Sunday, 16 March 2014

Defeatism: Progressives' Greatest Challenge

At March in March there were a number of signs stating that people were so dissatisfied with our conservative government that they couldn't fit all of the reasons onto one sign. They just left it at that.

From #MarchinMarch - @tonesperth Instagram

There’s a reason for this. Prior to the election, the Abbott-led Coalition made broad, non-specific statements about policies they would introduce, or in most cases, repeal, without giving any real guidance on how exactly they were going to do this. Since being elected, the Government has launched a full-scale repeal of progressive policies. Election promises have been broken, the electorate has been betrayed. We don’t hear a lot about this in the main stream media, because it largely suits the needs of those who control it. As a progressive, you need to actively look for different, often independent, media sources to get the full story and to try and keep track.

So many changes on such a broad scale means it’s hard for progressives to make a single, succinct case for their displeasure in the government. For those that are to the political right, or those to the left who see themselves as the ‘reasonable’ pragmatic progressives, this is seen as non-specific Abbott hating/whinging behaviour. It is not. It is a well-justified broad dislike of many Coalition policies. Due to the number of different ways we’re dissatisfied with the government, we’re not able to put them into sound bites for people to understand in the same way that Abbott puts platitudes and rhetoric into three-word slogans. In marketing terms it’s a diluted message, and it’s not ideal.

However we have to let go of the dichotomy of good and bad and embrace complexity and subtlety – we may very well disagree with our own favoured political parties. We need to see it as a complex argument that needs to be sorted on an issue-by-issue basis, not on whose political party is ‘winning’ like a sporting competition that’s played out in the media. It’s not that simple, and the longer we allow this dichotomy of Goodies and Baddies to perpetuate, the poorer we will all be for it. Furthermore, any time you are seen to be disagreeing with your party, you shouldn't be seen as backing a horse that has a weakness, but rather being able to question and challenge even those you support the most.

It’s ok for progressives to differ in their beliefs, but it’s important that we also show solidarity. There’s nothing worse than ‘pragmatist’ progressives who say it can’t be done or it’s democracy, stupid, wait out your 3 years. Progressive issues constantly need to be fought for and represented. Sitting by and waiting for someone else to sort it out isn't good enough.

You may have encountered these people. Firstly, they rubbish the intra-electoral period activists for being ‘clicktivists’ – that clicking a button to sign a petition isn't good enough. Then when people actually take to the streets, they’re mocked for protesting in vain – told to wait until Election Day. Then when people vote for minor parties because the major parties don’t support their views, they’re told they've just thrown their vote away. It’s easy to see how progressives are taught at every turn that they’re not winning. They should give up. This, frankly, is bullshit.

Do not complain about what you permit. Margaret Mead had it right when she said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”. Get out there and tell your friends. Do not be embarrassed – have the strength of your convictions, back your argument and inform others. And when they tell you you’re wasting your time and to wait for Election Day, challenge them to see what they've done to make a difference since the last one. 

Because if we have to wait until every 3 years comes around to try and make a change, change is going to be a very long time coming.

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