Over the Christmas holidays I was back in my former flat share in Vienna. Sitting around our tiny kitchen table my friends and I ended up discussing the turbulence of the past year, Michelle, Arnie and finding new ways.
“When they go low, we go high” is what Michelle Obama said before the US presidential election in one of the most passionate and personal speeches of the year. I remember a lot of applause and admiration.
But now, after the victory of Trump and the formation of an ever-stronger post-truth right around the globe, is this still the way to go?
When we talked about professionalization and ethics in class, my lecturer raised this very question. At the same time emphasizing, that when campaigning for progressive social change, part of the job is to gain moral high ground. I do agree with her – and with Michelle too.
But if you are up there, on your moral high ground, you must lean down, to communicate your message. From the top to the bottom. And this will affect the way your campaign and you will be perceived by your audience.
So instead of going high, one could go and meet people where they are and communicate with them there. This does not mean to go low or lower. It just means that in order to come to an understanding with someone, it really helps if you speak the same language.
And, as we were a bunch of Austrians sitting together, someone brought up one of our few international celebrities. After watching the video, we really had to ask ourselves: is Arnie on to something?
Arnold Schwarzenegger uses scenes from his Hollywood movies, to stress his points. He talks about how he would – terminator-style – get politicians to listen and act.
It may not be the best or most efficient approach. It definitely isn’t the most ethical one. But it conveys a very clear and comprehensible message. And in our western entertainment-loving world it meets people where they are. I do believe, that if 2016 has shown us anything, it’s that we need to find common ground and remember why some of us are on the left and some are on the right: inequalities distributed from the top down.