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Governed by inferiors

Perfect politician.

Perfect politician.

A while ago, Plato apparently said "one of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors", which I'm sure would ring in the ears of every person in Wyatt Roy's electorate ...

That's a cheap shot; I'd hope Roy's smart and earnest and well-meaning but, as I've written before, I can't imagine Australia's youngest-ever parliamentarian (at just 21), has the life experience to empathise with many more people save schoolies, Jessica Watson and farmers who remind him of his parents.

In a sense, though, Roy's the perfect politician for the media age because he's got so little past for either his enemies or journalists to exploit.

You can't dig up any dirt on the guy because he hasn't had time to lark in the mud - which is what many would argue your 20s are for, not sitting downwind of 60-year-old men and women after they've gorged on the bolognaise in the parliamentary dining room.

The reality of politics, as we're reminded tirelessly, is it's a "dirty business", but far better than the alternative which is violence, bloodshed and war.

This handy little axiom, though, seems to be self-fulfilling, used as rationale to play the game of politics in any sordid manner because that's how everyone else goes about it.

The irony is that, nowadays, if you have any dirt on you to start with - marital failings, past drug use, a criminal record, sexual peccadilloes or mental health problems - you can't even get into the dirty game; it's reserved for "clean-skins" or those wily enough to present a clean skin (and accompanying Google search results).

So we get what we deserve or at least what the game now demands; professional politicians - men, women and the odd embryo in a suit who, for a multitude of reasons, have eyed political office from an early age and learned the art of circumspection.

And if you are brave enough to enter the fray with a "past", you'll be reduced to your mistakes alone by your opponents, the details publicised by journalists or bloggers fearful someone else will "get the yarn" first.

It makes me wonder how many great leaders there are in this country who've stayed away from politics because of a DUI or drugs charge, a compromising relationship, an exotic sexual disease or momentary lapse of judgment involving a video camera, gaffer tape and a forest creature?

The recent media swoon we saw for Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd after their "grown-up" discussion of issues on the ABC's Q&A also made me wonder how many journalists who long for the "adult" age of Ruddbull also generated the criticism, headlines and opinion polls that helped push the men from the leadership of their parties.

I understand it's one thing to be charming and off-hand as an MP or shadow minister on an ABC panel show and to do it holding the reins of power for a country. However, it seems abundantly clear to me a lot of Australians want to see more straight-shooting from our politicians, empathy, integrity and leadership.

Unfortunately, we're stuck in this death roll of public prudery where so many of us refuse to see the almost essential link between a person's lapses of judgment and the refinement and maturation of their decision-making capabilities.

When you f--- up, you tend to suffer and suffering teaches you humility, something I see sorely lacking in many of our political leaders who claim to speak for the Australian public.

F--- ups often teach as much or more than success, and if we stack our Parliament with happy shiny over-achievers who can't even comprehend colouring outside the lines, how do they legislate from a position of empathy with the rest of us bumblers, rather than haughty paternalism?

I know I listened the to the NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay a week or so ago, when he admitted that Random Breath Testing had probably saved his life and thought - wow - a politician I can relate to and who probably relates to me.

Truth is, if he'd admitted as much during his campaign for office, he'd never have made preselection, let alone government.

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here.

34 comments so far

  • The people get the politicians they deserve

    To paraphrase George Carlin: politicians don't come from a different realm and step into the job. We choose them

    Although about 90% are pretty even on who we choose, politicians are focused on chasing half of what's left. They fixate on opinion polls

    I'm sure if one of them owned their mistakes and said "so what? This is what I stand for. Vote for me or not" they'd garner more respect than some gutless back flipping jellyfish too afraid of isolating one demographic or another and trying to be everything to everyone

    I wish they'd learn that. They'd be far more effective if they did

    But still, kudos to them for being able to pretend to smile and like people. I hate people too much to be able to pretend to like doing that

    Date and time
    November 29, 2012, 8:10AM
    • "I'm sure if one of them owned their mistakes and said "so what? This is what I stand for. Vote for me or not" they'd garner more respect than some gutless back flipping jellyfish too afraid of isolating one demographic or another and trying to be everything to everyone" - I wish that were true Bender but the media would have hung, dry and quartered the person that much that the public would have been battered in to disapproval, pollies have tried your method before but you've got to be enabled to get your message across, which wouldn't happen, witchunts are much more fun for our noosemedia.

