A Fanfare for the Common Man

In 1942, American composer, Aaron Copland, produced a musical work that he titled a Fanfare for the Common Man. This was an attractive concept for me because such tributes as fanfares are normally the preserve of kings and queens, emperors and presidents and those of popular high repute.

I was reminded of this because of the events playing out these last couple of weeks after the death of our long-serving Queen that certainly resulted in more pomp, ceremony and pageantry than most of us have seen in our lifetimes.

What a strange world we live in! A gracious old lady dies in the United Kingdom and of a sudden it seems as though the earth has been kicked off its axis.

Whilst I have a certain admiration for Queen Elizabeth ll, I am basically a republican.  However I must further confess at the 1999 republic referendum I did not support the case for a republic because the wily John Howard had manipulated the republican movement to pose a model I could not agree with!

Now whilst I am a supporter of an Australian republic, I (like many other Australians I would surmise) consider it only a second order issue. I don’t believe any in our society should be granted privilege because of an accident of birth. More than that, I tend to find it abhorrent that the media tend to treat the Royals as though they were just a more refined version of the Kardashians. But overall, whether we live in a republic or a constitutional monarchy will have little impact on the lives of most Australians.

The death of the Queen, (and the subsequent coronation of Charles whenever it happens,) was significant event that warrants extensive news coverage, but it doesn’t warrant our major newspapers devoting pages and pages to it, and our TV stations devoting hours and hours of coverage of it, every day for a couple of weeks. And much of the coverage went beyond factual, common sense reporting and tended to indulge in trivia and royal gossip which, to my mind at least, insults our intelligence.

There surely must be more important things occurring around the world.

John Carroll,, professor emeritus of Sociology at La Trobe University captured my own ambivalence when he recently wrote:

We live in odd times, times in which the person with the most formal role of anchoring the institutions of government and law as well as performing the ceremonial functions as head of state – she was the very guarantor of stability – should at the same time be the central figure in the world’s best known soap opera.

Inevitably with the Queen’s death the issue of an Australian republic will again rear its head. Sensibly, Anthony Albanese has put a temporary dampener on such discussions allowing the Queen’s passing and the issues of her succession to be progressed with due decorum.

Since the referendum, republicans have believed that the monarchy was unassailable as long as Elizabeth remained on the throne. The respect for her was so deep-seated and ubiquitous that challenging the monarchy while she was still the monarch,might be interpreted as challenging her integrity and most would not countenance that.

But there is a far lesser respect for her son and successor, Charles. A constitutional monarchy relies on having a monarch that is apolitical. The Queen was a perfect exemplar, but Charles has always been a champion of environmentalism and a vocal supporter of the elitist socialist movement fronted by the World Economic Forum. However, he has recently declared that as monarch, he will (following his mother’s example) resile from involvement in political issues. We should probably allow him space to demonstrate his credentials in that regard. Many, however, remain sceptical of his resolve to so distance himself from such issues. What’s more, in recent weeks, Prime Minister Albanese has publicly encouraged him to continue with his climate advocacy (no doubt because it suits his political agenda)!

Despite all this, as I speculated above, I doubt if average Australians give much thought to the issue of whether an Australian republic is desirable or not. They are probably more concerned with the cost of living, rising interest rates, the war in Ukraine and who is going to win the footy final.

Many who have an abiding interest in political affairs (myself sometimes included) tend to forget that many ordinary Australians have only a passing interest in these things.

Unusually, for a change, the news has, at least for a couple of weeks, been dominated by a conservative cause, the monarchy, rather than the usual progressive causes such as climate change or the so-called indigenous “Voice” to parliament.

It is a pervasive dilemma for many how to deal with these issues. The “common man” seems to be doing it tough when it comes to making important decisions about political or social matters. To begin with, the Left dominates our media making it very difficult for those interested enough to hear a balanced debate on issues of importance. Our democracy should thrive on a contest of ideas, whereas it is often starved of a conservative viewpoint. This is aided and abetted by the fact that those wishing to put an opposing point of view to the conventional wisdom of the Left are disenfranchised by the cancel culture so popular in our institutions. But it is also exacerbated by the cowardice of the conservatives who seem reluctant to raise their heads above the parapet to confront “wokeness” and thus incur the wrath of the politically correct.

Moreover the ubiquity of social media has resulted in many (particularly the younger demographic of our population) relying solely on that source of information. Much of the information circulated here is untested and focussed on supporting the “woke” agenda of the Left which is basically inimical to conservative values and hostile to the many virtues and achievements of our traditional Western culture. This intellectual wasteland has spawned Critical Race Theory, fuelled such anarchist movements as Black Lives Matter and increased the confusion of vulnerable young people by denying that gender is biologically determined.

It is disturbing that in this dysfunctional climate that fewer people seem equipped to make up their own minds on important matters but now rely on the guidance of partisan “influencers” whose main claim to fame seems to be the size of their social media following!

And it should come as no surprise that many ordinary people are struggling to make sense of their world given the lack of factual information and the inordinate amount of propaganda and disinformation they receive.

I would have to say that the most significant propaganda victory of the Left has been its success in manipulating the case for action against climate change. Through their inordinate influence in the media and through their dominance in our teaching institutions they have convinced swathes of our young people that climate change poses an imminent, existential threat. These vulnerable, ill-informed people have been seduced to believe that their lives will be significantly curtailed if drastic action isn’t immediately implemented to curtail carbon emissions. This frightening narrative is wrong on at least two accounts.

