In 2016, as part of a public safety campaign to end road casualties, Skywhale creator Patricia Piccinini was asked by Victoria's Transport Accident Commission to develop Graham, a lifelike sculpture of a human who had evolved, in some parallel world, to survive a car crash.
Graham's eyes, nose and ears are deep-set, sunken into a bulbous head designed to secure the skull and its contents against violent trauma. His head is planted firmly onto a neckless torso, his rib cage curtained by flaps of cushioning skin resembling that of the naked mole-rat.
In the wake of Wednesday's leaders' debate - which Channel Seven, with half-hearted desperation, called "The Final Showdown" - I've found myself asking: What would the human being who evolved to survive the car crash that is this federal election look like?
More specifically, what if this person were sculpted by the political parties, who clearly have a specific vision of them in mind?
When they stare down the barrel of the camera, who do they think they're talking to?
It is said often enough that today's politicians are deeply reluctant to ask anything of their people. JFK's renowned command to "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country," demands a vision of community entirely absent from our political discourse, in which leaders like Scott Morrison rely on the assumption that we're at our most persuadable when contemplating self-preservation.
Asked on Wednesday to pitch the Coalition's platform to the Australian people, Morrison proclaimed: "Most of all it means you can achieve aspirations for you and your family."
So I imagine when Morrison thinks of the Australian voter, he conjures an image along the lines of the scared-looking fellow in the picture below. Sure, he's less impact-resistant than Graham - but he's got his own problems.
Let's call him Grom the Targeted Voter: the synthesis of the focus group and poll results that guide our leaders' daily messages.
Neither party has articulated a substantial vision for what an Australia better equipped for the future might look like, or what it would take to achieve such a future, but both seem to have a pretty clear picture of Grom.
The Coalition hopes to coax Grom into a state of constant panic, having him worrying during the day about the government taking an increasingly sizeable slice of his paycheque, and disturbing his sleep with visions of China's military marching onto Australian shores (undeterred by insufficiently expensive submarines) and the collapse of civil society precipitated by trans women playing soccer with other women.
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Labor, on the other hand, aspires to quietly soothe Grom, vowing that it will maintain the government's promised tax cuts, and avoiding announcing any policy Grom might interpret as threatening his property portfolio.
To Labor, Grom is a game of Operation that can only be prodded with quivering delicacy, while the Coalition is a toddler whose only goal is to make Grom flash and buzz till he's dead on the table.
Either way, Grom is a scared, fearful and paranoid creature, too fragile to consider anything substantial in response to catastrophic climate change, increasing economic inequality, racial injustice or a raging pandemic. He prefers remaining largely undisturbed in his quest to accumulate wealth, unwilling to consider a politics that requires him to imagine the lives of others.
It's notable that our leaders betting their careers on our fragility comes after a period of upheaval largely defined by self-sacrifice and solidarity, in which the Australian public proved to be rather un-Grom-like.
In reality, unlike Grom, we have nothing to fear but fear itself.
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