Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Buddy Buddy Cozy Chronies

By my calculations, I may have up to 4 regular readers of my blog, and if you are one of these 4 people, you may recall a post I did on Special vs Ordinary causes.

Anyway, that post has something to do with this one.

So log onto facebook these past few weeks and your newsfeed would have been populated by a steady stream of outrage posts about Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey a few others and the federal budget.

What I don't understand, is the impulse to go publicise these views, there. On facebook in particular. I don't suspect in my friendship network I even know too many liberal voters that turned out to be surprised and disgusted as to what their party actually stood for. I also suspect that not too many of my friends have many friends that are surprised and disgusted. In the most part I assume that everyone I know knew what a turd Tony Abbott is for a long time before he got elected, and didn't vote for him, suspecting quite accurately what he was capable of.

And Tony Abbott is a turd. The weakness of his character speaks immediately to your intuition. He strikes you as untrustworthy, unintelligent, short sighted, opportunistic, contemptuous and self serving. He is for the most part not a cunning adversary, perhaps not even worthy of the term 'adversary'. A man who supposedly studied the bible and decided to emulate the example of Judas - and will probably having succeeded reach the same conclusions.

My point being, is that Tony Abbott is so clearly ill-suited for leadership, he becomes merely a detail and not the structural problem.

Sure people can get outraged, band together, raise their voices and stamp their feet and throw Abbott out of office and for a huge expenditure of energy and public discourse little would be achieved.

Tony Abbott is Prime Minister of Australia, Joe Hockey its treasurer (a man I am not confident could run a successful milk bar.)

The first question that needs to be asked is not 'what do we do about them?' but 'How did this happen?'

I forget where exactly I read the anecdote but I strongly suspect it was 'Life of Pi' but it was something about when you go to the circus and the Lion Tamer is cracking his whip and there's three lions and the fiercest one is standing up and roaring at him and then the tamer goes and puts his head in it's mouth. The 'fiercest one' is in fact the Omega Male, not the Alpha who capitulates and cooperates because in the heirarchy of lions, the weakest male has the most to gain from the lion tamers favor. The alpha in fact has everything to lose.

And increasingly in politics, we see similar behaviour. There are not sufficient checks and balances in place to maintain a 'lions only' heirarchy in our leadership. Powerful and influential people can step in and fuck up the natural order. Where the one selected to perform the role of Prime Minister is in fact the most ill-suited candidate. Paradoxically, the key criteria for being leader, is your ill-suited-ness to the role.

A former, high performing CEO of Australian company Wesfarmers whom was CEO of the year in some magazine said he felt he'd done a good job because - he was the candidate that didn't really want the job. Perhaps too simple, I feel there is an intelligent but unintelligible general principle that you want duty and not desire to motivate your executives. And inverting it, perhaps the poorest quality you can have in a leader is a burning desire to be leader.

I have far more confidence in that rule of thumb, and I fucking hate that our society rewards that kind of ambition - seeing the hunger for the title as an admirable thing. Ambition alone is not enough, it requires context, motivation.

Because I feel I'm struggling to make my underlying point. Let's look again at ordinary versus special causes. Tony Abbott is not a special cause, an aberation, or even a surprise. He is not a spot fire that needs to be put out. He is a product that has been cranked out by a system. A process.

By analogy, the GFC the 'villains' of the GFC were too many to name such that they became a class of people 'the 1%' which I think is a plural term just as misleading as singling out any person as causing the GFC. I'm with Michael Lewis' analysis - the incentives were fucked up. Increasingly banks had stopped making money off their customers through the direct providing of services. They had started making their money by taking positions against their customers. Betting against the very people they were meant to serve.

Remember Julia Gillard? Perhaps nostalgically? I think her minority government will be judged well by history. But few people are historians and who really will care. One thing that I think everyone quickly forgets is the very problematic way she rose to power.

We had Kevin Rudd, at the height of his popularity attempted to institute a Super Profits Mining Tax to capture some of the revenue generated from selling off irreplaceable mineral resources. Suddenly the Rudd Government had to contend with industry advertising to the tune of $120 million a day claiming that the tax would destroy everyone's lives.

Julia Gillard stepped in and capitulated to the campaign, costing Australian citizens billions and billions of dollars. She seized an opportunity to take power, and that was weak. Unfortunately for her, Tony Abbott turned out to be much much weaker.

The australian political race is a race to the bottom. Our real problem is that none of the leaders we might desire in a system where industry and media are cuddling up to each other. We were always vulnerable to a man so unlikeable, so lacking in merit that he wouldn't ever succeed on them alone that he would promise everything for power.

Now we are seeing what such a system is designed to produce. A fire sale. Clearing out all the assetts in the state's estate. Privatising profits and socializing the risks. Scrapping social programs, and building infrastructure to aid and abet the extraction of Australia's resources. Australia's nest egg for future generations.

Facebook and social media for all it's trending, are not a good indication of the national discourse in Australia. Tony Abbott is a peon, a lackey at best. The protests are futile because he isn't in charge. He secured his title and office with promises better candidates on both sides of the floor were not able to make. He was never about public opinion. He managed upwards to seize power. A process that makes the title he so desperately sought hopefully meaningless to him. And it's true he wasn't alone. A whole party systemically got behind him.

Really, the problem is that people responsible for the media channels where we get our information, like the banks in the GFC, had incentive to take up positions against their customers. They gave the public advice against their own interest - yet are not culpable for negligent misstatement like a financial advisor would be. There's virtually no liability at all for the media to voluntarily engage in propaganda.

The press's incentives are wrong. They make more money keeping advertisers happy than they do from customer subscription. The natural result is that the interests of the few will dominate public opinion. Such that voters vote against their own best interests. Tony Abbott is perhaps victim to the same systemic failure.

No comments: