The election is coming fast, with early voting already open and politicians wandering around not doing much. Campaigns, mostly consisting of attacking any opposition, are being run by politicians and activist groups across the country. But as satirist Friendlyjordies put it in a recent video, since the 2016 US elections, elections globally and media coverage of them are very much emotionally driven. To quote Dickens, we just want the facts.
This use of emotion and fear is not limited to a single side. From GetUp! calling all Hanson or Coalition supporters racist and sexist (some, but by no means all) to misinformed commentators calling the Greens communist (with all the baggage of Cold War propaganda attached), there appears to be little chance for discourse. Rather than listen, we see echo chambers built upon previously held prejudices.
If you support the Coalition for whatever reason, you are instantly labelled as “far right” (a term that has no real meaning, because the US has so distorted the political spectrum that it has become ambiguous). If you vote Greens then you must be a Marxist and a communist, despite the fact that the Greens are, at most, social democrats – a term often misconstrued as socialism. The “far-left” also has no meaning, because such a thing does not exist in Australia, or anywhere for that matter,
With these misconceptions in mind, divisive rhetoric is splashed everywhere on social media and the actual media. Instead of any real discourse, people are further and further boxed in on all fronts. The media they consume confirms their positions, and when they mingle with the other side they dish out and receive equal amounts of vitriol for their opinions.
I won’t pretend to be perfect here – normally I have little time for people who cite absurd sources or peddle blatantly false information online. Online, the nuance of conversation dissipates, and meaning is lost through the screen. But for as long as I can, and at all times if I happen to be talking to someone face to face, I attempt to keep things civil. Be it a “right wing nutjob” or a “social justice warrior” online, the difference is immutable when both revert to the same tactics.
Much like how I said policy should take precedent over personality, so should facts take precedent over whatever emotional reaction you have. That is not to negate or put down what is a natural reaction, but a warning against making rash decisions or statements before considering a situation logically. An understanding of others’ views (different from an acceptance of them) is required, and education is the centrepiece of any political or cultural discourse.
If someone is against immigrants entering the country, find out why – not everyone will have the same justifications. If it is plausible, then acknowledge it; if not, or you think it doesn’t have much weight to it, then explain why they’re wrong or produce a better argument. Ideally, that person should take on board what you are saying and either one side will prevail, or a compromise can be reached. The winning side is usually the one with the most logical and truthful factors to it.
That is merely a mini example – apply that to everything you talk about leading up to the election. Are you volunteering to campaign for your party? Know your stuff – truthful stuff, not political spin – and articulate it well. Do you engage in online discussions? You have the internet at your fingertips – reference things with reliable sources rather than spamming childish insults. (I still remember being called a social justice cuck/retarded leftie AND a right-wing troll and a sexist in 2016 – wild year).
Whatever it is you do, don’t give into fear. Our humanity connects us all more than any campaign or ideology does, and we seem to have lost sight of that recently. Those you consider ‘enemies’ are not so different from us, we just need to see it.
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