When Labor announced its anti-poker machines position, the Tasmanian election became defined by only one issue: Power.
Labor shone a torch on the issue of who holds the power in this State and like blue carnivorous moths they came. The interstate pokie barons swarmed in, flooded their cash into our little electoral market and bought a political party.
And now we can see who holds the power.
No one is surprised of course. This is exactly what happens when you threaten the order of things.
I was once taught a very simple distinction between conservatives and progressives.
Imagine those wooden alphabet blocks we had as kids. When they're stacked up high in a tower, well that's the conservatives' version of power, with themselves perched on top clutching the spoils to their chest.
When the blocks are laid out flat along a wall that's the progressives' version of power, handing out the spoils in small brown-paper parcels of equal measure.
It ebbs and flows with every election. The conservatives rebuild the tower and restore themselves to the penthouse suite. The progressives tear down the tower and hand the bricks around.
That's the theory anyway.
The election campaign has shown us a pretty clear picture of Tasmania right now. At the top of the tower are a few wealthy people, jostling for room on the tiny precipice terrified they'll be found out and it will all come tumbling down.
At the bottom of the tower are the rest of us. The great acid-washed. Standing in neat rows keeping the order because we're not quite angry enough and we wouldn't know how to organise ourselves even if we were.
Wedged into the corners in the darkness are the quietest of all, the neglected daughter who knows no parent apart from the State, and the son of a fourth generation who knows nothing of what it is to hold a job.
Labor's proclamation about the machines that take money from the poorest and gift it to the richest has begun a conversation that we need to have, about who should hold the power in our democracy.
And regardless of the outcome of the election on Saturday the tower is shaky. The worn old floorboards are creaking underfoot as we feel the power balance slowly shifting.
It ‘s up to us to decide what change we go along with and what we resist.
A few years ago the leaders at my kids’ primary school got excited about their new facebook page and were racing round snapping pics of our cherubs for online.
My husband and I stood up, ‘Hang on a minute! What about our kids’ digital identity, don’t they get a say?’ At that time there were no images of our children online. We believed it was up to them when they’re older to decide how they want to appear to the world.
Turns out this wasn’t a common view. The principal hadn’t expected any parents to say no. Why wouldn’t proud parents want toothless smiles of their darlings beaming out across social media?
When I went to the front office to make a note on our permission form I made our case again. The front office lady looked at me with weary resignation and sighed, ‘Well I guess it’s just the way the world is.’
Is it? Did she see something in her front-office-lady wisdom that I hadn’t seen? Had that horse bolted and was resistance therefore futile?
It seems for most things humans are boiling frogs. We adjust our body temperature as the water in the pot gets hotter. When change is incremental we barely even notice. Then when the time comes to jump out of the pot we’ve lost the strength to do so. The point at which we realise we’ve handed over all our data we’ve lost the ability to get it back.
Despite what the front office lady says there isn’t some predetermined path we’re all on. It’s not our destiny to shed our flesh and our fallibility and morph into an unthinking mechanized version of ourselves.
It ‘s up to us to decide what change we go along with and what we resist. We build the system from the inside in every decision we make. And that’s the point - to make a decision. To ask questions - of ourselves, our relationships, at work, in our organisations and in our society. To pay attention to what’s changing, what we’re gaining and what’s being lost.
As the pace of change gets faster it’s incumbent upon us to live deliberately. And to know when to jump out of the pot.
After a crazy year of the impossible becoming real and exposing a great divide, it's time to climb out of our bubble and shake hands with the neighbour.
Google and facebook haven't helped. In fact they made it worse, crafting our online world into a mirror so our finger taps can be turned into profits. We're trapped spinning around in the echo chamber of our own voices, in the place where we confirm what we already know. Where we feel safe in the knowledge that everyone else agrees with us.
That is until Brexit happens. Until Trump happens. And we're shocked that half the world doesn't think like we do.
That’s when we woke up. And we realised that somewhere along the path to our Guardian-reading, organic-cotton-shopping, quinoa-salad-recipe-hunting prosperity we stopped hearing certain voices.
And those voices are louder now, and they're angry. They’ve been sitting on the curb watching the capitalism caboose haul away their jobs to the cheapest labour source. They've seen robots take over their industries and faceless governments turn their lives into data. They've watched their power disappear into the crowds of the mosaic-skinned people, with diversity, equality and rapid change stomping on their traditional values.
So thanks for the warning 2016. Thanks for shining the light on the stuff that's not working, we nearly forgot that we are the 99% and we’re on this trip together.
Bring on 2017, the year where we pull up the ladder and climb out of the great big bubble we're stuck in. It’s the year where we take one step towards the divide, seek out people who aren't like us and ask, what’s it like to be you? It's the year we have genuine dialogue with each other so we can start building a new economy and a new democracy - one that works for all of us.
I’ve always wondered did John Glover in the 1830s deliberately paint bendy trees or was that how he actually saw them? Were our jaggedy elbowed eucalypts so foreign to the eyes of the new settling English painter that he just couldn’t see them as they were?
Very young children see the world as colour and shapes and light and shade. In the rush to teach we hand over to them the words for the things they see, with the value-laden descriptions (sun good, rain bad, white good, black bad). Over time as they scamper through life they gather more labels for what and who they see. The labels become the stories they tell themselves. Their judgments, assumptions and prejudices settle in their heads like barnacles on a biography (asylum seekers terrorists, jobless people lazy, politicians liars).
It’s these labels and habits and stories that can stop us seeing as a child would, with fresh eyes.
If we are to innovate, to be an innovation nation, we don’t start by building hi-tech hubs. We start by looking inside ourselves. When we open ourselves up to new ways of seeing we don’t just get occasional innovative businesses, we create an innovation culture.
Try it. Give yourself some moments of stillness. Notice the noise in your head, the habits of thought, the patterns, the stories you tell yourself - the many ways in which you are stuck. Then let them go like blowing through a dandelion. It takes practice, perhaps even a lifetime of unlearning. But the benefits are worth it when we see the world as new, like a child does, or a painter.
How familiar is this - you're in conversation with someone, they're telling you a story, in your head you're going I've got a better story than that. They take a mistimed breath and you seize the silence, jumping in with your own blistering anecdote. What's wrong with that? Humans thrive on story, have done since the cave folk were grunting at drawings in the dirt. It's ok to exchange stories as a way of connecting, sure. Except it's not. Well not if you want to change anything. That takes a different type of conversation, one with listening in it. Real listening.
The Seoul Government thinks listening is so important they built this ear outside their city hall. Anyone can drop in and tell them what they think, right into a giant red and white ear. Koreans are pretty clever so they've probably worked out that a government that listens to its people can really be quite powerful and perhaps even keep winning elections.
You see here's the thing, if you want to have influence, if you want to shape the thinking of a decision-maker, you have to know where they're coming from. You won't find that out while your ego is clambering around in your head and you're barking your opinions at them. They're never going to love your idea as much as you do so you have to find other ways to persuade them.
Start by paying attention to what they're into - do they like a good personal story or do they like hard data? If it's me, I zone out when people talk numbers of any kind, I zone back in when they talk ideas. What motivates them? What are their values? If you can't work this out by observing you can always ask. And listen to their answer.