AN OPEN LETTER FROM
THE GUY WHO DID
THAT SWEARY WEBSITE
Like pretty much anyone on the progressive side of politics, I’m bitterly disappointed that Australian voters chose the LNP, and Tony Abbott as their Prime Minister. However, I think it’s important to acknowledge people’s right and choice in doing so. Some of my dearest friends vote conservative, and they are categorically not fucking idiots. They are, in my opinion, utterly and completely wrong in their views, their arguments are based on false premises, and their conclusions are post-hoc rationalised non-sequiturs and incoherent nonsense, but this does not diminish their humanity. The language of the dontbeafuckingidiot.com site was intended as a persuasive joke not a personal attack.
I believe strongly that our society should be a marketplace of ideas; that we should be free to challenge and exchange our thoughts and beliefs with others. Too often people avoid the subject matter of politics out of fear that it will create conflict, and so we settle for non-confrontational niceties. Or worse, we invoke the safe rhetoric of political disengagement in which we hold all politicians and political ideas to be equivalent: ‘They’re all as bad as each other’, we say. This is a mistake, and it has an insidious and destructive effect.
The strength of our democracy depends on our ability and will to engage with each other’s ideas. A culture of political disengagement, and tacit contempt for political ideas, actively inhibits progress and understanding. We roundly ignore politics and then wonder why political messaging becomes a tabloid circus of desperately simplistic soundbites and sensationalism. Well, it’s our own damned fault.
Politicians necessarily have to respond to the attitudes and beliefs of their constituency. What drives the vast majority of people into political life, on both sides, is a genuine belief in their ideals; and most of them despise having to compromise their idealism and passion for the sake of what will win the votes of people who are politically disengaged.
So, we need to be brave. We need to ignore the social convention that it is taboo to challenge other people’s ideas, or that questioning things is adversarial and rude. We need to be vulnerable enough to put our thoughts out there and engage with people honestly. We need to call out things we believe to be wrong. We need to stand up for what we believe to be right.
These next three years are going to be difficult for people on the progressive side of politics in Australia, but I implore you to not descend into personal attacks and hate. This may seem somewhat hypocritical for me to say in light of my sweary rant, but what I’m saying is that we should continue to have sweary rants about the government and politics, but when we’re talking to actual people, we need to convince them, not turn them off. We need to connect with them and persuade them that a progressive Australia is better than a conservative one. We need to make them believe that it would be fucking idiotic to vote for the LNP next time around.
I believe that the truth is on our side, but we need to have the courage to stand up for it.
Jesse Richardson, Brisbane.
Published under a creative commons CC BY-ND licence.