It's time the men and women of Australia stopped treating our Prime Minister like she is beneath contempt. I should know, I can smell it a mile off. I have two teenage boys, and they tell me how their mates behave towards women who have done nothing more to deserve their contempt than be nice to them. Thus is it taken by them as a sign of weakness and they behave accordingly. Not that they should, but they do.
I just had cause to pause and think about this these past few days, as I have sat through some pretty disrespectful behaviour directed towards our first female Prime Minister, a self-admitted ‘Shy Girl’, who has overcome the odds that come with shyness, to get where she is today. Only to be treated with contempt and disdain by the likes of Alan Jones, who had the temerity to upbraid her for being 10 minutes late to his inconsequential in the larger scheme of things, little radio show. Not only that, but he brayed at her, like the simulacrum of a hee-hawing ass that he is, a humiliating epithet of ‘Ju-liar’. Funny, I don't remember him ever calling John Howard, ‘The Lying Rodent’. Though there was much more evidence for that than any supposed lies the PM has told.
There have been many instances, too numerous to mention, in between that and the contemptible interview, with it's condescending introduction, that Jon Faine conducted with the Prime Minister last Friday morning on ABC Melbourne radio: Click here to hear it.
So awful was the interview that arch-conservative bully, Ray Hadley, congratulated Jon Faine on it.
Which got me to thinking about what has gone AWOL in the political discourse of late. A quaint concept of bygone times - Chivalry.
You could probably say, equally, that it has disappeared from politics in general, and society as a whole. I only have to think about the proliferation of chauvinistic bully-boy politicians like Silvio Berlusconi, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and any number of other brutish thugs in powerful positions around the world, as further examples to support my theory.
Thus, I see it as important to say that if we do not hang on to some sense of propriety in politics, and demand some old-fashioned, chivalrous behaviour from our public figures, especially those who are misaddressing our female PM, then we will become complicit in allowing the sorts of sophisticated interpersonal behaviours that the human race has developed over the centuries, since men stopped hitting women over the head with their clubs and dragging them off to their caves, on through the Enlightenment and the Women's Liberation Movement, to today, to evaporate.
If we are not committed to maintaining some standards, demanding them, the legacy and the hard work will be lost, and a new barbarity will replace it.
Freedom, justice, civility, and honour have long been concepts bandied about for political gain by those who scarcely understand the words. These ideals are, or should be, the centre of who we are as a honourable people. They should not just be convenient clichés meant to rouse support whilst doing the opposite. These truly liberal ideals would/should never propagate ignorance or hate, or deny equal rights and respect for others. Incivility and rudeness represent the very opposite of what the civilisation of the mind and heart stand for. Those who partake in incivility and rudeness have truly lost their way and are leading society astray. Those who think with open minds must speak out against them.
So it is up to those of us who still care about integrity, both our own personal integrity and integrity in politics, to perpetuate the maturation process meant to develop all the finer aspects of the human species, such as virtue and intelligence and thus stop the Barbarians at the Gate.
This, therefore, does not allow for selling out one's own integrity, following self-proclaimed leaders, such as Tony Abbott, when they are obviously 'leaders' who lack integrity; or following the crowd. Or building roadblocks to discourse.
It means thinking for oneself. It means finding truth, even under the pressure of long-held conclusions exerting influence over our thoughts. It places reason over emotion, yet never allows one to eliminate the other. It means finding and implementing answers and exposing untruths. As opposed to engaging in a culture of infinite complaint.
These are the citizen qualities that democracy needs. Without them, what is democracy other than the ugliness of mob rule? Steered by libido and greed. Something we have seen much too much of recently.
This new barbarity is propagating the very worst of humanity.
During our lifetimes we have witnessed the steady decline of courtesy and honesty, and nowhere more so than in politics and the news media. This decline has reached the point where some of the most fundamental aspects of democracy are being trampled underfoot. Therefore we must remember this: democracy only works when citizens are well-informed, given to thoughtful consideration, are civil in discourse, and respectful of the process that lifted Western Civilization out of the Dark Ages.
If we are to develop a new civility, a new chivalry, in politics and in political discourse, then it is best to determine some ground rules. And we must start by respecting the fact that each of us must make his or her own considered decisions, and we must all develop our own considered opinions. Nevertheless, we can also develop some general precepts that should guide us all collectively in how we respond to issues, politics and politicians.
Firstly, a guiding principle which sets the foundation for all else that follows is: We are part of the world around us, and that makes us responsible for the greater good. Ask yourself: are your political standards and opinions based upon the greater good? Or based upon good outcomes for vested interests that represent just the opposite?
