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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Teflon Politics


Have you ever thought about Teflon and Politics, and how they relate to each other?

Stay with me - its not as strange as you may think.

In this particular context, I am referring to specific politicians and how they have qualities similar to Teflon.  It seems that no matter what they do, what the scandal is, or what the people they lead do, they remain invincible.

Certainly, politics in New Zealand right now seems to be reflective of Teflon at its most powerful - but there are examples of Teflon Politicians and political leaders all over the world. Wikipedia terms it as a nickname given to people, particularly politicians, for whom criticism does not stick. Famous politicians referred to as Teflon Politicians include Ronald Reagan, nicknamed the 'Teflon President', Tony Blair - 'Teflon Tony', Australia's John Howard - 'Teflon Johnny', and our own PM John Key nicknamed 'Teflon Man' and 'Teflon John'.

The examples above illustrate commonalties.  It is like they wear an invisible cloak of Teflon that repels all forms of muck raking and dirt (its interesting to note that apparently these cloaks are real - not terribly reliable as yet but real in an abstract kind of way, check the link).

These Teflon Politicians are often at the heart of controversy or teetering on the periphery. Their 'excuses bank' is always full and ready at hand. Their ability to skirt around an issue with apparent ease is nothing short of miraculous and if none of these skills work they set off a baffling smoke screen to take the pressure off of themselves, and onto their opponents.

Suffice to say, irrespective of what messy trough or controversial issue they find themselves embroiled in, they always appear to walk away unscathed.  To all intents and purposes, they seem invincible.

Sometimes, if a situation is particularly serious they might take a temporary hit in the polls, but that is short lived and appears to be quickly forgotten.  It would seem that they are able to work their magic on the unsuspecting public with agility and skill.

And so, in true Principally Mused style, I wonder.

A key wondering I have is, what makes them so invincible, and the public so oblivious to what is in front of them?

At what point does Teflon lose its magical qualities and the scratches appear?

Teflon is an interesting substance.  Once you scratch the surface (pun intended) you find all is not as it seems.  On the outside, punters are lured by its apparent strength, numerous applications and most importantly, its non stickablity.  But what do you do with your teflon pan when the scratches form and its magical qualities fade, along with its ability to remain non stick?

Thats right, you throw it out.

Sometimes, we fail to see the scratches and we continue to persevere with our pan, glossing over the scratches, ignoring the burnt and substandard fare we are producing and keep on pretending that all is well.  If its really bad we might even kid ourselves that buying a new pan would be a waste of money, too big a risk - what if that pan becomes as useless as the one we are using.  Can we take the risk, we ask ourselves.

All the while we fail to realise the damage our scratched Teflon (the one we pretend is still shiny and new) is doing to our food, to our health and to our environment.  Sometimes we change our pan but by then it is too late - and it is not until we change the pan that we realise our folly.

 This is the same as in politics.  For some political leaders, it is irrelevant how many mistakes they make or how often they 'change their mind' or have a 'brain fade'.  Nothing damages their credibility, nothing seems to scratch their Teflon coated business suits or damage their reputations.

Just like the scratched, burnt and malfuntioning pan, the public become reluctant to trade their substandard pan in for a new and improved one, reluctant to take the risk and believe that new pan will be better for them and their country.

Meanwhile the Teflon Political leader uses this to their advantage as they prey on the fears and prejudices of a Nation.  This is one of the Teflon's secrets and it is what helps to keep the armour slick and the scratches from going too deep.  Consider it like a healing balm of sorts.

Perhaps most concerning about Teflon Politicians is that we as the public fall for the farce.  We get taken in by the rhetoric, the shiny suits and the slick and slippery one liners.  Reassured by their super human ability to slide through scrapes unscathed, we the unsuspecting voters keep them ensconced in power, oblivious to the dangers their leaching chemicals are doing to our Nations wellbeing.

So how do we combat these Teflon Politicians, and protect our Nations from their destructive and divisive ways?

Ask the question - would we excuse this behaviour or trait in ourselves or a family member or friend?  If not, why would you excuse a local MP, Prime Minister or President?

There are always two sides to a story - look for the omissions and question, question, question.  Try not to take everything you hear on faith.  Many Teflon Politicians slide along on their 'popularity', 'charm' and will 'smile and wave' their way out of a crises.  Ask yourself, is that really how you want your politicians to run your country?  Is that how intelligent, skilled adults operate?  If your boss was a 'smiling assassin' and acted that way would you accept that?  Or would you make excuses for them because you like the way they 'smile'?

Watch their debating style - is it logical, intelligent and fact based, or is it argumentative, insulting and borderline offensive?  When I have watched our parliament and others around the world debate issues, it seems that the public enjoy the later - and ironically it is the Teflon Politician that debates with smart Alec quips and veiled insults.  The more measured and logical debating style can sometimes be seen as smarmy and arrogant.  Certainly it is less entertaining.

Herein lies the rub - the Teflon Politician survives on being the smiling entertainer.  Sadly this reflects more on society and its desire for the gutter debate than it does on anything else.

Whilst I acknowledge that Teflon has its uses, I do wonder if a Teflon Politician is all shine and no substance, and if this ultimately is what all our Nations strive for.

I know I would rather have a less slick and shiny leader that had substance and the interests of the Nation at the heart of all matters at the helm rather than a smarmy, slippery Teflon Politician who smiled and waved their way through every issue and controversy as if they were invincible.

At the end of the day we just need to remember that we all know what inevitably happens to Teflon - its scratches and day to day wear and tear eventually render it useless.  I just wonder how long we are meant to wait for our Teflon Politicians to finally wear thin,  and what damage is inflicted on a Nation whilst we all wait.

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