Monday, 18 June 2012

What's the point?

Nowadays, the stereotypical politician comes from a well off family and their background and history of prestigious education provide a firm foundation in order to allow them to progress with their career. Of course, this is not always the case. It is possible (but also incredibly difficult) to work one's way up. This is precedented by Margaret Thatcher, who happened to both belong to a low income family and be one the first female politicians in a "man's world".

The media often portrays that politicians are greedy and the main force driving their career is obtaining money. Expenses scandals and many other events are evidence of this, but has the whole thing been blown out of proportion? That's what the media tends to do, anyway. 

I believe it is important that information is reported and I am generally against censorship. However, I also dislike the way in which the media can exaggerate something to the extent where it is portrayed beyond reality. Immigration is an example of this. Ridiculous representations of our foreign friends in newspapers and using them as scapegoats for our country's problems has led to prejudice, discrimination, racism and a lack of ability to embrace other cultures. Why? Because we read newspapers, we watch the news and we listen to the radio and we believe everything we hear. It's an easy thing to do and we all do it. Sometimes this misrepresentation makes it very difficult to differentiate between fact and fiction and therefore form a justified opinion.

I think maybe the best thing to do is to obtain news from a variety of sources; therefore you can read a variety of perspectives and form your own viewpoint. I would like to say that news should be written without bias or emotive language, but I think that's near impossible, especially when the topic covers something very emotive. Besides, emotive language is usually what attracts readers to an article.

Although the lives and actions of some politicians probably are misrepresented, there must be some truth behind a lot of it. There is corruption in politics and it is a big problem. A reason why many of the electorate abstain from voting is because they don't trust any politicians. 

Last time I looked, none of us are totally trustworthy, none of us are completely perfect and all of us make mistakes. Politicians are human too. I'm not saying corruption is ok. I don't think there's anything right about claiming expenses on a duck pond. I'm saying that the system is always going to have faults no matter how hard we try. We're only human; we're never going to eliminate all of corruption. But we can try. If people never tried, slavery wouldn't have been abolished (William Wilberforce), women wouldn't have been given the vote (Emmeline Pankhurst) and blacks wouldn't have been given equal rights (Martin Luther King).

What is my point? My point is countering the point everyone's been making: "What's the point?” What's the point in voting? What's the point in signing this petition? What's the point in sending this letter? Is a bit of paper really going to make a difference? I'm sick to death of hearing all this. Every remark feels like a slap in the face. Essentially, you're telling me that the time I've invested in campaigning is wasted. You’re wrong.

Yes, signing a petition can make a difference.  Sending a letter can also make a difference. If every person in the UK decided to write to David Cameron tomorrow morning asking him to work harder to end world poverty, could he really ignore 62 million letters getting shoved through his letterbox? What many people seem to forget is that politicians are there to represent us! We are part of their constituencies, so we decide who stays and who goes. They are working for us, no matter how often it seems like they are working against us or we are working for them. If you don't vote, if you don't get involved and if you don't have your say then you are depriving yourself of a voice! Their job is to listen to us, so let's make sure they do what our taxes pay them to do.

I'm not excluded from those being influenced by false information presented by the media. Last weekend I went on an activism training weekend for the ONE Campaign and I wasn't feeling particularly confident after being knocked down by various criticisms regarding politics and campaigning. The weekend involved a session with a panel of MPs at Parliament, which I was pretty excited about, although at the back of my mind I was wondering how the politicians would react to a group of student activists. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Among the panel were Jack McConnell and Baroness Anne Jenkin, who appeared to be very open to the thoughts of young people and were very passionate about International Development. Baroness Anne Jenkin had even shared that she had taken part in the Live Below the Line Campaign (Living on £1 a day to experience the lives of the 1.4 billion people on the planet that eat for £1 a day, every day). I would never have imagined a conservative politician doing such a thing, but I guess I was proved wrong! Some politicians do care. Not all of them, but some of them. We need to show them that we do too.

I would like to get involved in politics to make change. It's difficult because sometimes I just feel like giving up. So many people mock the efforts of activists and campaigners. I'm not the most charismatic person, I can sometimes be shy and I don't get the best grades, but at the end of the day if I focus my time on sitting on my backside and writing essays, I'm not going to make a big impact on changing the world. I'm not ignorant enough to ignore the significance of education; of course it is vitally important.  The world is so unaware of its issues; it is in desperate need of education. Unless you study post-GCSE Politics, Geography or History (which many don't), I don't think you are really educated enough about domestic and foreign politics in order to use your vote wisely. This shouldn't be case. Fair enough, everyone has their own passions, but surely people care about the decisions that are made which will directly affect society. In the words of Jack McConnell: "If you care about human rights and social justice and human rights in your own community, then you should care about it internationally too."

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