Fiscal impediment may mask a beautiful mind
Christian Senator Steven Fielding is copping a day of derision after he tried to clarify his position on fiscal policy with a read-my-lips clanger. Asked this morning whether he’d in fact said “physical” when he meant “fiscal” the Family First Senator spelt it out: “I will make it quite clear…F..I..S..K..A..L.”
His disastrous impromptu spelling bee drew giggles from the press pack and a wave of ridicule across the digital space with punters declaring him more idiot than idiot savant.
But Fielding’s explanation as to how the gaffe happened - where he revealed a lifelong learning difficulty - is worth thinking about. He told Fairfax Radio that he only got 29 out of 100 for English, but 99 out of 100 for maths, and studied both engineering and an MBA at uni.
“Those that have been closest to me know that I grew up with a learning difficulty that’s left me not as the best public speaker or even the best speller for that reason,” he said.
“I am certainly no dummy. I’ve got an engineering degree and an MBA and I didn’t get it out of a Weeties packet.”
Fielding is the kind of person who is frequently teased by the intelligentsia for a few reasons. He unfashionably draws his political views from his religious convictions. He was elected with less than 2 per cent of the vote for the Family First party under one of those elaborate preference deals that looks like the periodic table. And he’s stymied Labor’s mandate on the carbon pollution reduction scheme, positioning himself as a one-man bulwark against the prevailing view on the reality of climate change.
The bloke has more front than Myers - on two pieces on The Punch in the past couple of months he has knowingly subjected himself to a pizzling by readers, with his debut piece questioning climate change and opposing the CPRS, his second inviting readers to come up with solutions for what he calls the crisis of binge-drinking. On both occasions he faced a torrent of abuse from readers.
The guy might not be the most accomplished speaker or debater - back in February he described himself as being “between two rocks and a hard place” over whether to back the stimulus package - but his explanation today of his learning disorder places that garbled metaphor in a more understandable context.
But he is not a stupid person, no-one who studied two of the toughest degrees at university could be, and as a one-man band in the Senate trying to get across a massive national brief, he probably does better than most people could.
His revelation today was quite a brave one and reminded me of this story out of the Hobart Mercury last month where an autistic man gave such a picture-perfect description of the gunman in an armed robbery he had just witnessed that the cops waltzed off to a nearby shopping centre and found the man instantly.
Fielding’s story may help challenge the notion of what constitutes a disability or a disorder. It should give some comfort to others who have struggled with afflictions such as dyslexia, or other problems going to comprehension and expression.
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