Over the past month or so I’ve thought of at least half a dozen politics-related themes to blog about, but in the end I’m not sure there’s much I can add to the swirling vortex of election debate already out there. So I thought I’d just record my subjective experience of it instead, because maybe it’s all I have to offer. What’s one more snarky facebook comment or witty tweet worth? It doesn’t come to much at this point. I’ve just got me.
The first election in which I was old enough to vote coincided with an end to the long Howard Years and the introduction of a (nominally, or perhaps relatively) left-wing government. This means that for the entirety of my voting life, the dice have more or less rolled my way. I have to acknowledge my luck in this, but it has rather spoiled me for the reality of politics, which is that there will not always be a political party that represents you in power. (Theoretically, the government is supposed to represent all citizens, but that feels so far from true right now that it’s hard to take the idea very seriously.) I’m just starting to come to grips with the associated feelings of frustration and political helplessness this brings, and recognising that, despite some of the Labor Party’s lurches to the right on some issues, conservative voters were probably feeling something like this for the last six years.
What do you do when you feel like the system has let you down, when it seems no one’s listening? How do you stop feeling alienated in your own country?
It’s stupidly simple, I suppose. Things go on. You wake up the next morning, a bit hungover maybe. You cook breakfast, go for a surf. Regain equilibrium. You talk to people who get where you’re coming from, so you don’t feel like the last sane person in a nation of crazies, or maybe the other way around. You remind yourself that no matter how horrific it seems, you are not actually living in a place where everyone thinks women or minorities are inferior, and despite how overwhelming it feels there are still plenty of decent people in the world, even most of the ones who voted for a party you don’t support.
Getting this perspective back is incredibly fucking hard.
It’s also the only way to prevent losing all hope in the human race. So it’s kind of important.
I am thinking of going off politics for a while. (I bet this idea will last all of about 3 days, but hush, let me at least contemplate it.) A little while ago one of my friends asked me, I think only half-jokingly, when I was going to enter politics myself, and I snort-laughed at the idea.
No, I thought, there are much better ways to attempt to change the world, if that’s your bent. Not to mention less soul-crushing methods.
So perhaps the next time a politician makes a thoughtless, throw-away comment reducing women to their sexual function, I will take a deep breath and pick up my copy of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Maybe the next time a politician admits that their God or the voices in their head told them to vote against gay marriage, I will renew my membership with the Atheist Foundation of Australia.
The next time a politician displays their ignorance of science and spouts their opinions of the Big Whacky Climate Change Conspiracy, I’ll engage my creative drive and write the parody short story I’ve been meaning to do for years, the one that has Evil Scientists dressing in black trenchcoats and dark sunglasses and doing commando rolls out of limousines, being super sneaky.
Earlier this year I attended a discussion panel at the Sydney Writer’s Festival about feminism in Australia and the wider world today, and something that one of the speakers said really stuck with me. Remember to look on the bright side, she said. Hold on to your humour and hold on to your humanity. “After all, Martin Luther King never said, ‘I have a nightmare’…”
Go outside and have picnics and write and take photos, disengage from the theoretical and re-connect with the real. Also abandon the real for short periods of time and lose myself in fiction, for the sake of my sanity and to re-charge my batteries.
It’s not like I’m coming up short for hobbies. There are so many things I could be pouring my energy into.
When things seem nightmarish, remember to keep dreaming.
You’re no good to anyone or any cause at all if you burn yourself out.