higher society” – of intellectual “elites” – enforces a moral political correctness upon all people to behave in a polite manner contrary to this nature. The racists blame this political correctness for causing a bottling up of emotion so that when it comes out in anger, whether from a bald-headed aggressive youth or in the quivering voice of an Ipswich fish and chips shop owner, it is all the fault of those in this “higher society” who impinged on their freedom of speech not through law but through societal pressure.

There is even an element of honour in openly expressing their dislike of minorities, from the racists’ perspective, in that it is morally preferable to behave consistently with their real values rather than to pretend to have the other “politically correct” values. They consider themselves more “authentic“.

Everybody who lived through the emergence of Pauline Hanson knows that her supporters frequently stated that she was just saying what everybody thought. Then living in conservative northern Queensland, I heard it often and I will never forget who were the members of my large extended family who proudly and defiantly told me, with my Asian-Australian wife at my side, how they were Pauline Hanson supporters.

The irony around political correctness and racism is that, while it most certainly is a major factor, the racists are actually benefitting or being aided from it. 

Racists are given a great deal of leeway in their comments and actions because others are timid and reluctant to call them out for what they are for fear of being offensive themselves.

This makes virtually everybody in society afraid of discussing racism and what constitutes racist beliefs and actions. It is impolite to even discuss it in company.

This is perhaps the most serious impediment to defeating the scourge as it is obvious that no problem can ever be truly addressed if there are only ever vague and obtuse references to the issues.

I have a particularly personal but pertinent anecdote to highlight this point.

Last year I received a call from my youngest son’s School Principal informing me that my son had stood up to another student by calmly responding to racist comments that the student made. When I discussed the incident with my son he confirmed it was the student who I knew, from previous incidents, was frequently in disciplinary trouble. The comments made were about Asians and coronavirus, but were not specifically directed at my son. I allowed my son to slowly discuss all of the events and how he felt. Eventually it became clear that this student had made racist comments before, and my son had relayed that as a part of his recount to the senior teacher who had addressed the problem first before informing the Principal.

The real issue became apparent when I asked my son how that senior teacher dealt with it, and how that made him feel. My son felt that the teacher down-played the actions and comments of the student, and that made him feel foolish for objecting to what was said so much so that he felt it was pointless, if not distressing, to stand up to this behaviour.

The next day I rang the Principal and informed him of how this senior teacher had reacted. My son was a School Captain so was highly regarded by the school and worked frequently with the Principal. The Principal defended his staff member, which on the one hand is understandable, but what he said was poignant: he said that it is a fine line for teachers to tread with beliefs taught at home, and so they usually try to steer clear of the issue. 

I informed him that the upshot of the interaction was that my son felt foolish for what was in fact very honourable actions, and that my son needed and deserved positive reinforcement from the school at least privately if not publicly. The other student and their class cohorts also received those weak messages about respecting diversity publicly. The Principal undertook to speak with my son to clarify that message, but never did. My son did, however, receive the leadership award for his cohort which was perhaps a veiled hat-tip to his honourable actions then and through the year. However, avoidance or obtuse acknowledgement is less than satisfactory.

Now in writing this I know that racists will suggest that it is not up to anybody to say who acted honourably in this specific situation.

Therein lies the problem with political correctness over racism – it is clear-cut in Australian society – racism is wrong and standing up against racism most definitely is honourable and should be praised by all.

That is not up for debate and anybody who suggests it is debatable is not being respectful of broad contemporary Australian society.

That political leaders are weak on this message is what breeds timidity – or “political correctness” – on spelling out what is racism in the broad context of Australian society.


This reluctance to explicitly call somebody racist in many ways emboldens racists because they revel in timidity, like all bullies. 

Take, for instance, Trump and his allies. I cannot recall any high-profile journalist or commentator calling Trump a racist, and it was not until late in the Presidential campaign when Biden did. There is also a timidity in calling others around Trump racists.

Trump often even goaded others to go ahead and call him a racist, which nobody did, also a frequent tactic of bullies.

It would seem that the strongest language those acting in a professional capacity use is to suggest that somebody has made comments with xenophobic undertones or that they are in some way associated with xenophobic elements. This is displaying timid political correctness at two levels – it dissociates the acts from that person and who they are or what they stand for, and the term “xenophobe” is a more timid term than “racist”.

The threshold for calling somebody racist is incredibly high.

Just imagine yourself saying the words, “you are racist”. Immediately you will recognise these as very strong words.

Most people have an aversion to hurting or insulting others, and will usually err on the side of caution rather than risking being overly harsh or judgmental.

What has become apparent to me over the years is that the unscrupulous most often commit wrong against others by using the goodness and trust at the core of human beings, whether it be a criminal who waits for an unsuspecting victim to open a door to them or stops their vehicle to help them, or cons who scam victims into providing personal details over the phone, through the internet or directly.

In the same way aggressive racists capitalise on and exploit our timidity in avoiding calling out exactly what and who they are.


This timidity in addressing racism must be counteracted from the earliest moments that children enter broader society and certainly within the education system. Racism is misguided thinking that must be corrected like any other misguided or anti-social behaviour that is addressed within schools by childhood education professionals. Unfortunately, the observations of my children again suggest this is not the case in Australia. 

Now I do not want to be, nor do I wish to appear to be – there’s that political correctness again – overcritical of my sons’ primary school, but this anecdote really does bear repeating.

Both of my sons were taught by an elderly, cantankerous supply teacher who actually used the racist version of Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe, which obviously incorporates the “N” word, in her classes. 

Here, I would not be authentic, myself, if I did not make a serious confession. This racist version was actually the only version that I knew from my childhood, and one day when I heard my children saying “Tigger” my initial impulse was to correct them, which of course brought on a conversation with my wife. I had never said this rhyme again since my early childhood, and so I had never thought about what the words actually meant. My initial reaction was to think that that is so shocking that we children would be taught this, and say it so openly in front of everybody – teachers, parents and other adults – that there had to be another meaning for the “N” word. As I sat there and thought about it with my wife, the realisation washed over me – especially as I thought of the context in which the words are said – that in deed it was an extremely racist rhyme. There is no other meaning for the “N” word and it is undeniably racist. It is incredible to think now that we children of the 70s in northern Queensland would recite that rhyme, made even more despicable since we grew up with many indigenous children who were our friends and team mates.

So I have to admit that I can understand a certain level of ignorance can exist. But once an adult says the words, even in their own mind, within a very brief period it should be entirely clear how utterly inappropriate it is. That any teacher in Australia would recite that rhyme to children in the 21st century is almost beyond belief. 

It shows that in Australia the education system must not take anything for granted when it comes to racism, and that rigorous diversity and inclusion programs for all of their staff as well as in the curricula which is taught to children must be implemented as a matter of urgency.

This is absolutely critical as there is a growing awareness of the importance of educating role models on diversity and inclusion as an intervention to racism culminating in radicalisation .

Research conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic showed that 1 in 3 Australian Australian school students were the victim of discrimination.

East Asian students reported the highest rate of insults or name calling on the basis of their background at 44%, while 30% of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island students surveyed reported having students spit, push or hit them on the basis of their race.

Among Anglo-Celtic students 15% said they had been insulted on the basis of their background, while 6% reported being subject to violence.

The report was compiled as part of the Speak Out Against Racism program, which is developing a program to encourage students and staff to address racism in schools.

“We need high-quality, whole-of-school programs – built on evidence and which are tested – that act to directly prevent and appropriately respond to racial discrimination and racism when it happens,” Priest said.


To be entirely honest, I believe this timidity goes even further in that it seems that very many Australians are reluctant to express open support for diversity and multiculturalism in their day to day activities such as on social media. For instance my experience is that few will show open support for underprivileged minorities, or for the poor in developing countries, or for refugees experiencing difficult circumstances.

Perhaps this is a part of the politicisation of refugees and migration by populists or populist-leaning Governments, especially by the Howard Government in the 2001 Australian Federal election, and then the reluctance by mainstream politicians to speak out against the racism inherent in such positions for fear of disenfranchising racist voters.

Thus a reluctance to show support for other struggling human beings, sometimes in desperate situations, is confused by some as being political.

Is it truly being political identifying these people as being worthy of empathy and help?

Or is it just a lack of courage to show explicit support for these people out of fear of being seen as having views outside the range of popular opinion?


Australia has long had a problem with admitting to our racist past along with our contemporary racism. There is a reluctance in admitting the injustices committed upon indigenous Australians and in the long enforcement of the White Australia Policy. Minorities in contemporary Australia face discrimination and bias in many forms, including in the workplace where research has shown that people with obvious minority names are significantly less likely to be contacted for interviews from submitting job applications. 

To get as many interviews as an Anglo applicant with an Anglo-sounding name, an Indigenous person must submit 35 per cent more applications, a Chinese person must submit 68 per cent more applications, an Italian person must submit 12 per cent more applications, and a Middle Eastern person 64 per cent more applications.

Within Australian society, I doubt that there has ever been a poll asking people about how racist they consider themselves – whether overtly racist; or racist within social circles (i.e. making “insider” jokes and snide comments but never expressing those views to others directly or indirectly such as online); or somewhat aware that unconscious biases affect their attitudes, behaviours and decisions; or not at all racist or biased against anybody from another ethnicity.

Now that the reader has likely responded in their own mind on how they might have answered in this hypothetical survey, I am going to challenge that response with personal anecdotes.

My wife and I had two close friends, in different social circles, who were unattached and we thought it might be nice to arrange for them to meet casually. I approached my friend to discretely learn whether there was any interest, only informing them that the person is a great person and is Asian-Australian. Quickly my friend responded that they were not attracted to that “type” of person, and given the only other information they knew was they are friends with us also, it was clear it was because they were of Asian ancestry. 

I am guessing that some readers will immediately consider that there likely was some other reason.

It has certainly been my experience that when I do raise the issue of racism and about racist actions displayed, including by somebody other than whom I am speaking with, the initial reaction very often is to deny that the actions were racist or biased.

So let me introduce a “sub-anecdote” where it was more explicit – not all that long ago a friend/acquaintance of my wife actually said to her “I’m not into Asians” when talking about meeting up with women from Apps.

So here is the simple question – can you imagine yourself developing feelings for and/or being attracted to somebody from any ethnic background?

If you cannot answer yes to yourself truthfully, then I suggest that you need to seriously and honestly look at why that is and consider that in the context of how you answered the initial question.

The other anecdote is something that was said to my wife several times as a young adult by friends in Australia. When the issue of her own differences have arisen in discussion, the friends, no doubt trying to express their affection for and connection with her, have said that they do not consider her black or Asian.

Now this statement is a real double-edged sword to somebody from a minority struggling to fit in. On the one hand it says that they are accepted. On the other it says that they have been accepted in the context in which the friend chooses to see them and not as they truly are. 

Most people from minorities in Australia will recognise this type of sentiment and that it comes with significant pressure to assimilate or conform to societal views on what it is to be “Australian”.

Now it is true that some may have clumsily attempted to express that all that matters is that my wife is a good person, and that her appearance which confirms her ethnicity is no more significant than her hair colour or height (or lack of it!)

Equally, it is worth pondering how the friend might have responded to, “that’s great because I don’t consider you white or Australian”, and whether that might have offended them or given them pause to consider whether that statement was racist or biased.


There are two things that I know with certainty: we as a nation and as individuals can not hold ourselves to account for our racist beliefs and actions if we are not honest with ourselves, and we can not eliminate racism if we do not lose our political correctness around calling out racism when we see or experience it. 

Finally, if the reader is wondering whether I consider my own extended family members who support Pauline Hanson to be racist, you better believe I do, along with others who were “politically correct” enough to not confrontingly tell me of their support for her and for what she stood. I do have to admit, though, that until now I was too politically correct to say so…


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2021

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The Great Reset: Building the bridge

What would you think if I sang out of tune?
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends

Lyrics of John Lennon and Paul McCartney

I have a confession to make. I may be a professionally trained scientist, but when I have an x-ray performed I do not analyse the film myself as I struggle to make head nor tail of it. I guess I have had perhaps 20 x-rays taken in my life of 50+ years and I am just not practiced enough at it to understand what I am looking at. I am certain that if I took the time to study all of the relevant detail I could begin to understand what is involved, but without looking at hundreds of films of various parts of the body, and refreshing those skills regularly, I do not think that I would trust myself to give an accurate diagnosis of any issues I might have when I really needed to.

I have another confession. When I enter the lift of a high-rise building I do not first check the maintenance log to ensure that it has been maintained in good working order. To be totally honest, I am not even really sure how lifts work. I know the earliest ones were based on a counter-balance system, but I suspect these modern ones that move so fast do so with an entirely different mechanism.

Don’t get me started on cars let alone planes. Truthfully, I am just not a very mechanical person. It never interested me. Perhaps in that regard I was spoiled by having a father that could fix anything so when working on our family farm as a lad, if I broke or bogged it, Dad came to the rescue! It was just most practical to him to solve the issue quickly so he and I could get back to work asap. I am sure that if I did stay on the farm I would have developed these skills, as even now I am constantly amazed at what I picked up from observing as a lad how my father worked, but my life took me in a different direction so I have less need of these skills in my day to day life.

I know that it would probably be advantageous for me to understand all of these things, since they are obviously really critical to my health and well-being, but I just do not have the time, nor the inclination to be totally frank. I guess I have just been raised to trust the people who do these jobs for me. And when I think about it, my life is full of, and is entirely dependent on, placing a whole heap of trust on these people who perform these critical roles for me.

I think we all do, and have done since we left caves when life was simpler, but tougher, even though I do not in any way minimise the skill it must have taken to sharpen weapons to hunt successfully for food and ward off danger.

I was once an expert. I was one of the best human beings in the world that you could contact if you had a problem with disease while farming crustaceans, or if you noticed crustaceans dying in a stream or pond. Or even in your aquarium. 

On one occasion, when I lived in France, I met some people whose job it was to manage the natural environment around a small village in a remote mountainous area and they were concerned about the precious and endangered crayfish dying in their streams. I visited their village, just in behind where the famous wine Crozes Hermitage is made, and I collected the dead and dying crayfish for examination. I was able to show, using a light microscope and electron microscope together with the skills that I had honed over the previous 10 years of my life, that all of these sick and dying crayfish were infected by a virus. It was the first time a virus had been identified in this crayfish species, and only the second virus found in European crayfish (I also found the first a few years earlier in crayfish in Finland). 

Very few people in the world had the capacity and skills to do it – some, who even had reasonable training in veterinary science, had tried but were not quite getting things right to be able to find viruses in European crayfish. But I had a passion for it and I was particularly skilled. I guess it is a bit esoteric and very specific or specialised, probably why it was such a struggle trying to maintain a career doing that work, but that is another story. Then again, with a global population of over 7 billion there is a great need for knowledge on a whole heap of apparently obscure fields.

It used to be difficult to find people with these rare knowledge and skills, but the internet has changed that. I had a “Crayfish Diseases” website in 1996!

The truth is that what I do know pales in comparison to what I do not even though all of this accumulated knowledge and skill is imperative to the modern life I live. Essentially my confessions on things that I do not know, or benefit from without really understanding them, could run on ad infinitum

But I actually have a really big confession to make which some who have read my essays, with tightening muscles around the neck and hair bristling on the back with contempt at what I said, might even jump up and down about. I may be a professionally trained scientist, but I did not specialise in an area that is especially relevant to studying and analysing climate change trends. I am keenly interested in the subject, and have read reviews so that over the years I have developed an overwhelming impression that the very great majority of scientists who have specialised in the most relevant fields have increasingly become concerned by the trends that they have observed. 

That concern certainly seems to be backed up by what we are seeing and experiencing in real life, even if it is not particularly scientific to rely on anecdotal observations. I recall that when I spent 3 months in Finland in 1995 during their summer they had a record heat wave so that temperatures went above 30C. My Finnish friends tell me that they have hardly had a Summer since when temperatures did not breach 30C. A few days ago I read about the scientific research showing the shrinking Arctic sea ice and the article mentioned how a town in Siberia recorded 38C this year!

Finland 1995

By now we are all familiar with the forecasts of more extreme weather, sea level rise, effects on animal and plant life, and ultimately on us human beings.

I, personally, place a great deal of trust in the overwhelming majority of climate scientists who argue that humanity confronts a climate crisis. 

This comes from the same place where I gain my trust to do all of the things that I want or need to do in my life. I have a strong belief and optimism in the goodness at the core of human beings, and I understand that human beings specialising in specific roles in societies has been the greatest factor in human progress towards our very successful form of social organisation, free market capitalism. (Though that does not mean that we do not always need to stay alert and engaged to ensure that the system continues to serve us all).

Now, of course, not all of the human beings who have specialised in researching and understanding the natural world and climate trends agree. That would really worry me if there was no place for disagreement. No, free and open debate is absolutely vital in all facets of human endeavour. That there are some who disagree with the majority on climate change is a healthy sign that the system works and that is to be treasured.

Nonetheless, it really is clearcut that the majority of scientists who know the most about the relevant fields agree that humanity faces a climate crisis of our own making.

It really is time to stop acting like this needs to be a unanimous decision, or like any Tom, Dick or Karen who has picked up climatology in their spare time should be listened to even if they have a FaceBook page, or blog, or plain old-fashioned website.

Those still arguing over the need to act on climate change are already well behind. The majority of key decision-makers in Governments, business and across broader societies are moving on with or without them because, frankly, we cannot afford to wait any longer before taking meaningful action.

Any politician, and nation they “lead”, in denial over any of this is becoming increasingly isolated, and that will surely continue for as long as they continue their denial.


We now find ourselves in 2021 heading towards more critical global meetings on climate change. One of the first is being hosted by the World Economic Forum as a part of the initiative “The Great Reset” that I discussed in “The Great Reset: Momentum builds with the World Economic Forum agenda” and which encompasses a broad aspiration of engaging all people in the development of a fair, diverse and equitable, and sustainable future for humanity.

This initiative is essentially identical to what I have called for in my writing at MacroEdgo including in my essay entitled “The Great Reset” which I published two months ahead of the WEF initiative launch.

The WEF initiative has been singled out for suspicion and conspiracy theories by elements aligned with Trumpism. These theories centre around a view that the powerful elites are exploiting the vulnerability experienced by humanity in the COVID-19 pandemic to tilt the playing field – or the Monopoly board – even further to their advantage.

For me it has always been an amazing irony that the most elitist of all, Trump himself, had amassed such a strong following amongst those who have become dissaffected as the already privileged – many of them Trump’s friends – took a greater share of the bounty from their shared society.

The apparatus around Trump and those in his orbit have created a narrative that the aim of the WEF is to impose their agenda in an enormous abuse of power, derived from their wealth, in a dictatorial manner.

In this increasingly polarised world, those who oppose Trump feared that this was actually his playbook, and Trump’s reluctance to accept the election result confirmed as much for many.

That 74+ million American voters wanted another 4 years, at least, of Trump “leadership” speaks loudly of that polarisation and of the resources that this apparatus commands in asserting their divisive agenda.

The obvious response is that, like my own writing continually calling on everyone to engage with discussions on the best direction for humanity to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the WEF is imploring all to engage with the discussion and to express a viewpoint.

Perhaps the greatest irony is that Trump is, and has done since first running for the Presidency, also calling for a reset. He calls it “Making America Great Again”, yet he does not define what made it great in a former period.

My own writing also talks about taking America and humanity back to a former greatness, the vision laid out by one of the greatest US presidents – FDR.

In other words, Trump and his associates could actually be calling for the same thing that I am. 

But we know from Trump’s messaging, and those he courts, that his reset is for a divisive and unsustainable future – the polar opposite of mine and the WEF’s published views on the direction humanity must take.


For an organisation that is painted in these conspiracy theories as secretive and dictatorial, the WEF has not done a good job of keeping a low-profile over the years with their highly televised annual gathering normally held in Davos, Switzerland.

Moreover, that the WEF has devoted so many resources to promote an open discussion on “The Great Reset” initiative, with their significant materials on their website and in a Time Magazine expose, suggestions that they are trying to secretly and dictatorially impose their agenda on humanity are clearly not grounded in reality!

Those who promote these conspiracy theories infer that there is something unusual or wrong about a group or subset  of people gathering to discuss important issues and making important decisions on behalf of all in our societies. But of course that is how human beings have preferred to organise for a long time including in cultures from thousands of years earlier. 

What is more, though we all have an opportunity to be involved with decision-making for many organisations important to us, whether school communities, sporting clubs or other groupings, not everybody has a desire to join committees and other structures that directly make decisions. People tend to prefer to perform certain roles, and obviously not all can be in leadership or decision-making roles.

However, and it is an important however, all within any grouping of human beings need to feel that their desires and views are taken on board by those who lead and make decisions. 

Of course that is the basis of representative Government, and it is the situation in functional democracies and even many autocracies that otherwise would be at risk of overthrow by a disenfranchised populace.

One aspect of the conspiracy theories seems to be that unelected people, from business and non-Governmental organisations, are involved in these discussions – in fact it is businesspeople initiating the discussions – which has been perceived as them having undue influence on decisions.

Again, this is a natural response to politicians withdrawing from their role as leaders, and to them not listening to scientists and to the will of the majority in society who trust the scientists.

What is more, just because the leaders of these organisations (of human beings) have not been elected does not mean that they do not have diverse and broad stakeholders that are able to assert significant pressure when dissatisfied with the direction the organisation is heading. In fact, stakeholder activism is increasingly common, and businesspeople are well aware of it, not least because investment managers have recognised this and some are specialising in such areas. 

Generally the business elites least likely to respond positively to this imposition of broad societal will are those in the Trump orbit, because it challenges their (sociopathic?) need for unchallenged control and power.

The story is deeper, however, because even those on the extreme left – many of whom believe that recent events prove that capitalism is a failed system that cannot be repaired – do not trust the WEF for many of the same reasons and because they find the combined wealth of the business elite offensive in this deeply inequitable world. While I am superficially sympathetic to those feelings in relation to that inequity, I explained in “How Might Milton Friedman Respond To The COVID-19 Pandemic” why this too is flawed logic.

This situation reminds me of a lesson I learned whilst a Humboldt Fellow in Germany in 2002. Over a weekend gathering in Berlin, culminating with a function hosted by the President of Germany, my wife and I befriended two Czeck republic scientists. I recall talking about their opening up after the fall of the iron curtin just over a decade earlier. It was a difficult reality for them to accept that many of the people who were in positions of power under communist rule had managed to keep those or similar influential positions.

The inescapable pragmatism of the situation was that the necessary resetting of their system was highly dependent on utilising those with appropriately developed skills to ensure the continuity of societal functions even if emotionally they might be seen as representing vestiges of a deeply inequitable and often cruel regime. Mao’s cultural revolution in China, sending doctors to villages to be farmers, and other ill-conceived ideas, which led to famine and starvation on an enormous scale, was a lesson for all of humanity.

I see few business elites in as dim a light. Those I do view dimly I perceive mostly as being afflicted with personal greed and toxic aspiration which leads to them acting in their own interest above what is best for broader society.

In “The Great Reset: Momentum builds with the World Economic Forum agenda” I admitted that I consider myself incapable of being a “player” (or a significant “actor”) because I lack political aptitude, that being the skills necessary to influence and lead large groups of people. I do honestly consider them to be rare skills, and not always possessed by those in leadership roles.

Even those with extreme views on wealth must recognise the pragmatism in harnessing the skills of the business elites to enact the necessary deep reforms to place humanity on the surer, equitable and sustainable footing that we desire and require urgently.

Again, what we need is trust and optimism in the goodness at the core of humanity. And a recognition that there really are authentic leaders across all of society.


Specialisation is one of if not the key achievement of humanity. Instead of us all working hard to be okay at all of the skills we need to survive – from securing the necessities of life in water, food and shelter – we have developed societies so that we trust others to do the majority of our vital tasks. That has freed up our minds and time for us to innovate and create both in our roles that we play in our societies and for enjoyment.

The great majority of human beings in most global societies accept and trust the views of the great majority of climate scientists, who have devoted their lives to their work, and who agree that humanity must urgently respond to a climate crisis of our making. 

These scientists even agree on what must be done to address the crisis. 

Now humanity needs the people who are specialised in politics, leadership and communication, together with the people who manage businesses globally and regionally, to lay the background and institute the changes in an urgent manner. And we need the people who really understand people and culture to ensure that diversity, inclusion and fairness is at the centre of all decisions.

Just as we all do not need to understand the engineering and construction of a physical bridge, we all need to show the same trust in those capable of building a strong bridge which we can cross to a better future for humanity.

This year that begins with the WEF “The Great Reset” initiative at its first meeting (of a unique twin summit format) held in January promising an “an open house policy to integrate all interested citizens into this dialogue”.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2021

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The Great Reset: Momentum builds with the World Economic Forum agenda

I spent most of February and the first half of March 2020 banging away on my keyboard trying to wake up my fellow Australian residents to the risks of the coming COVID-19 pandemic so that through political self-interest elected politicians would enact policies necessary to protect those within the Australian borders and to help as best we can with international efforts. Events over Christmas 2020, with slow and incomplete responses by New South Wales to a potentially dangerous cluster and by the Commonwealth Government to potentially dangerous variants from the United Kingdom and South Africa, show that work will never be truly complete in this pandemic.

Early in the pandemic the Australian Prime Minister was following his natural ideologues in the US and UK in downplaying the risks. Even in mid-March Mr. Morrison was more interested in ensuring that we attend sporting events than prepare the country for what lay ahead.

This from my “Coronavirus Update” of 3 March fills the canvass:

In Australia our Prime Minister and Chief Medical Officer, counter to Dr Tedros’ recommendations for people in high risk categories to begin reducing social interaction, are encouraging all Australians to maintain their normal practices, with both eyes on the economic data!

The similarities in the COVID-19-related thoughts and actions of Donald Trump in the US, Borris Johnson in the UK, and Scott Morrison in Australia are both striking and concerning.

Oh and Australia is still going ahead with the opening of the Formula 1 season on 15 March. Boy will some be sweating in their shorts about that all working out without (apparent) incident.

Of course the Formula 1 was cancelled on the first day of practice due to COVID-19 infections amongst some teams, with spectators crowded around the entrances.

Eventually the international border of our island continent closed as of 19 March, but the PM still was reluctant to take the necessary measures to take full advantage of our isolation and go for elimination. In “Australian ‘Followship’” published 23 March I was exasperated:

OK, I have just about exhausted myself in prosecuting this case. I do not know whether I will manage it, but my aim is to cease pointing out the defincies in the Australian response because I fear it is all pointless at this stage. Our advantage in battling the pandemic was not taken. And some times it is just too difficult to fight against the reality that “The First Victim of War is the Truth“.

I aim to add some more positive pieces to assist my nation and broader humanity endure this our toughest immediate challenge.

Seven days later on 30 March, almost 9 months ago, I published at MacroEdgo an essay entitled “The Great Reset” which detailed my views on the likely consequences of the pandemic on global societies and I proposed an approach – or a mindset – for emerging from the crisis in a better position by placing humanity on a path to a sustainable future. I also posted the essay at Medium.com on the same day.

The foreword reads:

This is a post of hope. Of promise. Of potential within our grasp if we have the courage to reach for it. The commencement discusses markets because they give a verifiable account of the slow reaction to the threat that COVID-19 posed to humanity. The latter discussion opens up to encompass implications and aspirations for humanity.

In a key passage I explained those aspirations:

I believe that if the current most urgent battle against COVID-19, followed by the equally necessary and increasingly urgent fight against the climate crisis, is handled with adept leadership, we have every chance of having a very rare psychological reset which could set up the global community for the next half century. It will be a much more humane and equitable one if we follow the edict of FDR as brilliantly articulated in his 4th Inauguration speech, and if the lessons of needing to stand up to hard-hearted right wingers and imperialists is heeded from the record of FDRs loyal and loving son Elliot Roosevelt in “As He Saw It” which recounted events immediately after FDR’s all too early passing as WW2 drew to an end and in the immediate post-war period.

I put everything I had into the conclusion:

Be in no doubt that there will be hard-hearted factions that want things to go back as closely as possible to the inequitable and unfair world that existed before this war [against the COVID-19 pandemic] because that is the game that they know how to win. That is exactly what was occurring in the post-GFC period. There will even be others who want to tilt things further to their advantage. These are the people that like to say that “a good crisis should never be wasted” and you just need to read Elliot Roosevelt’s “How He Saw It” to understand how that occurs.

Ask yourself this: Do we really want to get through all of this hurt, of the realisation that we are all humans, fearing and hurt by the same things, and come out the other side of this battle against COVID-19 to enter into the same petty argument of the reality of the climate change crisis with hard-hearted right wingers behaving petulantly not accepting that they are in the wrong?

If this battle against COVID-19 proves nothings else it shows that all our fates on this beautiful planet are inextricably linked. The only sustainable way forward for humanity is united and time and effort spent moving in the other direction is an utter waste and dangerous to us all.

Let this be the Great Reset that puts humanity back on the track that perhaps the greatest US President ever wanted for us all!

I would include the Australian Governments’ actions to further limit employee’s rights – in the name of workplace flexibility – as a prime example of using the COVID-19 crisis to tilt the situation even further to the advantage of the elites.

My “The Great Reset” essay was a further evolution and expansion of my views that I had been developing in earlier essays including “Xenophobia Must Be Challenged For An Effective Climate Change Response Inclusive Of Population Growth“, “Let’s Wage War On Climate Change“, “Social Cohesion: The best vaccine against crises“, “The Conundrum Humanity Faces But Nobody Admits“, and “The Magic Sauce Of American Economic Dynamism Is Not Personal Greed“.

In the second essay in “The Great Reset” series, “The Great Reset: Teaching what we left behind“, published 20 June 2020, I continued to impress that now is a moment for reflection and engagement:

Not everything was better in the past, not by a long shot. But for all of the heartache that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, for all of the harsh impacts on humanity, we all owe it to the victims of the pandemic and to each other to take a long hard look at where things were heading before the pandemic and to be courageous enough to dream of how we want to emerge. 

