Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and the Parable of the Scorpion and the Turtle

I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent election in Australia – about the campaign that Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott ran and the signs that are emerging even now about the kind of Government he will lead.

Many ideas have been floating around my head as I ponder these things, but I keep coming back to one, over and over again: the parable of the scorpion and the turtle.

Let the reader make of it what s/he will.

A turtle was happily swimming along a river when a scorpion hailed it from the shore.

A scorpion, being a very poor swimmer, asked a turtle to carry him on his back across a river. “Are you mad?” exclaimed the turtle. “You’ll sting me while I’m swimming and I’ll drown.”

“My dear turtle,” laughed the scorpion, “if I were to sting you, you would drown and I would go down with you, and drown as well. Now where is the logic in that?”

The turtle thought this over, and saw the logic of the scorpion’s statement. “You’re right!” cried the turtle. “Hop on!” The scorpion climbed aboard and halfway across the river the scorpion gave the turtle a mighty sting. As they both sank to the bottom, the turtle resignedly said:

“Do you mind if I ask you something? You said there’d be no logic in your stinging me. Why did you do it?”

“It has nothing to do with logic,” the drowning scorpion sadly replied. “It’s just my character.”

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Asylum Seekers, Foreign Aid, and Climate Change: A Failure of Strategy and the (not so simple) Way Forward

Australia has elected to change its government. Tony Abbott, once popularly derided as being ‘unelectable’, has become our new Prime Minister, and the fractious Labor Party has been left to lick its wounds while it faces, it would seem, a lengthy (and many would say deserved) stint on the Opposition benches.

At one level, there’s really not much to say about this. Australia has a system in place where its citizens have great freedom to vote as they choose, and the system itself is pretty good (despite some need, it seems, for a few minor adjustments in regards to how members of the Senate are elected). Australians don’t change government often, but when we do we leave no doubt about our intentions. This election, like those in the past where the government has been changed, was a decisive outcome.

Continue reading Asylum Seekers, Foreign Aid, and Climate Change: A Failure of Strategy and the (not so simple) Way Forward

The Irony of Self-Interest

The thing I really hate about election campaigns is the way that they shine a light on what we value—not the things we say we value in polite company, mind you, but the things we actually value. Unfortunately, it’s not a pretty picture.

It’s fairly easy, I would suggest, to identify what we truly value in these campaigns, because politicians want to find those things that (we think) are important to us and, once they find them, to milk them for all they’re worth. All we need to do, then, is to look at what our politicians are focusing on most heavily, and we’ll see where our value lies. As a side note, it’s fairly depressing to watch politicians scrambling to find these issues, seeking only what is already popular rather than outlining a vision for a better future and seeking to take the rest of us on the journey to that place (or, as I like to call it, ‘leading’).

In this current campaign surrounding the 2013 Australian federal election, the thing that most stands out, as I see it, is self-interest.

Continue reading The Irony of Self-Interest