Friday, May 12, 2006

Playing Politics

I posted recently on how one of my biggest problems with the drug policy of most governments is that they are based on lies. I think this is the same problem with politics. Everybody knows politicians are lying. Everybody knows politicians don't believe most of their own public pronouncements. All they're doing is saying what they think will appeal to people so they can go ahead with whatever it is they want to do. They're playing politics.

And then there are the "gotcha" moments. You catch Bush out in a lie. Another Kennedy goes drunk driving. Cheney shoots someone in the face. In short, your opponent does something that, according to the rules of the political game, you can get them on. It doesn't matter that the "gotcha" may not actually be important. It may have nothing to do with the political process, it may not reflect on your opponent's performance or their ability to do the job.

But it's an opening dammit! Who cares if it's trivial? Let's make them look bad so that we, by comparison, look good. It's far easier than doing something that's actually good. A recent example in Australia was the revelation that the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) paid around $300 million in bribes to Saddam Hussein's regime in order to be able to sell wheat in Iraq. This was, of course, before the invasion and such bribes were a breach of UN sanctions. Oh, and they were bribes. Paid to a psychotic to whom we were publicly opposed. I think Uday owned the trucking company that scored most of the swag.

And it's a total non-story. Every company and government involved in any transaction was paying bribes. Halliburton seems to be funneling away billions to who knows where. And this $300 million was Australian money, which means it's worth about $7.50 in American money. Or a handful of shiny beads.

But the opposition party (Labor - our equivalent to the US Democrats) went on and on about how outraged they were that this happened and spent ages trying pin down whether any government ministers could be proved to have explicit knowledge of what was going on. Everybody knows Labor didn't really give a shit - exactly the same would have happened if they were in power. All in all it was a good thing - those bribes allowed billions of dollars worth of wheat to be sold to Iraq. God forbid people should end up with food.

It's simple: of course the Prime Minister knew and of course the Foreign Minister knew. $300 million isn't a line item that can be made to vanish in Australian accounting. It might not even be noticed in a real economy but even a cursory glance at the books here would reveal it. But you're never going to prove it.

So what's the end result of all this sound and fury? Nothing. It never caught on in the public mind. Then we had a miracle rescue of some trapped miners and everybody has well and truly forgotten about the AWB. The political process is cheapened again and everybody gets a little more cynical.

I didn't know how I was going to end this post at first, then I read this article on Salon.com. There are some people who aren't ignoring what's going on in the political process. There are some people who are fervently intent on bending it to their way of thinking and damn what anybody else wants. And those of us who stay cynically detatched from the meaningless political games might wake up one day to a nasty surprise.

5 comments:

zenstar said...

you want cynicism about politics?
come to south africa...
you fall into one of two political catagories:
one: cynical as all hell (the correct catagory)
two: football politics. you vote for your team no matter how badly their doing and no matter what some of the team members have done/are doing.

i could get into heaps of trouble for the following statement but its true:
there is no real democracy in south africa.
for a proper democracy people need to understand what a government is and what their vote is worth.
most voters in this country are completely uneducated and the government isn't trying to educate them at all.
they may have built a bunch of schools, but they didn't stock them with textbooks and have actually dropped education standards a LOT over the years because certain divisions of the population weren't getting a high enough pass rate.
in stead of starting at the (cliched statement) grass roots level and building up an educated population over time, they went for the quick fix and screwed everything up.
so basically: the voters don't know what they're voting for and the government is non-representative of the people's true wishes because those people don't know what a government is meant to be.
imagine a bunch of 8 year-olds voting for who they want to teach them in school.
the candidates are taken from all walks of life.
they're going to end up being taught by bozo the clown.
clearly not what's meant to be going on (and in south africa bozo would be stealing the kids' lunch money too)

Mr Angry said...

Yeah, it sucks when your country is going to hell in a handbasket and all you have is corrupt politicians looking after their own interests. It's depressing how often "freedom fighters" become the same as the people they replace (or worse).

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Dr. Nazli said...

exactly Mr Angry - the definition of "freedom fighters" has always bothered me because what differentiates a killer of civilian innocence? Certainly not a uniform!

the misuse of "freedom" by free dmocratic governments is depressing and unbelievable - and a certain degree of detachment is necessary in order for ordianry people to live lif

at the end of the day, I have to point the finger at the mainstream media who fail to make this debauchery of freedom clear to the public

cheers,
Dr. Nazli

Mr Angry said...

Yes doctor nazli, unfortunately the media seems all too often to be a tool of the status quo. Also, have you ever noticed how any country that chooses to include "deomcratic" in its name is invariably not democratic at all? (e.g. German Democratic Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo)

Dr. Nazli said...

I know Mr Angry - not to mention those people's republics - like the "People's Republic of Bangladesh" - Bangladesh being one of the most corrupt and non-democratic governments in the world!

Enjoy your weekend :-)