‘Politics is all about people’

That line from David Marr’s article in the SMH this morning struck poignantly home, following a brief discussion about Rudd with a colleague. This colleague used to work for the Goss Government, all those years ago, and had many interactions with Rudd back then – and always dreaded those interactions.

Rudd would demand things, and often demand that they be delivered to him with impossible haste. Contrast this to other people in the Goss government, this colleague suggested, who for the most part asked politely for things. Sure, politics is not about being polite or kind, but is there perhaps a lesson here? As Marr suggests, Rudd was not much of a ‘people person’. For him it was work, work, work. And then some more work. One could assume people were just tools to facilitate the completion of that work. Perhaps this is why he won few friends among the people he worked with. And perhaps this is why the events of the past few days transpired the way they did.

I noticed I was not the first person to draw a comparison to the horse, Boxer, in Orwell’s Animal Farm. ‘I will work harder’ was Boxer’s solution to every problem. Orwell intended this as an allegory of the Russian working class and their subsequent exploitation by the Stalinists, but we could draw a parallel to Rudd here too. He had his blinkers on, worked harder and expected everyone else to do so as well. If I remember correctly, Boxer dies from running himself into the ground.

A strong work ethic is to be commended, of course, and coupled with Rudd’s intelligence, seemed like it could work. But a workhorse has little time for civility, because all his time is spent working. Not everyone is a workhorse.

Although I may sound like someone’s granny, and it may be a minor, trivial point to make, in politics, as in life, it’s always a good idea to use ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’.

Matthew Sini

Matthew Sini is a writer currently based in Melbourne. He has published essays, plays, screenplays and fiction in both Australia and overseas.

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