Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Great Farce

I was watching our latest Prime Minister answer questions for an hour on the television a couple of nights ago, and I suddenly found myself feeling sorry for her predecessor, Kevin Rudd. This surprised me because I've never been especially enamoured of Kevin Rudd (at least that's what I tell my husband - no, it isn't; it's the truth). I mean, obviously, like anyone, I thought his departure from the top job was a very nasty day's work for all concerned, but I didn't feel upset the way I did when Charlie Cousins fell off the silo in Bellbird. I mean, I didn't shed a tear.

Nevertheless, as I sat there gawping at the new prime minister, (who does, incidentally, seem to quite relish the sound of her new  title, reminding me - amazingly, since in every other way they could not be more dissimilar - of my father, who once said, when someone greeted him as 'Your Excellency', years after he'd retired as an ambassador, "Ah, the two most beautiful words in the English language"), a strange wave of compassion came over me for our last leader. It had been a difficult week for him, I realised, especially the part where he would have had to swallow his bitterness as the woman who did him over appeared in a flame-red jacket and delivered a sick-making speech to the US Congress. 'What about me,' must have been wailing through the Rudd household on permanent replay that day, I'd guess.

But the thing that made me sorry for him was not his situation. It was the sudden realisation that, like all the kinds of people who divide the world into what is 'appropriate' and what is 'inappropriate', the ones who love process and paper and meetings and 'top-echelon', meaningless schmoozing, he has absolutely no sense of humour. All the avenues available to those of us like me, who enjoy pure silliness (a group that does not include our newest Prime Minister either, given that her favourite dismissive adjective seems to be 'silly') are closed to him - Artwiculate, hashtag games, idiotic blog posts, standing, as I did for ten minutes yesterday night, under a starry sky, watching a possum balance on my neighbour's tree and bend down the flexible new growth and crunch its way through the young leaves with gusto. Worse still, not even for a millisecond would he ever be able to see the funny side of his situation. Not even for one instant would he be able to step back and laugh at himself and the peculiar twists and turns he's been taken on as he's made his way through the weird labyrinth of life.

And without the ability to see the comedy in all the stuff that happens to you, you are doomed really - anger and loathing and disappointment will stalk you all your days. So shed a tear for Mr Rudd and all the others in that band of desperate over-motivated scrabblers - which, of course, includes his successor, along with many of the more self-important of the world's politicians and bureaucrats. Even though Gillard often talks about having a 'good old chuckle', I suspect that life for her, as well as for Mr Rudd and all the others like them, is actually a throbbing parade of jealousy, and fleeting triumphs followed by despair.


  1. Very insightful and humane look at leadership. I always wonder about the personalities who strive to be leaders and whether the type of traits that make you good at rising to the top are really the kinds of things that should disqualify you once you get there.

  2. Having spent some time watching Australian television while travelling in Asia last year, I wonder if these characteristics apply to "The Mad Monk" Tony Abbott -- ex-boxer and ex-candidate for the priesthood? Disclosure of conflict of interest: his politics appeal to me more than do Gillard's and Rudd's (speaking as a Yank). He does seem entertaining!

  3. Tsk, tsk, Stephen, you have just offended every member of Australia's chattering classes. Abbott, like Howard, (and, in the UK, Mrs Thatcher) is someone many people seem to vote for, but none of them ever admit it.

  4. Apologies, the goodgreatsby, for some reason I didn't see your comment before: thank you for your kind words. I sometimes wonder whether, if those kinds of personalities didn't exist, we might all organise ourselves perfectly well and with a lot less fuss and carry-on. But I suppose we will never know. And probably I'm just being 'silly'. As usual.