Wednesday, 20 June 2007

I'm the Voice try and understand me

Most of us probably won't get round to reading David Marr's Quarterly Essay: "His Master's Voice...the corruption of public debate under Howard " though if you read Julianne Schulz's review in the SMH you get a pretty good idea of the ground that it covers.
To be fair to the PM, Marr doesn't lay the total blame at his feet but rather suggests that we the people have allowed ourselves to be silenced. That we have co-operated with the demonising of individuals, like leading industrial academic David Peetz who dared to criticise Government policy (see one such critique here) and was, Marr argues, subject to one of the most bitter smear campaigns we have ever witnessed.
He was in no lesser place than the Senate caricatured as one who was involved in: "Moral equivocation and terrorism"
This slurring of his character became a matter for the Privileges Committee (see here)and his explanation makes clear that it is his belief that the slur was meant to diminish his standing in the eyes of the community and thus diminish his ability to be regarded as a reputable commentator.
This is a standard political tactic, we might argue; YES! If we are talking about thew tactics of Stalinist Russia.Not the democracy we purport to be.
Marr argues that this is not so much deliberate policy as accepted practice, and happens because we the electorate let it happen.

There is no doubt that Marr can be something of a socialist whining, old, poof and that can be a bit painful and boring...but he does have something of a point.
In getting the politicians we deserve we should remember that we fail to hold our politicians accoutn for their undemocratic behaviour. When they shut down debate, we also allow the debate to be shut down. When they bully, standover, besmirch and fail to be accountable, they get away with this because we let them.

I am not entirely brimming with ideas of what to do about this.
  • I think we should keep the pollies on their toes by writing letters to them.
  • I think that blogging is a good idea.
  • Public questioning as we lead up to election time seem to be quite a good thing to do.
  • Writing letters to the paper
In a way these are fairly pathetic responses to what is a serious problem. But democracy only really works if there is genuine debate. We get the pollies and the system we derserve, in so far as we fail to hold them to account.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

it is a pathetic response. if you would grit your teeth and admit you don't live in a democracy,you could at least understand why you can't do better.

a democracy is a society ruled by the citizens, it has the following features:

direct election of officers.
public execution of public affairs.
primacy of citizen initiated referendum.

a parliamentary society is something else. unless you are content to practice doublethink, you will call it something else. since pollies rule oz, i coined the word 'polliarchy' for this post-aristotelian society.

what to do about oz politics: probably nothing. the national character is submissive to parliament, the national imagination does not rise above hoping for a 'good' politician.

repeated disappointment seems to have no effect, so i can only conclude that submission has become genetic.

stephen clark said...

You seem to be trying to have an each way bet...ie wanting to outline the system that we live under as some sort of non-democracy whilst at the same time wanting to bemoan the fact that we don't actually live in a democracy.
Personally I do at least remember one period in history where (the early 70s) the populace were not prepared to lie down and be ruled..
There is something of an inherent contradiction between the larrikin Aussie and your suggestion that we are naturally submissive.
I don't think this is true...I think the great blight on modern democracy is not wilful submission, but inherent apathy

Anonymous said...

i was here in the early 70's, and the people watched the pollies, shook their wooly heads and went back to the sport pages.

"some sort of non-democracy"

well, yes it's called parliamentary monarchy.

"bemoan"

i prefer democracy, so do you- that's why you hijack the label while not troubling yourself to change the reality.

"larrikin australian"

don't kid yourself, ozzies do as they're told.

"inherent apathy"

the natural character of the powerless. you make my case as well as i do.

stephen clark said...

Dear Anon...your comments are uncontrolled and bordering the nonsensical
I am bemused that one such as yourself, so deeply committed to the democratic process appears to be reluctant to come out from behind the cloak of anonymity.