Like those who voted for Brexit, we once again see the disenfranchised, marginalised and overlooked – the ‘silent majority,’ mobilise and vocalise to rock the foundations of the privileged, complacent and blind.
Already I hear, and am tempted to agree with the simplistic notion that ignorance and stupidity has led to Trump’s victory. But it’s much more than that – it is a consequence of division, exclusion, prejudice, stereotyping and bias that renders people who are different from those in positions of power and leadership – a very narrow demographic slice of the population – as inferior.
Humans can assess members of in-groups (us) and out-groups (them) in a nano second. We are primed to categorise, label, stereotype. Our heightened awareness of anyone who is different, used to, (and still can do) keep us safe from harm – (from being invaded, attacked, killed…) Our ancestor tribes relied on this priming to survive. Now it’s a cause of conflict, vilification, marginalisation. And as the rhetoric, behaviour and decisions of leaders becomes more divisive, it taps into our innate priming and causes fear, suspicion and prejudice.
And it affects us all: women, men, Indigenous, Muslim, Asian, gay, transgender, no gender, anyone from a different cultural, religious, socio-demographic or ethnic background who is less articulate, educated or confident in navigating the political or organisational bio-sphere.
Anyone who is different, ‘them’, to the ruling minority, ‘us’ can be rendered invisible, voiceless and clueless by those who think they’re acting in the best interests of those they govern.
When people don’t feel heard for long enough they revolt. They cause chaos, they gather together and find ways to claim power. History proves this is the case. The Brexit shock, the rise of Hanson, and now the results of the US election confirm that.
As the world becomes scarier and less tolerant, the automatic priming in our brains becomes more acute – fear informs our judgements of people and we are more likely to dismiss and devalue them and their needs, interests and aspirations.
We can learn and train our brains to regulate, ameliorate this automatic, reflexive response – the response we’re now used to calling ‘unconscious bias,’ but it requires mindful, intentional and purposeful attention. It requires awareness, understanding and accepting that there is value in difference, diversity and inclusion and the evidence would suggest we’re a long way from this.
We are one of the most multi-racial, diverse countries in the world. We talk about diversity and inclusion but it’s never got much further than rhetoric. Our government, business and public sector leaders are still, mostly, a bunch of well meaning, white, homogenous blokes – people who ‘fit in’ with ‘how we do things around here.’ They have responsibility for making decisions, writing policies and delivering services for a multi-cultural, diverse population with divergent needs, interests and aspirations. I think we should all feel concerned.
The US results are in my view the predictable result of a divisive, divided and intolerant society, and is a call to action for us here in Australia.
There has never been a more important time for us to recognise and galvanise to cultivate a cohesive and inclusive society. Now is the time to create a better Australia.