Thoughts on the failing of our Government, and what this country needs politically

And, yet again, I find myself writing about politics. A couple of weeks ago, when I last wrote a politically-themed blog, someone told me I should get on my soapbox more often, and, for some reason, that response stuck in my head, because my metaphorical soapbox is my favourite place in the world. So *climbs onto soapbox* *raises megaphone*:

I have always strongly cared about political issues, but have never expressly been interested in politics itself. It was in the weeks leading up to the General Election that I realised the reason I hadn’t had much previous interest in politics was because there was not a political party I resonated with. I just felt that they were all variants of the same thing, that they all parroted each other’s policies in their manifestos, and were scared to say anything which could provide genuine opposition.

Labour was meant to oppose Conservatives in their ideology, yet both made promises to a) increase austerity, and b) tighten the restrictions on immigration. How can two parties oppose each other, if their campaigns are based on the same policies, and the usage of the same techniques to tackle the same issues? It felt as though the ideologies employed by political parties in the lead-up to the election were incredibly forced, and all far too similar. There were the Conservatives, who wanted to make the rich richer, the poor poorer, and prevent immigrants and asylum-seekers from entering the UK. There was Labour, who were basically watered-down Conservatives (possibly minus the part about making the rich richer). There was bloody UKIP, which was like a hardcore, neo-Nazi, even-less-credible version of the Conservatives. There were the Liberal Democrats, who were blamed for the Conservatives’ failings over the past five years, and there were the Greens, whose leader kept having “brain fade”, and then there was the SNP, who the majority of the UK couldn’t vote for, because the majority of the UK isn’t Scotland.

I, aged seventeen, was not old enough to vote in the election, but if I had been, who would I have voted for? I honestly don’t know. This generation has not yet experienced a political movement with the power to greatly move us. For the short entirety of our lives, we have had Governments who have not supported us, Governments who have not invested in our future, and Governments who have driven this country further and further towards collapse.

Over the past few days, I’ve been reading a lot of articles about the Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn, and the thing that struck me most about his political ideology is that a great deal of it actually resonates with me. I heard on the radio this morning that there have been suggestions of postponing the Labour leadership election, because Labour has gained so many new members who are not “real” Labour supporters, but apparently “militants” who want to sway Labour to the far left.

But what is actually wrong with a left-wing Labour party? Isn’t the whole point of Labour that it’s meant to be left-wing, that it’s meant to provide actual OPPOSITION to the Conservatives, rather than just mimicking their crappy policies? We need a left-wing government, we need a government which isn’t ruled by far-right fascists who want to take away our freedoms, take away public services, and alienate the majority of the population! We need to end austerity, to raise the minimum wage, to provide cheaper/free university tuition. We need to invest in the next generation, because if we don’t, we’re all going to be screwed.

Our country is not run by politicians who invest in our future; it is run by ones who invest in their own. Yet we – as we are constantly reminded by every adult responsible for our education – are the future. And what kind of future are we letting ourselves be subjected to? From a young age we are trained to pass standardised tests, to prepare ourselves for the real world. Yet no matter how “educated” we are, no matter how many tests we pass, how much money we grow up to make, we will in no way be prepared for the bright, bright future before us. Our insignificant, fleeting lives are constantly toyed with by a handful of rich men who think they can play God. The problem with thinking you’re God is that you forget what it’s like to be human.

The Conservative Government is completely out-of-touch; it doesn’t know what the people of Britain need. Is there a single political party which does? Probably not.
As long as this game of copy-cat continues, where every party resorts to borrowing each other’s policies in an attempt to people-please, we will not get the government we need. We need a government that we can invest in, a government that we can put our faith in.

The internet wonders why there has been such an influx of new members in to the Labour party since the announcement of Jeremy Corbyn’s bid for leadership? It’s because we finally have a politician that we can support. For as long as I can remember, the image of Labour has been clouded by Tony Blair and the Iraq war (not to mention the increasing decline of left-wing policies and rapid migration towards Conservatism). Now Labour has a chance to redeem itself, to step up and oppose the right-wing parties in the way that it’s meant to. If it doesn’t, if it continues to be ruled by puppet leaders parroting Conservative spiel, at least we will have learnt something from its failure: we need politicians with ideals, politicians who want to make this country better rather than worse, and we need politicians who can ignite within us the spark of ideology, the spark of revolution. Most importantly, we need politicians who are brave, who stand up to those in power. Why should we vote for people who are too scared to use the voice that we have given them? A century ago, there were so many people fighting for the right to vote, are we really honouring their memory by casting our votes into the redundancy of leaders who don’t speak up for us, who don’t defend our rights? If so, then what is the point of voting at all?

Identity

I often think that being a writer has little to do with actually writing, and is, rather, a state of mind, perhaps even a psychological condition. (No, I am not diagnosing myself with any form of psychosis).

