I am 23 years old and only started being interested in politics about 3 years ago, when I took a political philosophy module in my second year at university. Before that, I had no interest in it, I thought it was a ‘hobby’ of older people, like gardening, jigsaws and eating spam. So when people frowned at me for not knowing the first thing about politics and not feeling any inclination to vote, I was intensely irritated by them because I felt like they were shoving their petunias in my face and yelling “Appreciate it! APPRECIATE IT! LOOK AT THAT HANDIWORK! You young rascals don’t know a good thing when you see it! Bloody useless”, clutching their ornamental plant.
I thought politics was ornamental too, but then I was exposed to the philosophy behind it. It was the best way to get into politics for me, and I suspect it would be a great path into politics for young people too. I studied questions like; if a group of people were about to start a life in society, and were considering what laws and systems they want in place, but they don’t know what age, race, sex, class etc they will be themselves, (ensuring they will want the best outcomes for everyone, because they could turn out to be any type of person) what kind of rules would they choose? Would the rules they come up with, be the ones we should live by? Is that because they’d be ‘just’, and ‘fair’? We want equality for all but equality with regards to what, and what should it ensure to us? Is society explicitly for remedying the natural phenomenon of bad luck – people born with severe health problems, in dangerous geographical areas, befalling traumatic incidents? Or is it for getting ahead – allocating roles of production to the best people for them in order to increase our freedoms overall and fulfil desires, something which some people are just not going to be useful for? But what about harmful freedoms and selfish desires, or highly personable desires like getting 100% completion on a game, or ambitious altruistic ones like colonizing Mars? Is society there to provide those things? How much can we inflate individual freedoms until they impinge upon and destroy each other – like balloons inflated in a box until they press each other to bursting, as will happen when one wants the freedom to put a pin in the other? What exactly is the pivotal difference between freedom to stab and freedom to have enough food which has the important quality of making one okay and one not? Why does that difference have the power, to draw the line between right and wrong, to shape how people are going to spend their one life on this blue and green planet muddling along with other human beings?
For me, all this thinking made politics into a discoverable science – something real, something important, and something with consequences. Something which got very fundamental very quickly – we need to respect each other as feeling beings, but how best? Coupled with my belief from philosophy of mind lectures in adjacent lecture rooms that human beings and human minds are both the most interesting and the most important things knocking about in the universe for a long, long, long way, it became clear to me that the politics of humans is utterly unignorable and profoundly significant.
Recognising yourself and your life as something which is profound, scientific and political is not only powerful but fun – trust me. It’s hard for the changeable nature and powerful consequences of present circumstances to hit you when you are absorbed in studying and personal relations, which are both hugely important, memorable and formative, but still a practice level. The future holds much more nebulous and competitive political issues such as employment, finances, housing, general self-sustainment and in some cases, the responsibility of the sustainment of others. But you’re going to get there, and like whatever weird society you got involved with at university, you may well faintly wish you’d started a bit earlier. Maybe it’s age or it’s the particularly tumultuous political times we’re in, but I’m starting to feel the textbook-ification of times; the sense of seeing the present written out in textbooks being read by future generations, not fully digesting that it affected real humans just like themselves. It’s a strange chronological dissociation, and it’s hugely motivating. My hunger for social progression to be a real thing and not unrealistic optimism in human nature is insatiable and deeply purpose-giving. To have such a purpose express itself in everything you do, makes life that little bit more vivid. The way you feel and the things you notice are faintly immortalised; they’re part of political history. I am frustrated at every entry-level job going requiring years of experience which I’ve actually been spending getting a degree never mentioned in any criteria. I stress about the average rent prices, silly numbers which would clear out my bank account in 3 months. I notice walking past more homeless people when I’m in town. I notice longer queues in the cheapest shops, poundland, primark, aldi. I notice people from charities giving flyers to people going into supermarkets asking them to get a couple of tins of beans for them to take back to the local food bank. Fuzzy black and white shiny pictures of pouting children in big coats crouched in living rooms with peeling wallpaper and damp, holding the hands of their exhausted parents, aggrieved, flash through my mind. A textbook. We will not go through another depression. I will be part of a movement unstoppably furious about the poverty sweeping over the UK, beneath the underlined, bolded sub-heading, ‘Resistence’.
Politics is the ultimate gossip, and if you think you’re above gossip you’re wrong, all we have is each other and how we interact. If Sally down the road said she’d clean your car for £5, takes your money and then doesn’t clean your car, MOAN ABOUT IT, it’s a social good. If Sally has slept with 7 men – who cares?! There’s good gossip and bad gossip. And there’s paramount gossip. I mean, look at this – the most powerful man in the world has sacked the head of the FBI, because he was probably investigating his corruption, so Trump has TOTALLY turned on Comey because Comey basically won the election for him by smearing Hillary Clinton just before the election last year with crap about her other email server, and Trump is trying to look mature by saying he’s firing Comey for the ethics of that very practice, when in reality we all know Trump wanted to win by ANY means and loved it – we’ve got the screenshots, he literally said “That was a brave thing to do”, but now he’s totally getting bit back on the bum by Comey again and he’s in some deep trouble.
How did millions get won round into voting for a man like this? Has it happened before? Are there cognitive biases in us all which make us susceptible? What does it say about the actual substance of most distinguished and esteemed position in existence that actually, it can be held by a man fundamentally incompetent of it for 4 months? These questions are going to affect you and the human beings around you that you care for, whether you want it to or not. That’s the crux of politics, and what adults get frustrated about – you can choose whether or not you care about it but you cannot choose whether it will affect you or your fellow humans.
You are absolutely right that it looks boring, complicated, and elite. They’ve done that on purpose – don’t let them take politics away from you. But you’re wrong that they’re ‘all the same‘. Do you read history textbooks and think ‘well it was all inevitable, there’s nothing anyone could have done, the leaders were all the same’? The baddies are working really, really hard. You’re right that it’s all gotten very petty, childish and nasty, but if more people, especially young people, had voted then much of this wouldn’t have happened. Please vote, and be part of a very, very fundamental thing.