It’s all about me

At the risk of earning a Godwin Award in the first sentence, according to those who staffed his office, Hitler was a kind and paternal man. Apparently Goebbels was kind to his family as are no doubt most of the world’s leaders today. 

However, the same people who make sure they are kind to their staff, helpful for their friends and make sure they have a positive influence in their children’s lives can make the lives of people more distant from their immediate family absolutely horrific. It is history that Hitler and Goebbels were two of the leaders of a regime that murdered millions of people based on racial stereotypes, plunged the world into the second World War and left their country far worse off than when they came to power. It could be argued that there are leaders of a number of countries who are committing similar atrocities today. It is always good, however, to remember that one person’s ‘freedom fighter’ is another person’s ‘terrorist’.

A few months ago, SBS screened a documentary from the UK titled Troll Hunters. The narrator of the documentary is a young woman (Em Ford) who owns an internet beauty blog, giving other young women tips on how to dress according to the current trends and apply makeup. Like a lot of young people, Ford at times suffers from acne and part of the make-up tips she shares on the internet are methods to hide acne. Em Ford’s blog is located here. Unfortunately, and probably unsurprisingly, some of the comments Ford receives on her blog, YouTube videos and so on are less than complementary on her appearance, personality and taste in clothes and fashion. Some of those who comment are persistent, insulting and use copious amounts of foul language. So she sets out in this documentary to find her ‘nemesis’ and call that person to account.

So the search begins. Trolling is basically illegal, as it is using a ‘carriage service’ to harass and cause harm. As you would expect, most ‘professional’ trolls don’t leave much information behind to identify them, however there are people who can sometimes discover the identity of the ‘troller’.

Here’s the spoiler alert as the end of the documentary is the relevant section for the purposes of this article.

While Ford doesn’t find ‘her troll’, with help she locates a troll who was uploading pornography to the social media feeds of a woman who was a former British Conservative Party MP. Ford and the former MP confront the man outside his house and as you would expect the former MP has some interesting observations on the man’s behaviour and can express those views with an interesting variety of language. By arrangement, Ford interviews the ‘troller’ who is not sorry for what he’s done and, despite meeting his victim, doesn’t believe she is real. It appears there is a disconnect with the reality that every ‘cyber person’ with a social media account is somehow related to a real person with a right to be treated with courtesy and respect. He admits he uploads pornography to people’s social media accounts for the fun of it! He also gets a (perverse) victory out of being blocked from someone’s social media accounts.

Let’s put that into perspective. The ‘troller’ enjoys that he can apply increasing pressure to selected victims by use of words, pictures and so on which invokes potentially a police complaint (for which there is little or any evidence available for a conviction) and certainly blocking from the victim’s social media feeds. When this happens, the ‘troller’ believes they are victorious against a ‘cyber-person’ who has no basis in real life and probably moves on to harass someone else.

So how does this relate to Australian politics? Despite what you think of their policies, it is evident that Malcolm Turnbull loves his family (including the often mentioned and photographed grandson, Jack), as Tony Abbott loves his wife and daughters and Bill Shorten loves his ‘blended’ family. It’s probably fair to suggest that Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton, Sam Dastyari and George Brandis love their families as well. In each case, it would be pretty certain that each politician would do whatever it takes to look after their family and have a pretty good stab at teaching children not to steal or cheat, as well as giving them the skills to ‘play nicely with others’.

So why would the same people act so differently when it comes to running the country? Dutton, in response to leaked reports of over 2,000 cases of abuse and humiliation of refugees (supposedly) in our care on Nauru, claimed there was nothing new to see here when it was first reported; and subsequently claimed he was the victim because he was being verballed by the media. This is despite evidence showing that Dutton had been given extensive briefings about the actions of the contractors he employs on our behalf. Dutton was attempting to shift the blame to everyone but himself and the government for the problem caused by his government’s unbending harshness as discussed by The Guardian here a few weeks ago. Maybe it is a coping mechanism. Assuming Dutton’s claim of a ‘fit up’ are true, Dutton claims there are a number of exaggerated and made up claims (by inference not all the leaked claims are incorrect), and there are obviously some incidents that bring discredit to Australia and Australians. According to his website, Dutton has a family. Even one case where a person is treated less than well is one too many and diametrically different to the care and love Dutton probably shows to his family.

The Sam Dastyari donation issue is equally as instructive here. Fairfax media reported:
It is worth noting Dastyari had broken no law, no regulation, nor even a norm in Australian politics. Technically he had not even taken a donation, but a gift. He had even properly declared the gift. He was determined to ride out the scandal.

Last Friday though, the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, piled on, pointing to quotes in Chinese media suggesting that Dastyari had advocated China's position on the South China Sea dispute, a position contrary not only to Australia's stance, but that of our key ally, the United States.

