Thursday thoughts: Politicians mostly mean well.

This ‘Thursday Thought’ is late this week because … well, no excuses. It’s just late. As will be the Friday Travel and Saturday Arts pieces. Sorry ’bout that.

politicsThere’s been an amazing outpouring of sentiment in recent days for Steve Jones. For those who live outside South-East Queensland, he was the mayor of the Lockyer Valley Regional Council, until his death this week, as a result of a stroke at the age of 55.

On social media, on radio, in the newspapers, pretty much everyone has expressed dismay at his death.

Political allies or adversaries, it doesn’t matter .. the general consensus seems to be that Mayor Jones was a man dedicated to serving his community – and who would cheerfully break ‘the rules’ if it meant helping his constituents.

Facebook and Twitter is full of locals and strangers alike praising his enthusiasm, and his willingness to ‘muck in’ where required.

Now, much of that goes back to the Grantham floods of 2011, when Mr Jones was elbows-deep in the cleanup – and fully prepared to tell bureaucrats to get off their duffs and make the changes needed to help his residents.

But here’s the thing: he’s not alone in doing that.

In fact, for every natural disaster, I could point you to a local politician who’s done the right thing.

And having covered politics for most of my professional life as a journalist, I can attest to the amount of work that almost every politician does for their local community.

But some MPs (representatives or senators for those outside Australia) get better ‘press’ for it than others.

So why is that?

It’s hard to say – but it’s fair to say that there is an awful lot of cynicism about our politicians.

If you ask the ordinary person about pollies, the general consensus is that they are all in it for what they can get out of it .. that they are venal, grasping, ruthless and corrupt.

In fact, there’s a perjorative term used for them in the US – congresscritters – which is both disdainful and dismissive.

And yet that view is NOT generally shared about individual MPs by those who’ve dealt with them.

If a politician helps you out (and most will do what they can, on an individual basis), people tend to think “Oh my local member is OK … it’s just the others that are worthless / paid too much / whatever.”

Meanwhile, think about this .. most politicians could earn shedloads more money in ‘the real world’ than they do in Parliament and there is absolutely no job security for them: their careers live, and die, at the whim of the electorate.

And if you think they should get paid less, consider this: that would mean only the rich could afford to be politicians. Do you seriously think we would have better politicians then?

So why do they serve? Most stand because they genuinely believe they can make a difference; that they can make their country / state / city / town better.

Now, after a while, they can be captured by ‘the machine’ that is politics and lose that shining-eyed enthusiasm (or naivety if you will)

But deep at the heart of almost all politicians is a genuine need to serve, to pay back (or pay forward) the benefits they have gained from their community.

So cut ’em some slack .. because most politicians, at whatever level, are just us, writ large.

Or get in there and do the job yourself, if you feel that strongly.

Meantime, vale Steve Jones .. we’d never met, but we had spoken, and I can assure you he was not afraid to call a spade a bloody shovel – and start digging in with it, too!

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