How to be political without politics

 

 

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I have been thinking a lot about politics over the past few weeks – I’m studying politics as a unit this semester, and of course, the US elections have shown us a really interesting example of politics in action. My own interest in politics began at the ripe old age of 6, when I became so distressed about the baby seals being killed for their white fur, that I sat down and wrote a letter to the Environment Minister protesting the slaughter. Even then, I had a deep desire to participate in conversations about issues that mattered to me, to be informed and make an action, and that desire has remained strong within me, manifesting in different ways at different times.

Some people have a very limited view of politics as something separate from them that happens in their nation or state or local county’s decision making space – and something that they participate in once every three or four years if they feel like it. This view is limited and powerless because it’s hard to feel as though you can make an impact or have your voice heard – and if you limit your political activity to voting, there is a very good chance that you will be disappointed at the results half the time! I don’t think we have come up with a better system than everyone having a say (democracy), but one of the downsides is that nearly half of the population is potentially going to be upset at the results.

I have felt myself become very disillusioned about machine or party politics over the past few years. Although I have never been a member of a political party, I always had an interest in what was going on politically, and kept up to date and informed with what was going on in our various parliaments and with our decision makers. However, over the past few election cycles, there have been actions and decisions made by our representatives that have disgusted, bewildered and offended me, and my response to anything that generates that kind of response inside me is what it always has been – to withdraw my energy. In my heart I feel that these people and their flawed system do not represent me. I feel that as a woman, watching our women representatives having to battle to make their voices heard in a system designed for men, and I feel that as a human, watching short-sighted, corrupt and politically expedient decisions being made whilst our Earth suffers.

So, I thought I had become apolitical or even anti-political, until my first week of Politics, when my lecturer gave us a list of political activities and asked how often we engaged in any of them. Things like signing petitions, attending public meetings, making a donation to a cause, participating in demonstrations and letter writing, many of which I do weekly. And that’s when I realised that I had not become apolitical, but instead, I had shifted my focus from what is called the first face of power, from the people who have the power to make decisions, to the second face of power, which are the people and groups who have the power to set the agenda. I had also become more and more aware of the third face of power, which are the socialising beliefs, cultural forces and political ideologies which shape our thinking, consciously and unconsciously.

Because I have an intrinsic desire to be part of the conversation, and to have a say about things that matter to me, I will always be political, especially if we define politics as an argument or a discussion about how society could best be organised. However, my allergy to group-think, dogma and playing the game means that I cannot participate in politics at the institutional level. So how do I participate then? Well, I am a member of GetUp and Avaaz, two powerful independent campaigning communities, one Australian and one international. They are supported entirely by donations from their communities – GetUp has over a million members (remember, Australia only has a population of 23 million) and Avaaz has a huge 43+ million membership. You can get a lot done with those kind of numbers. When issues come up, I donate according to my ability, I write letters, share on social media and sign petitions. In that way, I choose what to direct my energy towards, and participate in setting the agenda, otherwise known as letting decision makers know what’s important.

The other thing that has been an important part of my political evolution has been becoming very much more discerning when it comes to what media I listen to, watch and read. I used to, not that long ago, read a weekend broadsheet every week. Most of our papers in Australia are owned by News Limited, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch. I try to avoid any media that is owned by that company for ethical reasons. When a filthy rich mining magnate tried (unsuccessfully) to buy her way onto the Fairfax board a few years ago, I stopped reading papers altogether. I couldn’t stand the spin, the blurring of opinion and reportage, the bias, the short sighted, opportunistic, unethical journalistic practices that characterise so much of the mainstream media these days. So now, I choose my news sources carefully: the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), the Guardian, Crikey and The Conversation are all media sources that I trust. For the rest, I ask questions like:

  1. Who owns this media?
  2. Are they reliable and respected?
  3. What is their angle/interest/bias in this story?
  4. Where do they get their information from?
  5. Is the title clickbait?
  6. Who pays them?
  7. What is the other side of the story (hint: there’s always another side)?

Now, I appreciate that as a Media (and now Politics and Sociology) student, my care factor may be set at a higher level than the average person. However,  I believe we all care, very much, about what is happening to our world. People are disengaged from politics not because of apathy- they care very much – but because they have come to negative conclusions about politics, politicians and the political process. Don’t let politics stop you from being politically active. Let the failures of our system galvanise you into action! We have no choice but to forge ahead and make a better world, because that’s what we have come here to do, each in our own small way.

Other ways to participate politically:

  • Through your purchasing power (ethical shopping)
  • Through what you eat (ethical eating)
  • Community groups
  • Volunteering
  • Live off the grid, home school, un-school, grow your own food

Thoughts?

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10 comments

  1. Well said. Thank you so much for putting into words some ways that are within our reach to participate in the political process. I do a number of the things you mentioned, but I had never thought about them as political activities. Focusing our energy toward that which we believe in, not just withdrawing from that which we don’t, is so important. You are on a roll of inspiring me, Sara…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, that’s the thing, isn’t Ardys – so much of what we do is political, we just don’t realise it because we have such a narrow view of what constitutes politics! I do still follow Kelly Flanagan – I enjoy his work very much – so I will catch up with what he’s writing about. I am sure he will have some good insights.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Those are good questions.

    I thought I would feel better after the US elections, But I sure don’t!

    I know people who are experiencing anxiety, depression and even PTSD. I can’t stop reading about politics in hopes of finding some speck of good news. And I had my first nightmare that was politics-related. Two of them now. It’s tough.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Georgia, I am sorry to hear that. I mean, I know, I’ve heard, but I am sorry for your suffering. I guess my point with this post is to offer a new way forward, a more empowered approach to political action. Because political institutions are so disappointing, don’t you think?

      Like

  3. wonderful reflection on a path
    of taking actions of caring
    without being caught
    in headlines and
    illusions reported by
    those minds in power!
    may others take your inspiration
    and engage in the politics
    of a decent society without
    the ugliness of being “political” 🙂

    Like

  4. Dear friend,

    At the Vienna Human Right Conference Dr. Harbhajan Singh said: The problem we all are facing, cannot be solved politically, but only spiritually. The meaning of it: First we have to develop ouselves with high ethic values, to become not only honest to ourselves but also towards other people, to see and understand that the highest knowledge lies in service to man, land-service and service to soul. Nowadays you do not find really rightious politicians – most of them have lost the tight rope to ordinary people and to understand them too. Also Platon wrote in his book “republic” how a state can be governed in honour and dignity – they do not earn so much money, because it is an honour for them to serve people… so first we need to go through a school of becoming humans (so far we are still conscious animals…) – to learn who we are, what we are: Man know thyself… it is a conscious way and called spirituality.

    Thanks for sharing
    All the best, dear friend
    Didi

    Liked by 1 person

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