Dirty politics and Doctor Who

I went to the voting booth an uninspired citizen last Saturday.

It was that election campaign. The whole dirty-shmirty politics thing really got me down. I lost interest pretty quickly in who supposedly did what to whom, and how, or why. The fact that there were high level smear campaigns and hacked emails and then more hacked emails and more bleary smearyness … Can’t we do better, New Zealand? It’s like all the bullies from school grew up and put on business suits.

I tried to ignore most of it, but by the time Election Day limped around I was thoroughly depressed at the state of our nation’s power-broking base. Political manoeuvring is fun to watch on Game of Thrones, but it’s a big fat disillusionment in real life.

I want to live in a world where people are respectful and courteous, even in their disagreements. Can genuine integrity exist in the cut and thrust of big business? Does it have any place in the ambitious arena of political movers and shakers?

What depresses me most is that modern society seems locked into a mode of operating that facilitates and encourages power games. It depresses me that there are lobbyists and devious agendas and political machinations. It depresses me that news media feed on the same scandals they decry.

It also depresses me that ordinary people are probably not much better. All of life is politics. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Parliament, the PTA or the church choir. There will always be someone employing underhand tactics to get their own way at the expense of treating others with dignity and respect.

Throw a few big egos into the mix, add some front-page headlines and you have yourself a juicy news cycle. How can goodness survive any of that intact? It’s as though the whole system is set up to make it extra hard for anyone to follow the Golden Rule.

The Golden Rule? Treat others the way you’d like to be treated yourself. It should be that simple. But apparently it’s not.

I was reading this week about the personality traits of internet trolls – trolls being people, mostly anonymous, who take undue pleasure in attacking others on the comments sections of the internet.

Psychologists have identified a specific collection of personality traits exhibited by trollers. They call these traits the Dark Tetrad.

Ooh, what a superbly Doctor Who-ish-sounding name. The Dark Tetrad’s four nasty personality traits are: a willingness to manipulate and deceive others; narcissism; a lack of remorse and empathy; and sadism. Sounds a lot like a Dalek, actually. And just as irritating.

These four traits in particular have been shown to register off the scale in people who enjoy trolling the internet. It’s also not much of a stretch to imagine that Dark Tetrad personalities are lurking in all levels of society.

It’s as though the Dark Tetrad is humanity’s greatest enemy, planted here by some alien sneakiness. If only Doctor Who would pop in with his sonic screwdriver and save us.

So now I am going to talk about Doctor Who, which may utterly bore you but I need to cheer myself up after wallowing in the murk of dirty politics.

Over the past couple of years the Doctor Who storyline has grown increasingly bonkers and I wouldn’t have recommended the show to anyone. The plots were convoluted and the whole show kept disappearing up its own TARDIS.

Lately though, with Peter Capaldi on board as the new Doctor, the writers seem to have changed gears. They’re no longer operating in manic overdrive. The last three episodes have been much better-paced. There’s room for genuine intrigue. So far, at least, Doctor Who is back on form and I’m excited about it again.

By all means disagree with me. But when you do, please keep your Dark Tetrad in check.

First published in Bay of Plenty Times 26 September 2014. Reproduced with permission.