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So… You call yourself a Leftist?

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

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).

Health

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.

Conclusion

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.

Originally published on Polyfeministix

 30 total views,  3 views today

18 comments

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  1. wam

    Reads well for for all with the possible exception of equality of women and Aborigines?
    Loved your safe schools as the beginning of recognition and celebration of gender difference

  2. Trish Corry

    Hi Wam. Not sure what you mean with the first part.

  3. keerti

    Australians are largely asleep, politics is irrelevant and the government is asleep at the wheel! Complacency is the (non-)driving force in the country. I absolutely agree with you Trish, but the workingclass will be tugging it’s forlock and on it’s way to the collective poorhouse before it even begins to wake up. In the meantime countries with a focus on governing for people, such as Sweden, will leave us sitting in the dust.

  4. Steve Laing - makeourvoiceheard.com

    It is interesting that one of the main reasons that Turnbull has given for not changing donation rules is how to deal with crowd funded activism such as GetUp. The reality for the public is that government at every level, makes it extremely hard for members of the public to either get involved, or contribute, and I know that from my own personal experience at local, state and federal level. If you aren’t in one of their “clubs”, they don’t want to know.

    Whilst I personally agree with the solutions you put forward, the largest issue is getting acknowledgement that the underlying issues that they are addressing actually exist. We know they do, but politicians and the MSM do their best to frame the data to avoid even having the discussion. Without adapting the cosy governance system, it will remain pushing shit up a hill.

    I’d advocate that all candidates standing for office should supply a cv and a covering letter stating why they feel qualified to do the job and what they will bring to the “party”. Not only does this give the voters an insight into the background of the candidate, it also reminds the bastards who their employers are. And these cvs and letters should be checked for veracity by the AEC and run through a plagiarism tool like Turnitin to ensure they aren’t just copies from party central.

  5. townsvilleblog

    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? Trish, in my humble opinion, I believe whatever is a concern to working “people” should be of priority to any Leftist organization. Whatever threatens the viability of the median Australian family needs to be opposed by the Left.

    That includes what Steve Laing has written above including donations rules. I am a proud, paid member of GetUp and sign every petition that they bring to the attention of the public. I also support the idea of ‘free’ education from Kindergarten to University, which along with many other social benefits, we should have and can only be obtained by forcing the corporations to pay a fair share of their huge incomes in taxation to the host country, in which they derive that income.

    Being a Leftie for me has always been defending the vulnerable, and agitating for better health and education for ordinary everyday Australians. I have always had empathy and compassion for my fellow Australian first, and fellow human being running a close second.

  6. paulwalter

    That’s the go!! Trish Corry has hit a vein of good form..its the Trish Corry I thought was there who seemed distracted by other things.

    It fits so well with another macro thread starter by John Quiggin at his blog on the closure of privatised prisons elsewhere.

    It goes directly to the macabre thinking that characterises hard neoliberalism and its myopic insistence on the so called rights of the individual, eg Oligarch, that has the rest of us put on the Road to Serfdom…so fundamental.

  7. townsvilleblog

    I am constantly amazed at :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 public just accept these platitudes as being true, however they do not react to being told that “we have been robbed” by the corporations of estimates between 6-8 Billion in 2015 that didn’t make it to “our” Treasury? Instead they (some) persecute “dole bludgers” who are only trying to exist on the paltry amount they are allowed, why do (some) people abuse other people who find themselves unemployed, but show no disapproval at the $8 Billion cost to the federal budget in revenue?

  8. townsvilleblog

    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?

    Trish, I see our best hope of delivering these things for the Australian “people” in the ALP. In Australia we don’t have a party of The Left, so we compromise with others so that we may get “some” consideration on these and other matters. However again, everything depends on government funding, and government funding depends on government revenue.

    I commend your article, it’s time an article of this comprehension and depth was produced, congratulations, I hope you do not mind me going through it piece by piece, as my concentration does not hold due to mental illness.

