Well here we are, the campaigning is over, votes are cast and mostly counted and we’re all still up in the air as to who will be the Chief Ring Master down in the Great Canberra Circus. So what do we do while we wait for the announcement of the final outcome? Some of us choose to wait patiently, basically happy with the fact that it looks like neither of the Clown Troupes will be able to form a majority government. But it seems that not everyone will take that approach, and as a result I’ve had one of those light bulb moments. Let me explain.
Sitting back and watching the end of the election coverage on Saturday eve, it became apparent that the result was going to be close. Neither party would be able to walk away from this without some soul searching. Or so I thought. Shorten claims some kind of victory in that they pulled back a lot of seats from the LNP, while Turnbull jumps up and basically insinuates that the only reason they got such a poor vote was because we, the great un-washed, fell for Labor’s scare campaign of lies etc, etc, etc.
As I sat watching Turnbull, the lead ball of disillusion hit ground zero somewhere around the pit of my stomach. Despite the poor percentage of votes achieved, neither of them managed to take it as a message from the voters of Australia. They still don’t seem to realise that a very large majority of Australians don’t like the way politics is done by our current crop of professional politicians. They don’t respect the voice or intelligence of the average Australian. Why?
Well that leads us to my light bulb moment. I often find that the best way to get a feel for the thoughts of the average person on the street is to read through the online opinion pieces where people basically get to state their point of view, safe behind the shield of on-line anonymity. The ABC’s Drum is one such forum which can be quite enlightening, but also to some degree are the more public forums like Facebook. Sure if you use your real name on Facebook people will know your opinion but if they disagree the worst they’ll do is ‘un-friend’ you, so what’s to lose. And it’s in these forums that I have discovered why the politicians have no respect for the opinions of Australians. It’s because we, the citizens of this great country, seem to have no respect for the opinion of the other citizens of this great country, if that opinion differs in any way to theirs.
Have a look through any forum where people are putting up their thoughts and you’ll see what I’m on about. Apparently if person X doesn’t like a particular candidate but person Y does, then based on nothing more than the notion that person X’s opinion must be right because person X believes it, person Y must be a moron, uneducated, an imbecile. There appears that, in the deepest parts of people’s psyche, there is no room for differing opinions.
A quick glance will show an absolute smorgasbord of invective against those who have voted for Hanson, Hinch, Lambie or any of the more notable candidates as well as the usual back and forth between rusted on Liberal and Labor voters. This invective seems to ignore one fundamental principle – these people were elected by a majority vote. I think they call that democracy don’t they? And isn’t that the whole point?
You may or may not support the policies of any of the candidates and as your opinion is based upon your own life experience that is a valid opinion. But that doesn’t make you the sole proprietor of the right opinion. Let’s take one of the more divisive issues going around that the moment, Muslim immigration, as an example.
Spending your life in your nice comfortable inner city environment, occasionally coming into contact with a down-to-earth, compassionate and tolerant Muslims will entitle you to your view that there is no conceivable risk to allowing an influx of Islamic immigration. And that’s fine, that’s your opinion based upon your life experience.
But what if that’s not your life experience? What if, as a young 21-22 year old you joined the Army (no this is not me) and were sent overseas to Islamic countries where you potentially witness the stoning deaths of ‘dishonourable’ women in the name of Allah, or at least the end result of that stoning, or you’ve seen the long line of executed young men who just happened to worship a different form of Islam. Of course you’re going to have a different opinion on the question of Islamic immigration. And that opinion is just as valid as the person who’s not been exposed to that.
Now if a candidate comes along who is advocating against open borders and a flood of people from a particular religious ideology, then obviously this young soldier is going to give that person their vote. And rightly so, based on their own lived experience. Could you really expect them to vote differently despite what they’ve witnessed just because the media is telling them there is nothing to worry about?
If the majority feel the same way and that particular candidate is voted in, then that is democracy at work. You may not agree with the candidate or the opinion of those who voted for them, but rather than resorting to the usual calls of ‘racism’ or ‘xenophobic Australian’ maybe a bit of respect for those people making that decision would not be out of order. Certainly shouting insults will achieve nothing, and attempting to see an issue from another’s point of view might actually broaden your own horizons.
For either side to resort to insulting each other, basically on nothing more than different lived experiences, shows a complete lack of respect for the other person’s opinion. And if we don’t respect the opinion of our fellow citizens, how can we demand that our politicians show respect to our opinions?
There can be no more beneficial outcome than to have as many disparate voices in the Senate as possible so that the opinions of ALL Australians get heard and then the final decision is made based upon the majority opinion. So instead of trotting out the same old bovine excrement that the politicians fling around when their opposite number has a varied opinion, how about we show them the standard we expect of them by living up to that standard ourselves, and show each other a bit of respect even though we freely disagree. Can’t be that hard.