10 Daily - January 6, 2020
"But when the chips are down they fail us, because machismo is not strength; it is not smart; it only has one answer: authoritarianism; one tone: belligerent; one style: scorn. Macho leaders must have an enemy to fight. They win by dividing people into us (the good guys) and them: greenies, gays, inner-city elites, Muslims, African gangs, Jews, dole bludgers, noisy Australians, feminists et al."
When then Treasurer Scott Morrison brought a lump of coal into Federal parliament, he thought he was being really clever.
It was an aggressive, downright scornful gesture designed to bait and outrage his political enemies, both inside the House and outside it. Now that he is Prime Minister it is worth looking back to that moment -- not just for what it says about his attitudes to climate change -- but for what it says about the man and his leadership style.
If that defining moment is any guide, our Prime Minister is a member of the macho school of leadership. It has many aficionados at the moment -- Trump in the US, Duterte in the Philippines, Modi in India, Johnson in the UK, Erdogan in Turkey and Balsonaro in Brazil for example.
We often call them right-wing leaders, and they certainly fit that definition, but what strikes me most about them is their machismo. They strut and smirk, bellow and mock, bait and ridicule.
They are at their most comfortable on the attack and so must always have an enemy to fight and defeat -- whether on the world stage or on Twitter. If no enemy is immediately obvious they will make one up so they can continue to confront the world with their jaw jutted and their dukes up.
Macho leaders thrive in election mode. Then the enemy is clear and all bets are off. To them winning is not just everything, it is the only thing. To lose is not just disappointing, or even devastating -- it is worse than that -- it is an existential threat. Trump is open about how much he despises ‘losers’ even to the point of refusing to accept Senator John McCain as a military hero because he had been held captive. "I’m not a fan," he said about the decorated Vietnam vet. "I like people that weren’t captured."
Ban them, shoot them up, grab them by the p***y, nuke them, run the bastards over, lock her up, stop the boats -- it’s all invigorating, exciting stuff, and entices many who still think that a big daddy and a bit of biffo can solve everything.
But when a macho leader hits a situation where aggro and belligerence are not just useless but actually damaging -- not to anyone else, but to themselves -- they are lost.
Trump never looks more foolish (and that’s saying something, that bar is low) than when he is attempting to comfort the bereaved. He unerringly says and does exactly the wrong thing. Sadly, we can now see our current Prime Minister also has no clue. No idea of how to offer comfort to someone in pain. If you practise the macho style of leadership, you literally have no language for this, no guide. ...
Read full commentary at 10 Daily