‘Cash for comment’, said the PM.
The claimed difference between this ‘gift’ and other ‘gifts’ and donations is that Dastyari is supposed to have publicly contradicted the ALP’s policy on the current South China Sea issue where China is apparently attempting to exert more influence than it currently does.

Dastyari fell on his sword early in September and resigned from the position of Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate. Turnbull’s ‘cash for comment’ claim is full of faux outrage. If Turnbull is claiming that Dastyari’s opinion was changed by around $6,500 (in two individual ‘gifts’), it is worth asking why Turnbull and his Liberal Party colleagues’ opinions are not influenced by the 89.56% (or $9,315,505) of ‘non-individual’ donations above the reportable ‘cap’ received during 2014/5 by the Liberal Party. The Nationals seemingly are more resilient to being influenced by ‘non-individual’ donations — 100% of their donations (above the reportable ‘cap’) were not from individuals; the ALP comes in at 90.22% and the Greens rate the least affected, if you can call 89.19% of their donations coming from ‘non-individuals’ as significantly better than 100%, 90.22% or 89.56%! Fairfax reported:
There is still a large portion of donations in the system falling below the $12,800 threshold required for disclosure, many of which would be small contributions from individuals. Labor's figures include all donations above $1000 as they have put in practice their proposal to legislate a lower threshold.

For the purpose of this analysis, Fairfax Media also counted only the AEC "donation" category and not financial benefits reported as "other receipt".
So it is debatable if the million or so dollars in Liberal Party income from Parakeelia, the provider of the customer relationship software mandated for use by Liberal Party politicians, wholly owned by the Liberal Party and funded by parliamentary services electoral office budgets (aka your and my taxes) is included in these figures — it could have been listed as a dividend.

Dastyari has done some good by focussing the national headlines onto the donation issue for close to a week and weathering the storm of faux outrage generated by Turnbull and a few of his ministers. Should donation reform be on the agenda? Almost certainly, yes it should. But the major political parties are so reliant on the donations received from ‘non-individuals’ there is probably no real appetite by the politicians to really do anything as they rely on the funding to the political parties to gain and retain their seats.

It’s not the first time that political donations have undone a political career. Former Premier of New South Wales Barrie O’Farrell’s career fell apart over a bottle of (supposedly quite nice and definitely expensive) wine. O’Farrell did try to limit donations to individuals in New South Wales, but the law was overruled by the High Court.

The interest in political donations here is similar to the interest in refugees on Nauru as well as ‘trollers’ on the internet. There is a disconnect between our reality and theirs.

Em Ford’s interview with the ‘troller’ shocked her — not for what you would assume but for the reason that firstly the male ‘troller’ was an articulate person who seemed to be a normal member of society who just couldn’t understand that behind each website blog (such as this one), YouTube channel or social media account was a person who has probably tried their best, with feelings and an expectation that people should treat each other with respect, recognising that at times people have a right to express different experiences and values politely. The ‘troller’ just didn’t ‘get it’.

If you meet Peter Dutton (or Scott Morrison, the previous Immigration Minister responsible for the indefinite and proven — in PNG at least — illegal detention of refugees who asked Australia for protection and a safe home), you would probably find a person who treats you with respect. They both also have families and you would have to imagine they would do anything to protect their family from hurt and keep them safe. It seems they just don’t ‘get it’. Refugees are people who by circumstance have been forced to leave their homes and livelihood. They are families as well and deserve to be treated as well as the families of Dutton or Morrison.

Turnbull attacks Dastyari over donations of around $6,500, claiming that the cash influenced his opinion, while saying nothing about the almost $10million the Liberal and National Parties received from ‘non-individuals’ in 2014/15 (later figures are not available). It stands to reason that Turnbull just doesn’t ‘get it’. Somewhere around $10million would purchase a lot more influence than $6,500 or thereabouts. Is Turnbull upholding a principle or ‘playing the man’ for political gain?

The real problem here is that there is a disconnect. At what point do people just become numbers, or customers, political enemies or voters? It stands to reason that everyone has people they care about more than the person sitting in the car beside them in the traffic jam, however those who make the decisions in Australia seem to forget that they and their loved ones are a very small proportion of the 24 million plus people who live in Australia or the 7 billion plus people who inhabit the earth. While their job is not to ‘tuck each individual into bed each night’, those who are placed in positions of power need to remember that they are dealing with people’s lives, and act accordingly. Clearly, the Coalition government isn’t. Are they any better than the anonymous ‘troller’ who posts pornography to people’s social media accounts for the fun of it, or those past and present world leaders who carry out genocide for some warped idea of racial purity, without a care in the world about how the victims feel?

