Scary stories from a lovely place
I used to love politics. I was excited when Julia Gillard became the first female Prime Minister of Australia. I was even more excited about Kevin Rudd’s victory in late 2007. That was the result I really cared about. I wanted Howard out. And I liked Rudd. I wanted him in. When I was 12 I met John Howard. I liked him then. But by the time I was of voting age I had become so sick of his leadership and policies that I switched to the Rudd side, even though he didn’t make his appearance until later. I was a politics glutton.
But now I’m done. I’ve had my fill. I’m willing to be convinced otherwise – that I should continue to care about politics and support this or that side. But it’s all a polyglot of relative voices. Everyone can make a convincing argument for something or another. I’ve been coming to this for a while, but it all crystallised in my mind during the recent Australian federal election. I eagerly watched the newspaper websites in the lead-up so I could feel as though I was still involved. But this election had such a different feel to previous years. There was an overwhelming sense of malaise in the reporting of the activities of Gillard and Tony Abbott. And then when the result was so close, that it depended on the decision of a handful of Independent politicians, I thought it would start to heat up. Rather, the election result disappeared completely from the Australian media websites! No one cared anymore. Without a Prime Minister for a few weeks the country ticked on as normal. What does that say?
The other major impetus for my disillusionment is some opinions I’ve heard from people of wealthy, comfortable countries. During the lead up to the Australian election in August I was pretty disappointed by thoughts shared on facebook. Opinion seemed to be that the country would fall apart if Gillard had a proper go at the leadership. Comments went along the lines of “we may as well trade in our Australian passports and move to New Zealand! She’s going to destroy the place!”. Whatever bad decisions Rudd or Gillard or Abbott or Howard would make as Prime Minister of Australia it wouldn’t ruin the country so as to make it unlivable. Not in the way some countries are ruined by politicians. To suggest it would is ignorant and opprobrious.
The other was with an American lady I know who is married to a South African. I asked her how things were going at home. I had intended to inquire about her family and friends but she proceeded to delineate to me the woes of the nation as a whole. I was brusquely informed that Obama is a communist and is taking away the human rights of all Americans by illegally changing the constitution. Now I know the guy hasn’t been the darling President the world lauded him to be, but a criminal red man? Again, I think a bit of ignorance and hyperbole has been employed. If I had heard the same report from my Rwandan friend Brigitte about the state of things in her home nation I wouldn’t have been quite so skeptical.
I read a book earlier in the year called ‘The State of Africa’. It’s very good, but very sad – full of loss of life and selfishness. My current frustration with Western politics is reinforced by what I read in that book. It recounts the history of the last 50 years of the independence of African states. The majority of the Western world don’t care about these nations unless there is some leverage to be gained or a resource to be taken and used for industry or economics. It recounts the repetitive history of politicans and elections rife with corruption and murder. It is in nations like those that the election of a new President really could make or break life for the people, not sunshiney places like Australia.
The coolest thing I’ve done politically in the last few years was after the 2008 election in South Africa when Jacob Zuma became the new President. It’s the law for the campaign posters to be taken down a few days after the election. Of course no one had and so armed with a swiss army knife Stephen and I helped them obey the law by snatching the signs for ourselves. It was fun. Now we have the faces of ANC, DA, ID and various independents stashed in Silas’ cupboard. I get them out sometimes to remember. I’m waiting a few years to use them as decoration at an election night party.