The 3 yearly general election is happening in New Zealand next month which is something I like taking notice of. I enjoy talking to people about politics, so a few days ago I held a “politics party”.
It was specifically for people who weren’t sure about the political system, perhaps because they were young and haven’t be eligible to vote before.
There’s this thing I say to people when it comes to voting:
I don’t care who you vote for, as long as it’s an educated vote (and not selfishly motivated).
I hosted it at my place, 4pm on a Sunday afternoon, and we ended the time with a meal. I had promised to try to be as politically neutral as possible, so it wasn’t about me promoting my own political preferences – I think I achieved this! I held back all cynicism, and opinionated critique of the political parties and politicians we talked about – I wanted to create a safe space where people could explore politics.
What to look for
Once I knew who was coming, I gave them all homework to do beforehand. They each chose a different political party and read the wikipedia page with the view of answering these three questions:
1) History/origins – where did they come from and why?
2) Policies – what do they appear to stand for?
3) Do any strengths or weaknesses stand out to you?
When we gathered we went through each “party” at a time, with the person responsible for that party sharing with the others what they had discovered about the particular political party based on the three questions above. This created discussion and questions within the group. The good thing about the Wikipedia pages are their neutral stance and lack of spin, and they can be read in less than 10 minutes (click on this link, and half-way down the page is a table linking to the NZ political party pages).
I started the “party” by giving a brief introduction to the political system we use in New Zealand, which is MMP (Mixed-member proportional representation). This was important because understanding the system makes sense of the two-vote process and how political parties can work together.
Everyone who came had done their homework. It was great hearing people talk about how and why a particular political party came into being, what their current emphasis is, and then some personal reflection and critique on the good and the bad. There was plenty of questioning and engagement.
And then we had a curry! (My own special Potato and Spinach Curry, which more than half of the group wanted the recipe for, which I share with you here so you can run your own Curry & Politics night.)
It was everything I imagined it would be: the vibe was good, and I reckon people left being a bit more prepared to vote.
I encourage you to try this at your place.
Tips for running a Curry & Politics night:
1) Don’t invite people who will try to persuade others to vote a particular way, you know who they are – they will take away the neutrality of the learning environment and may unintentionally intimidate.
2) If you are not able to maintain a neutral stance, get someone else to host it and you go out and see a movie.
3) Finish with apple pie and ice cream!
Image: I have a small 300mm x 400mm whiteboard that I often use in small groups at my house – it’s made from an old piece of bathroom wall.