Sunday, February 09, 2014

The sneers of the savvy don't help

If you didn't notice, Twitter got enthusiastic about a small show of solidarity for SPC Ardmona. In spite of various contradictions, the #SPCSunday hashtag took off.

Punters posted pics - “here's what I bought” or “here's what we made”, others posted recipies.

Beneath, however, there was the sneering undercurrent from those more concerned with “savviness” than enthusiasm. They boiled down to:
  1. I don't like the product anyhow, and Italian tomatoes are better.
  1. You bought the product from Woolworths or Coles, and they're part of the problem.
  1. You do know that SPC Ardmona is part of Coca-Cola Amatil, don't you?*
To the last two, I offer no argument; to the first, I'll just remark that you might want to run “Italy tomato mafia contamination” into your search engine and get back to me later.

The objections boil down to “if you want to change the world, you're doing it wrong”.

Yes: there is a obvious contradiction involved in going to Woolworths or Coles, buying a product from a Coca-Cola subsidiary, posting the results on a US-owned social media platform – all in a gesture of solidarity for farmers and workers in the Goulburn Valley.

I'd even bet that a fair number of people who ran with the #SPCSunday hashtag are actually smart enough to perceive the irony.

But ahh, the savvy: a habit of thought that transcends notions of right-or-left, because it's about the dull, grey, humourless gaze-down-the-nose at the folly of the masses. It's how I imagine a Catalan knight may once have looked at peasants having fun.

It's just another condescension, “shut up and leave the adults to talk.”

I address myself now to the savvy of the left: just how well did your strategy work in, oh, the 2013 Federal election? “Miserable failure” is how I'd describe it.

There is a fairly general agreement that “voter disengagement” is worth worrying about.

But it's not “voter disengagement” that's the problem – not directly. It's people disengagement. Get people interested, excited, and by the way having fun, and I'd guess it's a damn sight easier to bring their votes along with them.

What happens when the savvy see people engaged, interested, excited, and having fun? They put on the po-faced frown of the expert: “you're doing it wrong.”

No, we're not. You are. The savvy is the stealer of the soul of politics, the enemy of engagement, the excluder of the outsider.

During England's catastrophic Ashes series of 2013, the incomparable Kerry O'Keeffe, a fine analyst of the game, looked at the English high-performance coaching and risible dietary requirements, and lumped it under the heading “the one-percenters”.

His argument was that the Australian coach, Darren Lehmann, took a low-performing team and focussed on bowling, batting, and fielding. Only someone at the very top of their game, he said, had the luxury of focussing on extracting an extra one-percent of performance by exotic practises. England coach Andy Flower, he believed, was working on the one-percent of performance when the team was having trouble with the basics.

To the savvy of the left, I say this: your research and focus groups – the one-percenters – are no use to you right now. You need the basics: getting people interested, excited, having fun.

Sneering at an obvious success doesn't mark you down as intelligent, knowledgable or knowing. 

*It's been pointed out to me that CCA is majority locally-owned: how much difference this makes, I will leave to the reader. 


Linda D said...

Thank you! Personally I'd prefer to act than just to sit back and shrug. Linda

Anonymous said...

Chirg's great work but shouldn't you be focussing on the Telco side of things?Rather then fiddling while NBNCo burns?

Lynne Edwards said...

Sneers and condescension certainly don't help to change much or increase understanding. The intention to impress with the superiority of one's point of view as well as cleverness leads to exclusion and limits the possibility of future constructive and respectful dialogue.
K.O'K's point about high performing sports team success and avoiding reliance on 1% 'solutions' sits well with how #SPC action caught on - it was doable, shareable and lots of people seem to have enjoyed showing off their newly rediscovered enthusiasm for peaches and beans.

Unknown said...

Great read, and thanks for the Italy tomato mafia contamination tip. I couldn't believe the number of snarky tweets about this. No, it probably won't have a major impact on the end result for SPCA, but at a time when there's so much awful to be had, I can't help but feel a little buoyed by this harmless attempt at expressing solidarity.

Whit Goughlam said...

Great post Richard.
There are too many 'policy experts' on here.
If they got any more serious they'd spontaneously combust.
They spend their days poo pooing anything they consider beneath them.
They try to impress the Twitterati and don't see how truly needy and sycophantic they look.
I'm heartily sick of it.
I use Twitter to put a point of view.
I choose humour most of the time.
If I want want policy I'll go find it from experts.
The self styled/titled 'policy wonks' need to remember their one vowel change away from what they really are.
Thanks for the post.

The Admin Team said...

I enjoyed the read.

Yesterday alone, there were over 4000 tweets from over 1500 people reaching over 1 million people on average 8 times.

I am looking at this from the perspective of a comparison between protesting with placards outside parliament and getting on the six o'clock news versus something that will send the same message with similar impact however with a longer reaching 'tail'.