Getting our Community back



It might seem odd to people today, but the concept of nationhood – the feeling of belonging to a “nation”, whether that be Australian, French, Vietnamese or Egyptian, is a fairly recent concept.   The concept of cultural superiority is well noted historically, but tying it to a concept of nation really only took hold in the 19th Century.  Prior to this time, people tended to associate to a more local community, whether it was their tribe, or village, or perhaps their town.  The difficulty in travel and communication (since there was no mass media) effectively prevented people having any connection with anyone else outside their somewhat restricted “world”.

But in this world of mass communication, the people of often distinct geographical entities have over time formed into nations.  We have national institutions, and sports teams, and a history, and apparently a “national identity”, although what exactly the key values associated with this tend to be dependent on who you talk to.  This concept of “who we are” is however, very powerful, and unfortunately this makes it very open to abuse.  The concept of “Team Australia” was concocted politically, to create an environment of “if you aren’t with us, you must be against us”, to marginalise views that are not held by the majority.

I am not from Australia. I, like 25% of the citizens of this country, am a first generation migrant.  I chose to come and live here.  I invested significantly, both financially and emotionally, to come with my family, half way around the world for what I hoped would be a better life.  It was a choice made easier through having many relatives on my wife’s side living here.  We originally visited in 1999, when my first daughter had just turned one.  I recall catching trains and having local people talk to us. A very different, and pleasant feel to our existence in London. A feeling of community.  Four years later we arrived.  Two years after that, we became citizens.

But do I consider myself Australian, or British?  Actually having been born in Scotland, my concepts of nationality are markedly different from someone born in England.  The reality is that I consider myself neither.  And both.

The reality is that I identify with the people around me, where we share commonality, whether that is the footy team we support, or the surf club we are members of, or the attitudes we have to boat people or running the economy.  And I am entirely capable of being good friends with whom I disagree on many subjects.  Because overall, we have more “in common” than we have “not in common”.

So I object strongly when I see politicians intent on promoting division, rather than trying to find ways to promote unity.  But divide and conquer as a political strategy works.  You don’t need to please everyone, just enough people to get you into power and keep you there.  A number of techniques are increasingly deployed to exaggerate this division, and the more it is carried out, the more it divides us, and undermines the inherent values in our society.  We must resist.  We need to rebuild the trust between each other.  Rebuild the common bond that ultimately we are pretty much all decent people with more in common than not.  That we will have differences of opinion, whether on policies or on sports team, and that is a good, not a bad thing.  Because different opinions actually makes for better decisions (this will be discussed more in the book chapter 7), and better outcomes.

So how to rebuild this community?  Well what I propose is very simple.  I am going to start wearing a badge.  Here’s the design.  The Parthenon represents democracy, and green represents the colour of the House of Representatives.

And I’m hoping that others will start to wear the badge too.  And if I see someone else wearing the badge, I’ll know that they are a friendly person with something in common with me, and even though they may be a perfect stranger, I’m going to say hello, and perhaps have a chat.  And as anyone will know when they’ve passed a stranger, and said good morning, the world suddenly seems friendlier, safer and a much more pleasant place to be.  A community.

At some point people not wearing the badge will cotton on that wearing the badge seem a friendly bunch, and may want to know more.  And the conversation starts from there. Hopefully it may break a few stereotypes and opinions too. Its hard to hate someone if you know you have something in common.

And if you are feeling particularly anti-social or hungover, you don’t have to wear the badge!  This isn’t a a cult thing! No-body is forcing you to do something that you don’t want to do.  It is purely voluntary.

Remember that politicians do not want you to feel powerful.  They want to keep you divided and feeling insecure.  They want you to feel that they are looking after your best interests, whilst at the same time working out how to look after their own.

If you have ever been in a crowd, whether a demonstration, or a sports event, you can feel the power of that common interest.  We need to find a way to create that same shared power to ensure our voice is better heard.  To ensure that our country can be run as we want it to.

I want to be part of that community.


About Steve Laing

Political observer, free thinker and problem solver, Steve contends that the current democratic processes have neither kept up to date with globalisation nor modern business practices, resulting in increasing dissatisfaction with modern politics. However, new technology could be used to not only reconfigure our system, but give the electorate even greater representation than was previously the case. For more background information on Steve, please check his LinkedIn profile.

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