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Bread and Butter Issues


A tale of two cities

I sit in traffic sipping the coffee I had stopped to purchase as my head was a little heavy from lack of sleep. The mattress I had bought recently was doing its job, but I needed to go shopping for a new pillow. I had heard an info advertisement tell me that there were nasty things living in my pillow.

The radio attempts to cheer my mood as my favorite DJ plays a track. I look around and see others in my plight. Lone warriors in bubbles of plastic and steel, on our way to earn our keep so we can keep our loved ones feed, and by so doing, survive.

The song ends and the DJ crosses to an eye in the sky who reports that there has been a fatal accident on a road I thankfully am not on. My concern is not for the survival of the person who has died and how their family will survive without their bread-winner. No. My concern is if the spillage of cars from that arterial route will slow my own trip to work


I watch my TV with fascination. And my mouth literally drops as I see with my own eyes and hear David Attenborough explain the struggles of a lone seal who has found itself in a precarious position.

The seal is far from land and he had been spotted by a herd of killer whales. The move in to take the hapless seal and, no pun intended, attempt to seal his fate. Yet the seal has a trick up their sleeve. A small floating iceberg becomes its only hope of salvation.

The seal hustles through the water, the hungry predators in his wake. The seal reaches the iceberg, but it is too small for it to seek shelter on. So it seeks shelter under it. And around it.

At first the pictures seem to indicate the seal has become one of the whales meal. But then his play for the iceberg becomes apparent. The seal now uses its speed. Dodging the mouths of the larger animals. His size also gives him an advantage allowing him to make sharper turns around the iceberg.

The whales need to turn and then return to the iceberg in much wider, more tiring circles. Eventually, the whales give up fighting the speed of the seal and the current of the water and the individual seal survives the day against a larger pack of foes.

In another part of the oceans, a species of dolphins demonstrate a learned ability that mocks the idea that we are the only truly intelligent species on the planet.

Survival of the individual from the aid of the group.

‘For every creature, every day is full of challenges. All of them must be overcome, somehow, in order to survive,’ narrates Mr Attenborough.


The same challenges affect us.

To me these challenges are the true bread and butter issues we should all be concerned with. Not if I have the latest gadget or the newest technology of computer designed pillow. But true real bread and butter issues.

We all ask the same questions.

What makes us human? What does it mean to be human? Is the survival of the group more important than the survival of the individual, or is the survival of the individual what makes the group stronger?

In the two scenes above I describe from the BBC series called simply LIFE, we have both examples. The seal that survives will now have a better chance to bred and pass on the trait that allowed it to survive on to its offspring. In the other, the dolphins social teamwork has allowed them to learn and teach an ability to others.

Recently the leader of the Opposition has opined that he believes that we should be more concerned with bread and butter issues. That we should concentrate more about self then the group. That we should in fact research those new pillows and sip our coffee in traffic, then bother about larger survival of the species issues.

Ignore Climate Change. Ignore the debate on Euthanasia. Ignore the rights of the individual. Think iPad. Think latte. Think traffic.

I can not help think that the issues are all interrelated.

By discussing the rights of the individual and talking about issues that are complex, we share ideas. We share information that makes us better thinking creatures. And more human ones.

We place ourselves in the situation of others and attempt to understand their arguments. And we are more empowered to let others hear our own.

Instead we live in artificial communities where many of us may not know the first and last names of people 5 houses away from our own. This is not survival. This is making do.

In our need to make our lives warmer in winter and cooler in summer; to make our work more efficient and our travel faster, we are contributing to climate change. This is a clear survival of the group question, but some would have us to think more tribal. To don tribal war paint and choose not to act as we are but a small tribe.

I argue that we are indeed from a small tribe. But that tribe is not called far north Queensland as Bob Katter espoused. It is not Collingwood v St Kilda.  It is not Liberal v Labor. It is the tribe of man. We are members of this tribe. We are obligated to discuss this issue for the survival of that tribe.

Likewise we are a tribe made of individuals. And likewise we must address the needs of individuals to also survive. Even if the issue is the right to die. We are obligated to discuss them and debate them. This debate will divide and yes it will be emotional. But we must pass this to be stronger in the end.

These Mr Abbott, ARE bread and butter issues. These are concerns that affect our very core. Our humanity.

For those who read my posts, you maybe well aware of my obsession with a seemingly trivial comedy of the late 1970’s called ‘The Life Of Brian’. Once again, I leave you with a scene that I hope sums this  post up but also highlights the threat of interest groups that can disrupt discussions of these important issues.

“Yes. We are all individuals!”

“I’m not”

A. Ghebranious 2010         All Rights Reserved

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