I have become my own little project in radicalization over the last few months but before you call the government hot line and get my phone tapped I would like to say that I am still anything but radical in my views and that my current kind of ‘radical’ is more about tree hugging than gun touting and I’m not about to run off and fight someone else’s battles (well, maybe I could be tempted back to the Uk to stand up to racism with tea and scones for all but…..) .
So what am I talking about?
This time last year I would have classified myself as a part-time politically engaged slightly left of centre person, one whose radar was only turned on intermittently. It certainly wasn’t top of my agenda to go out and join a protest and to be honest I rarely even responded to those online petition things but by October that had all changed. Politics came to me or rather my community.
I don’t want to go on about Badgery’s Creek airport in every article I write but that was my catalyst and just like the catalysts used in any chemical reaction (I am a chemist), once something sets one-off you need a plan to calm them down. I am yet to find that plan.
My journey from there to here has been interesting and the weekends election really hammered home to me just how much more clear in my political thinking I’ve become and how that clarity has led me further to the left – not far enough for me to be charged with ‘communist thinking’ I don’t ever see that happening. I am too much of an individualist free-radical with a love of self-determination for that ever to be my cup of tea but I can’t ignore the fact that I am now more of a leftie than I used to be although I’m not yet sure of the exact label (if any) I’d give for my leftism. Maybe that’s next months project…..
But this is just waffle, detail that either sparks interest or disgust from my reader so what has happened here?
Here is a step-by-step guide to what has been happening to me triggered by THAT issue:
- I became aware of a political issue that will directly impact my life in ways that are not entirely all good.
- I sought out other people struggling to get their heads around this. Facebook was as good a place as any.
- I talked to people, any people to see what they think. I Listened and I keep listening.
- I attended events while keeping an open mind, hoping to find a positive resolution.
- I read as much as I could on the history of the issue, the current players, the alliances, the motivating forces, the fore’s and against and keep on reading and digging and reading and digging.
- Attend events aimed at supporters of the proposal and gain a new perspective (and anger) at the status quo.
- Then I noticed that the newspapers don’t seem to contain any news any more. It is all just propaganda.
- Become aware of how other types of media are covering events.
- Talked to more people, travelled around to talk to people while all the time keeping on listening to what is being said.
- Started to question the real motives behind the current proposal.
- Read more, protest more regularly, attend more events.
- Abandon ALL traditional media and instead surrounded myself with alternative sources of information from both sides in an attempt to find out what is really going on. The non-spin version.
- Stopped trusting anything the politicians say (especially the main proponents of the plan).
- Questioned my own point of view before realising that no, you are not alone, others do see this.
- Start really acting AGAINST this plan.
- Accepted that I can never go back to not knowing/ caring about this.
I am sharing this because I know that my ‘radicalization’ is really just mainstream – always legal, never disrespectful and with aspirations that are pretty mainsteam really. However, my journey has given me what I class as valuable insight into how people become more radical in their thought processes, how they come to feel isolated, un-represented, marginalised, belittled, mocked even by the very people who should know better.
So here are the lessons that this journey has taught me:
Firstly I believe the media can act as a powerful, destabilising catalyst here.
But what do I mean by media? Is someone writing a newspaper, blog or news script really responsible for destabilising society?
Well, I guess that depends on what the media is.
In the example I have given above I have become aware of the close ties proponents of this particular issue have in shaping the media. I have been at events covered by various media outlets and seen the different spin each outlet puts on things depending on their agenda. Now this isn’t NEWS and it isn’t even newsworthy, everybody knows that newspaper lean-to either the left or the right but when agendered spin is ALL you get you start to have a problem. I believe Australia has a problem in this area.
Secondly I believe that a self-serving political elite plays a big role.
Again taking my experience as an example I wrote three or four (maybe) letters to my local political representative expressing my concerns over the Badgery’s Creek EIS and looking for some kind of representation really. What I received back each time was a pre-written, tick-the-box, I’m not listening response. In the end I gave up, my letters were clearly not being taken seriously enough to warrant a personalised response and I got the feeling that just because I held a different view to the member on this issue that I was now just a troublemaker that should be ignored. Shame.
I didn’t stop with my letter writing there, I wrote to several other politicians about the same thing and received nothing back. How do you think that feels?
My letter writing wasn’t happening in a political vacuum either, I was being driven half insane by the one-sided cheer fest that was coming at me from all angles of the media making me wonder at times if I was indeed delusional.
Again I’d ask you to not get too tied up on my particular example here but rather to think about the process and in particular how this process of radicalization might play out if the trigger issue wasn’t something as benign as a second airport.
I am big enough and ugly enough (and have been in business long enough) to know that not everyone agrees with everyone else on everything. I am willing to listen to good counter arguments and ideas and open to new information. However, when all you receive back is a stage-managed, highly scripted ‘just say this and they will go away’ mantra that engages with none of the points you have brought up you have two choices, give up (victim) or get angry (challenger). I didn’t so much choose the latter, it just happened.
So here I am, dislodged from my relatively easy, mostly compliant centre by a political elite that didn’t listen, a political elite that spent more time stage managing themselves and ensuring the papers reflected the reality they wanted than they spent IN reality. As I mentioned before I’m not alone in my dislodgment, some people have moved much further to the sides than I ever will, one only has to look at the votes gained by minor parties and independents to see that.
Third (and lastly) I believe the dis-engaged centre dwelling voter plays a role in making this all possible too.
Yes I’m not letting myself off the hook here people. I was a little too quiet on the political front before all of this kicked off but I think I am making up for it now. It is so much easier for a political elite to form and for them to go on and produce parties and policies that are below par, lazy and un-inspiring when nobody is paying attention. I believe it is imperative that we DO pay full attention to everything that goes on politically if we place any value on living in a democratic society. To do anything other is to give away the only real power we have, that is the power to respond.
The fact that our current (Still) Prime Minister spent the last few hours of his 2016 campaign warning us not to vote for the minor parties for fear of it causing abject chaos just re-enforces to me what I’ve said above. He didn’t want us to wake up and spoil his fun but we did. He didn’t want us to vote for what we really believed in but we did, he didn’t want to have to think to hard about his policies but now he does.
So the conclusion is:
Things get a lot more radical when the middle is just stuffing and that can be difficult to manage.
And the moral is:
Wake up, everybody wake up and listen, listen to understand and not just to respond because if you don’t do that soon things are unlikely to get any better or easier.
I’m not planning to get any more radical by the way, I’m happy enough here but that doesn’t mean I’m going to shut up and put up either. Not at all….