Hopeless Idealism in Politics

When you claim someone to have created a successful post, one that is often attributed with a strong base of views, replies and all the other stuff that goes along with metrics that can be measured by an algorithm, the source material is seldom politics. Or, at least, not politics in a pure and buzzword-free sense. If I was strictly interested in pulling in droves of views and mindless followers, I’d write an article about some such drivel as the latest Justin Trudeau debacle, or the ever fresh madness coming straight out of the White House to the south.

I could sing entire albums riding on little more than a few lines of dialogue ripped from a news article (the less credible, the better), and bring in probably dozens of more views than what I presently see. In fact, as a point of transparency: my peak views have been 24~ in one day. This was prompted by the article I wrote past summer about the Wonder Woman movie; I can guarantee that majority of people who did click on the link to my post didn’t get much further than the second or third paragraph before becoming bored and sauntering over to the latest nonsense as squeezed out by Buzzfeed or Huffington post (two online outlets I have little love or respect for).

Instead, I try to write something a little more thoughtful and a little less hype-ey. This includes today’s topic: some assorted thoughts on our current political tone in Canadian politics and the tenuous relationship we have with selfishness, reactive policies and a “us vs them” mentality that ranges from as local as each of our personal ridings to as wide as our views on international affairs.

To start, I’d like to re-tell, in brief, a conversation I had with my grandfather about a year ago. We were discussing the aftermath of the federal elections in Canada (my grandfather and I often debate those lite and whimsical topics such as politics, ethics in business, psychologies of societies and other such assorted affairs. Y’know, pretty normal stuff), and he got inquiring about who it was that I had voted for. I was honest in my response: I had gone into the polling booth with the intention of voting Liberal, but ended up voting Green party when pencil hit paper. This surprised my grandfather, as we had been discussing both our general disappointment in the recent administrative choices of the Harper government and sought change.

This prompted him to ask me, roughly, “If you wanted to see change, why did you vote Green Party instead of the strategic vote for the Liberal Party? After-all, the Green Party will very likely never get a riding in my particular area.” It’s entirely true: the smarter vote would have been for the Liberal party in my particular riding, or even an ambitious NDP vote. Even so, the community I live in is strongly Conservative in nature and will likely remain that way for decades to come. At the end, did it really matter?

Deep down, for better or worse, I’m an idealist: not a practical or realist by most stretches of the imagination. If I had been only focusing on the strategic vote, the smart vote: I should have voted Liberal. But by that logic, what’s the point in even having different parties to vote for; furthermore what’s even the point in having a discussion on policy? If you vote either left or right, red or blue, this or that: you’re only working in ultimatums. Such a system is, by its nature, poisonous to the fundamentals of what democracy should stand for. Especially since it’s become more important to these parties to represent the party-line. The ideals of the party, with little flexibility or willingness to change stance, position or tone. Sure, the leaders might change, but it’s fundamentally still the same thing at the end of the day; a constant that sees little variety in approach and sway.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons that so many people (I speak primarily of Canadians here, since I do not claim to have deep knowledge of public, not popular, opinion in the US) who are in my generation and those that came after are so disillusioned in their governing bodies. If the only people who are in the electoral system are those who maintain the status quo, to keep the line constant and ensure the party is unchanged in stance, then yeah: why bother investing time to get involved. It can seem like an impossibility to instill any sort of change or hell, even a minor shift, in such an uncaring environment.

But it’s a self-fulfilling cycle in that case: if the people do not believe that they can change the system, then the system will not change and will, instead, reinforce that belief. Time and time again government has seemed to never change to fit the wished of those that need their voices to be most heard; but then again, those who have a voice have chosen time and time again to not raise it.

I bring you now, reader, to the biggest movement in social movements: Slacktivism. You’re undoubtedly familiar with the concept, and it applies just as strongly in politics as it does in the realms of charity and social change. I often see posts online (disclaimer: I predominantly use Facebook as my method of managing social media, so understand that this is what colours my views on the matter) decrying the views, beliefs and policies of whatever politician happens to be in the crosshairs of the news at the time. “Politician X has enacted Y policy because they hate happiness,” or other assorted angry messages meant to get a rise out of those who view it. Whether that is in supporters or opposition, it doesn’t really matter half the time. The point is to get a reaction.

Oftentimes, the best reactions are those of unsaddled and unhinged rage. In many cases, I see the brave, if often ill-fated, attempts of friends and strangers alike to instill thoughtful conversation or well-researched counter points to these posts. The hatred and anger that spews outward to these attempts is frightening. And also shockingly common across all sides of the political spectrum: red or blue, left or right, conservative or liberal it doesn’t seem to matter. The name of the game is to get people angry.

And don’t misunderstand: anger is a powerful tool. Many of history’s most pivotal rallies have been in angered reaction to mistreatment or injustice. My concern rises, however, when the only reaction is anger. Not a moment is spent in critical thought; not a calm voice is raised above the droning wrath that festers and circles in the mire of voices and opinions that swarm like an engorged and starved school of piranhas.

Of course, the common reasons/excuses will pour out once a question is raised to people’s inability to engage in the politics that govern the country we find ourselves in: I don’t have time, it takes too much effort, big corporations make all the decisions anyway, and other such flakey reasonings that serve as a buffering method to remove ourselves from the sense that we are not at fault; it’s just circumstance. After all, it’s also not just us: everyone is like that!

While it is not everyone, it is certainly such a large percentage of the population that it is impossible to ignore. Our own disinterest in taking responsibility has reached such an artful degree that it far surpasses the realm of talent and moves into a involuntary action; a sort of social ‘tick’, as it were. Thing back to your own experiences with political discourse: when was the last time you shared or commented on some politically-charged post? Now think to when you actually acted on that opinion of yours and took the necessary steps to see that opinion voiced?

For many, that last question is a stopping point. Fortunately, there seems to be a small degree of change on the horizon for people taking interest in the political discussions that are occurring. And, in true idealist fashion, it is my hope and aspiration that people might start taking more interest in just the two established houses of politics; that we might start seeing some more political discourse that leads to a better informed discussion over-all.

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