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Desperate and Chippless

19 Aug

Political rants are like listening to someone describe a dream.  Indulgent and tedious. So beware, I have a dream.

I love elections.

There are few days of ritual that make me feel more connected to my Australian identity than the one of rocking up to  a local school hall on a Saturday morning and penciling a political destiny. It’s all so polite and chipper. Sure, there are the How-to-Vote  hounds who bark and wave their little red books and generally behave like footy thugs, but, everything else is commonly courteous. There’s a bit of banter and chat along the queue, but ultimately, there is an intrinsic understanding that talk of politics is out of the question.

There are commentators who profess this is emblematic of our political apathy. Of our lack of engagement  with socio-political issues. Sometimes these folk like to trot out the “people die for the right to vote” to press their point. I know this is true of the world, but having never experienced political oppression personally, to bark its verse, well,  it just seems a bit on the vain side.

What election days demonstrate so very well is that voting is a private thing. You step into your booth, you make a final weigh of what is important to you, and you accord judgment.  Like prayer, it is a private contract between you and something bigger, whatever you deem that bigger thing to be.

But this year, there is little sacred about the ritual. There is no private moment to be relished. For, after six weeks of  Punch and Judy,(only less eloquent) there is no sense of that something bigger to make contract with. Gillard and Abbott have literally worn us into the state of apathy we as Australians are so often accused of.

They played some of Obama’s acceptance speech on 774 this morning. Now, what the realities of his leadership are I do not know, but to hear the fluidity of ideas was to be excited by that most isolated of emotions, hope. Soon after, the ABC cut to sound bytes from our leaders. I thought I was eavesdropping on a neighbour’s dispute over who pays for the new fence.

Perhaps sentimentality clouds me. But I can recall in 1976 being transfixed as one Don Chipp literally spat with passion as he gave his election pitch to camera. He thumped the desk as he leant like a drunk uncle and implored us to keep the bastards honest. He was also a man who admitted to coming into politics with no real ideals and having some very strong ones forged by the ambivalent brutality of the game.

His party is a long spent force. The Greens may yet rise in their place; but as I watch and hear our current mob take yet another limp cheap shot, I wonder just where their beliefs have been forged; outside of a carefully monitored focus groups and petty ambition that is? Success through consensus has always been a part of politics, but rarely has it had stereo of such  monotonal linguists as its figureheads.

There’s a saying we get the leaders we deserve.

I love elections. I really do.

But I have a dream.

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