Deborah Hill Cone

Deborah Hill Cone is a Herald columnist

Deborah Hill Cone: Politics - it's just perverse

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Ignore the zealots from left and right and remember: Seeking power is twisted.

Illustration / Anna Crichton
Illustration / Anna Crichton

Stink. We are a bit bereft now the rugby is over. Especially my 6-year-old daughter, since it means non-RWC-related teaching will resume at school. Even worse, I'm picking this term will be devoted to the election and the democratic process.

I was an annoying child who used to feel personally affronted by people who were apathetic about politics. What a self-righteous little buck-toothed prig I was; I used to give that off-the-peg "People died for the right to vote" lecture to any prepubescent who dared to voice the opinion that politics was boring. Now I think politics is not only boring, but twisted.

"Until the public accepts the urge to power is a personality disorder in its own right, like the urge to sexual congress with children or the taste for rubber underwear, there will always be a danger of circumstances arising which persuade ordinary people to start listening to politicians and would-be politicians, and taking them seriously."

If you doubt Auberon Waugh's view that politicians should be PG-rated, have a read of a few political blogs. Most political bloggers seem to be suffering from one of the milder forms of borderline personality disorder.

I am not sure why, but for a bit I became Facebook friends with one of them, left-wing blogger Martin "Bomber" Bradbury. I thought that as he was a comedian, his posts might be funny. But he was just relentlessly negative and angry. Not sure what he would do if he ever got what he wanted - be even more miffed, I suppose.

But what was even worse was the revolting way my Facebook friends from the VRWC (Vast Right Wing Conspiracy) reacted to him. I felt like a shamefaced hostess whose cocktail party had turned into a brawl.

The right-wing bloggers, with the exception of the avuncular David Farrar, are just as bitter as the lefty tossers. They are driven by the hate of their so-called "enemies".

Both sides are people who lack a strong sense of self, so they define themselves in relation to their opponents. This is called "splitting". Splitting is essentially a defence mechanism in which an object is separated into two or more parts, to remove its threatening meaning. Splitting means we see people and situations in black-and-white terms, all bad or all good, no shades of grey.

I came from South Africa, where apartheid is an example of splitting on a profound scale and shows how destructive this kind of "absolute thinking" can be.

Psychology Today columnist Ugo Uche says absolute beliefs are simple, easy to comprehend and false positives that offer us a false sense of security. If we believe that a particular population of people are either all good or all bad, then we fool ourselves into thinking that we have got a piece of a particular equation all figured out. This is a comforting state of mind, as we feel assured and in control. It's an illusion, of course.

Unfortunately, the blogosphere's vitriol seems to be becoming far more prevalent in setting the political agenda in the mainstream campaign, because the media loves absolute thinking: heroes and villains. This week there was a story about dirty tricks against Act's Epsom candidate John Banks, sourced to bloggers from both sides sledging each other.

Expect more of that as the campaign unfolds, but it doesn't mean you have to buy into it. Doubt everything. Even me saying politics is all bad, which is possibly another example of "splitting". Where possible, just stick with rugby.

dhc@deborahhillcone.com

* Illustration by Anna Crichton: illustrator@annacrichton.com

- NZ Herald

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