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Two bulls in the election ring

  • 23 August 2013

Our time of testing comes every three years when we, the-people, are supposed to be interested in what the two biggest bulls in the political ring ‘stand for’. Elections are always short-term marketing campaigns, because we are encouraged to turn off in the between times, to select one of exceedingly limited choices that have floated to the surface through the churning internal wrangling and organisational conventions of the respective major parties. 

A century later, Ambrose Bierce’s definition of the elector  as ‘one who enjoys the sacred privilege of voting for the man of another man’s choice’ is still apposite. Nobody – not even she herself – expects Christine Milne to lead a Green government. The two men – Abbott and Rudd – are running strong-man, presidential-style campaigns offering populist solutions and punitive programs for perceived problematic societal groups, including- refugees, single parents, women who have the audacity to claim a workplace right to financial support when they take maternity leave, all those unemployed young men,  and ‘feckless’ Aborigines for whose finances and family life the intervention is in demand.

What strikes me is the similarity between the political and parent-child relationship. A young child depends entirely on a nurturing parent, usually the mother, for the necessities of life. Their whole life. To that child, their mother is their whole world.

But the child is not a mother’s entire world. A child has to be ‘managed’ when they are demanding, frustrated and furiously grief-stricken because of this, when the mother cannot and will not fulfil all their wants and desires. 

An infant cries first for attention: the toddler, finding more and more world to interact with and experiencing frustration, has to control their instinctive desire for immediate gratification of their needs, both loves and hates the parent who teaches them, through frustration, to learn patience, read the propensities and vulnerabilities of the powerful other. 

The loving parent suffers, at first, in denying the infant’s demands for satisfaction, until that parent learns to enjoy the process. The child, in learning that he can’t have everything he desires when he desires it, or necessarily at all, learns that love and pain are just different sides of the same coin. In other words, the parent-child transaction becomes a sado-machochistic one, with the parent learning to justify and take some enjoyment from the exercise of the power they have over their child, while the child learns that the catharsis of