Friday, 12 October 2012

The Sound & Fury of Australian Politics

"It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
  William Shakespeare, Macbeth

I wonder what Shakespeare would make of the current state of politics? As a keen observor of humanity and its foibles he probably wouldn't be surprised at the greed, self-interest and hypocrisy that now dominate the political landscape, but I do believe even he would be shocked at just how juvenile and ridiculous political debate has become.

Scenes in Australian parliament this week demonstrate this point. Discussion has now been reduced to slanging matches over the misogyny of the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott. Recognising that Abbott has a major problem appealing to women voters, Labor has gone all-out with their campaign to portray him as a male-chauvinist pig with attitudes right out of the stone-age.

I have absolutely no doubt there's more than a grain of truth in these accusations, and misogyny is alive in both parliament and wider society. Julia Gillard has been subjected to crude personal attacks and name-calling that male politicians have never had to endure and I  must admitt did get some satisfaction watching her make Abbott squirm.  However, I also believe that this focus on gender and sexism is abeing used by both parties to distract attention from the real issues about the economy and the fact that neither of them can put forward a platform that people will actually support. Rather than acknowledge this, they have to focus on these issues, and that's why parliament has degenerated into childish insults and point-scoring. This article sums it up better than I can.

Those who lauded Gillard for standing up to the bullies have totally missed the point. This article portrays her speech as a "triumph of feminism." Is it also a triumph of feminism to force single parent families onto the dole when the last child turns eight, effectively cutting the income of the most disadvanged families in society, the majority of which are headed by women? There was nothing remotely spontaneous or 'real' about her speech. Every move is carefully orchestrated to hit Abbott in his weak spot with voters and to distract attention away from her support for Peter Slipper, and other important questions. The whole debate is calculated. Gillard is an extremely ruthless politician who will say or do anything to survive, and to see her as some kind of "every woman" finally standing up for herself is ridiculous.

It's not just parliament that has degenerated markedly over the past few years. The media plays a huge role in blowing controversies way out of proportion, and causing people to focus on what is basically a whole lot of hot air while the country goes to hell in a handbasket. I can't believe the number of news reports I've read recently where they quote from Twitter and Facebook. Journalists have taken to scanning through social media sites to find the most offensive comments which they then use to stir up a hornet's nest. I really do despair at the state of the media, politics and society in general, and it can't be denied that all three are in a state of decay.

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