“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you … then you win” – Mahatma Gandhi
Goldie Mabovitch was just eight years old when her family emigrated to the United States from Ukraine. Her father emigrated first and found work in a Milwaukee rail yard. A year later, his family joined him. A bright child, by the age of ten Goldie was working part-time in a grocery store while attending the local primary school. Immigrant families did it tough in those days. Immigrant families do it tough in these days.
But Goldie ignored the immigrant jokes and slurs and persevered. She studied hard, became active in her community, fought for the underprivileged, and got involved. At first they ignored her, then they ridiculed her, … well, you know the rest.
And then the First World War broke out, making life even harder for the Mabovitch family. But Goldie pressed on believing she was destined for bigger things.
Which she was. She got married and the couple moved to Israel. She changed her name and got involved in politics. She was of course, Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel.
The leader of India’s independence movement Mahatma Gandhi’s famous words, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you … then you win” are as relevant today as they were when they were first spoken over 80 years ago.
The Bible says, ‘Do not despise these small beginnings’ (Zech 4:10).
My first foray into politics was somewhat of a mixed bag. But as the old Russian proverb goes, “Perviy Blin Komon – the first pancake is always lumpy.” You’re not always going to get it right the first time. As we know, we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes. Trials do serve their purpose. It’s the same with minor party candidates and independents. As time passes the calibre of those on the crossbench – ie, those who are neither government nor opposition – improves. Importantly, the people continue to have faith in independents and minor parties – as both an alternative to, and a protest against, the major parties.
One often hears people harking back to the good old days under John Howard. But 2022 is not 2002. You can’t pour new wine into old wine skins. The country is developing new wine skins.
The internet is driving the biggest change to society since the industrial revolution drew people from the land to the city. Institutions in business, politics, education, media and entertainment are being marginalised, sidelined and even eliminated. As TV transformed the world by allowing us to see what was happening in the world, the internet has completed the transformation by allowing us to connect with the rest of the world.
It’s called disruption. Disruptive sharing technology like Airbnb and Uber have disrupted the hotel and taxi industries. Spotify has disrupted the music industry. Netflix the film industry.
Politicians and their advisers don’t know what to do about all this disruption. The pace of change is outstripping their ability to manage or regulate it. They simply do not have the skills or experience to make the decisions necessary in today’s world. The truth is, they don’t know what they don’t know.
I was only in parliament five minutes (two and a half years to be precise) but as the old Polish proverb goes, “The guest sees in five minutes what the host doesn’t see in a lifetime”. I saw it all firsthand – up close and personal!
Over the past few decades, major political parties around the world have become top-down production-line party machines – or rather, ‘factories’ – churning out party apparatchiks and career staffers who become Members of Parliament.
Many of them have never had a proper job. They go to university, get a job working for a politician or a union and then become politicians themselves. They know how politics works but they don’t know how the world works. They suffer from what’s called the ‘Dunning-Kruger effect’, a cognitive bias where people with limited general knowledge or competence greatly overestimate their own ability. The results are there for all to see.
But voters aren’t stupid. They know when they’re being patronised or taken for a ride, and they are responding by voting for someone else.
And that someone else is us.