28 November 2012

on the national political front; sport and beginning the 'silly season'

'The silly season' is a term in Australian public life for that summer period when top people have gone on leave and other people become spokespersons - and when junior journalists get a run at showing their understanding or otherwise of truth and what sells newspapers. This seems upon us in Australia already this summer, except that the principals remain in place as the silliness grows.

There is a tendency for some people (an increasing number just turn off in despair) to retreat with a sigh to sport and away from politics when the politics gets divisive, which is odd, when one considers that division and contest are at the core of competitive sports.

An observation made when I was an anthropology student long ago was that in the highlands of Papua New Guinea the arrival of football with the colonials provided a generally non-lethal alternative to warfare which was an integral part of daily life for men, who painted up and went on guard or rampage. I note in passing that, comparable with our modern politics in Australia, attacks on working women was deemed easier, safer, more likely profitable than frontal engagements between blokes.

It's summer, the end of the parliamentary session for the year is disappearing under dirt, someone (in a Murdoch online rag) had to say that cricket is no less than "The Last Great Unifier in a Deeply Divided Nation."

I was pleased to see some commentators disagreeing. I have added my comment thus:

The team competitive chauvinistic bind-us-together drive comes from the r-complex, the ancient and primitive part of the brain we share with dinosaurs and fighting ant colonies.  
It is not noble, it does not solve local or global problems but feeds divisiveness. 
One might hope that with Lynton Crosby gone to drive the next British Conservative Party election campaign that we might experience a turn for the better in Australian public life, but he has left a lasting legacy from his years managing willing marionette Howard that  division, sledging and hatred pay dividends if fanned well and in particulars. 
In drafting that I sought the right word to describe the Crosby-Howard relationship and was delighted when I found Wikipedia had this description for 'marionette':
marionette is a puppet controlled from above using wires or strings depending on regional variations. A marionette's puppeteer is called a manipulator.[1] Marionettes are operated with the puppeteer hidden or revealed to an audience by using a vertical or horizontal control bar in different forms of theatres or entertainment venues. They have also been used in films and on television.The attachment of the strings varies according to its character or purpose.
Observing the development of Crosby's career in the UK has led me to the thought that we do need to review the public image of former Prime Minister Howard. Even those who hold negative views on his impact on the nation see him in awesome power. But he was, under the garb of postures, a small figure. What did The Great Oz say to Dorothy? "Pay no attention to the little man behind the screen" or words to that effect.

Noting also that the role of the marionette, the manipulated, is of course to manipulate the audience, generally with extravagant emotions. In which context, we can carry the metaphor further, to Punch and Judy, the archetypal marionettes, amusing because of all the violence displayed. And oh gosh, The Punch being the name of the rag in which the cricket story was published. Game over.