Policy

Why We Must Listen to Hanson, Trump and Leave supporters.

So a couple of things have happened in the last few weeks that have caused my Facebook feed to lose its collective mind.

The first was Brexit.  The media post the vote (which apparently, no-one took seriously) bordered on openly derisive towards Leave voters.  

I love Trevor Noah as much as the next third-culture-kid, but he was just one of the many whose commentary post-vote was essentially, 'how could they do this, don't they know what is good for them?'

Now hold onto that thought, and how the tone might play out.

The second thing that happened was Pauline Hanson's election to the Senate. If you haven't heard of Pauline before, here is a taste of her world view.

Again, her supporters have been labelled as xenophobic, ignorant, racist, etc etc. 

She's tapping into the populism that has fed the Brexit, and the same that is supporting Trump! On this, the general commentariat is agreed.  

Now check out this video... and I want you to listen to what Pauline has to say about 'grass roots Australia'.

Hold on a minute... Start listening to grass roots Australians! ...I know what the people are thinking and how they’re feeling... Let’s get the kids jobs and pull it together as one!
— Pauline Hanson

Now I don't share the world views or policy platforms of Pauline Hanson, Drumpf or Leave voters in any way, shape or form.  However, I think it is incredibly dangerous to ignore and deride those we disagree with. When has derision ever worked to persuade someone to your perspective? 

The question then becomes - well, if we are not to deride and ignore, what to do? How do we deal with these vast feelings of frustration, hurt and exasperation? 

Honestly, I think what we *must* do is start by truly listening. 

Pauline is right on one thing. Leaders haven't been listening to what sections of the population have been trying to say, and so the 'unheard' have taken to yelling in the only way that seems to get the attention of progressives and intellectual elite (a social segment for the purposes of this argument) - by voting in ways that will hurt them - despite what said elite say is 'logical' and 'rational' and 'good'.   

Listening doesn't mean agreeing. But what it might help us to do is *understand* why populism is taking on the hold is has, and understand what needs to be done to tackle it.  

Who is this group? Well on that I don't have a definitive answer, and smarter people than me are working on nailing down the exact demographics. There are some interesting leads though... Check this graph out. 

Note the blue line; inequality within country groups.  It is relatively flat (although increasing slightly) during the industrial revolution, but takes a definite dive during the early 20th century. it gets pretty flat again during the period following the second world war... and then it starts rising in recent decades. The world starts seeing an increase in inequality within countries from about the 1970's. Globalisation has been around for a while by this point, but an interesting reflection is the change in the cost of flying.

According to the Atlantic, 'in 1965, no more than 20 percent of Americans had ever flown in an airplane. By 2000, 50 percent of the country...the number of air passengers tripled between the 1970s and 2011.'

So the crudest way of looking at this is that in the last 40 or 50 years, people have started to increasingly look different in countries (because it was just easier to access different places on planes and thus the link to the anti-immigration sentiment), and coincidentally inequality within countries increased, yet everyone was being told that what was happening in the world was good for them.

What was happening in the world was good for the world, yes. The graphs above demonstrate that on the whole, the world is less unequal (there are less people at the super poor end of the spectrum). 

What hasn't changed though, is the fortune of the poorer people in the richest nations.  The people who globalisation (in the modern, airplane driven sense) hasn't really helped. The ones who have lost positions of privilege and power due to the improving status of the world but who have not been swept up with the tide. The ones who in some sense, feel like the world is forgetting them and leaving them behind. The ones who were once proud of their identity and place in the world, and are searching for that feeling once again. 

Their vote is equal to everyone else's, and they are some of the people that aren't being heard.

Being unheard - silenced even - is not a fun place for anyone to be.  


Inequality is frightening. I truly believe it is one of the most toxic ailments that can afflict a society and so much of what is at the root of the current wave of populism is due to the increasing levels of inequality within nations. Watch the video below (click through) to hear some of the reasons why I think we must keep talking about this deep disease. 

Why inequality is not okay.

Why inequality is not okay.

So what does this have to do with not laughing at Pauline Hanson's voters?  