  9. townsvilleblog

    Sadly I must agree with keerti September 8, 2016 at 10:19 am

    Australians are largely asleep, politics is irrelevant and the government is asleep at the wheel! Complacency is the (non-)driving force in the country. I absolutely agree with you Trish, but the workingclass will be tugging it’s forlock and on it’s way to the collective poorhouse before it even begins to wake up. In the meantime countries with a focus on governing for people, such as Sweden, will leave us sitting in the dust.

    We already have a situation whereby only 1% of the global population own 50% (and growing every day) of the world economy and people should be rebelling but instead they fiddle while the Earth burns.

  10. trishcorry

    Indeed Paul, other things were distracting me. That line has now been drawn in the sand. Thank you for your comment.

    If you have never had the pleasure of listening to John Quiggan in person, please do so. It is an invaluable opportunity.

  11. Trish Corry

    Townsville Blog
    Instead they (some) persecute “dole bludgers” who are only trying to exist on the paltry amount they are allowed, why do (some) people abuse other people who find themselves unemployed, but show no disapproval at the $8 Billion cost to the federal budget in revenue?

    Thank you for your comment. I would say that this goes to the heart of what I am trying to say. 1. create small movements at community level and participate in groups such as political parties or movements like Get Up! or even trade unions. I also would include insist that politicians participate in as much real face to face engagement to answer questions in communities. I know this is Bill Shorten’s personal style, but more need to follow suit and it should be an expectation from the community. Politicians can lead by adopting this type of action and the ones who don’t, won’t be valued or identified with as much.

  12. paulwalter

    Trish, I instinctively like the guy and have followed his site for a while, although I am not good at economics, most of all micro economics..something that would be a difference between us since nature seems to offered you up a logic chip as well as a comprehension chip, although maybe you have the true academic appetite for grunt work as well.

    Kaye Lee ‘s follow up mentions Paul Frijters, an academic similarly persecuted for doing his work well in a comment there.

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/sep/08/labor-signals-shift-on-election-savings-plan-after-opposition-to-welfare-and-pension-cuts#comment-82796398

    I was relieved to see that today, but Jenny Macklin, I won’t comment further upon, although it is probable that I don’t understand the subtleties of the framing and presentation of policy from somewhere as politicised as Canberra.

  13. paulwalter

    I wonder if this might be the game changer.

    http://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/nitv-news/article/2016/01/19/death-our-brother-and-son-was-not-natural-death-family-question-indigenous-mans

    That is an earlier report on an atrocity involving an aboriginal man at the ugly Long Bay Jail in NSW (not the boondogles of rural Qld)

    It was dealt with dishonestly and furtively by authorities and the upshot was a savage and detailed ABC report tonight, just on, that detailed what REALLY happened with David Dungay, which is to say a virtual repeat of the notorious event involving Mulrunji Doomadgee and Palm Island decade ago.

    It has prompted a new inquiry, so it is an abscess bursting and if it receives more coverage of the sort tonight, it may shock many Australians to their boots and finally get some sort of action on another issue involving oppressed people.

  14. wam

    sorry trish I rarely know what I write.
    The point I feel is
    if Aust were to get the idea that:
    women are every bit as good bad and indifferent as men and ‘the best man for the job may be crap(notice the loonies??).
    But that crap rules for the majority of men and women in aust.
    Thus the only change in politics will be a return to the green white and purple at the ballot box. Was that missing in the ‘are you left’??

    Aborigines are every bit as good bad and indifferent as men and ‘one size fits all’ is crap. Thus the only change in politics is at the ballot box which seems to be happening in east arnhem. Was that missing????

  15. Trish Corry

    Ah Wam, yes, mine was not an exhaustive list. By all means contribute as many as you like.
    I love that you mention the Green white a purple.

  16. Photontrace

    Thank you for showing insight and giving expression to limitations that I have keenly felt when advocating this or that improvement to the condition of human life. What you wrote goes a long way to explaining why I often feel that my reasoning is simply not getting through to those who have the power, if they so choose, to initiate changes for the better.

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