Greek statesman Pericles famously stated “Just because you do not take an interest in politics, it doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”
I vividly recall walking into my first politics class last year feeling apprehensive, thinking I wouldn’t like it; or I would find it boring, or too complicated. But, the first thing my teacher said to us really opened my eyes – saying that you’re not into politics is a privilege.
When you think about politics, what picture pops into your mind? I know for me it always used to be two groups of middle-class white men arguing about whether to raise taxes or not – and in some ways that’s true, but politics goes so much deeper than that.
Even the way in which I used to think about politics proved problematic because I was right about its image in some respect. These are the people who are supposed to be representing me and my country but the only similarity we seem to have is being white – and that is even considered lucky compared to other people I know.
At this point, you might be rolling your eyes at the sheer look of the people who run your country and for some, THAT is the moment they decide to switch off – but look where switching off has landed us: the UK left the EU in a shambles, the US had Donald Trump as a president for 4 years, and don’t even get me started on the handling of Covid in a lot of countries…all things that probably could have been avoided if more people had educated themselves about politics.
What’s more is that politics isn’t just about those who run the country, but it’s also weaved into everyday antics like the sugar tax you pay when you buy a chocolate bar; and it’s even interlocked inside bigger social issues such as women’s rights to equal pay and abortions as well as the Black Lives Matter movement.
Are you a woman? A person of colour? Someone who even moderately supports these sections of society?
Then you need to care.
Being active in politics doesn’t just mean you should vote (although that’s very important if you can!) or force yourself to read subjectively boring articles on the ‘Autumn budge plan’, but it’s more about being an active member of society and someone who takes a stand for what they believe in, which can be done in many interesting and creative ways:
- Use social media! – Twitter, Instagram and Podcasts especially are really fun ways of educating yourself about politics that don’t require much time or effort. Of course, don’t believe everything you read on Twitter, but it’s good to keep up with what’s happening in the world. Podcasts are my favourite method though because you can listen on the go. I might do a post soon with some resources if that would interest any of you?
- Donate – This isn’t accessible for everyone, but if you have any spare change, why not give it to a cause that matters? When you donate to any charity, you’re making a political mark. Care about animals? The RSPCA. Finding a cancer cure? Cancer research UK. And there are so many more! And if you can’t donate, sign a petition for something you care about!
- Learn who your local representatives are and what they stand for – This is honestly one of the most important things if you’re a voter or a future voter. You need to find out who shares your values or else how would you be represented? I think also that you shouldn’t just look at party politics because each individual also has their own political aims (although in some cases it’s a bit difficult to distinguish the two).
- Write letters – This leads on from the last point. Have a complaint within your area? Want to put forward a question or suggestion? Write to your local MP! There are usually dedicated days for politicians to answer letters and emails, so get your voice heard. You can also do this with a lot of charities and pressure groups.
- Community outreach – do you have a particular social, political or welfare issue you’re passionate about? Volunteer. Take part in community events. Even attend a peaceful protest.
Just because you think politics doesn’t affect you doesn’t mean you can or should ignore it. I’m not trying to beat down any privilege that you may or may not be lucky enough to have, but I urge you to use it to your advantage. So many people are struggling all around the world because of the political system they live in and they can’t escape. The best example I can give you is the Black Lives Matter Movement. Racism has been an issue since basically the beginning of time – and it’s horrific that it even exists. You know that, I know that, Joe Blogs down the street knows that. But why is it still prevalent today?
Yes, the whole political and legal system is flawed, but not enough people really care enough to do anything. Many people definitely do care to some extent, but it’s not enough. As humans we are so selfish and (maybe subconsciously) only concern ourselves with what directly impacts or impedes our lives. Sure, many of us said we wanted change last June after the death of George Floyd, but what happened after that? Everyone’s Instagram feed slowly returned to normal and nothing really changed. Floyd wasn’t the only one – these incidents happen everyday and that’s the reality.
You may think that your opinion or voice is too small to make an impact, but if everyone said that, our flawed world would stick to the status-quo forever.
I want to leave you with a simple message today. Why should you have a political opinion? Because your voice matters. Be the change you want to see.
Politics isn’t boring – it controls the outcome of our lives. So MAKE it matter.
What will you be doing to make a political impact?