What the positive reactions to the sketch by The Chaser suggest is that we are now in an era of Me, Me, Me. Years of relativism, cynicism and scoffing at objectivity, and the elevation of subjectivity as our prime condition, seem to have robbed a lot of us of a vital component in a civilised society: empathy.
I haven’t actually seen the skit and I don’t feel any compulsion to.
Once we used to scoff at self-important politicians and authorities who made their case with speeches and moral arguments. In the seventies people thought there was a better way to understand and a more compassionate way to arrange things. We had a universal health care system, free higher education and new universities were built in the outer suburbs and regions to promote a social equality of opportunity.
I suppose the politicians and political class can now afford the best marketeers and pollsters so they can now mimic that knowing scepticism of the public without providing any substance that can be dissed. They do that from the position of power, with the massive resources of taxation and thousands of public servants doing their bidding. And when they want to take a small-l liberal on, the political class misconstrue and simplify the reasoning being presented and pretend they are speaking from the perspective of ‘everyman on the street’. What surprises me is that the public can no longer tell the difference. Popularity is now what speaks the truth, and someone had better not be caught with a frown by a camera, at best. I suppose you can buy plenty of lollies or alcopops with a $900 cash handout.
To put it bluntly – it is the powerful cliques that we should be wary of, not the targets of that power clique even when the powerful clique mimics an underdog while it tries to portray any questioning of authority as if it is a form of authority itself. We have a really twisted politics at the moment. This is only one consequence of the Bush era of spin and bullshit. I think they might be starting to realise the absurdity of their posturing because they have the media hunting out any shrill nonsense against which they can offer a five-second ‘joke’ response – the confected and intense focus group tested ‘spontaneous wit’ of our great leaders – to make them look good by comparison.
28 June 09
There is quite a lot more that could be said about Australian culture at the moment and the roles that comedy and satire has taken on recently. Comedy depends on what your values are and the moral and social basis that you expect is accepted as normal. ‘Make a realistic wish’ touched a raw nerve, perhaps because it was a send up on token compassion – doing good by accumulating a pile of certified indulgences.
There is also the aspect of social exclusion and the stock in trade for social exclusion in organisations like old boys’ clubs is ridicule of those outside the club. While the powerful group maintains its power, ridicule is shared around as a ‘joke’. Gen-Y revel in this.
Another thing to consider is the disempowering aspect that some satire has. Instead of confronting Howard and his ill-liberal government about things like the treatment of refugees – or supporting those who do – some people made jokes about it and other people just laughed along. The joking actually helped Howard, it flattered him, and it let his willing or unwilling helpers off the hook while at the same time preventing any real alternatives from being presented to the public.