Listening is speaking

This morning I had a cup of coffee with a very wise friend. Despite my own gloomy frame of mind (for reasons both personal and political), and a cold and steely-grey morning, it was the best thing I could’ve done.

For one thing, the coffee was AMAZING!! I haven’t had a barista-made coffee for several weeks and I hadn’t quite expected that it would be so satisfying. It was softly creamy and richly fragrant. I nearly swooned. Also, my lovely friend kindly shouted so it was double the gift.

I told my friend about the podcasts I listened to yesterday – the one about changing minds especially. My friend listened attentively and nodded. She told me that she thinks one of the key things one needs to do to change people’s minds is to actually listen to them. It took me several minutes to grasp the innate truth of this observation.

Democracy is meant to be for the people and of the people. And yet, the nature of our politics, of our society, is that the politicians stand separate from us in the media or on a stage and they say “this is what Australians want”. And yet, so often when they make these claims, I know that I’m not one of the Australians who agrees with them.

I heard somewhere once about how airlines were trying to design a seat which would be most comfortable for “the average” person. They took measurements of thousands of people and built a seat to suit the average of all those measurements. Guess what? It wasn’t comfortable for anybody. You can’t average people out like that.

I think politicians like to average people out and so that they can jump into the bell curve and get the most votes.

But, assuming what the media reports is true, people are frustrated with politics. I know I am. I don’t trust what they say. I don’t trust them not to change their minds. I don’t trust that they care more about the future of the country than about their own pockets. I dislike all the name-calling. I want politics to be about policies not about accusations and lies.

So imagine if the parties sent people out into all kinds of communities. Imagine if they called meetings… not so that they could speak to the people but so that the people could speak to them. The representative of the political party would be the audience and the community would designate speakers to represent their key issues. At the end of the meeting, the representative would refer to his/her notes and summarise what he/she had heard/learned. Any misunderstandings could be corrected or clarified. All these notes from communities all over Australia would be compiled and assessed and politicians could actually take to the public stage with some real knowledge of “what Australians want”.

Democracy should be about ownership. We are the people. Our voice should be louder than just a single vote in the ballot box on election day.

Would you change your mind and vote for a party that listened? I would.

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