Kathy Divine’s new book, which features insights from politicians Maneka Gandhi, Emma Hurst, Andrew Knight and many other change-makers, is a unique blend of inspiration and practical strategies to empower ethical leaders.
In this exclusive interview with VWLN, she offers valuable insights on how we can find hope in a time of chaos, whether our votes really count, how women can handle the misogyny rife in politics and other leadership positions, and more.
What is ‘Golden Age Politics’?
Golden Age Politics is a vision of what our future could look like if we encourage compassionate, empathetic, peaceful and kind leaders to feel empowered to step forward into leadership positions across the globe.
It is likely that for many, the spiritual concept of the ‘Golden Age’ isn’t something they have seen alongside the word ‘politics’ and certainly isn’t a concept that would come to mind when asked to describe politics in the year 2020.
While the world has seemed more chaotic in recent years, according to several spiritual sources we are now entering into the beginnings of a Golden Age. A Golden Age is a time of peace and harmony where highly conscious and empathetic beings coexist peacefully.
As with any major system change, there is a transition period where the remnants of the previous negative age still exist, yet we are also beginning to see evidence of the new age emerging as more and more compassionate policy decisions regarding people, animals and the environment are enacted across the world.
Why do we need more vegan women in positions of leadership?
Traditionally, many decision-makers across the globe have represented similar interests and are made up of people who exhibit indistinguishable traits and predominantly masculine energies.
Within a Golden Age, it is common to see greater diversity among leaders and for those with feminine energy to be at the forefront leading countries, businesses, organisations and communities.
I have witnessed the incredible intelligence and peaceful qualities and importantly, ethical strength of women within the vegan community.
Vegan women, no matter their occupation, age or current life situation are already living by the guiding principles of the Golden Age by making a conscious decision to show compassion for other living beings and consideration for the environment by choosing to refrain from consuming products made from animals.
It is not expected that all vegan women will think and act the same, but they already have the foundations of the kind of peaceful, open and ethical leadership that we require to lead us all into a world full of peace, genuine listening and harmony amongst all beings and our environment.
We need ethical leadership now more than ever because humanity faces urgent issues that must be addressed quickly and frankly, without the usual political tactics and game playing, that has been so characteristic of global, national and local politics, and has resulted in lots of talk but little action on the issues that matter.
What does leadership mean to you and what style of leader are you?
When we think of the term ‘leadership’, each of us will usually envision an individual or a few individuals who we have seen show leadership within our communities.
Often in our current society, it is thought that to be a leader you must be in the highest-ranking position or the figurehead of a movement.
But leadership is within all of us. It is found in every family, community, workplace, friendship group and country.
A leader is a person who works towards creating a society that is full of goodness for all who reside within it.
You don’t need to lead from the front to be a leader. In any system, those who show leadership through supporting others and sharing love and encouragement are also essential.
In calling people to step into the role of ethical and peaceful leadership, I am not suggesting that each person must run for election or start a movement.
I am merely asking them to consider their place in this world and what mark they want to leave.
Having grown up surrounded by politicians, I could never quite figure out my place within it.
However, I have discovered that my role as a leader in this space is to use my writing and my vegan values to inspire and mentor others to find their path and in turn empower others.
What qualities does a good leader have?
I speak about leadership qualities a great deal in Chapter 5: Preparing to be a Golden Age Leader in Golden Age Politics.
As we go forward, we require leaders who are unafraid of facing the truth and dealing with issues that have long been pushed aside.
People who believe in the work they do and remain passionate about serving their community.
Long-term strategic thinkers and visionaries are also essential categories of leaders who will help move our society forward.
Apart from committing to vegan values, a good leader should have the courage to do what needs to be done.
At this moment in history, we need big shake ups; massive legislative change to protect animals, the environment and human health.
This large-scale, progressive and urgent change needs a high-quality group of leaders to match.
How can people with few ethics and little to no concern for the environment, human and animal rights be able and willing to do what needs to be done?
They won’t and they can’t. It’s just not logical.
We need great leaders now. Exceptional leaders. There’s no time for second best.
Future leaders must have courage, unshakeable confidence, intelligence and most crucially, humility (big egos need not apply!)
They must have the ability to create hope, inspire others and rebuild community spirit and a sense of unity within and among nations.
Admittedly, very few people have perfected all of these qualities. Like everything, with practice, commitment and focus we can work on our weaknesses.
