Our national broadcasting channel has a programme called Q&A, which appears weekly. It’s a political programme with a host, Tony Jones, and the guests range from prominent businesspeople to well-known writers, but obviously, due to the nature of the programme, there are always politicians on the panel. The concept is, ‘you ask the questions’, where ‘you’ is the general public. Tony Jones reads out questions which have been tweeted at or emailed to the show, and there is a studio audience who are also able to ask questions of the panelists.
I don’t tend to watch it–partly because it’s on at an awkward time for me, and partly because it can be quite confrontational, and I find that I want my television to be satirical or hilarious, because I have to do a lot of confronting in everyday life, and watching it on television when my day is over is not my idea of relaxing.
I was in the car the other week, having dropped First and Second Offspring at school, and heard an advertisement on the radio for that show. It mentioned that there would be a few people I’ve admired–namely, Ray Martin and Wendy Harmer–and I thought, you know, I should probably give it a go! And then the ad went on to name Christopher Pyne as one of the politicians on the panel. And away went any inclination to watch it at all. Because I really can’t stand Christopher Pyne.
In my defence, a lot of people find him annoying. And I’m sure he’s probably fine in person. (Although it’s in person when a lot of people seem to find him annoying. So perhaps I’m wrong, there). What I mean to say is, I don’t want to completely dismiss him as a human being. He just rubs me up the wrong way, and what’s worse (or perhaps because of this), he is on the side of politics with which I tend not to identify.
Christopher Pyne is a Liberal politician, which shouldn’t be confused with a liberal politician. Our Conservative party here in Australia is called the Liberal party, and (this may come to some of you as a shock) I am not conservative. Conservationist? Sure! But as far as politics go, I have both feet firmly placed on the left end on the spectrum. So if Christopher Pyne says something, the chances are, it’s going to be quite different from what I believe.
There are obviously a couple of issues here. One is that I should be able to listen to someone from a different political persuasion and have a conversation with said person without having to resort to ‘OH YOU ARE SUCH AN IDIOT.’ After all, having different opinions and expressing them eloquently and politely is what grown-ups do. The other is that when I’m watching Christopher Pyne–or indeed any politician–on TV, or reading a report online, I should be analysing between the lines for what he is saying and I should be asking: ‘What is the agenda of the journalist or newscaster or media company which is reporting the news? What would they like me to think?’
I find Christopher Pyne annoying because the sound bites I hear make him seem annoying. So, he seems like a bit of a tool, but he’s been an MP for years now. That means, people have voted him in. More than once. Now, I know what you’re thinking: just because someone has been elected does not automatically mean that they’re amazing. There are a whole host of reasons why people would vote for a government, and believe me, given our current one, I’m going through them, one by one, as I convince myself it’s ‘not that bad.’ (It’s not. It’s just… not as good as it could be. And takes our country in a direction different to the one I’d like. But that’s another post!) Whatever the reason people vote for politicians, usually they stay in office because they are doing something right. I admit that’s not always the case, but our government isn’t yet so dysfunctional that people can stay in office when they’re grossly negligent or incompetent.
What is Christopher Pyne doing right? Quite honestly, I have no idea. And therein lies the problem. I don’t know what I do or don’t like about him. He seems irritating and immature, but I couldn’t name one thing, off the top of my head, which really bothers me. Oh, I’m sure there ARE some! And when he next holds a press conference, no doubt there will be plenty with which I disagree. But am I disagreeing, just because it’s Christopher Pyne saying it?
The worry is that if I’m constantly leaning to the left in politics, how can I be sure I won’t get so lopsided that I fall over? It’s easy to read and watch liberal commentators and have discussions with other left-wing folk, because that means I don’t have to worry about confrontation, and I don’t have to worry about defending my views. But really, that’s kind of lazy. And even though I don’t want to have to lay out my arguments for this or that issue every time I talk to someone, perhaps I should be more open to it. More importantly, I need to be a critical listener. When Christopher Pyne opens his mouth, I’m automatically on the offensive. I know where he’s coming from, and it’s not my corner. But if it’s a person who has more liberal (and not Liberal!) views, I really am lazy. I don’t attack those arguments as much as I would from a right-wing pundit or politician. I’m more accepting, more open to negotiate. I don’t question the left as much as I do the right.
When I watch or read news which is skewed to the right, I know that I tend to look down on those ideas. I instantly try to pick holes in their arguments, and granted, this is often easy, because some of the right-wing philosophies can be way out there. But if they bring up something that really is credible, I should be open to it, rather than blocking my ears and singing, ‘La-la-la! Not listening!’ If I’m going to disagree with something, I should have good reasons to do so, just as if I’m going to agree with something, I should be doing that for the right reasons, too.
Or the left reasons.
Oh, you know what I mean.