“Indigenous

The art of listening: Mariana Podesta-Diverio

As easy it is to become apathetic about the current state of Australian politics and give up altogether, your vote will help lessen the possibility of an Abbott-led government. Use it wisely. But of course, you’ve heard this all before, so I’ll leave it here. Don’t let him win. Now, onto more practical matters. Being…

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As easy it is to become apathetic about the current state of Australian politics and give up altogether, your vote will help lessen the possibility of an Abbott-led government. Use it wisely. But of course, you’ve heard this all before, so I’ll leave it here. Don’t let him win.

Now, onto more practical matters.

Being wrong can be a useful experience. When we are wrong, we learn. But only if we listen.  Last week, a particularly saddening Facebook argument I was lurking got me thinking. I don’t mean this to sound like the jacket blurb of a mid-80s self-help book, but: you learn more by being quiet and wrong than you do by being loud and right.

If someone raises a concern – shut up and listen. If you ask for someone’s opinion and legitimately want to hear it, shut up and listen. If you get pulled up on racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic,  or otherwise oppressive language, shut up and listen. Then seek, read, and learn. The only person who has a responsibility to educate you about why you’re being offensive is you.

Privileges should be checked every step of the way. Listen to stories and anguish, laughter and memories. The tears you didn’t exude, but that moisten your skin. The fragments of lived experience that we may never be unlucky enough to have scarred onto our bodies and minds, but that we may be trusted enough to share. If you are trusted with them, treat the fragments kindly. Sometimes they flicker with structural oppression, institutionalised discrimination, and daily struggle.

Ask questions. Considerate, relevant questions. Listen for the answers that explain better than wilful ignorance, bigotry, projected insecurities and the paternalism that mimics arrogance when you think you’re right.

In a sense, other people are all we have. Connections to friends and lovers, to families and classmates, are forged for a reason. You wouldn’t willingly hurt the feelings of a loved one, so consider how you treat the loved ones of others.

Whether we are having sex with three at a time (p. 12), or paying our final respects to them (p. 13), our interactions with others tend to define us as social actors, as whole as we may be within ourselves. Almost inextricably, we are bound to the fabric of collective ecstasies and griefs, even if the level of our binding varies greatly throughout our lives.

So treat the fabric well; take care of it, borrow from it, and lend to it, because individual threads are loathe to be severed. The warmest fabrics are built from the collaboration, peaceful coexistence and reciprocity of the threads that comprise it. Of we, the threads, that hold the fragile balance of power in our daily weaves, that collectively dictate the structural integrity of the fabric.

And lessons learnt in fraying threads are not fast forgotten.

Listen for knowledge and understanding, empathise with grief, and ask for consent.

In a sense, other people are all we have. But to truly appreciate this we must first employ the art of shutting up.

And listening.

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