Regardless of whether we want certain trends reversed, redirected or accelerated, we will need to be prepared to ensure that we have our views heard and acted upon.

I concluded “How Society Will Change If A COVID-19 Vaccine Is Elusive“, published 17 July, with a reference back to “The Great Reset” era and a restatement of what is at stake:

To this point [in the pandemic] decisions have been made mainly by elected officials. Increasingly going forward those decisions will be made by individuals. Collectively those decisions will have significant impacts on society, and the longer and greater the COVID-19 affects are felt, the greater the change in the way society behaves.

That, in a nutshell, is “The Great Reset“. It has already begun and it is irreversible.

High quality, effective leadership will nurture it so that the best outcomes are realised to the benefit of humanity. Scoundrels will try to harness it to bend society to a more warped and less inclusive version. We all must show leadership and engage with the process to achieve the best outcome for ourselves and those we love, and those who succeed us. And we should all prepare to be flexible and supple in thought to make the best decisions that we can with the information that we have as we emerge from the shock of our altered existence and as our future comes into clearer focus.


Through 2020 I have managed to lay down some views on longer term issues for humanity, but my focus has necessarily been mostly trained on the here and now.

In Australia I have tried to constructively influence authorities’ policies around international border closures, developing an elimination strategy (social isolation, lockdowns and school closures), biosecurity around potentially contaminated processed meat, biosecurity with regards to other animals susceptible to infection, and most recently guarding against complacency and focusing on minimising spread through Summer so that Australia enters the critical Autumn/Winter period in a favourable position. At the same time I have tried to be a supportive friend to somebody who deserves so much more credit than she has received – in Dr Shi Zhengli – as well as support my family through this challenging period.

Nonetheless after publishing “The Great Reset” I remained alert to mentions of a “reset” or “great reset” when reading media and I did notice some echoes of “reset” in the Australian press and in this webinar series in May/June. In October I began noticing mentions of “The Great Reset” in the press and business media. While writing a piece drawing on information from a McKinsey report I learnt that they had adopted it as the title of a series of reports on COVID-19.

It was not until I read an article in The Guardian about the conspiracy theories surrounding the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) initiative “The Great Reset” that I learned that the name for the era that I used in my essay, and now a series of essays, had been adopted in such an important context. I was prompted to investigate the WEF’s initiative in comparison to my ideas, as well as to look into the broader use of the term.


At the time that I wrote “The Great Reset” I was unaware that a book of the same title was written 10 years earlier by Richard Florida. Nor was I aware that John Mauldin had used the term in his writing. I must confess, however, to being a subscriber to John Mauldin’s daily internet newsletter (and a search of my email account revealed I initiated my subscription in January 2018 and my research for this post shows that he wrote articles about “The Great Reset” during 2017). I must also confess, however, that over the years I have subscribed to many economics blogs and newsletters even though I am not a big reader of them these days (my email search shows that I ceased opening those emails in February 2018!) In recent years I have also been a good buyer of books which mostly sit unread on my dresser – this year I have been too busy for reading books!

I admit to being leery of groupthink and I like to keep my thoughts fairly “pure” so that I can be reasonably confident my views are my own, well as much as any observant citizen can be in this media-saturated world.  And to be totally honest, I conducted the great majority of research and reading on others’ views on “The Great Reset”, including the WEF initiative, after I completed writing my previous essay in the series, “The Great Reset: A letter to my father and my ‘sliding doors’ self” published 12 December for that reason. While I receive many daily, weekly and infrequent economics reports from Howard Marks to Jonathon Rochford to Moody’s Alerts, the truth is that I read none of them consistently. (The one exception was Jeremy Grantham whose quarterly reports I consistently read for many years.) Typically I read the first one or two posts after I subscribe and then they annoy me with the rest of them (around 60 daily, not all on socioeconomics/investing) landing in my inbox and I continually think to myself I need to unsubscribe, but never do. I suspect I am not alone.

I also note that, interestingly, in the week to 10 days before I released my essay “The Great Reset“, a number of other bloggers used the term, most often in relation to business, investing or technology implications from the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

While I do not preclude the possibility that I had read the term somewhere before I wrote the essay, I did not recall doing so, and it should be clear from my writing that I do try to be original and ahead of the curve. In fact, priding myself on being a contrarian, I have a natural aversion to being unoriginal. I recall thinking at the time that I needed to promptly release my essay to “claim” the title for the era because I felt it was so fitting and I felt the era, so certain to be marked in human history, would soon be named by some writer. What follows shows that I was correct in that view.

“The Great Reset” by Richard Florida, a Canadian urban economist interested in “the fall, rise and physical and economic reconfiguration of North American cities“, was published in 2010. It’s subtitle “How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity ” gives the clue that while Florida discusses the resetting of societal views and values as a consequence of the turbulence from the global financial crisis (GFC), with many themes in common with my essay, much of his focus is on how that translates into how cities will look and function as a result. 

Since at least 2017 John Mauldin has written about “The Great Reset” to define a period where the debt accumulation, and pension and other liabilities, held by the US and other Western Governments will face a reckoning. Mauldin also includes the restructuring of economies especially around employment made necessary “because of the massive technological transformation that is taking place”. In Mauldin’s writing he considers mainly the investment implications of what he defines as “The Great Reset”, largely ignoring the socioeconomic implications, and does not touch on the key areas of climate change or diversity and inclusion. His perspective appears to be mainly one associated with creating interest in his investment ideas on dealing with these issues. That is perhaps why Mauldin has written in recent weeks defending his version of “The Great Reset” suggesting that a “Reset of Capitalism”, embedded within the WEF initiative and in my writing, is neither necessary or imminent. No doubt that would appease high net wealth clients who, as I have written about extensively such as in “Your Life: Something the elites have always been prepared to sacrifice for their ends“, are typically threatened by the idea of significant change to socioeconomic systems.

I would humbly suggest that none of these earlier mentions of “The Great Reset” by fellow writers fully comprehended the breadth and intensity of the implications from the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the increased discussion in recent years of a paradigm shift, especially by Ray Dalio, reframing of geopolitical relationships and domestic politics revolving around the US in particular, and the increased awareness of growing inequality, had made many especially business, technology and investment-focused professionals highly aware of the growing momentum for change which had grown since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC).

With markets falling precipitously through early March – by 23 March we had experienced the fastest bear market, in fact the fastest 30% fall, in US stockmarket history – it was clear to all that the COVID-19 pandemic has severe implications for businesses, technology and investing. That many were looking for deeper explanation, meaning and significance is not surprising.

My writing demonstrates that I was well advanced on my thinking even in early February. And by mid-February I was frustrated with the lack of appreciation across society, including in the business and investment sectors, for the implications of the impending pandemic. Besides in posts on MacroEdgo and comments on The Conversation (Australian site), I mentioned these warnings on website blogs by Australian fund managers Montgomery Investment Managers and Forager Funds Management that investors needed to accept that “our world has changed”. I also allowed my frustration to boil over in “Politics V Society In The Coronavirus Outbreak” published 21 February when I (unwisely) wondered aloud whether I might already be living in an “Idiocracy”.

I would further suggest that the World Economic Forum’s “The Great Reset” agenda is the only other writing besides mine to detail the implications of COVID-19 to humanity and to grasp the breadth of reset that humanity confronts, and to recognise that it is imperative that people of good character be active to ensure that outcomes are fair and beneficial to broader humanity.


The World Economic Forum needs no introduction to anybody with an interest in economics, investing and/or business. As an avid viewer of business television I have always enjoyed the spectacle of a snowy Davos becoming the centre of global attention for a few days each year for the WEF gathering.

So let me say from the outset that I have a high regard for the WEF and for Prof. Schwab. Readers who find that surprising, due to my frequent apparent disdain for “elites”, should read “How Might Milton Friedman Respond To the COVID-19 Pandemic” for clarification – when I use the term with derision it refers to the subset who are affected by “toxic aspiration”. 

The first stage of the initiative was the launch on 3 June with a virtual meeting hosted by HRH The Prince of Wales (Prince Charles) and Prof. Schwab, and with statements by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva. The launch detailed a special twin WEF summit in 2021 with the theme “The Great Reset”.

In early July 2020 the book “COVID-19: The Great Reset” by Thierry Malleret and Prof. Klaus Schwab was published in several languages.

The ideas in the background for the WEF initiative is strikingly similar to what I had discussed at MacroEdgo in my essay “The Great Reset” and other essays around humanity’s sustainability. The promotional video released for the launch, brilliantly powerful and moving, hit on all of the main themes of my writing that preceded it, with the key messages that “our world has changed” and that “everybody has a responsibility” to play a part to reset humanity on a more sustainable direction, sandwiching imagery of deeply ingrained global inequality and xenophobia and environmental degradation and catastrophe, echoing my own words intensely.

On 25 March Prof. Schwab wrote about the impacts of COVID-19 on businesses, contrasting businesses following his stakeholder-oriented model with those maintaining a short-term profit imperative, in the Financial Times but he did not take that opportunity to mention a “Great Reset”. Moreover, I would suggest that most readers comparing this article with my essay published just 4 days later would agree that my message was both more ambitious, with broader implications, and more urgent, perhaps hinting that Prof. Schwab’s thinking on the subject developed significantly after he wrote this article and before launching “The Great Reset” WEF initiative. 

I do recognise that the WEF has for a few years been discussing a reset of a capitalism towards a greener future, but there is no evidence that Prof. Schwab or the WEF recognised by April 2020 the full implications of the COVID-19 pandemic in the way that I had laid out in (admittedly) voluminous detail at MacroEdgo before that time.

I would also note that I had very regular readership of my website through February and early March from Switzerland that dropped off sharply once I mentioned it in my post “No, She Won’t Be Alright Mate“. I had assumed that the interest was from within the World Health Organisation head office, but perhaps it was from elsewhere (or both?), and I further assumed that they later used a VPN when accessing my site.

The earliest mention of a “reset” associated with the COVID-19 pandemic that I can find on the WEF website was in a report dated May 2020 entitled “COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A preliminary mapping and its implications” in partnership with March & McLennan and Zurich Insurance group. The 66 page report mentions the word “reset” once:

To not lose the Generation Great Lockdown, but instead enable it to become the Generation Great Reset, with all its opportunities, the public and private sectors should include investing in youth as a driving element of the recovery efforts.


Attempting to influence Australia’s response to COVID-19, I invested no time or effort in attempting to track or determine how much my works were being adopted more broadly outside of Australia. For this piece on 20 December 2020 I performed a quick analysis of Google Trends for search intensity on “The Great Reset” from 12 months prior to the publication of my essay “The Great Reset” – so from March 2019 – through to present time.

New to Google Trends, my ability to mine data from this resource is certainly not as developed as others’. Nonetheless it is clear that search interest in “The Great Reset” was minimal between March 2019 and March 2020 in comparison to the peak of interest in November 2020 (based on media reporting, that coincided with the “conspiracy theory” peak after a mention of the initiative by Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau).

When the focus shifts to the period from 28 January 2020 to 31 July 2020, so that the peak of search intensity is not as high thus allowing more subtle observation of interest levels, it is clear that there is some consistent activity around the time that I published my essay, including the week before, but search interest grew from late May 2020 (in the weeks prior to the launch of the WEF initiative with Prince Charles).

That is evidence that the WEF initiative has brought a high level of attention as would be expected. While my essay was written 2 months prior to the WEF initiative launch, it is reasonable to assume that views expressed in a blog post by a little-known author will require time to move through society in contrast to an initiative by an organisation with vast resources and with the support of the Prince of Wales!

The role that I have played in promulgating these ideas, through my writing, will probably never be known. But I would suggest that the fact that my home nation of Australia went from having a very, very low search interest in “The Great Reset” in the year prior to the release of my essay, based on the above graphs and other data that I examined, and rapidly developed a comparatively very high search intensity would suggest that my essay did have an influence on the spread of these ideas.

Moreover, it is undeniable from my writing about the pandemic from 3 February that I understood extremely early and far better than most the full consequences of this virus having jumped species. I draw particular attention to my first post on COVID-19, “Social Cohesion: The best vaccine against crises“, and my early Coronavirus Outbreak Updates, especially on 11 February; these undoubtedly had an influence on others (including some professionals in funds management and investing circles confirmed by direct feedback).

Finally, in case the old “broken clock is right twice a day” analogy is used, it is important to note that I never had near as serious concerns with the SARS or H1N1 swine flu episodes. For the SARS episode I recall being aware of it and having some concerns when my wife and I travelled back to Australia, after having lived in Europe for 2 years, in early March 2003. But we still went ahead with a several day stopover in Singapore. And for the swine flu episode, being a family with very young children, I thought it prudent to get in early and secure doses of Tamiflu for the family but that was the only measure I took besides keeping up to date with the news flow.

On those occasions I was aware and suitably cautious, but far from alarmed. But on this occasion I knew I had to stand up and tell people to “Repeat After Me, This Is Not SARS: COVID-19 is much worse“. And I do intend to one day write a post detailing everything that I did in February 2020 to secure my family’s safety.


To put a finer and final point on my views, “The Great Reset” was set off by the shock that humanity received due to the pandemic together with its timing coinciding with the build up in potential for a paradigm shift that others had been noting in their writing and which I discussed in detail in “How Might Milton Friedman Respond To The COVID-19 Pandemic“. 

“The Great Reset”, in my writing, refers to the era just as “The Great Depression” refers to an era typically delineated as the period between the stock market collapse of 1929 through to the commencement of WWII (though historians may argue on those markers).

Future historians will no doubt argue on when it was that “The Great Reset” era commenced, whether it was after the global financial market dislocations of 2007-09, along the lines described by Richard Florida, or in 2020 as I described. Note that I discussed this timing in “The Great Reset” itself in analogy with “The Great Depression” saying that if we considered the 2007-09 financial crises as the commencement of the era then there is optimism that we might be closer to the end rather than the beginning.

If 2007-09 were marked as the commencement of the era, then 2020 would be marked as the moment of intensification so that many of the factors and transitions accelerated giving a perception of them coming to a climax.

On the other hand, one wonders whether the conditions for such a strong and marked reset would have been present if not for the shock of the first truly global pandemic in 100 years commencing in 2020 (or a few weeks before it). And it cannot be ignored that between 2009 and 2020 central bankers had managed to create a perception of relative stability, with only occasional tremors, even though some (including myself) remained concerned that underlying issues never were addressed so that pressure continued to build along fault-lines.

There is no doubt that this current era is being marked by a psychological reset. “The Great Depression” did not necessarily need to be “great”. It was made so by policy missteps so that a depression was made greater, in a negative sense.

If the GFC was responsible for the commencement of a reset in contemporary societies it was progressing slowly. During and as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic factors coalesced – and the death of George Floyd and the increased momentum for the Black Lives Movement is a major aspect of these factors – for a reset to become significant, or “greater” in intensity and breadth. There is the potential for this current era to be known as “The Great Reset” in a positive sense if humanity manages to place itself on a surer footing to a sustainable and inclusive future. That is precisely why it is an optimistic outlook or mindset.


That the WEF’s “The Great Reset” initiative has been greeted with scepticism by Trumpites with a predisposition for believing conspiracy theories is disappointing and concerning, but not surprising.

Since my earliest writing about “The Great Reset” era I have stated that powerful interests would marshal their supporters, via their now sophisticated and highly developed channels, to take advantage of the flux state that humanity was entering catalysed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of course, the more extreme actors in this space are working at convincing their supporters that it is the others who are attempting to take advantage in humanity’s moment of vulnerability.

Conspiracy theorists on the right are suggesting that it is somehow unusual that the leaders within our societies are meeting to decide on global directions for humanity. Of course this is nothing unusual or new – that is how civil society functions and has done for centuries – even if communication is now aided by electronics and is “real time”. Anybody with even a passing interest in history understands this to be the case, and I would implore, again, all to read Elliot Roosevelt’s account of the events preceding and immediately after his father FDR’s death near the end of WWII. It is an excellent account of just what lengths were taken for key decision-makers to meet face to face at such a momentous moment in human history, thus underlying how vitally important it was to do so. It also is a salutary warning on how negotiations and events can go awry when actors, including political leaders, are ultimately inauthentic and fudge on agreements.

Even if not everyone can actually be at the table when decisions are made, we all can have our diverse points of view heard and I encourage all to be active in these discussions. That is the message that I have repeated constantly in my own writing, and it is also a significant aspect within the WEF’s messaging.

But please be determined to do most of the thinking for yourself, and when you do consult experts or disseminated information, please remember to exercise caution to all of it.

As a child a common truism spoken was to believe half of what you saw and none of what you heard. I do not often hear that said anymore. Unfortunately, now with “AI bots” activated by various actors with questionable motives working to disseminate altered information in all forms of communication (text, voice, images and video), it is prudent to very critically parse all that is seen and heard knowing that even experts may be challenged in detecting altered information.

There is no point in pretending this is not a confusing time for many. Discriminating between the sources of information is critical, and for people in society to do that we need to rebuild trust in leadership. That can only occur if leaders are prepared to stand up and lead with authenticity. It also requires honest acknowledgement of the issues and problems experience by many, as I highlighted in my essay “The Great Reset: A letter to my Father and ‘Sliding Doors’ self“.

The vacuum left by the withdrawal of political leadership, including in Australia, has meant that other leaders who have stepped forward are more conspicuous, including activists but also including business leaders. None of that should be threatening to those who continue to exercise discriminating logic. In fact, greater dispersion of leadership within society – which might be termed “diffuse leadership” or “community leadership” – is likely to be an advancement for contemporary humanity. It is vital, however, that it be exercised in parallel with strong, effective and fair leadership amongst those who have the power to institute change for it is only then that the best outcomes will be achieved.

In “How Might Friedman Respond To The COVID-19 Pandemic” I stated my views on why it has been necessary that business elites step into the void left by the retreat of political leadership. While I am as guilty as anybody for bandying about the term “elites”, I would hope that my writing makes it clear that I do – and we all must – make our own opinion on all individuals in the world, including those fortunate human beings who collectively can be considered as belonging to the “elites”.

It can easily be said that there is a concern over unelected officials having a strong voice, but that makes little sense. For one, business leaders are beholden to many stakeholders, and activists are well aware that customers are equally powerful as shareholders (a major point that Prof. Schwab has been making for many years). Secondly, many who object to business elites publicly stating their opinions tend to be the same as those who oppose and reject a 16 year old Swedish school student for standing up and insisting on being heard. These objections show that those maintaining extreme positions will seek to discredit or shout down any other view than their own.

Especially in democracies we all can be heard if we choose to be. And, personally, I am far more concerned by what happens in the narrow corridors of power, in national parliamentary institutions around the globe, with lobbying by people we have never heard of who introduce enormous distortions into political processes by incentivising and/or punishing politicians who support positions supportive/contrary to their aims.

The WEF has been extremely open about their aims, and they clearly share my view that they need to lead and be seen to lead, to bring people along with them.

It is to be hoped that all political decision-makers can join in the momentum that they have created to place humanity on a surer, fairer and safer bearing. Unfortunately, the soon-to-be ex-President of the United States had a magnetic effect on some national leaders, including my own, which made it so their political and moral compass “would not travis well when near it [or him].”

Again that is nothing new as this quote from a brilliant Greek philosopher who lived 2,000 years ago shows:

Be careful whom you associate with. It is human to imitate the habits of those with whom we interact. We inadvertently adopt their interests, their opinions, their values, and their habit of interpreting events.

Epictetus

Trumpism is not going away soon. There are too many powerful actors who are pleased by the advances made on these agendas, and the 70,000,000 votes garnered by Trump shows that they marshal significant resources.

Exactly how humanity emerges from “The Great Reset” era is very much in the balance. Everything that I have read of “The Great Reset” WEF initiative suggests to me that those driving and integrally involved with the initiative really want the reset to take humanity back to the ideals espoused by possibly the greatest US president of all time, FDR, who near the conclusion of WWII and shortly before his death spoke for Americans and all of humanity:

We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations far away. We have learned that we must live as men, not as ostriches, nor as dogs in the manger. We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community

The 4th Inaugural Speech of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

I am extremely pleased that my ideas and those of many others have coalesced into a coherent program for social change offered for discussion by the WEF and Prof. Schwab. The resources and influence that the WEF can harness is unparalleled, as evidenced by the passionate involvement of Prince Charles and a cross-section of stakeholders from multinational business through to the most important supranational organisations and humanitarian groups. I am enormously impressed by the initiative and am hopeful that the twin summits can manage to counter the more divisive influences circling to ensure that “The Great Reset” era jumpstarts humanity on the long road towards those lofty but vital goals.

I do not suggest for a moment that my ideas or theirs are either new or unique – many people have argued for the urgent need to address sustainability for a very long time as well as inequality.

At the same time, however, it would seem so coincidental as to be highly unlikely that a detailed program bearing such similarity to what I have laid out in my posts at MacroEdgo – adopting the title of a seminal piece that I wrote at the outset of the most significant global pandemic in a century – had developed in parallel by an organisation with such immense resources without consulting or at least being aware of, and reading at least some of, my works.

I am a passionate activist writer. I have known since the latter years of my scientific career that I lack the political aptitude and mindset to be a “player”. Consequently I have doubts that I would be able to lead large groups of humans in the contemporary world. In my younger years I was an effective leader on the sporting field, but that is a role where simply leading by example is enough. 

If my writing speaks to people sufficiently that they become activated to broaden or even change their perceptions, then I have achieved what I set out to do. If they become inspired enough to be an activist and they seek to expand the views of others, then even better. And if my views are incorporated into organised programs for positive change for humanity and the planet, well that is a very personally satisfying situation.

Finally, even though I rushed in an attempt to plausibly lay claim to naming the era “The Great Reset”, my 10 month-later “due diligence” confirms it was so obvious and already embedded in the collective psche of engaged observers leading up to this period that probably nobody can really lay claim to it. (Florida’s book was so much earlier as to represent a dubious claim to it, others’ focus was too narrow.) Critically I understood that a pandemic was almost certain and I understood the economic implications earlier than most.

What I have written here is chiefly meant to act as a historical account of my recollections from the preceding 10 months together with my views on how I have attempted to play my part in this historical period.

I will say, however, that I am proud of myself for the personal stand that I have taken and for all of the words that I have written. If it were confirmed that my words have been read by even one of the people involved in the launch of the WEF “The Great Reset” initiative then I would feel honoured.

Moreover, when I read words such as these spoken by somebody for whom I regard so highly in a position of such influence, knowing that I said essentially the same before and around that time, I am deeply moved:

We have to use all the strength we have to turn a page and have history be about the Great Reset and not the Great Reversal… The best memorial we can build to those who have lost their lives is a greener, smarter, fairer world.

Dr. Kristilina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, from her address at the launch of “The Great Reset” as reported by The Guardian

Having said all of that, I must admit that along with a lack of political aptitude comes an almost pathological need to say what I believe regardless of the closeness of my relationship with that person or group. When contrasted with my inclination to strong and loyal attachment to individuals whom I respect, I am at times left with immense guilt for speaking my mind.

Essentially I have come to realise over the years that I am not a “team player”, but I have to admit that some of that is probably psychological scarring from suffering repercussions to my career for staying true and strong to my scientific and humanitarian views. And supposedly while amongst learned professionals. 

It should be clear that I will be closely observing what comes of the WEF “The Great Reset” initiative and I will not be backwards in my criticisms if I develop concerns that it is not heading in the right direction.

Dedicated to my sons, my most important legacy to humanity – you both make me prouder with each breath you draw. You are the inspiration for my writing of this piece for so very many reasons. The catalyst for writing this now was a conversation with you, my first-born. When I said to you recently that I was beginning to feel powerless to help prevent my nation from slipping into complacency and dangerously low levels of COVID awareness over Summer, you gave me a pep talk and told me “Greta Thunberg does not stop when she fears nobody is listening”. What is more you told me that I should be proud of what I have done – that in your view it is the best writing about COVID-19 that you have read – and that I needed to make sure that I claim credit for my work. I do so now in honour of you both.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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The Great Reset: A letter to my Father and my ‘Sliding Doors’ self

Dear Dad

It seems that lately we struggle to spend time together without quarreling. Neither of us are good at small talk, and the divergent path that I took in my life means that we no longer share much in common.

Most importantly, we no longer see the world through similar frames of reference. 

I left the farm, as well as the safe world of our conservative home region, well safe for those who “fit” into the tight social structure, meaning you look and behave similarly to the majority, for university and ultimately a PhD in science.

My scientific achievements, though, are not nearly as well known in our home town as those of Peter Ridd, heralded locally for his brave stance as a sceptic of the science around climate change. I have never met Peter, but I do have a high regard for his courage even if I do not share all of his views – free and open debate has and always will be a vital ingredient for human progress. And I well remember how his (maths) school teacher father was so proud of his son’s achievements at James Cook University – I often wonder at how brilliantly served we were in our small town by high quality teachers such as John Ridd, and I attribute my own maths teacher (Santo Russo) and my science teachers for much of my own successes. 

Meeting my wife in the final year of my undergraduate degree was my sliding door moment. The four years that I had spent at university had shown me that a less stressful, more happy life was possible. I had resigned myself, however, to fulfilling your expectations – which I had certainly been responsible for creating at the beginning of my undergraduate by begging to be permitted to come home – of devoting my life to running the farm with you.

Instead I devoted my life to science and then to raising my family.

I will never regret that decision because I know that my wife is the greatest factor in me taking the potential you instilled in me – my resilience, intelligence and enquiry, work ethic, desire to optimise and excel, and most of all my empathy and compassion for others – to truly become the best version of myself.

I married a young woman from another culture who looks different to most in our town, and when she celebrates in traditional ways with her family, she behaves differently and she eats different food. You have tried to be understanding but in recent years – perhaps with the gradual creeping influences of Hansonism and then Trumpism – you have seemed conflicted like you somehow needed to make a choice.

I guess in your most recent visit you showed me that you had made that choice and it is difficult to put aside a belief that your previous behaviour was actually tolerance rather than you being open-minded. That hurt me, and my family, deeply.

Perhaps an even greater challenge for getting along, however, is our different views over climate change. A few years back you argued that climate change was not real. Now you suggest it is essentially a natural phenomenon and that human actions are not the prime cause. You like to present me with Letters to the Editor from home showing how ordinary citizens, intelligent conscientious objectors, up there are prepared to speak out, often raising past episodes of global heating and cooling, and so on.

This argument bears many similarities to the arguments we used to have around banana imports from the Philippines while I worked for Biosecurity Australia, the biosecurity policy setting function within the Federal Government responsible for conducting import risk analyses on animals and plants and their products. In our discussions you always started out stating your concerns for the risk of importing diseases, but when I said that nearly always there is something that can be done to manage those risks so that the trade can occur, the conversation very quickly swapped to the real issue – competition and extreme anxiety that the Australian industry would not be viable if bananas were imported from low-cost countries. 

Often you would even pose the question, “How can we compete when they pay 10 year old children 12 cents a day for labour?”

On one occasion I was as blunt as to say that I do not want to live in a world where those 10 year old children work in fields. Perhaps we could do things to prevent it… perhaps… but what about the family that is so poor that it chooses for their children to work rather than have them educated? They know that it is better for their children, and ultimately for them, if they attended school, but feeding the family is a more pressing problem for many. The only way for that cycle to be broken is for those families to share in more opportunities that the global community offers, and one way for that to occur is through international trade, so that perhaps the children of people who work in the field through their childhood have a better life… much like how my sister and I went to university even though you left school at 14 to become an apprentice carpenter.

When it comes down to it, I believe that all of these issues are a symptom of the anxiety that you feel because the world is changing in ways you do not completely understand and now you reject that change. 

Even though you will never admit it, you wish you could go back to the easier days of when Australia had solid contracts with “mother England” for the majority of our primary products, including sugar, the mainstay of our farm which has been in our family for over 100 years. This would allow you to just concentrate on producing the best crop you could, which you excel at. After the sugar price collapse of the early 1980s you held off switching over to bananas, but eventually you made the leap – with the enthusiasm and energy of my brother – hoping that the gamble would pay off. But chronic low prices and cyclones took their toll. Knowing all of this, I understood why even the mere mention of the possibility of banana imports made your anxiety go through the roof. 

All along there has been a creeping increase in awareness of the impact of agriculture on the environment, including to the precious Great Barrier Reef, resulting in a continual tightening of regulation and standards with which you had to deal. 

I know well your deep love of the natural world – undoubtedly a major factor in me studying biology at university – gained from a lifetime of diving on and fishing off the reef, and in the 60’s your pioneering saltwater aquarium was legendary. I also know that you love the natural rainforest that still exists down the back of our property, and the amazing moments we shared together there were special like when we came across wildlife such as a cassowary with chicks.

I have to say, however, that on my most recent trip home the close encounter that we had with a 3+ metre Johnson River crocodile, as it crossed our path between us and close to my eldest son less than 10 metres away from us, after it had lay in wait in the spot where you went into the creek to pick a water lily for mum the previous day, well that scared the pants off of me. It made me realise that it is not any longer the environment in which I roamed as a boy, when I was young making hidden cubby houses along the creek, and when older fishing from the bank for barramundi and mangrove jack.

I also remember how a part of your farm purchase, from your uncle, was a special lease block which had a 100 year lease which had some 26 years remaining on it. I know that it was bitterly disappointing for you that you had to relinquish it. That disappointment was worsened by the fact that when you first tried to purchase it in the 80s the Government declined your request because you had done nothing to “improve” it – i.e. you had not cleared the rainforest – and then when you again tried to purchase it, in the early 90s, you were declined because its conservation value had been recognised. You never received any compensation for having been custodian of that piece of land for 26 years, the option to develop it being a part of the initial purchase price of the farm, and then having paid rates on the land for all of those years (though perhaps you recognised the hypocrisy in such a view since you reject the concept of Aboriginal custodianship and you have feared indigenous land rights claims). And I always remember how you refused to reactively clear the land as conservation regulations closed in, even though others did including neighbours of yours.