Within a leadership team, if collectively the team has several leadership qualities, together they can work to achieve great things, by acknowledging that no one person is better than the other and that they all have something meaningful to contribute.
What skills does a good leader need?
All good leaders must understand that they are acting in a position of service, not one of domination.
As a leader in this new age, you must be unafraid to stand up for what you believe in, even in the face of your most opinionated adversary.
To find this courage, leaders must be confident in themselves and unshakeable in their values and their ‘why’.
The ability to be open to others and to listen without judgement is also essential and often overlooked.
Too often we see ‘leaders’ listening only to respond and not to truly understand.
I am also a strong proponent of the idea that leaders should be focused on peace building. Working toward peace and diplomacy instead of our current obsession with ‘right or wrong’ is crucial for any leader in these challenging times.
Leaders of today, especially those aspiring to be in political positions, also require skills such as personal branding and good communication skills because you are up against very slick marketing machines – candidates with few ethics and big PR and advertising budgets supporting them.
You must present the highest version of you and to boldly and unashamedly share the changes you wish to make with the world.
Present yourself as an authentic action-taker who brings hope, healing and justice to the world. If this is your mission, go for it and don’t hold back!
Humanity is literally crying out for authentic, sincere and caring leaders. It has never been a better time to hold your head up high and advocate for those causes dear to your heart.
Politics can be a grubby business. As well as the usual tactics experienced by all candidates, misogyny is at play for female candidates, as we saw with Hillary Clinton, Julia Gillard and others. Women are expected to have much higher standards and there is far less tolerance for mistakes, even ones made long ago. What tips do you have for vegan women wanting to go into politics on how to handle this?
There is no doubt that women face challenges when entering the political sphere. Misogyny certainly plays a leading role in the obstacles to overcome, but women also must face a myriad of other social, family, economic, and education barriers in their journey to politics.
A key example of this was when former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard ran for re-election against the Coalition candidate, Tony Abbott in 2013.
The rhetoric utilized by the opposition, the media and social commentary were distinctly different for the two candidates. Instead of policy scrutiny, Gillard faced personal attacks on her appearance, her choice to not have children, her choice to be unmarried, her atheism and her clothing choices. Her feminine energy was constantly criticized, and she was branded a ‘witch’ by her critics.
While this picture seems sufficient enough to deter women from entering politics, we must also consider the outcomes of those who do.
Across the world, women are standing up and fighting for what they believe in. Support for strong women in leadership continues to grow.
Just this year, Gillard’s groundbreaking Misogyny Speech of 2012 was voted ‘Most Unforgettable TV Moment’ of the past decade by The Guardian readers. For over a decade, her courage, articulate delivery and feminine power has spread across the world.
My advice is to know your values and your worth.
As difficult as it may be, we cannot let the baseless words of others detract from who we are and what we stand for.
Unfortunately, in this online world, any woman in a position of leadership is likely to face misogyny at some point. To overcome it, we must continue to elect strong women, support each other, to continuously learn and check for our own potential internalized misogyny and to look after our mental health.
Some people decide not to vote at all rather than vote for what they perceive as ‘less than perfect’ candidates. What do you think of this strategy and what message do you have for those considering doing this in upcoming elections?
In Australia and indeed in other Western countries, we have an incredibly large percentage of disengaged voters. Those who do not see a difference between either of the major parties and who may not understand Australia’s voting system or have knowledge of candidates from minor parties or independents in their electorates.
When you are not exposed to the world of politics, the idea of it all can be incredibly overwhelming. I would urge anyone considering not voting to think about how many others are choosing to do the same.
I would also recommend reflecting on our ability to have a fair and democratic election. Thousands of people across the world do not have the right to vote and, in many places, where they do, they face corrupt elections and persecution for opposing those in power.
For many of us in more privileged positions, we may think that our vote does not matter and will not change anything as both major parties seem the same.
But for our friends, the animals, the environment and our wider community, the outcome of an election can have drastic consequences.
We have seen numerous examples in recent years across local, state and federal elections of seats being won on less than a hundred votes, sometimes even a handful of votes could have made a difference.
I would encourage everyone to read up on who is running in your electorate and to take the time to enjoy a vegan democracy sausage and cast your vote for a better future.
We vote to not only help create a better nation, but we can vote in favour of helping other nations through better refugee policy and foreign aid policy, for example.
