Governed by inferiors

A while ago, Plato apparently said "one of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors", which I'm sure would ring in the ears of every person in Wyatt Roy's electorate ...

That's a cheap shot; I'd hope Roy's smart and earnest and well-meaning but, as I've written before, I can't imagine Australia's youngest-ever parliamentarian (at just 21), has the life experience to empathise with many more people save schoolies, Jessica Watson and farmers who remind him of his parents.

In a sense, though, Roy's the perfect politician for the media age because he's got so little past for either his enemies or journalists to exploit.

You can't dig up any dirt on the guy because he hasn't had time to lark in the mud - which is what many would argue your 20s are for, not sitting downwind of 60-year-old men and women after they've gorged on the bolognaise in the parliamentary dining room.

The reality of politics, as we're reminded tirelessly, is it's a "dirty business", but far better than the alternative which is violence, bloodshed and war.

This handy little axiom, though, seems to be self-fulfilling, used as rationale to play the game of politics in any sordid manner because that's how everyone else goes about it.

The irony is that, nowadays, if you have any dirt on you to start with - marital failings, past drug use, a criminal record, sexual peccadilloes or mental health problems - you can't even get into the dirty game; it's reserved for "clean-skins" or those wily enough to present a clean skin (and accompanying Google search results).

So we get what we deserve or at least what the game now demands; professional politicians - men, women and the odd embryo in a suit who, for a multitude of reasons, have eyed political office from an early age and learned the art of circumspection.

And if you are brave enough to enter the fray with a "past", you'll be reduced to your mistakes alone by your opponents, the details publicised by journalists or bloggers fearful someone else will "get the yarn" first.


It makes me wonder how many great leaders there are in this country who've stayed away from politics because of a DUI or drugs charge, a compromising relationship, an exotic sexual disease or momentary lapse of judgment involving a video camera, gaffer tape and a forest creature?

The recent media swoon we saw for Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd after their "grown-up" discussion of issues on the ABC's Q&A also made me wonder how many journalists who long for the "adult" age of Ruddbull also generated the criticism, headlines and opinion polls that helped push the men from the leadership of their parties.

I understand it's one thing to be charming and off-hand as an MP or shadow minister on an ABC panel show and to do it holding the reins of power for a country. However, it seems abundantly clear to me a lot of Australians want to see more straight-shooting from our politicians, empathy, integrity and leadership.

Unfortunately, we're stuck in this death roll of public prudery where so many of us refuse to see the almost essential link between a person's lapses of judgment and the refinement and maturation of their decision-making capabilities.

When you f--- up, you tend to suffer and suffering teaches you humility, something I see sorely lacking in many of our political leaders who claim to speak for the Australian public.

F--- ups often teach as much or more than success, and if we stack our Parliament with happy shiny over-achievers who can't even comprehend colouring outside the lines, how do they legislate from a position of empathy with the rest of us bumblers, rather than haughty paternalism?

I know I listened the to the NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay a week or so ago, when he admitted that Random Breath Testing had probably saved his life and thought - wow - a politician I can relate to and who probably relates to me.

Truth is, if he'd admitted as much during his campaign for office, he'd never have made preselection, let alone government.

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