It's about reminding us to think about the long game. To think about why people are at the stage they are at, and realising that rather than derision, they deserve - like anyone else - to be listened to and heard. That is the minimum we owe. We may disagree, but what is more important is then to tap into that and dig deeper - why are you feeling the pain you are feeling? What in our systems is causing this entrenched and divisive societal ailment? What can we change?

Our societies are meant to be built to protect the lower income ends of society.  It is not supposed to exploit them until they have no way of speaking out and thus turn to being societally destructive.

The world is being served some timely reminders. It is also worth noting that the relative peace and harmony we have been working on and have enjoyed for the past few decades has only occurred because people worked at it.  Harmony doesn't just happen; social cohesion is a constant project and we all need to roll up our sleeves and get stuck into it, on the daily. A socially cohesive society starts with understanding and respect, and a vision that is about the greater good and systems that reinforce that belief. 

We've got some work to do. Khair inshallah... 

 

Links Round Up on the ALP's Refugee Policy

[box] “23,000 persons per day leave their homes and seek protection elsewhere – more than the total number of asylum seekers arriving in Australia in a year[/box]

 

Since the Kevin Rudd announced the new ALP policy on refugees and asylum seekers last Friday afternoon, I have been at a mental and moral loss. Still trying to get my head around it, I thought I would put together a few of the interesting articles and pieces written about this so we can try gather enough information to have a reasoned debate. Here are a few of those pieces...

***

A fine piece examining the detail behind the policy and what it means.

Morally, though? There are real questions that need to be answered, not least of which is: at what point did we decide we would no longer even consider processing boat-borne refugees – any refugees – on our own land?

That’s what is important here. Not hysteria, not deliberately misleading headlines, not hodge-podge rallies responding with the speed of a knee-jerk to a few bullet points.

Asking the right questions. Calmly, implacably, and constantly.

A really well written piece by a professor of international law:

The average Australian enjoys extraordinary fortune by world standards, but privilege has bred concern for ourselves not others. In the internet age, it would take little effort for Australians to educate themselves about the real state of the world's refugees. Not enough could be bothered to do so, yet still feel entitled to express an opinion on the subject.

Great visual via the Antibogan:

 

The Conversation is one of my favourite places for good information on politics and policy in Australia. On this topic they are no exception.  Here is an explainer on our international obligations, whether or not turning back boats is legal,  experts' response on the announcement and an explainer on the fact that the policy probably doesn't comply with international law.

[box] There is some irony in Australia unloading its problem onto its developing neighbour while at the same time seeking to show international leadership on the broad issue.[/box]

Michelle Gratton talks about how this policy is largely to shift the problem into someone else's backyard.

In his [Rudd] news conference on the night of the 2010 coup against him he warned against a lurch to the right on asylum policy.

Now he has taken his own huge step to the right.

He says one has to respond to changing circumstances.

On each occasion he has managed to sound sincere and convincing as he articulated his position. That is his political skill.

A perspective from The Guardian on the situation in PNG.

A strange article on the ABC implying the 'policy is working'.

Muhammad Asif, who spoke to the ABC via a translator, asked the Government to take pity on asylum seekers and said Australia should fund the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to help process their claims.

"He said 'after I saw this, I will never go by boat. I'm decided to go join UNHCR'," the translator said.

"Before he see this he says he wanted to go by boat with most of his friends. They wanted to go by boat.

"One thing he requests ... from Australia, [is] to push the UNHCR. Please let it be faster.

A great PDF fact sheet on Australia's refugee burden versus the world.

Julian Burnside's opinion piece (worth reading!!)

A satirical piece that hits a lot of spots.

Rest easy, Australia. Our borders are now safe from illegals. They always were, of course, as seeking asylum has always been legal. As Julian Burnside pointed out yesterday, “Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights every person has the right to seek asylum in any territory they can reach.” But now we are safe from legal illegals. And besides, we have no obligation to accept refugees and allow them to live here. Well, yes, OK, technically as a signatory to the Refugee Convention we do have that obligation, legally and morally, especially given our involvement in international conflicts that is partially responsible for people fleeing their country...

Have you read any good pieces or perspectives on this topic since the announcement?

 

**New updates on the 23rd of July**

Visual piece by GET UP!

White Nationalists welcome Rudd's Policy: Satire by Aamer Rahman

Further analysis by The Conversation on what a truly regional solution would look like.