I know that you have borne a great deal of the responsibility, already, to set humanity and the planet on a better footing. And there has not been any thanks for that, from Governments nor the community, and you received little assistance to help you to make these continual adjustments. You were just left with the knowledge that there will always be something else and soon.

I also know that, like all dry Aussie humour, the favourite joke up home nowadays – that goes that you used to leave the farm to your favourite son, now you leave it to your least favourite – is based on an underlying truth that you all have come to accept. That a life on the land, always challenged by nature but still rewarding, has become an unprofitable burden which you would wish upon nobody for whom you cared.

Even though it hurts me personally, I can see how people pushed like that can become bitter and look for others to blame, and human history shows that at such times people who look and act differently to the majority are singled out.

Worse still, I am not really sure that when globalisation leads to shifting of jobs to poor regions those jobs improve the prospects for those poor people. I think we all are waking to the fact that the way Western Governments have allowed Globalisation to occur has just led to the elites in the world becoming even more wealthy while even more people feel that they do not enjoy the standard of living that their forebears experienced.

In other nations people have become so desperate for the situation to improve that they have turned to populist politicians who just talk of “making [things] great again” but offer no real answers. It seems that just recognising the pain felt by many has been enough reason to support them.

My impression of your attitude to climate change is not so much that you think that you are smarter than everybody else, and that you see what few others do, but I think you are inclined to object purely because in a democracy you have the right to do so. And you feel like you have been pushed as far as you can and have gotten nothing for it other than more worries and more debt.

On that I agree with you, wholeheartedly. 

You continue to object even though people living in cities think of you as “backward”, which of course you are not. Hansonism has not helped, but equally the egotistical quips at Pauline did not help either – after all she was not the only person who had not heard of the term “xenophobia”, nor is she the first to not know the more politically correct terminology for her own behaviours. In many ways the subtext of this divide says that in a democracy all votes are equal, irrespective of the IQ or worldly experiences of those casting their ballot. 

Through my life I have learnt many times that an open mind is not dependent on the possession of a passport but on an open heart.

I notice that during every election these days there is a discussion about how to provide rural jobs; often a mythical “10,000 rural jobs”. When I hear this I feel like running a campaign to alert all to the fact that there are at least 10,000 rural jobs readily available right now… in scraping off the topsoil of Queensland and shipping it to the highest bidder. Of course any rural person would immediately recognise that as selling your future, but in reality it is no more unsustainable than many of the ventures that are supported to provide jobs in the near term. 

I do not suggest that I have all of the answers for the future, but I do honestly believe that I understand the context in which we must progress. Instead of allowing ourselves to be divided and embittered, let us join forces and fight the real fight. We will never progress if we continue to fight amongst ourselves. All we are doing is playing into the hands of those who seek to use the turbulence and our pain to advance their own personal political agendas.

America’s recent close call with Trumpist fascism must be a warning to us all.

We are tired of elites garnering an increasing share of wealth in the world. And we are tired of politicians and bureaucrats falling under regulatory capture from these elites.

We want real leadership, not salespeople who say to our faces what sounds good only to behave differently at a time and a place when they have the opportunity to make a real difference.

We can deal with the truth because we can work together to ensure that fairness is at the basis of our decisions. When decisions hurt people there must be adjustments made to allow them to adjust their lives in a way that affords them the dignity and rights that should come with being a human being in a contemporary society.

Nobody wants to feel embittered or isolated or left behind. 

All human beings understand inherently that change is inevitable – it is the very nature of our own being – but fairness is not.

If we are to achieve an inclusive and united global community then fairness must be at the heart of all that we do.

I know my generation talks a different language, Dad; as much from the heart as from the head. But I assure you we are not drongos.

What do you say? Do you think we can work together to make this world a better place for your grandchildren and their grandchildren?

Your loving son,


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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How Might Milton Friedman Respond To The COVID-19 Pandemic?

I have written extensively detailing my views on why conservatives are hell-bent on minimising introductions of stringent measures to retard the COVID-19 pandemic in their jurisdictions which would reduce preventable deaths.

It boils down to their political power base being the business class elite, and their greatest fear is that The Great Reset will lead to people in developed countries questioning their consumerist existence.

In my earliest writings, before a pandemic was declared, even before it was understood that the disease had escaped the biosecurity net around Wuhan, I was clear that I understood the global economic impacts would be severe (though admittedly I was a little cryptic initially – not wanting to be declared alarmist – in inferring that a depression may be the consequence).

When the rapid progression of events forced these conservative politicians to confront their cognitive dissonance, e.g. Morrison having to accept he would not be able to attend the opening week of the NRL, this fear of a depression was what gripped these conservative (mostly) men.

Such deep scarring to the psyche of people would lead to significant changes in society which leads to uncertainty for the business elites as to whether their powerful advantage would endure. At worst, for them, people might even turn away from materialistic consumerism, which had been the bedrock of their wealth and power, and people might instead place a higher importance on other aspects of their life which are not valuable or tradeable in market economies.

Moreover, if that paradigm shift were to occur it would spell the end of a political ideology espoused for decades by conservatives, and let’s face it, also espoused by many who declare themselves on the other side of the political divide, of ceaseless aspiration, which would leave a powerful and extensive global political aparatus rudderless and in search of a new narrative.

Thus this political apparatus continually pushes against introductions of stringent measures to minimise and slow their usage in an attempt to minimise that paradigm shift by people as they lose their previous habits and develop new ones, in many ways having had time and space, and in some cases sad shocks which caused them, to reflect on what it really is that enriches their lives.

For many years, and especially since the global financial crisis, this apparatus has focused on one factor perhaps above all others – confidence.

Confidence to spend. Confidence to invest. And most of all in recent decades, confidence to borrow.

As I said in “If After 30 years Of Unbroken Economic Growth Australia Can’t Afford To Protect The Most Vulnerable, Then Who Really Benefitted From That Economic Growth?“, fear of losing your own life trumps all other fears, logically. 

Thus it is impossible for people to be confident until they do not fear losing their lives. Note that this is also the finding of a report by McKinsey & Company, the premier consultancy to corporations, where they concluded that “only when the novel coronavirus is under control will economic growth resume”.

Now I realise that this political apparatus has spent a good amount of energy in misinforming and confusing people in order to pull the wool over their eyes since this pandemic began (I actually wrote that line before the WHO swung into damage control as they felt Dr. Nabarro’s comments about lockdowns were taken out of context which I will discuss in another post which I am now drafting).

However, the human reality of the pandemic continually asserts itself in a way that can not be ignored by the people no matter how much they might like to believe that they will be safe or that the risks to them are overstated by such reputable people as Dr. Fauci.

The shock that people are experiencing is real, and just as the shock from The Great Depression led to a deep scarring causing risk aversion that had repercussions even beyond that generation, these shocks are also likely to be long-lasting.

Strategists behind this political apparatus are very intelligent and sophisticated, and know that they are in a conundrum that cannot be solved.

Their political ideology and base of power will remain under threat until an effective vaccine is administered en masse, and to minimise the damage to them they will continually fight for minimal interventions (think of Tony Abbott’s views). When the sheer level of human pain forces increased measures, they will then immediately move to ruminate for rapid easing.

Everybody who genuinely believes in the primacy of protecting human life should be fighting against this apparatus, and should be prepared to continue arguing because it will not stop working to protect the privilege and power of the conservatives and elites.

In the second part of this essay I will pose the question on how might Dr. Milton Friedman, a hero to these conservative and elites, have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.


In this age of tribalism, where everybody must be apportioned to a particular tribe with a specific agenda, I am well aware that I will already have been painted as a socialist and\or anti-capitalist. In fact in my earlier blogging for less manipulated and fairer Australian housing markets a decade ago I frequently received angry emails and posts describing me as such.

The truth is that I have a very high regard for many who might be considered business “elites”.

Very early in life I intuitively understood that a system built on little or even no reward for your own individual combination of hard and smart work is not sustainable, and I feel no amount of jealousy towards those who have earned a comfortable living. But note the definitive word is most definitely “earned”. Moreover, I make this statement with a heavy heart in knowing that we live in a massively inequitable world and there are very many who deserve so much more opportunity for a better life than they have and they would have it if the world were a perfect and genuinely equitable meritocracy.

Embedded in my use of the term “earned” is an expectation that a right to the benefits from society have been earned by paying through our taxation systems a fair and proportionate contribution to administering our society.

The elites that I respect, as I explained in “Your Life: Something The Elites Have Always Been Prepared To Sacrifice For Their Ends“:

are those who authentically understand the privilege that they have enjoyed, usually from birth by virtue of the luck of being born in a developed country or into middle class even if they consider themselves ‘self-made’, as well as respect and appreciate relationships with other human beings … 

I do not identify with those who list very wealthy individuals saying that it is obscene that they have accumulated such wealth. If they hurt people, either knowingly or by choosing to remain ignorant to it, in accumulating that wealth, then I would certainly consider them as deplorable. 

Of course I prefer that everybody on this Earth does what they can to assist other people, so obviously I would hope that people of greater means undertake genuinely significant philanthropic activities aimed at making a difference for others (rather than just promoting themselves in social circles, or only engaging in egotistical and vain projects with lesser returns to humanity, or to gain goodwill which will be cashed in later for personal advantage.) I must admit, however, that in my day to day life in the suburbs I regularly encounter people who say that they can not afford to donate to charities or give of their time or in some other capacity.

I believe that giving is relative to what you have, and I have learned many times over through my life and on my travels, especially in developing countries, that one has something to give as soon as one has something, and even before that we have ourselves to give.

While perhaps it is a greater pity that somebody with means to make a more significant difference, whether that is due to their wealth or their public profile or position, declines to do so, I do not care for any mean-spirited person irrespective of their means.

Foremost among the many undeniable elites who I admire would be Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, Bill Gates, and George Soros. I also know, for certain, that there would be many, many more who I would like and respect if I were to know them personally or observe them often and closely enough to be able to develop an informed opinion.

As I look at that list it strikes me that they are all white American men. There are some Australian men I might include such as John Hewson (I mentioned my admiration before on these pages) and probably Mike Cannon Brookes (but I do not really know that much about him).

Interestingly much of the elite political leadership that I admire presently are women including Jacinda Ardern, Christine Lagarde, Ursula von der Leyen and Kristalina Georgieva – so mostly white European women.

I also have to say that I have been impressed by some more of these individuals, who belong to a very fortunate and privileged group within society, in how they have responded to the outpouring of emotion and drive for societal change through the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd. Here I would make special mention of the African-American businesswoman Ursula Burns, the former CEO of Xerox, who I knew little of before but who I found extremely impressive. But there were also other white men whose response was impressive and suggested that real, durable change is finally possible.

The truth is that I like people, and I want to believe the best in all people, so it fills me with pride when I see good people stand up to be counted and try to be the best version of themselves to the benefit of humanity. And I tend to be fiercely loyal to someone once they have shown themselves to be authentic.

My view is unequivocal that capitalism is the best system that mankind has developed to allocate resources for the betterment of humanity and I do find it difficult to believe that a better system is attainable.

I am in little doubt, however, that the form of capitalism that we practice in this early period of the 21st century has gone too far as I first began to articulate in my post “The Magic Sauce Of American Economic Dynamism Is Not Based On Personal Greed“. I see greed as a deleterious byproduct of wealth which leads to corruption of the capitalist system, and I do not see it as a basic core nature of human beings even though proponents of this extreme form of capitalism have co-opted biological theories, notably the Selfish Gene Theory, to justify its centrality to their preferred form of capitalism. The current form of extreme capitalism based on the centrality of personal greed is exemplified by the theory of Trickle Down Economics which is in reality no different from any other form of sequestering of wealth by the elites practiced down through the ages.

Taking superficially attractive ideas and extrapolating them to extremes is common in financial systems, in fact it is the basis for nearly all speculative bubbles. And I would suggest that the same can be said for the formative ideas of Dr. Milton Friedman who is a hero to the proponents of our current extreme form of capitalism. Reflecting on that recently, after reading his Doctrine  “The Social Responsibility Of Business Is To Increase Its Profits” for the first time, I was left with a ruminating question – How might Dr. Friedman respond to the COVID-19 pandemic?


Dr. Milton Friedman is proclaimed as a key architect of the current American economic paradigm which has been variously described as based on supply-side economics, Reaganomics and trickle-down economics, amongst other descriptors. Dr. Friedman wrote extensively of his views on dealing with economic problems that prevailed in the 1950’s through the 1970’s in western countries, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for economics in 1976. Dr. Friedman was a key economic advisor to President Reagan and to Prime Minister Thatcher in the United Kingdom, and their joint success at reforming their economies out from prolonged periods of low economic growth with high inflation earned Dr. Friedman widespread acclaim.

In reading Dr. Friedman’s words in his famous “Doctrine” I was struck with the perception that I share some views which are central to his doctrine as he expressed it in 1970. I even wondered whether these are so central to his doctrine that it is possible that my own views are more consistent to his, at that time, than are the views of many contemporary elites. As I read I realised just how much the basic premise of the essay had been co-opted by contemporary elites to justify their political motivations to garner more power and influence. I would go as far as to suggest that the man who sat down to write that essay likely would not be supportive of the way capitalism is practiced today even though he is venerated by it’s proponents – those who have prospered so greatly from it – for establishing the roadmap towards it, what President George W Bush described as the “moral vision”, and for being intimately involved in the early stages of reform.

(Obviously this situation is not uncommon, where many can agree on what are important problems and it is the solutions chosen, often with a political agenda in mind, where the problems arise. As one example I would admit that when I have listened to Steve Bannon speak I have been impressed by the way he has set out the issues and grievances of many in contemporary Western society. I even find common ground with some of the causes he identifies. But it is his solutions and especially his politics where we sharply disagree. That is precisely why these are the situations which can prove to be dangerous inflection points for society because the details and nuances are critical.)

The best way to discuss Dr. Friedman’s doctrine is to “reverse engineer” the document, commencing with his conclusion:

the doctrine of “social responsibility” taken seriously would extend the scope of the political mechanism to every human activity. It does not differ in philosophy from the most explicitly collectivist doctrine. It differs only by professing to believe that collectivist ends can be attained without collectivist means. That is why, in my book “Capitalism and Freedom,” I have called it a “fundamentally subversive doctrine” in a free society, and have said that in such a society, “there is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception fraud.”

Many contemporary readers will immediately seize on the key words here unlike they might have done 50 years ago. Of course these are the final twenty-three words of the document, “so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception fraud.”

Everything that is written in this doctrine is from the point of view – no, the assumption – that Government oversight of corporations will always remain robust, powerful, active and diligent.

civil servants… must be selected through a political process. If they are to impose taxes and make expenditures to foster “social” objectives, then political machinery must be set up to guide the assessment of taxes and to determine through a political process the objectives to be served.

It does not allow for the regulatory capture that is now so prevalent and pervasive in most of the western world.

Dr. Friedman wrote with a frame of reference of having been immersed in the heavily regulated and unionised 60’s and 70’s. He expressed a disdain for “pure and unadulterated socialism”. His views of the environment in which he had formulated his ideas are summed up in these key quotes:

In the present climate of opinion, with its widespread aversion to “capitalism,” “profits,” the “soulless corporation” and so on

The businessmen believe that they are defending free enterprise when they declaim that business is not concerned “merely” with profit but also with promoting desirable “social” ends… In fact they are – or would be if they or anyone else took them seriously – preaching pure and unadulterated socialism. Businessmen who talk this way are unwitting puppets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society these past decades

speeches by business men on social responsibility… may gain them kudos in the short run. But it helps to strengthen the already too prevalent view that the pursuit of profits is wicked and immoral and must be curbed and controlled by external forces. Once this view is adopted, the external forces that curb the market will not be the social consciences, however highly developed, of the pontificating executives; it will be the iron fist of Government bureaucrats. Here, as with price and wage controls, business men seem to me to reveal a suicidal impulse.

Clearly Dr. Friedman considered that he was in an intellectual struggle against a foe, which perhaps he feared was in an entrenched ascendant epoch, but which, in no small part due to his own efforts, was on the cusp of terminal decline.

One has to wonder what that man would think if the minute he finished the final version of that doctrine he entered a wormhole and emerged from it any time over the twenty-tens, with the major developed economies having undergone continual deregulation – with only minor and temporary tracebacks – for half a century, and with the cold war having been won over two decades earlier, and with China having been welcomed to become so deeply enmeshed in the Global economy (even if that is currently undergoing adjustment – which I have previously stated was both necessary and overdue – but perhaps soon to be managed by more intelligent and adept hands.)

While the “iron fist of Government bureaucrats” and powerful labour unions have largely been relegated to historical accounts of nearly all western society, there are other ways in which economies have been managed which are antithetical to libertarian ideals.

Certainly fresh from exiting a worm hole a 1970 Dr. Friedman would question where are “free markets”, with Government institutions globally – the central banks – being the main purchasers of the main funding instruments of Governments (bonds), and increasingly of private business debt, and even stocks of publicly traded companies already in some countries and foreshadowed in others. Most developed countries have engaged in this in one form or another. In my own country, the distortions away from free markets are perhaps best exemplified by the continual “management” (i.e. manipulation) of our residential property markets given the extreme level of household debt based on this one asset class.

The reality is that markets have been increasingly manipulated in the first two decades of this millenium, and those manipulations have had the effect of benefitting the elites.

Dr. Friedman’s views on taxation are linked to the assumption of enduring robust Government oversight based on public values. But his views on taxation extend to improper or sub-optimal usage of funds for and by those who are not in a position to make such decisions.

In each of these cases, the corporate executive would be spending someone else’s money for a general social interest. Insofar as his actions in accord with his “social responsibility” reduce returns to stock holders, he is spending their money. Insofar as his actions raise the price to customers, he is spending the customers’ money. Insofar as his actions lower the wages of some employes, he is spending their money….

But if he does this, he is in effect imposing taxes, on the one hand, and deciding how the tax proceeds shall be spent, on the other.

This process raises political questions on two levels: principle and consequences. On the level of political principle, the imposition of taxes and the expenditure of tax proceeds are governmental functions. We have established elaborate constitutional, parliamentary and judicial provisions to control these functions, to assure that taxes are imposed so far as possible in accordance with the preferences and desires of the public— after all, “taxation without representation” was one of the battle cries of the American Revolution. We have a system of checks and balances to separate the legislative function of imposing taxes and enacting expenditures from the executive function of collecting taxes and administering expenditure programs and from the judicial function of mediating disputes and interpreting the law.

The difficulty of exercising “social responsibility” illustrates, of course, the great virtue of private competitive enterprise — it forces people to be responsible for their own actions and makes it difficult for them to “exploit” other people for either selfish or unselfish purposes. They can do good—but only at their own expense.

On the first point of taxation by Government I shall leave it to a Republican who was “present at the creation” of the current American economic paradigm, working for both President Reagan and President George HW Bush, Bruce Bartlett writing in 2007 in The New York Times:

Today, supply-side economics has become associated with an obsession for cutting taxes under any and all circumstances… [it’s advocates in Congress] support even the most gimmicky, economically dubious tax cuts with the same intensity.

…today it is common to hear tax cutters claim, implausibly, that all tax cuts raise revenue

Critically, Mr. Bartlett goes on to explain the context into which the present economic paradigm was spawned, and he was strident in his disapproval of these reforms being continued almost without boundaries. Essentially his point was that the ideas had become so embedded as to almost be redundant, and that continuing reforms on those same lines – in that case, relating to taxation – had become deleterious. (Sound familiar?)

The second point flows from the first. To borrow Dr. Friedman’s words, when the businessperson uses their political power to reduce taxes on businesses and the wealthy, they are in fact taxing the remainder of society, and then the businessperson is deciding where those proceeds will be spent.

Even when the businessperson uses some of those funds charitably, Dr. Friedman has already spelt out that it is not their right to make those decisions as they are society-wide decisions, and often such endeavours performed by individuals are done with additional objectives in mind including vanity or creating good will which elicits potential for extraction of favour at a later point in time.

Thus the “good” that they do is not genuinely at their own expense.

(And yes, in an Australian context, you can bet I have in mind the watering down of the resources rent tax and at the same time deposing of a sitting Prime Minister as a particularly poignant example.)

Thus there should be little doubt that a 1970 Dr. Friedman, too, would not look favourably upon businesspeople seeking to, disproportionately to the remainder of society, reduce their Government taxation obligations either directly or indirectly.

One of our greatest shared views is our belief in the power of human specialisation which is central to his 1970 doctrine. My favourite quote is this:

WHETHER blameworthy or not, the use of the cloak of social responsibility, and the nonsense spoken in its name by influential and prestigious businessmen, does clearly harm the foundations of a free society. I have been impressed time and again by the schizophrenic character of many businessmen. They are capable of being extremely far‐sighted and clear‐headed in matters that are internal to their businesses. They are incredibly short sighted and muddle‐headed in matters that are outside their businesses but affect the possible survival of business in general.

Dr. Friedman’s main argument against anybody else other than Government and eleemosynary organisations involvement in decisions around social responsibility are that they are not equipped to do so.

That has patent relevancy to the COVID-19 pandemic where the collective voice of business people works to undermine measures to protect life. While business people have a clear view of what are the impacts of stringent social isolation measures on their businesses, they are not capable of understanding the broad complexity of issues of relevance to society and thus how that mix of issues will ultimately affect their businesses. That has already been proven in this pandemic where businesspeople have allowed their visceral fears – which we human beings have all felt at times this year – to advocate, with their disproportionately loud voices, for policies which have been more deleterious to their businesses than swift and stringent measures to protect human life.

None of that would surprise 1970 Dr. Friedman, clearly, and if he were consistent he would be exalting all to ignore the short-sighted muddle-headed rantings of the business elite on what Governments should be doing to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Importantly, Dr. Friedman also clearly endorses that in some human endeavours the profit imperative must be usurped by other objectives.

A group of persons might establish a corporation for an eleemosynary purpose—for example, a hospital or school. The manager of such a corporation will not have money profit as his objective but the rendering of certain services.

Health is an area where the profit imperative has penetrated especially in the last half century, in this pandemic leaving Americans at the point of being intubated in the battle to save their life concerningly asking who will pay for their treatment.

Clearly for many Americans there is indeed a fate worse than death – living to pay for the medical costs incurred.

From the Wikipedia page on Dr. Friedman I followed a link to an interview with Friedman on the Phil Donahue show in 1979 where he was pressed on whether the military could ever be privatised given the vast sums spent annually. He said “Very likely, if you could turn that over to private enterprise [an aircraft carrier] would cost half [what it currently costs], but we have to have a strong military” (his emphasis).

Clearly his view then was that some things were just too important to turn over to the private sector, with it’s profit imperative before all else.

Thus there is a line to be drawn in the sand, but where one draws that line will necessarily be subjective and thus will ultimately be politicised.

I do not think that it is at all controversial to suggest the severe impacts that COVID-19 has had on Americans and their society have shown that, where this line was drawn on health, it did not provide sufficient protection to the American people. Many will argue that this has been apparent for a long time and I certainly expressed early in the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 4, that I feared “all of these deficiencies of the US health system… [would] be revealed in a truly terrible manner”.

What Dr. Friedman failed to realise as he wrote in 1970 – so focused on arguing for his ideas in the face of his socialist foes, “monopolistic unions” and “iron fisted Government bureaucrats” – was how the balance of political power would shift as his reforms took effect. A cycle between reducing political power and increasing inequality caused a hollowed-out and precarious middle class with less political influence. The increasing political influence garnered by the increasingly wealthy elites, unsurprisingly, has not been driven by altruism seeking a reversal of these multi-decade trends – collectively, ironically, the political influence that this weight of wealth has bought has sought to entrench their advantage for subsequent generations as has been the pattern of human society through the ages.

I truly wonder whether the man who argued passionately in that doctrine, but before he became quite so acclaimed for his work as to receive a Nobel Prize and be taken in by the political elite to usher in a prolonged period of economic reform and societal change, writing the words quoted above, would wish to stake claim to the view that the system that so comprehensively failed so many people was based on his doctrine and views which together formed his “moral vision… which has changed America and it is changing the world”.


Perhaps it is a consequence of our social structures and how ideas spread, but my observation from my half century on Earth is that societal ideas and values, and thus policies and political trends, seem to act like a pendulum with the bottom of the swing the point at which there is most momentum to continue to move in that direction away from what in reality is the equilibrium (stable\sustainable) state until all of that (kinetic) energy is transferred and builds up inexorably into potential energy to swing back in the opposite direction with ultimately equal force.

Because I have an overall optimism in humanity I do believe that in the third dimension – imagine turning your view of the swinging pendulum 90 degrees – you will observe more easily that the pivot point is on a gradually rising trajectory, but experiencing the amplitudes of the swinging pendulum is why it can really feel like sometimes we are going backwards.

The secret for humanity is really to learn how to dampen those oscillations so that our progress can be more smooth and feel less disengaging for large swathes of society when the pendulum is at its least favourable so that positioning is not extreme.

This pretty much spells out the situation for contemporary extreme capitalism and the political ideology based on its value of greed and never-ending aspiration for materialism.

Here I should note that I do not consider aspiration in itself a negative as I am certain that those who wish to apportion me or paint me as belonging to an anti-capitalist tribe have assumed. It all depends on what the aspiration is towards. I think it is fair to say that each and every parent aspires to keep their family safe and to work towards maximising their moments of happiness in an uncertain world. But I think it is a reasonable argument to make that never-ending aspiration for more material wealth, power and influence is instead a toxic form of aspiration, and I would argue that it is encouraged within this contemporary extreme capitalism.

That we have reached this moment in time, and no doubt a major factor has been the pandemic providing a rare moment in time when many people will reflect on their existence as it has been in recent years and how they would like it to be in the future, is understood intuitively by very many. Some of us have intuitively understood that this moment would come at some point.

Trickle down economics never was a sustainable model on which to run society and the potential energy created within society to swing back in the other direction now has a certain degree of inevitability to it (writing by others indicates that they feel similarly, for example Ray Dalio, the head of the largest contemporary hedge fund, who perhaps I should have included on my earlier list of elites whom I respect.)

But it does make you wonder just what Dr. Friedman would have recommended for societal leaders to do in the face of this pandemic. To answer that one needs to decide to which Dr. Friedman we are referring – the contemporary perception of what he stood for, the man who wrote his doctrine as the pendulum reached its most extreme position disfavourable to his own views, or the man who was assisting President Reagan and PM Thatcher to reform their economies. 

I am prepared to accept that the 90 year old man that stood in front of President George W Bush to be conferred a Hero of Freedom, and so warmly embraced by the elites that had already benefitted so greatly from this movement towards extreme capitalism, might work at explaining and justifying the situation as his ego and conscience might dictate. However, I cannot help but believe that the 58 year old man that stood from his desk, after hand-writing the final draft of his doctrine, would feel disappointed and perhaps saddened that his writing and thoughts were co-opted in a fashion to arrive at such an extreme form of capitalism that has made only a very few so very wealthy and has failed so very many Americans, and many others around the world, as so devastatingly exposed in the COVID-19 pandemic.

As I pause to reflect on this piece I concede that some might suggest that I have not met my brief as indicated in the title, that I have not provided a plan for responding to COVID-19 which Dr. Friedman might have recommended. To my knowledge he had no special understanding of virology or any field of medicine, so any answer must centre predominantly on what is the state of the system into which the pandemic was seeded.

Just as in the old Irish joke, Dr. Friedman might have said “If I was going to formulate a response to this pandemic I would not be starting from here”.

As Dr. Friedman was venerated as a Hero of Freedom Present George W Bush said:

He has used a brilliant mind to advance a moral vision: the vision of a society where men and women are free, free to choose, but where government is not as free to override their decisions. That vision has changed America and it is changing the world. All of us owe a tremendous debt to this man’s towering intellect and his devotion to liberty.

But the economic system that his writing and early advice is credited with creating a moral vision of society for has led to a middle class on a knife edge, just one act of misfortune away from homelessness and destitution, and a chronic underclass of working poor with inferior outcomes across the range of critical social services and especially for health.

That is only freedom to the elite and to people blinded by unquestioned devotion to an ideology.

Any objective observer surely would ask whether this is a better form of “freedom” than in any contemporary autocracy which has lifted living standards for broad society by adopting some open market reforms.

It might be easily said that the problems in America’s response to COVID-19 is due primarily to one man, President Donald Trump. While I am in no doubt that history will show that President Trump failed Americans miserably in the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be a mischaracterisation if he and his administration attracted all of the blame.

Undoubtedly the power was in President Trump’s hands to respond more aggressively to the threat as explained to him and his administration by February, and he clearly chose not to do all in his power to protect human life. However, Donald Trump is most definitely a product of the system, both in the way he has lived his life and how that was widely perceived from his regular appearances on television and wider media, and in the messages that he expressed to the electorate which led to him winning the 2016 election. And even moreso for the messages that he gives the powerful business elites in the bubble in which he and many of them have occupied for all or large portions of their lives.

The evidence has long been in that the system has failed the health of Americans. Even if in February 2020 a decision was made to do everything possible to protect human life, the chronic failings of the system was going to be challenged in ways that would show greater similarity with developing countries than other developed countries. The disparity of living conditions between the haves and have-nots, especially along racial lines, have been shown up globally in the COVID-19 pandemic in the tragedy of infection and mortality rates and nowhere is that more true than in America.

That President Trump so callously disregards the realities of the failings of the American health system, especially on demographic and racial lines, emphasises that, while the blame for America’s poor performance in protecting the public during the COVID-19 pandemic is not entirely his, the necessary reforms cannot begin while he remains President.


As I draw to a conclusion, I already recognise what many – if my writing were taken seriously enough – would proffer in counter-argument. “In earlier writing he said Trump was standing firm against businesses profiting from China’s emergence, now Trump is too close to business elites!” – well, yes, but to suggest that Trump has not lived a life in a bubble of elitism is patently absurd. He is obsessed by wealth – measuring his Presidential success by the level of asset prices, chiefly the stockmarket – and he is most comfortable surrounded by other wealthy businessmen (intentionally gender-specific) as long as one condition is met, that they do not disagree in the slightest with him or suggest in any way that they are more anything (successful, intelligent, …) than he.