Firstly Australia is largely an insignificant contributor to global CO2 emissions and if indeed global warming is due to human induced CO2 emissions, our efforts to curtail such emissions has a miniscule impact on global warming.

Secondly, and more importantly, the world is not faced with an imminent catastrophe due to carbon emissions. Time and again the climate doomsayers have predicted imminent climate disasters which have failed to eventuate.

Internationally acclaimed economist, Bjorn Lomborg explains it thus:

It is no wonder people are scared about global warming given how the media covers it, how campaigners pound it, and how politicians get to grandstand and promise our salvation. Yes global warming is real and it needs our serious attention. But the endless jeremiads have warped our understanding of the issues. We need a better sense of what global warming will actually mean. Right now we’re getting lots of irresponsible journalism that’s scaring us rather than informing us. We need to end the sensationalism and get a grip on the real size of the problem by including information on adaptation and the expanding bull’s-eye effect.

[The catastrophists maintain that climate phenomena are getting worse and this is resulting in greater costs to our societies. Lomborg argues that there is no evidence that such events are getting worse and rising costs are a result of effected localities being more densely populated than in the past.

He also shows projections of future damage extrapolate from the present into the future without factoring the mitigation effects that populations might take. He argues that the catastrophists conveniently understate humankind’s capacity to adapt.

Journalist Adam Creighton, writing in the Australian about the effects of Hurricane Ian on the Florida coastline provides a good example of the former phenomenon. He writes:

The last time a hurricane struck Tampa Bay in Florida in the 1930’s around 130,000 people lived in the vicinity compared with about 12 million now living in more expensive real estate.]

Those that propagate climate alarmism are largely relatively well-off people from Western democratic societies. In many respects their motives are both elitist and selfish. They have little consideration for the effects that their climate response has on the rest of the world.

We know that the increased quality of life we have in the West has been facilitated by our access to low cost energy. But half of the world’s population has access to energy barely equivalent to that which was available to residents in European countries in the mid nineteenth century.

If we expect the poorer countries around the world to subscribe to the ambitions of net zero emission by 2050, we are condemning them to a future that doesn’t allow them to attain the same standard of living of advanced Western economies.

As scientist and author, Vacav Smil attests:

And how will we deal with unfolding climate change? There is now a widespread consensus that we need to do something to prevent many highly undesirable consequences, but what kind of action, what sort of behavioural transformation would work best? For those who ignore the energetic and material imperatives of our world, those who prefer mantras of green solutions to understanding how we have come to this point, the prescription is easy: just decarbonise – switch from burning fossil carbon to converting inexhaustible flows of renewable energies. The real wrench in the works: we are a fossil-fuelled civilization whose technical and scientific advances, quality of life, and prosperity rest on the combustion of huge quantities of fossil carbon and we cannot simply walk away from this critical determinant of our fortunes in a few decades, never mind years.

Most of the debate about the impacts of global warming has focussed on the carbon emissions emanating from the use of carbon fuels in the generation of electricity. The cost of restrictions on the use of fossil fuels whether for the generation of electricity or its multitudes of other uses, unfortunately falls on the poor. This, as we saw earlier, is an impediment to the economic development of lesser developed countries condemning billions being needlessly tied to lives of poverty. (It is no accident that China and India are merely paying lip service to goals relating to emissions reductions.)

In the developed world as well, unfortunately it is the poor who are bearing the brunt of the problems resulting from an undue haste to decarbonise. For example in Europe where their plans to rush to renewables are fast unravelling, it is anticipated that many poor people will die this winter because soaring and electricity and gas prices are making the cost of domestic heating beyond the reach of poor people.

Decarbonisation will inevitably increase transport and freight costs leading to higher cost of most consumables again having undue impact on the poor.

What’s more, most agricultural fertilisers are derived from fossil fuels. Higher costs and the resulting scarcity of of such fertilisers will result in more expensive and reduced supply of food again with disproportionate effects on the poor. (Bear in mind that the Malthusian projection of starvation and privation postulated by Paul Erlich and others in the 1960’s as a result of a growing population, was largely averted by the “green revolution” which dramatically increased agricultural productivity principally through the use of fertilizers.)

So, in my convoluted way, I am arguing that much of our political debate is focussed on the issues and the interests of the comparatively well-off inner-city elites to the detriment of the interests of the “common man”. What’s more, the problem is further exacerbated by the fact that most of the information available to the general public to determine a viewpoint on such issues comes to us already filtered by the “woke” institutions of the Left.

Consequently, in retrospect, it may not have been appropriate for Copland to write a Fanfare for the Common Man. That sounds altogether too triumphant and hopeful. Perhaps he should have written a Lament for the Common Man which describes our current situation better, I think.

4 Replies to “A Fanfare for the Common Man”

  1. Common as I am, I admit that I am more immediately alarmed about the near-future potential for widespread famine (due to reasons outlined above) and less well-off citizens suffering through a Northern Hemisphere winter with no access to affordable energy than I am about carbon emissions ….

    1. And rightly so! It is good that you have not been seduced by the alarmist climate propaganda. If only there were more like you (of course even in more respects than this!).

  2. Ted, I totally agree with you on alarmist climate propaganda, but not so on the Republic issue, as who can name a Republic that works better than Australia?
    Public vote? We’d end up with someone with the most Instagram followers, wouldn’t we?

    1. Nice to hear from you, Di.

      As I mentioned in my piece, I am a republican but it is a second order issue for me. Our democracy works well enough but I am egalitarian enough to somewhat resent our nation having to pay obeisance to someone whose merit is determined by an accident of birth!

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