Do you really know what you're getting from Generation Jones - the people who now rule much of the world?
Earlier this week, Cari Oke (a fellow Joneser) commented on how leaders from our generation are more likely than our forebears to strive for the greatest possible agreement when political choices have to be made.
As Gen Jonesers hover on either side of the half-century mark, are we seeing the telltale signs of our empathetic natures? . . . President Obama, born in 1961, is well known for his ability to see many sides of an issue and his belief that two sides can be brought together with a little help from a friend. Supreme Court nominee and Joneser Elena Kagan, born in 1960, continues to defy efforts at labeling. The best anyone can do is to call her a moderate.
For years, I’ve noticed and approved of the way "liberal-left" politicians from Generation Jones try seriously to follow political principles that are once “idealistic” and “pragmatic”. The obvious example, going right back to the “neoliberal” triumphs of the 1980s, are the concerted efforts to reconcile “social equity” with “economic efficiency”. Another example is the concerted effort that has been made over the last decade or so to synthesise “economic prosperity” and “environmental sustainability”.
But then I am, after all, a paid-up member of Generation Jones who has supported the New Zealand Labour Party and now the Liberal Democrats. And that may be one reason why I am more prepared than some Liberal Democrats to cut Nick Clegg (born 1967) some slack as he tries to frame the coalition government’s tough fiscal policies as progressive, as well as responsible. In today’s Guardian, Nick cites his conversion over fiscal consolidation as an example of accountable politics. Nick even says:
“I am a revolutionary but I am also a pragmatist.”
The latest example of the Jonesers' empathetic, thoughtful but somehow ambiguous brand of politics is Australia’s new prime minister, Julia Gillard. Born in 1961, she is the latest member of Generation Jones to take power. Her competence and professionalism are not seriously disputed. Nor is her ability to consult or to engage in serious dialogue on tricky policy issues. Sounding like a true Joneser, she has promised:
"We will consult, listen and encourage people to give their best and we will work through the nation's policy challenges with a calm, methodical and analytical approach."
In his first weeks in the top job, prime minister Gillard has cut a deal with the mining industry over resources taxation – trying to make the government’s “fairness” rhetoric work alongside the industry’s needs. But she has come across as less than forthright over border protection and the processing of refugees. And the commentators are now asking Gillard to explain what she really stands for and reminding us that you win elections by setting out a clear path to the future.
There’s an even bigger question around Julia Gillard – and Barack Obama and Nick Clegg for that matter. Even if another of Cari Oke’s observations about my generation sounds a little tongue-in-cheek, it still makes for uncomfortable reading.
While watching the implosion of Joneser General Stanley McChrystal’s career, one has to wonder if the Generation Jones ability to see both sides also allows us to play both sides. Does this characteristic come back to bite us in our once bell bottom clad butts? I could argue either way.
I hope that it doesn’t bite us anywhere. I am waiting and hoping for Barack Obama, Nick Clegg (though he's a deputy PM in a coalition government) and Julia Gillard to use their times in the sun to deliver a politics that is new and different in its substance. A competent, empathetic style of governance is most welcome. Using it to deliver the politics of the “soft heart” and the “hard head”, based on a more environmentally sustainable economy, would be great.