I don't like Tony but...

I didn’t vote for Tony Abbott. I’m not really a fan, but with this in mind there is something that’s got my goat.

Since the recent elections I’ve noticed large amount of outrage and disappointment. The problem is that it’s not just outrage and disappointment at the result (these are perfectly rational reactions if you don’t like the result) but rather smugness, vitriol and even hatred. School yard kind of stuff, the things I try to educate my school age students not to do every day. I’ve seen friends talking about the end of the world, Facebook groups comparing the Abbott government to Nazi Germany. People from the North of Tasmania labeled as ignorant and stupid for voting conservatively.

Now of course people are free to post, share and say what they like. We live in a democracy and are free to express views even if they aren’t widely shared, however there are a few things that disappointed me about this form of engagement.

Firstly the tone of discussion is reduced to people shouting slogans at each other across the room. We no longer work towards consensus, rather intrench ourselves in preconceived ideas, with presuppositions never questioned. We also risk sounding like a bunch of whinging school children who just had their favourite toy taken away.

It’s ironic that just a few short weeks ago those same people criticised others for joining Facebook groups like “Election NOW” and “Julia Gillard is the worst Prime Minister” now endorse “Tony Abbott is the worst Prime minster ever”. It’s mindless hypocrisy. Is this really the level of engagement we seek? Personally I find comments on these type of pages equally abhorrent. I’m also not sure what these sort of pages achieve?

Commentator Paul Sheehan makes the poignant observation

“Social media, has created the architecture for fundamentalism, where echo chambers of like-minded zealots affirm their righteous indignation at the cultural stupidity of the unbelievers. The ugliness of the fundamentalism is confined to neither right nor left. It sits at both extremes of the political pendulum.”
Secondly some people would also seek to tell you that the difference between the two major party ideologies, is a more like a chasm. In reality it’s more like a ditch. One example is the Liberal party’s parental leave scheme which would sit more comfortably with a “left wing” ideology. On the flip side Labor’s position on asylum seekers was widely labelled as a “lurch to the right.” What I want to illustrate is that there are many things both parties have in common. I don’t want you to hear me wrong. I’m not saying that issues like climate change, asylum seekers and gay marriage, are unimportant. These are very important issues but they should be discussed rationally, carefully and with a degree of nuance with the goal consensus and bi-partisanship.

Thirdly we seem to forget that we have a democratic country. We have the opportunity to vote people out of office every three years... this is a privilege that many in the world simply don’t have. Years have come and gone and governments have come and gone. Naysayers and doomsdayers have come and gone. Left and right sides of politics have come and gone and people have continued on and done ok.

There is a saying “Not all right wing people are stupid, but many stupid people are right wing”. It’s much safer to say, neither the left nor the right have monopoly on stupidity. Dumb augments and ad hominem attacks exist on both sides of politics.

I want to challenge my friends on both sides of politics, to be people that work towards solutions with reasoned discussion and thoughtfulness, not loud shouty slogans and nasty attacks. At the end of the day when all is said and done it’s not the end of the world. We’ll all be just fine whoever gets into government.