Who goes to extremes? Politicians, media... everyone!

Billy Joel used to be a
dead ringer for Sly Stallone
When most people think of Billy Joel music, you’re pretty much guaranteed they’ll think of the song Piano Man.

Not me though – my favourite Billy Joel song is: I go to extremes.

For one, it’s much more fun to drum to. Secondly, it’s a song which allows piano players to seriously show off as the potential for solos is off the charts.

Lately I’ve found myself humming this song given everything that’s happening at the moment, whether it is politically, economically, theologically etc…

However, it’s politically which is the most apparent and it’s driving me a little insane.

These days, it’s nigh on impossible for politicians to find some middle ground. Rather, arguments and debates head for the extremes, become increasingly hostile, more volatile and, eventually, collapse.

For example, in the USA, Democrats and Republicans are so ideologically entrenched in their positions there leaves no room for negotiation – whether it’s tax reform, healthcare or a whole raft of other issues.

Ultimately, a debate starts; both parties lock down their positions, resort to petty name calling and nothing gets done.

It's not just the USA though; let’s look at Australia and, in particular, the issue of asylum seekers.

Earlier this week a boat left Indonesia heading for Australia full of asylum seekers/illegal arrivals (choose whichever term your politics dictates) and sunk. It’s likely every passenger died. This is the 2nd boat in the past 12 months which has resulted in lost lives.

Both major parties agree the only solution is to create a deterrent to stop people risking their lives on shonky boats by paying shonky people smugglers and attempting the dangerous trip down under.

According to both parties, the best deterrent is to process people’s applications for asylum offshore.

However, neither party wants to negotiate. Neither party is willing to sit down and talk out a solution that involves compromise.

I reckon this is because both sides believe any negotiated solution would demonstrate a sign of 'weakness'. 

It’s disgraceful. Neither side is willing to admit (EVER) the other side has a good idea. Apparently, every decision both parties have ever made is wrong.

So, even though both parties are almost identical, the argument goes to the extremes ("everything you do is wrong and everything I do is right") which leads to hostile and volatile debate, which leads to breakdown.

You can apply the above formula to around 50,000 different issues. Politicians in Australia (and the world) seem keen as mustard to cement their reputation as self-interested, lacking integrity and childish.

It's not just the politicians who have created this mess though.  Let me introduce you to the Australian media!

If a politician changes his mind, the media will immediately paint him as lacking integrity. If a politician uses the wrong word once, it’ll be replayed on the evening news again and again.

In fact, it’s got so bad that it’s now news if a politician refuses to ‘rule out’ ever doing something. What this does is push the politicians into a retreat where they stay on message, and go to the extremes of each argument.

Let’s play out a hypothetical – if Tony Abbott suddenly said, “I’m happy to negotiate on asylum seekers. We both want them off shore, but it clearly can’t be Malaysia and clearly can’t be Nauru. So, let’s talk and work something out.”

What would the response be? My prediction would be the Govt saying, “This is Tony Abbott playing politics. He’s not interested in a solution, just grandstanding.”

The media would say, “Tony Abbott has backed away from Nauru and extended an olive branch” and then hammer him with questions about his ‘admitting defeat that Nauru isn’t an option.”

And there’s no way that Tony Abbott would ever do this because it’s far too conciliatory and would give up too much ‘power’.

He'd probably come home to his wife and say, "Darling I don't know why I go to extremes," sit down at the piano, and bust out an awesome solo.

And here I am - having written an article on political extremism and I haven't even mentioned the Greens.

Dammit - I have to think about this more!


Steve Garner said…
Isn't the fear of drowning a deterrent?