In reality, I find it difficult to speak so assertively in discussing such matters with people with different political values. I tend to fake it when people who espouse political values different to mine harangue me –a tendency more obvious to me at the moment with elections only two weeks away. I don’t fake it in the sense of actively agreeing with everything said; but my body language is equivocal – I could be agreeing, but I could be disagreeing, at least I hope so. Like a skilled television journalist, I could probably be observed using a lot of ‘nodding’ and ‘mmm’s….’
One answer to my difficulty probably lies in ‘child and adolescent development’ theory. I had few if any reference points or role models for undertaking constructive political dialogues with dissimilar others during my childhood. The adults in the households which influenced me most in childhood and adolescence never spoke to me, or with others I observed them interacting with, in a particularly active, politically laden way. They appeared to read no serious newspapers on political matters, had no books on the bookshelves with political biographies. Only books about the war at least touched on political issues.
Perhaps there were politically loaded conversations I didn’t tune in to –I certainly can’t remember any. I couldn’t tell you how my maternal grandparents voted; remember only a vague, ‘hushed’ reference to the fact that my deceased paternal grandparents may have voted Labour. I couldn’t tell you how my father (who died when I was 15) voted; and my mother and her sister didn’t speak about their political beliefs. My uncle in Molyullah, a farmer who typically voted Country Party, was probably the only relative who spoke much about politics and this was during my adult life.
Perhaps it’s because my family and extended family and friends paid great heed to, and I became enculturated in, the ‘art of polite conversation’, avoiding reference to ‘Sex, politics and religion’. Shame and guilt still remain when I venture into such values fraught territory!
Perhaps political discussion had waned and there was benign acceptance of the values and policies of the status quo during the long reign of the Menzies Government during my childhood and early adolescence, or at least in my parent’s circle of family and friends.
Emerging from the Menzies era, as a student, I ‘sat in’ at the Monash University Library during funding cuts and a few years later became an active teacher unionist keen to improve the appalling teaching conditions of my first year of teaching. I began to suspect I wasn’t perhaps conforming to family values!
Another answer probably lies in my enculturation as a teacher. Just as doctors are taught and expected to maintain confidentiality, teachers are taught to present ideas from all sides of the spectrum. My studies in politics and economics have, I believe, given me an understanding of differing ideologies and their strengths and weaknesses as they pertain to economics. As an economics teacher, and in conversation, this has enabled me to retain a degree of neutrality in presenting these ideas, to understand the differences that beliefs about ‘trickling down’ vs the need for areas of market intervention mean in terms of people’s positions on policy matters; to not eschew particular ideologies in class and to always present a range of ideological economic positions for my students to consider.
So, given that it’s election time, if I do have political ideas which are different from yours I probably won’t let you know it—both because I never gained confidence and skills in doing so under pressure; also because I’ve virtually been trained not to.
If you assertively harangue me about political ideas which are dissimilar to mine, be aware that I’m enculturated, very skilled in, and very likely to be ‘faking it’ in terms of any perception you may have about my agreeing with you in any depth at all!
I guess what is frustrating is, just like the people in my dream, you are also likely to be enculturated and skilled in faking it about your values and beliefs and have also mastered the art of polite conversation, when I finally get up the courage to talk to you about mine!
20 June 2016