Friday 27 August 2010

Moat politics

The federal elections a week ago - and so far still undecided - inundated Australians with policies, plans and promises from all directions. To compare their material with the concerns raised by letter writers to the daily newspapers provided an interesting contrast. It led to the common complaint by many that voting was becoming increasingly frustrating. When once it used to be a matter of choosing the most attractive party it has now turned into voting for the least unattractive. Clearly, something is amiss. Which brings me to the following.

Suppose there are a number of trades people who make profound errors (say, connecting pipes so that they leak, or not knowing how to wire up a house). What would it take to point out the mistakes and have them fixed? Or, more precisely, what would it take for somebody to walk into a particular office and say, "There is something wrong here and that's what needs to be done"?

Surely, sooner or later that advice would be taken up - after all, its proof is there for all to see.

On the other hand -- when it comes to decisions that affect an entire country, our ruling class is impervious to any suggestion, advice, or warning, regardless how serious the situation. At the most, polite standard letters are sent thanking the concerned writer for their time - and that's it.

To go back to the previous example, suppose nothing is done about the problem. Pipes are left leaking, people continue to be electrocuted. It may be difficult to speculate about the exact shape the building pressure will take, but one can reasonably assume it would be considerable.

Why then do we allow other problems to grow until they reach calamitous proportions? How is it that we take it as given that a politician simply refuses to listen to a complaint of a serious nature, especially when the evidence for its existence can be established clearly and unambiguously? Issues such as the war in Afghanistan come to mind, or our drug laws - both examples draining hundreds of millions of dollars from our nation and causing so many useless deaths as a consequence.

Are our politicians of the opinion that the halls of government have bestowed upon them such unassailable wisdom nowhere else to be found among the width and length of the land, as a result of which every minute given over to us common ignoramuses is a minute wasted away from their profound musings?

(Question: when was the last time our political betters held forth on transhumanism, or discussed the decline and fall of the Roman Empire?)

Similar issues present when approaching some academics - not all, I hasten to add - who only rise from their intense focus on ordained matters when they can perceive an a priori relevance to their status.

It seems society's upper echelons have managed to surround themselves with a virtually impenetrable moat that keeps the multitude away from their towers.

I am reminded of Poe's "The Mask of the Red Death", in which the illustrious gathering was rudely brought to a halt by someone wearing the mask of Death.

Only it wasn't a mask.