This was the best bit in the essay that Ken quoted recently.
Care is impliedly conceptualised as resulting from poor fortune, to be provided for as a ‘service’ rather than something essential to realising our humanity. Incapacity is spoken of as a ‘risk’, as if it were somehow possible to never be a baby, or to avoid the mortal need for tender succour that precedes our dying.
But yet again, the sad part is how out of touch the current political hardheads are with basic human psychology. Is it any wonder it’s difficult to get people to buy your message when it offers so little emotional heft? Have the ALP leadership and hardheads not noticed that people care at least as much about groups – particularly their groups – than they do about themselves? Have they not noticed that great speeches are not about “I” but about we. Not that I’m any fan of JFK’s oratory, but his most famous line was “Ask not”. All the great speeches are about ‘we’ not ‘I’. “We can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground”. “We will fight them on the beaches” and on it goes.
[T]he government seems woefully unaware of its political self interest … to tell a story about an ‘us’ that transcends the 22 million odd “I”s that subsist in the country.
My point is not that the Government would be wise to stress some call for sacrifice (though that can work in the right circumstances – and was last used to good effect by Bob Hawke in 1983). It is that, as usual the government seems woefully unaware of its political self interest which is for it to tell a story about an ‘us’ that transcends the 22 million odd “I”s that subsist in the country. Sad really.
And it’s doubly ironic when they think their opponents are preaching a gospel of selfishness. There’s nothing individualistically selfish about stopping the boats. It’s all about us. There’s nothing selfish about expanding work for the dole. It’s not about the money, it’s about the sense of mutual obligation to the community, and the community’s anxiety that mores of thrift and hard work dear to them are atrophying (this has been a concern of those over about 25 in virtually every non hunter-gatherer society in history).
It may (or may not) be a stretch to say that we’re much more motivated by protecting those things that distinguish our group than we are about our own individual or even family self interest (though I think one could mount a reasonable argument to that effect). But the situation a politician faces is conditioned by what they can achieve. And despite what they say, any policy difference between the Government and its political opponents will have only the most marginal effect on the material wellbeing of virtually all people and families in the community. By contrast their policies and what they say about them can have a much larger effect on Australians’ sense of whether a particular politician or political party is ‘one of them’ and someone to whom they can relate as a leader who is taking the groups they want to be a part of (their family, their community, people like them) into a better future.