Conclusion of a Turbulent Year

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.

4 thoughts on “Conclusion of a Turbulent Year

  1. Since we are all “framed” differently based on our up-bringing, our education and our personal life experiences, we see the world differently and speake/understand a different “language of life”. I agree that it is important to meet the people where they are in the first place. Just simply because THIS IS WHERE THEY ARE, where people can be found and are willing to listen. However, in order to change things in the long run, e.g. through a campaign, it is necessary to step into a intermediary role that enables the campaigner to translate between people’s different “languages” and find that common ground which, as I believe, we all share.

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    1. Absolutely agree – there are of course so many different factors of why we are who we are. There is no simple solution of making people agree and communicators/campaigners often have to try and build bridges as best as they can.

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  2. Great post, and sums up the year pretty well! Thinking about the election of Trump I wonder whether he would fit into this notion of “meeting people where they are” as he seemingly appealed to a lot of people’s fears and concerns? Clearly, the left leaning parties in both the UK and US, in fact all over the globe are not successfully meeting people where they are and communicating there message well enough which has been a contributing factor to the resurgence of the alt right.

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  3. I agree with the entire sentiment in your blog.

    As I believe we learnt in our first lesson… campaigning is all about communication. Last time I checked communication is not about permanent residence in the higher moral ground while awaiting folk to find you .. or hear you!

    I have observed how many times people use the higher-moral-ground-concept (whatever it may be to them as it is often a very personal) to ‘not’ help or ‘not’ support or ‘not’ negotiate or ‘not’ compromise, or ‘not’ get their hands dirty. Inadvertently higher-moral-ground-concept generally leads to divisiveness and weakens groups and initiatives.

    I can give literally hundreds of particular examples I have witnessed some as recently as last month but I will be generic.
    Eg: a certain kind of feminist, (one who believes that the higher moral ground does not tolerate prostitution) ‘not’ helping or supporting a half way house for female prisoners because most of them are prostitutes or along the same theme…. a certain kind of feminist not supporting the legalization of prostitution….
    An anarchist not agreeing to a cleaning roster particularly one for cleaning the communal toilet in a camp site. because it does not adhere to what he/she believe anarchism is about referring to the individual taking responsibility for whatever they choose to! This is an example of a what I call politized laziness which has its grounding in the higher-moral-ground . A varied location for many.

    One could say that the higher you go the more useless you are to any movement for creating change on the ground. Simple physics really.

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