I'm currently doing a fellowship program at Australian Progress, what that involves is me learning things about myself and the world and how I can use what I've learnt to change the world. Small bikkies right?
This week I've learnt something that I made me eat a big dose of sweet, sweet, humble pie.
I'm not an anthropologist, but I did study anthropology. It's something that I still think I'd love to be, but alas, lawyering is pretty cool.
Anthropology still has a chip on it's shoulder because a lot of people don't regard it as a social science; much like psychology 50 years ago. We spent hours at uni, weeks even learning on how to avoid egocentrism and ethnocentrism. The (almost natural) belief that all other humans, and cultures are either like you and yours, want to be, or have failed to be like you and yours. As far as I was concerned, as an amateur anthropologist this lesson was learnt years ago. I was not ethno or egocentric at all when it came to my social impact work.
No. I was wrong. Thankfully not catastrophically, but in the belief that I was above egocentrism I failed to realise I was making a big mistake.
The readings this week for the fellowship course have focused on analysing the Australian Labour Party's win in the 2007 election, the Your Rights At Work, campaign and how people make decisions when going to vote.
I genuinely believed, I hand on heart believed that everyone, like me makes voting decisions based on a sound reasoning of the evidence before them. That's what I do myself so- that must mean everyone does right? To paraphrase the great Tina Turner: "What's feelin' got to do with it?". If i do it- everyone must be doing it!
Enter egocentrism- in my previous community organising and campaigning work I have tried to engage community groups in a way that I would want to be engaged- through a logical and reasoned assessment of facts. I would get so frustrated when people weren't taking to my sound arguments, or rallying behind me. That's not to say that these people who wouldn't align themselves with me were illogical and unreasonable- far from it. I just have never- ever- EVER thought that people's emotions needed to be appealed to. Because emotional appeals don't really work on me- why would they work on anyone, right?
The ALP win in 2007 and the extremely successful Your Rights At Work campaign hooked voters in to it's message first not by promoting a logical, reasoned policy but by appealing to their emotions.
The campaigns appealed to people's desire for a new approach and the fear that their working conditions were under imminent threat respectively. In fact, many of the ALPs policies were direct copies of the Coalition. The Your Rights... Campaign wasn't even proposing policy positions- it was primarily raising awareness.
This is where the lightbulb moment has been brightest. Using emotions and feelings like hope, fear, anger, and loss as a way to initially engage your audience is itself PERFECTLY LOGICAL; people are not just brains. The brains are more often than not the driver of an erratic car- your feelings? Well- that's the road the car travels on.
Major lessons learnt-
To engage communities and organise I need to engage the whole person.
I try to engage and mobilise people using logic because I find it easier.