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26 responses to “Whither dignity in an age of political hate”

  1. Graham Bell

    Dignity in Australian political life is dead.

    Not that long ago, it was possible to be a very robust politician (female or male; Left or Right; minister or backbencher), thoroughly involved in the hurly-burly of public life …. and yet still retain one’s dignity, honour and integrity.

    Not now.

    For that I blame the cess-pit which is sometimes called the news media (how’s that for an oxymoron?).

    I also blame it on the excessive number of male lawyers who infest Parliament; they have a set of offensive attitudes that certainly do not reflect the attitudes towards women held by almost every other bloke I know personally (then again, perhaps I mix in very strange company …. but I don’t think so).

    Don’t worry. Come September and we’ll all have a chance to sack the offenders in Parliament. As for the news media: don’t read or watch or listen to their garbage – just turn them off – they need you but you don’t need them at all..

  2. Terry

    Blame the electorate?

  3. Lefty E

    Abbott PM isnt going to help the dignity of the office either.

    Just imagine: when Credlin can no longer yank him off stage. Its even gonna embarass the Right.

  4. Alison

    The PM has been treated badly – I agree.

  5. Katz

    The electorate has been on a learning curve. They know that The Hollowmen is in fact a documentary about Australian civics.

    When voters know that their taxes are funding the lies and spin peddled to them, they are understandably cynical and bitter.

    Remember the “Real Julia”? Has she turned up yet? If so, which one was it?

  6. alfred venison

    i blame it on the internet. think about it. what’s different now from ten or 15 years ago? web 2.0. -a.v.

  7. Moz

    I’m not convinced that it was this bad before Gillard, I think it’s more thaat she was the excuse. There’s a lot of factors, from “The Hollowmen” and similar ‘politics is crap” TV to the “just say no” technique that worked so well for the right in the USA.

    But a big part of it has to be the desperate struggle for relevance from the legacy media. Print media knows their funding model has gone and their “we decide what to print” conceit is no longer relevant. So they’re desperate to show that they still have power, and The Age editorial over the weekend is, to me, the last gasp of a dying broadsheet. “see, we made the story, see! See! Look!”. Yawn. There’s so many websites who do politics better than anyone in the bought media that it amazes me that the printed pundits can find anyone to pay for that crap… QED.

    I really think that the answer is microparties. Let’s acknowlege that politics has splintered and try to build a political system that works with that rather than trying to paper over the cracks. The whole “unions, humanitarians, socialists and blue collar workers” party vs “small business, right wingers, authoritarians, xenophobes, homophobes and the exceedingly rich” party just does not work any more. Add in the slow generational shift as the boomers age and we have a recipe for trouble, even without the climate crisis.

    Over the weekend I also got into a discussion about the specialness of the boomers. They really are an extremely odd generation, born on the crest of the rich-poor generational cycling that has been happening since the industrial revolution. They’re the highest crest so far, and have also benefitted from the cohort size that gets them the “boomer” name – thanks to democracy they have more say than any similar cohort. All of which they mostly accept as their birthright. How do we deal with that? I dunno.

  8. Salient Green

    Whether Julia Gillard steps down before the election or leads Labor to a terrible defeat she will still be a martyr to the cause.
    Either course will silence the meatheads and mysogynists (the ranks of whom include women) and allow a bit of outrage at her treatment to get some air.
    She has not disgraced herself, quite the opposite.
    The third possibility is she pulls off an election win but even that would not guarantee any respect from the meatheads and mysogynists.

  9. Fran Barlow

    indeed I would prefer Julia Gillard to lead the country more than any politician from any other political party.

    Well as much as I endorse the substantive claims about the misogyny directed at the PM, this is a bridge much too far. In this very place last week we explored the horror visited on those seeking protection through resort to irregular marine passage. Gillard is at the head of that program. Assuming they could muster support in the house, I’d much sooner have Adam Bandt or Andrew Wilkie or perhaps even Rob Oakeshott or Tony Windsor or any of the Greens Senators (assuming that we could get past the being in the lower house thing) or if we had to have an ALP figure than Penny Wong or Greg Combet (assuming we could disentangle them from current asylum seeker policy).

    I idly wonder, would if given the opportunity take joy in spitting in the face of their Prime Minister? Or indeed, for that matter, Tony Abbott?

    Speaking as someone with no respect at all for the politics of Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott and active disgust at the provenance of theose ideas in the bogus political coaltions of which they are the figureheads, I have no desire to spit in either of their faces. At a purely personal level I bear them no sentiment at all. I abhor their contributions to political discourse but I only know them through their public personae. In an exemplar of the internet comeback that if my aunt were a male she’d be my uncle, I don’t know what either of them would be like if they weren’t so defined by their roles in public life. Perhaps they’d be amiable (albeit perhaps rather vacuous) folk. It’s hard to imagine that I’d want them as even acquaintances, but really, I can’t say for sure.

