For the first time in my life – not just my adult life – I did not watch election results last night in the Queensland state election. Not because I do not care, or am apathetic, but because of one simple truth.
We do not choose to change our government when in chaos. When we are uncertain we choose certainty, quite literally we run with the cliché its better the devil we know. And history has also proven protests alone – no matter the numbers and the ability to stay relevant beyond a single news cycle – do not create change. Not until the pain of where we are is greater than the pain and fear of the unknown; and we are simply not there. This is not a world war, no matter how we insist on calling this war like, and our governments are not going to topple at the end of it.
And there is another more insidious reason;
We are mistaking social-vism for activism.
I am no longer surprised by the amount of posts on Social Media where good people discuss their disappointment in the outcomes, who lament the lack of choices, who wonder where the good days of politics and political choices went. Believing that their rants and laments will make a difference when they won’t.
Yes social-vism creates micro change; we may have changed some of the crazy legislation going through in Victoria for victims of sexual crimes – but we did not stop the omni-channel bill. If step-change – a change in government, in the systems that create our environments – is necessary than your individual pursuit of social-vism will do nothing more than deliver your craved for dose of dopamine – when people race to like and comment on your posts – or that adrenalin rush when you get into a ‘fight’ on your thread with someone who thinks differently to you.
Both dopamine and adrenalin are masking that social-vism is actually your kryptonite; it weakens and distracts your ability to make a difference at a systemic, macro level. That social-vism should be a layer over the top of substantial work which amplifies that work – not the work itself. I will tell you every time I see a social-vism post, I want to scream at the glass….put up or shut up.
And before I share my thoughts on this, for context, I was raised by a mother who was a political machine; we did not have one conversation at the dinner table which was not focussed on political and community issues. Margaret was mentored by one of the founding fathers and greatest supporters of the National Party – in the days before it melded its identity into the LNP. She served on Sir Joh’s Central Council (and if you are my age and have to ask what that is as a resident of Queensland then you have zero political awareness) and as a single, divorced mother of two was a radical candidate selection for the federal seat of Capricornia in 1992 for the 1993 election – an election she needed a 13.9% swing to win and she only just missed out by less than a percentage point – and is still involved at electorate council level. In the 80’s in the very small country town we lived in she drove the establishment of one of the first land care committees in Queensland, one of the first ever Drought Relief Committees in Australia, and was instrumental in securing some of the first funding for a women’s refuge outside of our capital cities anywhere in Australia. My brother and I were steeped in the concept of public service, even though neither of us have chosen that pathway.
If you really want to create change, systemic change, step-change, then you need to study the system, how politics works, the machine behind it, what needs to stay and what needs to be ripped apart - understanding you cannot break the rules if you first don’t learn the rules of the game already in play.
Educate yourself, understand where you want to play, draw the lines and create your rules of engagement. And then lift yourself out of social-vism into the actual arena with any one of the following:
1. You run for political office. That’s right. You run. Choose your party (or not), your platform, steep yourself in the policies and processes and protocols and you became part of the machine. Politics is underpinned by the numbers game; understand this and you will win the game you want to win; also understand that if you need to ask me what I mean by a numbers game in politics then you have not even started your education.
2. Take what you have learnt and become a lobbyist; someone capable of building sustainable relationships at the highest levels of both politics and the bureaucracy behind it; who is respected, who understands the system so well they know where the weak points are and how to leverage them, who is able to present argument and bring pressure to bear that creates the changes you say you want.
3. You become part of the machine; choose your zone and play there. As part of the party machine, by pursuing a career in public office as an advisor, a policy writer, a researcher, the right hand to the greatest decision makers in the world, or by building a skills base that enables you to re-shape policy at every level of government, including local government – like Zoe who is working to reshape policy that will enable the creation of smart cities and communities.
4. Create a movement to address a specific issue of need in our community and actually do the work; more than creating ad hoc events and rampant social commentary, do work that actually makes a difference on the ground, become so good at it that they can’t ignore you. The work Rochelle Courtenay does with Share the Dignity is just one of the examples that comes to mind.
5. Get off your ass and create more than a micro-business; create a business that employs others so that you have the time – and the funding – to give to, to champion, to elevate the work of the politicians, the political parties and the community organisations that are making the difference you want to make in the world. Help them leverage, amplify and accelerate.
And lastly understand this.
A few days, 6 weeks, 3 months, out from any election is not when you start -whether you want to make a change, or ensure who you want stays in place. It starts now whether you are going to drive what comes next, or simply support someone who is willing to. If you want to make an actual difference – in politics or community or both – then you need to treat it like your own Olympic Gold Medal campaign.
Where every single thing you do in every moment builds on your ability to bring your focus into what is only a matter of minutes in a four year period; the gold medallist does not win by engaging social-vism, through enjoying the distractions we seem to now crave, through deciding at the last minute that this matters.
They know that to make an impact, to win that gold medal, means deploying the principles of high performance every single day.
And this is why your social-vism will not change things. Because you have to do something, you have to take action – and you have to be gold-medal ready to create the step change you actually want.