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Power and politics musings

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

Power and politics musings

Andrew Ryan

One of the life lessons I find difficult to learn properly, despite the universe throwing it in my face multiple times, is that it is better to have no expectations of anything you have little to no control over, because expectations in that department can lead to disappointment, and disappointment is fucking shit.

I’ve been trying to practice some Zen thinking to make that lesson stick, to accept that things are simply what they are, nothing more, nothing less, and to consciously and meaningfully go through life according to that principle (as well as some other nice ones), anticipating and expecting whatever from only that which I CAN control, only things in which I focus my time and energy to achieve/change/see. It’s really hard to stay in that mind frame though. Really, really hard.

Many of my head-dropped-in-hands disappointments of late have been to do with, you guessed it, Australian politics. It’s so tiring. Like, actually tiring doing all the reading and the learning necessary to figure out what the actual fuck is going on, figuring out why I am consistently disappointed by the government that runs this country I was born and raised in, a land I love and am thankful that I can continue freely exploring (a government which I and most people I know did not vote for btw)… I feel like they’re kind of screwing everyone over, you know? Everyone except people with heaps and heaps of money and no progressive views for a better and more sustainable future. So I’m going to write about that, again.

A lament up to the clouds: Why do people in positions of power screw people over? Why does greed and vengeance rule in the hearts of the powerful? They know you trust in them to do their job well, (in this case, their job being facilitating good lives for the citizens of the nation they have power in) but they turn their power against you for a quick, or even not so quick, benefit for themselves, leaving you feeling hopeless in the face of their obvious power over you…

Maybe I’ll write a song about that one day. I’ll call it “Say NO to Career Politicians”. A drone album called “The Effect of Neo-Liberalism on the Minds of the Young”. Under the recording name “Ohno”. Yeah, I’ll make my fortune in this society we find ourselves in, one that is politically maximizing its potential to become a place in which entrepreneurs can flourish, with a truthful and politically damning/subversive creative expression like that. LOL

I am aware that many fellow citizens share my disappointment in the government. “Approval ratings”, wherever they come from, say that not many people dig too hard on what’s going on in politics right now. The prime minister isn’t too popular, and the opposition leader isn’t too popular either. 30% approval or something for both, the last time I was made aware of it (this week some time).

On that note, I’d like to clarify that this rant I’m going on isn’t confined to just the Abbott government, nah nah nahhhh: it’s about how annoying the way everything works as a whole is.

Gosh knows that with Labor sitting so far to the “right” of their “left leaning” opposition platform, they’re still pretty fucking conservative because their policies exist to placate what they think the popular opinion is, probably based on focus groups they pull from popular facebook groups or something, it’s not leadership of any kind, not making big calls for big, needed changes, because they have been crushed in to defensive mode after the Abbott government’s huge smear campaign against them for so long. They’re weak, and thus voting decisions are very, very hard when the two big parties are both such shitty options, so many people feel stuck, and the Greens don’t appeal to a huge majority of any kind because they seem to be sticking fairly true to their original guns (fuck yeah) despite their increasing rise in popularity and they still scare a bunch of people because: spooky scary new progressive ideas.

…and confidence in the system slips.

Some stats:

In 2013, the percentage of those enrolled to vote in the federal election who actually voted: 93.23%. The percentage of all people eligible to vote (including those not enrolled) who voted: 80.51%. Around 25% of young people failed to vote. As of 2015, the percentage of eligible Australians enrolled to vote is 92.8%. So that means enrolment has dropped, and around 1 in 5 people did not vote in the last federal election.

I reckon political engagement drops when the cons outweigh the pros of doing so.

Some people just flat out aren’t interested in politics, but I think that has something to do with a lack of education on the subject, and this education is probably lacking because of what was offered within that education; a cry of “but politics is BORING” would not be uncommon in Australian schools, I certainly heard it when I was younger, and I still hear it now amongst adults.

I imagine it would be incredibly difficult as your average primary school teacher in tour average government funded school (which educates around 65% of Australian youth, the funding of which has been cut by current government) to create a lesson plan about politics that can engage each and every student in their over-packed classrooms because it’s something that needs to be encouraged in a special way for each individual to actually care about the process in a critical way. Kids (and adults) gotta actually feel the effects of something, somehow, before they care about it.

Empathy! Encourage empathy in kids and you’ve got some young humans who can put themselves in the shoes of others and think “Man it wouldn’t be nice to be in that situation vs my own situation, how can I help make that situation better?” and BAM you’ve got the makings of a decent adult who votes according to ethical values.

This also means you’ve got the makings of a decent adult who does their political, historical and social research and decides that, well, voting doesn’t seem like it actually does anything except justify the existence of an uber cashed-up political elite class, and the whole things seems a bit gross so they figure that system just isn’t for them. They see other ways in which they can help to change things the way they want them to be changed. And act accordingly.

(For some info on the pros + cons of compulsory voting, have a look at this swell resource provided by the State Library of New South Wales.

I am inclined to think that, based on my observations of this country, a country of much privilege amongst the majority, the majority seems to find it very easy to glide through their privileged lives having little to no reason to consider (or reconsider) the state of the society they live in, other than by the influence of the most widely distributed (shitty quality) journalistic sources and similarly privileged people paid quite well to shout their narrow-minded opinions via media outlets funded in part by those with huge corporate interests… and so very few questions get asked about human rights or social issues if they’re not inclined to feel empathy for those causes, so no criticism is given, political inclination is handed down through families the same way AFL team affiliations are, and the people in power can get away with doing sneaky things while no one’s looking because they know they can get away with it because of the lack of criticism; power corrupts no matter what etc etc, and that is why transparency is so fucking important. That’s why a television show like Q and A is so important to just exist and be available to view freely without being interrupted and distracted by advertisements for whatever thing some bright spark has decided there is a gap in the market for, AND that’s why it’s ridiculous that our Prime Minister banned his front benchers from appearing on the aforementioned show: it closes up the opportunity for ministerial voices to be heard on an unscripted platform, closes up the opportunity for discussion and critical analysis (and isn’t that what defines an informed democratic system?) and he shoots himself in the foot and outs himself, again, as an complete fool.

So I repeat to myself: “Must. Not. Expect. Anything” and “Must. Stay. Informed” and “Must. Stay. True. To. Own. Ethical. Guidelines” and “Big. Beats. All. The. Time.” Because music helps. And so does information. The end.