Perhaps more than ever before we citizens of Western countries – and possibly elsewhere – have developed a habit of believing what we want of what has been said or written by others. President Trump’s success has largely been built on asserting to his base that he knows perfectly what are others’ motives and intentions, and this has further stripped nuance from public discourse resulting in greater intolerance, misunderstanding and outright misinformation. Such behaviour detracts from public debate as the value of expressed opinion is diminished because there is a loss of faith that others will take the time to consider those views faithfully prior to responding.

Thus debating views in open fora on the internet can seem fruitless, especially when opponents are shielded by a fog of anonymity and might well be a paid troll (who has little conviction for what they are argue other than to earn an income) or even an artificial intelligence “bot”.

The one issue I do want to address, though, is the re-emergence of what Dr. Friedman referred to as “social responsibility” in the business sector, including through activist, impact and\or ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) investing themes, as well as what I mentioned briefly above, corporate leaders responding to critical social issues of the time.

These activities would certainly fit that description and thus be the prime target of Dr. Friedman’s main objections stated within his doctrine.

Again, the contemporary reality has moved on from the time in which Dr. Friedman wrote his doctrine. A leadership void has opened in the developed world. This void was growing before President Trump adopted an “America first” foreign policy. It is a result of the dearth of genuine political leadership over recent decades throughout much of the Western world.

In my own country of Australia discontent with poor political leadership has been growing through this millennium, and to me this issue reached a real low point earlier this year when Australia’s Ambassador to the United States, and former Australian Treasurer, Joe Hockey, appeared on 7.30 on the ABC:

LEIGH SALES:  Do you think that ministerial standards are at the same height that they were 20 years ago?

JOE HOCKEY:  I mean, it’s all changed, Leigh. Social media has changed everything. Social media has made the voice of the critic much, much louder than the voice of the advocate.

And the second thing that’s changed is disruption.

Everyone keeps calling for government to initiate reform, but really, what’s happening is the private sector is initiating reform, on a scale that we’ve never seen before.

LEIGH SALES:  Is there something fundamentally wrong with that though, if Government is not leading?

JOE HOCKEY:  No. Because it empowers individuals and we all believe that individuals should be their best.

When I heard Mr. Hockey’s intellectually feeble utterings I was immediately transported, to the words of a brilliant actor bringing to life a period that lingers long in humanity’s collective imaginations:

Gracchus: I think he [Commodus] knows what Rome is. Rome is the mob. Conjure magic for them and they’ll be distracted. Take away their freedom and still they’ll roar. The beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the Senate, it’s the sand of the Colosseum. He’ll bring them death…and they will love him for it.

From the motion picture “Gladiator” directed by Ridley Scott, a Dreamworks production.

I see social media platforms as modern day arenas; Facebook the Colosseum.

(I leave it to the reader to imagine who might be Commodus.)

The truth is that individuals can not fill that void and that is creating widespread insecurity and thus anxiety (no matter how much I and others, like Brene Brown, might attempt to inspire and\or cajole all to have the courage to lead). That is why behaviour on social media often resembles that of a mob.

In Steve Biddulph’s seminal book “Raising Boys” (Finch Publishing, Sydney, 2003) he describes how young males require structure.

Boys act tough to cover up their fear. If someone is clearly the boss, they relax. But the boss must not be erratic or punitive. If the person in charge is a bully, the boys’ stress levels rise, and it’s back to the law of the jungle. If the teacher, scoutmaster or parent is kind and fair (as well as being strict) then boys will drop their ‘macho’ act and get on with learning.

Biddulph further explains that without that structure males become insecure and fearful, and relationships within groups become turbulent as they attempt to establish hierarchies.

I find a lot of similarity between these descriptions and broader society where politicians have withdrawn from their leadership roles and thus from providing their vision on where our societies are heading.

Right now society in much of the developed world is behaving like the fearful teenage boys that Biddulph describes. The lack of direction provided by mainstream, conventional politicians has led to at first a flirtation with, and then an acceptance of, populist leaders because their willingness to express strong ideas made the anxious mob feel more secure. Many within the mob have become aggressively supportive because they do not want to go back to feeling insecure and directionless, and so are prepared to accept their leaders’ short-comings unless and until the consequences are very personal.

As I mentioned earlier, there are a few female politicians who have stepped into that leadership void. But they remain the exception.

Into that leadership void business leaders have also stepped forward. Whereas 1970 Dr. Friedman painted a picture of business leaders feeling that they were pressured by Government bureaucracy, or agents of socialism, to act with social responsibility, it seems clear this time around that businesspeople recognised the vacuum from the political withdrawal and stepped forward in part out of necessity. In many nations, including my own, that is especially the case with diversity and inclusion, and environmental policy.

On diversity and inclusion, there has been a growing awareness that more than just a social issue, diverse and inclusive cultures are more productive and innovative. Consequently, filling the void left by politicians in relation to diversity and inclusion within society, and even at times countering their divisive impulses, comes with significant benefits to business which will positively impact their financial performance.

It is important to note that businesspeople now acting on climate change is not antithetical to Dr. Friedman’s views as some will no doubt suggest.

Critically, this issue has not “blown up” overnight or even recently. Global warming from greenhouse gases had been identified and was being taught when I studied for my undergraduate science degree in the late 80’s. Businesspeople have observed the ebbing of global political leadership, even in areas of critical concern for humanity, and have become concerned by the impacts of that on business functioning and certainty.

More to the point, however, businesspeople are recognising that the collective view of the human beings that decided to specialise as scientific researchers is that our climate is changing due to humanity’s actions and that the consequences to us humans and our planet are severe and will be devastating if corrective actions are not progressed urgently.

It is this faith in human specialisation, a key underpinning of capitalism, that provides the majority of businesspeople with the surety that they need to act definitively on climate change. It would be better if politicians would leave behind their partisan political self interest, often due to lobbying from disaffected industry sectors, so that a truly global response could be formulated to guide businesses. Absent this, businesspeople now realise that taking measures alone or with the support of localised groupings which may assist in the battle against climate change is far preferable to continuing business as usual which they know will contribute to more climate change.

This is the political and social environment into which the COVID-19 pandemic was seeded.


Martin Wolf, a highly regarded Financial Times journalist, recently suggested that the critical distinction between populist leaders in their varying responses to COVID-19, thus the impacts on their people, is whether the leaders are more interested in the theatre of leading rather than actually governing. Perhaps whether they seek to be a modern-day Commodus. Mr. Wolf is clear that even theatrical populists definitely do want to effect change on their societies.

I would suggest a more relevant factor, however, is how closely these leaders are linked with the business elite. In the extreme capitalism in Western societies that linkage has become very close, but it does exist elsewhere. On the other hand, in a few other countries, especially autocracies such as in China and Vietnam, the link is not as strong and this separation has allowed their governments to act assertively to stamp out clusters.

The Chinese Communist Party, for example, clearly decided early that their political fate would be decided by how well they protected their people and as such have proven themselves to be the gold standard in stamping out a serious outbreak and at working at preventing the seeding of new clusters.

Just one example of their relentless efforts to identify and manage risks is remaining open-minded on the potential for re-introduction with processed meat, a risk that I have discussed on these pages since end of April with an open letter to Prime Minister Morrison and a detailed post, but which has been ignored throughout much of the world including in my own country. In recent weeks Chinese scientists have published data linking two clusters in China to frozen food imports.

It is noteworthy that the International Monetary Fund forecasts that it is only China amongst the major global economies that will make a genuine V-shaped economic recovery on the back of their ability to get the pandemic under control to the point that in a country with over a billion people they have had few clusters of community transmission in recent months. What is more, the only thing that appears likely to dampen that recovery at this stage appears to be the economic impacts from the uncontrolled pandemic in the majority of the rest of the globe and especially in important consumer markets in America and Europe.

Together with a growing appreciation of the severe pitfalls to many in society from the current extreme capitalism in the Western world, the better performance of countries prepared to protect human life above protestations from business elites has coalesced to suggest that the economic paradigm that Dr. Friedman and others heralded and initiated has been taken to an unsustainable extreme.

As with any change of paradigm, what occurs from here will be determined as much by the incumbents as the proponents for change. History suggests that incumbents do not willingly relinquish any of their favoured position, and given the current state of society in extremis (especially in America, patent to the most objective of observers), the pain that humanity is collectively suffering in the COVID-19 pandemic, and the pressure of a re-emergent geopolitical superpower, this transition to a new paradigm is shaping to be more disruptive than most in recent human history.

We should all hope that from the midst of the Western world comes a cohort of brilliant leaders, with intellectual rigor and iron fisted determination to sustain the effort to continue to carry humanity forward with the least possible disruption. Presently it is the European female leaders who are leading the way, though as great as they are, they cannot do it alone.

If assistance comes in the form of a re-awakened, progressive America, such that it retained the mantle of global leadership, then there would be nobody happier than I. What I have observed over recent decades, however, prevents me from being sanguine for America. I hope that that recency bias proves to be my error in the same way it was Dr. Friedman’s.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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How I Re-made Myself After A Breakdown

I have 23 cousins on my father’s side, but when I was a young boy, Ernie stood out above all others. Ernie was my brother’s age, 8 years older than me, and he was a real farm boy. He was always with my Uncle Charlie on his frequent visits to help Dad out in our early years on our own farm. One day Ernie was helping fit a “quick hitch” to the hydraulic lifting bars at the back of a tractor when the heavy steel implement jumped and cut him above the eye. I cried for ages because Ernie was hurt.

When I was 13 we received a phone call in the middle of the night. It was my uncle (or perhaps aunt) informing Dad and Mum that Ernie had taken his own life. My siblings and I had woken and come out of our rooms in time to understand what had happened, and to see Mum tell Dad that he needed to go and be with his brother.

My father’s response never left me: with eyes wide like a wild cat trapped in the corner of a pen he said “Why, what am I going to do, tell him I’m sorry his boy bumped himself off!”

I now understand that he was in shock and did not know how to cope with his own emotions. But as a boy the shock of seeing and hearing that compounded the confusion and shock that I was feeling.

A few years later when I was 15 that same inability to deal with strong emotions led to an even greater shock to my system in a near catastrophic way that bore many similarities. I discussed the event briefly on the “About Me” page and in my post “People Before Money“, and will not add further detail here.

Many years later, the consequent impacts on me were revealed when I reached a low point as I had to face up to grief at the loss of my career, of hopes of what I wanted to achieve for myself and my family (e.g. home ownership), and even of my original family connections, the strains of which had been growing since I decided not to go back to the farm after completing my undergraduate degree.


In the preceding years the strains on me had been growing inexorably. By the time I finished my PhD I already felt exhausted as for the final pivotal 2.5+ years of that program I had to manage a very difficult relationship with my supervisor. In fact, if it were not for the fact that in that second last year we were on separate continents for 9 full months, through the most critical and most productive period of my research, there is a good chance that I would have quit my PhD program.

I recall saying to my wife that I felt that I came really close to a breakdown then and I never really had a chance to recover. And the threat that was made to my career, which on the one hand drove me to excel in an attempt to create some buffer against this threat, was a continual source of extreme anxiety as I felt as if I was forever walking on eggshells. No it felt like I was continually dancing on burning coals.

After completing my PhD I had a series of professionally unfulfilling roles. All the while I was doing extra work in my own time to keep up a publication record in order to get my research career on track. Then a brilliant opportunity to work alongside JR Bonami in France proved that it is difficult to have everything – the price of taking up the opportunity was an enormous drop in family income (of 80%), severe isolation for me as nobody would talk to me in the lab while I was unable to speak French, and extreme isolation for my wife which left her in such awful shape that I almost declined the opportunity to take a prestigious fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for the following year.

If conditions were difficult in France they got downright surreal in Munich. The first 6 months were productive even though there was little interaction with colleagues as the person I was going to work with had been seconded to another city to work on a project. But about half way through the year I somehow offended a favourite student of the head of the institute and the next day all of my work disappeared from the lab. After a series of meetings the head of the institute suggested that the (histology) technician would continue looking for my work and would let me know if it was found. That night I returned to the institute and found that all of my samples were stored behind locked doors in a long series of store cupboards outside the histology lab. Even though I could reach them from the adjoining unlocked compartment by contorting myself in a way that I could not hope to repeat even a few years later, rescuing my work would have to wait until the final night of my fellowship as they were worthless to me without access to the equipment I needed to process the samples. I informed the Humboldt foundation of developments all the way along, and they were very apologetic, but there was nothing they could do. I spent the final months in Munich working in our apartment on papers and reviewing others’ papers while my wife had an excellent job working on an international project with Wrigley confectionary company.

I said that I “somehow” offended the student, but here is the full strange story if it is of interest.

We were stuck in limbo in Munich. For my career the best approach was to accept the opportunity to work in Don Lightner’s lab in Tucson, Arizona, whose partnership with Bonami led to them being the leaders in the field of crustacean virology. But my wife had personal reasons for wanting to move to Brisbane, many of which she did not even fully understand. To breach the impasse I acquiesced even though I knew that the chances of me being able to continue in my career were not good.

I spent 18 months in Brisbane unemployed, working from a desk at an institute at University of Queensland, furiously writing research proposals for a fellowship and/or research funding, along with trying to prove my worth to the institute as a potential staff member. Universities across Australia have long been full of such unemployed or massively underemployed people with PhDs and Masters degrees – it is an enormous waste of human capital.

Although I had been with the love of my life since 20, and we both desperately wanted to have a family, it never seemed the right time due to the pressure that we had been living under for my career and now I was 34. Just as we decided to try for a family, I was approached to take up a 3 month contract position in Bangkok. I accepted it, but it did more damage to my mental health in that I do not think that I slept well even for the fortnight that my wife joined me, as I heard every creak and groan in my colleague’s apartment – essentially I was a place-holder, and at a local wage about a half of an Australian wage (which was not going to help us to afford to buy a home in Brisbane).

A few months later we were blessed with the news of our expecting arrival, and for that next door to open it was clear that the door must be closed on my career. I knew that the pursuit of my career had done a lot of damage to my mental health, after dancing on those burning coals for 14 years so well as to be considered an emerging world leader in a field that had value to my country. My mind had become accustomed to running at 120% of capacity since I had returned from Europe as it continually whirled to come up with the right plan to continue my career.

The grief at my loss was overwhelming, and the hole that was left in my thoughts was so immense that I fell into a very dark and frightening place of despair. I was warned by friends that I needed to begin to fill that void even before I retired, but my pain felt so great that I felt unable to do that. I think I felt that I needed to experience all of the pain and self pity, to let it almost destroy me.

The weaknesses that had been built into my thoughts and resilience at home before moving to university then came into play. These strains pulled at every fibre of my security. Home prices in Brisbane had doubled in the few years since we first moved to Europe and it seemed like the pursuit of my career had cost us a chance at ever owning a home. Virtually all family relationships had been straining for years, in part because of the stringency of conditions under which were raised fearing the loss of our farm, and in part because both families struggled with dealing with a mixed culture marriage. Both my wife and I were struggling to find our feet in a new city with all of these pressures. 

After presenting at a hospital, panicked with anxiety at how I could possibly find the strength to go on, I was referred to a psychologist who helped me to confront these fears that I had been avoiding. It was not easy by any stretch, and it was not achieved in one session or even one period of sessions. After that initial breakdown I spoke with her for a period mainly about my professional career, decompressed for a while, and then as I got low again I went through another period of sessions this time to mostly sort out what had happened with my family. 

I have gone through cycles because there were a lot of issues to cover. The psychologist suggested that the shock that I experienced as a 15 year old was so great that it probably manifested a form of post traumatic stress disorder, and that such things often create blockage to development especially when it happens at such a critical age for maturation and personal development.

Twenty years of emotional stunting cannot be overcome quickly, and as the therapist once said to me, there is no need to put pressure on myself to solve everything – some work must be left for the next generation! 

Thankfully, each cycle has been less acute and frightening than the previous, and it is my sincerest hope that I have not passed on too many weaknesses for my sons to work through for themselves. But anxiety and panic is like an addictive disorder – one can never feel cured, and an important aspect of recovery is accepting that it is a lifelong affliction that will need to be managed carefully.


I was always a very shy lad. I don’t really know how much my school friends were aware of it. I was always well liked but I felt unconfident. I remember in high school riding the school bus home most afternoons sitting near the front facing out the window continuously out of fear that the other kids would see my watery eyes seeping as a symptom of social anxiety. I was big and well-built, captain of the rep football team and even captained my region, which is well known for birthing football stars, at the state carnival. My social awkwardness meant that I would rather sit at school with other young lads who were probably a little less mature, and less socially competent, and play sports (mostly football) at lunch time.

When I finished year 12 I asked my parents if I could stay on the farm, but they said that I needed some sort of qualification behind me in case they one day sold or lost the farm. School came very easily to me even though I barely studied, while I never felt competent or interested in any trade skills, so I decided to go to university.

My parents drove me the 275Kms to university in our early 70s Toyota Landcruiser single cab, me on the outside and mum in the middle. I was 17 and 1 month to the day. For the first 6 months I called home regularly, sometimes in tears, begging to be able to come home. My parents stayed strong, even though they surely would have been tempted to weaken, and then I began to flourish socially. When I shaved my head for a university ball towards the end of that first year, they must have realised that I was not coming home soon, and the possibility that I might never come home should have crossed their minds (although I almost certainly would have returned to the farm if I had not met the love of my life in the final year of my undergraduate degree).

Even though I was popular, big and strong, no doubt a “real country boy” for the “city slicker” students who were common in my marine biology course, I was still extremely shy and unconfident behind those shoulders that could bench press 130 kg by the time I was 18 years. In my second year at college a meeting was held with just the first year students to find out why they were not joining in the social activities, and I snuck in with a mate and sat on the billiard table at the back of the room. After some discussion a common theme emerged, and then a young female stood and said that she was afraid of me. Virtually everybody agreed, and the story went along the lines that when walking along the long corridors towards them they found my size intimidating, and that I only “grunted” at them. A senior female friend assured them that I was really a nice guy if they just looked past the muscles. The truth was that I was more afraid of them, especially the girls, and the prettier I considered them, the less able I was to get out any intelligible words.

The ultimate irony is that the young lady who stood first to say that she was afraid of me had a long-term boyfriend, but later that year, on the night that she broke up with him, her friends rushed to tell me what had happened and that she was on a mission to find me!

Admittedly, for the guys I was happy to let them believe of me what they wanted.  For boys the relationship historically did involve some level of intimidation, especially in O Week which culminated in the Fresher Vs Fossils football game, and the football field was my domain. Part of that is to see who has grit and character to earn the respect of the seniors. But people assuming who I was based on how I looked was also a bit of a defense mechanism. The truth is that I was not an aggressive guy. I did do very well at 2 of the 3 “F’s” which marked an archetypical country boy good night out – and the third which I was hopeless at should be plain from above – but I was far less angry than many other lads that I came up against. I never picked fights, but as a big young guy there are often lads with a chip on their shoulder who feel they need to continually prove themselves. I did not take a backward step to that behaviour, and most of the time they were very quick to realise their error, but on a few occasions I came up against other lads that clearly had so much anger and aggression that they would do anything to win and would not stop until either they or I were unable to continue.

I was a mixed-up lad, not an angry mixed-up lad, thankfully.

I carried my pain in a less explosive way. My bombs tended to blow up internally in me, creating continual and profound sadness, and lingering self doubt. I remember as a teenager I asked my family at the breakfast table once whether anybody else woke up every morning feeling sick in the pit of their stomach. 

These were all symptoms of the pain that I carried but I had never addressed or even acknowledged until that visit to the hospital. They had undermined me for over half of my life, and had robbed me of contentment and joy. I knew that I had to come to terms with the events of my life to become the father that I desperately wanted to be to my unborn child, and to continue to develop into the best husband I could be to my beautiful wife.


In those first few years after the breakdown it literally felt like I was thinking through mud. Actually, through molten copper as the wiring in my brain had overheated due to the over-revving, never managing to gain traction, causing everything to shut down as in a burnt out electric motor. 

I was extremely fortunate to have the love of an amazing woman who understood what I went through and prioritised me and our family’s wellbeing. 

In this world where we are encouraged to be forever competitive and aspirational, and always on a treadmill, wheels spinning endlessly but never appearing to go anywhere, I learned that the secret to me not feeling anxious was to stop placing expectations on myself. In my role as primary caregiver for my family there were just a few things that were absolutely vital, but even many of them could be flexible based on how I felt on the day. For instance, if I did not get around to making dinner, well there is always another solution – leftovers or something in the cupboard or a quick visit to the shop. 

When I worked professionally I used lists, physically or in my mind, to hold myself to account and make myself guilty when I failed to accomplish every task. In the early days after my breakdown the only time I used lists was when I felt a little confused and muddled, so it acted as security when I was feeling low to give me ideas on things I might want to do.

Being kind to myself mostly meant not making myself accountable to lists of things that “needed doing”. In many ways I now live like the archetypical Italian where the philosophy is the reverse of typical Anglo culture – put off until tomorrow what you possibly can and want to. And given our links into Italian culture nowadays, it was interesting to learn that just how Anglo’s can become stressed by Italians’ apparent unwillingness to commit themselves ahead of time, Italians become stressed by Anglo’s desire and pushing for them to commit themselves to plans ahead of time. It is not in their nature or culture, and for me it works, too.

If I reflect on it, I probably have three levels of priority of tasks (and nowadays I very rarely use lists of any type). There are a very few things that I must do according to a strict routine, like dropping the kids at school; there are things that I should do some time during the day or even week, but if that slips it’s not the end of the world; and things that I would like to do some day but only when I feel like it.

What I find is that I do a lot of those tasks that I would like to do some day – my home and  surrounds are full of those completed projects – but I don’t beat myself up and feel guilty when I let projects slide.

This attitude should not be confused with a careless attitude. Not at all. The nature that led to me being a world-class scientist remains and I still have a strong internal drive to always seek improvement, optimisation, efficiency, and always seek to excel at whatever it is that I do. I just learned to stop kicking myself, concentrating more on the process and effort, not so much the outcome while understanding it will take care of itself, and I have raised my sons in the same fashion.

My ever supportive wife, having seen me at my lowest, understands how I must now work, and even if it is not her style, she actually has been realising that there are very significant health benefits to this attitude towards tasks.


I have learned through my life that people’s perception of me usually has more to do with them than me, and no matter whether it is positive or negative, it often acts to fulfill a need they have for whatever reason. To some I have been a wonderful person of real character and substance who can be depended on, while to others at the same time I have been a terrible person, and in fact the source of all that was wrong with their lives. 

Sadly the latter has been the view of some who under different circumstances may have been very close to me, and I have learned to console myself in the fact that I have at least played some purpose in their lives by being their villain.

I never was the person many people thought I was as a lad. I may have been a big strong country boy, good and tough footballer, but I never was a “blokey bloke”. Perhaps it is my fault that I never set about putting them straight, but my social awkwardness meant that if they assumed that I was somebody not to be messed with then that gave me some buffer of protection. I had never been in a fight until I was 15 when a guy almost 2 years older than me thought he would call my bluff. He was right, it was a bluff, but that day in the school ground he and I both learned that I could back it up in dramatic fashion.

If how people perceive us has at least as much to do with them as it does us, and if authenticity is a rare commodity in adults, well lets just say that genuine authenticity in teenagers is feared by them as much as superman fears kryptonite.

When I returned to my home town while I was studying for my PhD, old football mates would ask whether I was still playing, and my response that I was concentrating on my PhD invariably drew the response “that’s a pity”. On one level it was humorous to me, on another it was an uncomfortable feeling of not meeting others’ expectations based on past perceptions of me.


Now that I have fully set the scene on what led me to have a breakdown, roughly what happened, and what was the immediate aftermath and effects, here are some final thoughts and specific tips on my recovery and my life dealing with the consequent challenges.

One thing that I have learned from dealing with depression, anxiety and panic is the absolute concrete truth in that no psychological state lasts. Those predisposed to melancholy know only too well that happiness is fleeting, as is excitement, and here I have to admit that the breakdown did rob me of the ability to feel excitement because excited energy always gives way to anxious energy in me, so I have had to suppress this emotion. But I have learned to tell myself that depression and anxiety will pass, too, and then the days will feel lighter and brighter again, and that will be even quicker if I can manage to turn things around before becoming anxious about being anxious. That is the insidious nature of dealing with depression and anxiety.

I was introduced to guided meditation as a lad by a body builder from my home town who gave me some tapes which I really enjoyed. Back then I could manage to relax very deeply. I have found guided meditation an excellent way to regain control when I feel quite anxious. Even if I have rarely managed to achieve the depth of relaxation I did as a lad, with practice I always manage to gain quite a good deal of relief and control over anxious thoughts with guided meditation.

The last time I got fairly low, which was quite a few years ago now, I did a course in cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). I found it extremely helpful because I learned some useful physical techniques, such as stomach breathing to calm myself down quickly if I feel anxious, and I learned to monitor my stress and anxiety levels, and then techniques to deal with the thoughts that were creating anxiety. I recommend CBT highly.

The most important takeaway that I would give anybody about my experience – the one thing that I would say if I could somehow send a message to myself at a prior point in time – would be to do everything possible to find the courage to seek help before falling into that hole. Even if I could not bring myself to develop another focus before ending my career, if I ensured that I began talking with a therapist before and regularly during those weeks I may have been able to limit the damage.

For the first few years after my breakdown, it was not only the loss of my career and the personal challenges that I needed to deal with, I also lost a part of myself through the breakdown. I had to accept that I would never be the same person that I was before it. I had a youthful exuberance and excitement to my personality, yes about my work, but also about a lot of things. I lost the ability to feel excitement, and I had to learn to live with a far greater level of background anxiety, or at least a far greater appreciation of its presence.

I felt like the breakdown stripped me bare, so that I was just the core of who I am as a human being. It was frightening, and for many years I felt like I could almost feel that my nails were raw and bleeding, with dirt and muck stuck under them, from fighting my way out of that hole.

I feel that less so these days. Instead I feel mostly proud of myself for achieving what I have.

In many ways I have rebuilt myself, and because I genuinely love who I am, I feel that I built myself back better. It would have been a lot more difficult, and I doubt the result would have been nearly as complete, without the love of an amazing woman to whom I will forever be indebted.

One thing that I accepted early was the importance of learning to talk about myself, about all of the things that made me sad and angry, about how much hurt I harboured for what had happened, even how much I wished things could have been different.

I learnt in those early teen years that a man unable to let out what he is feeling is a danger to himself as well as others, and after my breakdown I learned what was real courage.

In truth I think it is unlikely that I could have avoided some form of breakdown in my life – I just carried too much emotional baggage into my early adulthood. A coalescing of events led me to be unable to continue to suppress all of the pain that I felt, but it was always there and always would have been if I did not deal with it.

Nelson Mandela told us that courage is not the absence of fear but the conquering of it. While I did not manage to find the courage to act before I fell, I found the courage to make myself my own project.

My life, my values, my behaviours, they might not be for everyone. That is the beauty of the diversity of the human condition. But when I see what I have remade of myself reflected in my sons, it is then that I know that I have achieved all that I need to on this Earth, and I have found a profound truth and contentment amongst all of the continual daily challenges.

And it is that which gives me the confidence to share my own solution to what I have termed The Human-Time Paradox, which I now feel ready to complete drafting, and which has never been more relevant in my lifetime given the challenges that humanity currently face and the consequent changing perceptions towards our life and our time that we are all now experiencing.

Oh, by the way, if you are wondering whether Joel Edgerton is one of my 23 cousins, or many more second cousins, or their children, hate to disappoint if you have read this far just to learn the answer to that one question. Is it relevant to your perception of me?…

Dedicated to my beautiful wife, Chandima. My parents may have provided me with my first “compass” and a good heart, but it is knowing and being loved by you that inspired me, and provided me with the opportunity, to work towards being the best possible version of myself. Thank you. I love you to infinity and beyond.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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If After 30 Years of Unbroken Economic Growth Australia Can’t Afford To Protect It’s Most Vulnerable, Who Really Benefitted From That Economic Growth?

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone the most intense of spotlights on the weaknesses in our societies including: the lack of cohesion and increase in racism, inequality in opportunity leading to lower living standards which results in far greater impacts especially on exploited minorities and temporary workers, and inadequate care for the elderly in part due to greater dependence on institutional care as double fulltime income families struggle to meet their aspirations.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic began to rewrite economic histories for countries, Australia was basking in the glow of a world record run of economic growth. Treasurer after treasurer for the last decade and half returned from overseas gatherings of international finance ministers continually telling us that we were the envy of the world.

At home, however, there was an increasing feeling, especially amongst young Australians, that the prosperity was not being shared equally. That the previous generations, of landlords and share investors, had had the better of things. Worse still, for a chance of attaining their level of prosperity the younger generations had to commit to a life of vulnerable debt servitude, or give up on the ideas of attaining the trappings of the Aussie middle class, such as home ownership, if their parents were not in the position to assist them. Of course the persistence of this aspiration allowed the previous generations to continue to experience their good fortune by keeping aloft asset prices. However, even that chance of parental assistance at reaching the middle class was under attack with some parents indulging in the tongue-in-cheek Baby Boomer SKI passion – spending the kids inheritance.

Such was the passion resulting from these intergenerational tensions that a plate of smashed avocado become emblematic for all that was wrong with an insufficiently aspirational and\or hardworking young generation, according to many senior Australians.

Middle-aged Australian families that had not purchased property before the new millennium were increasingly being squeezed by rampaging rents.

