Thursday, 14 February 2013

Action, Acting and Authenticity.

“A record of Action” “Action Days”, “Activists”  Politics, to me, is all about the action. This appeals very much to the part of me that wants to get things done, and improve things for everyone… I like creating new plans, projects and do this almost to a fault – I’ve noticed in the past I have to hold myself back from “something must be done, this is something, therefore it must be done”.  This is why I think thoughtful conservatives deserve a place in British politics, even though I self-define as on the progressive side – sometimes you need people to hold back the reforming zeal of people like me.

But, as discussed in earlier posts, I think to a certain degree we all have to act a little, to get onto the next doorstep. Through canvassing and “action” last week, I received the small thrill as the door opens and someone you've never met before appears. They could be anyone, in whatever mood, made up to the nines, or in a dressing gown – and sometimes both!

At this point, you need to have a little chutzpah plus a little seduction if you will – to hold their attention for a few moments to engage in conversation and get across what you have to say. I believe activists are a great part of politics, connecting the electorate to the politicians as not many other methods do in close proximity. For we Lib Dems are notoriously fond of leaflets – but they are one way communication. The mainstream media can be two-way, especially with comments threads and Twitter**, but suffers the problem of being directed by editors and outside interests who wish to manipulate both public opinion and the outcome of politics within the UK. To really get across our message, we need to act a little to gain attention, but then share who we are, be authentic.

So, back to me on the doorstep. In my example, it would be useless to open with my exact feelings - “Hi! I was a bit nervous about you opening the door!” because it wouldn't be appropriate and the other person would be weirded out by this approach. So one acts a little. This makes me think of all the actors who've done well in politics: Ronald Reagan, Glenda Jackson, the Redgrave family, Tony Blair. However, at some point you should get real. Others do as well apparently, I’m very intrigued this week by Douglas Carswell and what he has to say about the vapidness of modern politics. I guess I know what he means.

Tony Blair, consummate actor, was very good at being sincere. But was he authentic? It’s a subtle difference*. Sincerity is about saying what you feel – authenticity is being who you are.  I’m trying to be authentic, I’m trying to be as integrated a person as I can, acting from values through communication to, you've got it, action. I'm also looking for truth.

So, with my Tony Blair example, I believe he was sincere about his reasons for going to war in Iraq - but as the dodgy dossier proved, he wasn't looking for truth. 

I think about what I’m about to do, and relate it back to what I believe in : liberalism, progressive politics, improving things, and why I think the Lib Dems are the best party to do it. Then, if what I'm about to do is in line with those values, I do it.  If I didn't, or I didn't do things in line with my values, I wouldn't be authentic.

So, next Action Day, or when I refer to myself as an activist, I think it might help to at least check how authentic I’m being. I hope you do too.

*For further reading on this, I recommend  Affluenza by Oliver James
**I'm giving up Twitter for Lent. This is proving difficult so far. 

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