We need an immediate shift from the current aimless national political discourse and we must insist upon politics with clear definable aims. The involvement of more young people in politics is now urgent. We need young voices now, not later.
After an absence from blogging and a period of reflection, here are some suggestions.
Reverse-Phenomenology – Bracketing and Dismissing “Left and Right”
Husserl’s phenomenology discusses understanding observable phenomena by setting aside one’s own assumptions and ideas, (sometimes referred to as bracketing). This is done to understand the lived experience of others within that phenomena. The phenomena I am witnessing is the reverse of Husserl’s phenomenology. A vast number of people dismiss the lived experience of others. They insist their assumptions and ideas are what is ‘correct”. The actual lived experience of others is unimportant and is dismissed.
This is becoming very prominent with the bracketing of “left” and “right.” At times there is also ‘left-left’ who seek to put shame on and divide ‘the left’ by playing what I call “leftist Olympics” and the same occurs on the ‘I’m more conservative/patriotic than these snowflakes’ which occurs on the right.
This is the reverse of how phenomenology is used to understand phenomena. In my opinion, that is not a good way for society to continue. Progressive change requires mitigating resistance and bringing those people who resist along to assist to lead the change. To become champions of change. That means our leaders need to understand fully the concerns and fears of others. In addition, how people who resist progressive change currently view the world.
Political leaders and progressive groups should use technology more effectively. They should use this technology to engage and interact with others. They should move away from using social media to advertise blanket statements. Two-way exchanges with regular voters, particularly using video and/or audio, would greatly assist our political discourse.
We cannot do this with the continuum of the clear delineation of “left vs. right.” The aim of political leaders should be to bring us together.
Left vs. Right
A key observation I have witnessed (and I know it is not new) is the increasing use of ‘left’ or ‘right’ to defend or dismiss an argument. The answer from the ASIO chief to Pauline Hanson about no link between refugees and terrorism is a key example.
One person commented (on SBS Feed) that “this is typical of the leftist media! It would be good to see the whole interview.”
There are a few problems with this comment although it is a typical comment with many similar.
Firstly, anyone can watch the estimates hearings online, on the Australian Parliament website. Maybe free to air would be beneficial.
The second is that this individual places themselves ‘on the right’ and anything they disagree with ‘is left.’ Left and right are now used as synonyms for “I agree” or “I disagree.”
Politics with Aim
The main aim of politicians and protest groups should be to have clear aims and purpose. It is harmful to blindly bracket opinion as left or right, dismissing facts and not offering solutions. Politicians repeating what “people are thinking” adds nothing. It is also poor leadership and is devoid of solutions. Discussing the benefits or risks of enacting “what people are thinking” to define solutions is politics with aim. The current political discourse is aimless.
With the bracketing of “left” and “right” arguments, another observation is the lack of definable aims in political discourse. I will use two examples, Freedom of Speech and Adani. These arguments are primarily positioned as “right” and “left” respectively.
Freedom of Speech
Regardless of the harm indiscriminate freedom of speech may cause; advocates believe it has true value as an individual freedom. FOS advocates reject the reaction of disagreement or consequence. They see these reactions as a threat to their freedom.
As discussed in a previous blog, I spoke of Marcuse’s use of discriminate freedom of speech. This seeks to bracket and set aside speech that is harmful. This is as opposed to indiscriminate freedom of speech which allows all speech, regardless of the harm it may cause. The pen is mightier than the sword, indicates words have a deep impact on human emotions.
As FOS advocates insist on restricting FOS when they do not agree with rebuttals or statements from others; I believe that FOS advocates do want discriminate freedom of speech. However, the line is blurred for what should be bracketed and set aside as harmful.
There is a lot of noise about FOS, but there are no definable aims in the political argument.
- What are the risks to society in allowing harmful discourse? A discourse that does indeed make some feel so isolated and misunderstood they take their life?
- Should we as a society care about stigma and hatred?
