Crowd control and Ballot box guards
Setting off from home on Saturday 2nd July, we had not much more on our minds than voting in the Australian Federal Election.
It was early in the day, and the polling booth queue was short. Good, we thought – this won’t take long. We could clearly see official staff in their royal purple vests and lanyards, each playing their part to ensure things proceeded as planned.
Moving toward the voting station, my eyes couldn’t believe what was written on one official’s lanyard: Crowd queue controller. It got worse. Posting our ballot papers in the boxes provided, there was another official standing beside them, and yes, there it was on her lanyard: Ballot Box Guard.
Now, we live in a small country community - people know how to queue up and wait their turn, something I would say almost all Australians do pretty well. And no one voting that day was likely to plan a heist to run off with the two big Ballot boxes!
Those two words, ‘controller’ and ‘guard’, set off red flags for me, a reminder of times long gone when positional power and authority ruled the land, with the object of compliance from its people.
Accompanying questions flooded my mind.
√ If we accept that we live in democracy, in communities where voice, contribution, collaboration and personal and collective responsibility are its desired hallmarks, why on earth would people use words such as these?
√ If we understand that leadership today is one of influence, and influencing language has a profound impact on positive change and learning growth, why on earth would you use archaic language that only belongs now in specialized contexts such as a prison?
√ If we understand that every word we speak can enhance or diminish relationships, why is not more attention paid to the importance of congruence?
‘Words are not innocent’ said Dirk Kotze. (in Dalton 2010) ‘The language we use shapes the realities we live in and the realities we create.’
Paying conscious attention to our language and its impact is central to understanding, working with, and leading others. And yes, it’s a lifelong quest.
And yes, I can see we still have a lot of work to do in this regard, particularly as we seek to influence beyond education into the wider local and global community.
And yes, I reckon it’s a quest worth pursuing.