And so election day dawns, the nation convenes, and the question hangs in the air: after tonight, when the count is concluded, will we have a nation characterised by mindless corporatism, inhumanity and sickening double-speak, or all of the above?
Today Australia’s citizens turn out to make the important determination as to which style of spin will be put on dehumanisation and bigotries of the imminent future; on the tone of the pressers and PR copy by which our representatives will either parade (vote 1 Liberal) or euphemise (vote 1 Labor) new cruelties.
The 2013 election has been pegged by pundits a referendum on the merits of soft-pedalled versus hard-boiled brutality and neoliberalism. Today, as we go to the polls to determine what flavour of misery ought be imposed on the most vulnerable, two brands of ghoulish cant are on offer.
The incumbent government is – has been – the ‘Labor Party’, a shadow of a once honourable mooment that still promises a dash of honey to take the bitter edge off monstrous deeds. Our military in recent times is tasked with assisting in the current American campaign of drone-propelled terror, but Labor pledges not to broach the issue of these messy ‘operational matters’ to spare comfortable and sensitive citizens the discomfort of details of the murder and maiming in foreign lands in which we’re collectively implicated.
Meanwhile Foreign Minister Bob Carr is matronly in his chiding of those foolish enough to protest the occupation of neighbouring West Papua. Prime Ministers Gillard and Rudd have taken care to inject a tone of regret into statements in which they announce cuts to wealthy Australia’s foreign aid, or decree the indefinite incarceration of children, women and men who, fleeing persecution at the hands of their own governments to seek asylum, have found themselves the subject of the modes of persecution we offer locally.
The challenger for government on this election day is the unequivocal, marauding Coalition, which promises a brash, gloves off style of savagery to make the savagery of the Labor Government of the past six years look almost like decency.
For citizens setting out to mark a ballot of a Spring day, in a democracy blessed, in any case, with riches and stability, the choice of rhetoric to accompany the imposition of suffering on outsiders in coming years is clear – monstrosity with apology, or monstrosity celebrated? Salve for conscience or indulgence?
In truth, it might be said there are no losers in this election. Well, except, perhaps, for those – non-voters – who live beneath circling drones, those non-citizens who find themselves in our tropical tent prisons for innocents, those residents of oppressive regimes we endorse, or those – elsewhere – who must make do without our aid.
At home, whichever style of gloss it is that comes to the fore as result of the ballot, both teams will survive in our Parliament, both styles of talk will be simultaneously promulgated. This is, in reality, the reason our democracy works so well. The two lines are complementary, not really at odds: one would not function nearly so well without the other.
Those who want wrongs done served straight, or in glee, can have it, and are ever well-represented in railing at the inadequate resolve to do harm of their weak-stomached compatriots. And those good citizens who plump for the more saccharine rendering, the soft-boiled version of nightmares and deprivations of people most often out of sight may at any time reassure themselves of the moral primacy of their preferred mode of puffery over those given to a more overt poison.