A long time ago I was at a seminar by an upbeat American whose particular brand of snake oil was about how to get what you wanted in life. His specific pitch was creative visualisation.
Waved along by an expensive Italian suit he had people tell him exactly what they wanted in life. It was not enough to want a house with a picket fence. The deal, he said, is to know exactly where the house is, which suburb, street, and all the details right down to the shade of white paint and the distance between the rails on the fence out front.
Most of the people he asked to describe such detail did not have a clue. They had only a vague notion of what they wanted out of life.
Of course this worked like a charm for the charmer. “It’s all about visualisation you see.” He said, once again waving his arms. “If you can’t describe exactly the items you want you will never be able to get them.”
No surprise this has become a popular concept and not just because we are besotted with goods and chattels. Knowing what we want does motivate and guide our actions. Back in the day it got us out from the relative safety of the thicket onto the open plains where there was more risk but also success to be had, perhaps even a tasty warthog.
Today’s versions of warthog might be a new flat screen or the European coupe with the cute front grill and alloys, but the visualisation of things remains a strong motivator.
What do we want politically?
Wanting for things is easy but there is no reason it should not stretch to wanting a certain type of society with specific combinations of rights, freedoms, economic leanings and relationship to the past.
My hunch is that we don’t think of politics this way and have just as much trouble visualising what we want for society as imagining the most desirable garden border.
Clearly it is hard to see the radical-left or far right or Third Way as a tactile thing and so it is easy not to visualise our political stance at all. We don’t discover the detail of what our innate political leaning looks like in the smartphone world.
This is not about how you vote — the choice you must make among your countries versions of major party left or right or centre or even wether to pitch up to the voting booth. This is about what your leanings actually look like. How far apart are the rails on your radical-centre fence?
First you need to know how to place your innate political leanings. Where on the confusing spectrum of ideologies will you feel most comfortable?
Grab your smartphone and ask Google or Siri to search ‘political ideologies’ and click on the Wikipedia entry to see a very long list of the options. More simply you can follow these links to the main flavours
Remember this is not about whether Wikipedia gets the ideological description correct, leave that never-ending argument to the political philosophers. Just pick the description that resonates.
In a jiffy you will have a description of the philosophies that align with feelings that always made you a staunch republican or so excited by Bernie Saunders vision of progression.
You will get to know what you feel about the tricky balance between personal and social responsibility — how much the government should interfere.
You’ll find yourself thinking about just how much capital should be allowed to flow and businesses encouraged with or without a social safety net. And, as former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd was want to say, just how much of ‘a fair shake of the sauce bottle’ people should get.
You might even make sense of the Brexit decision and the new US president-elect although these events might be a stretch.
What you will find is that visualisation is hard.
Even if you land firmly in an established ideology that describes a political system with strong personal responsibility and a social safety net built on a free market economy [left-centre in case you were wondering]. What does that look like for policy on terror, boat people, exploitation of coal seam gas, or tax bracket creep?
So just like most of the people who had no idea that there were even shades of white in a picket fence, political visualisation is not for the lazy minded. It takes effort.
Only it is time to start making those mental images.
What do you want citizenship laws to look like? Should farmland be dotted with gas wells or modest pay rises tipping you across into the next tax bracket?
It is a very good time to do this because the shake up is upon us. The sauce bottles are out.
Just ask Donald.