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Ad astra

18/09/20162353NM Thank you for your thoughtful piece. The relationship of the politician with his family contrasts with the relationship with those she/he represents. Wouldn't it be salutary if poiticians cared for their electorate as they care for their families. Parents not only care for their offspring, but also plan to give them a bright future, full of opportunity in our egalitarian society. It is planning for a better future that seems central to everything a politician does. Yet so often that seems to be where they fall short. Self-interest too often dominates. The rent-seekers so often get the prize, while the less influential languish. In my view, planning ought to be the prime function of politicians. But how often do we see serious planning? The future is redolent with uncertainty - about climate change, the economy, employment, automation that will abolish countless manual and cognitive tasks, eduction for our children, healthcare for our ageing population. Concerns about these issues should override the trivial skirmishes that dominate the political discourse. We need dialogue here about the central role of politicians - PLANNING.

Golly

18/09/2016A whole lotta " all about me people " making decisions about the life and well-being of others whilst taking care to maintain and enhance their " me " position. The quandary experienced at so many levels and managed with so little integrity. The seduction of a world in which much is measured by personal outcomes and fairness discarded routinely as a consequence of maintaining a position. The " about me " certainly explains the production line of Prime Ministers. Howard Rudd Gillard Rudd Abbott Turnbull and the next to step up is perhaps an expectation that at some stage we may identify someone willing to go beyond " it's all about me ". Will we identify and regard someone willing and able to show integrity? Does the existence of Hanson Palmer Xenophon Katter Lambie Hinch annd others owe itself to a desire by many for someone to step forward? Wisdom so often arrives too late and fails to benefif the " it's all abut me " types preventing any outcomes so in need of an addition of integrity.

Patriciawa

20/09/2016Sorry, 2353, this isn't a comment on your post which I will make later! Instead, this 'all about me' and how how pleased I am to come to one of my favorite daily sites as I have done for many years and to be able to comment without logging in and using a password which I cannot seem to achieve, discover, recover or rediscover, no matter how carefully I follow the instructions outlined. At first I thought that at last senility had caught up with me, that in spite of my tertiary education and two post graduate degrees, my brain just wasn't working that well any more. However friends tell me they are having similar struggles - though of course they too are now in their eighties. So how easily are younger people finding access to the internet recently? By 'younger', of course, I mean you Swordsters in your forties and fifties.

2353NM

20/09/2016Patriciawa - No worries. Your wise words and Tacker's lovely expression are welcome at any time, and anything you post is always relevant. If it makes you feel better, I too have troubles with passwords and log-ons and am a few decades more recent than you are. Again, it's a pleasure to see you around. Golly, I think the rise of Bernardi and Hanson now is a commentary on how little some people can accept change (the same type of people used to vote for the DLP - which is a generalisation of course). It's probably worth a(nother) post or two but some embrace change, some go along with it and some actively resist. It then isn't too hard an ask for someone to come along and promise that if you vote for them they will look after it all for you and nothing will affect your little corner of the world. Of course, they can't change things back to the 'good ol' daze' which means that in turn when the next head appears over the hill promising the same, they get instant followers and success for a while, then can't deliver, then a new head (and so on).

Bacchus

20/09/2016I echo 2353NM's sentiments Patriciawa - it's always a pleasure to see your familiar avatar pop up here. It would be great to see more of those we used to see as well! Another excellent article 2353NM - 'nail on the head' as usual...

Patriciawa

21/09/2016Ad Astra's point that "planning ought to be the prime function of politician" is absolutely spot on. My own life has been enormously improved because Clement Attlee, a modest English Labour Party leader and Prime Minister, planned ahead for his country and incidentally for me, when he organised the Education Act of 1944 in negotiation with the Tories when the world was still at war with Adolf Hitler. Jimmy Barnes on QA the other night, another Pom beneficiary of the UK Labour movement, reminded me of that and why I transferred my Labour loyalty to Julia Gillard who was a….. ....Working Class Girl..... Hear about that ranga sheila, Fighting the big end of town? Boofhead Abbott says he’ll beat her. “No worries mate! She’ll soon lie down!” But oh no! She’s a working class girl! Raised in a working family She believes in a fair go, But she’s no revolutionary, She would be if she had to though. Oh yes, she’s just a working class girl. Made friends around the neighbourhood, Went to school on the local bus, They keep in touch as old mates should. “She’s great!” they say. “Still talks like us.” ‘Course she would, she’s a working class girl. Her Dad worked hard, his shifts were long, Nursing oldies in their pain. He taught his kid how to be strong But helping others is no strain. Yes, for sure, she’s a working class girl. Learned too as her mother’s daughter A woman’s work ain't ever done. And never paid how much it oughta As if she’d been her father’s son. That’s life for a working class girl. So now she’s gonna change all that Help working folk like me and you, Who always had to pass the hat For battlers without a brass razoo. She knows, cos she’s a working class girl. How the hell did the ALP let her go? They certainly weren't planning ahead for Oz or for themselves!
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