Tuesday 29 October 2013

Towards Reflective Campaigning

In my family, one of my parents was a Tory and the other a Socialist; respectively one read The Express and the other The Guardian and later The Independent. I was taught to try to determine a writer’s or programme-maker's agenda and/or bias. My parents did not force me to take sides. Nor did they attempt to pooh-pooh others’ stances. Opinions and beliefs were to be respected. My siblings and I when debating were not expected to raise our voices nor use ad hominem attacks, but rather behave in a rational and reasoned manner. In this kind of background I learned: to listen to arguments and look at any evidence put forward; assess them for myself; and, conclude what I believed.

In a similar vein, it was made quite clear to us by one agnostic and one atheist parent that we were free to choose what religion or none we wished to follow.

I was also a beneficiary of what has been termed progressive education, where we were taught to teach ourselves and which imbued me with an inquisitive (some might say nosey!) mind and a life-long love of learning.

This was liberalism with a lower-case ell.

When I trained as a teacher, we were taught to be reflective: that is self-assess lessons for their good and bad points, so that this could and would feed into improved praxis. For a brief overview see this Wikipedia article Reflective Practice.

Below is one model of reflective practice, from Graham Gibb in 1988. I have chosen to highlight this model because it does include one’s emotions.

The cycle includes the following steps:

"Description   What happened?"; 
"Feelings   What were you thinking and feeling?"; 
"Evaluation   What was good and bad about the experience?"; 
"Analysis   What sense can you make of the situation?"; 
"Analysis   What else could you have done?"; 
"Action plan   If it arose again what would you do?". 

As can be perceived clear, common-sense steps.

Emotions can and often do run high, in families, in the classroom and, getting finally to my point, in the disability movement. Folk, often justifiably, sink their passion into projects and causes. However, this can blinker them to the broader picture let alone alternative routes to attain goals.

In my last blog-post on the Secret Grassroots Disability Summit, I called for more openness, so that supporters and, in the case of organisations, members can be fully apprised and informed. A political system without transparency, openness and information is not democracy. Nor is there any true accountability. The disability movement can of course choose to follow the routes already firmly trodden by political parties, those self-same politicos we are all railing against. Or, we can pursue another way, one that involves and engages disabled and/or chronically sick folk, our carers and supporters.

One invitee to the aforesaid summit described the organisation as needing several Northern Ireland peace processes at once. The kind of petty bickering, vanity, histrionics, selfishness, stubbornness and lack of sympathy, let alone empathy, for others will not help a nascent movement coalesce. All parties have to come to the table with no pre-conditions.

The United Nations could serve as a model. All nations, like family members, do not agree on issues. Sometimes one or two members might throw a strop or sulk, but generally calm down and re-start talking. All members are not forced to agree one line, the UN allows for multiple voices to be heard in the attempt to reach consensus on multifarious issues.

Given the current dire circumstances & milieux in which many disabled and/or chronically sick folk find themselves, individual campaigners, groups and organisations need to be moving towards developing a more reflective and consensual approach to dealing with issues, projects and campaigns.

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