Feature

Bob Brown, the optimist

Bob Brown

Credit: Russell Shakespeare

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What kind of people do you think will read your book and who do you think should read it?

I quoted Bertrand Russell in the Foreword, saying, “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt”. I suspect the book’s going to be read by the self-doubters, and not the cocksure. I don’t think it is going to be read by too many people in our current Cabinet.

I think the book will be read by people who are very reflective, self contained, and thoughtful. You know I think however, here’s the trick; if you’re intelligent and full of self doubt – get over it! The Dalai Lama said as he grabbed the hand of a 14 year-old girl in Adelaide who asked him two years ago, “What is the most important thing a young person can have?”, and I thought he was going to say education or hope or love or whatever, but he looked her straight in the eye and said “self-confidence”.

That is so important, we mustn’t leave the stupid to be cocksure and controlling everything. That is no comment on modern politics; that is just how it is, it’s how the world has been mismanaged. There has to be an assertiveness by thoughtful people… and that means taking a risk that you will make mistakes, and will be torn to shreds by the Madame Defarge’s sitting at the base of the guillotine at the Murdoch media. She was the woman in A Tale of Two Cities who sat at the base of the guillotine waiting to cut the hair off the heads of the people to knit, that’s how much she cared. We have a media that tends to destroy thoughtful people and you just have to look at the current Jihad on the Press Council by The Australian. It is relentless. By a cocksure billionaire who sold out his Australian citizenship to make more money overseas, i.e. Rupert Murdoch, and we have to take on the media that is so destructive and negative, and interested in promoting exploitation of the planet at the expense of the natural commons, which we belong to. That is why you won’t see my book being serialised in any of the modern newspapers.

So what is the way to get through with such a huge empire of media control?

It is for the thoughtful people to take them on. That is what I did in politics, and people were astonished that I took on the Murdoch media, but I think that it is our job to risk the punishment that was metered out as a result.

We aren’t looking after the planet, and yet your book is called Optimism. How on earth do you remain optimistic?

Because I was pessimistic and depressed for 10 years when I was younger. The world was no better. Terrible cruelties were occurring back then as they were before throughout history. I was personally feeling inadequate, unsure and repressed, and I had a criminal flaw in my sexuality as it was seen at the time, you know, I could go to jail! I realised that it’s no more satisfactory than this. You can be optimistic which gets you active and helps things happen, or you can be pessimistic and be knocked out. We have got to get the good thinking, humane character of humanity being optimistic. It works in business. You are much more likely to succeed if you’re optimistic than if you’re pessimistic.

It will also work for making sure that this planet, and the humanity on it has a good future. It’s a tough circumstance particularly for young folk to cotton on to. But being self-confident and being optimistic and seeing how it goes is an important psychological option to explore. We don’t know what the future of the planet is, but it’s not going to be a good one unless those of us that are thoughtful about it are optimistic. If we are pessimistic and knocked out and leave it to the cocksure, the prescription’s not good.

The same goes for the humanity aspect as well…?

It is all interwoven. The global democracy, hated by the most ardent Democrats at a national level is a logical future that we have to go to. If we are going to settle human affairs in an age of very dangerous technology, we have to be able to treat each other as equals, and until we do that we are getting it wrong. My efforts in the parliament showed that there is no one who wants to do that, in the wealthiest country in dollar terms that has ever existed on the face of the planet. We are not about to share, and we are not about to see other people as equal. Certainly parliamentary representatives outside The Greens party aren’t.

In retrospect, is there anything you would do differently? In the book or in life?

Of course! I only wish I had the self-confidence when I was young that I have now. We all make mistakes, but treating one’s self as equal is incredibly important, not allowing ones self as seeing ones self as being subsidiary to the Rupert Murdoch’s or Clive Palmer’s or Gina Rinehart’s of the world is incredibly important. We have a culture which does put people on the pedestal. I have people come up to me and say, “Bob, it’s so inspiring to meet you,” and my feeling straight away is, “Well it’s inspiring to meet you because you must think the same way I do”. And it is as simple as that. And it’s just the getting the bit of confidence along the way.

I began this book tour speaking to 400 16 year-olds in Byron Bay who were from schools all over Northern NSW. What an experience! Young folk, very well educated compared to the past, much more alert to what’s going on in the world, which means more exposed to very depressing news than ever before, however, eager to make the world a better place. My message to them is, “Don’t ascribe to the people, and liberate the self confidence you don’t give yourself”. Don’t discriminate against your self. It is very important. As the Dalai Lama said, “Have self-confidence”… We need more people to take on the cocksure.

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