Your vote has the potential to help others less fortunate than you.
You say that we need to vote for ethical candidates, but what about the argument that by voting for an independent candidate, you help to vote in a candidate whose views and ethics are contrary to your own, and that it’s better to vote for the ‘less perfect’ candidate of a major party to ensure the ‘worse’ one doesn’t win?
In the formulation of the book I was lucky enough to speak with 2019 Animal Welfare Party (UK) General Election Candidate Professor Andrew Knight about this very topic.
During the 2019 UK election, the Animal Welfare Party worked hard to spread their campaign messaging and to work on creating a more just world for people, animals and the planet.
However, they also chose their battles wisely and spent time in determining where they were likely to have the most impact while also being careful to not split the progressive vote.
I think in this instance it is also important for everyone to take the time to try and understand Australia’s preferential voting system and how their votes will be distributed, or for those outside Australia, to understand how your country’s voting system operates.
While it may look unlikely for an independent candidate or minor party that you align with to be successful in your local electorate, if you preference your votes strategically, while they may not win, a party or independent that they have established connections with is more likely to win.
Although this is not the best possible outcome, it does give that candidate a higher ability to sway decision-making by the elected candidate by showing the number of voters who supported their policies in the election.
A great example of this is outlined by Professor Knight in noting that his party received more votes than any other minor party during the 2019 UK elections in Prime Minister Theresa May’s constituency, highlighting to her party the preference for animal welfare focused policies and leading to them choosing to not reintroduce foxhunting.
Professor Knight’s choice to run against the Prime Minister was a strategic move that resulted in tangible results.
Your book calls for hope among disillusioned voters: How, particularly with the year we’ve had so far in 2020 and all the divisiveness between people, even those who support the same social justice issues, can we find hope in the current political systems?
While 2020 has been universally viewed as a grim year, we cannot let it detract from the progress that has been made to improve political systems across the world.
In Australia for example we currently have three Animal Justice Party candidates serving as MPs and influencing policy to support the wellbeing of animals.
Across the world, we are starting to see leadership on climate action, which has mostly been swayed by the determination and courage of brave collective movements across the globe.
Social justice movements are growing, and people are coming together to stand up for the rights of their fellow beings, both human and non-human.
I would like to also offer a message of hope and perspective.
The growth of social media has made us more connected than ever before, it allows us to see information in real-time and to interact with people from every corner of the globe.
Unfortunately, as users of the internet, we have turned this concept of freedom into a world of echo chambers and into a system that uses us.
While this sounds bleak, the hope lies in the knowledge that we are in control of our online world. We have the power to unsubscribe, to fact check, to delete.
I encourage everyone to check your news sources. Have you created an information bubble where you only hear certain voices based on what your activity has told the algorithm?
Do you only seek information from one or two media sources? Who are they funded by? What is their bias? Is the information you are seeing coming from an expert or just someone who claims to be?
Social media has indeed created a divide in our political views. We have an obsession with being right and labelling those who disagree as ‘the other’ online.
But if we remove all of that and have honest and open conversations with each other, we will start to see how much in common we all have.
Each of us has the power to change our online habits and use social media and news for the benefit of society. The system is ours to change if only we have the courage and compassion to change it.
Tell us about the book: Why did you write it and what do you hope it will achieve?
I wrote Golden Age Politics to encourage and inspire ethical people to go into politics and other leadership roles within their communities.
The book is a starting point to assist in the rebranding of politics as a career that has the potential to be one of high spiritual service to others.
We can recreate our world if together we decide to. Apart from inspiring leadership, the other message in the book is for voters to vote consciously and carefully at each election.
I hope that people will read Golden Age Politics with an open, curious mind and then contemplate on what kind of world they want to live in and how they might contribute to assisting in creating a kinder, more ethical world.
You pre-launched the book via Kickstarter a couple of months ago. What’s been the response to the book so far?
I’m very happy with the response and the feedback I’ve received. People are ready for something positive and new in politics. It’s got exciting potential.
You’ve interviewed several vegan women leaders from across the globe for the book, from politicians to business people and those doing work in their local communities. What do you think is the one common thread between them that enables them to create positive change?
They sincerely care about the work they do. Their passion for their causes runs deep and drives their work.
What’s the one takeaway from the book that you’d like readers to get?
Together we can create the world we’ve always dreamed of.