Hasluck Run Out? Charles Darwin and the Australian Election
I am more and more convinced that wishful thinking will be our undoing as a species. It is certainly not the case that a gazelle on the Serengeti Plains casually observes a rampaging lion with the thought that it will look elsewhere for lunch, or that a plant takes root in inhospitable ground in the firm belief that luck will comes its way.
There is a straight-forward evolutionary explanation for this genetic propensity towards naive optimism. Without it, the human race would descend into a morbid depression; deplete the world’s reserves of gin and milk chocolate (known fact: no-one eats dark chocolate in such a state), and refuse to get out of bed. We certainly wouldn’t knowingly procreate, even if we could summon the energy. We would never willingly sit through a movie featuring Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey or Eddie Murphy. We would give up love after the first heartbreak. We would switch off Idol in the secure knowledge that the winner’s career won’t amount to anything anyway. We would shun lotteries, invest heavily in life insurance, and suicide pacts would replace cooking shows as the new “thing”.
That we don’t do these things — at least most of the time — is incontrovertible proof of human resilience which is really just a grandiose way of saying “blind, gormless hope”. The holly-rollers see God in this. Atheists like myself see nothing more complicated than that the human psyche is hard-wired to our biological compulsion to fuck. Optimism is the most effective treatment yet for erectile dysfunction. And, while it most certainly does not prove the existence of god, it neatly explains how we came up with such a silly idea.
Political tacticians scheming over Australia’s future (they call themselves strategists in fits of delusion) are driven by these same irrational, in-bred impulses. They treat every political problem like a teenage boy regards the house at which he is babysitting for the first time: it is not a question of if — but simply how, when and where — they will get their rocks off. Neither the aprocyphal horny teenager nor the Party apparatchik will ever entertain the question “why” they are doing what they are doing. If they did, Australia might end up with less offensive laundry.