From prehistoric times the mirror occupied a unique place in our imagination as a site of the divine or demonic, of lucidity or madness. Seems to bear much resemblance to many of those in politics at Canberra today. Mastering reflection was one step in a revolution that would end with, in contemporary French historian Sabine Melchior Bonnet’s words, a cycle climaxing with the ‘democratisation of narcissism’.
After the events that happened in Canberra recently it seems an analogy that can still be made.
Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbours, and let every New Year find you a better man’ said noted polymath Benjamin Franklin (1705-1790). After the past week or so we have had in politics in Australia do we have any good men left standing?
Was the dreadful ‘blue tie’ week about our not so polite society that informed my thoughts originally, the one we ‘had to have’?
Like many other Australians, you will perhaps forgive me for being bewildered by the constant circus that seems integral to those voted into positions of trust in our ‘august’ capital.
This is reputedly the centre of our nation where the serious issues affecting the future of our country are supposed to be debated, discussed and decided upon in a rational, intelligent and purposeful fashion.
You know I enjoy a bit of fun as much as anyone. However what has taken place in the closing weeks of June 2013, stirred up and on by a feverish media, has been nothing short of destructive and soul destroying. There is no doubt the events will be recorded in the chronicles of infamy.
Politics may be a game of life, but many of the players on the board seem to have no ethics and no moral compass at all. They are certainly not roles models for our children or children’s children. Playing the game of politics in Australia it seems has finally meant many people embracing the Machiavellian concept of the end justifies the means. Is that really what our society wants?
Athenian statesman Pericles said five centuries before the Christ event words to the effect ‘each single one of our citizens, should, in all the manifold aspects of life, be able to show himself the rightful lord and owner of his person, and do this moreover, with exceptional grace and versatility.
This is what the ancient Greeks meant by liberty and their ingrained belief in everyone’s right to freedom was sustained by a deep respect for personal honour, and nurtured by a love of action.
While we seemingly have a great deal of action going on in Canberra none of it seems to be creative, constructive or honourable. At least the Greeks were busy contributing towards the evolution of the democratic freedoms we have enjoyed in the modern era.
To be a free leader of a free people historically meant being led by someone with statesman like characteristics. Their success used to ultimately hinge on their ability to convince their countrymen of the soundness of their philosophy. In my world those of substance wanting to succeed in the public arena are meant to possess four critical qualities; a bedrock of principles, a moral compass, a long term vision and an ability to build a consensus to achieve that vision. These are unchanging fundamental truths and the sort of values originally bound into our Australian Constitution
In our modern world he, or she, would display integrity, speak the truth, lead by moral authority, reveal their humility, represent all that is best in us all, while sometimes revealing their frailty; i.e. their humanity.
Do we work hard in life just to see what we earn, and us too treated with such disdain?
What does our new Prime Minister stand for? Does anyone really know? Does our new PM have a philosophy?
If anyone could be likened to a mirror, which mediates between dream and reality, he certainly can.
His blue tie seems to be symbolic of many hidden secrets.
What we do know, if we were guided by his words, deeds and actions, is that he is not a man of his word, or a man who keeps his promises.
Does he really want the Australian people to believe he is a new messiah or saviour? Has he had an epiphany?
What we do know is that in the past his colleagues couldn’t stand to work with him or for him. When he was previously in charge he acted more like a tin-pot dictator than a leader of men; he was certainly not a first among equals to be admired or celebrated. Can he have changed that much?
If he has his humility metre does not seem to be working.
He is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a knight in shining armour, doling out gestures of civility as he rides merrily along and certainly, he does not have the reputation for being a beautiful soul.
Was it that he had to go through a symbolic and public dying to be reborn again?
Is that what he wants us to believe?
We all had a clear chance to vote Ms Gillard out following your previous demotion if we had disapproved of her original actions. But no, we voted her into power. She was elected by the people, not by a majority, but still she gained the top job.
Love the former P.M. Julia Gillard or not, agree with her politics or not, how can anyone not admire her tenacity in continuing to the bitter end with her political and personal integrity intact, especially when her considerable strength was often under a fire so hot it’s a wonder she did not melt.
She clearly demonstrated to everyone she had the courage of her convictions. And, we cannot say the same for many of the men who surrounded her except for that rare select few who fell on their swords when she had to leave.
The rest, well they are certainly not busy shining their halos right now because they quickly jumped over onto the new bandwagon when they believed they might become associated with failure.
How dreadful you must be feeling Ms Gillard. Now you really understand how poor Jesus felt as he was flogged, nailed hard through his hands and feet to that wooden cross and then ruthlessly crowned with a wreath of thorns.
Especially after having everything about your own person and your family dissected, ridiculed and used for political mileage to aid your party.
Your colleague who masterminded your rise to power, and then your downfall, didn’t just give you the kiss of death, he orchestrated your crucifixion. He betrayed you and performed the act in the halls of power, not even in a garden where the surrounding beauty may have softened that quick deft, but very lethal stab in the back.
He made the historical Judas look like a really good chap.
Ms Gillard you proved, whatever our own political persuasions are, what grace under fire and in defeat certainly looks like. Sure, when you were in office you were not perfect, but when you made a mistake while you were in office you had the grace and guts to say it and then move on, like the rest of us frail human beings have to do so often.
And, you should be comforted by the fact that the men who brought you down had to do that after dark, and at the end of a long day. They needed to ensure your vulnerability and their wearying colleagues support.
In the light of a new day they may have all had second thoughts.
Australian democracy is supposed to be all about fair play, but as a woman Ms Gillard you were subjected to far more insults and attacks on your person than any man in office in this country has ever had to bear.
While there were inconsistencies in your performance, many decisions we may have not agreed with or endorsed, your gender certainly did not define your prime ministership. Your integrity did.
What you also did was give the many chauvinists and misogynists, who still abound in our society, a target for misguided, out-moded prejudice.
The greatest legacy of your leadership will be the compassion and caring you showed for those people in our community, people experiencing disability or disadvantage. By putting in place the legislation for a National Disability Insurance Scheme you transformed thousands of lives and gave back to people who have suffered much their dignity and hope of a better future.
New figures show that you also enacted more legislation and saw it through parliament than anyone in the past. The sad thing too was that the final passing of the new Creative Australia, a new national cultural policy for our country has been virtually overlooked.
There is a famous quote that says ‘crisis can sometimes hide a blessing‘*.
As a nation we must ‘start talking’, debating or discussing, whatever the preferred terminology is, the current performance of the people who make up our political parties and what needs to change?
Bad behaviour via a statement ‘that’s just politics’ is not acceptable – it’s an excuse not a reason.
We should start talking about how and why politics today have become driven by popularity, celebrity polls and sexist views, rather than the sound philosophies, the principles and the solid ideologies like those our nation, its hard fought freedoms and its political system were founded on.
What about honouring all those who fought so hard to protect our security and freedoms under the Australian flag.
Without general structure society would be in chaos. That is something we would perhaps all agree on. But surely it is also about gaining a balance. Like most theories in practice we need to apply the age-old principle of ‘common sense’, a ‘basic level of practical knowledge and judgment… to help us live in a reasonable and safe way‘.
Julia many have said you lacked the ‘essential alchemy ‘of prime ministers; instinct, second sight and sleight of hand, the tricks many men have used to get elected.
And, when you got there well… that’s all the stuff of memories now and many political editors I am sure will critique your performance.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle 2013