This is something I have been thinking about a lot in recent months. A lot of people I know seem to be disengaged with politics, stating it’s too depressing to read about, let alone act on political events. Some might consider their actions ‘apolitical’ – however, is there really such a thing? Is being apolitical not just passively supporting the status quo? By not responding, by not acting, does an apolitical stance not help to facilitate the very context which is ‘depressing’?
Now, before I proceed, I have to deal with some blatant generalisations. What do I mean by ‘politics’? And what do I mean by ‘act’?
Of course, like any human being I hold a subjective point of view. There are certain issues I consider key because they either affect me directly or oppose my values and beliefs. At the moment, ‘politics’ to me is the UK’s decision to leave the EU, and the toxic rhetoric that surrounds that decision. Not engaging with this issue and its consequences makes no sense to me. Moreover, claiming an ‘apolitical stance’ feels like an indirect backing of all the division and hate.
However, this is a harsh assessment to say the least. Things are never as clear-cut. For one, there are plenty of other political events I am not responding to, let alone aware of. And my lack of response and/or awareness does not necessarily mean I support the dominant political agenda.
Life is a complicated beast, with many conflicting demands and desires, and sometimes being ‘apolitical’ seems like an escape from an increasingly complex and confusing world. But this life is not just an individual but also a shared experience. We jointly decide what matters, what’s worth fighting for and who deserves a voice.
And this is where I would like to act. Just as a friend’s disinterest in my ‘politics’ hurts me deeply, another friend will feel pain at my apolitical stance toward theirs. I would like to get better at talking about this experience. I share my highs and lows with friends, but often leave politics out of the conversation. Instead I talk to people I feel understand and care, and segregate my friends into those who are and those who are not political. And thereby I feed the very division caused by the EU referendum.
I would like to get better at sharing the sadness and pain caused by political events. And I would like to get better at asking about and listening to others’ political concerns. Perhaps these two acts could help to illustrate that politics is not an alien thing happening in the corridors of power, but affects us all.
It could start as a conversation between people who are open and listen; a conversation which allows us to gain a new understanding and, as a result, act together. It could be conversations like these which make me, you and all of us realise that there is no such thing as being ‘apolitical’.