What a contrast we’ve witnessed on our TV screens these last few weeks. As we tuned into the Winter Olympics we saw an almost endless display of skill, dedication, and self confidence. Although the participants were intensely competitive, they appeared to harbour no animosity towards their fellows. Seemingly, they were not out to destroy them; rather they were intent on doing better. They showed respect for their competitors; they honoured their skills and their dedication.
Over the same period, our political leaders exhibited the opposite! Their purpose was, as always, to win by any means, no matter how underhand, no matter how disgraceful. We don’t need long memories to recall examples of political intrigue, nastiness, destructive behaviour, disrespect, even hatred.
To tune into the contemporary scene all we need to do is to listen to Question Time in the House of Representatives. Acerbic questions; facile, sarcastic, aggressive answers; pathetic ‘Dorothy Dixers’ and equally pitiful responses, are all hallmarks of this part of the political process, which our politicians revel in day after boring day. This is central to their pathologically competitive nature. When we hear a carefully-considered utterance from any of them, we are pleased, even if surprised. When we hear words of praise for an opponent, we are gobsmacked!
Recently, our PM embarked on a vicious programme of denigration of Labor and Anthony Albanese, labelling deputy Labor leader Richard Marles a “Manchurian candidate”, a term based on the book and movie of the same name, used to describe a person, especially a politician, who’s being used as a puppet by a foreign power.
While Morrison has ‘withdrawn’ his comments, (knowing full well that their effect would persist in voters’ minds) Mike Burgess – director-general of the country’s top spy agency, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) – referred to this politicisation of national security issues as “not helpful” in a rare TV interview with the ABC.
Why is it that politicians lack what athletes seem to have in abundance? What is it that politicians crave more than anything else?
If forced into a one-word answer, I would use ‘POWER”. The ‘Power Syndrome’ is pervasive throughout the political class.
Power is the single most important need for politicians. Not that this is confined to them; many people in positions of importance seek power, the capacity to ‘call the shots’, to get their own way, to control the process and the outcome. It’s a common human attribute, seen at all levels of society from the family circle, to the schoolyard, to the business environment, to community organisations, to political parties, and to wider society - at home and abroad. People want power, more power than others have. The root reason is our most pervasive and damaging human attribute: ‘selfishness’. The preacher at our local church listed selfishness as the most corrosive ‘sin’ of all.
It takes little effort to find examples of the ‘power syndrome’. Just turn on the TV any time and select an overseas programme. Who could remain unconvinced by the catastrophic state of contemporary international affairs and the unfolding power plays we witness there, day after awful day.
Military might: tanks, trucks, massive aeroplanes and helicopters, and countless helmeted soldiers carrying their bulky gear, abound in dramatic TV image after image. Singly and collectively, they project power, irrepressible power. ‘Touch me if you dare’ is the unspoken message. This too is Morrison’s.
On the home front, we see the same as our politicians fight each other for pre-selection, for the allotment of a winnable seat, for patronage, for funds, for anything that might give them an advantage over an opponent, or even a potential opponent. Our PM leads the pack with vicious intent. Winning at all costs, no matter how disgraceful, is his clear purpose. He is worried, very worried, that he is in real danger of losing at the next election. His nature is such that he cannot bear the thought of this outcome. So expect him to use every dirty trick in the book to avoid this. Nothing will be too nasty, too disgraceful, too awful to stop him. He’s desperate; his behaviour already matches his desperation. Watch him at ‘doorstops’ or press conferences. His mouth never stops moving. He scarcely draws breath! He uses words as poisoned darts to stab his enemies.
Morrison’s latest ploy is to use the odious term ‘Manchurian candidate’ to berate opponents, insinuating as it does subservience to a foreign power. Perversely, as it turns out, it is he who has most genuinely earned the term! Beijing’s Chinese Communist Party prefers him! They’ve said so!
Power perverts. Morrison is perverted by the pursuit of it. He knows this, but will allow nothing to dissuade him from it! Captured by it, addicted to it, poisoned by it, recovery is out of his reach!
Where does that leave the rest of us?