New Internationalist

Pushing your buttons – welcome to your second childhood

Issue 405

This time it’s called ‘politics’. Did you ever get to stop being a child – at least in the eyes of the authorities? All of us have the buttons to be pushed: our insecurity; our desire to be looked after; our fear of the unknown; our desire to scapegoat the kid down the block; our laziness that says ‘just tell me what to do, what to think’ – buttons aplenty for the politics of manipulation. Oh my, when do I finally get to decide for myself?

You are what you buy

Want to feel good about yourself? Feeling a little sad or depressed? Why not go to the mall and buy something? When you were a little kid that was how your Mum and Dad sometimes cheered you up. Who cares if you’ve already ‘maxxed out’ your credit cards? Didn’t those ads say that you would be successful and get an attractive partner if you only had that new car/vacation/slacks/lawn furniture/little black dress? Anyway, it’s patriotic to shop. Didn’t George Bush encourage everyone to go out and buy, as a way of defeating the terrorists? Don’t they say that you can vote with your pocketbook? Besides, it’s so simple.

Count on the experts

Life is so complicated. Who has time to figure out all those big issues? There is so much that is technical that you would need to have an advanced degree even to start. Stuff like Star Wars or nuclear power or sustainable energy. Then there is all that stuff about international policies and treaties and whether we should go to war or not. Best leave all that to people in the know. Only experts or those who take advice from experts are really in a position to take a decision. But it sure can be puzzling when those darn experts don’t agree.

Be afraid, be very afraid

It’s a dangerous world out there. As if it weren’t enough already, what with all the drug dealers, rapists and axe murderers, now we have crazy terrorists too. So trust us and we will keep you safe. We may have to violate a few civil liberties. But don’t worry if people get in trouble – there has to be a good reason for it. Because it’s so dangerous out there we need to be tough to protect ourselves from the bad guys. Sometimes we even need to send ‘our brave boys’ to distant lands to get them before they get us. So ignore all that pap about falling crime rates and a tough foreign policy breeding more terrorism. It’s simple: you need to support someone who is strong and firm. Remember when you were a kid: ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’. Right?

Fun, fun, fun: media as entertainment

Borrrring. Who wants to go to meetings, read the newspaper, watch the TV news? It’s all sooooo depressing anyway. Much more interesting to follow the exploits of Branjelina. Isn’t their new baby cute? Better to read People magazine and get away from all that doom and gloom. Or try out those great new computer games – it’s so cool to watch those ‘swarthy types’ blow up when you zap them. There’s hardly any time to focus on one thing – got to surf, answer my email, send some text messages, spend some quality time on Facebook. Politics is a drag, just full of deceit and hypocrisy. No wonder people don’t bother to vote. If you can avoid all that heavy stuff, it’s still a Disneyland world out there. Party on, bro!

All in the family

We are all just family here really. I may be a bit better off than you, but I understand you and can represent your interests. Kinda like a version of your firm-but-kindly old grandpa. Well, maybe not how he actually was, but how he was supposed to be. If I wasn’t family, how could I be talking to you in this folksy way? Not like those smart-alec intellectuals who talk down to you. Besides, doesn’t my craggy appearance remind you of how your dad should have looked? You can trust me – I have great hair!

It’s okay to be selfish

It’s about time you felt good about yourself. We are a great country, a great people with no need to be ashamed of anything. Who has time for those whiners who would make us worry about ourselves and how we behave in the world? Sure, everyone makes mistakes, but you have so much to be thankful for. And in a world where too many people are trying to get away with things: asylum-seekers looking for a free ride; people who collect social assistance without any intention of working; all that wasteful foreign aid we just threw away. Ah well…

Temper tantrums

If you don’t get your way there is always someone to blame. It’s either stupid politicians or greedy trade unions. It’s crooked businesses or dangerous criminals. It’s foreign enemies or self-styled trouble-making radicals. It’s phony refugees or the supposedly ‘disadvantaged’ (claiming discrimination for any old reason) and demanding special treatment. It’s a million kinds of ‘special interests’ that are trying to elbow into the line in front of you. Go on, get mad! You have a right! But you also need to do something about it. So vote for me and everything will change!

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