The media and the politicians set the boundaries of where the left fights for progress. It is time to start breaking down some walls.
I participated in a very interesting group session recently; where we were looking at archetypes in marketing. This had me thinking very hard about how I see myself and other leftists and the patterns we set in society and the narrative we consciously push.
Upon reflection, (and this is a matter for debate and just my opinion) I feel that we are confining ourselves to pushing agendas that are confined within the boundaries set by politicians and the media. We are allowing politicians and the media to set the agenda, defining the framework and then we are arguing within that framework.
Sometimes, I see patterns that are more the fight at the macro level, which is arguing about systems and processes, rather than fighting for the human element. Sometimes an issue starts with thinking outside the boundary but then subsequent progressive arguments don’t challenge those boundaries.
Are we being too conformist? Are we not being non-conformist enough? Are we being disruptive and challenging the norm to say where the boundaries should go? Who should set the boundaries?
I am not going to go into this too deeply, as I would like to follow up with a series of posts on particular issues. I will however, just briefly address my thinking around this:
Firstly, I would like to talk about some of the areas where the boundaries are currently being pushed or have been pushed:
The Universal Basic Income
The idea of a basic wage for all people, pushes outside the boundaries of what has been set by the media and politicians. The UBI breaks out of the framework of how an income can define a person, because of their personal circumstance. It removes a section of society as burdens on ‘the system’ because they are jobless as it will bring to this group, people who are also working. It resets the boundary of how the media and politicians can stigmatise a section of society as others. It resets the boundary of how we may accept what ‘punishment’ should be dished out for these ‘not-normals’ in society, as it is much easier to punish those in the outgroup or who we decide are classed as ‘others.’ UBI shifts the thinking from the jobless being a burden on society, to the burden on the Government to exercise their rights and responsibilities to all citizens.
Safe Schools has pushed the boundaries of how we see participation in education. It has made society question if everyone has the right to a safe learning journey. It has challenged the boundaries of education of not just a learning experience, but how we see the social experience and how that affects the learning journey of individuals. It has placed the arguments outside of how the young people should conform to the framework set down by legislators, but instead has shifted the arguments to how the legislators need to respond to young people. Safe Schools has shifted the paradigm to new thinking around how even uniform regulations and the conformity and restrictions on self expression can negatively impact on the learning journey for individuals. To me, Safe Schools is not the end, it is the beginning.
Workplace Health and Safety
Some people may be surprised at this inclusion, as this is really just a modern day expectation. However, prior to WH & S, the framework was set around the workers (humans) being an input cost (non-human) for an employer and the arguments arose about how labour is more than an input cost and it should be set by the worker, as labour is a skill and should be valued and paid for. A fair days work for a fair days pay. The arguments for Workplace, Health and Safety, shifted this thinking outside of the boundary of the cost of labour and placed an actual value on the life of the worker. WH & S shifts the thinking for (most) employers that the human life of the worker should be valued and protected and they are not just a transaction cost in the input-conversion-output framework for profit.
Some suggestions of where we can challenge the boundaries
Once again, I will reiterate that this is just my opinion only and these are the topics where I feel we are currently being conformist and not trying to shift the arguments outside of the boundaries set by the media and politicians.
An increase in Newstart
The arguments for an increase in the Newstart payment are confined within the boundaries set of how politicians and the media frame the jobless as a burden on society and a drag on the ‘budget’. Please refer to the Universal Basic Income above.
The removal of punitive measures in the unemployment/jobsearch framework.
The arguments to remove punitive measures in the jobsearch framework still present arguments as conforming with the existing framework. That is the over arching assumption that: “The jobless do not have an intrinsic propensity to find employment and must be motivated by a paternalistic guiding hand.”
In my view, the challenge should be to that question alone to shift the paradigm. That is to shift the paradigm to the assumption that jobseekers do indeed have an intrinsic motivation to seek work. This would redefine that jobseekers as voluntary (not mandatory) participants in job agencies should be assisted and not ‘managed.’ Guided, not punished. This also will shift the paradigm from the onus being on the jobseeker to the onus on the Government to intervene and ensure that there are enough jobs for the unemployed to choose from. It would force the Government to intervene with job creation, rather than hiding behind lazy arguments that the burden is on the jobseeker to find non-existent jobs.
Political Frameworks and Internal Machinations
The arguments about reforming the political framework and internal machinations are restricted to arguments about a system and not people. This is viewed from a paradigm that politicians are part of a system and not really human beings representing other human beings in communities. Arguments to change the internal workings or the overarching political framework (Two party to another framework) place the assumption that all party politicians are dodgy, underhanded and not there to represent the people. It has become a system of where we focus on the negative and punishment of politicians rather than the promotion and praise of the good.
