From my Soapbox -Are you right? Or are you right?

IMG_5005In the 1950s/60s social etiquette decreed that middle class folks did not talk about politics, religion or sex at a dinner party. Mind you it really would not have mattered at all as most in the dinner party milieu of that time had pretty similar values. Sex, well it was a broad brush sniggering at the smutty jokes that were pertinent to the starter of half a grilled grapefruit studded with a cherry.  Religion was dutiful, rather than a spiritual choice and politics, you should be one-step ahead of me here, conservative with a capital C.

I was Conservative through and through. Both my parents were members of the Conservative Party and as a family we attended all of the fund-raising dances and events organised by our local branch.  We knew we were in the right. In WW2 my father commanded the Royal Artillery battalion that protected Winston Churchill who happened to be our local MP.  My father had a ‘man the gunboats’ view of life.   A mind-set that was born out of his war time experiences and his conviction of that in the long run ‘tough-love’ was best for all men whatever their race or creed. I too for many years shared these conservative values believing that it served the best interests of my country.

Now at the age of 75 I’m a Labour party voter, or for my American friends, a Democrat.  Difficult position because I still frequently swan around in the same pond of old conservative friends, so I adhere to the out-dated dinner-party creed when I’m enjoying their company. For me the switch was about my own gradual evolution.  An evolution marked with life’s passage of loss, marriage, children, a continuing spiritual quest and a mid-life crisis of ‘who the fuck am I?’

My Labour ideals are not based on a ‘bleeding heart’ mentality rather what I see as the softer  more important philosophical qualities of compassion.   The American Poet and Prophet Wendell Berry captures my beliefs in this quote  ‘To make a living is not to make a killing it’s to have enough.’

The demonising of politicians is reaching new levels of vitriol and hate as voters on both sides of the debate find we can’t trust our duly elected representatives. Equally politicians are put into the unenviable position of trying to capture our vote and protect their brand by any means including distorting and fabricating the facts. Sorry I mean lying. We as the public, if indeed we do take an interest, read right-wing editorials or left-wing articles and knee jerk respond accordingly.  Like angry spectators on the sidelines we barrack and cat call. Our party shows us the right way and the opposition is in the wrong.

It is patently evident on both sides of politics that not all politicians are clean. But if we were to take a more tolerant look at them and work on the premise that essentially politicians are well-intentioned people who go into parliament with a passion for addressing issues from their electorate or a desire to make sure that our country is managed effectively – then we have a starting point for a deeper understanding of what makes us tick.

Consider this question – whether it would be possible for both sides of politics to come an understanding that neither party is completely right or totally wrong. Imagine if they could walk in each other’s psychological sandshoes for a moment. If that could happen we may have terms for negotiation.

I don’t know about you but I’m tired of this paralysing righteousness that grips our country. No I don’t have the answers of how to fix the deficit, to be equal handed to the millions of refuges who wish so desperately to come to our country, develop impartial tax and welfare policies, to grow the economy or have an inkling of the requirements to grow new industries. That is why we pay our politicians.

Thinking you’re right does not mean you are. The 13th century Sufi mystic Rumi said ‘Somewhere between right and wrong there is a garden – I will meet you there.’

Social media, with its up to the minute is the game-changer. We see almost daily how the dynamics of a revolution has been changed by power of social media. With an avalanche of public opinion these political opponents may seriously consider talking to each other, I mean respectfully, honestly and without a whisper of sledging and who knows what bounty that could bring.

Tell your politicians of choice- there are some very nice gardens around Parliament House – get to it.



Rehearsing a Speech for Success

Winston Churchill 1941
Winston Churchill 1941

Winston Churchill’s war time speeches inspired a nation to overcome what appeared to be insurmountable odds. But few knew that  Churchill suffered from a speech impediment, he had trouble with the letter ‘s’ which he pronounced as ‘sh.’ After consulting the finest specialist of the day he was advised that there was nothing clinically wrong with him and that all that was needed was ‘perseverance and practice.’  Which he did.  It is documented that he spent up to eight hours rehearsing a speech.

When I first started speaking in public I rehearsed endlessly.  It  became a repetitious mind numbing recitation. I thought of it as a necessary exercise to safeguard to myself from the effects of stage fright which froze my brain and tightened my breathing. I determined that if I mastered the rhythm and flow, the pace, the pause, the open stance of body image and practiced putting the oomph into the delivery then no matter what amount of flight or fight adrenalin my system pumped into my body, I too like Winston would over come and let people see the real lectern me.

It took years before I realised that beyond the first few fresh run-throughs my endless rehearsals were simply reinforcing my fears. What were my feelings and thoughts as I rehearsed over and over? My thorough and diligent practice focused on stage fright, being terrified at the lectern and the humiliation of being swamped by nerves.

When you rehearse with an underlying structure of fear that is what you will create at the lectern. You’re telling your subconscious that you expect to forget your words, to have a dry mouth, to shake, to have stomach churns, to increase your heart beat and tighten your breathing.  Grinding  your fears so resolutely into your psyche that you may even emotionally throw the ‘towel in’ halfway through an oration.

Stage fright is a constant for some people, it is for me. It’s a taken. You acknowledge it and allow it to be, knowing that the flight and fright syndrome will always power you. When you don’t fight it – it loses its fearful intensity.

My enlightened rule of thumb for rehearsing was stumbled upon by accident when I was driving to take part in yet another speech contest.  I was sick with nerves.  I stopped the car and  there on the side of the road I decided that if I could not have fun at the lectern then public speaking was not for me.   What is the saying – when you need it the teacher will appear? I remembered vaguely an article on the power of visualisation and the rest is history. Oh and the bonus was I started to win speech contests! Now this is what I teach others about rehearsing a speech –

Always set your intention, before you speak out loud your speech, to visualise yourself at a lectern, you are smiling, the audience is returning that joyful energy twofold, intent on your words, connecting with you at an authentic level. Run through the speech a few times until the words flow organically, replacing any trip-up words or phrases with your language that is comfortable to you.

On the day, just  before you give your speech take a quiet moment – acknowledge your fears tell them its okay, then visualise an image of yourself walking to the platform, you are looking relaxed, you see yourself at the lectern and smile. As you speak you have sense a knowing that you are truly connecting with your audience and they are loving it. Hear the applause, you are having feeling good, receiving the affirmation with delight.

Then go sock it to them.