    My interest in them begins and ends with their roles in public policy, and via that, their roles in shaping the kind of workld we have. Their activity is pernicious and corrosive of political inclusion and equitable collaboration, but as far as I can tell, they are mere, figuratively, mere mannequins, the expression of the agency of other misanthropic interests — a kind of political flotsam on an a nasty sea, bobbing about and waving as if they were intrinsically significant, when they are like the ugly sores that mark an illness. They tell us by their words and deedsthat something is profoundly wrong with social arrangements, and to some extent, what kinds of thing are awry but beyond that, nothing.

    It’s in this sense that the misogyny debate is germane. I spoke over the weekend to a woman I have known since her childhood. She was my neighbour from early 1992, when she was just seven years old. She is 13 days younger than my elder son. She was, during all of this time, the sort of child any intending parent would describe on an application form as their preference. She was bright, diligent, generous, honest, polite and dutiful to her family. She did very well at school and became, at the insistence of her Cantonese parents, an engineer and predictably, did very well at that. Yet when I spoke to her yesterday, she said that she was not as professionally respected as males who had done far less, or were even new to the organisation. She put this down partly to being of modest stature and perhaps because she was Asian and fit a stereotype, but she did note that merely in order to be taken seriously, she had to work twice as hard and could not imagine ever becoming management or even having any particualr protection against retrenchment. The boys, she said, just don’t feel comfortable with women having authority. This applied both in her engineering firm and out on building sites. Her account rings true.

    I’m not surprised that an agnostic unmarried female PM is copping this animus. Doubtless, if the boss class were relatively keen on her service, as they were with Thatcher in the UK, they’d be much more polite, and certainly avoid blatant misogyny, but they are keen on the extraction of even greater largesse from working people than she can currently obtain for them, so it’s not surprising that every piece of mediaeval filth has been adduced against her. Misogyny has a long history and the lines write themselves.

  10. Katz

    The boomers never “accepted” any “birthright”.

    They fought for what they got by tearing up the old zeitgeist and replacing it with one of their own.

    And BTW, the boomers are the strongest supporters of the ALP of any voting cohort.


  11. paul burns

    At least we only throw salami sandwiches at our politicians, not bombs.

  12. Moz

    Katz: the boomer zeitgeist is exactly what I’m complaining about. And I agree, they have fought and will continue to fight for what is theirs regardless of circumstances. Which have changed, and not in a way that would allow us to continue supporting them in the manner to which they have become accustomed.

  13. Helen

    Terriffic. A bit of intergenerational hatred. That’ll fix the problem of political hatred and incivility all right.

    Rupert Murdoch and Gina Rinehart rejoice from both sides of the generational divide when people do this, as they’ll ignore class, gender and race if they’re obsessing with generations. They sit back and chortle as you wander further into the mire following a discredited theory.

    John Quiggin has the skinny on this zombie idea here, http://johnquiggin.com/2003/08/19/the-generation-game/ and again here http://johnquiggin.com/2012/04/05/will-the-generation-game-never-end/

  14. Graham Bell

    Fran Barlow @9

    Very well put.

    Why is it then that quite a few of the blokes I know respect women, welcome their opinions, disagree with them on the basis of the matter being discussed and not on their gender, are comfortable working with them …. and yet so many other blokes treat women as inferior, ignore or ridicule their ideas and seem to be afraid of them? I just can’t understand it.

    Moz @ 7

    Spot on.

    The concept of micro-parties is great but it has Buckley’s chance of ever happening here …. the dumb-bunny Two-Party Preferred fraud is too deeply entrenched in both the political system and the news(??) media. That micro-parties function very well in many other countries doesn’t matter one little bit; here, you have to be either one thing or the other, “you’re either with me or against me”.

  15. Moz

    Helen, Quiggen has picked some misuses of the term and derides them accordingly. I was hoping you were linking to one of his better pieces and that he had actually shown that the boomers were not what I made them out to be. On the other hand, you’re at least consistent – I’m not showing hatred or being incivil either.

    Katz was closer with the comment that boomers are more likely to vote ALP than other cohorts, implying that they’re thus less responsible for the Howard error.

  16. Jumpy

    Is there an equivalent of the golden raspberry award for blog posts ?
    Just asking.

  17. Brian

    FWIW I was born in 1940, so I’m an ancient fossil. My wife is on the cusp, technically a baby boomer. My younger bro and his wife are definitely boomers. I have a son and a daughter who are X and a son who is Y.

    IMHO there are cultural differences, which I’d leave to the professionals to identify rather than do so subjectively. However, it is not a case of better or worse.

  18. alfred venison
  19. alfred venison

    micro parties have as much chance happening here as anywhere there is an internet. -a.v.

