Twitter is largely a dull space, not dissimilar to being trapped on public transport surrounded by the inanities of others, realising hell is other people.
One of the few reasons it is in any way useful is in how it parallels the adage that no one is completely useless, they can always be used as a bad example. Every now and again you get something revealing. Something that gives an insight that the perpetrator probably didn't intend.
Such a moment arose out of the council elections held last weekend across New South Wales.
Damian O'Connor tweeted: “If "informal" ran yesterday, it seems it made quota to be elected (25%) lots of places – huge”.
Damian O'Connor is no idle spectator. His Twitter account proffers “political history & analysis, economics and the environment” and he speaks with the authority of being a former Assistant State Secretary (for the left) of the NSW ALP, as a lobbyist for Government Relations Australia, as a staffer for a senator, as an industrial officer for the old Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen's Association (a union now swallowed up into the CFMEU); and way back he was in the middle of the shitfight that was the collapse of the Australian Union of Students in the early eighties (which threw Gillard, Shorten, Conroy, Albanese, Abbott, Hockey, Michael O'Connor (no relation) and a host of other political apparatchiks that have also never had a real job into the political mill).
O'Connor's tweet got a response from the anonymous Political Tragic, who offered as an excuse the inability of people to follow simple instructions. Political Tragic, whose twitter account reveals them to be little more than a snob disconnected from their community and dripping with noblesse oblige, is annoyed that the little people won't take instruction from their betters.
They are typical of the conservative who thinks they are a lefty, but is is too stupid to realise that they, like fat in an artery, are clogging up the party that should be the political home of Australia's working class. They really should fuck off and join the Liberal Party - who will better represent their economic interests - if the ALP is to have any chance of rebuilding the lives of Australia's debt bound multitudes stuck on something south of median weekly earnings - but there are two chances of that happening.
The two tweeters infer that this informal vote is hurting the ALP, as if the ALP base should blindly continue to follow it despite federal and state ALP governments spending the last three decades pursuing neoliberal policies that have ripped the guts out of economic security and replaced it with back breaking debt, insecure work and angry, disconnected communities. Quality of life in suburban Australia, for all the flim flam of credit-fueled “stuff”, has gone down the toilet. Escapism has become the most viable ideology of our age.
It seems foreign to the two tweeters that the informal vote is deliberate – a rejection of all of the middle class parties. People know that the ALP is not about to challenge the superb indifference the powerful have for the powerless in this society. The powerless, even if they seldom articulate it, are aware of it. The working poor know that they are on their own, despite the rhetoric of the hopelessly ALP conflicted ACTU, as I pointed out last week over at the Blunt Shovels blog.
People have given up; not just on the ALP, but on liberal democracy as an institution that can solve their social problems. This is unsurprising given that liberal democracy is a sideshow beauty contest while the ASX200 wield more real power than executive government.
Significant chunks of the populace can see that politicians of all persuasions are simply delivering for the big end of town. The Greens really don't have anything to offer working stiffs as they too have bought into the mantra of the market as a salve to social ills, when the reality is that the market – from housing to pollution – is the problem, not the solution.
People have simply decamped from a process that offers them no reprieve from the swingeing enforcement of the corporate totalitarianism that defines our age, where debt is the new serfdom and rights exist solely in the abstract; where private security guards ignore civil protections and those who pursue justice are dismissed as cranks while those who stoically suffer their oppression in silence are hailed as models of rectitude.
The large informal vote expands on a trend that first emerged in the 2010 Federal election when it jumped 1.7 percent nationally and reached the low to mid teens in a swathe of formerly safe ALP seats in south-western Sydney.
O'Connor is right that this trend is huge. Expect to see it repeated in October in the ACT when voters are offered a further tawdry choice between the three flavours of bland in what is really a one-party state.
In that environment voting for anyone is an obscenity, like having to fuck the least ugly person in a leper colony. It is a patronising insult for Labor people to complain that we aren't buying their mouldy bread.
Maybe. Just maybe, if the ALP delivered something that wasn't just voucher based crumbs from the table, like NDIS; or reversed the slide in household share of national wealth; or made housing a social good instead of an investment strategy; or made education an investment in the citizenry rather than a commodity to be flogged offshore, like the rocks that are keeping the plates spinning at the circus; maybe if they challenged that then we could give a shit.
Until then the only way for working stiffs to stay sane is to vote informal. Anything else is enabling our own destruction.
With the collapse of the liberal democratic West this will probably happen anyway, but there's no obligation on our part to help others profit from making it happen.