Get out of the gutter

You may not have heard of Mike Rinder. A Scientologist for most of his life, at the age of 52 he walked out, and as a result lost his family, friends, employment and pretty well everything else in his life. RInder has written a book on his time in Scientology, runs a website that questions Scientology beliefs and practices and was heavily involved in a TV Series ‘Scientology and the Aftermath’ with Leah Remini, another former long-term Scientologist who was one of the stars of the TV sitcom ‘King of Queens’ from 1998 until 2007.

A recent review of Rinder’s book published in The Guardian discusses how he reached the highest levels of the organisation and then because of some claimed transgressions, the lowest of the lows. The moral of the story seems to be that to remain in Scientology, there is no dissent and you have to remain loyal to the cause, regardless of how much more extreme the cause becomes over the years.

As someone that lives outside Victoria, the coverage of the recent election was concerning and also seems to be an example of the expectation that you must remain loyal to the cause you choose to believe. Like Scientology where it seems there are only extremes, we have a Member of the Upper House in Victoria wishing the Premier disappear in a ‘red mist’ — apparently a dog whistle to ultra-conservatives and hunters that suggests that the intended victim should be killed by an extremely powerful gun. Of course, she later claimed it wasn’t what she meant. We also have ALP candidates calling other candidates ‘nazis’ and ‘fascists’ with absolutely no evidence offered. The Victorian Opposition Leader in the weeks prior to the election was perhaps inadvertently publicly pointing out the errors in the Liberal Party selection process by stating that an Upper House candidate won’t be sitting in the Liberal Party meeting room because she is a member of fundamentalist religious church and
had been directed by its global leader to infiltrate Coalition politics, and is opposed to gay, trans and reproductive rights.
Neither major political party is blameless here
both sides have been rolling out the attack ads, including one from Labor focused on the behaviour of drunken Coalition MPs and the opposition labelling Andrews a “prick”.
As The Guardian questioned — what happened to the contest of ideas? Election campaigns are supposed to be a window to see how a political party operates. What initiatives do they propose to implement to make their community better than it is now? In addition, they should provide some evidence that they would have the physical stamina and mental capability to identify threats to their constituents’ way of life and implement actions to mitigate the threats as they arise. Attack advertising and name calling is the complete opposite and frankly if the current Victorian participants were 3-year-olds in a child care centre, they would be encouraged to behave with greater maturity. The extremists are apparently in charge. Since when did it have to be if you’re not for me, you are against me and accordingly you (and your opinion) are dead to me? Is it any wonder that a lot of Victorians probably went to vote last weekend with the figurative clothes peg firmly attached to their nose.

There is a better way.

During November, The Guardian compared the process used by Senators Jacqui Lambie and David Pocock in relation to the government’s Industrial Relations legislation
Pocock and Lambie actually have very similar concerns when it comes to the complexity of the bill.

But while Lambie’s instinct is to blow the debate up and make the government pay for pushing it through, Pocock is accumulating ideas for improvements and means to fortify his proposed settlement of splitting the bill.
Pocock’s actions in talking and negotiating, rather that the extremist response of Lambie is likely to achieve better results over time as compromise and consensus ensures that the decision reflects the views of different groups within the community. Being independents, both Lambie and Pocock have had the opportunity to listen and reflect on opinions that aren’t necessarily those of the party leadership, ‘dealmakers’ or members, inherent in the behaviour of Parliamentarians who belong to either of the two major political parties. With a recent survey suggesting that
Only 41 per cent of Australians believe the government can generally be trusted to do the right thing, down from 44 per cent last year and 56 per cent in November 2020.
You would think politicians would be attempting to create trust, rather that decide to reject plurality of opinion. In short, they should try to come to a consensus.

On a similar note, it’s interesting that not all political commentators in the USA were in the chorus predicting a ‘red tidal wave’ in the mid-term elections a month or so ago. Filmmaker and author Michael Moore was suggesting the opposite, as was the case on the day. The day after the election, Moore wrote in his election commentary mass email
“We were lied to for months by the pundits and pollsters and the media. Voters had not ‘moved on’ from the Supreme Court’s decision to debase and humiliate women by taking federal control over their reproductive organs. Crime was not at the forefront of the voters’ ‘simple’ minds. Neither was the price of milk. It was their democracy that they came to fight for yesterday,”
The report goes on to suggest
[Moore] wants a more positive message from the left, based less on scaring people and more on inspiring them. Already a self-defeating post-Trump narrative is taking shape, Moore believes, and it revolves mostly around Florida governor Ron DeSantis. “Oh, DeSantis is going to win because he’s like Trump but he’s smarter oooh, oooh”.

DeSantis does represent the kind of forceful, base-pleasing call-to-arms that Democrats fear. “He is clever to rent private jets and fly refugees up to Martha’s Vineyard,” Moore says. “Do you know the sort of orgasmic feeling that happens inside a right-winger when they see him doing something wonderful and crazy like that, slamming it right in the liberals face.”

The left can learn a lesson from that playbook: get creative, though not cruel. He points out that wasn’t until 10pm the night before the vote that Democrats finally put up a campaign ad featuring LeBron James, the most popular basketball player in America, asking voters in Georgia to vote against Herschel Walker in Georgia.

“Why didn’t they do that months ago? They wait until the last night to put up one of great African American sports stars?”
It’s fair to suggest that the US Democrats are not the only left leaning political party in the world that practices self-defeating behaviour — the Australian Labor Party is a very capable practitioner of self-defeatism. If the Victorian ALP has a plan for the future, policy to implement and a belief that they are the better option for the future of Victoria, why get down in the gutter with the Liberals? After all, if you allow someone to take you down to their level, they will normally beat you with experience.

The US mid-term elections have proven the Albanese Government’s election policy of maintaining the higher ground wasn’t a fluke result. The majority of Australians don’t belong to political parties and don’t care about point scoring across political lines and trivialities like how Dan Andrews fell down some stairs or if a Liberal Party MP was convicted of drink driving (and in the eyes of the law paid the penalty).

Mike Rinder seems to have escaped (to an extent) the extremism of Scientology, Senator Pocock seems to be capable of looking for the best outcome rather than the evident extremism of Senator Lambie and the voters in the USA definitely made their opinions known in respect to the extremist conservative moral values promoted by a number of the Republicans that were almost expected to take seats in the US Congress.

So a note to Australian politicians — get out of the gutter, discuss your policies and plans for the future then genuinely accept and act on ideas that come from others outside your tent if you are fortunate enough to win power. We’re all fed up to the back teeth with character assassination, put downs for the sake of putting someone down and not genuinely considering advice.

What do you think?

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