General Elections are coming up here in the UK faster than you would think. Finally you can notice even up here in Scotland that the metaphorical shit hits the fan. We start to get leaflets from parties who don’t even have the slightest chance to win the seat (despite ‘no political leaflets please‘-signs on the door…). The world is finally going election-crazy, and I will make a pledge here about why this is a good thing.
First off, a few months ago, I was politically informed, but not interested. To state this at the start, I’m a leftish person, I believe in equality, a social state, collectiveness rather than individuality, and of course environmental responsibility. My deep belief back then was that politics is way too dependent on economical and global circumstances to really make significant changes in policy, even if the right party was in power (you may guess now which I consider ‘right’). I still believe that voting the right party into power will not be a magical cure for this world and country, but that we as the people have to finally experience a collective shift in mind-set and recognise the responsibility we have towards this planet and all the people living on it.
So why have I changed my mind? Because I recognised several reasons why politics needs to go along with our individual efforts, both because living against dominant political views can create so much more problems, and because a politics that supports our efforts will be much more rewarding.
First, think about the worst case. We remain apathetic in the election, consider our vote to be useless (due to a ridiculously unfair voting system) and vow to keep on recycling. So what then? The party that we don’t like anyway gets a majority, and your life just goes on the way it does. But does it? All those many people (including me a few years ago) who think that politics doesn’t really affect you, think again:
Your children start a job but at the minimum wage they won’t have enough to live decently, only allowing them to afford low-quality food, clothing and housing, which will contribute to the madness of our throwaway-economy not even out of choice, but necessity. At the same time, their bosses get richer and richer and buy a newspaper company which in turn will convince people that a higher minimum wage would be so much worse for the economy.
At the same time, the taxes those big bosses evade will cause the government to constantly proclaim the necessity to cut funding on education and public services, causing your chronically ill mother to vegetate in her bed at home because the hospital is full to the brim and your children or you on their minimum-wage job will spend their last money to afford a carer for her.
At the same time, billions are being pumped into nuclear weapons just because – I don’t even know why, to be honest. And in a few weeks’ time, somebody knocks on your door of your house you are still paying the mortgage on (for the rest of your life) so some energy company can trespass on your property and start digging around to do some fracking, which will eventually lead to the ground water around your house to be poisoned with the chemicals used, and all your organic, hand-planted carrots and potatoes in your back garden will become inedible, forcing you to go to the supermarket for the first time in years and buy food you don’t want for money you wouldn’t want to spend.
I could go on forever, but you see my point. You may not notice the effects on your life or the life of others, but being on the wrong side of politics will eventually boycott any of your or my efforts to make this world a better place. This scenario, as dark as it might seem, has got considerable truth to it, e.g. only collective resistance here in Scotland ensured that fracking has been banned. Otherwise, the law would have indeed allowed companies to dig on people’s property without their consent. The second point is, there is some change which we simply cannot achieve as single persons or even groups of people through activism. We might be able to campaign for plastic bag bans, but if the political lobbyists bombard politicians with twisted facts, there is little we can do to stop them. Even if we achieve a massive shift in consciousness without political support; even if the whole of the country’s citizens decided to go zero waste, how much waste is still being circulated by a country’s industrial sector? Over 95%? There is the hugely important issue of holding people accountable which cannot be addressed through activism. Not because activism is powerless, but because we can never achieve as much constant support by ordinary people unless a catastrophe happens (and who wants that?).
With politics on our side, we can finally create awareness. A lot of people lack the knowledge of how bad most of the world’s pollution really is, and how much we all contribute by living in a society that slowly destroys the very world we live in. Our activism would finally have a powerful voice which doesn’t always need hundreds of thousands of people to sign a petition to pass a law, but just a few mindful and informed people at the top.
As you might notice I’m very passionate about all this. I’m sick of our society being created to reward convenience and make life harder for anybody living out of the norm, i.e. all you natural living/zero-wasters/vegans/litter-pickers/dumpster-divers/urban farmers/minimalists/sustainability gurus who have a hard time keeping up your lifestyle because nobody else supports it. It can be different, it even can be easy to live with responsibility towards our planet and others, if we have a society and politics who support change, rather than preventing it. After all, how can anybody say that more radical politics would make things worse if we’re already on a collision course with the worst!?
You may not know, but I’m not even allowed to vote in the UK election as a German citizen. That does not keep me from voicing my opinion and urging everybody who considered not voting or fearing their vote will be lost – vote anyway. I’ve lived in this country for almost two years now, encountered many people and heard many political viewpoints. If you want a change, you have to go out and create the change. Create awareness about all the things the media doesn’t care about. Tell people you don’t know about your life and let them experience lifestyles that don’t conform with ‘normal’. Don’t fight alone inside your own home, but take it out into the world and raise awareness about waste, equality, racism, environmental issues, climate change or anything you truly care about.