Of course the property bubble was kicked off in large part by huge incentives for Australians to speculate on house prices, not invest because housing supply was always tightly managed to keep the bubble from bursting. Finally after years of increasing distortions (e.g. First Home Owners Boost during the GFC to keep house prices high) in the most recent Federal election Australians had a real choice to take away these housing and share market distortions (i.e. franking credit reimbursement). Australians declined that opportunity, and in many ways I believe that is a reflection of many young Australians’ compassion for their parents and grandparents leading them to take “their side” while not fully understanding the intergeneration inequity that such measures would have addressed. 

While the young generations are castigated by many senior Australians for being selfish in seeking instant gratification, as exemplified by the smashed avo “debate”, research shows that younger generations are generous with their time through volunteering and definitely are community-minded.

It has been my view for some time that the situation is actually the inverse – it is Baby Boomer Australians who definitely have had the best of conditions – far more favourable than their parents who endured wartime and post-war frugality to provide for their growing families and who never achieved near the comparative wealth of their children – and still with such powerful electoral presence to repel attempts to lessen perks which they have enjoyed for most of their adult lives and which prevent a fair go for those younger Australians who at the same time subsidise all or some medical costs for seniors as well as fund other Government functions and pensions even for the modestly wealthy, while wealthy Australian retirees live from massively tax advantaged savings.

Now COVID-19 is exposing those inter-generational issues in an extreme manner that few have yet considered.

Young people have progressively been forced to accept that they will not have the same opportunities to acquire the same level of wealth as previous generations have done, through no fault of their own but due to the reality of politics where the greater number of votes (and of political donations) exist amongst the owning class, and this is exemplified by homeownership.

Those experiencing the greatest negative economic impacts in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic are the young working in the low-paid customer facing roles providing non-essential services. This will turn around somewhat because the longer the pandemic goes the greater the need for businesses to cut more deeply, and those older Australians made redundant will find it increasingly difficult to find another job. Up to this point in time, however, it is well understood that it is young Australians that have suffered the greatest economic hardship.

The Federal Government, especially, has wanted to pretend that it is possible to keep the national economy ticking away in some fashion by following a suppression strategy. Much of that is aimed at ensuring asset prices do not fall sharply, especially our housing markets which have long been Australia’s true economic vulnerability.

If house prices fell the older owning class would be worst affected economically, while young Australians have the most to gain by a fall in the price of assets because over their life time the opportunity to buy a home for perhaps half of the peak price would place them ahead of where they would be otherwise. That financial advantage would be so significant as to easily outweigh the negative financial impact of spending perhaps a year or two unemployed during a very serious recession or even depression.

For a long time I considered a buyer’s strike a reasonable choice for young Australians to address the intergenerational inequity that our political system has been unable to address.

Now it seems possible if not likely the pandemic will force it.

My main advice to young Australians would be that the best investment that you can make is your own health. From very early in the pandemic, well before such stories become common, I was warning through my posts that nobody should consider for a moment that all of the ways that the novel coronavirus can impact our health were understood. We are learning more about these impacts as time goes on, including an understanding that young people can fall seriously ill and die from COVID-19, and that even mild infections can cause changes within the brain. Long term impacts from infection can not be understood until that time has passed.

While many young people have come to think of themselves as invincible in this pandemic, there could be serious long term consequences to them developing even mild infection.

So I see our Governments’ response to the current crisis to be similar to previous crises: work expeditiously to get things back to “normal” as soon as possible, thus protecting asset prices which various Governments have worked hard at building and protecting over decades.

The people who are meant to save the economy from collapse are essentially the same: the young. In the GFC young Australians, those with the least life and investing experience, were bribed to enter the housing market and keep prices aloft by an increased cash grant which quickly was added to the price of the home in any case so that they got no net benefit but were left with a lifetime of vulnerable debt servitude.

In the COVID-19 pandemic young people, already economically vulnerable, are being convinced that they have the most to gain by the opening up of the economy and especially of the low-paid customer-facing service jobs. These are the jobs that can not be done remotely, and thus entail a significantly greater risk of contracting COVID-19. Note also that early discussions around herd immunity inferred that it was the young and healthy, the school children through to the pre-forties, who would have had the bulk “responsibility” for developing the infection to protect the vulnerable within the herd. (And it is here that you understand why our Federal Government fought so hard to ensure that schools remained open.)

As we have learned in Melbourne like elsewhere, older Australians are clearly more at risk of death from COVID-19, so senior Australians have the most to lose out of economic activity being prioritised over minimising loss of life. If economic impacts result in a fall in asset prices they will also lose, but common sense says that the majority would prefer the former option because wealth is of no use after death.

Yet it is the young who have the majority of their life to live with any long term consequences from COVID-19 infection. And it is young people who are most disadvantaged by our historically very high housing prices which are more likely to fall the longer and more deeply the economy is impacted.

So young people are being called on to got out and work to minimise impacts on the Australian economy, and risk their lives and their long term health, and the consequence of their bravery will be that the more successful they are in doing that the more out of reach will remain home ownership and long term financial security, especially if those long term health affects turn out to be debilitating and thus impact their lifetime earning potential.

I realise that this discussion leaves out an important group – the recent buyers, of which I would include myself. In a bubble, the most impacted are always the last buyers before the collapse. Anybody buying homes in Australia in the last 10 years in the financial expectation that the experience of the previous decades will be repeated was speculating as the fundamentals long ago ceased to stack up. At best an analysis of renting versus buying based on the current lower bound interest rates may suggest fair value in some areas of Australia, but that is not a basis for price increases going forward, and on a long term basis Australian house prices remain significantly overpriced. While I do not expect interest rates to increase appreciably for a long time in Australia, and have long held that view, whenever an asset class is over-owned by speculators there is the potential for price declines as those speculators realise their error. To those who bought understanding this dynamic, but rather made a discretionary spend to live in and\or raise a family in their own home, then these factors are of little significance. For such people the issue remains the same – maintaining a roof over one’s head – whether that be a rented roof or one to which a bank holds the mortgage.

That is the crux of intergenerational inequity in the COVID-19 era and the stakeholders in that situation are largely passive and being led by the political class. In the second part I will concentrate more on the closely related tension between business and workers, and here stakeholders are for more active and engaged in politics lobbying for the Government action that supports their aims.


To discuss the tension between business and workers we really need to strip back this issue to economic impacts versus human impacts (i.e. loss of lives) in the COVID-19 pandemic, a topic that is a constant background of my writing at MacroEdgo.

At the outset, it is very important to spell out that by human impacts I mean loss of life and all that entails: a life cut shorter than it otherwise would have been and the loss to that individual and those who knew and loved them.

It is equally important to accept that this discussion must be held in the context of our values – the term du jour – and especially our contemporary societies’ relationships with wealth and money.

Here it is important to draw a distinction as money is one form of numerical representation of wealth. In reality wealth is just a measure of the resources at your disposal to do things while you are on Earth and after (by your benefactors).

Why is it important to make these distinctions?

Society’s relationship with wealth will be a major deciding factor in where the balance is struck: in a society where wealth is more highly valued in relation to human life, then greater loss of life will be tolerated by citizens to lessen economic impacts, and vice versa.

Of course the general wealth of the country is important. Obviously a poor country can endure far less disruption to its economy because it has far less means to assist the vulnerable who will likely need to work to prevent starvation.

So the COVID-19 pandemic, as experienced in developed countries that have the resources which provide the opportunity to decide to respond more aggressively to minimise loss of life than developing countries, really is one of those rare moments in time where citizens are needing to decide where they fit on that continuum, i.e. what are our values.

The degree to which politicians are prepared to meet those society-wide values, even if it affects their own political standing amongst historical supporter bases including powerful financial donors, will decide their political fate.

I am not going to distil this issue down to numerical representations of national wealth in terms of dollars and cents, and GDP, etc. While I enjoy reading and analysing financial and economic data, and I do agree that it must necessarily feature in decision-making, it sometimes leads to the point being missed by many and it alienates (or repulses) many others.

What we are talking about is lives: ours and of everybody we care about.

I agree that greater human impacts will affect economy (e.g. loss of valuable human capital and productivity, reduced subsets of consumers, and impacts on confidence due to fear of infection and death) and vice versa (e.g. increased suicide due to economic impacts). However, I must admit that, even though I am a professionally-trained research scientist and highly analytical in nature, I agree with those who consider the reduction of human impacts down to numbers, whether that be death tolls or dollars and cents, to be distasteful.

As such I would not link to any report that does so, unless, of course, it favoured the argument I am making – such as here (yes, tongue in cheek).

The real purpose of this post is to put as plainly as possible the qualitative assessment of the overall risks that the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing on all Australians, and I want to highlight what are the factors, as I see them, that different segments of society are choosing to elevate in importance in their own decision-making.

In the first part I discussed the intergenerational issues which should be more widely discussed in these terms, but are not because to do so would require an admission that all politicians and senior financial bureaucrats were complicit in creating and perpetuating an enormous intergenerational inequity on young Australians.

This second aspect is being discussed, but it is only being discussed tangentially and in faux terms such as a grieving for every “livelihood” without recognition that in all reality that what is being discussed is a job that barely provides a living, and certainly not a living that similar level jobs in previous generations provided especially in comparison to what workers aspire(d) to do with that livelihood (such as buy a family home).

That is because continual weakening of workers’ rights, in the name of workplace flexibility and pseudo-innovation (which essentially leads to the replacement of an already existing industry, powered by workers on more tenuous conditions), have allowed the owning class (i.e. the wealthy) to increase their wealth by keeping an increasingly greater share of profits over the last 3 decades. This is a well understood phenomenon in the English-speaking world.

So we entered the COVID-19 pandemic with Australian workers more precarious than they were decades earlier, where social safety networks have also been eroded and widely considered unable to support a respectable developed country standard of living, and where affordable housing is a real problem for many which has led to many vulnerable people living densely and\or in conditions below what many in the developed world would consider adequate.

On the other hand, our elite have continued to fete the American economic model, falling under the same malaise of mistaking greed for a necessary ingredient rather than the deleterious byproduct it is.

This explanation of the current situation, together with the information in Part I, explains the workers’ risks.

For the business elites – the business owners and executives – the risk analysis is altogether different.

The business elites gain very little benefit out of closing their business to guard against the risks to employees other than at a personal level in knowing that they have behaved morally and conscionably. However, in doing so they risk a severe financial setback to their business which, especially for medium or small businesses, may be devastating. Small or medium businesses owners may lose their business, and consequently their aspirations for wealth accumulation and business success will suffer a serious blow.

Business executives may miss out on attractive incentives awards, such as bonuses and stock\share options, for not reaching operational milestones because businesses were closed to protect employees and reduce transmission of COVID-19.

No doubt the business elites are people, also, no less susceptible to infection by the novel coronavirus, even if their wealth has afforded them a greater level of underlying health than the wider populations, and will ensure that their treatment will be gold standard should they fall seriously ill. Moreover, they are also members of families, with children, and parents, and brothers and sisters, and extended families whom they love and who they hope will not be infected or succumb to severe COVID-19 disease.

The business elites, however, unlike the workers, have done very well thank you very much out of the way that the system has developed over the last 3 or 4 decades and in order for maximum preservation of that system and their advantage they want things to get back as close as possible as soon as possible.

The business elites need for people to retain as much as possible of their spending habits and belief systems around consumer and societal status aspirations – that is why there is an emphasis on opening up the entire economy not just the genuinely essential services.

It is already clearly understood that it is the people in lower socio-economic circumstances, especially the minorities, who are doing the jobs that can not be done remotely and who, to remain employed, must accept greater risk of being infected and ultimately of dying with COVID-19.

At the crescendo of emotion over the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, a video by Kimberley Jones gained a great deal of attention for its brutal honesty. Kimberley explained for white people, many of whom may have been shocked by it, why black and other minority Americans were so willing to destroy property.

It boiled down to one thing and one thing only – after 400 years of toil and building wealth for others, they owned nothing themselves.

They did not respect that property because to them it was a symbol of a system that failed them by being biased and prejudiced against them for four centuries! And they knew it would continue to fail them and their descendants if nothing changed.

They had nothing to lose.

Again in the COVID-19 pandemic it is the business elite – the owners – who have the most to lose.

In earlier writing I spelt out that the advantage that those arguing for rapid and complete reopening of economies have is that the families that will ultimately suffer loss because of that decision do not yet know it. If they did know that they would be affected, surely many more would fight harder for measures to minimise loss of life, and be prepared to suffer greater economic hardship for the chance to save their loved-one’s life.

Right now throughout Australia measures to protect human life are popular, and Premiers of states that have experienced periods of zero detected community transmission and\or are experiencing very low levels of community transmission are very supportive of the state border closures.

At the same time, business elites are placing maximum pressure on the Federal conservative Government to remove measures which keep people safe but which hinder the operation and viability of their businesses, and currently they especially want PM Morrison to politically out-maneuver State Governments so that borders are re-opened.

If one is to listen to these business elites justifying why Australia must loosen restrictions, and thus live with greater risk and subsequently greater spread and death with COVID-19, it will almost certainly be said that Australia simply cannot afford these impediments to business functioning as it did prior to the pandemic.

When Australians hear such a comment, they might want to begin to consider why that might be so – why Australia apparently cannot afford to protect it’s citizens in this pandemic, and especially it’s most vulnerable now, after having experienced almost 30 years of continuous economic growth. They might want to consider in what ways they benefitted from all of that growth, and whether it might actually be the case that the majority of spoils were shared between only a small subset of Australians. As it becomes clear that high house prices are not a symbol of permanent wealth but are ephemeral, while the debt is real and lasting, they may wish to consider who really prospered from the bubble. They might wonder what value might have been gained from Governments thinking ahead and stashing away a lot of the windfall from a once in century resources boom into a sovereign wealth fund to be used at a time of need, and then recall what powerful lobby it was that prevented the Rudd Government from doing it.

Australians might then want to consider whether it is that same subset of Australians that are now saying that Australia cannot afford to do everything possible to minimise loss of life in our lucky country!


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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How to Look After “Our Own First”

I took part in a focus group for Global Citizen a few weeks back. I was thrilled to be asked to participate as it is an organisation with which I share so many values. My own mantra that I developed through MacroEdgo is “United Humanity” and my email signature is as follows:

We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations far away. We have learned that we must live as men, not as ostriches, nor as dogs in the manger. We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community.

President Franklin Roosevelt’s 4th Inauguration speech, as WWII drew to an end (he died before the atomic bombs were dropped.)

I used the same email signature in my final years of working as a research scientist, leading up to and during the second Iraq war.

All participants in the focus group were obviously people who had interacted with Global Citizen in one way or another, so they presumably felt that they shared many of their values.

Our discussion early on revolved around Australia’s foreign aid and one question posed to us was whether it should be needs-based or whether it would be appropriate in this time of pandemic to cut back to be able to provide more support here in Australia.

Obviously the question is a little leading because by mentioning “needs-based” it is almost intimating that to redirect funds towards Australia would be against a needs-based assessment because Australians on average were in less need.

Nonetheless, that would be true to my own assessment, and my answer reflected as such when I said that Australia’s foreign aid program should always be needs-based and thus we should be doing more to assist the developing world and not cutting back. Nobody familiar with my blog site would be surprised with this, nor my passion for this topic leading me to express these views plainly with justification in that setting.

I was the oldest person in the group, by some margin, and the only male, and most others answered with some degree of sympathy towards a perception of Australians doing it tough financially in the pandemic, though the people who appeared to have non-Caucasian ancestry were less strong on that view. 

The other more outspoken person in the group was quite strong in insisting that we needed to “help our own first” as she had friends who were struggling to keep their homes. 

While I have a great deal of compassion for people in financial hardship, this comment goes to one of my great bug-bears about societies. I wanted to challenge this viewpoint assertively but it was not the forum to do so and moderators were keen to move the discussion on in any case.

All that is wrong with this statement, in my view, is contained within the title of the organisation with which we were talking – “Global Citizen”.

Many years ago I realised the danger and the folly in nationalism, or tribalism, or any form of division amongst humanity for that matter. 

In essence all of these viewpoints include one overriding premise – I should care more about people within this arbitrary man-made grouping, regardless of whether I know them or anything of them, than I do about other people outside of that grouping.

To me this makes zero sense.

When it comes to “looking after our own” on a national basis, to what does that really refer – people who reside in the country, or people who were born in the country and still reside there, or all people who were born in the country irrespective of where they have resided through their lives. I could go on, and the truth is that the definition would vary from person to person.

Obviously, on a darker level many people will consciously or subconsciously also overlay a further descriptor of what constitutes “our own”, whether that be related to ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and so on.

So it is clear that “our own” is a very opaque phrase and extremely subjective.

It essentially infers that in some way we are more closely related to someone within this grouping than to people in all other groupings. But countries really are man-made constructs and are thus arbitrary – after all for half of white occupation of the Australian continent the non-indigenous inhabitants were citizens of England (and my understanding is that indigenous people were not even considered “people”, though I stand corrected on that) – so are we really more closely related to people who belong to the same nation?

Moreover, if we should care about people who are more closely related to us, geographically or otherwise, than to all other people, then it should be true across all man-made groupings to which we all belong. So we should care more about people who belong to the same state grouping (for me Queensland), and we should care even more about people who belong to the same city, town or local government area grouping (for me Brisbane), and we should care even more about people who belong to the same suburb grouping, and we should care even more again about people who live in our street.

I suspect that all people would find this preposterous, though that would vary from region to region, and I recall in Germany how the Bavarians were so “patriotic” that temporary residents from other regions of Germany, such as students who I knew, would attempt to alter their accents to avoid being “detected” and made to feel unwelcome as an “auslander”. Even in these regions, however, there is a point at which the man-made division is seen as preposterous.

While I do believe strongly in community, my level of compassion towards somebody has no relevance to any of these man-made constructs or any other nonsensical ways that some people consciously or subconsciously seek to divide us (usually for their own petty agendas).

“Our own” is really human beings, all human beings, and the best way to look after human beings is to genuinely care equally for everyone. That is exactly what FDR was telling us was the greatest lesson from the horror of WW2, and the horrors of the COVID-19 pandemic is revealing in the most awful way how those lessons were not acted upon through the intervening three-quarters of century.

That does not say that I have no compassion for Australians struggling to pay a mortgage on a home purchased for a half million dollars or more. 

That will be the subject of my next post.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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How Society Will Change If A COVID-19 Vaccine Is Elusive

I have expressed a reasonably supportive level of optimism towards the likelihood of the development of effective vaccines and/or treatments for COVID-19 since my first updates and report in early February.

In my report in mid-February, however, when frustrated by how slow Governments and financial analysts were to recognise the challenges that we confronted, I was compelled to be more frank about my views:

To understand the ongoing impacts on people and thus on the economy we need to go back to the virus. Without the rapid emergence of an effective therapeutic treatment for COVID-19, amongst already developed treatments or those in the very late stages of development, the pandemic is likely to progress until either it spreads so widely that the majority of people have become infected or an effective vaccine is developed, produced and delivered en masse. This may take several years, so it is possible – probably even likely – that we will be living with this pandemic for a prolonged period.

If we are really unlucky, as some have suggested, it is even possible that the virus may develop the influenza characteristic of mutating sufficiently within a year so that immunity from prior infection does not make the person refractory or immune to infection when exposed the following year.

All in all, this is a very serious problem and we are in a wait and see pattern. However, it is clear that things are going to get far more serious over the short to medium term before things get better.

Repeat After Me, This is NOT SARS: COVID-19 is much worse” published on MacroEdgo on 24 February 2020

As I expressed in my most recent coronavirus (COVID-19) update, understanding the likely path forward in humanity’s challenge with this pandemic virus does not equate to emotional acceptance. (Still, what is occurring in global asset markets at present is an all together other level – that is not searching for acceptance, and it goes well beyond dissonance – it is out and out delusion!)

Like everyone, for me I have had to take a journey of processing what has happened, even though my level of understanding has permitted me to embark on that journey earlier and with greater depth than most others. Hopefully, my family, friends and readers of my posts have also benefitted.

Today I feel ready and compelled to take the next step and begin to countenance the medium to long-term – what I believe is likely to occur with the COVID-19 pandemic over the next several years and potentially beyond, and what will be the likely impacts of that on societies.


Observing rational leadership through this pandemic – yes I am intentionally suggesting the obvious bafoons be ignored in this discussion – it is clear that they walk a fine line between reaching a desirable level of concern amongst society, to guard against complacency, without overwhelming people with the enormity of the challenge we confront.

One way in which this has been done is to avoid discussing the long term and the many small challenges that we must confront over the medium term to overcome the entire challenge. This is a psychological trick that many athletes will recognise – shortening the time frame of each sub-goal, eg. an endurance runner might say “I will just keep running to the end of this street” as if that is when the choice to stop or continue will be made, when in reality they may be overwhelmed at any time and collapse in a heap.

Good leaders are continually saying things like “let’s get to this point in time and we will see how we are situated then” while knowing that it is likely that the situation will not be as resolved as many would be hoping.

This is exactly the approach that is being taken with vaccine development. From very early in the pandemic the timeline on vaccine development has been about as ambitious as is (almost) plausible (to an intelligent but not especially well informed observer). I myself did the same thing in my earliest reports discussing vaccine development when I said that the rush would be on to have a vaccine to be mass administered before the next northern hemisphere winter, all the while knowing that it would be a herculean task and only possible if it proved to be an extremely straightforward process with this virus.

I knew it would be the goal, and I dared to hope with my heart that it might be achieved, but I also knew that it was unlikely to be achieved. I must confess, though, that I felt that a vaccine may just be ready for mass deployment in time for the 2021 southern hemisphere winter and I still consider this a reasonable probability if we are fortunate.

On the other hand, one of the most troubling possibilities with the COVID-19 pandemic is that a vaccine is far more elusive than is hoped – that luck is not on our side and current technology is not amenable to straightforward and immediate production of a vaccine with this coronavirus, thus necessitating further research with this particular virus and innovation to achieve an adequately efficacious vaccine. And I have to say that my aggregated view of everything that I have heard and read said by vaccinologists, and not the CEOs of vaccine companies who sound more like politicians and salespeople, on this slips easily into pessimism and to believing that it may be more likely that we are without a reasonably effective vaccine for quite a few years.

Adding to the pessimistic view, and possibly related to the pessimistic view of some vaccinologists, is emerging views from immunologists that immunity within the population of people who have had the virus appears surprisingly weak and/or short-lived. Thus even herd immunity may not be achieved for those countries where it was a stated (Sweden), tacitly stated (the UK) or unstated but clearly their strategy of political convenience (the US) and thus where higher proportions of their populations have been infected. In other words, the enormous human impact that was endured to achieve herd immunity by direct infection brought no long-term benefit as people may be re-infected.

In “The COVID-19 Elephants In The Room” I stated that there was/is an infinite range of possibilities on the ways that this virus might impact humans which we could only guess at from the known ways other viruses impact us, and that there were likely other previously unseen ways that this virus new to mankind might impact us. In my subsequent post I highlighted this reality in underlining the imprudence in embarking on a strategy of developing herd immunity by letting the novel coronavirus spread throughout populations rather than doing everything possible to stamp it out and if possible aim at elimination.

My concerns have been proven several times over with the following (far from complete list of) discoveries for the novel coronavirus: it can cause serious disease in some children; it causes chronic infection and/or symptoms in some with unknown consequences; there is an emerging understanding that the nature of the COVID-19 disease is different to what was initially thought where its entropy involves blood vessels perhaps as much as the respiratory tract; and just yesterday there were press reports of an important journal article detailing novel and serious neuropathology (disease within the brain) with people only displaying mild COVID-19 symptoms.

I have said it many times before but it bears repeating – some political and medical leaders argued for and enacted a strategy of allowing the virus to circulate through their people, without attempting to prevent it spreading to all but the most vulnerable (and failed miserably at that), when they knew that they did not at all understand the full impacts on their people not even a proper understanding of the nature of the disease in its most common form of presentation.

For me, that is human arrogance at its most destructive.

The point that I wish to make here, again, is that we still can expect more surprises from this pathogen known to mankind now for just over 6 months (as the GAVI report linked to above also makes clear). Just one of those possibilities, if we are unlucky, is that instead of prior infection providing those people with immunity to re-infection it worsens the next infection as in dengue haemorrhagic fever thus increasing the mortality rate.

To this point good leaders have sort to keep as many people as safe as possible from the impacts of this pandemic while everybody looks on and hopes or prays or whatever for our scientific community to develop a silver bullet. Besides vague references to the long haul, the best leaders are mostly working on helping us to focus on the immediate and not think too far out into the future lest many of us become despondent and overwhelmed.

If we are very fortunate at least one of the 140 vaccine candidates currently being developed might be effective. Or perhaps a protocol with one or several might be effective. However, as we approach the end of this year, as the northern hemisphere enters autumn (fall), then I expect that we will begin to hear more honest assessments of the chances of success.

If success seems to be more elusive than humanity has dared to hope, then we will move into a new phase for society and individuals to deal with the challenge.

Already the conservative types that want our focus to be at least as much concerned with livelihoods – a synonym for economy and in their parlance, “aspiration” – are talking about “living with the disease” and we know from social media and even marches in the US that the (typically vulnerable) usual footsoldiers have been marshalled into action.

In the event that at the end of the year assessments of the likelihood of herd immunity being achieved by a mass vaccination program are not optimistic, then everyone will need to begin to consider exactly how we will go about our lives for an uncertain but prolonged period with COVID-19 severely impacting us increasingly as we age.


Those with a predisposition to brutally forthright discussion around the impacts of humans on our natural environment have always mentioned the real possibility of nature “striking back” to reestablish balance. Referring to nature, there need be no element of conspiracy or karma, just a simple recognition that in natural systems disequilibria are not sustainable and that consequences flow from changes to stable systems.

Events that lead to rebalancing can take the form of unrelated natural phenomena which might impact all living organisms, like an asteroid striking Earth leading to mass extinction, or it might be the consequence of the change to that equilibrium. One example often given is epidemic disease which is well known as a moderator of plant and animal populations.

The ability of disease to hold populations in check is a basic tenet of our understanding of biology – it is but one factor that prevents one or several species from dominating all others in plague proportions and causing widespread extinctions.

Does that sound at all familiar? Of course humanity, while avoiding extinction thus far, has experienced pandemics through our evolutionary history but our advanced cognitive abilities has allowed us to learn over many generations how to manage through these periodic challenges and to pass these tools to those who succeed us.

Our apparent success to those humans fortunate to have lived all of their lives in the developed world has created a level of complacency to the risk that our basic biology poses. Many of our contemporaries seem to believe that we are already part machine, and certainly post-biologic, and are ignorant to the costs that humanity paid in gaining our knowledge at overcoming our past disease challenges.

COVID-19 is certainly playing a part in re-educating those that wish to be informed.

Simple biology is at play and it relates directly to mathematics and probability. The larger our population becomes the more densely we live. The more densely we live the greater the chance that something that infects one person is passed onto another. However, living densely does not provide for primary production and those living densely must have all their resources and requirements supplied to them and that necessitates 1) greater utilisation of natural resources for producing goods required, and 2) wider geographic distribution and storage of those goods. As human success at wealth creation in the system developed by and for humans increases, more and a greater variety of those goods are desired from wider geographies. Thus humanity increasingly interacts with a wider range of organisms by expanding areas of production, and domesticated organisms increasingly interact with other organisms, and products are then stored and transported.

All of that increases the probability of pathogens jumping into human hosts, directly and then spreading amongst humans, and/or being spread within goods and then infecting humans.

The interaction of pathogens and hosts are extremely complex. The pathogens that have infected humans for a long period may appear well understood, especially if the disease is well controlled with a vaccine or other effective treatment, but talk to any researcher and you will always be told that their understanding is fairly basic and there is much, much more to be understood. That is not a justification for research funding. It is just the reality and with a limited level of research funding priority is given to what research is widely perceived to be highest priority.

Noteworthy through this pandemic has been the number of researchers who have been identified for warning potential pandemic disease was not receiving nearly enough research attention, and many even pinpointed coronaviruses as being of special concern.

Those predisposed to brutal forthright discussion on human impacts on nature will have already recognised that the novel coronavirus has significant potential to cull human populations based on what we already know. While the mortality rate from the acute phase (noting we do not yet nearly understand the long term impacts) of the COVID-19 pandemic may not be as high as the 1918 flu pandemic, though that is still open to debate centred around how many more cases and deaths go unreported, it is interesting within this context that in aggregate COVID-19 impacts increase in older cohorts while the inverse was true of the 1918 flu. While biologically it is true that the 1918 flu would thus have had greater impact on moderating human population growth, nowadays life expectancy is that much longer than 100 years earlier such that a prolonged COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to significantly reduce human resource utilisation especially when we consider that the later stages of life tend to require disproportionately higher resources.

I do not, however, wish to concentrate on (perhaps harsh) biological theory and reality and I realise that I have already run the risk of losing my readers with this rather dry but essential explanation of the underlying biological situation.

What I really want to discuss is the socioeconomics of all of this – how it is going to impact the choices we humans are likely to make going forward if the COVID-19 pandemic proves to be prolonged.


I was born in 1970 and was a teenager in the 80s living in rural Australia. Even then my father spoke with nostalgia of a period (the 60s) when inflation was very low and jobs were plentiful. However, the economy had experienced a good run through to the mid 80s – not as good as our most recent past, but still good by historical standards – and looking back the standard of living for most even in my rural area clearly improved as judged by decreasing numbers of rust bucket vehicles on the road, etc.

Perhaps the trend that I noticed most amongst adults at the time, besides the obsession with large suburban back yard BBQs with significant beer drinking and then driving home (with still lax drink-driving laws), was the apparent obsession with early retirement. Perhaps that view is somewhat coloured by my rural locale, where people had lower incomes but also had lower living costs (being partly self-sufficient) and lower aspirations, and where most were employed in blue collar work which took a greater toll on their bodies and general physical well being. Nonetheless, when I reflect on this period it does seem to me that it was somewhat of a national obsession, and in part a reflection of financial success (up until recession struck at the end of the 80s).

