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... 


Brisbane Times: Women taking the lower paid jobs?


Here is an article I recently published as an opinion piece for the Brisbane Times.  Check it out here…or comment below!


Are women really getting paid less?

When I first came across the article on the apparent "gender pay gap doubling in a year", I couldn't believe my eyes.

However, when I stopped to think about it, the concept didn't make sense to me, particularly from a graduate point of view.  In my field of engineering, salaries for graduates are set for everyone, regardless of gender.  In fact, I was sure that the females in my graduate class were getting the higher salaries!  Where then was this information coming from?

A quick investigation showed there was a misinterpretation of the Australian government's Workplace Gender Equality Agency's report.  There was, in fact, no actual change in percentage of difference since last year which remained at 3 per cent (WEGA, 2012).


However, a difference of 3 per cent is still a discernible inequality.  Why does this gap exist? It cannot be that employers are actively paying women less. We are in the 21st century, after all.

It would seem that the view that the WEGA report is taking is a macro view, one of graduates generally, as opposed to the micro perspectives of men and women in particular fields.  For example, males are clearly overrepresented in fields such as construction (88 per cent), mining (85 per cent), and manufacturing (75 per cent), according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Females on the other hand, are overrepresented in the social services; Health care and social assistance employs 78 per cent females, education and training 70 per cent, and 56 per cent in retail trade. Furthermore, ABS data shows 76 per cent of those in clerical and administration are females.  It is no secret that the fields of mining and construction pay more than health care and education.

So it isn't that employers are paying women differently, it is that there are more females in the lower paying roles and industries.

Is this something that needs to be changed?  Perhaps, and it raises questions about social bias, work-life balance, gendered roles in society and possible disadvantages within the workforce.

Personally, I don't think there is a systemic disadvantage to women, especially not at the graduate level.  There are plenty of equality acts and antidiscrimination laws to protect the rights of almost any group in the workforce, particularly women.  However, there are definitely social biases that play a part.

Engineering, for example, still has extremely low rates of female participation; not because women are less capable, but because girls don't always see it as a natural option (I am still approached by high school girls who say "I'm considering engineering, but isn't that a guy's job?").

Compounding this, the social industries (that have an overrepresentation of women) have lower income levels than technical roles.  Does society undervalue our 'caring' roles, or is it just a case of different jobs deserve different pay levels?

From a long term career perspective, there are numerous studies that indicate women don't find themselves in the pipeline to leadership due to a variety of reasons.  For instance, men hold 2148 crucial line positions in the ASX 500; women hold 141 similar positions. (Australian Census of Women in Leadership, 2012).

So not only does a gap exist at the graduate level, it compounds exponentially throughout the progression of a career.

The question of the pay gap or women's participation and influence in the workforce isn't going to be solved overnight.  It is clear that although there have been great inroads made into women's equality of opportunity in the workforce; a discrepancy still exists at a macro level.

If we want to achieve true equality of outcome, as a society we need to think of more effective ways of unlocking the potential in half our population.

Read the original.


So what do you think?