A bird needs both wings to fly

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I only realised that my political views were a bit more left than right when I took part in the ABC’s Vote Compass  in 2013.  I still couldn’t vote at that time as I wasn’t a citizen and as such found the result interesting, amusing even but certainly not life-defining.  Even though I came out as more left that right it was only just.  I polled strongly liberal on all things money and slightly more green on matters of the environment.  Trying to be all things to all people or just pretty remarkably normal? I’d go with the latter.

By the next election in 2016 I could vote and this time my vote compass showed that I’d swung far more to the left – maybe even radically so!  As a scientist I found myself feeling much more skeptical of this result than I had of the 2013 findings – surely this level of swing is minor radicalism?  I didn’t feel radical. I hadn’t even read the list of left-wing propaganda that lefties are so often accused of parroting.   The left-wing agenda was something that I was not in on.

But I left it at that and voted the way that made sense to me.

It’s only a few months since that last election and the world of politics has gotten very nasty and that’s made me think.

I haven’t fundamentally changed much since I was a teenager back in the UK, a teenager living in a conservative household, reading the Daily Mail and the Sunday Telegraph, studying chemistry and dreaming of owning my own home and becoming a company Director…..

The world is what has changed and it has changed in a sick way that is obsessed with pigeon holing the whole of humanity into left-wing or right-wing boxes as if there is no possibility of seeing the good (and bad) in both thus totally ignoring the place where I suspect most of us really sit.

And I’m worried about that.

When things become so black and white the atmosphere changes.  It becomes harder to have a conversation with people from the ‘other side’ to you as it seems so pointless when ‘they’ are less on another page than reading from another book entirely!  We have a situation where common sense has been branded as a conservative construct and where anything to do with gender issues, equality, the environment and benefits is radical left-wing.  But where have those thoughts come from?

I don’t know but I do have my suspicions.

You only have to observe the comments under a slightly controversial Facebook post to see how quickly people stop talking and start trading insults.  I used to watch football (both soccer and Rugby – soccer crowds in England in the 1990’s were more violent and aggressive than the Rugby crowds so I’ll use that analogy).   Soccer crowds were separated by entrances on opposing sides of the stadium – left and right.  Once inside the chanting would start – depending on who was playing this could either be light-hearted banter or downright nasty goading.  Whichever it was there was an undeniable air of ‘why the F would anyone even think of supporting them’ directed at the opposition.  It was just unconscionable.

And that’s what politics is beginning to feel like.

We’ve chosen or been allotted sides.

These sides then define, not only how we vote but everything about us. We become bleeding heart lefty snowflakes or racist right-wing bigots full stop.

So who benefits from this?

Well a few months ago I might have sounded like a complete fruit loop for saying this but these days the proof is in the pudding – the political landscape has shifted and we can all see it with our own eyes.

The media love a good fight, it sells papers, makes great click bait and generally gets people addicted in a ‘what’s going to happen next’ kind of way.  So while the media don’t necessarily have the power to start this once that fire has been lit they will at best hide the hose pipe and at worst fan the flames.

But they are not the only ones.

Politicians also know and take advantage of the fact that when we are passionate and angry we are less likely to think rationally, examine the evidence with a fine tooth comb and ask questions to help us understand.  What we tend to do instead is either accept or reject outright what is put in front of us, blinded by our own passions.  I think this is where we are now and sadly we are falling into its trap.

I would have said a month ago that politicians have more control over the media now than ever (professional lobbyists etc) but after reading some Australian history from the early 1900s that simply isn’t true.  Australia’s second Prime Minister, Deakin was adept at prepping the soil for his future political policies by writing either overtly or under a pseudonym in the national papers.  Just like when you are weaning babies, you have to introduce a new food (or new idea) a few times for the baby to get used to it – the same can be said for policy and if you can get into people’s hearts and minds without them realising you are 3/4’s of the way to a win!

Of course these days we have social media to counter and temper the influence of the professional media – we can all ‘create’ news be it by blogging, tweeting, Facebook status updating or sharing or snap chatting.  However, we are shouting into a crowded market that has already been primed for left or right so it is more likely that you get lost in your own echo chamber than find your way into the hearts and minds of the opposition – to do that requires the development of a platform and in this political climate you won’t stand on a neutral one for long before someone shoves you either to the left or to the right!

So what can we do?

I don’t think there are any quick fixes that we can employ to help prevent us from falling into a left or right identity pot (unless we want to) but there are some slow ones and I guess it all starts with becoming aware of how the world is being divided.

I truly believe that we still have more in common than what divides us and as such will continue to try to seek out both sides of the story even when it doesn’t suit me and my personal tastes and views to do so.  This divide and conquer mentality is not going to end well as it is simply not natural.  As I said in my title, a bird needs both wings to fly but not only that, a bird also needs its core,  its centre and I’m happy to stay centred for now.

Sydney. War on the Western Front.

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They are not listening, ‘they’ being the government.

The fact that they lost ground right across Western Sydney, even losing strategic seats that they thought were safe is not worthy of mention now that ‘they’ have a mandate to rule.

Mandate to rule…….

