2019 was a weird year. Bushfires and heat waves in November.
Lots of stuff happened and so we list here three moments that we thought were inspiring, strange and surprising.
We start with the best.
If you are over thirty then you’ve entered the nether world of J. Alfred Prufrock, where the act of eating a peach is daring beyond belief.
If you are young, however, you are roiled with a passion and a courage and a determination to change the world.
The loud demands therefore of young people demanding action on climate change were inspiring.
Who would have thought that young people would have a longer, more steady view than the old?
We now turn to the strange, which is the reaction of old, privileged white men to these movement of protest. The consensus here seems to be that young people should not think, hear, see or act. Those who dared would suffer a stoning in public. Those who dared not were thereby warned.
In Australia, for example, Mr Andrew Bolt, a writer for the Murdoch Press, said that no teenager was more freakishly influential than Ms Greta Thunberg, ‘the deeply disturbed messiah of the global warming movement…I have never seen a girl so young and with so many mental disorders treated by so many adults as a guru.’
Mr Sam Newman, a commentator and ex-footballer, made it perfectly clear that young people were not to be tolerated. Ms Thunberg in particular caused Mr Newman to raise his voice on Twitter, ‘This annoying little brat addressed the UN on the so-called climate crisis. WHO lets this shit have a platform? Mendacious, inbred sycophants, that who.’
And the popular and outspoken radio commentator, Mr Alan Jones, honed in not just on Ms Thunberg, but on the real reality that a warming climate was the fault of primary and secondary school students. Quoting words that first appeared on social media, Mr Jones spoke with a machine-gun eloquence:
To all the school kids going on strike for climate change, you’re the first generation who have required air conditioning in every room. You want TV in every room and your classes are all computerised. You spend all day and night on electronic devices …
You’re the biggest consumer of manufactured goods ever, and update perfectly good expensive luxury items to stay trendy. Your entertainment comes from electric devices. Furthermore, the people driving your protests are the same people who insist on artificially inflating the population growth through immigration which increases the need for energy, manufacturing and transport.
The more people we have, the more forest and bushland we clear, the more of the environment that’s destroyed.
How about this? Tell your teacher to turn off the air-con, walk or ride to school, switch off your devices and read a book, make a sandwich instead of buying manufactured fast food.
But none of this will happen because…you’re selfish, badly educated, virtue-signalling little turds inspired by the adults around you who crave a feeling of having a noble cause while they indulge themselves in western luxury and unprecedented quality of life…wake up, grow up, and shut up until you’re sure of the facts before protesting.
President Vladimir Putin of the Federation of Russia, by way of contrast, struck a note that was more in sorrow than anger. A dictator, caring and gentle—a lover of children certainly, perhaps even dogs—he nevertheless had clear views:
I’m sure that Greta is a kind and very sincere girl. But adults must do everything not to bring teenagers and children into some extreme situations…No one has explained to Greta that the modern world is complex and different and…people in Africa or in many Asian countries want to live at the same wealth level as in Sweden.
Finally, in 2019, the strange moment came when the federal election was won and lost. According to published opinion polls, the Labor Party was assured of victory. The formality of an election, a resounding victory to Mr Shorten, a triumphal procession into the prime ministerial office. Voting it seemed was not really necessary.
And yet …
Even with hindsight, it is hard to understand what exactly went wrong for Labor. Certainly, Mr Morrison was focused, ruthless and negative.
But that is to congratulate Mr Morrison for being a political professional, for doing his job.
The surprise then is not that Mr Morrison was professional but that Labor was not. Setting aside the strategic problem Labor faced of having to explain a complex program of change—one that lent itself to a scare campaign—, the problem for Labor was one of information. The quality of information it collected; the way in which information was synthesised and then acted upon.
Let’s assume that Labor’s internal polling was accurate. And let’s assume that intelligence gathered on the ground, in individual areas and regions, was being passed to the campaign team.
The challenge then was to evaluate data and act on important insights. Few of us know what happened inside the campaign team of Labor, but it seems likely that channels of communication weren’t clear. That insights weren’t transformed into action. For example, much is made of the fact that Queensland votes differently. The political challenge was to respond and the question here is what preparatory thinking was done.
Under pressure, we default to what we wishfully think rather than act on what we reasonably know. Under pressure, we all default to our biases and a real risk in a professional environment is confirmation bias: the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirming our existing beliefs or theories.
If Labor showed itself to be flat footed and ham fisted, then this was because it was. Like royalty in France, they’d shown that they were politically ill-prepared for a changing world.
The lessons for us as professionals are therefore twofold:
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