Do we get the governments we deserve?

3 Mar

by Dr Stewart Hase

The toxic sludge that has surrounded recent events in our Federal Government raises some important questions. Not least of all is whether it actually represents our culture, our norms, our attitudes, our values or is it just what happens when people become powerful: as Lord Acton put it, ‘Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely’.  However, in the end, do we get the government that we deserve?

It is disturbing to think that the toxic sludge we have seen recently is a reflection of who we are as a nation. Hugh Mackay, arguably one of the best thinking commentators on what it means to be Australian, has already suggested, in ‘Australia Reimagined’, that we are not what we like to think we are. It is common psychological knowledge that our view of ourselves as individuals is an illusion in the same way that Mackay sees our collective view. We think of ourselves in a much rosier light than is really the case, except for a proportion of people who, sadly, have self-esteem problems and see themselves much more darkly. In either case, the self-appraisal is faulty. But importantly and unwittingly, most of the time, we are drawn to those who most reflect our innermost values.

So, the appalling dialogue from Ministers, including the PM, that attempts to minimise the abuse of women, the misdirection by attacking innocents, obfuscation to avoid responsibility, the lies, the protection of alleged offenders, the racism inherent in the way refugees are treated, peddling misinformation, the ‘one coffee a day’ pay increase for the poor while parliamentarians have their snout in the trough for a $181 day meal allowance, and as Mackay points out, the avoidance of the big ticket issues such as our love of a carbon based economy, the 16% of Australian kids that don’t have decent food, and the growing gap between the rich and the poor. The need for accountability list is huge. 

Is this who we are? Well, if you hang around enough golf and bowls clubs, listen to the chatter at church, attend enough dinner parties, mix with the common folk, you don’t have to scratch the surface too much to see the values mention above bubble up. Not everyone, of course, but enough to make you realise that around half the population voted for the current Government. And let’s not forget the hoards who kneel at the feet of our right-wing commentators on TV, radio and the written press.  

It it’s not who we are, then we are being inappropriately represented. Absolute power means that the Government is running its own agenda. It that is the case then we, the people, should be speaking truth to power. There should be marches in the street. But there is silence except for a few. So, perhaps this is who we are, who we aspire to be. And that, is sad.

Stewart is a psychologist with a special interest in how people adapt and also learn. He’s written widely in these areas. He continues to consult, and annoy people who misuse power.Twitter: @stewarthase

6 Responses to “Do we get the governments we deserve?”

  1. Carolyn Hastie March 3, 2021 at 12:43 pm #

    Agree Stewart. We do need to speak up and be counted. This current government is a disgrace on so many levels. The problems with the political landscape are all coming to the fore and that has to be a good thing. Australians need to look long and hard in the mirror and think about what we want our society to be and consider carefully the consequences of the vote at the next election. In the meantime, we need to support those who do speak truth to power and do it ourselves. Thank you for this thoughtful and thought provoking post.


    • rakum8 March 3, 2021 at 8:59 pm #

      So sorry are we Sandgropers who see through as do you the pretenses of the Spotted Mocassin snake in the grass who will soon enough bow down to cradle the magic Christian of 1988 rape allegator’s crocodile tears to lubricate the slimy trail to the top post of PM with not the least recognition of the pain inflicted on so many so the megalomaniac could rule over an unfortunate true blue throng of dinky dyed human prey. Believe a potato – few wanna? Potato said that he can neutralize the dying words of a raped fifty year old suicider with his corrupt Qland cop control freak predatory dominator bravado. Who said what was said was not said by said sayer saying who said what and what said Hu is on first, Watt is on second and Mr. Matumuro Idono is already on turds. Now the path is opening for that pig Angus Taylor the tinkering sailor soldiering away to be top dog. On top of old smoke now that Christine Porter is left alone at the Mardi Gras


    • stewarthase March 6, 2021 at 11:39 am #

      Thanks Carolyn.


  2. Geoff Rees March 4, 2021 at 3:25 pm #

    Australia is “supposed” to be a representative democracy. If Scott Morrison and his Cabinet represent Australians, then EVERY Australian must be a moral bankrupt. We fortunately aren’t, but after Dutton’s “humane” gestures for well connected au pairs, Sportsrort 1 and 2, Berijiklian’s and Barilaro’s fire relief rackets, Tudge’s and Porter’s antics exposed on 4 Corners, and lately the attempt to belittle and deny any responsibility for Brittney Higgins’ and the unidentified, then teenager’s, rape, (not to mention Porter’s own response), one has to wonder just what it will take for ordinary decent Australians to say “Enough is Enough”!

    As Ms Tame said so eloquently yesterday, “Having kids doesn’t guarantee having a conscience”.

    Morrison may like to believe he’s a fundamental Christian, but he’s demonstrated over and over that conscience, morality and justice are concepts FAR beyond his comprehension. Just like a recently departed foreign leader. Neither Trump nor Morrison think beyond themselves- the rest of us don’t matter, except perhaps as a “cheer squad”.


    • rakum8 March 6, 2021 at 7:45 pm #

      Yes- it sure looks to me like this Trump mimicking Morrison-Dutton duo shamelessly exhibit a “banality” that is very much like that of which Hannah Arendt wrote after observing another tyrannical pedestrian authoritarian of limited intellectual endowment – Herr A. Eichmann – on trial in Jerusalem


  3. Liam March 29, 2021 at 3:46 pm #

    People did march, back with Abbott’s first budget, and what of it? The response from the ballot box, and all halls of power demonstrated no solidarity. The best we could do was stop Mr Dutton playing “papers please” with his own jackboots in our streets. What stands at the centre of power in this country is nihilism. Those who take a stand as individuals? Dismissed, Dox’ed, hounded by astroturf outrage mobs, or forced to flee the country.

    Ministers break law after law and it’s just dismissed (the other side just as bad? There goes that nihilism again). Meanwhile, in Western Australia, a vision for the state gets votes and a defeatist attitude gets none, except in Canberra, where the result is twisted into a referendum on energy policy.

    Liked by 1 person

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