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The blob

Number your ballot paper one through to nine.

Number your ballot paper one through to nine.

I get suspicious when lots of people like something.

While I quite enjoyed popular phenomena such as KONY 2012, Psy's Gangnam Style and pomme noisettes, I reckon the more people you've got in agreement about how awesome something is, the slower your steps should be towards joining said mob.

Stand back from the masses and you'll find the oft-cited "wisdom of crowds" is near non-existent, with large groups of people more prone to idiocy, aggression and misjudgment than individuals.

Of course, mass-accord is the basis of democracy, so while the "will of the people" is observed, the substance of the arguments and policies that win our support are usually the political equivalent of a cheesy pick-up artist's flattery.

"Hey voter-baby, love your work ethic, how about I buy you a flat screen TV with my stimulus package?"

Like breakfast television, the humour of Rove McManus and Jack Johnson's six indistinguishable albums, the ideas trotted out by modern political leaders are also designed to offend the least number of punters.

In their quest to be all things to all people, politicians thus tend to stick to ideas we're comfortable with; nothin' too fancy, bread and butter principles, though increasingly colourless and ideologically neutral.

As noted many times, if you did a blind examination of the core policies of our two major parties you'd be hard pressed separating which belonged to the Coalition or the ALP.

Our legislators' main aim is to no longer just capture left or right-leaning voters but the big blob in the middle, then use a bit of policy embroidery on the edges to keep their traditional supporter bases convinced there's still philosophical differences between the parties.

Meanwhile "the blob" tells itself democracy has been served while they sit squarely on the fence, a paling of apathy and self-interest buried firmly up its bum.

In Australia and the western world we've fed so long on the plump fruits of freedom - of assembly, religion, speech, media, information - that it's largely incomprehensible to most of us these were all rights once deemed radical, extreme, seditious, heretical or unlawful in much of the world.

It took brave, brilliant minds to simply conceive these principles, let alone see them accepted by church and state to the point where we can belch on the couch and giggle at Rove.

It makes me wonder how Australian voters would react if a leader did come along with a new, confronting, radical or extreme platform - one that called us out of our civic lethargy and demanded we give a shit about more than our family, friends and people who dress like us.

Australia needs dissenters as much as it does iron ore and a Test batting top order, because it's only through the fire of debate and opposition that good ideas prove their durability, the poor ones popping, sizzling and disappearing into the ash.

Increasingly, however, the voting public's moral indifference suggests we'll accept any policy, idea or law as long as it doesn't affect the holy grail of "our standard of living".

On that point, it's worth noting the sin of neutrality - of remaining indifferent about everything - landed you in Hell in Dante's Inferno, The Divine Comedy.

Of these plasticine people the poet Virgil said: "Let us think no more about them, but look once and pass on."

Pity they'll decide our next PM.

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

Please don't take it personally if I do not reply to your email as they come in thick and fast depending on the topic. Please know, I appreciate you taking the time to write and comment and would offer mummy hugs to all.

109 comments

  • So many people are looking for their tax cut or break or rebate or some such thing. Families are rewarded and single people with no children don't exist and if you mention refugees that arrive by boat they appear to be the worst of the worst regardless of the contribution they make when they settle in this country.
    The magic happens by allocating preferences in the House of Reps and the Senate. It takes time and may feel like a contest between the worst and the even worse worst.
    I have to remember that with this right of using that teensy pencil tethered to a giant cardboard box comes an obligation not only to myself. I have an obligation for others to have access to health, education and other services regardless of who they are and especially if they can least afford it.

    Commenter
    M
    Date and time
    September 02, 2013, 8:56PM
    • Here here. It is sad how selfish everyone is. My biggest two issues are refugee treatment and gay marriage. Neither of these issues impact me directly, aside from the sadness I feel about living in such a backward country, yet they will determine my vote. Everyone I speak to is voting for what affects their hip pocket. I gave up on that a long time ago - as a single with no kids none of the major parties will ever care about my segment.

      Where is our social consience?

      Commenter
      sm
      Date and time
      September 03, 2013, 8:18AM
    • Once a voting populace figures out it can just vote to get tax cuts, rebates and hand outs, democracy fails.

