Lazy Luddite Log

25.7.07

Mortals Making A Difference

So John Howard falls over (literally) while walking. And Kevin Rudd gets some name of a fellow candidate confused. Both these things are big news today. I have committed both these sins from time-to-time. If I was a figure of national importance then my trippings and muddlings would become the sport of journalists and the subject of jokes at the office water-cooler. But fortunately this absent-minded klutz is saved from such attention by my relative obscurity. I do wonder however why this has to happen.

Everyone makes these kind of mistakes and yet in a politician they become the dire warning of hidden personal flaws that can jeapardise careers. We expect our leaders to be better than the rest of us and the media feeds this expectation. Or alternately the media generate this image and we then go along with it. One way or the other it only serves to reinforce my impression that the life of a successful politician sucks (this may in part be why I have only ever stood in support of another candidate rather than having any intention or expectation of winning).

So today it is all tripping and slipping but yesterday there was something in the paper that reminded me that politicians can and do make a difference. The late Walter Jona - whose name I never knew till yesterday - was a state parliamentarian who steered compulsory seat belt wearing into Victorian law back in the 1970s. This act has saved many hundreds of lives. As a policy it is nothing sexy or exciting or even particularly ideological (except if you are a US civil libertarian). It was just a worthwhile thing to do and it has made a whole lotta difference.

These things happen every now and then in our parliaments but a lot of the time they go overlooked. Politicians can make a difference - sometimes in ways most of us never will even get a chance to - but we are more interested in the times they embarrass themselves.

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