If I fast forward to our most recent run of financial success in Australia it seems that the opposite has been the case with our national obsession about accumulating as much wealth as possible such that many people approaching retirement are carrying high levels of debt, much of it to support or for tax benefits associated with their property portfolio. While these people could sell down their portfolio to retire, for many it has become a lifestyle and they continue beyond retirement age, while others have gotten entranced by the property ladder theme and thus need to continue to work to pay off their upsized homes and mortgages.

I suspect that this trend of increasing work intensity at later ages interacts with the increasing life expectancy of people at retirement age. While 40 years ago people dreamed of having a period of less demand on their physical and mental resources – a relaxed retirement when still in reasonable physical condition before reaching their declining years – many contemporary Australians fear retirement because it is such a great departure from the manic lives that they have led accumulating wealth and ticking off lots of other boxes (many with the aim of impressing others). And if they think their life will extend 10, 15 or even 20 years longer than their parents, as the media keeps suggesting, including with some predicting that the first people to live to eternity have already been born, then what is the hurry to retire anyway.

A prolonged COVID-19 pandemic will turn that equation around, especially when it will be accompanied by a prolonged period of economic recession or even a period of depression. While Australia’s economy has allowed many retirement-age Australians to continue to work as long as they wished – even though young Australians’ employment prospects only slowly recovered after the Global Financial Crisis – this will likely change in the current recession. As in the 90s recession, people made redundant in their 50s will likely struggle to gain active employment again and this will obviously necessitate a sharp repositioning on aspirations. It is possible that these unfortunate people, however, ultimately prove to be more fortunate than they realise because circumstances force them to be early movers.

As the pandemic progresses, and especially if prior infection does not create lasting immunologic protection from re-infection which is more lethal as we age, the experience of reducing life expectancy for the first time in centuries will cause every middle-aged Australian to re-think and re-organise their priorities.

This will have serious implications in our society and in our economy. I think it is clear that in such a scenario the long-anticipated sell down of housing assets by Baby Boomers and Gen X is a virtual certainty.

Essentially I would expect that people needing to confront their own mortality at an earlier age, like their grandparents, likely will develop a different set of priorities which revolve more around genuine quality (of life) over quantity.


In all of my writing on the COVID-19 pandemic from the beginning of February I stated that the world has changed as a consequence of a virus jumping species into humans. Within a few months of me first writing that most of humanity has come to understand this reality. Perhaps, because of the need for self preservation strategies, humanity does not quite understand yet just how much the world is likely to continue to change.

I have tried to play a constructive role in my writing by remaining positive in my outlook while placing maximum pressure on those in decision-making positions to act humanely.

I have always been of the position that Australia, with its rare advantages of being an island with excellent biosecurity know-how and infrastructure, should use these advantages to attempt to eliminate COVID-19 and enact powerful measures to prevent its reintroduction. But I always knew that we may be in the very early stages of a very prolonged battle. My view has always been that we would be in the best position if we did everything in our power – even if it meant sacrificing economic activity in the short-term – to absolutely minimise the number of people within our borders being infected by the virus. The point is that in such a position we have the flexibility to make decisions on how we wish to progress depending on how scientific research is progressing on vaccines and treatments, and based on what we have learned about the human impacts to that point.

It is clear now that other countries that chose early to not do everything possible to stop the spread of the virus have far fewer choices available to them.

While PM Morrison said he was going to the footy on the opening weekend of the NRL I said that large gatherings should have been cancelled weeks earlier along also with shutting of the international borders.

And when PM Morrison began to use his political capital to create considerable momentum towards opening up the economy, when elimination was so near as to suggest it is possible, and which New Zealand has since achieved, I made it clear that it was premature.

On 1 May I said:

Given all of the uncertainties around this new human pathogen, and given we in Australia have experienced a relatively low expression of COVID-19 thus far which suggests that eradication might be a real possibility, loosening of biosecurity measures at this point in mid-Autumn seems to me to be highly imprudent and suggestive of at least a hint of political hubris.

A far more prudent approach would be to continue with very strict biosecurity measures and increased testing, firstly of all those with symptoms of respiratory infections and then as and if capacity allows, all people (prioritising those who have been, through work requirements, more active in the community), to detect any and all cases so that eradication can be achieved.

In “COVID-19 and Food Safety in Processed Meat” published at MacroEdgo

(Since writing this I have adopted the contemporary terminology of elimination from a geography as eradication strictly applies to global eradication, which clearly is impossible with COVID-19.)

Throughout this pandemic the conservative leaders of the major English-speaking countries have exhibited a visceral Pavlovian reaction to the biosecurity measures to lessen human impacts out of fear of the economic impacts. But as the pandemic has progressed it has become clear that the best way to minimise impacts on economies is to minimise human impacts within society. New Zealanders are being rewarded for their patience and achieving effective elimination of COVID-19 by now experiencing essentially normal domestic lives secured by effective biosecurity at their international borders. On the other hand, American businesses are learning that it is difficult to run profitably when workers are afraid of returning to work, and clients and/or customers are behaving entirely different to before the pandemic out of prudent concern for catching the virus.

If my concerns expressed above play out, then we are about to re-learn the lessons of compounding, only the effect will be in reverse since the economic measure of growth has a negative sign. The consequences of all of this will have profound effects on our societies.

In “Toxic Masculinity and Political Footballs” I said:

We were fortunate to have a second chance at eliminating COVID-19 from Australia after PM Morrison dithered on closing the borders to international travellers in February and early March. I strongly doubt that we will be fortunate enough to be able to say “third time lucky”.

And in my second open letter to PM Morrison I said:

to loosen measures for the sake of perhaps an extra month or two of additional limited commercial activity may come at the cost of allowing COVID-19 to become widespread in our population for an entire winter season. If a vaccine does become available before the next northern hemisphere winter, then that would make us in the southern hemisphere the only region other than Wuhan to experience an entire winter season with COVID-19 running rampant.

That would scar the Australian people deeply and would have severe and long-lasting impacts on our society and our economy.

Events in Melbourne over the last fortnight prove these warning to be correct. Politicians know that any chance of COVID-19 elimination within Australia has been squandered, while our near neighbours success proves that it was possible, and thus any COVID-19 deaths from now on were clearly preventable; that is why we are frequently hearing that “elimination was never the Australian strategy”.

Perhaps conservative politicians will fall back on the doubts that I expressed earlier about developing an effective vaccine in the near term to justify “getting on with the inevitable” and learning to deal with the virus. If you come from the perspective that the impacts on the economy are your highest priority, then certain impacts on the economy by stringent biosecurity measures will always outweigh any issues of uncertain benefits for preventing infections amongst people over an undefinable length of time.

Mostly what is given up, however, is the flexibility to make better decisions when we are armed with greater knowledge. Those better decisions clearly can be for the benefit of people and for economies.

To this point decisions have been made mainly by elected officials. Increasingly going forward those decisions will be made by individuals. Collectively those decisions will have significant impacts on society, and the longer and greater the COVID-19 affects are felt, the greater the change in the way society behaves.

That, in a nutshell, is “The Great Reset“. It has already begun and it is irreversible.

High quality, effective leadership will nurture it so that the best outcomes are realised to the benefit of humanity. Scoundrels will try to harness it to bend society to a more warped and less inclusive version. We all must show leadership and engage with the process to achieve the best outcome for ourselves and those we love, and those who succeed us. And we should all prepare to be flexible and supple in thought to make the best decisions that we can with the information that we have as we emerge from the shock of our altered existence and as our future comes into clearer focus.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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The Great Reset: Teaching What We Left Behind

Have you ever had a “Ratatouille” moment? Like in the animated movie where the food critic is instantaneously transported to a deeply cherished childhood memory when stimulated by an extraordinary event, in that case the first mouthful of a dish that invoked his mother’s ratatouille? 

I have experienced it once in my life, and there are many similarities with the fictional food critic’s experience; I was in France when it occurred, it related to food, and I literally felt the rush back to my childhood as so wonderfully captured in the movie.

In my case I was sitting in a side street near to Place de la Comédie in Montpellier, where I was a research fellow in the laboratory of JR Bonami the PhD supervisor of Dr Shi Zhengli who is a lead scientist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and was responsible for identifying bats as the original host of the SARS virus and who discovered the coronavirus cause of COVID-19.

The waiter at the small, non-descript bistro had just placed a humble poulet frites (chicken and fried chips) in front of me and as I took my first mouthful I was instantly transported to my childhood and how roast chicken used to be. It was not to any one particular meal – it was a melange of meals lovingly prepared by my mother and grandmothers. As I quietly savoured the chicken I adored the pure taste and the paper thin crisp skin.

That was 20 years ago but the experience remains fresh in my mind. Over the years as I have prepared and consumed chicken I have remembered that moment in Montpellier, and have taken note of the thick skin and underlying fat, and of how immature the chickens have gotten as evidenced by the size of the bones. Watching my children try to each grip a side of the tiny wish bones is akin to two elephants competing to pick up a bar of soap.

Between 1957 and 2005 the growth rate of chickens raised commercially for meat increased by 400% through genetic, nutrition and husbandry advances. Concomitant with this massive increase in growth were marked side-effects including skeletal deformities, metabolic dysfunction and altered immune function. This progress is made stark by this comparative figure taken from that paper.

Age-related changes in size (mixed-sex BW and front view photos) of University of Alberta Meat Control strains unselected since 1957 and 1978, and Ross 308 broilers (2005). Within each strain, images are of the same bird at 0, 28, and 56 d of age. From Zuidhof et al. 2014

Undoubtedly there were other more subtle changes that have occurred progressively but were not detected by consumers, or if they were detected were not sufficient to cause the industry to rethink this progression. 

This is not meant to be criticism of the poultry-raising industry as these advances have allowed chicken to remain an affordable and nutritious meal in developed countries. I am simply saying that these rapid changes in the industry have undoubtedly resulted in changes in the animal which will have resulted in changes in the experience of consuming the animal which we did not notice because it was an iterative process that occurred over many years.

That experience showed me just how much the experience of consuming a roast chicken had changed in my life time, and I had not even realised it until that precise moment in time.


My Italian language teacher and friend recounted a very similar experience recently. She is actually my neighbour in a very small village in Abruzzo, an area of Italy considered one of the most pristine in Europe with almost half its area set aside as national reserves and protected nature reserves. It is estimated that 75% of all extant European species occur naturally in the area including rare species such as the golden eagle, the Abruzzese chamois, the Appenine wolf and the Marsican brown bear.

Our friend relayed how in our small village of only 400 inhabitants they experienced their first true Spring since her childhood 30 some years ago. She said that the light has been wonderful and that nature seems to abound like she had not seen in years, with insects right through to birds much more plentiful. Unsurprisingly many in the village are putting this down to the measures taken in response to COVID-19 and especially the reduced pollution. These are people who truly identify with place as the village existed before the Romans and most do not know of a time when their ancestors came from another region. 

I found these observations especially interesting because this is considered one of the more “untouched” environments in central Europe.

It was clear that our friend was extremely surprised by this and it appeared that what had been lost had not been quite so well understood with clarity. These observations have been reinforced the world over in a project where scientists and artists were able to take advantage of the low ambient noise in the human world to create the first global public sound map of the northern hemisphere spring morning chorus.

The unique events of this year have provided a moment of clarity on many fronts to people from all over the world, and many are expressing a desire to listen and observe their individual and our collective existence both at the physical and spiritual level.


In recent weeks I have come back to Earth somewhat driving my children to and from school. But this is essentially the only thing different to what we have been doing since our family went into lockdown in mid-March.

There is less traffic on the road from less non-school-related driving, although the 3pm drive is with considerable traffic. I have been marvelling at how relaxed I have been feeling while driving after driving only once or twice a week for the previous 2 months. Other drivers, too, seem much more relaxed. Admittedly, it’s early days, but I have not seen anybody driving erratically like the tradie who last year overtook me while continuously honking his horn, with a line of oncoming traffic, at 8.20 am in front of a school of 2,000 children. And I have noticed far fewer people on their devices while driving, though I expect that is only a matter of time.

Over recent years I have expressed increasing frustration at the erratic behaviour of drivers especially around schools, and I must say that most of the risky driving that I witnessed was by parents heading to or having just dropped off their children. People who not only should know better, but who have the most to gain by responsible driving practices around schools.

Admittedly, sometimes this frustration led me to take risks that I should not have, such as when impatient drivers flout road rules meaning that those following the rules would remain stuck in position if they did not counter their aggressive driving by edging out further or quicker to take a turn to cross a busy intersection.

I was not alone in remarking on the increasing speed with which life was being lived throughout the modern world. Often observers who made such observations drew causative links to increased conspicuous and often frivolous consumption, as I did. There was also a likely link to the long standing domestic migration from rural and regional areas to more urban areas and large cities as higher paid jobs attracted white collar workers which in turn necessitated increased infrastructure construction by blue collar workers and other lower skilled services. All of this added to the densification and population pressure in urban life.

Rural areas throughout the world have struggled with population declines, but European countries with strong family and cultural ties over thousands of years have been especially disrupted by this flow of people away from small villages. However, through the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a growing awareness that those strong family and community ties have been a significant advantage to those who live in small villages that are able to limit physical interactions from outside of the village. Moreover, modern communication technology combined with an acceleration in telecommuting for professional workers as a result of the pandemic opens up the opportunity to live remotely, and hints at the potential for a slowing, stabilisation or even a reversal in the trend of increased urbanisation in developed countries.


The point of this article is not to argue or infer that everything was better when I was child, and I do not suggest that anybody would want to take everything back to how things were 50 years ago.

But this moment in time presents humanity with a very significant opportunity to really examine what has occurred over recent decades, and decide what we want to continue to progress towards. In some areas we may want to curtail or redirect our progress, and in some areas we may want to provide additional resources to accelerate our progress.

For instance, I do not suggest that we might want to take our food production entirely back to how it functioned 50 years ago. However, the risks inherent with a highly centralised, mass distribution system for our food supply in many countries must be examined especially in the light of the strains that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on those supplies. Large food markets selling globally sourced products and large industrial meat processing plants have proven especially susceptible to COVID-19 outbreaks amongst workers which threaten food supply. Moreover, centralisation of product from wide geographies for processing and/or wholesale, and then further dissemination, presents a potential risk for the emergence and spread of pathogens.

Already in this pandemic it is clear that globally food supply will be closely examined and modified to address the weaknesses unearthed.

The consumer may also decide that there is more to food miles than just minimising environmental impacts. These might include health and economic benefits from consuming less but higher quality meat produced more sustainably within the community that it is consumed.

Many who have been telecommuting for work may well begin to see a lot of health and social benefits to re-engaging more with their ancestral communities and thus move back to villages.

As I have explained in much of my writing, Elites fear “The Great Reset” because they have prospered from all of these trends that existed before COVID-19 struck, and they have positioned for that to continue. Even disruptions that were on the horizon have accelerated and caught them ill-prepared. The safest strategy for them to maintain their privileged position in society is to use their power to ensure that the ‘game of life’ is returned as quickly and as closely as possible to how it was before the pandemic.

Collectively, however, we have all had a glimpse of the potential for major changes to our lives. In some cases we have remembered what we have left behind without realising it, and in other cases we have learned the potential that innovation provides to change how we live our lives in the most fundamental of ways.

We have all lived stripped-down more simple lives, and many of us have enjoyed it. We have witnessed that the planet, and the animals and plants that we share it with, have enjoyed the space that the drop in human activity has provided, and many have observed the inherent beauty, for example the night sky that has not been witnessed so clearly for many years.

Not everything was better in the past, not by a long shot. But for all of the heartache that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, for all of the harsh impacts on humanity, we all owe it to the victims of the pandemic and to each other to take a long hard look at where things were heading before the pandemic and to be courageous enough to dream of how we want to emerge. 

Regardless of whether we want certain trends reversed, redirected or accelerated, we will need to be prepared to ensure that we have our views heard and acted upon.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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Your Life: Something The Elites Have Always Been Prepared To Sacrifice For Their Ends

Although unknown by most who play it, Monopoly was invented as an education tool to demonstrate the pitfalls of wealth being concentrated amongst a few.

It was designed to be a warning of the danger of ‘Monopoly’!

The history of the western world’s most popular board game is fascinating, especially in how it mirrored reality including in the events surrounding how it came to be so widely loved and the wealth it created. Parker Brothers, who marketed the game and brought it to global prominence, still to this day does not acknowledge Lizzie Magie’s role in the game’s origins.

Lizzie Magie developed the game, which she called “The Landlord’s Game”, at the beginning of the twentieth century. Now early in the twenty-first century it still explains much of the behaviours within society, and it remains “a practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences… It might well have been called the ‘Game of Life’, as it contains all the elements of success and failure in the real world, and the object is the same as the human race in general seem[s] to have, i.e., the accumulation of wealth” as it did then.


To suggest to an anxious and emotionally taught public that the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel is close is irresponsible in the extreme.

Yesterday I heard an Australian restaurateur enthusiastically discussing the 3-step plan to reopen the Australian economy and he used this same analogy. All I could think of was this poor fellow mistaking daylight for the light of a fully laden freight train.

The Elites use the same repertoire of tools in a crisis to frighten the public into believing that there is no other option but to return the ‘Game of Life’ as closely as possible to how things were before the crisis.

Of course they would do that. That is the ‘game’ they know best. In fact they came to know it so well, including through intergenerational wealth and power, that they have come to control or even own the game.

Lets take what occurred in the global financial crisis (GFC). Through the rampant greed of a few, investment products dreamt up on Wall Street created a deluge of debt down to Main Street so that anybody with a pulse could get a loan to turn a necessity of life – a home – into a speculative asset and with it the dream of a better future for the budding speculator on Main St. Of course what I describe is a classic bubble and they have a nasty habit of bursting, which is exactly what happened in the US in 2006. As the value of those speculative assets – homes – fell, the value of the products created and traded on Wall Street fell such that the financial viability of financial institutions around the world trembled. Indeed, long-standing investment firms collapsed whilst others were forced to merge. 

As the value of their homes fell, and with the economic shock emanating from Wall Street reverberating, many people on Main Street lost their homes as well as chunks of their retirement savings and the ensuing recession cost many their jobs. 

But it was not those people on Main Street, who were so directly disadvantaged, who received assistance. Instead the bankers who created the problematic products, and had earlier lobbied for the removal of regulations which would have prevented the egregiousness that caused the bubble, were bailed out by Governments. And no sooner had the cash come in their front door from the Government did the bankers turn around and give themselves rewards and incentive bonuses. 

Meanwhile Central Bankers around the world continued to flood the globe with liquidity, from their own dreamt up manoeuvres, to keep aloft asset prices especially stock market values. 

It is hardly surprising, then, that inequality between the owners of capital – the already wealthy – and the providers of labour – the workers who have little else to trade other than their own hourly labour – has continued to increase. 

Effectively what happened in the GFC, as in other financial collapses, is that the ‘game’ became so out of balance that it collapsed under it’s own weight. 

Imagine a Monopoly board in 2007 tipping under the weight of all of the hotels on the expensive half of the board, from the red properties to the royal blue ones, so that everything was sliding off the board. Immediately those who owned all of the hotels said they realised that they made an error in being so greedy, but they needed the (central) banker to get things back to ‘normal’ and support that side of the board so the game can continue safely. So everyone scrambled and lifted that side of the board and quickly put all of those hotels back in place. And for good measure the (central) banker paid them a few times over for a job well done. Meanwhile, the people in the cheapest properties lost their houses and were set back enormously.

Nothing demonstrates this truth better than this graph from the US Federal Reserve which demonstrates clearly that the only group of Americans back ‘in the green’ after the GFC is the most wealthy 10% (‘Top 10’). Moreover, this group experienced the least set back to their wealth during the GFC, besides the least wealthy Americans (‘Bottom 30’) who own few assets which went backwards in value, but who remained 31% less wealthy in 2016 than in 2007!

From A Wealthless Recovery? Asset Ownership and the Uneven Recovery from the Great Recession a report by the Board of Governors of the (US) Federal Reserve

Already in the economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic there are signs that wealthy Americans are benefitting disproportionately which creates a perception that it is always ‘Heads we win, tails you lose‘.

In my post “The Magic Sauce of American Economic Dynamism Is Not Based On Personal Greed” I laid out my arguments for why such personal greed is not integral to the capitalist system of which America is upheld as the pinnacle, rather it is a malaise of wealth which serves to weaken society and thus the capitalist system.

Actions by Elites, including the bankers, politicians and senior bureaucrats (including Central Bankers), which have led directly to increasing inequality within societies, only serve to weaken trust in institutions.

Thus humanity confronts major challenges which threaten our sustainability on Earth from a weakened and non-cohesive position. It is in this fertile ground where populists with extreme views and emerging powers advance their interests.


The COVID-19 pandemic is fast-evolving and the consequences apparent already are devastating, but that does not stop some from continuing to try to downplay its significance. Another challenge, the climate crisis, is more serious but to this point has evolved less rapidly which allows some to downplay its consequence and even its very existence in the face of significant evidence and the intellectual weight of the scientific community. 

In large part it is exactly the same actors who seek to dismiss or downplay the need for action on both crises.

The increase in inequality in developed countries is seen as a prime reason for the growth in populist politics. In the United States and the United Kingdom the top elected representatives presently are Caucasian men with similar backgrounds and political playbooks, born into immense privilege but having convinced a heartland of the most financially disadvantaged that they offer them a brighter future by scapegoating migrants and anybody or any organisation working towards a more united humanity. The current Australian conservative Government under PM Morrison uses a very similar playbook.  

In the companion post to this, “Toxic Masculinity and Political Footballs“, I discussed how the elected officials of the major Anglophone countries have created a great deal of momentum towards re-opening economies while COVID-19 remains poorly understood in their communities, and what is known of it is devastating.

For these conservative Caucasian men the answer is always more economic growth, and suppression of any questioning over what is the quality of life experienced by broader society from that growth and how sustainable is it.

These same men, who apparently care about mental health in society during crises, but do not recognise that mental health has long been deteriorating in Western societies, never give credit to the opportunity to work on the deeper causes of this with the aim of improving the underlying mental health of populations.

They cannot do that because they continually promote ‘aspiration’ which is a synonym for competing in a never ending cycle of one-up-manship which we all implicitly understand is a zero sum game because no matter how rich we become, there is always somebody who has more wealth, unless you are Jeff Bezos… for the moment…

There are some Elites that I can respect and even admire – they are those who authentically understand the privilege that they have enjoyed, usually from birth by virtue of the luck of being born in a developed country or into middle class even if they consider themselves ‘self-made’, as well as respect and appreciate relationships with other human beings especially the people who loved and guided them.

Steve Schwarzman is a quintessential Elite and to some a hero of capitalism, or more specifically, the way it is currently practised. Schwarzman is enormously wealthy and by virtue of this wealth he is one of the most powerful men in the contemporary world. I recently watched his interview with David Rubenstein on Bloomberg Television. Now in his 70s, in modern parlance Schwarzman would still be described as being extremely goal-oriented and driven, almost the definition of ‘aspiration’. If you measure life success in terms of wealth accumulation, while there are a few that still have an edge on him, his personal wealth would equate to the cumulative wealth of quite a few million of the poorest of our 7+ billion contemporary human beings.

In discussing his formative years with Rubenstein, Schwarzman did not seek to disguise his lack of appreciation for, or even understanding of, his parents’ station in life. His mother was devoted to the family as a housewife. The family owned a retail shop in Philadelphia which his father ran successfully. Schwarzman told Rubenstein the story of him being a young man suggesting to his father that the success of his business suggested that he could take the store concept nationally. His father said he did not want to do that. He then suggested he could develop a strategy to open new stores throughout the state, to which his father again stated he was not interested. Finally he suggested that his father open more stores throughout the city. His father told him no, he was content and happy with what he has. Schwarzman shook his head saying that he could just not understand his father. The story was meant to be an indication of how a lack of aspiration was essentially the antithesis of Steve Schwarzman’s very existence.

How very sad…. for Steve… that he is blind to his own impoverishment.

I wonder whether Joseph and Arlene Schwarzman knew another quietly influential Philadelphian, Lizzie Magie, or at least learned the lessons of her game which they may well have played in their youth? Or perhaps it is just a strong indication of the change in American culture post 60’s as I discussed in “The Magic Sauce of American Economic Dynamism Is Not Personal Greed“.


In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, right now people are scared and they are training their hopes and trust on institutions and officials. Popularity of elected officials is (or has been) high but electorates will become more discriminate in their opinions as the shock of their altered existence subsides. 

As I explained in “Politics Vs Society in the COVID-19 Pandemic“, it is never possible to totally remove politics from decisions and actions by officials. As would be expected at such times, there has been a range of responses – some of these trusted sources are acting responsibly and less politically, while others are using the COVID-19 pandemic as a crisis to advance their own political agendas. 

In “The Great Reset” I discussed how major events that affect large swathes of society typically result in significant changes in the psyche of citizens, and such changes threaten incumbent Elites because they controlled the ‘game’ as it stood.

Right now there is an extraordinarily heavy weight pressing down on the centre of that Monopoly board. In early March this pressure was suddenly recognised and positions began sliding into the centre.  Global efforts by Central Bankers have, however, supported the centre of the board and the Elites are busy sliding their property and other wealth back into position and making arrangements to keep them in position.

To be clear, from my first comments on the economic impacts in my 11 February Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update and in “Repeat After Me, This Is Not SARS: COVID-19 Is Far More Serious” I said that I expected Central Bankers to try “absolutely extraordinary actions (as opposed to the already ‘extraordinary’ actions that we have become desensitised to over the decade)”, and further suggested that while I was concerned about their continual inclination to ‘over-egg’ markets by doing too much and creating moral hazard – which they have never tried to redress by ‘removing the punch bowl’ – I felt that a financial panic on top a health panic was to be avoided.

Nonetheless, critically the response should be aimed at smoothing the transition to prices reflecting the nature of the challenge confronting humanity and thus businesses, not acting like it does not at all exist!

At the same time those playing the ‘game’ are becoming unwell, some are dying, others dealing with the pain of loss of a loved one, but all grieve the loss of their former freedoms.

True to type and form, the Elites want the board supported at all costs so that the ‘game’ can continue even if it means more players suffering personally devastating impacts. 

Presently there is no better example of this than what is being played out in meat processing plants in America where President Trump has ordered them to stay open even though workers in such plants have been dying of COVID-19 and many are afraid to work, and COVID-19 is spreading quicker in areas where there are major meat processing plants suggesting that it is a high risk factor. The move listed meat processing as an essential service and protects the industry from legal liability should more workers become infected.

The inescapable reality is that 90% of those in the ‘game’ are sharing the resources from just the first 5 squares after “Go”, the least valuable 1/8 of the board, and every time they round the board, after they pay out the rents to the Elites, they keep going backwards.

Sometimes they pay with their life. Then again, their life has always been something that Elites have been prepared to sacrifice to meet (or meat?) their ends.

The memory of the wealthy being bailed out during the last collapse is fresh, as is the sting of how their own lives were negatively impacted, so Elites need to try even harder to give the appearance of the bailout not being tilted so heavily in their favour. 

Then again, greed is such a serious malaise, and well everyone knows that political science, with its modern social media tools, has reached such an advanced state that the 90% will feel powerless to do anything other than accept the situation as inevitable, right?

Maybe…

Then again, human history is full of kids flipping the board while playing Monopoly against others who own all of the wealth of the board, especially when it is realised that the banker is slipping favoured players extra money for nothing and all of the “cards of chance” in the game have been intentionally tilted to favour the landlords.

The Elites know this well, and are aware that this risk is growing. 

But greed is such a powerful malaise!

And power affords a lot of protection, right?


What I advocate is not a ‘flipping’ of the board, which some might equate with revolution, or anything near it, because that entails more loss in and of itself, and there is a wide range of possible outcomes with a great deal of uncertainty as to whether we will arrive at a place that is better.

But we do need a peaceful revolution to readjust the ‘game’ to make it much more fair and that requires resolute and sustained society-wide engagement.

Having just watched Warren Buffett’s entire 2020 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting I was, as I often am, in total agreement that conditions have improved (not just in America but throughout the developed world) over the last century. Buffett’s comments around diversity in his introductory comments were welcome, even if the related motion did not carry. (Sadly this topic was not discussed in the Q&A.) 

Moreover, due not just to his success but because of his patent authentic humanity, Buffett has become the cheerleader of prominence for American capitalism which, as I discussed in “The Magic Sauce of American Economic Dynamism is Not Based on Personal Greed“, has taken on a very hard edge in recent decades. Sadly Buffett bypassed the opportunity to take this on and instead largely concentrated on historic diversity and inequality.

Still Buffett’s clear views that there remains much to do to improve American society around these issues, as perhaps the best known “proponent” of capitalism, were incredibly valid and valuable.

I am a great admirer of John Lennon and I, too, am a pacifist. However, we have learned in history that when we are entirely passive then the aggressive actors within our societies will push all of their favourable positions back in place and with growing inequality, as discussed by many others including Ray Dalio, probably the highest profile hedge fund manager at present, we all risk a much more disruptive response in the future.

The Great Reset” provides us all with an opportunity to dream of a world that we want for ourselves and the people we love most, and ponder how we can realistically bring that to fruition, not instantaneously but with enduring commitment and innovation.

Goodness knows humanity has proven to itself, once again, even still in the early stages of this pandemic, that human ingenuity and endeavour is without limits.

My general optimism in humanity means that, even while often pessimistic (or realistic) about issues over the short term, I am often considered a dreamer on the big picture.

It is a badge that I wear proudly, for I know that I am not the only one. In fact, we are the majority.

Let’s get to work, in our minds, our hearts and in our actions, and claim that luminous future for all.

The alternate path is dark and disturbing for everyone including the Elites, as I have spelled out in “Xenophobia Must Be Challenged For An Effective Response To Climate Change Inclusive Of Human Population Growth“, “The Conundrum Humanity Faces: But Nobody Admits“, “Investment Theme: Defence and Military Spending” and “Let’s Wage War On Climate Change“.

