The Death of Dirty Politics in Australia
I’ve never been to a Liberal rally. I was however, thrown onto an enormous ant mound when I was a kid. My older brother knocked me down and held me on the mountain of sand until the tiny black ants that had crawled all over me began to run up his arms. Then he gave me a quick jab and laughed as I ran to the nearest shower with one hand groping furiously at my prepubescent genitals and the remainder of my limbs kicking in every direction. It was a superhuman feet to get ten metres without tripping over myself. This is as close to the Liberal Party inner sanctum as anybody need ever come. The experience left me feeling like there were ants crawling all over me for days. It turned me into a nervous whining wreck and shattered my self-esteem for years to come.
That’s more or less the mood that gripped me as I approached Sydney’s Metro Theatre on the first day of Spring. The sun was shining in a perfect blue sky. I had left my winter coat at home and was charging up George Street in my jeans and brown leather boots. I had just been flirting with an Italian girl in a cafe, telling her about all the brilliant places she could go while traveling in Australia. I have money in my pocket and an excellent education, but the knowledge that I was headed to a political rally had ruined it all and put me in a foul mood.
The last leadership debate was a deeply disheartening experience for me. In response to the flood of media bias towards the Libs, Labour -no more ethical but with less corporate backing- had come up with the genius idea of paying the audience to skew the worm in their favor. Why they bothered remains a mystery, but it has left me with the sneaking suspicion that perhaps Kevin Rudd is actually a circus chimp operating a hollowed out sex doll. But then that leaves the question of why anybody would make a sex doll that looks like Kevin Rudd. This is a valid point, I tell myself, sex sells -as everybody knows- and the sex industry can afford to have the best and most intelligent craftsmen shaping their latex works of profanity. No self respecting latex sculptor would ever make an effigy of either of the two political leaders, not even for novelty purposes. The result would be horrific and one that not even the most hardened of demented perverts could stomach.
But we’re getting way off track here. If I’d have been in a better mood that day, it might have occurred to me that the Metro was a strange place to hold a political rally and I could have had something a little more productive to think about, rather than this fractious inner dialogue of sex dolls and experts in petro-chemicals. I’ve noticed that the negativity of the 2013 election has set this kind of demented thinking off in a lot of people. Nobody has anything to gain from this, but unless you are prepared to drink constantly and heavily between now and the sounding of the death toll late Saturday night, you will necessarily find yourself having these kind of disgusting thoughts -at least privately- and it’s best not keep them to yourself where they can fester.
The energy in the room as I enter the Greens rally, hits me square in the face. Political rallies aren’t supposed to feel like this. Political rallies are supposed to be places of unbridled anger that has swollen from the bellies of the famished, or else places of such deep and severe cynicism that it crushes the soul of all those unlucky enough to be born into the movement. But this room is different. It is cheery, happy, upbeat. The rock’n’roll hipster theme that adorns the walls is an indication of why this might be, but there’s more to it than that. I remember thinking to myself that these people are coming to the end of a federal election campaign, how can they possibly have so much energy?
I find a spot on the terrace and survey the room. There is a conspicuous lack of media coverage here. The only recognisable media presence is SBS. Shaking my head at the meekness of Australia’s third largest party I consider why it doesn’t attract more attention. But then again, the absence of commercial media in the room speaks volumes for their credibility. The ABC’s no-show however, suggests that the Greens are a genuine threat to Labour.
Turning to the girl next to me, I spark up a conversation. She giggles a little and I get the feeling that she thinks I’m hitting on her. If only that were the case, if only the fear of randomly ejaculating profane abuse didn’t prohibit me. I’m in no condition to be intimating myself with anybody these days, best to keep things casual. So I talk to her about politics.
She, like me, is here on her own and it is also her first time at a Green’s rally. Despite this she speaks with enthusiastic conviction about the work that she has already done for her newly adopted party. “I was at pre-polling last week,” she says. “A man called me poison when he walked in and apologised to me on his way out.” I make the suggestion that maybe he had been listening to a Murdock radio station and it warped his psyche. “Actually, I got the feeling that people are actually really sick of all that stuff,” she responds. “People are tired of the big parties not listening to them. People are very interested in what grass roots politics can actually do for them.”
