I can’t believe I’m thinking this but what if America’s wild and wacky decision to opt for Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States (or are they the disunited states?) actually turns out to be a good thing?!
I know this might shock some regular readers but the very fact that Donald is the new President has actually given me the guts to ask this question. Historically, I’ve never been afraid of bringing up issues for debate. In recent times, however, if you raise the objective question, you run the risk of being called a racist, a homophobe, a misogynist, and the really worrying insult (which I think started this worrying trend of shouting down dissenters with labels), a climate change denier!
Things got really scary for social and economic debaters when Julia Gillard, Penny Wong and Nicola Roxon ramped up their hate for Tony Abbott and the m-word was freely hurled around. I don’t know Nicola but I used to have Penny on my TV show and though some Coalition supporters found her annoying, I found her very likeable.
I did a TV debate with Julia when she was Education Minister and was easy to work with, despite the fact that I was sitting on the other side of the table and the argument.
From my point of view, the girl-boy battle in Canberra became annoying, even if Tony can be a bit of a pest at times. Like Penny, he’s actually more likeable when you get to meet him, and really the ladies of Labor were smart enough to deal with him without going for the m-word.
He might not be politically correct but Tony’s daughters and wife would swear on a stack of bibles that he’s not a woman hater. He might hate some women – a lot of Labor men hated Bronwyn Bishop but she never once pulled the m-word defence/attack.
Recently, 2GB’s Steve Price was given a hard time on The Project by a guest host and his fellow hosts joined in. This has led to a petition demanding an apology, which Steve says he doesn’t need or want. I’ve worked with Steve. At times, you can get cross with him for holding an annoying view but what happened to him on TV was unfair.
And it seems the people who think they hold the moral high ground now think they have a right to gang up on older men with old-world points of view. Unfortunately, at times, the once bullied are now becoming the bullies and the politically correct ‘police’ and the scaredy-cat brigade who fear them (which sometimes I can be a part of), are going along for the ride but they know something is wrong.
However, the arrival of Donald Trump is set to change things and unbelievably the too politically incorrect and probably the misogynistic Donald could be an agent for good!
You see, as an economist, I like debate. I like to hold a view and win a debate. Equally, I like having a debate and ending up with a more informed understanding, which makes me smarter, even if I have to accept someone was smarter than me when we started debating.
It’s called progress. And the British poet William Blake once told us that without controversy there is no progress.
At heart I think I’m a bit of a leftie but I can’t watch the ABC’s Q&A anymore because right-wingers are treated as dopes or enemies of the people. The audience is too biased and the vibe is too left.
If I was a real, one-eyed leftie, I’d love the show but after 30 years in the media, where I’ve tried to be fair to both Labor and the Coalition, as a commentator I find the program as gritting as Andrew Bolt can be when he’s being one-eyed. Andrew is a colleague on 2GB and Sky News and has his right to his views, provided they don’t damage other people’s rights, but he too gets hounded for being politically incorrect.
The greatest fear of putting a castigating lid on people’s views is that they will simply harbor them until they get a chance to vote. The frustration of being told you’re wrong and, as a consequence, objectionable, leads to people like Donald Trump and Pauline Hanson getting more power than they can be trusted with.
I recently watched the excellent documentary on Netflix starring Tony Robins called I’m Not Your Guru. The core of his six-day boot camp is to provoke attendees to challenge or be honest with themselves. He argues people run away from the truth, which leads to frustration, bad life habits and addictions and broken relationships. Anyone wanting to be a success has to beat these obstacles. And that’s done by Robbins making individuals face their demons, the gutlessness or the lies they live with. It’s confronting TV but it makes the point that came out in the film A Few Good Men.
Even though Colonel Jessep (aka Jack Nicholson) was an objectionable figure, there was something worth thinking about in this exchange with Kaffee (aka Tom Cruise).
Kaffee: “I want the truth!”
Jessup: “You can't handle the truth. Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punch line. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.”
I reckon there was a fair bit of this type of sentiment unleashed in the voting in the US on November 8. It doesn’t make it right but it makes it understandable. The pendulum of intolerance to others’ views has swung too far in the direction of those who once were discriminated against. And the oppressed have become new age oppressors.
When I was a university student, my academic masters convinced me that Voltaire (or whoever it was) was right when he said: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
I draw the line defending some low lives in our community but those not believing in climate change, gay marriage, 18C and its insult clause, etc. should be able to have their say without damning labels.
They might be misinformed, narrow-minded or simply dumb but they are entitled to speak without being called deniers, racists and the like. We should be above name calling.
And if I hadn’t been influenced by the Trump shock and Robbins’ experience, I wouldn’t have had the guts to write this. President Trump could prove a disaster but it certainly has got the Prime Minister out talking to the people, with appearances on the ABC, Sky News and 2GB this week. Malcolm and Bill need to talk to those Australians who feel like no one is representing them, except Pauline, Jacqui and Derryn!
If they do, their parties might become more relevant again.
P.S. For those who missed the Price ‘persecution’, here’s a supportive piece written by the SMH’s Karl Quinn, who admits to being embarrassed to defend Steve!