Nobody should think for a second that our success is inevitable. There is no doubt that the Elites are going to make it so that we have to earn it.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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The Great Reset

This is a post of hope. Of promise. Of potential within our grasp if we have the courage to reach for it. The commencement discusses markets because they give a verifiable account of the slow reaction to the threat that COVID-19 posed to humanity. The latter discussion opens up to encompass implications and aspirations for humanity.


Being a professionally trained scientist and also having a passion for economics, especially socioeconomics, and investing, I was already thinking about the likely economic impacts and the investment implications of the COVID-19 pandemic – and note that was before it had even been named COVID-19 and well before it was named a pandemic – as Global stock markets reached their bull market peaks. The S&P500 index of US stocks reached a peak of 3,397.50 17 days after my first report detailing my views on the coronavirus outbreak on 3 February entitled “Social Cohesion: The Best Vaccine Against Crises” and still 8 days after I said the following in my 12 February Coronavirus update:

People outside of Wuhan may be confused by the concern. You need to imagine it like an enormous tsunami, like the one in the Indian Ocean a few years ago. There has been an event that has triggered a chain of consequences – for a tsunami it is often an undersea earthquake – in this case it was a virus “jumping” species, to humans. Because we have no previous exposure to the virus it is highly virulent to us. Like a tsunami emanates outward from the epicentre, so too has this virus. At the moment we in most countries are at the stage where the sea is calm, but we know that it will arrive soon. Scientists from China and all around the world will be working feverishly to try to develop some tools – medicines, vaccines, procedures to minimise spread – to mitigate the impacts. Everybody needs to remain calm but be alert and be prepared, in your mind and in what you do.

In “Politics vs Society in the Coronavirus Outbreak” published on 21 February I stated my frustration (perhaps a little too strongly, in hindsight) at market and media commentators and analysts and the general public for being slow to realise the threat that the coronavirus presented:

I have to admit to being flummoxed by the response of markets, the media and by most people that I speak with about this outbreak.  I cannot understand why everybody is so slow to understand the rather obvious realities of the situation and the serious implications. It really does seem to me that the movie “Idiocracy” is not a Sci Fi but a work of non fiction and one would have to have travelled forward 50 years in a time machine to the present day to realise it. Is it that humans, when faced with a scary situation just cannot accept that it is real? Is it that our arrogance has reached such heights that we really believe nothing from nature can genuinely affect us until after the event?

Then in “Repeat After Me, This Is Not SARS: COVID-19 Is Much Worse” I broadened my discussion to help others to realise what a serious impact the coronavirus would have on markets, societies and humanity.

I can assure the reader that this event is unlike SARS in 2003 because the virus is all the more serious to humanity. Barring a miracle of nature, i.e. a surprising attenuation to lower virulence by the virus, or a highly unlikely rapid cure being developed, this virus will be with us for much longer than SARS was and its direct consequences on people will be far more serious (i.e. will produce greater numbers of mortalities) which will necessitate prolonged biosecurity measures.

…..The consequence to national and global populations of people should be clear to all readers. As the human cost of the pandemic becomes increasingly clear Governments will be forced to attempt to minimise those impacts in ways that I spelt out in my Coronavirus Outbreak update on 11 February, and these are increasingly in use in Japan, South Korea and Italy, which include school closures, discouraging/banning public gatherings, workplace closures, public transport curtailment, and/or further border restrictions. Besides the human costs, the direct impacts on national economies are obvious.

……If the reader considered me pessimistic above, then I am about to get down right depressing (pun intended).

For the last decade I have marvelled at how we have gotten so desensitised to extraordinary measures that Central Banks have taken to revive economies after the Great Recession or Global Financial Crisis (being an Australian I will use the “GFC” from hereon).

…..I would hope that a reasonable person having read the analysis above on COVID-19 would realise that this is no garden variety economic issue. This is undoubtedly a Black Swan event of nature’s making. This is a very, very big problem in a marketised world where everybody has been prepared to play the game of pretending that the central bankers are Gods while the profits and capital gains flow in.

All of that is going to be reversed, and because the natural event is characterised by exponential spread, this is going to happen a lot quicker than anybody can imagine.

….I understand that a financial panic on top of a growing panic about an increasingly obvious pandemic will be devastating.

I know that. And for that reason I do understand why Governments, even though they always prefer to egg on markets, will be right in trying to prevent it from happening. However, that propensity to always seek higher asset prices has led to great vulnerability in Global markets, and I think that the consequences of that are about to be revealed.

….To understand the ongoing impacts on people and thus on the economy we need to go back to the virus. Without the rapid emergence of an effective therapeutic treatment for COVID-19, amongst already developed treatments or those in the very late stages of development, the pandemic is likely to progress until either it spreads so widely that the majority of people have become infected or an effective vaccine is developed, produced and delivered en masse. This may take several years, so it is possible – probably even likely – that we will be living with this pandemic for a prolonged period.

Now, of course, almost everybody has caught up and the gravity of the challenge humanity faces combatting this pandemic has become patent to all. Almost, except for apparently the “followers” (the anti-leaders) of the major Anglophone nations, even if one of them is now infected. This post is not specifically aimed at these dinosaurs of a world we must leave behind.

I will, however, express again my disappointment at the lack of courage by the Australian “follower” Morrison to use our natural advantages and human capital in biosecurity to act earlier and more decisively as I implored him to do in “Australian Politicians Care More About the Health of Our Prawns and Bananas Than About People” which I published 28 February:

Australians need to wake up – your politicians right now are deciding between jobs and high house prices on the one hand, and a higher death rate amongst over 40 year olds on the other. Between economic activity and people’s lives.

In this time of global pandemic, Australia has a choice. Use our significant advantage of isolation and our adept biosecurity knowledge and skill to fight tooth and nail to minimise the impact of the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic on our citizens, thereby ensuring more of our parents and grandparents live out a full life. Or choose a “lighter touch” with lesser impacts on our economy while accepting that a consequence of that will be a higher level of mortality amongst our citizens and especially those over 40 years of age

…Australia’s isolation really is a huge advantage for us, and it is time that we made use of that very significant advantage. As COVID-19 begins to rage globally, we should strongly consider whether we should close our borders to people flows and tightly manage vessels carrying freight to and from Australia.

It really is as simple as that; we could close our borders and significantly cut down the opportunity to reintroduce the virus while we threw everything at containing the virus within the country. That would minimise the human cost while we wait for a vaccine to become available.

I repeated the same assertions in my open letter to PM Morrison after these opening comments:

Dear Mr Morrison

I am writing to inform you that I have left instructions for my estate to sue you personally if I die with COVID-19 before the term of your Government expires (if it serves the full 3 years).

As a 50 year old male with a pre-existing respiratory condition – asthma – I am in a higher risk category for suffering serious illness and death with COVID-19.

As Dr Tedros Adhanom Gebreysus, Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), said on Twitter on 29 February, “If you are 60+, or have an underlying condition like cardiovascular disease, a respiratory condition or diabetes, you have a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19. Try to avoid crowded areas, or places where you might interact with people who are sick”.

I note, Mr Morrison, that you are not in agreement with this advice because you are still encouraging all Australians to go about their business normally in order to delay or minimise the impacts on the economy.

The truth now is that if I was listened to, if the effective border closure and increased testing were implemented when I was imploring that to occur, then the following discussion about the economic bounce back from COVID-19 would be from a more favourable position than what will now be the case because a much lower prevalence and incidence of infection in the country would have allowed more of the domestic economy to remain open.

The following discussion on the way forward must necessarily start from where we are today, the last weekend in March with over 3,000 confirmed cases in Australia and certainly many more undiagnosed due to continuing restrictions on testing which preclude detection of asymptomatic infections and symptomatic infections not within areas of concern and where there has been no contact with a known case.


As shown above, early in this pandemic I stated my concerns about the economic impacts and made reference to the possibility of an economic depression occurring.

In the last week or two, after the violent reactions in the stockmarket to the human and consequent economic reality of this pandemic, more analysts and commentators are increasingly discussing the likelihood of a very severe recession globally.

Some journalists as well as some brave business and investment analysts are now even countenancing the possibility of a depression.

Unsurprisingly there is much mention in that context to the most memorable depression in Western Societies, the Great Depression that lasted from the collapse of stockmarkets in 1929 until World War 2 effectively brought it to an end.

In my post entitled “Let’s Wage War on Climate Change” I discussed an emergent undercurrent of thought, that I had perceived, which suggested that the problem of persistent low inflation threatening deflation and consequent very low interest rates, negative in some major economies, which was reminiscent of conditions during The Great Depression, typically in human history had been resolved only by a reset that occurs during a major war.

Concerned that some hard-hearted right wingers – who Pink Floyd, senza Roger Waters, may refer to as “The Dogs of War, and men of hate” – may ruminate for exactly that, I proferred the reality that humanity already had a war to confront:

Are we not already confronted with a crisis of our own making?

Is there not a majority of our scientific community not warning us that we face a dire climate change crisis?

Of course the answer to both questions is an emphatic yes!

…If our Australian and other global political leadership decide to grow into capital “L” Leaders and join with the few authentic Leaders working hard to take on the climate change crisis with all of the pride, passion, and determined fervour of a populace facing truly challenging circumstances with an uncertain outcome, the reality is that we will never know the counterfactual. The small number of skeptics that remain will always be able to say that it was never necessary and it was an enormous waste of financial resources and human effort.

But the very great majority of us, and our descendants, will forever know that any “waste” that might have possibly occurred along the way can never be in any measure anything more than infinitesimally small compared to the enormous waste of human lives by a power-hungry few, and compared with the enormous gift that is a quality life on this wondrous planet that we all share.

It is noteable that the same “followers” inclined to deny the reality of the climate change crisis were the same ones seeking to downplay the threat that COVID-19 represented. The difference, of course, is that the absurdity of their position was very quickly revealed by the explosive nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I now suggest that climate change can be a continuation of the war to reshape our world for the better for humanity, where we are currently fighting a battle against COVID-19, which now sees many others referring to it in conflict metaphors.

If we wish to see The Great Depression as analogous to the current situation, then perhaps there is a way of looking at things a little more positively. It may be more appropriate to consider the stockmarket collapse of 2007-09 as equivalent to the collapse from 1929. The central banks have done a better job of supporting the economy since the initial collapse in 07/08, even if I do think that in the recent half of the decade they have been responsible for over-indulging markets seeking continual capital gains out of fear of a repeat of what occurred in the 1930s when the depression intensified.

If this analogy were accurate then we are nearer the end of this episode than the start. Yes, things do seem bleak right now. They also seemed bleak in Europe in the very early 40s. Just like then, there is much more pain to be felt before we come out the other side. But we know there is another side from which we will emerge.

Once this battle is won, however, we will be in a strong position to take on the even greater battle necessary for sustainable human life on Earth.

I believe that if the current most urgent battle against COVID-19, followed by the equally necessary and increasingly urgent fight against the climate crisis, is handled with adept leadership, we have every chance of having a very rare psychological reset which could set up the global community for the next half century. It will be a much more humane and equitable one if we follow the edict of FDR as brilliantly articulated in his 4th Inauguration speech, and if the lessons of needing to stand up to hard-hearted right wingers and imperialists is heeded from the record of FDRs loyal and loving son Elliot Roosevelt in “As He Saw It” which recounted events immediately after FDR’s all too early passing as WW2 drew to an end and in the immediate post-war period.

In “Social Cohesion: The Best Vaccine Against Crises” I stated:

I consider the climate change crisis to be the greatest challenge to humanity, and I can see no sustainable and durable response that does not involve a more cohesive humanity built on equivalent access to the same standard of living irrespective of where on Earth one chooses to live and raise a (typically small) family.

Depending on how the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak progresses in the next few weeks and months, and how successful are the scientific and pharmaceutical communities in expeditiously developing an effective vaccine, this disease may prove to be the most serious immediate challenge to humanity. 

Moreover, if this outbreak is successfully contained and eradicated – primarily on the back of the impressive response by the Chinese authorities – it still gives an indication of the tenuous nature of our existence on this wonderful planet, and just how quickly the reality of our existence can be placed in danger.

Most significantly, it highlights that whether we are talking about acute or long-term crises, the reality of life on this Earth for humanity is that we have no choice but to face these challenges together.

Acting individualistically and with self-interest can not produce the sustainable effective response for which all people wish. 

Clearly there is little chance of humanity coming together and working towards solutions to the greatest challenges if the groundwork to build mutual trust has been neglected. 

Therefore, the best vaccine against crises is social cohesion within societies and across humanity.


Through the fog and shock of the current battle, it is imperative that people of good character engage with what is occurring in domestic politics and geopolitics.

I realise that cynics will immediately ask for all of the answers from me on reading this, and obviously I cannot provide all of them or even many. But the “followers” offer very few answers of their own as their tactic is mainly to attack people who want better from society by referring to us as “do gooders” or inferring that we are foolish dreamers.

This is undoubtedly a “big picture” concept, and it is only possible because collectively we have all suffered an enormous shock and consequently perceptions of contemporary lives and indeed what is possible are changing. Already we are proving what can be achieved when humanity is determined and working collectively towards goals bigger than ourselves and bigger than any one nation or continent.

I offer two points on why we can significantly change our course to tackle the big issues confronting humanity, which I would proffer relate to inequality and xenophobia and to the climate change crisis as I have detailed in reports such as “Xenophobia Must Be Challenged For An Effective Response To Climate Change Inclusive of Human Population Growth” and “The Conundrum Humanity Faces But Nobody Admits“.

Firstly, economies are being idled right back to bare essential services. It makes absolute sense that we would give a great deal of thought to how we want economies to function after the crisis. It is not enough to suggest that we want to get it back to where it was before. As Greg Jericho spelt out in the report linked above, that is going to be extremely difficult to achieve and not likely anyhow. So, if it is going to take a great deal of effort and support, financial and otherwise, to bring back our economy, it would be an enormous pity if there was not a great deal of thought and then effort that goes into bringing back the economy in the best possible ways to enhance sustainable human life on Earth. This leads to the second point I will make.

Such a reset in the way economies function are rarely possible because the status quo is always the safest option and major reforms are normally undertaken iteratively and typically occur very slowly. There is a great deal of human capital that has thrown its collective force behind the effort to be constructive in the COVID-19 crisis by producing necessary goods directly for keeping as many people healthy as possible in the pandemic, for supplying necessities in difficult circumstances, and for providing vital Government services. But still there is a lot of human capital idled, in isolation and social distancing initiatives, some working in their normal jobs, and some of those working below their full potential if we are to accept the thesis of David Graeber in “Bullshit Jobs”, and others recently made unemployed. And we have to add the retired and the high school students, also, with very valuable contributions to make.

One of the comments made in the press by a young person who lost their job last Friday was “if this is how vulnerable we are with capitalism, then perhaps we had better “F”ing think of a better way of doing things”. I sincerely believe that this underutilised human capital, together with that of the public servants working at home, and not in vital areas who are currently working almost around the clock, can be harnessed to brainstorm on what we want from our society going forward. If the political class can loosen their hands of control to allow people to dream – and here I am thinking about Rudd’s silly 2020 Summit where he tried to control the flow of ideas from the local meetings upwards (which I experienced personally attending his local electorate’s summit) – then it could be a very positive contribution to getting through this crisis, especially for younger Australians who have been disenfranchised by the “smashed avocado” smears.

Sure, it might seem a bit like the 60’s revisited, but the world could do with that bit of that optimism and hope for the future right now. And I have little doubt that a politician that did this with sincerity, prepared to act on the outcomes, would set themselves up for post-crisis success.

The alternative will be depressing for many more than just myself.


Be in no doubt that there will be hard-hearted factions that want things to go back as closely as possible to the inequitable and unfair world that existed before this war because that is the game that they know how to win. That is exactly what was occurring in the post-GFC period. There will even be others who want to tilt things further to their advantage. These are the people that like to say that “a good crisis should never be wasted” and you just need to read Elliot Roosevelt’s “How He Saw It” to understand how that occurs.

Ask yourself this: Do we really want to get through all of this hurt, of the realisation that we are all humans, fearing and hurt by the same things, and come out the other side of this battle against COVID-19 to enter into the same petty argument of the reality of the climate change crisis with hard-hearted right wingers behaving petulantly not accepting that they are in the wrong?

If this battle against COVID-19 proves nothings else it shows that all our fates on this beautiful planet are inextricably linked. The only sustainable way forward for humanity is united and time and effort spent moving in the other direction is an utter waste and dangerous to us all.

Let this be the Great Reset that puts humanity back on the track that perhaps the greatest US President ever wanted for us all!


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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The Conundrum Humanity Faces: But Nobody Admits

In this essay I distil down to a common sense level the interplay of Global population growth and climate change to explain the reality of what has been the impact of delaying both our progress towards global equality and innovative responses to climate change.

Just imagine for one moment that at the completion of World War II we truly heeded President Roosevelt’s lessons about the need for a united and compassionate humanity. 

Sure, regulation and architecture to improve the security of financial institutions – which remained robust until the lead up to speculative euphoria which caused the Great Recession (or Global Financial Crisis) – as well as other vital global institutions such as the United Nations, International Monetary Fund and World Bank – were created in the immediate aftermath of WWII.

However, the opportunity to genuinely make the world a fairer place by allowing (and supporting) all countries an opportunity to develop was squandered. 

In “As He Saw It” published in 1946, Elliot Roosevelt (a US military WWII officer who attended many important meetings with his father FDR who died soon after he delivered that 4th Presidential Inaugural speech and before the surrender of the Japanese) expressed his extreme disappointment with what occurred as the war came to an end and in that year immediately after his father’s passing.

In the second paragraph of the introduction to his book “As He Saw It”, after a long list of reasons for why he wrote and published his account of proceedings, Elliot Roosevelt says “all of the signs of growing disunity among the leading nations of the world, all of the broken promises, all the renascent power politics of the greedy and desperate imperialism were my spurs in this undertaking”. 

(His introduction is so powerful – I have posted it here and recommend all readers to at the least read this passage if not track down the whole work.)

Given what has occurred in the world since the 1970s, and especially now the attitude of President Trump, that is an interesting contrast, but that is the subject of a separate post which I have entitled “The Magic Sauce of American Economic Dynamism Was Not Greed“.

We know that when people are presented with opportunity for a better quality of life, unsurprisingly, they take that opportunity. This in itself leads to lower birthrates as people are occupied by career and professional development, as well as enjoying the trappings of having a disposable income. 

Equally important, the security of knowing that babies born into a more developed world have a far, far greater chance of surviving to continue family lines means that biologically people feel less urge to have larger families.

So it is a virtual certainty that if for the last 80 years all efforts were made to make the world a genuinely fair place, so that the degree of opportunity for a standard of life equal to anywhere on Earth was not determined by the geography in which you live, then the global population would be significantly less now than it is.

No doubt many will counter that a higher proportion of the global human population enjoying a higher standard of living would mean that average per person impacts on the environment would be greater such that environmental impacts and degradation might be even greater than where we are at right now. 

Of course that would depend both on what was that average global standard of living and the actual population level, as well as how much of the additional human capital unleashed would have been devoted to innovation to counteract those environmental impacts.

Now I realise that the climate deniers and hard-hearted right wingers will use this space to attack this analysis as unrealistic pipe dreams (as if a better world for all is never achievable). And I readily accept that the issues surrounding geopolitics and developmental sociology are extremely complicated and difficult to solve. 

However, as is clear in my essay “Let’s Wage War on Climate Change“, humanity has devoted significant resources – including human capital and human lives – to man-made crises throughout our shared history. Human ingenuity and toil can achieve amazing results when directed to a common and crucial cause. Nobody would suggest, I believe, that those sacrifices to save the world from oppression and tyranny were in vain.

So let us imagine for a moment what would have happened if humanity had worked together so that we lived in a (near) perfect meritocratic global community. Perhaps the global population, which really took off after WWII, might be half of its current level and be tapering off if not already in gentle decline.

Figure from Wikipedia World Population page adapted with the addition of a scenario where post-WWII development occurred in a more compassionate and humane, rather than greedy, fashion.

As that figure shows, the reality of our actual population growth is quite different to this theoretical scenario, and several scenarios for future population growth developed by the United Nations are shown.

We still have a very unfair world with gross inequality in the standard of living and opportunity for a “decent life for all” (in Sir David Attenborough’s parlance from a speech he delivered in 2011 which is essentially identical  to this essay he published at around that time).

If everybody were to enjoy an equitable high standard of living now with the population that we have, without an astronomical surge in innovative technologies to reduce our impact, then most would agree that we would all be imperilled due to the extreme impacts on environment and climate change (again that is the thinking contained in Attenborough’s speech).

The truth is that global elites are already building into their thinking that what will be considered a “decent life” for those in Africa, throughout much of Asia, or South America, or on Pacific Islands, will remain to be VERY different to what is considered a “decent life” for those in the already developed countries.

That is the rub, those same elites are surreptitiously attempting to reduce population growth within those poor regions, all the while the biological impulse (from billions of years of evolution) of those very vulnerable people in those regions will increasingly be to boost their birthrates to increase the chances of survival of their family line.

When those poor people in those other regions become more and more aware of how they have been “hung out to dry” as climate change impacts grow more and more stark, and as they start to get more desperate as their growing populations are increasingly squeezed by diminishing resources due to climate change impacts, then the global tensions will grow to such an extent that containment will require heavier and heavier-handed military actions.

Essentially, it really will be a world where those nations powerful enough to guard their borders to preserve their natural endowments and what they have accumulated from the rest of the globe, as well as guard movements of resources between other “islands of prosperity”, will enjoy a “decent life” while those outside will enter some sort of Mad Max ultra-Darwinian state.

If that sounds like a world that you would enjoy living in, then go for it – live it up now and do not give a second thought to what lies ahead.

I cannot. We cannot go back and change what was and was not done 80 years ago.
But be in no doubt that we do have a choice of how we progress from here. 

Instead of continuing on this path we can recognise our folly immediately, admit to it, and move forward collectively. 


As Attenborough rightly said, climate change cannot be effectively and enduringly addressed while the global population continues to grow. But the only humane way to address this – not by trickery or coercion – is to allow all people the opportunity to have access to the same standard of living so that humans make the natural decision to have fewer children. As not all people that currently exist on the Earth can enjoy the highest standard of living enjoyed by some nations at present, there will need to be a play off between population and standard of living, meaning that those presently enjoying very high standards of living will need to accept that their standard of living will fall.

To facilitate a more inclusive humanity with equal opportunity for an equivalent standard of living will require a great degree of social cohesion which will require genuine political Leadership to harness the political capital that now exists to confront the climate change crisis and which is prepared for mutual sacrifice, and which stands up against xenophobia and it’s foot soldiers, the naïve, uninformed or precarious.

To give all people an equal opportunity to have an equal standard of living will require an enormous rethink of how globalisation has occurred since WWII. It will also need to occur in the context of the now clear understanding of our impacts on the Earth. 

Essentially we need “quality globalisation” rather than the unsustainable, geopolitically-oriented market-based globalisation that has predominated since WWII. Many of the ideas that I discuss at MacroEdgo.com will be important, but the implications will be far, far greater than anyone can currently imagine.

Greater mobility between countries will be important, as will very open trading and commercial links between all countries.

Ironically, while many ethno-nationalist Australians are attempting to subvert the climate change debate to use it as a reason to reduce immigration, one of the most effective contributions to climate change that Australia can make is in continuing its recent high level of immigration or even increasing it.

This is the case for all developed countries that have what we might describe as  “developmental space” – analogous with the economic term du jour “fiscal space” – to grow their population in a well planned and generous manner to move toward equalising the mean standard of living of humanity.

This will, of course, require significant infrastructure and innovation to minimise local and global environmental impacts. However, again, this is supported by the comments of Attenborough in his 2011 speech where he described Australia as being “big and empty”, thus indicating his position that we do indeed have significant “developmental space”.

Australia has a proud history of success at taking in people from all over the world when responding to humanitarian crises. This history has, however, been tarnished in the last 2 decades commencing under the Howard Government’s response to “boat people”, but this does not diminish the immigration successes.

The fruits of our very successful post-WWII migration policy are visible all throughout our society – in our school yards, in our restaurant strips, and all of the places where we come together as a community. The Asia migration period, now with African and South American migrants, too, is every bit as successful from my standpoint, but I realise that there are elements within our community that seek to portray it is as troubling.

No doubt there are challenges, such as infrastructure provision and housing, but these must be the attention of our endeavours for solutions, not the migrants themselves who just want the same things from life that we all do.

It should be obvious to everyone that there is an enormous opportunity here for a climate and environment-sensitive nation building narrative – the type that Politicians of all descriptions are normally so keen to jump on – the only problem being that the divisive xenophobic element must be addressed for once and for all.

This is demonstrated by the 2019 Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Australia Talks Survey where 54% of Australians considered immigration a “problem” – unless, of course, many thought the problem was that we did not have enough immigration (I think it a fair assumption that that is not what they meant).

To those who reject the notions within this essay I say this. Each and every citizen of a wealthy country needs to stop and think right now. If you choose to remain indifferent to this conundrum, then you are actually choosing a world where you continue to enjoy the proceeds of living on an island of prosperity at the expense of others in poor countries who will increasingly suffer as climate change impacts worsen. And your high standard of living will be increasingly protected at the point of a gun with increasingly aggressive and callous military actions to keep those increasingly desperate people suppressed.

It is time we stopped pussy footing around this reality – as Attenborough said, it is much too late for fastidious niceties.

Let us stop not spelling out the truth as some form of political correctness so that people in wealthy countries can continue on with their commerce-producing mindless consumption in a guilt-free manner.

To achieve this transformation the political class will most likely put the globe and their specific nations on a war footing to deepen the non-partisan buy-in from their citizens and to ward off the populists.

This time, however, it will be a war for all of humanity – a united humanity – instead of against or within humanity.

Let’s wage war on climate change!


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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Social Cohesion:The Best Vaccine Against Crises

As survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp mark the 75th anniversary of their liberation by appealing for people to remember the perils of indifference, the Wuhan coronavirus is set to test multicultural cohesiveness in a way that has not been tested since World War II.

 The European Day for Remembrance of the Holocaust is 27th of January, the anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp at Auschwitz. This year the commemoration was especially poignant – not just because it marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz survivors – but because many of those survivors spoke up about concerns about humanity forgetting the lessons that their hellish experience, at the hands of the Nazis, delivered the world.

During the Holocaust 6 million Jews were slaughtered. At Auschwitz 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, were murdered. 

More than hate, the Holocaust survivors feared indifference because we know that in any large grouping of people the number of people who will be racist to the point of hate will be minor. It is the indifference by others to xenophobia and prejudice which allows the haters to rise up and become powerful.

In my own country of Australia the events of the Holocaust seem a world away, and most contemporary Australians would consider it largely irrelevant to our culture. However, Australians have a long history of indifference to racism. 

The first, and thus longest lasting form, of racism is towards the Indigenous Aboriginal peoples, which started soon after colonisation (better described “invasion”?) even though the leaders of the new colony were surprisingly enlightened and in many ways had a higher regard for the Aboriginals than certainly the convicts that they were charged with keeping incarcerated.

In the early stages of the colonies there grew a virulent racism against Indians and Chinese, which evolved into formal legislation known as the White Australia policy which remained in place until the 1970s (Lockwood, R. “British Imperial Influences in the Foundation of the White Australia Policy.” Labour History, no. 7, 1964, pp. 23–33. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27507761. accessed 18 October 2019]. As brilliantly articulated by Tim Watts (2019) in “The Golden Country: Australia’s changing identity”, now over 40 years since the formal extinguishing of the White Australia Policy, there remains a great degree of indifference to Asian Australians.

The waves of Asian immigrants over those 40 years, initially mainly from conflicts in Vietnam and Sri Lanka and elsewhere, and more recently from China and India, has coincided with an increase in conspicuous ethno-nationalistic racism.

Moreover, even though surveys consistently show that the great majority of Australians object to racism and consider it an issue of import – highlighting on the one hand that there is a widespread perception that it is prevalent in society, and on the other hand that the great majority are concerned enough about that to consider it a problem – those same surveys suggest that indifference is highly prevalent.

For example, while the 2019 Australia Talks Survey conducted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation found that 75% of Australians considered racism a problem, 54% considered immigration a problem.

Moreover, Watts (2019) did an excellent job of describing the multitude of ways in which conscious and subconscious biases and prejudices pervade all aspects of Australian society. In workplaces we are only now coming to grips with the impact of the Bamboo ceiling on crushing the aspirations of hard, smart working Asian Australians, and on how that is having a deleterious affect on business innovation and productivity.

It is for this reason that I believe very strongly that quotas are necessary to bring about sustainably diverse workplaces in Australia.

Australian politicians have had an unfortunate habit of playing on this indifference and latent xenophobia to garner political support, and even though the 70s marked the highpoint in bipartisan support against racial discrimination, since the emergence in the 90s of Hansonism and the global success of populist parties overt indifference to xenophobia has been too enticing for those on the right side of politics to ignore. 

In pandering to these xenophobic elements their divisive views have been given legitimacy and social cohesiveness in multicultural Australia has been setback significantly.


In a “former life” I was a research scientist specialising in disease of aquatic animals. I had a special interest in viruses and carried out some basic virological research on a few novel viruses that I discovered.

So to preface what I am about to say, I would describe myself as knowing much more than the average person about microbiology and virology, but much, much less than a cutting edge contemporary virologist like Shi Zhengli who is based in Wuhan and has been conducting research on these coronaviruses for the past 15 years including leading the research team responding to the current oubreak.

I mention Zhengli because I know her. She did her PhD in the laboratory of the brilliant and legendary invertebrate virologist Jean-Robert (JR) Bonami in Montepellier, France, where I worked for a year, and I visited her in Wuhan many years ago. Zhengli was also kind to list me as a co-author on a paper published soon after I had retired from scientific research. Zhengli is a wonderful person and researcher of the highest quality and when I learned that she was intimately involved with the response to this outbreak I immediately felt better about the situation.

