I hear “I don’t do politics” a lot. We all know people who wont vote, don’t know why it’s important. There may even be a few people in your life that look at you blankly when in return, you ask why. Sadly, for some of my friends, I never take the opportunity to ask why. I tend to get high on my horse pretty quickly, and vibrate with barely-controlled emotion, as I extol the need for EVERYONE to do politics.
The attempted avoidance isn’t a modern phenomenon. This attitude isn’t new, and it’s widely discussed these days. With fever building and media rarking up the masses for headlines and market share, you can guarantee the portion of non-voters is an ‘of the moment’ kind of subject. Posters, and advertising, and government rhetoric are telling you to form an opinion and give it action. Challenging you to get to the ballot box.
I am frequently taken by surprise when I speak to otherwise intelligent, sensible people, and hear they just aren’t interested in politics. Either about specific aspects, or in general. They do not know the issues, the background to the debates, or care. I wonder, how is this possible? It’s not like not liking cats. Or being uninterested in participating in a discourse on Greek architecture. It’s not a personal taste thing. You can’t NOT DO POLITICS.
Let me explain. Briefly. Without a rant about voting or taking responsibility or the infantisation of young adults by their doting parents (another time, my friends).
Melvyn Burgess, the British author says “How do you escape politics? You have no choice. It is all around us. It defines our relationships with government, with our employers, it shapes the exchanges we have with our friends and our families. Politics helps define what we think and even how we feel. In these days of massive industrialisation, it is present in the water we drink and in the air we breathe. We are social animals and since politics is the study of the power dynamics in how we organise society, it’s there right at the base of all culture, including literature of all kinds, whether it’s novels, plays, poetry or advertisements. Even your shopping list has a political nature”.
That’s it really. Everything you do, believe in, care about, choose to ignore, dislike, or love beyond measure, is affected by politics. The legislation that allows you to drive your car. The policeman who returned a lost ring. Your right to sing in the street if you wish. These things are all made possible through the course of politics.
In New Zealand’s 1893 general election, new legislation allowed women to vote. The first country in the world (yeah, ok. Of those with modern democracies, in the form we accept as standard across The West). I am so incredibly proud of this legacy. It was a sign that we could control our destiny. This, this is politics.
In England, in a nation where we take our freedoms for granted, and are beginning more and more to demand things as a right rather than a privilege, we must continue to help people understand the importance of their political awareness. We freely choose our Leaders, move around our communities with confidence, and are given a channel of complaint that ensures we have protection. We have a democracy (yes, yes… in degrees, depending on which way you swing)… and our greatness is clearly determined by the political influences within which we exist.
In an ideal community, politics allows us to develop dreams, to insist on our life path. It is the safe environment that lets your needs and wishes be nurtured.