      Commenter
      Direct
      Date and time
      September 03, 2013, 8:45AM
    • I agree that the standard of political debate and leadership in Australia is low, but I rather prefer living in a country where the big issues revolve around the budget. Those of us who have experienced and learned something from the 20th century hope your big leaders and their big ideas never, ever eventuate.
      If asked, the stupid mob of Telegraph readers probably wouldn't even believe the claims of myriad posters here that they "really really care" (TM) about gay marriage, refugees or whatever the crusade du jour is. Those horrid commoners aren't so stupid that they don't recognise insincere, pretentious posturing amongst a comfy peer group when they see it.
      The pathetic truth about the average inner-urban liberal is that for all the self-congratulatory grandstanding, they are motivated by the same thing that they say motivates the despised suburban bogan: self interest.

      Commenter
      Bogan Trevor
      Location
      Western Sydney
      Date and time
      September 03, 2013, 9:19AM
    • Complaining singles without children get nothing, families get everything, is displaying the lack of empathy towards others you complain you receive. Food for thought... People are individuals, not collective groups. Families and singles cover a massive span of lifestyles and situations with a great variety of needs and wants, they are not two clearly defined groups. Similarly Labor's use of "working families" is a term which covers those on incomes of $50,000 or $500,000, yet is conveniently chosen to appeal to those who with greater self-entitlement.

      Commenter
      Okay
      Date and time
      September 03, 2013, 9:42AM
    • Jack Johnson - why people, why?
      Rove - why people, why?
      Kiwi Sav Blanc - why people, why?

      Commenter
      Franky
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      September 03, 2013, 9:42AM
    • bad selfishness is expecting others, whether it be a state, a taxpayer or a company, to solve your view of the world's problems.

      good selfishness is proactively and co-operatively building the world you want to see.

      why people continue to demand someone else solve the world's problems and call themselves progressive is beyond me.

      do something.

      Commenter
      lol
      Location
      brisbane
      Date and time
      September 03, 2013, 9:49AM
    • but......families provide the next crop of taxpayers, teachers, nurses and astronauts. single people without children do not. single people without children also presumably have not spent $$(whatever the figure is now) bringing up each child so are ahead anyway? thinking like a single person makes your argument of everyone caring about their pocket and being fragmented, but not you.....kinda silly??.

      Commenter
      supersquirrel
      Date and time
      September 03, 2013, 9:52AM
    • Bogan Trevor, it is comforting to see that you are able to project your world view of me based on my comment and the level of self interest I display as I go about my life.
      Okay, I would assume that most families are "working families' whether there is one or two parents and any number of children. I object to a large collective expecting a handout due to their lifestyle choice of having children when the expense of having them should really be weighed up before impregnation occurs. Now, if you are suggesting I am selfish because I have stated that I don't have children and am single then perhaps you may like to reconsider that projection of your values as you are not familiar with any volunteer work I do or any other things I do for those I care about.
      supersquirrel, I am in a high income bracket and pay a significant percentage in tax. I also pay tax on the alcohol, cigarettes, clothes and shoes that I purchase as well as the various othe rgoods and services I purchase. Over my lifetime I would well and truly have paid my fair share of the burden of the services I need as well as contribute to the services that others need. All that without rebates or charge backs or vouchers. What a revolutionary concept. I would also expect that anyone in future generations pay their fair share of taxes to contribute to the services they and their fellow citizens require. Any further questions followed by excessive question marks?

      Commenter
      M
      Date and time
      September 03, 2013, 12:06PM
    • supersquirrel
      There are 7 billion people on this planet. By 2050 there will be 9 billion people. We really don't need a home grown baby boom. We can import the labour we need as and when we need it. The added advantage is we can choose the people with the skills we need and don't have to spend a lot of money educating them ourselves.
      If you *choose* to take on the burden of having your own then don't ask to be compensated by others. It's your choice. You're not doing any sort of civic duty. There's enough people in this world willing to breed without the requirement of Oz government handouts. Spare us your martyrdom. Fund your own existence from your own pocket and get your hands out of mine. You can't have your cake and eat it, too.

      Commenter
      Bender
      Date and time
      September 03, 2013, 12:32PM

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