On polling day

The State of New South Wales goes to the polls today.  I live in another state, but it shapes as an interesting contest that may lead to some intriguing results.

Mens Sana in Corpore Sano

I’ve been thinking lately about the Latin phrase mens sana in corpore sano as a means of analysing politics (among other things).  It seems to me that every non-criminal government will ensure that its citizens remain alive; it is only the best that will offer them conditions that really make them live. Some of the smaller parties contending today, however, can be said to have made that their starting point.

Arts Party

I received an email from the Arts Party yesterday (which is what prompted this post). The capacity of the arts to challenge people, and therefore change and enrich them, should not be underestimated.  Hence, a grouping like this is an encouraging thing. 

Australian Cyclists Party

I recently joined the Cyclists Party because it seemed to be the closest to my core interest of running: after all, cyclists and runners use much the same infrastructure (like rail-trails) and have a common interest in promoting fitness-oriented policies (as it happens, I subsequently also bought a bicycle).  Like the arts, a dedication to fitness has an incredible power to change people and show them their own strengths.  This, surely, is to be encouraged.

Vote 1 ACP

Shooters and Fishers Party

It might seem incongruous to include a reference to the Shooters and Fishers Party after the preceding two.  I do not think this is so.  Aside from the obvious benefits of having to be outside to both hunt and fish, I think there are benefits from both as regards mental wellbeing.  For one thing, both activities connect the present with the people of the past: not for nothing is a French political party with similar aims named “Chasse, pêche, nature, traditions” (“Hunting, Fishing, Nature, Traditions”).  For another, the task of killing either animal or fish compels the hunter or fisher to consider (if only fleetingly) some of the bigger questions of existence: as Hemingway said, “Because [the Spanish] have common sense they are interested in death and do not spend their lives avoiding the thought of it and hoping it does not exist only to discover it when they come to die”(1).

Vote 1 SFP

Outdoor Recreation Party

The Outdoor Recreation Party hints that, in the future, the liberal and libertarian schools of thought may find that a common love for the natural world gives them more in common than what divides them.  Being outdoors – being in nature – is rejuvenative and touches people at a fundamental level.  Camus said that “the great shout of stone that Djemila hurls between the mountains , the sky , and the silence – well do I know its poetry: lucidity, indifference, the true signs of beauty or despair” (2).

Vote 1 ORP

There are many important questions in politics.  But whichever way you vote today, I hope you vote for whatever you think will help may you most whole in body and mind.


(1) Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon (1932), ch. 19

(2) Albert Camus, ‘The Wind at Djemila’ (trans. Ellen Kennedy), in Philip Thody (ed.), Lyrical and Critical Essays (1970), p.79

The Arts Party – a Response

I posted a piece the other day pondering an issue that I felt was raised by the creation of the Arts Party.  Last night a very good comment was made on the piece by the leader of that party – I thought it was a great response, so I’m copying and pasting it hereunder –

Hello there, I’d like to chime in on this post if I may, speaking as the leader of the Arts Party! We’ve got 1500 members across all states and territories of Australia and only registered in August 2014. Our first policy document will be out soon and was the result of grassroots meetings, discussion and inputs that occurred again in every state and territory – I was personally at most of those meetings!

We absolutely focus on the need and right of EVERY Australian to have a more creative and cultural life (to be a creator and a consumer). It’s clear that those of us living in the cities are the relatively lucky ones, when it comes to access to output and facilities (if we can afford them that is). However regional and rural communities are often virtually starved of quality artistic and cultural content and performances, something that needs addressing first.

Artistic and creative experiences should not require driving 2 hours to the Opera House, or a 2 hour flight, they should be happening in suburbs and local streets, communities and towns across the city, the state, the country. It’s good for the economy, health, tolerance, and “us” in so many ways…

I wrote a while back that microparties are a very encouraging sign for our democracy: having secured life and liberty, some proper argument can be had as to the pursuit of happiness (however that term is understood).  For myself, I surely look forward to following the Arts Party’s contribution.

An “Arts Party” for Australia?

Reading up on the New South Wales election recently, I saw a reference to a very new microparty that rather caught my eye.  It calls itself the Arts Party, and exists to promote the cause of art and creativity at a political level.

This is a movement I have some sympathy with, since it seems of a piece with my general guiding principle of mens sana in corpore sano. But I did ask myself:  Is such a party reinforcing some inherent problems as well?

What crosses my mind is this: some members of what one might call the creative classes regard the suburbs (or outer suburbs) of our major cities with condescension. Another views them with contempt bordering on genuine hatred. Beyond the suburbs, a third seems to view rural areas as almost another country.

In addition, perhaps the most recognisable focus of rural cultural output is the ABC’s radio program Australia All Over, which is (not unfairly) derided as hopelessly folksy and unchallenging.

In the circumstances, then, must the program of an Arts Party necessarily involve a one-way conversation from the metropolis to the rest of the country, where one side has everything to say about culture and the other little or nothing to teach? And if so, is this desirable?