If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent a fair bit of time feeling disillusioned about politics.
It’s fairly standard, really, for people to despair of the system as a whole if they pay attention for long enough to see what happens when someone they voted for actually gets into power. Politicians are easy to despise, particularly when they do publicly stupid things, which they commonly take advantage of their numerous opportunities to do. They might even be worse than estate agents.
A recent Gallup poll in America put Congress’s job approval rating among the public at 10%. That means that one person in ten thinks their body of elected rulers are doing well at what they’ve been put in that position of authority for. This was the least optimistic of various polls, and it has crawled pitifully upwards a little since then, but either way, it’s not hard to draw a few reasonable conclusions about the esteem in which politicians across the pond are generally held.
People are more likely to feel positively about the guy they voted for, or any individual who represents their team – Democrats, Republicans, whatever – but it makes little difference whether they’re closing the tribal ranks and blaming “the other side” for everything that’s going wrong. It’s a fantastically low score.
The political landscape often seems like a dismal place, and it’s easy to get discouraged about the whole thing.
Except, you can’t just not take an interest in politics. It’s not like it’s got any less important because the people who are supposed to be doing it seem to be really bad at it. It’s not like people’s disillusionment necessarily means they stop caring about taxes, or foreign policy, or military intervention overseas, or global economics, or the criminal justice system, or same-sex marriage rights, or how often the council come and collect the bins. These things still matter, and I still feel quite strongly about some of them.
And, on reflecting further on exactly what I strongly felt about all these things, I decided I wasn’t actually disillusioned with politics at all.
What I’m disillusioned with is authoritarianism and capitalism.
The reason this wasn’t obvious in the first place is that those two things basically are politics in much of the modern world. President Obama is from the purportedly left-wing party of his country’s political system; I’ve touched before on the ways in which his administration continues to resemble a right-wing dictatorship, despite the fevered, hallucinatory accusations of socialism from the even-further-right. And don’t even get me started on David Cameron.
Genuine socialism barely gets a look-in in the current discourse. The closest we usually get is reminders of how bad Stalin was, by people who – assuming they think what they’re saying makes any sense – have apparently never wondered whether the whole notion of government and capitalism shouldn’t similarly be debunked by Hitler. Libertarianism has a more noticeable and waxing presence, but also seems to be dominated by the right-wing.
The point is, there are alternative ways of thinking and acting available. You’re allowed to have such different politics from all the major political parties that you don’t want to join any of them. It doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to play politics, any more than not being a hipster means you’re banned from Tumblr. You might feel a little isolated and out of place, but it’s your internet – and, indeed, your world – too.