Arguments that challenge the system of representation from two party preferred to another system are presenting their arguments from the view point that “only non-party aligned politicians are inherently good and are there for the people.” I challenge this view, as it defines individual humans (politicians) as controlled by the system, rather than challenging the humans inside that system and the people who put said humans there.
These arguments are based on changing the structure, will change the individual behavioural traits that drive someone to be in public office. It is also a view that changing the structure or system will eradicate all deviant behaviour and replace it with ‘good behaviour.’
Internal machinations within all parties or groups of human beings, exist because of how all human beings interact within groups and the inherent power structures these may bring. Internal party machinations should be left alone for those aligned with parties to work out, rather than assumptions and input from those external to these processes. We are buying into the framework of deviation tactics set by the media and politicians on slow news day or slow policy day.
The shift in paradigm needs to move out of conforming to a systems thinking mindset and one which places a politician as above a community in the hierarchy to one that centres a politician as central participant in the community. This would shift viewing participation by politicians as active participants in the lives of the human beings they represent to carry their voices back to parliament. It gives politicians and opposing candidates the purpose to also challenge the norms in some communities and sectors in an effort to progress the values they align with.
This could be viewed as a pro-community versus anti-community mindset. This then shifts the argument to one of expectations of individual politicians to their involvement in communities and the quality of life of the people within them.
What benchmarks do we actually set for our local MP’s or opposing candidates in our local areas? What is our expectation of participation at ground level to for politicians to be openly questioned and defend policy areas? As leftists, how do we participate to form groups to be loud within our community to insist on more pro-community activity?
How do we as a collective push for the change within the boundaries we can control – voices for the homeless, the jobless, the poor, the troubled and suicidal youth, the aged and infirm within our communities. How active is our real participation in these matters of importance?
We often take a national or macro systems thinking approach and we are moving away from the real life stories and the human element of those we co-exist within our own electorates.
It is our own individual responsibility to use our voices to push for change, to participate in leadership and group activities in our communities to push change, rather than sit back and complain at the checkout or behind a keyboard that the Government, opposition or anyone else we put our faith (or disregard in) is not doing anything.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” (Margaret Mead).
The arguments for health at present are conforming to arguments on our individual responsibility to pay for healthcare at a doctor and leftist arguments are pushing within this framework to reassert our rights for universal health care.
In my opinion, the arguments for health should be pushed outside of the boundaries of doctor’s fees and to one of access to medical treatment for all and preventative health measures. A lot of the arguments are framed within the generic national mindset, rather than the community mindset.
Leftists need to push the boundaries from individual cost to equal access for all. The experiences of an individual able to manage, work, home and family with the onset of cancer treatment, in a regional or rural community is vastly different to one in a metropolitan community.
The inability to access preventative health measures and education to those in disadvantaged groups in society, is creating enormous pressures on the health system, which creates an enabling environment for politicians to argue a cost factor. This keeps the burden and framework set on the individual as a cost.
The framework in which the politicians and media are setting is one of ‘affordable access to healthcare’ and homogenising all Australians as if we have equal access to same.
This would shift the onus off the individual to (not live so far away, to look after yourself, to take responsibility) to one where the community sets an expectation that politicians are expected to deliver equal access of treatment, education and prevention to all citizens, regardless of where they reside.
If this does not change, we are on a trajectory of labelling those in poor health as ‘others’ and stigmatising them as an unwelcome cost to the taxpayer, and enabling politicians to further punish them, rather than valuing their contributions as a human being in society.
This article is not meant to detract from the work by people who are indeed pushing the boundaries, but a response to many of the consistent and prominent arguments and behaviour I see (from me included).
It is not meant to disrespect of detract from the individuals who work tirelessly at a community or national level, fighting for the homeless or the other disadvantaged or marginalised groups in some way.
The impetus for this article and the title was how I have personally reflected on my own participation as an individual aligned with the left and my thinking of my own self-direction and participation. I looked at my own fears and my own reasons for why I do not personally open up more and push myself further to enact the change I want to see.
How brave am I really in non-conformist behaviour that really challenges the norms and the boundaries set by the media and politicians head on? How do I really challenge myself to think outside the box?
It is about challenging how we as a collective take our energy and focus and put that to the best use, by the questions we ask, the narrative we choose to participate in and the boundaries we choose to push.
This is also not about not responding to the various inadequacies of Government and politics and remaining silent. It is about challenging how we frame our arguments within the boundaries set by the media and politicians and my desire to see a stronger movement of leftist non-conformist thinking to break down those barriers to be the instigators of positive social change.
I hope that this starts a discussion about many other ideas of pushing the boundaries and out of the box thinking in many other areas not addressed here.