Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Geoff Gallop, depression, and taking “the cure”

It's just amazing that there was nothing that remotely suggested it”, says David Black, aka “the man who later occupied Gallop's former academic post at Murdoch University's politics faculty”.

Err, if I lived in as small and incestuous a world as Geoff Gallop apparently did/does, I’d want out, too. Since when are university jobs “academic posts” – i.e. sinecures handed down from above to a chosen, inter-connected few? Oh, (again) silly me – the 54 y.o. Gallop lives in boomer-land, where everything comes on a platter.

But this isn’t to say that life atop the greasy pole can’t get just a bit too smooth. Here, Gallop's youthful Oxford friendship with future British PM Tony Blair may provide a cautionary tale. Blair is probably the slipperiest – greedy (for both power and $) and cynical (pseudo-Left, yet pro-Bush) – boomer alive today, so poor old Geoff must have felt rather left behind in the dust, in life’s inescapable game of Male Comparison (aka My Iraq-fucking tool’s bigger than Yours). Geoff’s woes here would have been heightened by the fact that all he really had to do as WA Premier was to sit back and count the dollars, as large bits of his state were dug up and shipped to China.

Harsh? Possibly. Then again, the seeds of Gallop's buckling could have been sewn long ago – at Oxford, in the early-mid 1970s. Not only did this stint mean that the then far-Leftie missed most of Gough’s rein back in Oz, but there was also the still-apparently unresolved issue of whether Geoff was usher (same URL) or one of the groomsmen at Tony Blair’s wedding. In class-conscious Britain, this no doubt kept the young Geoff secretly awake at night, nursing a nagging doubt that possibly continues to this day.

Anyway, another fact that caught my eye here was that Gallop's doctor had prescribed “rest”. Which clearly means doing no work at all – like co-boomer Mark Latham before him, Gallop has resigned on medical grounds without even trying a “light duties” compromise; viz resigning as leader, but staying on as MP, at least for a while.

I found/find this decision odd in Latham’s case, and odder still in Gallop's. Latham, who AFAICT hasn’t worked a day in the last year, has backed himself into a medical corner that screams (to me, anyway) “malingering bludger”. (Of course, he is quite legally entitled to his generous retirement pension at any age, and independent of any illness – but the court of public opinion might see things differently). Whatever the severity of Latham’s illness, the nature of Gallop's condition surely indicates that he has made a mistake by going “cold-turkey” on work.

Apart from not at least trying a “light duties” option, Gallop has also foregone the Just Nonchalantly Retire At 54 possibility. At this age, the court of public opinion would be considerably more forgiving than in Latham’s case (who retired at 43). Again though, Gallop may have felt himself snookered by a peer – in this case Bob Carr – and so unable to favorably compare and compete. Carr, after all, has recently set the bar of Nonchalant Political Retirement in One's Mid-50's very high indeed – if one hasn’t got a cushy private-sector post within weeks of “retiring”, one is a wimp. And for poor Geoff, hammered by depression, lining up such a role probably would have taken months.

Which is a shame, all in all, because *some* work seems to me to be the best cure for depression there is. See also the discussion on this at Larvatus Prodeo.

Finally, in case it needs to be said, don’t be offended by my flippant tone – I know what I’m talking about on this issue. The same can’t be said, however, for The Age, which managed to juxtapose messages of Gallop's self-outing being another positive, de-stigmatising notch for the depression-afflicted, with this headline: WA Premier quits to battle depression demon. A case of the sub-editor gunning for “depression succubus”, only to defeated from above by a more-PC medieval phrase?

A couple of points:

First, it's getting a bit irritating that people keep saying Latham's doing nothing. His wife is a full-time lawyer, and he's looking after two young children. If the roles were reversed, no-one would be accusing Janine of doing nothing.

Second, politics is a unique thing. Stepping down to be a back-bencher would not be something that would appeal to many people with 20 years experience in the job. I doubt he'll give up work forever, he'll probably go into academia. But I think quitting politics was his best option - I can't imagine Geoff being satisfied with spending a few years as a backbencher, when he can go out on a high having achieved a great deal, and having just increased his government's vote in the last election.

I said that Latham didn't appear to be working (i.e. earning money), not that he was doing nothing. If the roles were reversed – and it was Janine who went from being high-powered pollie to playing “Mr/s Mum” – I would say exactly the same thing, and am puzzled as to why you think that I wouldn’t.

I repeat: Latham is legally quite entitled to retire at 43, but his choice to live off the public coin does positively invite aggressive scrutiny.

As for his possibly going into academia in future, are you trying to goad me? Latham is not stupid, but he does have (i) an undergrad degree only, and (ii) not a single day’s work experience, at least since he graduated, in the real world (i.e. outside politics). Latham wouldn’t, of course, be the first under-qualified boomer hack to ride roughshod over more meritorious candidates for a spot in academia (should your prediction prove correct) – but he may well prove the last, thanks to the likelihood of physical violence (very much Latham’s style, ironically enough) at the hands of disgruntled Xers.
"As for his possibly going into academia in future, are you trying to goad me?"

Ooops. No - I was talking about Gallop in the second point. I didn't make that very clear.

But I stand by the first point - I don't believe people's reactions would be anywhere near the same had Latham been a woman quitting work to raise her kids, no matter how high profile she had been.

And as for Gallop - one cannot stand down from being Premier for a short spell. People don't just hand back jobs like that because you ask them to. His only options were going out on a high note, or returning to the backbenches and watching someone else do your old job.
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