Last night I dreamed Tony Abbott sat next to me on a train, maybe a Tangara. We were heading West. I don’t know why that was important. I do blame this hilariously homoerotic oped for disturbing my beauty sleep:
I could not fail to notice the walk – which with an obviously athletic body could only be described as unmistakably masculine. Indeed Tony must be the most masculine and athletic of Australia’s politicians, and not boringly so. I have often thought that had he been on the left he would be the media’s pin up boy.
My stars! Is it warm in here? Get a room, boys! The piece, disappointingly, does not continue with “…my heart palpated as he caught my eye. His eyes, twin flames under that stormy brow, burned as he huskily whispered my name…”
My dream also ended unsexily. I told Abbott off for his platforms and policies, although I did it a bit self-consciously, since most of what I object to in his position (he’s bad on gay marriage, immigration and the environment) is exactly the same as what I object to in that of his opponent. He’s a Catholic monarchist! She’s a centrist cipher! They fight (property) crime.
I have only theories about the right. Despite my decade-long flirtation with Christianity I always thought of myself as socialist, just a Fabian socialist. It was a shock to discover that my church was actually hard-right, anti-abortion, anti-feminist and come to that, anti-women and children, at least in practice.
More recently my theories have revolved around the Big Five personality traits – the idea that our personalities can be mapped along five independent vectors: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. This research made immediate sense to me when I first encountered it. It’s trivial to note, for example, that I score sky-high on Openness and Neuroticism, and that I am introverted as hell. In fact Julia’s the only Extravert in our little family – the only one who draws energy from company, as opposed to from solitude – and framing it in this way has helped me to accept her manic glee.
My theory is that conservative people do not score very high on Openness. Is that tautological? And it’s not even that, as a progressive, I think things are going to turn out well; it’s just that I know from bitter experience that whatever else happens, time will pass. Sometimes that’s a good thing – +1 to team White Blood Cells! go the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Movement! science yay science! – and sometimes it’s an awful thing – bring back the bookstores; boo to old age. But either way, there’s no point fussing about it.
I also, relatedly, subscribe to the notion that conservative religion is pretty much all about sublimating the fear of death. I know it was for me. And it would explain a lot about how conservative religious people behave; their nasty secret sins, and their otherwise weird and alien assumption that as long as their imaginary superhero in the sky “forgives” them, then despite all evidence to the contrary, no actual harm was done. They store up for themselves so many riches in heaven that they leave the earth a smoking crater. This life doesn’t matter! It’s just a starter life! Do-over! I’m not a fan. Can you tell?
Separately, I finally got a glimmer of understanding the libertarian point of view when I realized how historically late an invention the income tax is, and how little tax people used to pay:
Another income tax was implemented in Britain by William Pitt the Younger in his budget of December 1798 to pay for weapons and equipment in preparation for the Napoleonic wars. Pitt’s new graduated income tax began at a levy of 2d in the pound (0.8333%) on incomes over £60 and increased up to a maximum of 2s in the pound (10%) on incomes of over £200 (£170,542 in 2007).
Put like that, it’s obviously a shocking imposition, and I myself would far prefer not to be hurling a goodly fraction of my income at the US military establishment. But I don’t mind a bit paying for public schools; I would pay more; and I would prefer to pay for Medicare for All and a respectable public transportation infrastructure than to pay for my private health insurance or my car. My parents, you see, taught me that it is good and right to share. Because they’re pinkos.
So those are my theories: that conservatives want things to stay the same, and they don’t want to be made to share. When I think of it that way, you know, I can honestly sympathize. I don’t want to grow old and die, and I don’t like being made to do things either. But I am going to grow old and die, and I do have an awful lot of privilege while other people have far less, and it behooves me not to bogart the cash and the happiness and the, you know, access to clean water and antibiotics and so on. My ethical stance boils down to an ultra-streamlined Postel’s law: be kind and tolerant. Or even more simply, don’t be a dick (Cheney.)
Then there’s that whole weird thing about taking the Bible seriously. Or more precisely, taking extremely tiny morsels of the Bible, daisychained together with logical contortions and dubious interpretations, as an infallible guide to modern life that totally lets you off the hook for being a homophobic douchebag. I dunno. I find far more beauty and wonder and testament to the human spirit and the awesomeness of life in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. But you knew that already.
All of which is to say: dear my Australian friends, screw both candidates and vote Independent or Green. But you were going to do that already.
(At least you guys have preferential voting and won’t accidently Nader yourselves into a Bush administration, touch wood. But that is another ranty, for another time.)