In Dutton’s mind, he’s not a monster, he’s just ahead of the curve. In fact, unpacking the man, he’s our very own Joker.
Every ballot box crusader needs an antagonist. An enemy to fight, a foe to defeat on election day. There is no light without shade. In the famous words of one antagonist, aimed at that neoliberal ubermensch Batman: “you complete me.”
Which brings me neatly to the Clown Prince of Auspol, Peter Dutton.
Now Peter might hold a Liberal seat, but it’s fair to say that he’s a man devoid of political siding. You could easily state that the thing he believes in, other than himself, is nothing. He’s been represented previously in the media (and through photoshop) as Voldemort, but I believe him to be closer to the Joker.
Let me explain.
Part One: Do you want to know how I got these scars?
Peter Dutton was once a humble policeman, with feet on the beat, and heart swelling with empathy. One who was openly disgusted at the vicious crimes against children he saw as he wore the badge for Queensland. It was experience that shaped him. In conversation with the Sydney Morning Herald, Dutton flatly stated: “I just so much believe in kids having an innocent childhood.”
Today, an 8-year-old will be separated from his mother, unless Peter Dutton personally intervenes. The mother and her two daughters have lived in Australia for eleven years, the son was born here, however with residency refused, they’re off to the Phillippines minus their son. A chorus of voices has called for Dutton to intervene, but the die is very much set, and we’re all certain that we know how this will play out. I mean, the law is the law, sure, but being ripped away from your mother at age eight as she’s kicked out of the country would easily remove the innocence from your childhood.
Much like the Joker, trauma transformed him from what he was into what he is. In nerd canon, The Joker was a comedian who had one bad day, and then zang! he became the twisted, evil, nihilist we know too well. While the Joker fell into a tub of acid, Dutton fell into a vat of paper, drowning in his role as the Department of Immigration head.
Take a quick stroll down any comment boxes that accompany an article with his face on it. Check out this SBS Facebook post.
He’s either a parasite, a soulless snake or a rampant lizard person.
He’s not people, because he doesn’t treat people like people.
Perhaps in the job he holds there is no room for morals. If moral nihilism is therefore correct, then nothing is right or wrong. Seeing boat people not as people, but as a statistical equation to solve highlights this fact. It’s a KPI for him, and he dares us to convince him otherwise.
In the parallel of Batman and Joker, Dutton is the Joker, and we’re Batman. We’re the unstoppable force of the electorate, and democratic virtue, whereas Dutton is the immovable object; both from his electorate, and his current role. We’re constantly trying to bring humanity to Dutton, to drag him to the light, to get him to see that these are people who need help, whereas Dutton is trying to convince us to abandon our morals, and seeing them as he does, a problem to solve, or indeed, someone else’s problem to solve.
He’s an elemental force of chaos. He’ll starve them out on Manus, he’ll let South African farmers jump the queue, and he’ll twist the rules to suit himself. He doesn’t need a consistency, he’s following his own moral compass. The theory of Jean-Paul Sartre states that we’re all responsible for creating our own meaning, and for a man at the top of the immigration tree, one that looks to consolidate his own power, so he eventually only answers to himself, that kind of makes sense.
In The Dark Night, the criminals of Gotham (let’s say for argument sake, they represent the Coalition government) were sick of the pompousness of Batman (which would be the ALP and their perceived easy nature of immigration), so, in the worlds of Alfred: “…in their desperation, they (The Coalition) turned to a man they didn’t fully understand”.
Sadly, Dutton represents the germination of both. Of both left and right, and good and bad. He’s resistant to most schools of thought. He is radical indifference.
Part Two – Why so serious?
Dutton is often seen as a joke, or that is to say, a joke that is usually on us, and one that is never funny. His acts bring hopeless laughter, forcing your brain to roll over on impulse. You can’t define the thought behind it, so you laugh, because you’re unsure what else to do. As Arthur Schopenhauer put it: “The cause of laughter in every case is simply the sudden perception of the incongruity between a concept and the reality.” Or, in this case, he’s the Immigration Minister who hates Immigration.
Which brings me back to Batman. Malcolm Turnbull might be Dutton’s Harvey Dent. His twisted masterpiece. A once-idealistic pure bureaucrat, turned completely numb to the concepts he previously valued. The Old Turnbull was a force for change. Marriage Equality, Human Rights, whatever. He was a humanist. Whereas now, spun in the gravitational pull of Dutton, he’s resistant to those urges, as the only thing he now believes in, is chance. The chance to reverse the Newspolls and keep his job. Perhaps Dutton is proving, as the Joker did to Dent, that we’re all one bad day (or Prime Ministership) away from becoming the opposite of what we thought we were.
In The Dark Knight, the Joker rigs two ferries with explosives, and places the detonators for each in the hands of the other. He’s presenting a boat-person issue. In the real world, Dutton did this with two disparate groups of boat people. The white farmers from South Africa against the brown asylum seekers from elsewhere in Africa. Except, he placed the detonators in our hands, and the discourse blew the fuck up. Some of us chose to blow up the ferries with the white farmers, whereas some of us chose to detonate those on Ferry B.
As the Joker said, “when the chips are down, these people will eat each other.”
The easy definition one can attach to Dutton is that he’s a racist. He doesn’t see those who aren’t white the same as those he sees as white. He might cry on radio in response to saving one man, but the removal of the water supply of the 800 left on Manus enables no waterworks.
You could safety play the race card if you like, but there’s a chance that he’s inadvertently exhibiting something else. In the continued torture of those who legally seek asylum, treating them all as criminals, and continually subverting the maxim of modern Australia was built on, the so-called immigration nation, perhaps he’s also daring us to kick him out. To get to a level to truly do something, instead of just loudly complaining when he says something stupid.
Perhaps his challenge to us is to prove that we’re as noble as we present ourselves to be. If we’re truly the immigration nation, he’d be the only one sitting in a cage in Villawood.
Change, as the Joker illustrated, is like gravity: all it takes is a little push.