Fear and cowardice are not the same thing.
Cowardice is not the same as having fears. Fear itself can often be very rational and true courage is best exhibited in the face of fear. Cowardice is not having the courage to stand tall and act rationally in the face of fear.
Physical cowardice is a pretty well-understood concept. It is distinct from caution or prudence because fear of an outcome- often physical danger- takes control of a person and prevents them acting as they would like. It is far from a desirable trait and one that is often looked at with some scorn. By contrast, those who fight through fear and phobia to take deliberate actions are often shown greater respect for the courage it takes.
So what of intellectual cowardice? Sometimes fear of a very idea prevents an individual from even thinking properly about it. As a result, they let fear drive them to act without making balanced analysis and thus without rationality. If anything, losing your nerve over an idea like letting refugees into the country or letting gay people get married is much less understandable or easily excused than being overcome by fear when faced with actual danger. There seems to be a lot of this type of cowardice around and I don’t understand why it is considered more favourably than the more obvious physical variety.
Political scare campaigns only work because of the intellectual cowardice of voters (perhaps I should have called it electoral cowardice). Politicians and interest groups assume they can make people scared enough to act without thinking objectively about an issue.
In recent years Australia has made disastrous decisions based on the power of scare campaigns-consider the impact of the mining lobby’s campaign to neuter the very sensible Resource Super Profits Tax. Worse than that- we actually elected Tony Abbott to power on the basis that he could effectively run scare campaigns. Then we got what we deserved when it became apparent how bad he was at actually governing- I still maintain with some confidence that he is the worst Prime Minister we have had in my lifetime, if not ever.
Unsurprisingly, the rhetoric for this year’s election campaigns is getting steadily stronger. The Coalition’s ridiculous claims that the Labor Party’s proposed changes to negative gearing would be a sledge hammer to the housing market and the economy have been contradicted by most independent analysis, but they have ramped up anyway. Scott Morrison’s ridiculously hyperbolic and tasteless military invective this week should have been shocking but the sad thing is they were hardly a surprise at all. I imagine Labor will follow suit. As it is, to hear Bill Shorten speak, you would assume our public education system will be all but abandoned under a re-elected Turnbull government.
We should demand better than this. We should require our prospective leaders prove their candidacy with reason not deception and shock tactics. Until they do, it is perhaps unsurprising that senators such as Andrew Wilkie and Nick Xenaphon record far higher approval ratings than their ALP and LNP opponents.
Whoever you want to vote for please have courage during this election and think about what you are really voting for. Don’t believe the soundbite slogans. If an issue is important to you, don’t let yourself be manipulated by it. Find out some information about it yourself- and preferably not through the Murdoch press. Vote for a candidate whose policies you have considered and that you agree with.
If you just vote for a candidate because you are scared of what they said would happen if you didn’t, you are a coward.