In the past couple of months, I've heard lots of complaints about the amount of political talk on social media, and saw so many statuses post-referendum which hoped that people would "stop being amateur politicians".
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Nowadays, there is a sense that "everyone's a politician." But everyone should be a politician. Politics doesn't just belong in the echoing chambers of Westminster, shuttered away behind imposing architecture and incomprehensible jargon; politics belongs in the pub, on the street, over the coffee-maker at work - because these are things that politics *affects* so it should be discussed and debated by the people that political decisions affect. That is; everyone.
I've written many times about my admiration for ancient philosophers, and their views on politics. There was a school of thought amongst them that believed that political service should be compulsory - a little like national service or jury duty, and the city state of Venice selected their rulers by ballot. I feel that, if this were the case in modern politics, then everyone would, by necessity, be much more politically aware and engaged, just in case their name was ever called to serve in Parliament.
In the past, I felt that politics was something dry and dusty. I'm ashamed to say that, after voting once when I was eighteen, I didn't vote again until the referendum. This is a shocking dereliction of a democratic right that women didn't have until relatively recently, and a right that so many across the world still don't have. I think I neglected it because I didn't feel as though I had a voice, that my vote wouldn't matter in the grand scheme of things, and that all of the political parties were pretty much of a muchness - a little like choosing between PG Tips and Yorkshire Tea; they're close enough to be indistinguishable, and although some people have very strong views one way or another, you're still just going to end up with a cup of tea.
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I also viewed those who actively joined political parties with a bit of mistrust and suspicion - in the same way that I looked at people who genuinely enjoy long-distance running, or making their own compost; fine, but not for me. However, as I recently wrote, I have joined a political party, and have become more involved in local and national causes.
Maybe this is my age talking, or maybe it's to do with the realisation that I, and many others have had, that we can, and do, affect politics every day. Politicians, you see, are very much like normal people in a lot of ways. Many of them even are normal people, however, they are not omniscient; as with anyone, they can only speak from their own experience and, unfortunately, many of their experiences are not consistent with the majority of those that they claim to represent. So, when they make a decision which seems out of touch with the rest of the country, it's probably because they don't realise they their lives have been so far removed from what many people experience.
So, instead of complaining about it after the fact, surely we should be encouraging conversation and debate? After all, how can politicians be expected to change things if we don't talk about what needs changing?
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Respectful debate should be encouraged and nurtured; recognising that others have points of view that you may not agree with. This is fine and dandy - I don't like Tabasco sauce but I don't prevent my other half from adding it to pretty much every meal he eats. Conversation can often become impassioned, and that's fine too - being passionate about things is important, but dismissing or stonewalling opinion just because it doesn't chime with the way you see things is infantile and disrespectful. I adore playing Devil's Advocate with myself, forcing myself to see things from other points of view. I'd like to think it makes more a more empathic person.
However, on the flip side of this, I've also written before about how I wish for a sea-change in politics itself; one which looks down on the disgusting displays of pantomime derision that takes place on a weekly basis in the Commons. Our politicians are the ones who lead the country, so how can they possibly expect reasoned and reasonable debate if they can't live up to that themselves? Our politicians need to stop behaving like a drunken audience at a late-night comedy dive bar, and then, perhaps, our politics will stop resembling the above.
So, to summarise; I'm glad that people are thinking and talking more politically. It's a good change, and will force our politicians to recognise that the majority are not uneducated sheep, or morons who just want to watch braindead television; that, irrespective of background, we need to be engaged with and actively listened to, rather than being accepting of the lip-service service we have had thus far.
We have opinions, and we're no longer afraid to voice them!