The wedge has been used to good effect in Australian public life over the last decade. Politically, the strategy has effectively divided the community on such issues as immigration, Aborigine & Torres Strait Islanders affairs, the environment, sexual equality and, yes, public funding of school chaplaincy. The strategy is effective. Divide and conquer keeps the dominant party in the driver’s seat. Neither side of politics is coy about using it.
The best weapon against the wedge is awareness. A basic quest in the process of logic is the search for synthesis – the middle ground. This can be tenuous, tentative and temporary, because the synthesis itself then becomes a proposition that invites a new antithesis and synthesis, and so the cycle continues. Rather than frustrate the possibility of holding a position on anything, it simply debunks the integrity of wedge strategies to be other than they are – a means of demagogic control.
Neither does attending to the business of synthesis in public affairs necessarily trap one in an endless cycle of vacillation and fence sitting. Attention and awareness leads to greater clarity and precision in opinion forming, decision making, implementation and tweaking as the cycle progresses.
This is heavy going in public affairs where a focus on the 6pm news cycle and the opportunity to offer a doorstop “sound byte” is factored into political processes. It also appeals to a public angst that seeks immediate and simple solutions to complex problems.
Where am I heading with this? Nowhere in particular – just thinking out loud in an attempt to identify what seems to to be a growing preoccupation in many of my conversations. Naming the dragon weakens its power!