The price we sometimes pay for freedom of expression is that people can use language to strip people of their dignity and self-respect and reduce them to lesser mortals. It is no more evident than in politics.
Members of parliament (read: Legislative Assembly here in the ACT) and ministers appear to be the targets of offensive and derogatory articles more so than any other profession. And with the rise of social media and its anonymity, this insane bigotry has reached new heights.
I have been to many countries both as a politician and a tourist, and in my experience, no country treats its elected representatives as badly as in Australia. We should not seek the over-the-top reverence that countries such as the United States confer on their representatives, but I do think our elected representatives could do with a greater amount of respect and consideration.
Our elected representatives are not all lazy, crooked, egomaniacs. Whilst this may be true of some, it is not true of the greater majority. These are hardworking human beings trying to do a good job for the people who voted them in (and in many cases for those who did not). They do not deserve to be pilloried at every turn, to be despised and metaphorically spat on because they have made decisions with which we, as individuals, disagree. They do not deserve to be the objects of derision and mockery.
This is the tall poppy syndrome applied by small-minded individuals who have neither the intellect to propose an alternative view or suggestion nor the courage to put their name to critical comment.
The way in which critical comment is the applied through abusive and violent language is appalling. It is the weapon of the gutless! The most recent barrage of abuse and ugliness directed at Joy Burch MLA is a case in point. She has copped abuse over an issue in one of her multiple portfolios.The Feds have one portfolio each and an army of staff to assist them. But still we demand perfect (yes perfect) decision making from our local politicians. No room for error! No credit for the enormous workload and the attendant stress they engender.
But still the detractors come and say that Burch should consider her position as a minister and member of the Legislative Assembly. What a cowardly lot they are! These same people are those who get weekends, quality family time and who perhaps haven’t had to make many difficult decisions in their lives. They grumble when MLAs get pay rises and they make outlandish and outrageous claims of the largess which accompanies MLAs when they leave. And the basis of their position? Nothing! But don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story!
Burch came to the Assembly with qualifications and experience as a nurse in the Northern Territory and as a small business owner and operator in the childcare industry. She has given of herself to the people of Canberra as an MLA and a minister.
She has sacrificed much in this journey and it has had its toll on her family, as we have seen through the prism of the media and its “the community has a right to know” position. Fair? I don’t think so. Surely families are sacrosanct unless impropriety is evident.
Lampooning is one thing. It is humorous and insightful at times. It can be hurtful. But long campaigns aimed at reducing people is savagery at work and unbecoming of a nation which boasts of ‘a fair go’.
If voters are unhappy with political parties or members, they can deal with them at the ballot box. There is no need to constantly go the person to force them into resignation or a psychiatrist’s rooms.
The black dog of depression stalks the halls of power. It claims its victims from the weakened. If we continue to seek the destruction of politicians, we have their mental blood on our hands.