I wrote this a few weeks ago while I was still at home. It was after a conversation I had with my Dad and it’s just been sitting in my notes since then. I keep meaning to post it but then changing my mind because it doesn’t really fit with my blog. Today I figured I’d just post it though because I read over it again and I actually quite liked it (which makes a change).
My Dad has been a huge influence on my political thought, as many people’s parents are, and he has shaped my feelings about politics not only in an ideological sense but also in that he has prompted in me a natural interest in politics as a subject.
I don’t claim by any means to be an expert in politics. I don’t know much about a lot of it but I have a strong sense of what I think about an issue should you place some relevant facts about it in front of me and I really do care.
My parents were teenagers and young adults in the sixties. My Dad in particular was always heavily involved in politics throughout all of his adult life. That is, until a few years ago.
When my Dad talks about being a student in the sixties it sounds so exciting. I compare it to what my experience of student life in relation to politics is now and it seems a world apart.
Granted, I don’t actively seek out political groups at university but that’s mainly because I have no idea which one I would choose. None of the three major parties which are likely to have student organisations appeal to me and joining any of them would seem like a failure in a way, a white flag waving that I’ve given in to their insistence to fight for the middle ground.
When I hear my Dad talk nostalgically about his student days it’s not the fact that everything was going his way or that the party he wanted was winning which prompts that sentimentality, in fact, for the most part, they weren’t winning. It was that there was dialogue, there was a fight, there were protests and sit ins, there were people that cared.
Now it feels like no one cares.
I don’t talk about politics much with my friends. The majority of them don’t have a particular interest in politics, which I suppose is fair enough.
Sometimes I feel like caring about politics is seen as mildly irritating or annoying by people in my age group. I have been told to stop talking about it before. I have had people roll their eyes and try and change the subject. I have, most patronisingly, been told to ‘calm down’ because I was getting particularly passionate about an issue.
I’m not sure that this is all down to a lack of interest. This is down to a climate that makes us feel like we can’t change anything. Maybe if people felt like having an opinion was worthwhile, if they felt like having a debate with someone and trying to change the way they see things would make a difference then people would be more interested in talking about politics. Now people think ‘what’s the point?’
This is not the way the world is supposed to be. This is not the way a democracy is supposed to be.
I know that if I sit in a room with a group of people and have a discussion about politics it isn’t going to change the world, I’m not naïve. But it’s a start isn’t it?
I don’t have all the answers. I’m not sure I even have one answer to the problem of apathy. Sometimes I feel like the time when people were excited about change seems so long ago. But then I realise that that isn’t the case, my parents lived through it…hell even I lived through it a little bit.
For a brief period in the nineties people were truly hopeful for British politics. Some of my earliest memories are of going leafleting with my dad for the Labour Party, of putting up campaign posters and visiting people’s houses. There were a group of us kids all around the same age who grew up together, whose parents were all passionate about change.
I was 6 years old during the 1997 election campaign when Tony Blair was elected. Of course, I had no idea what was really going on, but kids are perceptive. I still remember how excited everyone was, how hard people were working and how happy those times were because there was hope and because people cared.
Of course, that didn’t turn out all that great and Blair failed our country and all those people that worked so hard to get him elected.
But that optimism, that was in my lifetime, I remember that if only vaguely. Now all I see is people who have given up and I wish I knew what to do.
That’s all for now