Not long ago I wrote a short essay for Island magazine #145: 'Stupid Idiots'. It's on Australia's political slurs, and how maddeningly unambitious they are.
I'm suggesting we try harder to insult one another, starting with these two recommendations: 'stupid' and 'idiot'. A sample:
Of all the disappointments falling from the low-hanging piñata of Australian politics, the most banal are the insults. From the snarling sexism of ‘ditch the witch’—it rhymes, so it must be true and clever—to the clumsy class analysis of ‘spiv’, we are making a graveyard of slurs. Mark Latham offered the occasional zinger-like ‘conga line of suckholes’, but his recent diatribes are less like witty ripostes and more like midnight texts from a jilted lover after major surgery.
Putting aside the political professionals and pundits, more disillusioning are the average fusillades from social media and casual conversation. Not sad because they are mean (see what I did there?), but because their standards are so low. Wanker, moron, fuckwit, loser – the epithets often express contempt and little else.
The point is not that contempt is inappropriate – it takes a cruel bastard, for example, to endorse indefinite detention of children – but that it is inarticulate. It turns political debate into a stalemated contest of equally intense and unpersuasive smears. Perhaps this is apt, working well with a democracy that is becoming, as philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis put it, ‘a society of lobbies and hobbies’: competing special interest consortiums, and privative individuals.
Nonetheless, the misery of things is no mandate for giving up. My humble contribution here is to offer a couple of choice political insults, together with an explanation of their worth. If not for immediate circulation as slights, then at least as a small investment in an ongoing debate between people who are not manic ideologues or venal parasites.
You can pick up Island in all good bookshops, or subscribe here.