Persuading Bob – an idea for my fellow progressives…

It’s very easy for me to say this, what with being a heterosexual cis woman, but watching Bob Katter last night on Q & A really concreted my feelings about marriage equality and how we should be persuading people that it’s the right thing to do.

I can’t say for certain that what I’m about to say will be popular, and there will undoubtedly be those who say I’m attacking the cause. I’m not. The sooner we can all marry the human being we choose (well, we have to draw a line somewhere), the better.

There have been plenty of people willing to call out Katter as a homophobic, sexist, racist ranter and raver in a hat. Watching him last night, I saw something completely different. I saw a man with passion for every Australians rights, a true love for his country who has trouble supporting things he doesn’t understand. His speaking out against the Intervention was inspiring, and I must admit, not what I was expecting. His policy on giving title deeds to land held under native title is one that really knocked the air out of me – a fantastic idea, if he can pull it off, but again, one that totally caught me off my guard.

But it was that passion for the equal rights of the First Australians that really made me come to think that perhaps there’s more to this mad Akubra wearing fellow from Queensland than any of us are comfortable admitting.

His apparent rejection of climate change (it was at that point that my live streaming started cutting in and out, so I missed most of that exchange) seems to come down to a lack of understanding. And why would you want to, when everyone surrounding the issue continues to consider those who don’t support it to be absolute knuckleheads?

There is a massively patronising stance that so many of us with ‘progressive’ political stances take, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. The fact of the matter is that people have gone through thought processes to get to their conclusions. We have to acknowledge and accept that, rather than battering them with “OMG! YOU ARE SO TOTALLY WRONG! WHY CANT YOU SEE WHY YOU’RE SO WRONG?!”

Really, we need to start using our empathy skills to persuade. You can’t fix something if you don’t know why it’s not working in the first place. And to tell people that they’re idiots for not believing what we believe in, even if it does have a basis in science or economics, gets us nowhere. Because (here’s the funny bit) PEOPLE DON’T LIKE BEING CALLED IDIOTS. It only makes them hate the people telling them they are, and therefore hate whatever it is they’re trying to persuade them to think.

So here’s an idea. Next time you come across someone, like Katter, who doesn’t agree with what you think, talk it through. Discuss it. Be passionate, but not overly so. Listen to why they have come to their conclusion, and if you can, rebut it after they’ve said their piece. Don’t get frustrated and call them ‘stupid’, or even insinuate that they are. Talk to them on their terms, not your own.

If I could speak to Mr Katter about marriage equality, I would. I’d ask why he thinks it’s not a valid policy option. I’d ask him to think about all the jobs that could be generated across a huge number of industries by the permission of marriage for the entire LGBTI community. (Heck, let’s just say the entire human race, shall we? No need for labels.) I’d tell him about my friends, who are in some of the longest relationships I’ve come across in my short life. I’d ask, “If it was such a big thing, and homosexuality is such a sin, why didn’t Jesus say something about it?” I’d offer to introduce him to people with their own stories of discrimination because of who they’d fallen in love with, just like the First Australians have encountered discrimination for the colour of their skin.

But if he still refused to agree, I’d be okay with that. At least I’d have said my piece, and I’d know I’d have left him with something to think about in relation to the terms of his own party.

He might even teach me a thing or two, because let’s face it, I’m young and passionate and don’t understand the whole world yet, and never will.

Sure, sometimes you can’t change the way people think about the world. But if you try, and that change doesn’t occur, it doesn’t make them a horrible human being. There’s no need for aggression or making fun or being a dick to them.

As my grandmother says, ‘You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.’

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