Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Opposition is the first option

This post has been floating in my head a while now.
A few weeks ago, the Australian Federal Government Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee published its report into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2009. To put this into perspective for overseas visitors to my blog, Australia has the dubious 'honour' of being one of the few (the only?) developed countries who have constitutionally defined marriage as being between a man and a woman, so the commission's recommendations - that the government review relationship arrangements so that impediments to recognition of same-sex couples are removed, but that a bill allowing same-sex marriages be knocked back - is no huge surprise.
Go a few pages into the report and the submission figures are startling. 11,000 submissions from individuals and organisations for same-sex marraige. Opposition to same-sex marriage, however, numbered 17,000 - about 1 1/2 times to the affirmative submissions. Ever since I read that section, I've been haunted by these figures.

Let me start by stating that I have not read the report in full. This post is not about the contents of the report. It is about how opposition is the easiest option - but it comes at too great a cost.

Opposition is something that has been dominating the political landscape recently, particularly here in Sydney. On a global level, opposition to the concept of anthropogenic climate change has led to scientific espionage and the creation of a series of scandals in the lead-up to climate change talks in Copenhagen. In the last month, opposition to an Emission Trading Scheme within the federal Liberal party has cost the scalp of the (moderate) Opposition leader, to be replaced with a more combative, oppositional leader. In Sydney, the premier of New South Wales found himself replaced following his attempts to defang a group of power-brokers within his own party.
Don't get me wrong: fighting for something is often necessary. When all you do is fight against other things, though, it's easy to forget the overall plan and drag others down with you in the process.

Let's bring this down to more personal level. The work I do as a producer involves a lot of risk analysis. My job is to anticipate potential roadblocks and issues, and develop strategies to mitigate them so that the projects I'm working on come to fruition. A lot of the time, I end up sounding like a Cassandra, warning people that if this doesn't happen, the world will come crashing down.
Doing this work comes at a cost. It's very easy to get bogged down in the negative all the time. It's mentally and emotionally exhaustive; there are many times I get home too tired to move.
To get out of it, I find myself often having to focus on the future, looking to better outcomes and staying my eye on positive scenarios. My out-of-work life can sometimes consist of only focusing on the good - looking for the best in everything as it is far too easy to stumble on the negative. This aspect is gratifying; I get to really appreciate the best in everything, to celebrate the wins. Especially others' wins - that can be really inspiring.

The price you pay for focusing on the negative is great. A friendly disposition can draw people in, but a sour outlook tends to push people away.
I make no preference that I always succeed at being positive. I can come across as intensely introspective. My perceived lack of quality personal time tends to leave me without the necessary reserve of genuine interest in others' lives. I would definitely love to be there more often for my friends and lovers (well, when lovers come along).
Worse than that, spending time with negative people becomes a game of diplomacy. I've noticed, for example, that often those people I know who are going through a difficult period and especially for those who constantly focus on their difficulties, there is this habit of knocking down the positives in others' lives. Spending time with them becomes a battle - when their attention turns to you, everything positive you strive for is criticised, all the good things you talk about are deconstructed to illustrate fault or depicted as personal losses.
It becomes a chore to be around these people. Even when they find something positive, you find yourself biting your tongue lest they turn on you for "not doing enough" or your "inability" to achieve as much as they do. You start to wonder why you would want to spend time with them. After a while, rather than wanting to help them, you start to feel sad or exhausted at the very thought of this negative force in your life.

So it is with these opposition forces at large. Spending too much time dealing with groups who would do anything to maintain a status quo that is too selfish, or "works" at the expense of others' misfortune ultimately comes at your own peril - and their own.
Striving for constructive solutions (such as creating a healthier, cooler world, or elevating a group of people from second-class status) is infinitely preferable to holding onto obstructive ones, even though it may be easier to oppose things in the meantime.