Vote counting for the Federal election resumes today but we already know that Pauline Hanson will be returning to our Senate. Hanson’s politics are frequently labelled racist and she certainly provided evidence of this in her book The truth. Hanson is also a climate change denier. Despite this, my heart sank when I read the headline: Greens vow to fight Pauline Hanson Why am I upset by this promise of opposition to racism and environmental chaos? It’s because I want my party to do more than fight.
I want the Greens to do more that create political huff and puff and bad feelings. I want my party to use principles of nonviolence to communicate with the people and communities that support Hanson and to participate in resolving the issues that these people are facing. I believe we could use this as an opportunity to create some real, powerful and sustained changes in our communities. Most importantly, such changes could be owned and directed by the people we make enemies of when we fight Hanson.
What might this nonviolent response look like?
Of the many available perspectives, I’m going to choose nonviolent communication (nvc). This approach requires two parts: expressing honestly and receiving empathically (Rosenberg 2015). Personally, I think we should start with receiving. I suspect people that vote for Hanson are very much wanting to be heard. And of course in a real conversation the parts do not necessarily appear in this order.
Not to be confused with everyday listening (the listening where I wait patiently for you to stop talking so I can impress you with my well worded opinion), recieving involves the listening that is willing to be affected. I am open minded, willing to change the way I think and always searching for common ground. Such receiving can also be called empathic listening. Such listening is vital even (perhaps especially) if the words you are using are hard for me to hear. Beyond these words, I am actively looking for the following:
- What are you observing that is affecting your wellbeing?
- How do you feel in relation to what you observe?
- What needs, values, and desires are creating these feelings?
- What concrete actions would you request in order to enrich our lives?
Expressing honestly is not an attempt to outshine the other in the conversation. I say this because Hanson supporters are frequently portrayed as lacking – lacking education, intelligence, wealth, status and so on. It is an easy habit for me to simply tell them they are wrong and foist my ‘better educated and informed’ views on them. I avoid the temptation to convince or persuade in the best case, and to humiliate in the worst. Expressing honestly requires a vulnerable walk through the same steps:
- What can I observe that affects my well being?
- How do I feel in relation to what I observe?
- What needs, values, desires are creating these feelings?
- What concrete actions would I request in order to enrich our lives?
This conversation may need to be played out many hundreds or thousands of times over years, not just during the few weeks of an election campaign. It needs to take place in communities, not just in the Houses of Parliament. This is a long and sustained effort, yet from such conversations I believe the real issues will emerge, ones that we can start to resolve. This may even be an opportunity to attempt to solve the wicked problems that persist despite the well intentioned efforts of mainstream politics to resolve them.
And this conversation needs to continue with a background of respect and integrity for all participants, regardless of any difference. Fighting, labeling, put-downs, derision, name-calling -all the usual huff and puff of politics – will only serve to further entrench people in their positions. I don’t want that. I want to move beyond fighting and start listening and creating connections, realising shared values and growing relationships. We could then use these connections to collaborate to solve the very issues that feed the fear and anger that see Hanson’s platform supported by so many.
Rosenberg, M.B. (2015). Nonviolent communication: A language of life. (3rd ed.). Encinitas: Puddledancer.