Out to sea in a chaff bag

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Mass media induced group-think seems to suggest the Government is diabolical and Julia Gillard a witch — but that doesn’t mean it’s true, writes Letitia McQuade.


Why we love to hate Julia Gillard

We human beings are curious lot. No sooner do we achieve one heart felt desire, than another pops up to replace it. It just doesn't seem to be in our nature to be satisfied.

Of course we all want to be "happy", and the notion that we are simply not wired up that way is not one many of us would readily entertain. But the fact is, no matter how clever, rich, attractive, talented, healthy or loved we are, most of us live with the uncomfortable sense that somehow our life isn't quite all that it should be.

Of course there are good reasons why we feel like we do, “my tiny house, my tin pot car, my bald head, my overly ample backside”. Whatever our personal roll call of reasons, we generally don't like to discuss them in public.

We do however like to chat about commonly held, non-personally revealing experiences. It gives us a sense of belonging and alleviates any gnawing feelings of isolation.  That’s why the weather remains such a popular conversation point.

But, occasionally, we are handed something far more emotive and exciting to share than the usual run of glib meteorological observations.

A public figure (or group) that the media machine, in all its’ divine wisdom, has fully sanctioned for public vilification.

And once the groupthink is firmly in place, it's on for young and old. Oh, what joy!

Who remembers Lindy Chamberlain? How good was that?

"She’s guilty as hell", “Azaria means sacrifice in the wilderness", " Did you hear? They found blood in their car”, “They are religious nut bags you know!", "Just look at her, she's totally cold"... blah, blah, blah.

All you have to do is parrot the media sanctioned line and you can belong to a nationwide feel good cult of self-righteous, morally indignant, finger pointing jurists. It's easy, it's safe, it's cheap and it's guilt free!

Mind you, Lindy wasn't actually guilty, but that's not really the point now, is it? It's not by accident that terms like "scapegoat" and "whipping boy" have remained at the forefront of our lexicon for centuries. No matter how civilized we like to think we are, we still love a good public lynching. It brings us together!

So who makes a good candidate for this esteemed treatment? Celebrities are always a popular choice, especially when they are on the "out" side of their fashion cycle… and anyone accused of a crime is fair game.

But politicians — they stand head and shoulders above all other contenders.


Because while most of us will never get to sit in judgment in a courtroom, or have any tangible impact on this week’s "awful" celebrity; with politicians, not only do we get to hold them personally responsible for all of our life’s practical difficulties, we get to experience the exquisite joy of sticking the knife in come polling day.

Admittedly, I am being overly sardonic here, and in truth I don't think for a moment that we are all operating from such a viscerally base level. But I would respectfully like to ask those of you who openly claim an out and out personal hatred for one, (or a number of) our politicians, what exactly is it that you think you are doing?

If you are simply indulging yourself in the warm fuzzy embrace of collective condemnation, then I would like to remind you that from the KKK to the holocaust, the Coliseum to the crusades, Rwanda to the Salem witch trials, history is literally stuffed stupid with the immoral and barbaric consequences of publically sanctioned hatred. It’s just not a good habit for us to get into. It never ends justly, or well.

Besides, what harm would it do if we were to restrict ourselves to a sensible debate on the policies? I realize that Abbott’s detractors would find this considerably more difficult, given Tony’s determination to keep the bulk of his policies a closely guarded secret, butlet’s face it ‒ there’s nothing to be gained by the slavish regurgitation of pejorative taunts.

News Corp's Daily Telegraph was outraged by the Slipper "defection"
News Corp's Daily Telegraph was outraged by the Slipper "defection"

Granted, this type of discourse would require a little more critical thinking than simply echoing the pre-packaged rhetoric of the Daily Telegraph, but I’m sure the outcome would prove significantly more illuminating.

It's very easy to be critical, but politics is a complex job. It's not easy to get things right; after all, the fiscal pie is not a magic pudding! Choices have to be made, policies have to be set and a certain amount of pragmatism must be applied to the task.

We may not like every move Julia has made, but does that really mean we should go out and “burn the witch”?

Of course not! Just like the rest of us, politicians are blighted by the limitations of human nature. They do not govern with all knowing, all seeing eyes. They must assess a situation with the information they have available, and make their judgments as to the best course, (all the while knowing that every decision they make, no matter how well intentioned or thought out, will contain some measure of unforeseen toxic consequences that they will undoubtedly have to deal with later).

As a litmus test for political quality, I think it’s worth casting a critical eye over the factors that influence and inform a politician’s decision-making process.

For some it will be their own political ambition; or the interests of the uber rich, that fill their campaign coffers and give them lavishly paid jobs when they eventually leave parliament.

For others, it will be a burning passion to right a wrong, champion a cause, or simply the knowledge that, if they say yes to Great Noble Plan One, they will be pilloried in the press, voted out, and won’t get enact great noble plans Two, Three and Four.

Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect system and context is always key.

No government is perfect, and no government owes you a pain free life (it's simply not possible) but let’s not kid ourselves here — Australians, on average, suffer far less on account of lifestyle and economic considerations, than anyone else on the planet. The fact is, the overwhelming majority of us are housed, fed, educated, climate controlled, medically attended, and do stuff all for those in our human family who are not so fortunate.

Still, we Aussies do love to get together and play: “ain’t it awful”; “she’s a lying bitch”; and that perennial party favorite, “let’s blow the f***ing boats out of the water!”.

I hang my head in shame, sometimes. I mean, really, is this who we are?

Anyway, I have never been much of a one for groupthink, so I’m going to come right out and say it (and yes, I have raised many an incredulous eyebrow for openly, unashamedly admitting this in public):

…I actually like Julia Gillard!

I think she has a pretty good vision for where we should go as a nation and‒ while there are many points of policy upon which we differ — on balance she looks like a far better choice to me. She seems smarter, tougher, quicker and more emotionally grounded.

australian budget front cover_090512125211

Also, in spite of Tony, Joe and the main stream media’s desperate attempts to convince us otherwise, the Government has actually delivered us the strongest set of economic fundamentals in the developed world for the last eight years running. (As an aside… for those that continue to insist that our economic strength is ALL Howard and Costello’s doing, I have two words for you: “George Bush”. Irrefutable proof bad management can totally screw a surplus economy in less than 8 years).

Tony, on the other hand, worries me. He shows all the signs of being a bit of a loose cannon. While I don’t know him personally, to me he comes over as brash, cynical, combative, sexist, insincere, opportunistic, short fused, overtly self-interested and ruthlessly power hungry;but as I said, I have never met the guy, so I couldn’t say for sure.

Besides, none of that would really matter much if he had a grab bag of well-reasoned, socially elevating policies and a team capable of delivering them. But someone who appears to have that kind of temperament let lose in a policy vacuum? It’s just too frightening to contemplate!

Anyway that’s my opinion, for what it’s worth. I know it’s not a popular one, nor one that any decent, zeitgeist respecting citizen would willingly voice in public, but hey — I’ve always been prepared to go out on a limb socially J.

Who knows, maybe I’ll be the next one out to sea in chaff bag?

POST SCRIPT: Before I sign off, I would like to preemptively address the cries of “hypocrite” that my rather bleak assessment of Tony’s character will doubtless bring.

Firstly, in the absence of a solid policy platform, Tony’s character is the only thing we can examine to ascertain whether he is a suitable candidate for the job.

Secondly, there is a world of difference between voicing concerns about a politician’s possible character flaws, and labelling someone a bitch, a witch, (or worse), outright declaring them unethical, untrustworthy and morally corrupt, and so on, without the slightest shred of evidence and suggesting they be flogged in the public square.


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