I wonder what that means.

mandate

I take the point that as the LNP have won a majority of seats they do fit the description of having a mandate to do something and that something is head up our government and not (as seems to be the interpretation) a mandate to tell us all what we will like whether we actually like it or not.

Given the following:

Nationally first preferences for the two major parties were pretty low:

First Preferences by party

28.59% for Liberal

35.71% for Labor

 

The only thing I feel the government has a mandate for is to listen very carefully to the people and to consider and be grateful for the wide range of views that got them their precarious mandate.

And when it comes to listening Western Sydney is where that listening should start:

Western Sydney is LABOR. Here are the swing numbers:

Paramatta + 6.19% swing

Lindsay  + 3.98%

Chiffley + 8.42%

Greenway  + 3.71%

McMannon  + 7.5%

Macquarie  + 7.04%

Fowler   + 4.84%

Blaxland  + 8.51%

So when the minister for major projects Paul Fletcher rocks up on radio to talk up his big-ticket item ‘Badgery’s Creek Airport’ with Wendy Harmer I suggest he take a good look at these figures followed by a deep and reflective look at his policies and proposals before he declares with confidence that the airport and the ‘jobs and growth’ mantra that accompanied it had little impact on voting behaviour.

Us Westies are not stupid.

And neither are we in the habit of liking it when a Northern Beaches liberal tells us what we need and want.

Amanda

PS: I am not implying that the airport was the number one issue for the liberal party losing votes. It may not have even been in the top ten across the region but it was one of a number of key issues that contributed to the slide and each one of these issues deserves to be dealt with rather than ignored or minimised.

 

 

What do you get when you take democracy for granted?

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What indeed?

Things are getting a bit desperate out there, In America I see that Donald Trump has picked up a few more tickets and is looking like winning the Republican nomination. Meanwhile here in Australia the government seem to be acting like a bunch of teenage boys (and sometimes girls) on their first  no-parents-allowed wanking trip. While there have been a couple of good things happen mostly it’s pants and you can now be thrown into prison for protesting about all the crap decisions the government keep making and if you happen to be a LBGQI school goer it’s been a no-love-from-the-government week as the ‘Safe Schools’ program has been paired back ‘for review’ even though it’s been found to be perfectly fine twice before.

Shameful.

Basically the Australian liberal government has been coming on all heavy about everything that doesn’t quite suit their rather conservative and righteously religious tastes.  Strange but ‘liberal’ means something entirely different where I come from.

Then there is China. Now I know that China isn’t a democracy and I know you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the newspapers (especially given that nobody is writing newspapers any more) but when I saw this piece on how Chinese citizens are now having their credit scores ranked on a game-show-esque wheel-of-good-credit app based on what they do on social media I wanted to scream out ‘enough already guys. Give us some privacy’.

The world has indeed gone mad. But that’s enough of the world, I want to focus on Australia for a minute.

Democracy is no longer looking like a fair and reasonable option. Indeed, I’ve said a couple of times this week that ‘at least in China you know that you can’t really challenge the government. Here in Australia they give us the vote but hand the power to a powerful few corporate interests’.

Or do they?

On democracy.

As tempting as it is to feel that democracy sucks and that Churchill was right when he said ‘”Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time” I believe that we do have a good system – especially now that crazy preference voting system for the Senate has been simplified. I don’t believe the system is broken. I believe that a democracy relies on the participation of its citizens, the ‘equal’ participation of its citizens and that’s probably where the problem lies.

On People.

We all tend to hope that other people will care and do stuff as we are just too busy. We hope that someone else will pick up that rubbish, will rescue that dog, will serve up the soup in the soup kitchen, will report the drug den down the street, will help the guy being beaten up, will donate the blood to treat the cancer patients.

I’m no better than anyone else in this regard. As I wrote that list above I was screwing up my face and thinking ‘yes, yes that’s been me before, I’ve just crossed my fingers and hoped that this stuff would go away so I didn’t have to try to fit it in.  You see we are all busy, we have jobs, houses, pets, kids, hobbies and more. We need down-time, mental-health days, holidays and time to chillax.

And I think that’s why we are where we are today.

People aren’t contributing to the political system, not participating equally. Everyone is feeling that it is just too hard and that if they stay quiet for long enough someone else will do it.

People also feel that ‘this won’t effect me’ or ‘there’s nothing I can do anyway so why bother’ before going about their business.

The Answer?

Nobody likes being told what to do, me included and goodness only knows politics is a messy, frustrating and sometimes boring game but if we don’t participate we find ourselves no longer living in a democracy.

There is an old saying that I love dearly mainly because I don’t need much sleep so I’m usually the one running amok:

‘If you ever find a weasel asleep, piss in its ear’

Which is a curious saying meaning this. Weasels are a cute little English animal but they are also known to be sly, evasive and a bit sneaky.  This lead to sneaky, sly people being known as weasels.  So, if you see one asleep (vulnerable) you should take the opportunity to piss on it.  Nice!

I think the government has been doing that to us and I don’t like it.

So are we going to wake up and stop this or are we content with being pissed on?

I’m ready to pull a few all-nighters that’s for sure.