We live in a world where we are taught to believe there is not enough of everything to go around, an idea that — if we’re not careful — can often be reinforced through our many forms of messaging. However, Everything for Everyone: Abundance Messaging for Progressive Wins at the Communications Network’s ComNet19 conference challenged that notion. Presenters Amanda Cooper, Zaineb Mohammed and Meena Hussain spoke about scarcity messaging and its effect on how we perceive resources and each other.
Just a Slice of the Pie
Cooper began the conversation with an anecdote about pie. Strange, right?
The pie metaphor resonated with a lot of what the conversation was about. When thinking of a slice of pie, whatever flavor that may be, we believe that slice is for ourselves and what is left of the pie is for everyone else until there’s nothing.
The same concept applies to scarcity messaging. Companies use it as a principle of persuasion, creating a sense of competition, urgency and mindset of “I need to get what I can before there isn’t any left.”
Cooper rejects this notion: “Even though people know it’s wrong, there are a lot of people invested in having this belief that the pie is only so big, and that your slice is deeply dependent upon the slice that other people are getting.”
While some of the most prevalent scarcity messages from the Right-wing include, “immigrants steal our jobs,” and “if we raise the minimum wage, the cost will go directly to the consumer.” But progressives have also fallen into scarcity messaging. One example came from a tweet by American politician, Beto O’Rourke. The tweet compared the cost of insulin and the cost of an AR-15 rifle, going on to say, “It shouldn’t be more affordable to kill than to stay alive.” Although true, the bigger picture and long-term vision of the message was unclear.
In another example, a progressive ad challenged mass incarceration by pointing out how prison costs more than college. But should we send more people to college than prison because it saves money? Would we want mass incarceration if it cost less? Of course not!
The Potluck Promise
Most everyone has attended a potluck: everyone is expected to bring a dish or contribution of some sort. Now, think of a potluck as a promise where all of its attendees are in agreement that everyone will bring a contribution, and there will inherently be enough for everyone. “If I’m bringing dessert, I don’t think there will only be dessert,” Cooper said.
To put this into practice, discussion leaders challenged attendees to turn the fixed pie fallacy into a potluck promise. For example, one scarcity message was “end family separation.” Instead, the women wrote the alternate abundance message “families belong together.” Another heir thoughts on the scarcity message“medicare for all,” instead“in the world’s richest nation, we can be the healthiest too.”
See where this is going, now?
What’s the Big Picture
Moving beyond scarcity boils down to how resources are used so that everyone can have a piece of the pie. The goal is to reframe current movement messaging so that it suggests that there is enough for everyone if the right choices are made. A few resources about abundance messaging include the Words to Win By podcast from Anat Shenker-Osorio and the Race-Class Narrative Project.
To successfully transition from scarcity messaging to abundance messaging one must simply express that we have more than enough of what we need.