Risky business in challenging times

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  • Published 20090303
  • ISBN: 9780733323942
  • Extent: 256 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

TWO THOUGHTS SPRANG to mind as I dangled from the top of New Zealand’s tallest building one sunny November morning. Two hundred metres above the street in a bright orange jumpsuit, there was no escaping the notion that a wrong move might have me covering those two hundred metres faster than Usain Bolt. As I sucked in the clean air I also revelled in the knowledge that risk is what makes life worth living. By any rational measure, this risk was no greater than hundreds of others we each make daily – the safety harness would keep me safe and allow me to move on to better things. Aristotle believed courage to be the primary human quality, the base for all the others and the platform for risk.

In a world where risk-taking is now synonymous with Wall Street greed, the fact that all progress depends on risk, is one we easily forget. Where is Australia’s appetite for risk in 2009? It may show up on credit card bills, but rarely in great leadership. It is rarely heralded by the unexpected success of edgy art or entertainment. Instead, a culture of fear – fear of threats and achievement – is more prominent. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in how public policy deals with arts and the creative economy – those very places that should challenge a society and that are increasingly an engine room of economic growth. It is a dangerous place to leave a nation dangling.

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