Not the P word…

Politics. Even as people ready to make change from the grassroots level, we really can’t afford to ignore them. The good news is that they can’t afford to ignore us either.

What is it about politics that disheartens us so much? The amount of times I’ve heard people say things along the lines of “I don’t want to vote. What’s the point anyway? My vote means nothing and it’s not like there’s anything I actually want to vote for.”
Have we become so disengaged that we no longer shape our politicians and political parties to represent US? In many ways, we have stopped telling them what we want. We have thrown away our voices and settled for lost leaders, leaders who have no idea what we really care about.

…And so we go another year without a plastic bag ban, each day logging of native forests continues, more government funding for the Carmichael Coal Mine is granted, and we (Australians) continue to be one of the highest per-capita CO2 emitters in the world. All because we chose to disengage.

Perhaps there’s a handful of people who are all over the P word and when they get the chance, they have their voice heard, they make their vote count. But me? Well, until recently I’ve always been on the “I don’t even want to vote” side of the fence, and I’ve come to realise that this is a very common view among the younger gens (perhaps with the exception of Britain’s recent election). The language of politics is esoteric at the best of times. It’s no surprise that we have no idea what’s going on in politics, that people don’t know who or what to support, that we give up before we even try to understand politics.

Maybe politicians feel safer if we don’t really understand what they’re saying. Their language means one thing to us, but a totally different thing in the political realm. Maybe politicians want us to disengage because if we engage, they know that their policies wont stand a chance. Come Election Day, they know we’ll just give our votes away based on 5 minutes of reading posters while waiting in line.

The mentality that it’s us who have to listen to them is tired. It shouldn’t be a matter of “here are your options now choose.” It should be a matter of us, at the grassroots level, saying “this is what we want, we’ll support whoever helps us to achieve this.” Politicians will listen. Maybe not all of them, but they do try their best when it comes to keeping or gaining your support. They need us, and we need them. That we can’t escape. Just remember, it’s impossible for them to hear us if we aren’t saying anything.

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Here I’ve listed some important reminders and tips that have helped break the ice between myself and politics. I hope you may too find them to be useful…

1. Speak your own language
Getting into politics, speaking up and making a difference doesn’t mean you absolutely have to kill yourself trying to understand the language. It’s better to say it in your language than to not say anything at all.

2. Tell them what you think!
Whether that means that you sign a petition, send an email, make a phone call, attend a rally, send a smoke signal, whatever you have to do! Just get your point across. Tell them if you will or won’t vote for them based on their policies.

3. Social media has its limits and its benefits
Simply clicking the old thumbs-up on a Facebook post probably won’t do much. One thing about Facebook that I find creepy but also useful is that it figures out what you’re into and more links related to your interests come up in the old news feed. My news feed now brings so many important environmental issues to my attention.

4. Tune in
We can’t let political power be abused, but the moment we disengage, this becomes a serious risk. You don’t have to become obsessive, just flick on the news for 10 minutes or follow that link that comes up in your Facebook feed. The world of media is a useful tool. Even a small amount of knowledge is better than having no clue.

5. Talk!
Talk with your friends, colleagues, family, whoever. You might learn something very important off each other. You might change someones’ mind.

More on this topic…

A bit about Britains recent election and why young people should be politically engaged. Britains young people are getting back into politics at last

Even the preface of this speaks loud and clear. This one considers news/media, how young people are responding to the way politics are presented, and the concept of the post-modern citizen. David Buckingham is an incredible writer!
The Making of Citizens: Young People, News, and Politics

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