Thoughts on Modern Political Discourse

I don't follow politics very closely. When I do, it's usually in the weeks or months leading up to an election, or it's after some really big thing has happened. However, I have noticed a thing or two during the times I have followed it.

It's actually quite rare for someone to be violently fanatical about their political positions. Sure, they might go down with the ship supporting the politician of their choice and they're willing to shout and scream at you from here to Parliament House because of it, but very rarely are they going to blow up your car because of it. It tends to be mostly the more religiously orientated political movements that go around doing that kind of thing.

So it's basically like following sport when you live in the developed world, but with much higher stakes involved. Hardly anybody's going to start hitting you because they think you should be supporting Australia First and not the Greens or vice versa, but occasionally a riot does happen. It's usually not because of your favourite political party, though. Nine times out of ten, it's because of a specific issue that's affecting that particular town or suburb that the politicians haven't been able to adequately resolve.

But by and large, people seem to treat it like a sport. The only major rule is that you have to work out a way of making sure opposing parties end up more embarrassed come election day than yours has. This is why so many news sites make huge deals about politicians making slips of the tongue which lead to them saying the exact opposite of what they intended to.

It's also the reason why when someone's favourite party is having a hard time in office, their immediate response is, "Yeah, but the other party spiked the ball during their time in office, so it's harder than you would imagine to fix everything". It's also the reason why when the people who support the other party say more or less the same thing when their preferred party is in office, they'll cry foul and say that this isn't how the game's meant to be played.

I think it's this tendency to immediately cry foul when the other side say yours spiked the ball needs to stop. Most political issues are complicated ones, and they're often more complicated than the news tabloids make out. There are books on this kind of thing, and some websites do give fairly good overviews of particular issues, however the major newspapers rarely do.

Remember, at the end of the day, newspapers are trying to sell copies, and it's a lot easier to sell you the news if they find some way of dividing the world into good and evil. Even when you're fairly cynical, it's still much easier to sell you a story where the world operates in these absolutes than it is to sell you the full complexity of a situation.

Of course, a surprising number of people simply don't care about that. They see politics as being a form of entertainment comparable to reality television. I don't think that this is something that society should be proud of--it's actually one of the worst black marks in a lot of ways because politics is something that can legitimately affect the lives of real people in very real ways.
September 26th, 2014 at 02:46am