Everything is Political23 February 2015
I’m the weird kid who rattles on about the contradictions of society with complete disregard for your innocence. You wonder if I’ll ever shut up about politics. I use the word ‘capitalism’. When student elections roll around, you either blame me for all the leafleters, or beg me to make it stop. It’s time I explain why I persist.
We political types have a name for the “why should I care” mentality. It’s called being apolitical. Thing is, being apolitical is itself political. Perhaps you’d like to steer clear of politics by burying your head in your studies? Too bad it influences tuition fees and how many tutors are available to help you out. What about the fabled ‘student life’ that we’re all marketed? The student union has to fight yearly for club funding to keep that going. I don’t have to tell you that your work rights and (possibly below minimum) wages are a political issue, which by extension makes the production and consumption of every good and service in modern society political. Music, scientific research, religion, serial dramas, the meaning of love, the list goes on. From birth to death, we live in a society invented by people. Like it or not, there’s no escaping politics.
Maybe you think you don’t care. I don’t buy that. The same people that complain about my rants come to me for answers when the government does something stupid. You don’t have to be familiar with the metabolic rift or Gramscian hegemony to be angry about cruel policy or curious about the news. Even if you have a total aversion to current affairs, if you’ve ever had to decide on a question of fairness or responsibility or power, you’ve made use of a political worldview. Your politics decides how you forgive, your opinion on who deserves what, your conceptions of value and your loyalties. Your politics decides what you care about.
People tell me I shouldn’t waste my energy. Not like those suits are gonna listen to me, right? If you think politics is just old people arguing about bills, think again. Our parents made up that myth to keep us from getting arrested. Turns out it’s also a great way for bureaucrats to make you think that your solemn duty as a citizen of a democratic nation is to uphold the fair-dinkum Australian Way™ and mark some boxes (or pay a $20 fine) every 3 years. Us political types disrupt the illusory tranquility of your existence on a daily basis for a reason. If you want to see a politician scared and listening, ‘proper channels’ don’t work so well. Every time blind faith, ignorance or cynicism convinces you to leave our ‘leaders’ unscrutinised is another chance for them to act like regular political dickheads. Surely you’ve wondered if some politicians actually depend on an apolitical public to advance their own political schemes?
Perhaps you think “that’s just how it is”. Don’t get me started on how many pay cuts and crackdowns and massacres have been justified by that sentence. Is it not an irony that we as a society worship the mentality of disruptive entrepreneurship with the same fervour that we denounce disruptive activism? As if shutting up and pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps in a rigged game that leaves everyone else behind is somehow the honourable thing to do. We’ve been fed so much garbage about ‘resilience’ and ‘believing in ourselves’ that we forget circumstances matter, and how changing your situation and changing the situation can mean very different things.
We’ve all lived enough of our lives thinking that politics is something best left to the experts, so much so that it is in fact now dominated by experts (read: bureaucrats) that often don’t even care about us. I’ve only been at this for 2 years and I can tell you there’s so much more to it. I’ve watched politicians losing their nerve at an approaching demonstration. I’ve watched a movement give hope to people who have been left to rot for seeking a better life. I’ve seen how clever civil disobedience can force officials and police to make hilariously repulsive gaffes in public. The myth is holding you back and you deserve better.
So the next time you see me around, if you’re at all curious about what I’m wailing about this week, walk up to me and ask. I can’t promise that every person on every stall will be as nice, but I think I speak for most of us when I say I’m only an attention-seeking pessimistic killjoy because I care about your sanity.