      In regards your hatred of people, I knew as much, when you were wrongly being accused of being a misogynist the other week on whatever story it was I felt like jumping in and saying "no he's not, he's a misanthrope, he hates us all the same!"

      Date and time
      November 29, 2012, 1:22PM
    • Kilkenny
      I still think politicians can stick to their story. The public have a short memory. However, if it was of the type of "don't you know who I am?" or a criminal conviction then we will remember their idiocy and rightly so. Not all stupid things are equal.
      My dad once told me a joke that made me laugh: "I'm not racist, I hate all people equally".

      Date and time
      November 29, 2012, 3:05PM
  • I am over politics and politicians. Not just for the reasons you listed, but also because of the nepotism, cronyism and downright corruption being exposed in ICAC, which I expect is only the tip of the iceberg. It is an occupation that is bereft of integrity and ideas. Personally I would advocate that they be recycled into pet food - and that's being unkind to pets. Outstanding piece Sam - I'm scoring you a 10 today

    pet food aisle
    Date and time
    November 29, 2012, 8:11AM
    • You’re right about the inexperience but this could also be an advantage. He could be so refreshingly idealistic that he might achieve some good and inspire other politicians perhaps? Personally, I’m just impressed that someone so young actually knew what they wanted to do!

      Date and time
      November 29, 2012, 8:35AM
      • Speaking of "F---ups", you mean Duncan Gay, not Mike Gallacher. Would suggest quick correction Sammy...

        Oops. Ta. - Sam

        Date and time
        November 29, 2012, 9:22AM
        • Hey, don't knock teenage leaders - there's plenty of kids who've done well, historically. Look at the Romans - Caligula, Nero and Commodus all became emperors in their teens, and they ruled wonderfully until insanity set in. Don't forget Octavian, who won the war against democracy and brought hope to all future aspiring dictators!

          Date and time
          November 29, 2012, 9:28AM
          • Has anyone seen the Australian film - The Honorable Wally Norman?

            I think it applies to this blog.

            Mr Brownstone
            Paradise City
            Date and time
            November 29, 2012, 9:50AM
            • Spot on, Sam. Plato it can be argued had some keen insights. The old Greek got to observe some of the weaknesses of the democratic system first-hand.

              Hopefully both federal parties will come to their senses and re-install Rudd and Turnbull respectively. Although I fear the Qld LNP is barking mad so I guess Wyatt has a job for life.

              Date and time
              November 29, 2012, 11:54AM
              • The leaders of elected governments often reflect the values of the society which elected them. The reason why people who’ve made previous mistakes don’t make pre selection is because the public judges those people harshly and therefore doesn’t elect them. We have no-one to blame but ourselves for the current situation.

                Sam, when you say that our mistakes often teach us much more than our successes you are preaching to the converted, sadly in both my personal and professional experience our view is simply not held by the majority. Whilst I applaud your attempts to educate, I’m pessimistic about the likelihood of any significant change happening on this issue in our lifetimes.

                In terms of political systems I find myself increasingly conflicted of late. Whilst I value the freedom to choose very highly and therefore support a democratic government, it’s becoming increasingly clear that perhaps a democracy isn’t the most effective way to govern a country? Why should people who are unintelligent and unable to make informed decisions control how we should be governed? Surely the best and brightest should govern? But where do you draw the line – how do you make those distinctions? In light of those questions it’s safer to remain a democracy.

                I’d also argue that given the clear link between funding levels during an election campaign and the ability to win government, perhaps countries which consider themselves a democracy are no longer actually democratic? Whilst I’m not a member of the “We are actually an oligarchy” lunatic fringe, I wouldn’t entirely dismiss elements of their argument. As government becomes smaller, money clearly becomes more powerful. I think there is strong evidence which suggests that society is moving closer towards a plutocracy.

                Date and time
                November 29, 2012, 12:09PM

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