There is feverish discussion of the ACT Greens' proposed bill that would lower the voting age, allowing and requiring post-pubescents as young as 16 to vote in ACT Legislative Assembly elections.
As always with voting age arguments there's an emphasis on whether or not folk of 16 are "mature" enough to vote.
My own view is that age and maturity so seldom go together in anything in life (Shakespeare's catastrophically foolish King Lear is shown us as an example of how prone we all are to becoming old before we become wise) that mere age seems an inappropriate qualification for the right to vote.
Then, too, whatever our chronological age, the part of our mind-brain that we employ when we make decisions about political voting is anyway an irrational, child-like, juvenile part.
Even when we are not personally aware of this (and your columnist is well aware of it and freely admits to a lifetime of making voting choices as daft as those famously daft hormone-driven choices of who to fall in love with) the canny machiavellistas who drive their political parties are aware of it. They duly make sure election campaigning is pitched to appeal to juvenile minds.
When the tone and content of election campaigns seems to insult a grown ups' intelligence this is because the most sophisticated campaigning is artfully directed at that part of our minds that, like Peter Pan, never grows up.
I am 76 now, and it may be that instead of never being better qualified by maturity to vote that in some ways I have never been so underqualified to vote.
This is not because of senility (although, surely, there is as good a case for the required retirement of old voters as there is for the required retirements of judges and some others thought to have their functions impaired by their gnarledness).
No, instead and of myself I see how with maturity one can come to see the triviality of party politics in the Great Scheme of Things. Realising that my socialist dreams will never come true in greedy, bourgeois Australia I have, sighing, learned to pay more attention to poetry, to the sound of the wind in the trees of the Arboretum, to the buzzin' of the bees in the cigarette trees, to almost everything, than to politics.
If I could (and I demand urgent electoral law reform that enables this to happen: What do I want? Voting reform! When do I want it? Now!) I would donate my weary, jaded old vote to a politically angry lefty 16-year-old for her to use in any way she sees fit.
In my mind's eye I see her, the recipient of my donated vote. Her name is Elektra and she lives in Gungahlin. She is fiendishly intelligent. She is angry and idealistic (she is uncannily suggestive of a young, suburban Canberran Greta Thunberg) and her many tattoos include, one on each strong bicep, portraits of Che Guevara and of Karl Marx. Elektra is more than welcome to my vote, for whether or not youth is wasted on the young the vote is surely wasted on the old.
Elektra is more than welcome to my vote, for whether or not youth is wasted on the young the vote is surely wasted on the old.
Meanwhile, I have made a new year resolution to blot out as much media coverage of the coming election as possible by commencing re-reading Herman Melville's majestic novel Moby Dick as soon as the election date is announced.
Elections are sordid, intelligence-insulting and brutalising but great literature is soul-tenderising. Election campaigns last for five weeks and Melville's leviathan of a novel (some 720 pages) can be made to take exactly five election-blotting-out weeks to read. One will turn to it judiciously (turning off all news and current affairs) whenever the election's malignancies threaten to intrude.
But as I write, the latest polls suggest, perhaps making some following of the election campaign less sickening, and end to the Morrison tyranny and the ushering in of a palely socialist Labor government. And, eerily, coincidentally, up pops online lefty essayist Chas Walker's cheerful Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Whale - Why socialists should read Herman Melville's Moby-Dick.
If Walker is right then with Albo's dilute socialism coming soon reading Moby Dick now takes on a thrilling new appropriateness.
Walker reflects that "Whaling [the base subject of the novel] reduced an entire species to near extinction, and its human toll was [great]."
"Millions of people were pushed past the limit of exhaustion as whale oil greased cotton-spinning machines and lit up the factory floor, accelerating industrial production and lengthening the working day, and driving an intensified demand for cotton, for the labour of enslaved people, and for the seizure of indigenous land. Whale oil extraction set the stage and the pattern for the expansion of the fossil fuel industry, and for the key position it occupies in global capitalism today."
MORE IAN WARDEN:
"The world of exploitation and expropriation is never far from the storyline in Moby Dick," Chas Walker seethes on, readably.
"A near-penniless Ishmael [first person narrator of the book's saga] decides to ship out aboard the Pequod and accepts the tiniest share of the voyage's uncertain proceeds. 'Who ain't a slave?' he asks rhetorically to justify his own submission to the whaling bosses."
Yes, and who ain't a slave in Scomo's callously capitalist prosperity-gospel Australia?
Perhaps then, my socialist blood carbonated and heated by my reading Moby Dick, I will after all look up from it occasionally to stickybeak at the election campaign's progress in the shy hope of signs of Albo's gathering momentum, of an end to our enslavement, of a nation fit for tomorrow's idealistic Elektras.
Ian Warden is a Canberra Times columnist
Ian Warden is a Canberra Times columnist
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