Had an odd thought this week as I looked at the grim-faced Republicans sitting on their hands through Obama’s speech; the waving hands and anger across the chamber of the House of Commons; the government-wrecking activities in Australia. Suits are the problem.
Well, just one of the problems, clearly, but you have to start somewhere. Picture those male politicians, all round the world, in the dress uniform of dark suits (sometimes light for the young at heart), white business shirts, subdued ties. It’s the kind of uniform that pitches armies against each other. It is formal, and uncomfortable, and dehumanising, you can’t relax and think, and it gets red-faced men in suits shouting at other red-faced men in suits. Can’t tell them apart, they are just opposition suits (or indeed suits from opposing countries).
But more than that the suits set the politicians into the dominant paradigm of society. They are adopting the uniform of big business, of the rich and powerful. See the politicians at a meeting of one of the business unions (they don’t call them that of course, it’s all “groups” and “associations”, but they are unions), try to work out who is who. Are these people who work with their hands? Sleep on streets? Get stuck in low paid jobs and then get sacked when a company moves offshore? Of course they are not.
Nor are they women. Oh the women do their best with pant suits or tailored jackets and skirts (and will get hammered by the media whatever they choose, and in whatever colour), but see them in a group photo of a new cabinet, or at an international conference of the leaders of countries, they stick out like sore thumbs, civilians in a uniformed world.
It’s all quite different when politicians take part in some kind of community event and wear casual clothes. Can’t tell the difference between men and women then (well, you can, but you know what I mean). Two politicians from opposing parties in jeans and tee shirts can happily cook sausages side by side. Politicians can go to football matches or agricultural shows, mix invisibly with, talk to, all the people wearing footy jumpers, or board shorts, buy hot dogs for children. After disasters politicians help clean up flooded houses, take food to bushfire victims, put rubbish in trucks after cyclones.
Well, you can see where I am going with this. A complete ban on suits for politicians. Casual clothes at all times in parliament, in the office, in the street. Any who don’t like it are obviously unsuited to the job.
Oh it won’t be easy. Remember the fuss when Obama was filmed not long after his election on a weekend in the oval office, without a jacket and tie, sleeves rolled up ready for a lot of work. Outcry that he was “demeaning the office of President” ignoring, hypocritically (it was the start of 2 years of astonishing hypocrisy) all of the other presidents who had been photographed in casual clothes in the office.
So there will be opposition, especially from the ruling classes in business and media, concerned that the politicians will no longer be clearly identified as part of their team. But as the public sees better behaviour in parliament, feels more comfortable talking to politicians, sees leader of countries in conflict settling differences over a beer on the beach, and as women feel more comfortable entering the boy’s club, they will quickly wonder how we ever put up with besuited politicians.
On second thoughts perhaps the other problems in our politics will just sort themselves out.