Mark Thompson

No good: Why we love our politicians two-faced

Ever wonder why we tolerate the politicians we elect turning from good to evil? There’s a very good reason why.

 

 

In the modern landscape of disappointed exhalations, it seems that the good among us are actually quite bad. We witnessed our Malcolm ostensibly green-light hate speech and then disappear into the background for the duration of the debate, while their Donald picked on people made homeless by a hurricane, and apathetically told the families of the 50+ slain in Las Vegas, that gun control was not the issue.

There’s been an undercurrent of whatthefuckery for most of the calendar year, where we continually wonder how can these people do such lousy things, and get away with it. While we can blame the limitations of the political system, or the mental function of those who ticked their boxes, perhaps there’s something deeper, a problem with our moral code, in how we see good vs evil. And why we need them to be the worst of us.

But, I don’t believe it’s our fault; we’ve been spoon-fed narratives about good and evil. All we need to do is choose the person we see as good, and we’re all good. The problem, at least according to philosopher Jacques Rancière, is that this binary thought process of choosing sides, say Malcolm v Marriage Equality or Trump v Everyone, becomes a battle to be won, in which the victor gets all the jellybeans, and the smashing of the jar to acquire said jellybeans is absolutely fine.

Why? Because we’re the good guys. Just as impeaching Trump will defeat Trump, or as voting in the plebiscite will slay the religious conservatives, it’s all or nothing, and we work towards that, clenching our fists ever tighter, until our eyes water and we squeak admonishment. I’ll get you, lousy politician.

 

If we shake loose Malcolm, who will replace him? Pauline Hanson’s sister? Is that what we want? Another radicalised member of the House of Hanson?

 

My point is to seek that end, we become evil in order to fight evil. Twitter would, if it knew the incantation, call on Cthulu to sweep through the White House as much as we’d drive a railroad spike through Malcolm’s testicle if given the opportunity. Anything to destroy ultimate evil. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no different, I feel the abject need to spray whichever Cro-Magnon it was who speckle-sprayed those epithets on fences around Sydney, just as I had lurid revenge fantasies about Pauline’s cunning burqa stunt. But, living out these fantasies births yet more horror. Back in 2015, we collectively abandoned Tony Abbott, which gave us another Tony Abbott. A more contemporary example was the fad of kicking everyone with the jumbo boot of Section 44. Malcolm Roberts and Barnaby Joyce are bad, so we have no qualms in digging up the ancient shale of constitutional law to frack them up real good.

That being said, if we shake loose Malcolm Roberts, who will replace him? Pauline Hanson’s sister? Is that what we want? Another radicalised member of the House of Hanson?

Perhaps the problem is in the labels we attach. Perhaps, as a politician, Prime Minister Turnbull sees not the differential we do; the black and white social constructs of good/bad we rely on are not important in the game he plays. Conversely, we don’t see the value in him walking between the raindrops. We don’t understand how he can continue doing what he chooses, choosing one, both or neither, because the difference to us is not negligible. This was illustrated when he claimed that hate speech was part of reasonable debate, but that we should also throw an arm around the shoulder of the distraught friends we have as a result of it.

It’s also why this happened:

So, perhaps when yet more disappointment exposes its features, and before we Thelma & Louise ourselves off the moral cliff, we should let Plato yank the handbrake, and halt ourselves with his “noble lie”. This is what normal people will identify as the part in The Dark Knight where the citizens of Gotham deify Harvey Dent and blame Batman for Dent’s crimes.

We get more out of the idea of what Trump and Turnbull represent, than out of who they actually are. We let them be bad because we need them to be. That way we can keep the dream alive. The idealistic act of kicking out a conservative loon, and replacing them with an empathetic reformer.

A sense of moral right, as we know, is like knocking soup off a table – it just takes a little spill.

 

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