Mackay, Hugh: The state of the nation starts in your street

Hugh Mackay

The state of the nation starts in your street‘, The Conversation, 2 February 2017

The Gandhi Oration at the University of New South Wales, 30 January. Mackay ranges widely from politics to personal happiness, the ‘fair go’ to homelessness, trust to terrorism, and poverty to obesity. He talks about ‘the three big threats – climate change, international terrorism, and the threat of a major global economic disruption’ – but comes back to ‘love thy neighbour’ as a talisman.

To conclude, let me revisit the state of the nation – our growing disenchantment with institutions, our tendency to disengage from the serious social issues that confront us – homelessness, the plight of asylum seekers, the enduring problem of Indigenous Australians’ health and wellbeing, the problem of growing inequality of income, the fragmentation of families, neighbourhoods and communities, and – perhaps as a consequence of that – the rising epidemic of anxiety.

It’s easy to complain about “the state of the nation” and to wish that a leader could make everything right. There’s a very long history of human societies placing too much faith in their leaders to save them from whatever they think they need saving from.

Loss of trust in leaders might not be a bad thing, though. ‘It might encourage us to look differently at the situation and take matters into our own hands by embracing the idea that the state of the nation actually starts in the street where you live.’

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