Cautionary tales – the life lessons we can take from the election


While the politicians, strategists and commentators sift through the debacle of the Federal election, we mere mortals try to make sense of it too.

What I’ve noticed is that the behaviour that was writ large on our political stage is the same as the people and situations in our own lives. Here are some that I’ve noticed.

Blaming others means you don’t have to examine yourself – Turnbull is adamant that the reason for his poor showing is the ‘Medicare lie’ told by Shorten. Yes, that played a part. But there was so much wrong with his performance as PM – summarised as ‘disappointing’- coupled with policies that didn’t connect with everyday people (business tax cuts anyone?)

People blame others when they’re afraid to look at themselves and see what they need to change. If it’s everyone else’s fault, then you don’t have to do the difficult work on yourself. 

Even if you stop listening, people will make themselves heard – Mainstream parties bled votes because Australians were so frustrated. For example, I want action on climate change and they pretend it’s not happening. The Greens listened to me. Angry and dislocated white men who have lost their manual jobs due to globalisation want to be heard too. And Pauline Hanson listened to them.

In my own life, I tried every way I could think of to make someone close to me listen. It was only when I left that he finally did. Sort of.

We tell ourselves stories to confirm what we already think – Cory Bernardi says Turnbull’s poor result is because he wasn’t right-wing enough. (I seriously can’t even contemplate what hellish vision is right-wing enough for him). It’s much more complex than that, but he can move a set of facts around enough to support that view.

People don’t mean to wilfully misrepresent their lives, their choices and their outcomes on purpose. But they move the facts around to support a certain story. Only the bravest can bear to smash this version apart to learn something from it – something that helps them move forward. And they do it by asking, talking and listening.

Tired people do stupid things – That speech from Malcolm on Saturday night. Brash, angry and full of hubris. Usually, he can keep that side of himself from view. But a long, punishing election campaign and enormous amounts of pressure conspired to make him tired. So tired.

We have all been cranky and emotional in that state. Fortunately, we don’t have to front up on live, national TV.

People know when you’re being yourself (and like it) – Yes Bill Shorten is kind of dull. His voice is annoying. His forehead is too big. But he doesn’t try to be anything he’s not. I’ve sat in the front row when he’s given a speech, and I felt his sincerity shine through. He believes what he says. He doesn’t try to be hip, he doesn’t try boost his coolness with Snapchat filters. He wears the impediments of all modern pollies – too much media training, too many slogans and soundbites. But ultimately, there he is being daggy Bill.

But Malcolm – where do we start? He seemed so sincere when he took power. He seemed to be moderate, enlightened even. Our great hope for climate change! And yet he was undone by dithering, too scared to offend the rightwing nutjobs in the party. Probably the most authentic thing he did was come up with a tax cut for business – he is a businessman to his core. But other than that, he disappointed everybody by having no core belief. As  Alexander Hamilton asks Aaron Burr (in the musical) ‘If you stand for nothing, what will you fall for?’.

  1. I love this; fantastic piece of analysis.

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