Posted by Luke McMeeken-Ruscoe on

Substance over style, it is something I always preached to my little sister, she is 15 years younger than me. As a teenage boy I had the double duty of being fun big brother and boundary setting father figure as her father wasn't in her life.

I don't think I did a great job of instilling the virtue of substance over style. Substance is hard and style is alluring.  

It was 1960, It was the first time it happened and from this moment everything has changed. You can see the straight line from then to now. And it all seemed so innocent then.

It was the first live presidential debate. It was between the Vice-President Richard Nixon and the younger Senator from Massachusetts John F Kennedy. Both men went on to become president and both have been part of historical moments but on this night, and the following debates everything changed.

Before this live broadcast, debates were for the audience in the room. There was coverage, but it was highlights, snippets, not the whole event. 

Kennedy refused to have make up, Nixon overheard this and decided to skip the make up too. The difference was that Kennedy was younger, fitter, and tanned. Nixon was older and much less photogenic. 

Kennedy wore a sharp black suit the contrasted with the white background so he popped next to Nixon in his lighter coloured suit. 

Kennedy stared down the camera, talking to the viewers at home. Nixon played to the audience in attendance. There were only a few thousand in the building but there were 70 million watching at home. 

Personality and charisma has always played a part in elections, be it voting or promoting someone. But on this night and the following debates politics changed from policy to personality. Kennedy won this election.

You can see now, especially in the US, but it happens in the UK, and many parts of the world, that politics has become an entertainment piece and so we have these "characters" which could be a euphemism for narcissist.

I think we need to talk more about politics, it is so important. The few times it has come up recently people just went tribal. They talked about how good their candidate is and how the other person is evil or inept. I kept pushing for what policies they like and why you think they will make NZ better. They couldn't answer me. 

So then its just tribalism. Which is what you see in the US right now. 

One of my favourite quotes is by Albert Maysles - "Tyranny is the deliberate removal of nuance". The devil is in the details with policies and if we don't talk about them, interrogate them, understand them, then we will be a slave to them. 

When people tell you not to talk about money, god, or politics, that only serves those in power, with the money, with their god, and who are deciding the policies. 

All of these things just add complexity which is just a tax on the people with less resources. Having to spend time understanding the salary of those around you, the rules of the religion, or the policy information is difficult, so when people say not to talk about it, know they do not have your best interests in mind. 

Politics affects everyone and we should all be better at having conversations around the implications of different policies. We should also be better at shutting up when we don't know what we are talking about and search for someone that does so they can explain it to you. 

Regardless of your political leanings you should have your voice heard (in the voting booth) so if you haven't enrolled go to and sign up. 

And when you are making your choice remember what the Greeks said - " A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit."

Shave well, be awesome to each other, give someone you love a hug. 


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