Compliant, complicit, cringing: Caught in the neoliberal three Cs

Mar 7, 2024
Political art, Concept idea of free speech freedom of expression and censored, surreal painting, portrait illustration , conceptual artwork illustration

Life in the era of end-stage Neoliberalism feels like a sci-fi script. While far right zealots gain ground with media clickbait frenzies promoting their disinformation and lies, the ‘nice people’ live in fear of being ‘non-compliant,’ so they do nothing, as the zombie-like aliens circle.

Joseph Heller would observe ‘It’s Catch 22 on steroids,’ as we watch madness take over the cockpit, while the passengers are all obediently remaining in their seats ‘until the seat belt sign is turned off.’

The US Election, Gaza, Julian Assange’s case, Australia’s ongoing mega-cruel treatment of Asylum Seekers, and the voracious appetite for red meat hysteria always being welcomed and magnified by our mainstream media. It’s bonkers.

So what’s going on to perpetuate this madness?

All sections of our lives have been wedged in by the neoliberal tool of compliance, in the name of accountability, risk management, protection from insurance liability, and the two buzz words of our era, Standards and Productivity. Plus the most effective tool to hold over everyone’s heads, Accreditation.

Truth is, nothing is more productive or massively improving in standards. It’s just important to keep using those words. It’s hard to improve Care when all your resources are dedicated to Reporting upwards.

Intelligent, informed, educated, ‘nice’ people all want to do the right thing. So they comply with the regulations, standards and assessments that are effectively running surveillance across every aspect of our lives. Otherwise they won’t be accredited. It’s like a permanent episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.

No one wants to put a foot wrong. And the smart operators who’ve cottoned onto this game have learnt chapter and verse how to echo all the necessary rhetoric, to get promoted into positions of power. Where they then go on applying the Three Cs to sustain their own fortunes.

So, the end result is a group agreement among the judges and magistrates, teachers, vocational trainers, principals, healthcare workers and managers, churches, aged, disability, childcare, and community groups, to allow this bizarre regime to thrive.

All the rolling royal commissions into abusive behaviours have just perpetuated this problem, because their findings and recommendations for reform always end up calling for more compliance regimes, to ‘ensure improved standards are upheld’ in future.

But what actually happens is that fear rules the roost, and the people who should be calling out the emperor’s new clothes actually become complicit in keeping the game alive.

No one wants to rock the boat and suggest that this fear-based passive acceptance of a crippling regime has crushed the life out of core human endeavours. And the ability to respond to local needs in an informed, flexible and community connected way.

So people become cringers. Sitting on their hands watching the BS game roll on, year after year, as Milton Friedman laughs all the way to economic rationalist bank – still cashing in on the lie after all these years. And helped out by all the cringing ‘nice’ people hoping to be accredited for another year keeping the lie alive. And outside the gate the MAGA madness grows louder.

What can you do?

You can stand up and scream that it’s time we reinstated the very things that the wrongdoers originally abused, which led us into this Groundhog Day mess in the first place – things such as Trust, Local Discretionary Judgement about what’s right in each context, Common Sense and Decency in deciding how things are run. Allowing healthy questioning and debate about what works and what doesn’t.

That’s the sort of perspective informing current discussions among those of us wanting to see Catholic Aged Care revive its original Charism – Loving care for Elders, in Communities of Belonging, where they have an Identity and Purpose, and where Spirit-based approaches are as important as any ‘standards.’

These were the values and practices established by St Mary MacKillop and the Sisters of St Joseph, and the Sisters of Mercy, and the Sisters of Charity and more. They were coming from the Heart and Soul, and don’t we need some new injections of that serum.

What has happened in the forty plus years of the neoliberal nightmare is that the uniquely human capacities for Care, Compassion, Creativity and Imagination have all been worn away by the dehumanised surveillance system of economic rationalism.

We need to revive these values and practices, along with nurturing Innovation, Imagination and Ingenuity to adapt to the world as it keeps changing. The only way to do that will be to negotiate with ‘the authorities’ that they take their foot off our neck and allow such options as five year accreditation of trusted providers, to allow them to keep exploring what the new age of care and community integration can look like.

Standards can still be met, but through true local collaboration with assessors, not fear-based intimidation. And people need to be able to question and debate the key issues, not remain silent for fear of reprisals.

Somewhere there will be people reading this who have started squirming in their seats. Uncomfortable with their own sold out truths. It’s up to you to call the game guys. Question all the BS, and start returning to basing decisions on local discretionary judgements and trust in local providers, rather than cringing in the fear of being failed at your next accreditation inspection.

As William Shatner was wont to say, “Weird or what?”

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