Next, place good character and concern for others above support for purely personal financial gain. How many politicians don't do this basic thing any more? Greed is the enemy of conscience, and the downfall of many. Don't let it lead to you falling into the hands of the barbarians. Ask yourself, are your political allegiances based on money rather than concern for others? They shouldn't be.
Nor should we boast, but cherish humility instead. I know that may sound rich coming from me, but humility is the product of an open mind, and if I have not been so humble in the past, I hope to be now and into the future.
We must not assume that our way is always the best way, or that others are automatically wrong or evil, or the enemy. Although I am sorely tempted to think this about the Liberal Party under Tony Abbott's 'leadership'. We must listen. We must try to understand. We must recognise that we are all human and therefore fallible. So, with humility, we must invite honest sharing of ideas, and allow the possibility of being wrong. The Moral High Ground is still the superior territory to hold.
We must speak the truth at all times. Especially as those around us refuse to do the same. Truth is not something that it is OK to bend for the sake of an ideology. Doing so betrays what has always been best about Western Civilisation. When you engage in lies, you define yourself as a liar, and mar the reputation of all your ideals and your own ideology.
Tony Abbott and the media have used just this concept, hypocritically, to devastating effect to sully the reputation of the Prime Minister. Blithely ignoring the mote in their own eyes.
This is not the Middle Ages before the Enlightenment, when equal weight was given to every claim and superstition. Although the Internet has had the perverse effect of placing all information on the same playing field.
However, reason and honesty should claim their own supremacy. Ask yourself, in the game of political one-upmanship, are you speaking what is true? Or, defending political slogans that divert people from a clear understanding of the issues?
Partisan politics cares more about party loyalty and the acquisition of power than the greater good. It invites alliances based upon expediency rather than virtue. Once that happens, everything becomes questionable, and often devious. Words end up masking more than they reveal. Fears are shamelessly exploited. Once that happens, democracy is doomed to fail. The lives of the innocent become expendable, as we saw in The War on Terror prosecuted by the Neo Cons. As we can also see from the positions taken by the Climate Change Sceptics and Deniers. Dangerously delusional, devious and deceptive, putting the lives of our children and theirs, and the future of life itself on Earth, in peril, for their own selfish, short-term, short-sighted ends.
So, ask yourself: Are you defending those who oppress? Are you defending an ideology that is no longer appropriate?
This brings me back to the disrespectful treatment of our lovely female Prime Minister, by men and women alike now, sadly. Also, to the ever-ongoing vilification of racial, religious and social minorities. As prejudice in all its guises, sexism being one, racism another, impedes clear thinking and leads to wrong decisions. It is the mind in moral atrophy, essentially.
Prejudice and bigotry walk hand-in-hand. Prejudice means pre-judged. You are not thus seeing things in the aliveness of real, interpersonal relationships. Just as a political ideology that allows, encourages or winks at prejudice is the enemy of freedom and the truth.
So how is it then that in politics, strategy, innuendo and unnecessary contention reign supreme? Winning every political day should not be everything. The enemies of truth should not be praised or admired for their victories. In the wake of their victories, lies the destruction of our ideals. We should not be supporters of such political gamesmanship. Listening to political spokespeople or media propagandists, the rhetoric of manipulation could not be plainer. As advocates for the truth and virtue, we must demand fairness in public discourse, not the spreading of convenient lies.
Finally, the animosity prevalent in today's politics presents itself as more of an ongoing feud than a discourse of opposing visions and ideas, even though that is what most people say they go into politics for, and it is what most in the electorate expects from politics and their politicians. Unwarranted partisan strategy has done well in dividing the nation against itself for Conservative political gain. Sadly. It appears that it is designed to please corporate benefactors. Such as Tony Abbott's 'Direct Action' Climate Change 'policy', which will do just that should he get the chance to implement it in government. His corporate benefactors will be the most pleased of all. And, yes, developer donors, and the Pubs and Clubs receive favourable treatment by both sides of politics. This is all happening when you would think that our politicians' job should be to care for the welfare of the average citizen.
Just look around. All this is going on under our noses, now. No matter which party you identify with, surely you can support and fight for the kind of civility and reason that should be the cornerstone of civilisation and politics after 21 centuries of development?
Without that civilised distinction, all our power and wealth and sophistication means nothing morally, and in the process, we betray our hopes, and our history.
It's time we took a stand against the increasingly barbaric behaviour which has infected politics, and political discourse, like a cancer.
We've got to stand up and say: “Cut it out!”
What do you think?