Evenso, I have great concerns for the implications of this outbreak. To be clear, in no way am I suggesting that I am an expert – I am no longer even an expert on crustacean diseases even though a decade and half ago I was one of the global experts. And I have not spoken with Zhengli in many years so I have no special information. These are my own views which are based on common sense as much as anything else.

I recall in the early 90s reading about the Ebola virus. People do not realise it, but for a virus it is massive and it is scary looking! I commented to a friend that it is so large it would probably feel like receiving an injection when it entered cells to replicate.

The thing about Ebola virus is that while it is deadly, it is not highly transmissible. It is spread by exposure to blood or other bodily fluids of a seriously ill person. While in poor countries with limited and basic medical facilities it can spread and cause some deaths it does not present a serious threat to humanity as modern biosecurity protocols can limit its spread.

Ebola gets media attention because of the high mortality rate and because the symptoms are so severe including haemorrhage and ultimately bleeding from orifices.

The really concerning diseases from a whole of humanity standpoint are those that are highly transmissible, have a reasonably long incubation period where the infected person is asymptomatic (so the infection is undetected) but is transmitting the infection to others, and which has a reasonably high mortality rate (ie. a reasonably high proportion of people who contract the infection die).

The information presented by the WHO on incubation period and asymptomatic transmission confirms that Wuhan coronavirus presents those first two characteristics. 

These characteristics combined make a disease difficult to contain and thus eradicate in its early stages, without need of a vaccination program which will take time to develop and administer widely.

At the time of writing the rate of increase in the total number of cases, the proportion of which are serious and very serious, and the number of mortalities, is indicative of a virus that is capable of rapid human to human spread in populations. It will be some time yet before it is fully understood how much of this is due to the ramp up in diagnostic capacity and public health response – i.e. some of this apparent hyperbolic increase in the number of cases may be due to increased diagnosis. If diagnostic capacity reaches a steady state with virus spread, in part due to biosecurity measures taken, then we may see the apparent hyperbolic spread become more linear and then decelerate. However, if the actual spread remains hyperbolic then diagnostic capacity might never catch up. 

The mortality and morbidity (what proportion of people become ill and to what extent) rates will not be completely understood for some time. Underlying health status of populations and other factors will play a part.

If the virus becomes pandemic quickly, then it will be the mortality and morbidity rate that determines the full cost to humanity.

With what is already public knowledge with regards the two week incubation period and asymptomatic transmission, I very much suspect that the WHO and the major countries are working on an assumption that there is a high likelihood that the Wuhan coronavirus will not be contained within China and that it will spread in Asia. Though I, too, am impressed by the response by the Chinese authorities and scientific community, early indications of the characteristics of this virus make it extremely difficult to contain.

I suspect that in the weeks ahead it will soon become clear that the virus has escaped the biosecurity net into wider China and into nearby Asian countries, especially the lesser developed countries which have less capability to respond and contain the virus.

One of the complicating factors is that it is still winter in the Northern hemisphere so it is perfectly normal that cold and flu viruses will be circulating, and so there will be no way that any country – and especially not the developing countries – will have the capability to isolate any and every sick person until they are tested and cleared.

Also significant is that we are talking about many poor people here who are not fortunate to enjoy a standard of living which affords them the best possible underlying health status. Moreover, these people have no social safety network, usually have tenuous employment earning low wages, and have little or no savings to draw on during a health scare. Thus these people will have little choice but to continue working rather than subject themselves to self-imposed isolation. 

At this stage, what I believe that the authorities are really working on is slowing the spread of the virus. Of course officials are not going to admit to this because they do not want to panic populations and create conditions which stretch (already stretched) social cohesion.

For those in the northern hemisphere there is a factor which will be supportive in those efforts. With the outbreak occurring at around the midpoint of winter, within another 10 weeks the most favourable conditions for respiratory viruses to spread will subside which will likely naturally slow the spread of the virus (at least compared to what it would be if conditions remained cooler).

Pharmaceutical companies will have around 6 months to swing into action and develop an effective vaccine, produce it in significant volumes, and administer it broadly in the large population centres in the northern hemisphere. My understanding is that, at this stage, there is no reason to believe that this would be problematic as it was with HIV (because of its unique characteristics).

Writing in Australia, in the southern hemisphere, the outlook is somewhat more frightening if I am correct in my analysis that the virus will not be eradicated this northern hemisphere winter. I would be unsurprised if more draconian measures were introduced in Australia than elsewhere in an attempt to prevent its introduction as we will endure a full cold and flu season without any chance of administering a broad vaccination program.

This will produce a great deal of anxiety amongst Australians.


Given Australia has a questionable history in terms of racism and xenophobia, and indifference to it, what are the early indications of how Australians are reacting to this global health scare originating from China and likely ultimately broader Asia?

Not surprisingly, the early indications are not good with many reports detailing increased verbal and online attacks on people of (presumed) Asian ethnicity.

Moreover, there have been reports of online petitions with thousands of signatories seeking schools to restrict families that have travelled throughout wider Asia from attending, and the New South Wales Government has requested that students who have visited China remain at home in isolation for two weeks even though the Minister admitted it was not medically necessary and was done to appease public concerns.

As the patriarch of a mixed Asian Australian family, I was at the shops early last Saturday morning with my wife. We went to a quieter, stand-alone supermarket and agreed that there seemed to be more people of Asian ethnicity out early there with us. We bought a little more food than we normally would so that we could reduce the frequency with which we need to shop.

If my worst fears are confirmed over the next few weeks, then I expect that overt and angry xenophobia will be increasingly expressed towards Australians of perceived Asian ethnicity as the Wuhan coronavirus spreads especially throughout Asia, and as people become more fearful as Australia heads towards a long and difficult cold and flu season.


In my earlier seminal essay “Xenophobia Must Be Challenged For An Effective Response To Climate Change Inclusive of Population Growth“, I explained the clear-cut logic on why it is imperative that leaders provide strong leadership in denouncing racism.

I consider the climate change crisis to be the greatest challenge to humanity, and I can see no sustainable and durable response that does not involve a more cohesive humanity built on equivalent access to the same standard of living irrespective of where on Earth one chooses to live and raise a (typically small) family.

Depending on how the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak progresses in the next few weeks and months, and how successful are the scientific and pharmaceutical communities in expeditiously developing an effective vaccine, this disease may prove to be the most serious immediate challenge to humanity. 

Moreover, if this outbreak is successfully contained and eradicated – primarily on the back of the impressive response by the Chinese authorities – it still gives an indication of the tenuous nature of our existence on this wonderful planet, and just how quickly the reality of our existence can be placed in danger.

Most significantly, it highlights that whether we are talking about acute or long-term crises, the reality of life on this Earth for humanity is that we have no choice but to face these challenges together.

Acting individualistically and with self-interest can not produce the sustainable effective response for which all people wish. 

Clearly there is little chance of humanity coming together and working towards solutions to the greatest challenges if the groundwork to build mutual trust has been neglected. 

Therefore, the best vaccine against crises is social cohesion within societies and across humanity.

Social cohesion within multicultural societies is the best stepping stone towards cohesion across humanity. And to do that we must address all of those biases and prejudices within our societies from the ground up, in our workplaces and in our day to day lives, and we must demand of our elected leadership that they work towards a united humanity, and we must punish (politically) those who seek to divide us.

That, I believe, is a world that the survivors of Auschwitz would want for us all, and as it was articulated so warmly and brilliantly by President Roosevelt shortly before his all too early passing.

Addendum

In times of crisis it is very much human nature to reach out to friends in potential danger and inquire on whether they are doing OK, and to let them know that you are thinking of them and wishing them well. I certainly have received those types of emails myself from friends overseas this past summer as they expressed their concern and sorrow for the bushfires in Australia.

I guess we all hope that that brief moment of personal connection – a few kind and caring words, a smile, a pat on the back – will provide some emotional support to our friends and at the same time nourish our own souls.

That is what I did yesterday. After a long time I reached out to Zhengli to let her know I care and that I am thinking of her and her family. I had an inkling that she might be involved in the research into the outbreak, of course, but I was entirely unaware of her career successes since my early retirement from scientific research. Zhengli responded quickly, which I appreciated given the enormity of the challenge she and her team faces – I like to think a brief heart-warming personal distraction provided some light relief in the midst of the intense environment they are undoubtedly working through.

I am so glad that a person of the quality of Dr Shi Zhengli is heading up the research response to this current outbreak – a better person you could not meet, a loving mother and caring friend, and an exceptional scientist. We should all be grateful to her and her team, and our other Chinese friends responding on the ground, who are making significant personal sacrifices for all of our benefit.

As I have said on numerous occasions in my writing, it is when we face collective crises that we truly know that we are united together as human beings against our greatest challenges. Please let this be a lesson that we can hold onto and move forward together before we damage ourselves and our wonderful planet to a point where all of the progress of the last century is lost.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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Introducing MacroEdgo

This site encompasses economic, investment, financial, business and managerial analysis and life philosophy.

It is unapologetically challenging! 

If you do not take with a grain of salt some of what I say here then I have failed in my aim. I pride myself on being ahead of the curve and absolutely feel uncomfortable being a part of the herd, ie. part of the consensus, perhaps the one exception being when I am ready to take profits on an investment position.

I developed this site to fill a number of growing voids around the need for quality unconflicted opinion accessible at a reasonable cost, but not from a robot! 

In fact, this site is run on a new business model – you decide what the analysis is worth. If you read a piece of analysis which you feel has added value to your thought process then you decide yourself on what that value is – immediately and enduringly – and make a donation on my GoFundMe page.

Of course if down the track you realise that something that you have read that I have written has added value – such as something that you took with a grain of salt initially but you came to realise there was validity to it – you can return and donate when you reach that conclusion.

This model is essentially an “honesty system” and it reminds me of my family’s first watermelon stall (we own a sugarcane farm along the Bruce Highway in northern Queensland) which operated under the same principle. My older brother, always a sceptic, insisted that we collect the money via a slot in an old steel safe in which we placed 4 x 50kg tractor weights. (Dad of course made the point that the tractor weights were worth more than a few days of takings.) One morning in the first week, as we brought the watermelons to stock the stand, we noticed that the safe was standing on its edge. Somebody did well to even lift a side off the ground, but we failed to notice who around my small home town was walking with a sore back!

I prefer to work this way because it is entirely fair and democratic to the reader. Just like I was prepared to accept that some people won’t pay for a watermelon, I accept that some who will profit from reading these pages will not pay for it. But I also know that being optimistic about the goodness at the core of human nature has been the most profitable – in all of it’s senses – courses that can be taken in life.

I do not want subscribers with automatic renewals where other content providers hope payment will slip by unnoticed or for subscriber lethargy leading to cancellation after payment has been made one more time.

Moreover, not operating on a subscription basis releases me of any obligation to produce to deadline. I will write what I want when I want – when I feel passionate is when I write best. 

If you find value in what I have written, you reward me. Simple as that!

There are a few economic analysts – working privately or within investment banks – who charge several thousand of dollars annually for a subscription to their research, and I would also certainly appreciate gratis access as an “in-kind” contribution for my efforts.

In this age of click baiting, please be aware that there will never be advertising on these pages and I will not in any way attempt to determine what genre of writing brings in the greatest revenues.

Finally, there is a good reason why there are no contact details on these pages and there is no opportunity for another’s opinion to be stated here. If you wish to understand these reasons then you can read the “About” page to its conclusion.

Warm regards

Brett Edgerton


© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2019

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About

I am an ex-scientist and believe in full disclosure… so here is the full story…

Check out my Curriculum Vitae for my career as a scientist.

Check out my Investment History.

Firstly, why the “Edgo” in “MacroEdgo”. I come from the small agricultural town of Innisfail in northern Queensland where my Great Grandparents were pioneers after moving there when only 5 houses existed in the town. My Great Grandparents had 13 children, and my Grandparents alone then had 7 children who gave them 26 grandchildren of which I am the youngest (and many of my cousins have grandchildren). Very many of my extended family remain in Innisfail and most of us are referred to as “Edgo” often preceded by our first name – so in Innisfail I am often referred to as “Brett Edgo”. A voila

I was a research scientist until the age of 34 when the biological clock caught up with my career aspirations. After returning to Australia from 2 highly regarded international research fellowships (in France with the CNRS, the equivalent of Australia’s CSIRO, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany) I was unable to find a way to continue my work or obtain secure employment, and having delayed starting a family to obtain that security, I “retired”from my career when my wife fell pregnant with our first child.

My accountant wife had far superior career security and earnings potential, and with home prices charging ahead (I will discuss this in one of my posts), it really was the only choice for me to assume the role of being the primary carer for our beautiful son who was joined shortly afterwards by another beautiful son.

I won’t pretend that the transition was easy – for 14 years I had poured my heart and soul into my research and I could only imagine a future where I never retired and was the dottery old professor still hanging around the University electron microscopy centre. I was devastated.

Making it worse was the knowledge that my work was important even if it was difficult to obtain funding. For instance, at the time when I retired I was almost certainly the only Australian that had worked with White Spot Virus which was the cause of the disease incursion in south east Queensland prawn farms in recent years. While in France in 2001 I obtained funding from Biosecurity Australia (my previous employer) to expose native Australian freshwater crayfish to the virus to determine their susceptibility.

Because I could not even contemplate another future for myself, I went “cold turkey” and retired immediately with the clicking of the “send” button of the email announcing it to my colleagues. And within a few weeks I was in the emergency room of a hospital having a breakdown, panicked at the thought of how I could ever deal with my loss.

That was a long time ago, and I now am entirely certain that ending my career was best for me and my family. I am extremely satisfied and happy with the course of my life. Becoming a stay at home Dad is my ultimate fulfillment and, while I left behind a body of research of which I will be forever proud, my primary role in raising two quality young men – worldly, rounded, confident and at ease within the world – is easily my most enduring contribution to mankind. 

But I still had a very active, analytical mind and I yearned to contribute to societal progression. 

I submitted my PhD thesis in October 1996 and earned my first professional income a few months later when I was very nearly 27 years of age. Even though my work was far more important to me than money – eg. when moving to France with my wife in 2001 our joint income fell by 80%! –  having foregone so much earning potential I instinctively knew that I needed to use well whatever funds my wife and I were able to accumulate. So I became a voracious reader of financial and investment literature as well as Business media. Thus began a long and enduring passion.

I was raised on a sugarcane farm, which was originally owned by my Great Grandfather, and my parents had long struggled with meeting debt obligations taken on to clear additional land during (what turned out to be the end of) the 1970’s resources boom. My father always regretted listening to industry and Government forecasters who encouraged those that had capacity to expand to do so as they forecasted sugar prices to remain high for the foreseeable future.

From this I instinctively understood that I needed to develop a strong knowledge of markets and economics to insulate myself from “salespeople” peddling agendas which are not necessarily in my best interest. I realised that it is not sufficient to plead ignorance and blame others for my decisions – if I was going to take on risk then I was going to be informed and take responsibility for my successes and failures.

On returning to Australia in 2003 Brisbane was in the grips of the first leg of the house price run up as the housing bubble spread from the larger southern centres. I will go into greater detail in a post but suffice to say that by 2007 I was ready to turn my market analytical talents to providing an alternate opinion to the property-conflicted mainstream media.

In 2007 I launched my website “Homes4Aussies” shortly before I shirt-fronted a newly installed PM Rudd at a Community Cabinet meeting in northern Brisbane (see here). Even more than my personal early glimpse at Rudd’s now famous temper, I remember the meeting for being taunted at arm’s length by Treasurer Wayne Swann. And I honestly shook all the way home as I congratulated myself for showing such admirable restraint while wondering how it would have played out in the press if a guy who had had his rent raised by 30% in one year while saving for a home deposit while property investors pushed prices to surge higher, with a second child on the way, while recovering from a breakdown after finishing an accomplished career in scientific research due to lack of opportunity in this country, took a swing at the Treasurer after he taunted him with “you’re dreaming if you think negative gearing will ever be ended!”

I drove traffic to my website by blogging widely on mainstream media and listing as my location my website (I had not seen anybody do that previously).

I wanted to play a role in public policy debate. But most of all I wanted to show particularly younger Australians that there were alternate views to the ones that they were being bombarded with in the mainstream media. I wanted to challenge these so that fellow Australians might stop to think twice before committing to a future of debt repayment for an asset that they were being told only ever went up in price and where they could not lose. For example, I blogged against and attempted to initiate a wager with the realestate agent author of a report which featured in all major Brisbane papers who forecasted that the median price of Brisbane houses would rise exponentially and would reach $1 Million soon after 2015.

I was also invited to participate in several online debates.

And I proudly walked with Steve Keen on his first day out of Canberra after losing his infamous bet which Rory (where are you these days?) Robertson ambushed him with the proposed wager at a public presentation.

A lot of things happened around those times. Such is the passion around housing investment that I received a lot of threatening email which, on reading, my family would wonder why I persisted with my efforts. On this site I have placed as much of my work from that time as possible, but unfortunately I lost quite a lot when my computer was hacked. I was tight-lipped about having been hacked for a few weeks but within a couple of hours of me mentioning it in an email to Tony Richards of the RBA I received a phone call from my bank saying that my credit card had been cancelled due to suspicious activity which had just occurred. I accept that it could be coincidence but I think it highly likely that I was being surveilled (by someone) at the time.

I became quite active on a blogsite named “Bubblepedia” set up by Sydney anaesthetist Daniel Cox and I think it is fair to say that I was a key contributor and my involvement was a major reason for it’s growth in popularity. In the midst of widespread group think around housing I found it helpful to “hang out” with like-minded individuals often in similar situations. I have always been careful not to provide advice but I was keen to provide my opinion on factors surrounding the housing market and the purchase decision.

While active on Bubblepedia I led the development of flyer which was available to print and deliver into mailboxes, and donations received funded the printing and delivery of the flyer in the electorates of PM Rudd and Treasurer Swann.

In late 2011 I bowed out from blogging on Bubblepedia as I had been hard at it for 4 years and there were some quality contributors entering the space who I felt could do a better job than myself. Three of these went on to form MacroBusiness. And by this time I had bought a family home which required work and I was happily getting on with that.

I left the group saying that I wanted to write a book around the issues of the home purchase decision process. But I was never committed enough to sit down and write it. In many ways this site will pick up on that desire, although housing will only be a minor focus, in a more progressive manner than writing a large treatise in one hit!
After Bubblepedia I continued blogging occasionally on MacroBusiness, and in the early days had a couple of Guest Posts.

However, in 2017 I pulled my support for MacroBusiness due to concerns over the way that they are prosecuting their arguments around immigration. As I explained to Leith Van Onselin when he called to discuss my withdrawal of support, I had become increasingly concerned with their emotional language, and the final straw was Leith’s use of the xenophobic terminology “white flight” in a post. Leith immediately admitted it was a mistake to use the term and edited the post upon my objection, but I explained that it is an error that should not have been made. The response by other participants to my objection in the comments section below his post really confirmed my greatest concern that the site is acting as a ecosphere for people who have ramped up and seek to further ramp up xenophobic emotions – Leith informed me that they do not moderate comments, which in itself is problematic in my view.

I read on occasions comments about the choice of Homes4Aussies as the name for my website. It should be noted that one’s definition of who is an “Aussie” is very much subjective, and all should be assured that mine is a very broad interpretation and I have always been very clear about that. In fact, my aim was to help all people seeking housing in Australia whether they be temporary residents right through to peoples who have resided in our geographical area for 40,000 years.

I never cease to be amazed by how quickly us human beings connect. If you need any assurance of that just participate in a student exchange and see how many children and adults are crying a the end of the week! (We have recently participated in two exchange programs and our guests leaving was sorrowful for our family.)

Anybody who respects us and our country enough to wish to spend some of their life here – even if just a year on a working holiday – almost certainly considers themselves partly “Aussie”, and I certainly see them as just that.

I vividly remember singing with moist eyes, arms around each other, “We are Australian” with an Indian-Aussie guy at an entertainment night during a month-long workshop in China. I love multicultural Australia and it is what I am most proud about this country. And being overseas, amongst intellectual and worldly fellow Humboldt Fellowship recipients, answering questions about the children overboard election was one of my most embarrassing and disappointing moments as an Aussie!

As I said in my parting comment on MacroBusiness, human beings are at their best when they seek to unite not divide.

Most recently I have only blogged infrequently on various investment websites and most frequently on Roger Montgomery’s. I have re-posted on this site some of my more recent comments as they remain topical and are themes that I will surely return to in the weeks and months ahead.

During my early blogging activities I seriously entertained the idea of challenging PM Rudd in the political arena by running against him in his electorate as an independent, admittedly not with any fantasy of actually beating him but with the aim to draw attention to the housing affordability issue. 

However, after a few years of intense blogging I realised that I did not possess the mental health capacity to be so actively and publicly engaged in public debate, and this was also a factor in me stepping back from blogging. 

As an early teenager I was exposed to chronic stress and conflict, and on one occasion I had to to bravely stepup to prevent a seriously violent escalation which could have had catastrophic outcomes.

These times left scars on my mental health, and in part precipitated my breakdown later in life when I was confronted by extreme stress and loss. As a consequence, while being reasonably adept at conflict and heated debate, I know that prolonged conflict – such as protracted debating – takes a toll on my mental health and causes me great anxiety.

While I wish to have my views heard on these critical issues, I need to do so in way which protects my health.

That is why, unlike on my first website and through my blogging activities on other sites, and although I respect others’ rights to have their voice heard, there is no opportunity on this site for others to state their supportive or contradictory views, there are no contact details to voice disagreement directly to me, and I aim to not publicly respond to any comments about me or this site.


© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2019

More On COVID-19 Origins And PM Morrison’s Tactics


I realise that for many the workings of a laboratory could seem very foreign and mysterious, ranging from mythical through to threatening depending on your leanings and predispositions to conspiracy theories.

Few of us have a background in infectious disease, and it is always – for any of us – easy to take for granted the basic understanding that we have on how things ‘work’ without stopping to think that others with zero experience have no understanding to even begin to consider whether a certain viewpoint has any validity at all or whether it is entirely far-fetched.

(In saying that I am reminded of the advertisement that used to be on radio for air conditioner servicing where they suggested other less reputable service providers might suggest extra work on the basis of the fictitious “fuball montechnic activity that could get into your beanbags, and stuff” – you get the idea – a bit like me looking under the bonnet of a car.)

I watched PM Morrison’s Friday afternoon press conference and saw that he was keen to continue the innuendo on the origins of COVID-19, no doubt to distract from his own inadequate response still 18 months into the pandemic and with an outbreak in NSW, threatening to take off, inadequately addressed due to conservative ideology opposed to strong measures (the exact same tactics employed by Trump for all of the same reasons).

I strongly doubt that Morrison even really understands what he is saying. Moreover I doubt he even cares whether he knows exactly what he is saying as it is irrelevant for his political purpose.

So I am going to spell out exactly what is being said by anybody who intimates that we can somehow know in short order how this pandemic began, in part insinuating a cover-up by the laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), because the only way that we would be able to know immediately would be if somebody stepped forward to ‘tell the truth’ (i.e. it was already known). I’ll explain the ‘why’ of that part last.

Now as I said in my previous article, I do not believe that there is anything to tell, not because I am especially fond of the Chinese national leadership, nor just because I count the leader of that laboratory to be a friend, but because of events that transpired early in the pandemic. 

Therefore I think that the chances that the virus came from this laboratory is very (extremely, exceedingly) low, and the reasoning is really quite simple and is readily apparent to anybody who has worked in experimental science in infectious disease.

I am going to explain it as plainly as I can.

If the virus was not cultured in the laboratory – i.e. grown in cells in flasks in laboratories outside from live animals – then the only source for it to escape from the laboratory would be from live animals that were brought in for experiments. This lab has developed general diagnostic tests for coronaviruses, which is how they have surveyed and detected a broad range of coronaviruses from bats (including tracking down the population of bats from which SARS likely originated). Note also those tests do not involve culturing live virus (it is the same type of PCR tests that are being used everywhere to detect COVID-19 now). And seeing as infection experiments should be done with healthy animals, and they would not want any new animals spreading diseases to their other stocks of animals, then it is certain that any live bats coming into their facility would be tested rapidly to ensure they are free from coronaviruses, probably while they are quarantined.

I, myself, have never worked with bats, but these principles hold when investigating any pathogen-host relationship.

In other words, there is an extremely low chance (essentially no chance) that the virus was ever in the laboratory without them knowing it.

Therefore, any suggestion that the virus came from the laboratory is an insinuation that there has been a cover-up.

Any ‘scientific study’ by an international group looking at laboratory records, etc, is, by definition, not really research but a forensic investigation looking for evidence of a cover-up. Thus requests to look at their records would be met with a degree of incredulity as it would be interpreted as them not being believed or trusted.

It should be readily apparent that that these ‘studies’ go well beyond a reasonable audit of accountability, especially when there is a desire to investigate the health records of staff.

Now, finally, the reason it is highly unlikely that anybody already knows from where the virus came is based on past experiences. It took 15 years for this same group at the WIV to work out where SARS came from by painstakingly surveying lots of bat populations along with many other similar studies within China and throughout the world. Of course they could only make educated guesses at how the virus got from those bats into humans, but they did find that people living near these caves displayed antibodies to this group of viruses suggesting exposure throughout their lives.

In all of my posts I have included links to these papers but I can see (in my site logs) that nobody has ever followed the links to the original sources. Can I appeal to readers to do that now, and especially read the section “Animal Origin And Evolutions of SARS-CoV”, skimming over the scientific jargon and acronyms to just read the words in between? If you do that you will realise that this paper, published just one year before the COVID-19 pandemic, and 16 years after the SARS event, says that after 15 years of intensive research they have failed to find the ‘progenitor’ of the virus (essentially the original virus that caused the outbreak), though that is unsurprising because these viruses mix up the genetics with other similar viruses all of the time, but they had found a cave holding a population of bats where there are viruses containing all of the ingredients to come together to make the SARS virus; that they knew that people first infected with the virus handled animals especially at a market and that animals in the area had antibodies to the virus so had been exposed; that the animals that passed it on to humans was civet cats; and while they know the virus was spreading amongst civet cats in the market, they still do not know whether the civets originally were infected by bats near that cave (or another cave with all of the ingredients to make the original virus) before coming to the market or whether another mammal was infected first and the first civet(s) became infected by this other animal from contamination most likely with their faeces.

Think through all of that for a second and then think about how ridiculous it is and almost like a petulant child to be protesting “I want to know where this virus came from now!” Also consider just how much work these researcher have done already to inform them on these types of viruses.

Perhaps this is why the Chinese are open to considering whether the virus came in with imported meat products – because they have already surveyed so many bat populations in their search for the source of SARS that they consider it possible to have come from further afield?

Of course there is scientific interest in finding the source of the COVID-19 in the wild, but we already know that there are certain to be very many pathogens that represent a significant risk to humans residing in animal reservoirs.

We have known for a long time that viruses from the wild present a serious risk!

Herein lies the most interesting angle that should be picked up on by Australian press if they want to give balanced coverage.

Dr. Shi Zhengli’s group has been warning that spillovers of pandemic viruses was likely to occur as humans continued to encroach on and destroy more natural habitat thereby increasing the interaction of humans and domesticated animals with broader ranges of wildlife pathogens. It is there in that passage that above I asked the reader to consider:

Given the prevalence and great genetic diversity of bat SARSr-CoVs, their close coexistence and the frequent recombination of the coronaviruses, it is expected that novel variants will emerge in the future

“Origin and evolution of pathogenic coronaviruses”, Jie Cui, Fang Li & Zheng-Li Shi, Nature Reviews Microbiology volume 17, pages181–192 (2019)

With PM Morrison’s record on the environment, is he ready to support measures to reduce habitat destruction and human impacts on ecosystems to reduce the risk of pathogen spillovers?

Finally, if anybody wonders why I feel motivated to write this article, I simply detest inauthenticity, or plain old BS. There is more than enough of a record of events on these pages to carry out an audit of accountability on PM Morrison’s inept performance through the pandemic.

Please note, also, that I am well aware that there are politicians the world over that engage in similar tactics, and though I give none a free pass, naturally I concentrate most on my own national anti-leader. 

What really gets to me, though, is the gullibility of the public which the likes of Morrison (Trump, Xi, Putin, etc) harness to their political advantage. It is the public’s inclination to believe what they want or at least what their ingrained biases lead them to attach onto; along with a history of outsourcing their thinking to media channels which have increasingly become polarised, narrow, and aggressive towards other viewpoints.

No doubt Morrison wants all Australian residents in lockdown right now, with minds naturally wondering to how they came to be in this circumstance once again, to foment their anger towards a foreign foe rather than towards him and his Government’s ineptitude.

As I said above, these master manipulators care little about what is fact or even what is reasonable as it only matters to them what they can ‘sell’ to influence the electorate. Then again, I often imagine what the really smart manipulators in the shadows pulling their strings think of their unprecedented ability to convince large swathes of the public of increasingly strange “ideas” – or fake news – through their puppets and communication channels. Surely the absurdity of material spread by QAnon and other radical groups is not lost to these faceless ‘men’. The power inherent in such a capacity was recognised 250 years ago by Voltaire:

Formerly there were those who said: You believe things that are incomprehensible, inconsistent, impossible because we have commanded you to believe them; go then and do what is injust because we command it. Such people show admirable reasoning. Truly, whoever can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. If the God‐given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to that God‐given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been dominated, other faculties will follow as well. And from this derives all those crimes of religion which have overrun the world.

I cannot help but think that these puppeteers must receive an extra surge of power, a trace of electrical current zip along their spine alike ‘the quickening’, when they hear one of their puppets repeat their absurdities with patent sincerity, as when Trump suggested injection of bleach be assessed as a cure for COVID-19.

Your job, dear reader, is to ensure you do not lose your head, and the only way to do that is to keep an open mind. But remember…

without an open heart a mind can never be truly open.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2021