The View From The Couch – 20/Jul/2014

The Politicians We Get Are From Those On Offer

Who would run? Why would you run? Who would back you? These are the kinds of questions that might cross the aspiring politician. I’m not one of them, so I can watch people run and fail with a certain amount of objective distance but ultimately that’s hurting me. It hurts me because I’m letting somebody with not the right tools to do the job, and on this blog you’d know for a fact that I’m pretty harsh with politicians. The higher the office, the harder I kick.

Democracy is a funny thing. In America, the most watched kid in high school is not the smartest kid, not the best looking kid, but the most popular kid. Being smart and good looking but not popular (heh, Irony alert!) I always found this American fixation on popularity particularly strange – but it stands to reason.If you’re not popular, you can’t win election, and only by winning elections can you access power, popularity as a character trait then is the highway to power. So all these people running for office, at least in America would be all these kids who once upon a time were the most popular kids in their year and there’s no reason for them to have been the smartest. And so even there America at least gets the politicians it deserves. It explains a lot.

In Australia it is a bit murkier as to what makes a person a good candidate in the eyes of the two great parties or for that matter the lesser parties. The process of preselection in various seats is opaque, and every documented account of how people are chosen is filled with intangible processes and thoughts that defy explanation. My local member – one Craig Laundy of the Liberal Party who looks like a gerbil – must have made some deal with some entity in the party to be the candidate. And so far, he’s just okay. Not terrible, not good, not anything in particular – a perfectly fungible replacement level MP. That Jaymes Diaz guy who went from gaffe to gaffe came from the sort of party room machinations that gave us Pauline Hanson a a Liberal or Eddie Obeid as a State ALP candidate. The point being if you asked (and expected) the parties to pick smart people to run, you still get candidates like Diaz, Hanson, Obeid, Craig Thomson, Peter Slipper, and so on.

Given politics i a kind of necessary evil, it is a good thing we’re forced to think about it seriously in Australia. In countries where they don’t have compulsory voting, the track record for democracy in many places is even worse. As Winston Churchill said, it’s the least worst option.

In that light, I want to just bring your attention to this article.

“What you say – always – is that you want to make a difference. You believe your experience qualifies you to serve. These circumlocutions are the etiquette of democracy, the ritual salute … [people] want to hear you say that you are in it for them.”

And how many times have you heard the pledge. To make a difference. To build the economy. To fight for education. And do you ever really believe it? Or do you suspect politicians are in it for themselves, far more than they are for you?

“It’s worth considering,” Ignatieff goes on, “that such dissembling may have its uses. The pretence may begin as a piece of hypocrisy and end up becoming a politician’s second nature. From pretending to serve, you may surprise yourself by actually doing so.” But the biggest challenge is to pull off the confidence trick. “You have to invent yourself for public consumption.”

And therein lies the asymmetry. Politicians do not get rewarded for candour or honesty; their first step is to commence from the hypocritical position to tell the audience what it wants to hear. If the audience is dumb and ignorant, these things are going to be a lot worse than you expect. This is exactly how democracy ends up offering the seeming, willing, willful idiots we get on election day. We can talk reform all we like, but unless the electorate smartens up a lot more, we’re always going to get the kind of politicians we want to throw off the top of a cliff.

but then, that would be why they’re cutting education. They ant to make it a lot harder for the populace to smarten up.

The Looting Says A Lot

I know it’s a war zone but the utter lack of respect shown by the East Ukrainian rebels around the MH17 crash site is pretty staggering. It sort of shows the crassness of the people on the ground near the crash site.

I keep getting told by Tomas how awful the Russians were when they occupied Lithuania. The stories are colourful (in a really bad way) and grim. I have discounted the awfulness because they were testimonials from the wronged, because they had reasons to paint them as badly as they could, and Russia under Stalin probably had very few luxuries of thought for people to behave better in occupied territories. Yet, when I see these reports of looting, I can’t help but think of those stories and consider the likelihood that these Russians in East Ukraine are not so far away removed from the brutes who occupied East Europe. They are as socially backward as you can imagine. What they’re doing out there looting is like something out of history books that tell you about early medieval peasants and serfs under the Tsars. It’s disgraceful in this day and age. I’m sorry but it’s culturally repugnant and there’s no valid excuse for them to be this way.

I really hope we don’t end up sending any troops into East Ukraine to fight these people. It really would be a waste of perfectly good ammo.



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