A few years ago, we were in Canada. One cool and wet day in St Jacobs, Ontario (a couple of hours west of Toronto), we walked into a building dedicated to The Mennonite Story because it looked dry and warm inside. Unsurprisingly, the building went someway towards explaining the history and beliefs of the Mennonite Church. The Mennonites are a branch of the Anabaptist Christians and the easiest way to describe their beliefs is to suggest that the Amish are an offshoot of the Mennonites.
Like the Amish, the Mennonites tend to refrain from a lot of technology unless it gives them more time to contemplate the wonders of their God’s work. For example, the reason why they use horse drawn buggies and carriages for transportation rather than cars and trucks is they don’t have time to see, observe and wonder at the glory of the flower produced by the plant growing at the side of the road if they are travelling past at 60 miles an hour. While not promoting that everyone should immediately invest in horses and buggies or join the Mennonite faith, they have a point. You don’t see the individual flower growing beside the road when travelling on the highway and as you don’t see it, you don’t have the opportunity to marvel at its beauty or contemplate the work of ‘the creator’ (if that’s your ‘thing’).
Taking the time to reflect and consider isn’t the sole property of the Mennonite faith either. Most of the literature about how to gain and retain good employees will discuss work/life balance. Work/life balance isn’t just some 21st Century corporate mumbo-jumbo either, most of us would have heard the adage ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’. Crikey daily ‘worm’ reported on 16 July
Niki Savva (The Australian): “Morrison’s decision to go on Saturday to watch his side get thrashed incited outrage on Twitter for daring to seek a few hours respite while Victorians were being treated like lepers. A ‘Scotty at the footy’ hashtag trended and not in a nice way. Those getting stuck into Daniel Andrews defended Morrison and those defending Andrews berated Morrison. Morrison has refrained from criticising Andrews, nor has Andrews criticised Morrison. They need one another.”
Anyone, regardless of their position has the right to some time off. Constant work without time to connect with family, enjoy hobbies and interests or just sit in the lounge and doze off is hazardous to health. Certainly you can criticise Morrison’s sport of choice or his support of a particular team but Morrison attending a football game for a couple of hours is not going to change the country’s response to the current pandemic. Neither did his family holiday to Hawaii at Christmas during the bushfires.
The difference between the two events is that Morrison’s office attempted to convince the Australian public it wasn’t happening last December, despite the photos circulating in the media. Attempting to cover up something that may be used to attack a politician is shonky. A far better strategy would have been to announce he was in Hawaii on a family holiday, receiving regular briefings and the holiday will give him the opportunity to clear his mind to concentrate on the recovery effort when he returns. They could have even discussed the theory behind work/life balance.
Around the same time as Savva wrote the piece discussed above, a former Liberal Party staffer Chelsea Potter wrote a piece in the Nine Newspapers about the 10th anniversary of Julia Gillard becoming Australia’s first female Prime Minister. The piece was an apology for Potter’s past behaviour. The first paragraph is instructive
Dear Julia, In politics, you’re never meant to apologise. Especially publicly. That’s backflipping. And, as you well know, that can come at a political price. In our industry, changing your mind — even if it’s completely genuine and informed by lived experience or research — isn’t the done thing.
Potter goes on to discuss why she acted the way she did 10 years ago, which is well worth reading and will give you some insight into politics as it is played in the 21st Century. However, let’s tease out the expectation in the political industry is that changing your mind isn’t the ‘done’ thing and demonstrates ‘backflipping’ or weakness. It is a crock that we can’t change our outlook or the way we do things — we do it every day.
As you’re reading this, there are probably political operatives in some dark and dismal place creating a ‘dirt file’ on the other side who have had the temerity to criticise an insignificant or long forgotten action of a leading light of the operative’s party. Apart from the questionable work/life balance implied by working at all hours to climb the greasy pole and maybe be nominated for a safe seat in a parliament one day if they are good, wouldn’t the country be better off if the work was directed towards suggesting improvements to government policy and process that doesn’t blindly follow the individual political party’s orthodoxy without original thought? At the very least they should have some time to smell the roses — if not wonder at ‘the creators’ work in getting a small flower to bloom at the side of the road.
The ultimate outcome of competing ‘dirt files’ thrown at political enemies can only be similar to the ridiculous situation of the Cold War where both the USA and Russia had enough weapons to destroy the world hundreds of times. The theory of ‘mutual assured destruction’ seems to still be current in politics. In the end no one wins. Both sides of politics (and their fanatical keyboard warriors) are too busy throwing insults like ‘socialist’ and ‘neo-con’ at each other rather than understanding that the majority of us consider them all to be self-serving. The rise of the ‘anti-politician’ such as Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro and Boris Johnson is a direct result of political games such as someone dredging up a nine year old statement from Morrison criticising a police commissioner for going to dinner during a bushfire emergency to attack Morrison for going to Hawaii last Christmas (the link is to The Chaser’s version of the story because this stuff shouldn’t be taken seriously).
Currently politicians seem to have to defend the party orthodoxy, illogical claims or an unsupportable position to the political death. How refreshing it would be for a politician to admit to not being ‘on duty’ 24 hours a day, apologise if a decision is shown to be wrong or change their mind on an issue publicly without the finger pointing and harassment from their internal and external political ‘enemies’. Maybe they could suggest ‘When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?’ They wouldn’t be the first.
What do you think?
This article was originally published on The Political Sword
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