The student strike and the social compact

Large numbers of school students have gone on strike today to protest about global inaction on climate change. This action has been met with a lot of huffing and puffing to the effect that students should stay in school and leave politics to adults.

Ideally, this would be the correct view. Part of the social compact of democracy is that the adult voting population should take account not only of their own interests but those of children who currently can’t vote and of future generations.

For those who have dependent children of their own, this isn’t a very demanding requirement. There’s no sharp distinction between your children’s interests and your own.

For older voters, the social compact is a bit more demanding. They cannot benefit directly from policies that make the world better for today’s and tomorrow’s children (a group that may or may not include their grandchildren). But they are morally obliged not to vote selfishly, taking advantage of the fact that they are enfranchised, while the young are not.

Sadly, the last few years have seen numerous instances where a majority of the old have violated this social compact. They have voted against the interests of the young out of a mixture of self-interest and cantankerous dislike of change, on climate change, Brexit and support for reactionary demagogues like Trump.

Having been let down by their elders, young people are fully justified in protesting against them, and ignoring their hypocritical expressions of concern about missing out on education.

38 thoughts on “The student strike and the social compact

  1. Hi Hugo. You dont have a mirror do you?

    And always pleasing to see you out yourself…

    “Oh grow up. I’m offended by some of the infantile nonsense you write”…
    …”will be grumpy old reactionary farts in 30 year’s time. I wonder why that happens?”.

    And worse you alway stick the boot in and don’t offer anything in return. “I wonder why this happens” as if you have no insight.

    Here’s calling you out as a psychological egg thrower Hugo.

  2. Ikonoclast – perhaps I should have said civil process or something rather than simply ‘civility’ – although I think civility is a much undervalued commodity; people can be rude and even, within limits, verbally abusive but it is up to courts to pass judgement sufficient to do any ‘assaulting’. Anning should face parliamentary censure, and possibly other legal actions for his vile statements but no-one should have that expectation that they should not be assaulted forfeited by public opinion.

    Anning should have had the self-restraint to not respond with violence in turn and his supporters (presumably) who knocked the egger to the ground and held him (assault again – and I thought someone may have kicked him whilst held down as well) was inexcusable.

  3. The social compact is not – cannot be – personal. As an empirical matter, we are so highly social as a species that we have been known to lay down our lives to ensure the continuity of our clans, regiments, religions, guilds, tribes, nations, unions and railway lines. Children are not needed for this. As a political matter, the old are as invested in the political community as the young – they just, in these instances, have a different understanding of what the future of that community requires. The physical universe will correct the misunderstanding, probably not in time to be useful.

  4. Hi John
    Agree with your thoughts. I applaud the young strikers because of the leadership they are showing.
    I am a baby boomer (BB). I find it hard to believe that my fellow BBs are all a miserable bunch of self centred people who don’t care about future generations. So I’ve convinced myself that BBs are not well enough informed about the full scale of current and future impact of climate change. Are you, or any bloggers here, aware of any social media or other movements based around BBs that aim to better inform them of climate change, and trying to persuade them to vote with climate change in mind. BBs are such a big voting block that influencing their vote in favour of acting on climate change sooner rather than later could be very effective.

  5. I find it hard to believe that my fellow BBs are all a miserable bunch of self centred people who don’t care about future generations.

    As the old Greek proverb says, “Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

  6. mrkenfabian,

    I substantially agree with all of your most recent comments above on the Anning egg saga. Anning’s offences are severe on a number of heads. As you said, he “should face parliamentary censure and possibly other legal actions for his vile statements.”

    In contrast, I am inclined to go easy on the youthful egger. Maybe that’s a personal bias towards forgiving relatively mild youthful indiscretions.

    The egging was quite careful and low key in the physical sense. It was to the back of the head and simply crushed there. There was insufficient force for even the mildest head injury. Above and behind the ears is actually the strongest part of the human skull. In any case, there was insufficient force to injure any part of an adult skull. In addition, it was not thrown or crushed from the front where there could be the danger of eye injury as cuts to the cornea from shell fragments and possible eye infections particularly if the egg is not entirely fresh.

    I reiterate, the egging was careful, not reckless nor calculated to cause injury. Indeed it can be seen appear to have been calculated to not cause injury by degree of force and target quarter in realtion to force. The avoidance of the eyes could also be explained by the idea of enacting it from an unseen quarter.

    All told, it seems clear that the attack was calculated to offend dignity but not to injure person. Given the robustness of political debate in general, a politician, especially a controversial politician, can be supposed to reasonably expect and be inured to minor offences against dignity but admittedly not to what technically can be defined as assault.

    The politician in question responded with at least proportionate force and possibly even disproportionate force. In that aspect, he may be considered to have adequately defended himself and enacted a salutary warning that he will not tolerate physical assault.

    Punishment and liability too should be proportionate and take into account all factors. I find the egger should pay for Anning’s dry cleaning or an equivalent shirt if the shirt is ruined.

