21 October 2013
What’s left to laugh at
You could wonder if there’s anything left to laugh at in politics. The Wharf review was at it again but I found it disappointing. It’s probably not their fault. It’s the climate. After a disappointing six years for Labor and a trivial and negative campaign from Liberals, I am not comfortable. Nobody seems to be too relaxed, actually, except maybe some miners or carbon intensive industries. An angry public has been led with a tether and cries of crises. A social democrat party has been riddled with self-serving cliques. A conservative party mirrors unquestioning left radicals of mid last century. Look for radicals now on the right. Opinion trumps knowledge. A dull market certainty pervades everything in the midst of its own GFC failure: privatise profits, socialise losses; competition creates concentration. Meanwhile, we ignore climate change in favour of our short term and at our kids’ peril. So I didn’t find it too easy to laugh at the Wharf Review. It was clever; it was musical; it was Shakespearean, even. It was referential; it was lively and choreographed; it was well sung (even if ideas are harder to catch when sung); it was energetic. It even finished with a Q&A but we didn’t stay for that. I doubted actors had much to add to our predicament. I most enjoyed Carmen-Gillard in deep red: it’s a touching song and a memory of tragedy, both for how poorly she was treated, and for her own combination of communicative weakness and legislative success. There was the history of Abbott’s rise. I imagine he’s more capable than we allow for, but after dismantling carbon pricing, his place in history will surely rival George W Bush’s, both against the tide and the scientific consensus. Not that I pity him for it: he’s adult enough, and morally informed enough, to know better. That’s what responsibility is. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern instead was probably my favourite with its extended Hamlet story of lost political souls. Or the lengthy Wizard of Oz sequence where Dorothy is a disenchanted Labor voter who finds the Wizard is … Bob Hawke. Then the Alan Jones character. Enough. Maybe the era of political satire is passed. The real thing is acted for an angry public, so why pay to see more? I don’t really believe that, of course. Politics is, and remains, important as our mechanism for managing power and wealth in society (for there is such a thing as society, Maggie). But right now I’m finding it hard to laugh at.