On the 14th of August, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was interviewed by Neil Mitchell on Melbourne’s 3AW. Part of the interview went like this:
“Mr Albanese, if you were dictator, what’s the first thing you would do?”
“Ban social media”, he replied.
That the Prime Minister would ban social media – our most popular means of communication – is brutally authoritarian.
It reminded me of a scene in the movie Oppenheimer in which nuclear scientist Robert Oppenheimer meets with President Harry Truman shortly after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War 2.
Following his successful testing of the bomb, Oppenheimer was known to have uttered the words, “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”, a quote from the Bhagavad Gita, a holy scripture from Hinduism.
After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer told Truman he felt he had “blood on his hands”.
Truman angrily responded with the words, “The blood is on my hands, not yours. It was me who dropped the bomb, not you”.
With that the meeting was over and Truman said he “never wanted to see that man again”.
There’s more than a little Oppenheimer in Albanese’s view of himself and the world around him. Here’s why I think that.
There’s an old Greek proverb, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows only one thing.”
Albanese knows only one thing – politics. It’s all he’s ever done.
But as we know, the world isn’t made up of just one thing, it is made up of a whole range of competing factors and trade-offs that differ for different people of different ages who live in different places and have different priorities.
Like the ‘crystallised intelligence’ vs ‘fluid intelligence’ paradigm. Crystallised intelligence employs experience and wisdom and knows how the world works. Fluid intelligence knows how to study, learn facts and pass exams. Foxes vs hedgehogs. We’ve all met them.
Harry Truman, a Democrat (a bit like the Labor Party here in Australia), was a very good President. Before entering politics, Truman was a soldier and then a shopkeeper. A better understanding of how the world works you wouldn’t get than by owning a shop! Harry was quite the fox.
But the story is told of when Truman was elected President, his former army buddy and shopkeeper partner, Eddie Jacobson, said to him, “O Harry, now that you’re President, everyone’s going to start telling you what a great man you are, when you and I both know you ain’t”.
Anyone who gets to the top needs an Eddie Jacobson in their lives.
Being knowledgeable on one subject can narrow one’s focus, lead to over-confidence and dismiss dissenting views. This can lead to self-deception, even delusions of grandeur. The Voice perhaps?
The world is a very dangerous place, and it is impossible to predict what will happen next. There are countless variables and factors. Foxes understand this innately, hedgehogs not so much.
For this reason, we have to stop letting the hedgehogs run the show. Let them be advisers, by all means, but do not put them in charge.
They may be fine leading other hedgehogs in a particular field, but the world is not parliament house or a laboratory or a hospital or a courtroom or a classroom or a police station. We can’t let scientists or police commissioners or judges who do not have to answer to the people run the place. Being answerable to the people forces you to understand how the world really works and how to assess the many trade-offs – as the Prime Minister will soon find out.
On a more celebratory note, next month marks the three-year anniversary of the launch of the Australian Family Party – and almost one hundred Newsletters!
Our membership is strong and the response to the Newsletters, all of which are listed on our website, has been phenomenal – especially The New Gulag, The MATS Plan Re-visited, Black Hawk Down, Two Stories, One Lesson and of course Remembering Andrew Evans.
But, like the story of ‘the turtle on the fence post’ (if you ever see a turtle sitting on top of a fence post, what is the one thing you know? – It didn’t get there by itself!), if anyone wants to get to the top of the fence post in any field – sport, the arts, business, and yes, politics – you’re not going to get there by yourself. You’re going to need a lot of help from a lot of people.
In our case, that includes other minor parties.
As I outlined in The Shrinking Forest earlier this year, alliances with like-minded parties are essential for success.
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Bob Day AO is federal director of the Australian Family Party. His former roles include federal Senator for South Australia, national president of the Housing Industry Association, director of the Centre for Independent Studies and chairman of North East Vocational College. Bob was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2003 for service to the housing industry, the community and social welfare – particularly housing the homeless. [more]