Monday, September 05, 2005

A Political Tipping Point?

What I've seen of history suggests that, when those who would govern are seen to have lost the common touch, their days are numbered. The wisdom of crowds sees the arrogance of kings and emperors in any display of aloofness.

Nowhere is that arrogance revealed more starkly than when aloofness appears in the context of catastrophe, for it is then that it becomes most apparent whether or not the ruler shares the pain of the commoner.

On December 25, 1974, cyclone Tracey flattened Darwin, damaging up to one third of residences. The Aust. federal government took over a day to even respond. 11 months later, Whitlam was tossed out of office with a 63 seat defeat. I'm not going to touch on rights and wrongs of the Dismissal affair. The point I want to make is that Whitlam lost office because he was seen, by the electorate, as increasingly arrogant.

In January, 2005, in the aftermath of the Boxing Day tsunami, the then leader of the opposition was nowhere to be seen. It turned out that he was suffering from a recurring bout of pancreatitis and was bedridden. Nevertheless, the perception was 'couldn't he at least have issued a press statement?'

Now, flash forward to the wake of hurricane Katriana, a calamity one hundred times worse than Tracey. The 'human storm', as Worldchanging puts it, is gathering pace and fury. Reports of the Bush administration's total unpreparedness are running rampant. (One unlikely source being a collation (dated Sep 04, 2005) from Miguel De Icaza, more generally known for the 'Mono' project).

With thousands dead, a million homeless, and an area the size of the UK taken out, the logistics of the relief effort would have taxed any organisation. Mistakes under such conditions are to be expected, and it might be argued that there wasn't a lot they could practically do.

Nevertheless, for Bush to take a day to come back from leave, and for Condi to take in broadway shows and go shoe shopping demonstrates, at the very least, no appreciation of public perception whatsoever.

Pride cometh before a fall.

I have a feeling that Bush and co. are about to be railroaded.


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