David Bromige, Natasha Stott Despoja

Opinion: what price political romanticism?

The art of politics is often seen as a pragmatic, even cynical, exercise in compromise. But not always; as former Polish dissident Adam Michnik suggests (Quadrant, Jan/Feb 98]:

"... I can announce with pleasure that for the first time in three hundred years, and perhaps for ever, Poland has not one conflict with any of its neighbours.... I am convinced that the balance of development in Poland over the last eight years is unequivocally positive. For people like me, who ten years ago were still being arrested by communist police, this is a true miracle. And so, once again it has turned out that in our region the people who understood the situation correctly were not political realists but political romantics - those who understood that in Poland whoever doesn't beleive in miracles should not be involved in political activity."

What is the common view of the political process? Is it one of bargains and deals and machinations? Or can a genuine sense of political romanticism survive? Natasha Stott Despoja (Deputy Leader of the Australian Democrats, and the youngest woman ever elected to the Australian Parliament), and David Bromige (Canadian poet now resident in California, and the author of thirty books), offer some thoughts:

Natasha Stott Despoja

It is said politics is the art of the possible, yet twenty years ago, it seemed impossible for there to be a viable third party in politics, a party that stood for environmental sanity, economic responsibility, equality, industrial democracy, reconciliation, social justice, anti-uranium, free education and a strong public sector. A party that stood for a new type of politics where petty insults, backroom deals and powerful vested interests do not dominate.

It is easy to predict the future, the hard part is making it come true, but the Australian Democrats are no fairy story.

What price political romanticism? It is a bargain. All it will cost us is our doubt, distrust, fear, greed and cynicism. A bargain.

David Bromige


1. Dying for truth and justice on the barricades. Been done. And now they have better weaponry. Avoid if at all possible.


Deliberately falling in love with the Chair (M or F) of your Department in the hope of securing unfair advancement. Often been done. Recommended, although "it would be wrong". Caveat: it may not be reciprocated. Suggest all overtures be explicable as something else entirely should one's suit fail to impress.


Teaching the works of the Lake Poets in such wise as to foster revolutionary fervor among the young. "A slumber did my spirit seal": Wake up! Caveat: a new President will be brought in to your college with secret instructions to get people like you (the public instructions: "Pursue excellence.")


v. Ecological, environmental, "green". Belief in the living interconnectedness of all things and creatures, and that the planet must be defended against giant corporations. Frequent references to "my acid trip," as in "It was on my fourth acid trip that I realized the interconnectedness of all things and creatures, when I wept for my lost soccer boots". And again, "If I hadn't dropped acid, I might not be here in this small boat about to be run down by this Russian whaler". The editors of this encyclopedia encourage type 4 Political Romanticism and therefore have nothing cynical to say about it. Something must be left for the next generation.

(published Famous Reporter 17, June 1998)