  20. akn

    av, I hadn’t come across Joneser before. So I’m one too. I’ve alsways resented being identified with the sense of privilege and entitlement the worst of the first tranche of boomers possess. Still, I’m sure there are plenty who bemoan the perfidy of Jonesers.

    As to the possibility of respect in an age of hate – by my reckoning things will get worse. Incivility is the hallmark of those unable to treat others as equals in citizenship; this betokens not a refusal but an incapacity to conduct themselves according to the fundamental value of democracy. You don’t have to be a radical equalitarian – just able to recognise common, human citizenship within the nation.

    Haters are anti-democrats which is why we’re in trouble with Abbott’s ascendancy; he’s a hater too.

  21. Katz

    Correlations between age cohorts and voting intentions are quite weak.

    However, it is probably true to say that if only boomers had voted since 1972, the Coalition would never have won an election. That consistency across almost 40 years of electoral history undermines the null hypothesis.

  22. richard

    Let me see if I can get this is the right order – in 2010 Labor (Rudd and Gillard) scrap plans to tackle the “great moral challenge”, introduce a mining tax which brings with it a vicious backlash from the miners, promise to get back to surplus , then us mug punters find out Kev is a whack job and had to be knifed by Julia, who then nearly loses the election, forms a minority government which passes lots of laws some of which really annoy the punters because she said she wouldn’t do them, continues to promote a surplus, fail abysmally to ever get a political message across, complete failure to engage the public with their policies because of constant barracking from the Spurned One they call Kevin, her inability to speak in public without sounding like she is talking to naughty kindy kids, this week they will get back to surplus, and Kev’s daughter plugs her book and lays another Rudd boot into Julia.
    Gillard can claim to have some good policies and to have run an effective government and she can be rightly lauded for the NDIS, that really is a landmark event. But she has had an Opposition Leader who is without a doubt the best we have ever seen, a relentless focused attack dog who understood the politics of a minority parliament exposing the weak flanks (Thomson and Slipper) and could craft a message that cut through “a great big tax on everything”.

    In the end it comes down to Gillard being crap at politics. Her sudden and unexpected ascent to power and how it was achieved was always going to leave her with trust issues. Then lie about a major policy and the trust is broken. When she knifed Kevin she should have made sure the bastard was dead, and then kept the Greens perpetually agitated and on the verge of leaving government. But that would not be much of a legacy.

  23. Graham Bell

    Alfred Venison @ 6 blames the rise of the internet but I politely disagree. I suggest, instead, the rise of excessively violent and nasty video-games (played by adults as well as by kids) …. as well as the rise of bully shows (laughingly called ‘reality shows’) on TV where there are only ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ and the ‘losers’ are always ridiculed and humiliated; where nastiness is presented as “normal(??)” behaviour; where complexity does not exist; where tolerance is presented as ‘weakness’; where sociopaths are rewarded. It’s hardly surprising, when such perverted attitudes are praised day-in-day-out, that similar attitudes should infect parliamentarians too.

  24. Russell

    “and she can be rightly lauded for the NDIS, that really is a landmark event.”

    Shouldn’t Shorten be given the credit for that?

  25. Ambigulous

    Dignity was shown by Julia Gillard in her farewell speech as PM. Let’s take a leaf out of her book.

  26. alfred venison

    fair enuf, Graham Bell at 23, i was simplistic and i agree with your video games and reality t.v. and raise you the intro of cable t.v.

    similar to evolution, a society’s dominant communication technology – like the internet or the phonetic alphabet or the manuscript or moveable print – constrains the range of the parameters within which social, political & creative communication happens, but does not determine it. like mcluhan said (understanding media) the telephone has its effect on society whatever is said on it. and as harold innis said (empire and communication) a society that writes with a brush on papyrus, rather than with a chisel on a rock, favours an aristocracy & disfavours theocracy.

    the internet is the culmination of many electronic technologies which have been converging for decades & which having arrived at convergence have decisively altered the media ecology of society in our time.

    by its presence the internet is buffeting & undermining the authority of all the social institutions and practices developed during the centuries when social & communication constraints were set by the technology of the book & moveable print.

    the technology of the assembly line represents the culmination of the linear sequential analytical mentality of the society of the book. under pressure of the internet it is gone. the constraints set by the technology of the book have given way in our time to constraints set by the technology of electronic communications, which favours the distributed assembly matrix and disfavours the linear assembly line.

    mcluhan said that the mentality of a society grounded on electronic communications will be like an acoustic space “where the centre is everywhere and the periphery is nowhere”. where, in my paraphrase, everyone’s an expert and no one’s an authority. this is why we have zugzwang in climate change response. this is why we’re losing respect for the political and social institutions which have up to now been grounded on a media ecology centred around book culture. -a.v.