Antipodean Angst – part 6

The Politics of Politicians

‘Political language … is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.’ –   George Orwell

‘An honest man in politics shines more there than he would elsewhere’ – Mark Twain

The murky world of politics and the machinations of power both real and perceived in this institution even as they are upheld as being the guiding force of states and nations are a manipulated thing. The manipulation is multi-layered and more often than not unseen.

More so than ever politicians are held up to ridicule by the electorate, they have their professional and personal lives on display as some twisted form of national sport or entertainment. This is with a generally held belief that this scrutiny somehow makes them transparent. Both Sun-Tzu and Bezmenov outlined this in how to subvert a population and overthrow a regime or government.

Politicians, in a perverse way, sometimes consider that if some part of their personal life or the public perception of them is put under a spotlight they then can manipulate events to suit their personal or political agenda. It matters little if the spotlight is negative or positive, what matters are that they can use it as a distraction to achieve an end goal. Yet even then they can be somewhat ignorant to the reality that they, in large part, are merely the public face of the machinations of the bureaucrats who sometimes have an entirely different agenda.

Politicians have some strange belief that they hold power, it is true that they indeed hold power, but that power is delegated out to functionaries in part rather than an absolute power in their decision-making matrix. It is the bureaucrats who, in actuality, are the ones who in large develop or direct policy, the politician is often simply the face that delivers the policies. The politician is also the face that is held responsible for the success or failure of the policy. In essence they are the puppets of the bureaucrats who are pulling the strings. Politicians come and go, but the bureaucrat continues on regardless of elections. You could replace ‘face’ with ‘useful idiot’ and the premise holds true.

Power and greed are the driving forces behind the entire sorry lot neatly wrapped in a patina of serving the people. The reality is that the people, who are the electorate, are nothing in the scheme of things much of the time politically. This does not discredit that the electorate does drive political decisions. It means that some politicians, once in power, simply change course and do what they intend to do regardless of the consequences. This can be seen historically in the Queensland Bjelke Peterson government and the draconian measures he implemented over time to crush activities he simply didn’t like. He did a lot of good for the state and yet he was hugely oppressive in other areas. There is not one branch of government on any level, or political party, that is innocent of enacting their own ambitions once in office despite it being against the wishes of the electorate in large part.

We elect the politicians to represent us and act in accordance with our wishes and best interests despite the fact that they at times do the opposite. The bureaucrats are employed without public approval and operate outside of the public view, and at times manipulate the process for an agenda that at times has little to do with the wishes of the electorate and more to do with internal powerplays and ideological change. That is somehow concerning.

Disturbingly, even when it is pointed out clearly of how the process works and how bureaucrats are the people who advise ministers, formulate reports, control and deliver information, the general public instead prefer to remain oblivious to this. It is far easier to attack the politician and place the blame for bad policy with them when they are at times just useful idiots.

You only have to look to the television series ‘Yes minister’ which in comedic fashion outlines the inner workings of the British Parliament to see how flawed and ridiculous this process is. A classic example is how a bureaucrat wanted a certain outcome for a policy hid documents at the bottom of box five so that the minister stood almost no chance of finding it and therefore would result in the bureaucrat achieving his goal. This was thwarted by another bureaucrat with a different agenda.

It is easy to dismiss this as mere entertainment, yet it has been verified time and again that this indeed is how government works at times. Both Australia and England operate under the Westminster system, in fact our system of government was taken from the English model, and resultantly the operation of government is very similar.

Deals are struck between bureaucrats and the rise and fall of politicians are engineered at times in order for the goals of these bureaucrats to be achieved. There are also concerted attacks upon politicians from those in opposing parties to remove them by shameless smear campaigns and always in the pursuit of political advantage. As always with a smear campaign there is always the kernel of truth upon which it is based and then magnified. At times it is the removal of a politician from the position that they hold, not for reasons of competence or incompetence, rather that there is the decision that they don’t want them there for reasons of their own. Sometimes it is due to the politician being exposed for some action or habit that necessitates them resigning or being sacked.

A recent example is the Federal minister for Aged Care and Senior Citizens, Richard Colbeck. He was made to look like an incompetent fool when he was unable to state the number of people who had died in aged care due to Covid 19. He fumbled and shuffled the papers in front of him looking for the information. Some bureaucrat wanted him to look like a fool and simply hid the relevant piece of paper and neglected to brief him on it. The end result is he has been lambasted in parliament and in all likelihood will end up being quietly removed from his position by the party in due course. His competence or incompetence is irrelevant, what is relevant is he was the useful idiot. He should have done his homework and expected such a question to be asked given the circumstances.

Another example is the Queensland Premier and her blind adherence to border closures. Despite rising public opinion that is building against her, she continues along this line, as it is the line she is advised to follow by her bureaucrats. Her naked ambition and greed for power is the teat upon which she suckles and the bureaucrat’s sense this as surely as sharks can sense blood in the water. Sure it has worked for her so far but it is developing cracks and falling apart as the hypocrisy of the reality of decisions is unavoidable, yet she continues and puts political spin and distraction into her words to deflect criticism. Her naked ambitions are apparent and even the most loyal of her drones can see the hypocrisy of her actions and words, yet she is unwavering in her quest for power and greed. If the bureaucrats or her party decide she has outlived her purpose, then she will be gone faster than a fart in a stiff breeze.

The Victorian premier is perhaps the exception to the rule as he is a remorseless and skilled political animal. He is a career politician and has risen from the bottom to the top. He learnt his lessons along the way and has no issue with sacrificing any in his party if it protects or advances his position. He is a good example of the perfect political predator. However, like any predator they are eventually bested and disposed of.

It is a rare politician that is able to thwart these machinations, and even then it is in the short term, not the long term. In politics experience beats ability, more often than not. The politician that does buck the trend is usually portrayed as the outcast, the laughingstock, or fringe lunatic.

The question then is why are they re-elected year after year? Why does support for them grow when support for the ‘respectable’, popular politicians decline? How do they manage to survive attack after attack and still maintain their integrity more or less intact?

A simplistic answer is that as the major parties continue on a course of promising one thing and doing another once in power tends to disillusion electorates over time. When politicians are seen to be self-serving and pandering to minorities rather than majorities, electorates becomes frustrated. When ideology, virtue signalling, and identity politics are more important than the electorates, then the electorates start looking for an alternative that might actually do what they say.

The politician that is in favour is the one who rides the wave of success, particularly if they are good looking or charismatic, ability takes a back seat to popularity. Rarely is it the politician that is not favoured that wins out and even then it is a constant battle.

The unfavourable politician who speaks common-sense, has ability and intellect is the politician that the people need to look to, instead they look away more often than not. The politician that maintains their stance and does not waver from their ideals, morals, and values to serve the people is the politician that should be admired yet more often than not they are not.

This raises the question then of the electorate. When did looks or charisma replace intellect and ability as the qualities needed for a leader? When did it become a qualification to have good looks or charisma to be a leader? Why is it that a campaign to discredit a politician can be so effective when common-sense dictates the opposite of that campaign? Why does the electorate fall for the promises made and the promises broken time and again, yet they continue to do so?  Does this say something about society as a whole?

As a people are we so vain, shallow, and short sighted that we embrace this rather than have a capacity for inspection of facts and events?

Are we the worker drones who blindly follow the pheromone orders of a compromised queen?

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