- Is it more important for society to embrace indiscriminate free speech, than the harm such free speech causes others?
- Do we aim to be a society that insists on passive tolerance of harmful speech?
The aim of our leaders should be to create a conversation about this debate and our choices for society.
Leaders should show leadership and pose such questions. We are a country that is home to many marginalised groups and we desperately need to be united on this issue. Political discourse should not be aimless.
Is Protesting against Adani and aimless exercise?
The other example I will use is the Adani mine. This mine is currently the subject of a nationwide protest. The difficulty I have with the protest against the Adani Coalmine is, a successful protest will have a negative impact on adjacent regions. Negative impacts on regional employment and the local economy.
It may be strongly argued by some that this is short-sighted. The harm to the environment is the main issue and we must think long term.
Yes, I agree, we must think long term. However, the problem I have with this entire protest movement is just like the freedom of speech argument; no one appears to be concerned with the risks of their successful protest outcome. (Successful freedom of speech harms others, successful mine closures with no transition plan, harms others).
Just like bracketing “left” and “right” anyone who is pro-Adani is bracketed as “wrong” and those against are bracketed as “correct.” There are strong arguments for environmentalism, the (real) amount of jobs, Indigenous rights etc. However, there is very little concern for the regions that have been gearing up for the inclusion of this mine for a number of years. There is the bracketing of the arguments about joblessness, benefits to the economy ‘dismissed as not important.’
In these areas, there are businesses that service mining. The mine will directly have a positive impact on the local economy and jobs. Some areas of the connecting LMA unemployment is 15-19%. These areas are also identified for the Basics Card and it has been in operation in my town for a number of years. With the mining downturn, more people are staying in town and taking up jobs that others without mining skills would normally take. Some families move away, which affects the local economy.
Protest with an Aim
Legislation and Regulation can provide solutions to anti-Adani arguments if done effectively. However, if the public is against this mine regardless, there still needs to be an aim. The risk to the areas the mine will impact on will remain. Otherwise, the aim of simply shutting down the mine is in itself an aimless objective.
I feel my biggest frustration with the Adani protest is if you place the adjacent communities at the centre of the argument, the protest is aimless.
Those protesting the mine, including politicians, should also have the fortitude to argue fiercely for a transition plan for the adjacent local economies if they don’t want this mine.
A protest with an aim would include conversations and discussions of alternative solutions such as:
- Every state foregoes some GST and redistributes to these regional communities for job creation in lieu of the mine.
- Decentralisation of the public sector for job creation in the regions, to the detriment of city workers.
- Corporate welfare to encourage business to set up in regional communities, rather than Capital Cities.
- Infrastructure and services funding injection into these regions, to the detriment of more roads, rail and the building of public services in capital cities.
- Investment in farming, agriculture and acceptance of live animal exports.
- When people can’t put food on the table, does environmental activism come from a position of privilege? This may be a very ugly debate. However, as mining bans are increasing, this question is important. Without a serious transition plan, existing mining regions will experience a negative impact.
….And too many other questions to list. This would be a protest with an aim. The current protest is aimless and completely ignores the damage to the communities that have been gearing up to service this mine for a number of years.
Why we need Young People in Politics – Now!
My final observation is the Corbyn and Sanders movements demonstrate that young people are indeed engaged and are willing to be heard.
Their advocacy and engagement with certain progressive policies show that they have a vision for our future. However, I think it is very important for young people to be leaders now to shape the debate and be young leaders in clearly defining aims for our future.
For any young person, who may be timid, not confident or worried about joining a political party, union or movement, I say you should not be. All you need to do is view the low bar set by Pauline Hanson in the last round of Senate estimates, to understand and identify that you could do better right now if you were in her place. In fact, there are many politicians who have been in politics for years, who do not get the same media attention, which you could do better than right now if you were in their place.
We need your voices now. Join the political party of your choice and speak up and shape our country now. Your work life, retirement, aged care, health, schooling for your children and grandchildren and general progress of our country are all at stake.