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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 18 July 2014

Todd Smith Nails It: Leaders Walk with the People

Are Liberals the only ones who care about your children's future - or is that the PCs, the NDP or the Greens?  Are the Liberals the only ones who are like political wraiths, not-quite-human and therefore can be trusted only to destroy your lives - or is that the PCs, the NDP or the Greens?
As politics has become more tribal, two significant things have happened. 
One - political parties have become more insular, seeing themselves as soldiers on the front lines of democracy while citizens are the passive folk on the homefront.  As such, they've begun to adopt more militant mentalities, both in terms of "fighting the competition" and how they view citizens themselves.  Joe and Jane Frontporch are the beneficiaries of the unpleasant but necessary work of political soldiers and, as such, need to stay out of the way and play by the rules those political operatives lay out for them. 
A great example of this is the current challenges around polling.
Two - political organizations have become more tribal and militant in their hierarchies, with the people at the top wielding battlefield commander-type authority.  Staff can expect to face drumhead trials and excommunication if they don't do as their told and break the code of political omerta.
Those at the top will justify this tight control because, well, they get it, they've got the battle scars, only they know how to win and, by dominating politically, restore/maintain democracy.
This is, of course, a dangerously facetious delusion.  Militaries aren't democracies - they function externally, protecting a nation from foreign threats; the moment military action or approaches start being applied internally, you don't have a democracy.
There are no only we can save or only they will destroy in democracy; we're in this together and it's up to all of us to make it work.
There's a reason for this - because, in a sustained social context, it's absolutely true that only we can make things work.  It's especially true in an open economy; if we're all pursuing selfish interests or pushing our mandates onto others without meaningful dialogue and co-design, we are going to come up with the wrong answers.
We see this all the time - even when a Party wins and claims some kind of victory, people lose.  Democracy loses.  It doesn't matter what rhetoric gets spouted in the media, or even believed (or as is more often the case, paid lip-service to) inside; it's a lipstick on a pig kind of thing, or better yet - a fresh coat of expensive paint on a rusting car. 
That's the rub, and that's the secret sauce that Todd Smith has nailed - compassion isn't a weakness, nor is it a virtue that is the sole property of one tribe or another, one leader or another.  It's way more than that.
Especially in today's climate, we're realizing that compassion and empathy are simply good management practices.  They involve theory of mind, listening, exploring perspectives and thinking holistically.  Instead of whack-a-mole politics or policies that are decided, sold and defended without thorough exploration, you get shared, co-designed solutions that are constantly iterated upon.
It's not about failure, but iteration, expansion, inclusion, dynamism.  You only get that through collaborative efforts.
You don't get that when you assume you're smart and they are dumb, or they can't do a task that you know how and just need to get out of your way.
This is especially true in a democracy; they may not be good at top-down messaging or packing rooms with koolaid-drinking fanatics, but maybe the reason isn't that they're incompetent, but because those aren't skills that are actually useful in a democratic contest.  By dominating the field with their top-down, tightly controlled ways, maybe these political operatives are weakening democracy.
We'll have to see how the PC's reform shakes out, just as we'll have to see what steps the NDP take next and how the Liberals make use of their majority. 
The jury is still way out on whether the behavioural economics lessons of the last 20 years, or last election have been learned by any.
One thing is guaranteed, though - we'll never get where we need to do if we are dedicating the vast majority of our energy and building ourselves up and putting others down.
If we are to move forward at all, we can only do so together.  Which means leaving no one - no one - behind.

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