Author’s note: I wrote this piece prior to the death of Gough Whitlam and wondered if now was an appropriate time to post it. Then I heard John Howard say:
“A wise man once said that everything should have context”.
What we say with our words and do with our actions defines context and explains the difference between rulers and leaders.
My Father used to call it Foot in Mouth Disease
Last week in Queensland a 17-year-old teenage boy was placed on bail after posting a video of himself racially abusing a train guard. The magistrate praised the dark-skinned guard for his calmness under attack
The boy was obviously intoxicated. Was it the grog talking or did the alcohol just bring out latent racial attitudes the boy had.
My father used to call it ‘foot in mouth disease’. “People open their mouths without thinking”, he would say. A slip of the tongue. I have been guilty of it myself.
Tony Abbott’s ‘suppository of wisdom’ is but one example. He didn’t mean to say it. It just slipped out.
Or Bob Hawke’s ‘no child shall live in poverty’ where he changed a line while reading a speech.
Then there are those like Malcolm Fraser’s ‘life wasn’t meant to be easy’’ where the media deliberately misquoted what he said. What he actually said was ‘’ife wasn’t meant to be easy, but there are times of joyful bliss’. Which of course is a quote of George Bernard Shaw.
But what are we to make of statements that are so palpably bizarre and unequivocally misleading. Statements so lacking in fact that they could only be born of bullshit. Where the contrivance of omission is concealed to fool those less politically knowledgeable.
For example when Joe Hockey was asked about Australia being one the world’s dirtiest greenhouse gas-emitting countries in OECD group of developed countries. He said
“The comment you just made is absolutely ridiculous”.
On the face of it you could only conclude that he was lying. What the political observer must ask is. Is there a pattern.
Bill Clinton said to Romney: “There are real known facts in this world’”.
Let’s look at some recognisable remarks from conservative politicians and see what we can make of them.
Tony Abbott. Prime Minister. “I will shirtfront Putin”. “Coal is good for humanity”.
George Brandis. Attorney General. “People have a right to be bigots”.
Eric Abetz Employment Minister. “Abortion causes breast cancer”.
Christopher Pyne. Minister for Education. “Uni fee hikes wont impact women because they don’t study expensive degrees like law or dentistry”.
Mathias Cormann. Finance Minister. “Bill Shorten is an economic girlie-man”.
All of these statements are either unambiguously untrue, sexist, confrontational or reek of thuggish authoritarian superiority and have their genesis in far right ideology.
I recently read an article by Miranda Divine titled ‘Why the Libs are Ruddy marvelous’. It outlines the academic qualifications of government members. It is truly impressive. They must be the brainiest bunch to have ever graced our parliament.
“For starters, there are three Rhodes Scholars: Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, and Angus Taylor. Two more ministers have degrees from Oxford University: George Brandis QC, and Josh Frydenberg, who has the added distinction of a master’s degree from Harvard. Two other MPs also have master’s degrees from Harvard, among the seven MBAs, two MPAs and four PhDs on the government benches. Two more have masters of philosophy from Cambridge. Fulbright scholar Greg Hunt has an MA from Yale. Former WA treasurer Christian Porter has an impressive four degrees. And he’s a backbencher”.
And it doesn’t end there. Read this. She of course failed to mention that it is essentially a men’s club. Or that Brandis cannot use a computer.
Now let’s look at what a Queens College Oxford education has done for our Prime Minister:
“We just can’t stop people from being homeless if that’s their choice”.
“Jesus knew that there was a place for everything and it’s not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia”.
“If we’re honest, most of us would accept that a bad boss is a little bit like a bad father or a bad husband … you find that he tends to do more good than harm. He might be a bad boss but at least he’s employing someone while he is in fact a boss”.
“I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons”.
“I think there does need to be give and take on both sides, and this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man’s right to demand I think they are both they both need to be moderated, so to speak”.
“What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up, every year…”
“There may not be a great job for them but whatever there is, they just have to do it, and if it’s picking up rubbish around the community, it just has to be done”
“While I think men and women are equal, they are also different and I think it’s inevitable and I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all that we always have, say, more women doing things like physiotherapy and an enormous number of women simply doing housework.”
“A little bit of body contact never hurt anybody”. “Let’s be under no illusions the carbon tax was socialism masquerading as environmentalism.
“I find homosexuals confronting”.
At this point I should say that I have only scratched the surface with these comments. I could quote many more but these will suffice for the present. There is even a Facebook page devoted to them every day. And oh my God, I haven’t mentioned Cory Bernardi. The homophobic, Islamophobic, climate change denying free market Christian fundamentalist.
If these are the views the best education in the world bequeaths you then it has failed miserably. Attitudes and opinions such as theses surely cannot be representative of the best learning institutions in the world. If so, they have learn t nothing. Is it possible these great places of learning have taught them what to think and not how to.
How men who hold degrees in almost everything could be so lacking a degree in humanity is beyond me.
The well profoundness of life’s experience that develops wisdom seems to have escaped them.
Statements like the aforementioned (often embedded with religious intent)) are devoid of social empathy and are reflective of thinking that has been influenced by notions of dim-witted superiority. They are the words of a ruler not a leader. They are an indictment of both Abbott and his ministry.
They are statements of the uncaring, the intellectually barren, the cerebraly deficient, the privileged and the narcissistic elitist.
Of the born to rule with ideals of grandeur.
My old man also used to say; “Some people might be well-educated but often they haven’t got a bloody brain in their heads. It’s in the minuteness of their thinking that true ignorance can be found”. He called them professional students.
If humility is the basis for human advancement, then it is truth that enables human progress. We see neither from today’s conservatives. Instead we see an insensitivity to the common good.
These statements are couched in a form of indoctrination calculated to appeal to those who are open to nefarious persuasion. The sort of propaganda designed to make you feel good about the wrongs being perpetuated on you.
Just when the small L people of the former ‘’Liberal Party’’ lost out to the conservative hard right is difficult to pin point but they did. Probably during the Howard rein.
What is left is a party of highly educated neo-conservative buffoons with a world view based on master servant principles of a time long past but not forgotten.
Whereas the Left of Australian politics is concerned with those who cannot help themselves the right is concerned with those who can.
We are experiencing something very unique in Australian politics. A belief that lying has approval, that deception and misleading words will and can persuade the electorate to your view. A belief that there are enough people so politically naive that they will believe you. And that’s the majority of Australians.
It’s straight out of the Conservative Tea Party Handbook. This is deliberate ‘’foot in mouth disease’’ with intentional consequences. There is a pattern and they have been persuaded it works.
“Of course I would have read The Gonski Report had the dog not eaten it”.