This has been a common theme over the last month. People keep telling me how tired they are of parties that don’t have a democratic internal structure. The Libs have never in their history been democratic, and the advent of celebrity candidates shows us all what the Labour Party ethos has become. A former state member who shall remain anonymous recently boasted to me that he was the only person to ever beat a celebrity candidate in party elections. This man is a rarity in politics, possibly the last of his kind for the big parties. He was a man who had an open ear and with every decision he made, he kept the well being of his electorate as his focus. Then Premier Carr attempted to replace him with a Prop Forward. In the end it was the respect of his colleagues that kept him in his seat. He tells me that when Premier Carr entered his chambers the Monday after cabinet elections, our anonymous member’s electorate poster was there to greet him.
I’m off on a tangent again. The candidate for Grayndler, Hall Greenlander is at the stand when I come back to reality. He is a tall man, dressed in navy pinstripe and he speaks as though he’s a larrikin who knows he has the gift of the gab. “We are a positive, forward thinking catalyst for this country,” he declares. The injection of the word catalyst strikes me as effective rhetoric. But as his speech continues on in his flatly stated, positive bursts, I’m shocked by some of his language. “There is a low, negative mood in this country,” he says, “we need less stress, less anxiety.”
This is language that is a world apart from the discourse we have become accustomed to. It takes a while for the words to settle in my ears. For decades now, at increasing rates, stress and anxiety are encoraged by politicians in order for them to use as political tools. This is an insidious tactic that is like a double edged sword. Firstly people are manipulated into casting their vote with fear as their motive, but worse is the power this tactic has to take issues off the political agenda.
Take for instance the way that Tony Abbott promises to scrap the carbon tax “to ease the cost of living pressures.” Australia is an affluent nation, the only reason an employed person has to feel a financial burden here is if it is self imposed. Our financial system has been set up so that families live beyond their means. They rack up household debt which then hangs over their heads, allowing opportunists and conservatives to prey on their emotions. This in turn leads to the political agenda being shaped by the Financial institution, and big industries like mining who have an obvious interest in not paying tax on carbon emissions and stalling the progressive emergence of eco-technology.
Fear, stress and anxiety are a declining spiral in our country. The high rates of mental illnesses like depression are made evident by the amount of public money that is spent to combat them. But in a country that can afford to put immense finances into such a heady issue, can we truly justify feeling stressed in the first place. We enjoy an incredible standard of living and we would all benefit from being reminded of that from time to time.
After a half hour or so of standing on the balcony and enjoying the atmosphere I realise that the sick resentful mind frame I had been fostering is all but gone. I’ve unwittingly been caught up with the euphoria of the crowd, cheering along with them simply for the buzz, rather than by any conscious exertion. Then the answer to my previous question dawns on me me.
The most common words I hear at the Green’s rally are care, compassion, equality and love. Where boat people are concerned, the Greens want to care for them. Where Marriage equality is concerned, the Greens believe that all people are deserving of compassion and love. Wherever your own values may lie, it is hard to fault a policy that is founded on a genuine concern for the fate of all human beings. And that has to be why there is so much energy in the room. There is a spirit of love and compassion that energises people.
More and more in this world, we find ourselves powerless over economic and political forces. As negativity gains a stronger grip on us all, we become more apathetic. But apathy does not mean that we are emotionless. Apathy -like depression- is anger turned against one’s-self. The lessons of the GFC have still never been learned, and unless our anger is expressed they never will be.
Democracy is fast becoming a thing of the past. 61% of Australians believe that more needs to be done on climate change, yet both our leaders are promising to do less. The time has come to tell Rupert Murdock that his papers and think-tanks can rule us no longer. It’s time to acknowledge that democracy doesn’t mean choosing between the worst of two evils. Kevin Rudd is continuously telling us to not vote for Abbott. I say we vote for neither.
The current political state is not the only possible one. Change is possible. We can become free to engage in constructive political debate. We can release ourselves of the phycological pressures that media and politics force upon us. At some time in our history this will inevitably happen, but it never will until we do something different.
Love is powerful.
luckylukecox is an emerging journalist and writer. Although the Australian Greens are his preference, he is not a member of any political organisation.