‘Creating Positive Role Models in a World of Identity Politics’
We live in a World of identity politics where the loudest, most divisive voices, on the extremes of the political spectrum are the most influential. Apathy is also rife, because people shut off to a conversation led by personalities with which they cannot identify. So, how do we create positive role models to lead alternative narratives? I ‘ve spent the last 3 years, as a political activist, constructing an identity: “the EUsupergirl” to lead the fight not just against Brexit in the UK, but against populism across Europe. My aim is to speak for those who support me, and to reach out to others, to communicate our beliefs and values; Ultimately to challenge the identities who currently dominate the contemporary political landscape. Nigel Farage; Boris Johnson; Donald Trump; Vladamir Putin; Kim Jong-Un; Politicians who are better known for their personality gimmicks, image and provocative quotes than the politics they stand for.
I will quote, Douglas Adams: “Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”
It’s very hard to make yourself heard in a World where everybody is shouting and very few people are actually listening to what anyone else has to say. A successful activist – is somebody who leads change – they speak out for what they believe in and they are able to make themselves heard above the unruly din. They do this by saying something new, saying something different, saying something meaningful and by saying it in an innovative and memorable way. But they are also successful because they listen; to the facts and evidence, to people’s passions and concerns, and to their opponents, so that they better understand the fight ahead and the challenges that their community faces. A successful activist’s message resonates with their supporters emotionally and personally, and sends shockwaves outside of their echo chamber.
So how do you make yourself heard and lead a campaign for your cause. Nowadays social media is crucial for building a community of support around your beliefa and for challenging those who disagree with you. But it’s also necessary to tap into the mainstream media, to amplify your message to a wider audience and expand your campaign. This can be especially hard, because the media oftentimes seem to be less interested in communicating the truth and rational argument, and more concerned with providing sensational storylines around those loud, divisive but easily recognisable personality politicians – why do they do this? Because it sells more copies, it’s more shareable.
In the UK the media has hugely let us down, with Brexit, we have a bizarre ‘post-truth’ predicament – where “the Facts” no longer seem to be relevant nor deemed necessary to substantiate political belief. This is why the Remain campaign failed during the EU referendum. There were no emotional arguments, no sense of pride in our European identity, no positive figure head to lead the campaign; instead, untrustworthy politicians bombarded us with facts, and meaningless statistics. TheBritish people did not vote to leave the EU because the Brexiter’s arguments were backed up by facts from credible sources – but because they believed in the illusion they were sold by compelling personalities. This greatest gift of the conman, is hisability to charm.
When the opposition manipulate the public through propaganda tactics, we must play them at their own game, and create our own identities, to communicate our message. Call it ‘Propaganda in Service of the Truth’. My focus as ‘EU supergirl’ has been on narrativizing my activism through strong visual imagery, and emotional content: My intention is not to dismiss the facts, but to create a parallel narrative that speaks to a different audience through alternative methods of communication. Recently I spoke at the European Commission about my #24ReasonstoRemain posters and booklets, which have now been shortlisted for the Altiero Spinelli prize for outreach. I will return to Brussels on Monday for the award ceremony. I’m really proud that my artwork has been such a useful tool to engage people in a positive conversation about Europe in the UK. But, the really beautiful thing is how the material has been distributed – fully crowdfunded and managed by a network of pro-EU grassroots volunteers – the project has been a success thanks to a huge community of Remainers.
Positive role models can only exist if there are good people who believe in them and support their campaign. In return, they lead a call to action by empowering others. We all have the potential to influence others, so I implore the youth to stand up for their futures, to speak out for Europe, and never to doubt that they can be the change the World needs to make it a better place for all of us.