    Next case. 😉

  7. In a mature liberal democracy, everybody should be free to express their opinion without fear of physical assault. That right should extend to the most miserable and despised soul in the land just as much, if not more so, than to those who say what we want to hear.

    As Ken says above, if Fraser Anning beaks the law, let the law deal with it. Ikonoclast is siding with Brenton Tarrant to the extent that both advocate violence instead of reason.

  8. Hugo,

    It comes back to the issue of proportion. There are gradations of both assault and violence. That is why the law applies graduated penalties. Where did I suggest in my last post that the egger should get off scot-free?

    At the same time, you don’t seem to be the least worried about bigoted and potentially violence-inciting hate speech. Do you subscribe to the tenet that anyone is entitled to be a bigot and to practice incitement of hatred and to possibly encourage hatred-incited acts, provided the incitement is not explicit nor specific enough to break the letter of the law? In that case your morality would rest on legalism alone.

    Outside of criminal law, which clearly does not cover hate speech pure and simple (without incitement) “it falls to individuals from a targeted community to initiate complaints about allegations of hate speech.”

    I won’t be replying to you again on this topic. I don’t think you understand the full issues involved and their ramifications.

  9. I won’t be replying to you again on this topic. I don’t think you understand the full issues involved and their ramifications..

    It is you who does not understand the issues. Oppressive regimes often justify their own oppression by pointing at the West and saying “See, even the supposedly enlightened West does X, Y and Z”. As an example, the crackdown on the Uighur in China is at least in part justified by China with War on Terror rhetoric.

    Your problem is that you never look at the big picture.

  10. Hugo – “As an example, the crackdown on the Uighur in China is at least in part justified by China with War on Terror rhetoric…”

    Uighur in China – noteably smack bang in Central Asia right next to one of the US largest overseas black sites situated on the China-Afghanistan border in Wakhan District, Badakhshan Province.

    Rhetoric from China?

    Recall Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski ‘had the idea at the height of the Cold War that he could drive radical Islam like a spear into the heart of then Soviet Central Asia’. Julia Roberts character along with Tom Hank’s Charlie Wilson character in a production typical of Hollywood, “Charlie Wilson’s War”, may be best known for Soviet busting in Afghanistan, but it was Brzezinski’s insight into the opportunities and grasp of the multiplyer effect of US funded and directed mujahideen that has presented Russia with such huge nation breaking problems ongoing.
    https ://
    https ://

  11. Hugo. You said this in prior thread… “to speak provided they aren’t going to incite violence”

    But one op back Closed borders you said this “to speak provided they aren’t going to incite violence”. And next you say to Icon “you who does not understand”.

    Hugo I, and Icon, understand you don’t understand you are inconsistent and seemingly unable to define a position to have a sensible dialogue with you.

    Would you please define you seemingly relativenand absolute statements re spech please. Lives may depend on it.

    Maybe…”The solution to that is to break up News Ltd.”. yet kulcha beats news so education would be good yes?

  12. Mea culpa. Sub editor out to lunch. Glasses elsewhere. Button pressed in editor.

    Hugo says:
    MARCH 18, 2019 AT 4:16 PM Closed Borders thread…
    “I would prefer to let anyone come to Australia to speak provided they aren’t going to incite violence.”

    And in this this thread; The student strike and the social compact.Hugo says:
    MARCH 18, 2019 AT 4:38 PM
    “In a mature liberal democracy, everybody should be free to express their opinion without fear of physical assault.”

    Those two statements are at minimum slightly at odds. Would you please define your seemingly relative, context specific and absolute statements re speech please. Lives may depend on it. This is seriously hard and necessary.
    1. “provided they aren’t going to” in your’s, or Icon or my opinion? What test. Australian law. Reported in news? Preferred opinion makers?
    2. “mature liberal democracy” – Russia? US?
    3. “without physical assault” Agree d and unambiguous.

    Yet Anning, after reacting once and hitting the egger then, imo, took advantage of the situation – the eger was looking at his phone – and punched at the egger again. Clearly the egger was done, Anning importantly, weather incited or not, didn’t or wasn’t able to control his violence. He will get away with this I’d say. But again imo, Anning should have NOT struck in the first instance. This is grey and goes to maturity and position. He is a minister. He had to be pushed away – violent or appropriate? – by a minder. Has Anning any history of this? Does the egger?

    I need obviously to take a dose of my own,  but hate speech and incitement to violence for me has no wiggle room. Here,  there,  anywhere. Hardnas it is to learn, a learnt response for “the other” particularly out of respect, for any group who feels free speech is violent towards them. Even if my cultral upbrining would allow only the “free speech” not “incitement to violence” or vice a versa to trigger these tags in my brain. 

    I have known Vietnam vets who, with ptsd, have a severe and yes, almost dangerous trigger response to alternating, ambiguous or context specific comments.

    Words matter. Phrases even more so.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s