I will here answer, as best I can, what do my strong arts- and myth-based sentiments suggest I should be thinking politically?
Very basically, I think a government’s main areas of concern are the economy and law. The economyVIS how tax revenue should be spent to maintain the organs of the state, and the law insofar as instituting the laws by which this state functions.
Firstly, these fields are mostly irrelevant to the arts, mythology, psychology and, finally, life as it is lived – the experience of life. As Thomas Mann said, “The essential thing in life… never is even touched by political means.” Money and law basically do not affect these things either.
We might not be able to afford to mount musicals or shoot movies but poverty cannot stop us from telling stories, sharing experiences, cracking jokes, humming tunes, painting pictures or relating to one another or even just ourselves. (Money can buy luxurious mansions (and other “premium” possessions) but these have no direct link to what I am calling the fundamentals of life experience: love, truth, honesty, loyalty, purpose, meaning, fulfilment.)
Also, you cannot legislate against (or for) feelings of fulfilment any more than you can copyright an idea. Laws can prohibit the particular expression of an idea, and they can encourage or discourage certain behaviours but life experience is not in essence substantial – it is not a thing in itself that can be handled, or arrested – and so does not come under the jurisdiction of the law.
Of course, neglecting the financial to the extent of starvation can be destructive to life. So can voting in some fanatical leader who takes over and kills everyone. An unhealthy and destructive political system can cause no end of grief, but so can a diseased and destructive liver complaint. I am suggesting that politics should be monitored closely and fought for valiantly when life itself is at stake. Otherwise, let’s chill out, party, have the occasional drink – it really does not matter a huge deal.
Australian politics in recent years has been so delightfully middle-ground and therefore, in my view, unremarkably healthy however you want to look at it that I don’t think it bears getting overly worked up about. Yes, I know it sounds blasé.
But consider what a fully informed choice involves – for starters, a good look at party policies. And what do we find? More or less lopsided, fanciful or ridiculous ideas in the smaller parties and in the major parties we find general promises stated in vague terms – obviously appealing for votes from, in the end, more or less entirely divergent voters.
(But, to be fair, what is promised cannot be specific for who knows what the future brings? Circumstance and opposition may always obstruct the best laid plans – or maybe the party in power was just incompetent or “a pack of two-faced liars”. Who can say? So it is necessary to save face and be a little noncommittal in the campaign material.)
The parties are groups. Groups are notoriously unreliable in general (cf. just about any institution). A promise made by a group naturally comprised of differing individuals will almost certainly be broken. Why? Because management will reshuffle, the world outside will change, the members of the group will fluctuate – in who they are let alone in what they, if anything, believe. This is a fact of life.
Political rules, laws, economic plans, and even logic cannot hold sway over what actually happens because the mysterious powers known variously as feelings, experiences, guesses, desires, fears, anticipations, impressions, and chance play the larger part. Of course this does not mean that we should give up trying to make sense of it all; we should attempt the amusingly dubious task of making an “informed choice” but it really should be approached playfully – it is not, in nice little Aussieland, a matter of cataclysmic importance. Politics is, democratically, a bit of a lark really and works only because it is such a civilized, wibbly-wobbly mess.
If anything, the arts suggest that nothing can be meaningful unless it means something to the individual, on the level of the human, not of the group, the party, the nation or any “organised collective”. And the group is always made up of individuals, in fact, some might say that the more individual are its members, the greater the strength of the group – perhaps not in keeping promises (read, predicting the future) but certainly in terms of keeping afloat.
This suggests that we should vote according to who the individuals are and how effective they are at well-considered back-stabbing. Foolish individuals will yield foolish party decisions and over-confidence or lack of flexibility will result in a government out of touch with the changing world, stiff and rigid until it finally cracks. (And yes, flexibility is that pesky propensity to break promises and replace leaders.)
I have my tongue in cheek of course as this way of thinking is finally impossible to quantify. How do we judge who a politician is? By her public or private life? We are trying to measure her wisdom and flexibility, both of which do not have objective criteria. Never mind that we all judge on different standards, all we have to go on are biased election flyers and more or less prejudiced media articles. How finally do we “know” another human being? We need at least to meet them, properly to get to know them. Do we all have the time, let alone the means, let alone the inclination, to do this?
This is clearly impractical. I say vote on necessity (will this political party kill us all or not?) and if that is not at issue then vote according to whim. Personally, I like to take a step back and vote according to “leaning direction” assuming that, all differences eventuating, a left-leaning party is less likely to about face so drastically that they will lean right (or at least so much in the opposite direction that they are likely to out-lean their opposition) or vice versa.
We all share in a capacity for experiencing life however that experience my vary, and the arts may suggest that these variations are to be valued not neglected or expunged. This suggests an affinity with the left-wing idea of social equality but it could also be equated with right-wing principles of independence and ‘every man for himself’.
Conversely, the right-wing concept of ‘the end justifies the means’ is certainly averse to the artistic sentiment, but then again the ideal leftist ‘nanny state’ can encourage a group complacency that seems to hide from mature life experience.
On the face of it I vote left simply because I would rather have an incompetent nanny in government rather than a more or less malignant and crusty old miser, but honestly – they are clearly married to each other.