To write, you must have a mind that is fertile to the possibility of exploring the furthest reaches of imagination, a mind capable of creating worlds which mirror our own enough for humanity to see themselves in it, but which differ enough that we do not see through the allegory. To write, you have to be barking mad (something which I excel at).

To have this state of mind, though, means that it isn’t easy out in the real world. I feel more comfortable in book-world, where anything is possible, and things have to make sense, and courage is rewarded. Stories are life at a higher octave. Good is purely good, and bad is deliciously evil. Even the grey areas of morality are cut in the brightest hue of oppressive clouds. Everything is sharper, stronger, stunningly defined. And me? Where do I fit into this passionate world? Where do I fit into the worlds I am capable of creating? I fit them better than anything, but they are not where I am allowed to reside. I belong, puzzlingly, in the world of reality, not that of fiction.

But I am used to stories, I am used to the comfort of fiction, and I often find myself acting in ways which would be perfectly suitable for a fictional character to act, but not a real person. I speak my mind far too often, and I stand up for the downtrodden, and I question the system, and a tiny part of me genuinely does believe that the government is going to turn into an (even more) oppressive dictatorship and remove all our remaining freedoms. Because I grew up with heroines like Tris Prior and Katniss Everdeen. I spent my formative years reading books about kick-ass girls, and I have learnt from the best.
I also learnt to believe in justice, in love, in revolutions, in smart girls getting happy endings, and that goodness doesn’t always prevail (thanks George R R Martin) but that you should strive for it anyway.

Books don’t teach us how to act, how to think, what to believe… What they do teach us is self-sufficiency: self-sufficiency of imagination, and of ideology, and identity. I struggle a lot with identity, because my defining traits are so juxtaposed that I feel I never really “fit”. I don’t do moderation. At the same time I can be both the devil’s advocate, and a complete angel. I will smile sweetly as I challenge everything you hold as truth. I love arguments, I love debates, I love challenges, but I don’t love being mean. I want everyone to be nice to each other, and to live in peace, but I also want to shake up the world and fight injustice. I want to be influential, and I want to be unknown. I have never felt myself to be more or lesser than anyone else, but I have always felt different, set-apart. I am from a different plane, a different wavelength. I have always felt like an alien, and all I crave is to find someone of my own species; someone who understands me. I would rather argue with someone interesting than get on well with someone boring. When I say I want someone like me, I don’t mean a carbon copy, I don’t mean a clone. I want someone who isn’t afraid to challenge me, as long as they don’t mind me challenging them.

If life is a playground, then I want someone with whom I can build sandcastles of ideology, built upon pillars of intellect. I want someone whom I can talk to about something a little less mundane than the weather. Seriously, why can’t we talk about politics, or human rights, or animal welfare, or the perils of capitalism? I don’t care if it’s raining, or if the sun’s shining, because my mind is always filled with thunder and lightning, and that is what I have grown used to.

But, in this “real” world, it is rare to find someone whom I connect with, and so I find myself drawn back into the world of fiction, of beautiful lies about beautiful liars. My fantasies are etched in fiction, and my fiction is etched with fantasies. Yet reality demands my attention, demands that I stare it in the face when all I want to do is close my eyes and lose myself in the ink on pages and the lyrics of songs. We don’t choose to be real, yet this is the world into which we are born, and we can’t leave. The current crashes in from every direction, preventing our escape. But it’s all in our minds: the ocean that stifles our movement, the reality which entraps us…everything. It is our minds which trap us, so it is in our minds where the solution lies. I cannot live in a world which makes sense to me, so I must make sense of this world the only way I know how: by using reality as a mirror for fiction, rather than fiction as a mirror for reality. Maybe then I can understand this world.

Perhaps it is a gift, not a curse, to belong to the world of fantasy, of daydreams, of stories. Because that world is the world of ideas, and it is through ideas that we can change the world. So if works of fiction are what inspires me to get up on my soapbox and shout to the world about things which are only talked of in whispers, then failing to belong is perhaps the greatest blessing I will ever receive.

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In the Land of Gods and Monsters

I don’t tend to write blogs about politics (I save that topic for long, rant-like, Facebook statuses), but recently I’ve become more and more politicised (in other words, I’ve become really pissed off with the Government). I’ve been reading lots of articles about the new laws/policies that the Conservatives are trying to bring in, and I can’t help feeling that this country is being dragged, unresisting, towards its own miserable demise.

Since coming into power, what has this Government done? Proposed the removal of the Human Rights Act, attempted to bring back fox hunting, cut many benefits, scrapped student maintenance grants, and proposed a ban on foreign students working in the UK. How can we respect a government which doesn’t respect us? The argument is that countries such as the USA can cope with extreme austerity measures, and that they can survive in worse-off conditions than this government expects us to live by. But I don’t think that that argument is the answer. The UK is in a huge amount of debt, but no matter the extremity of austerity, that debt cannot be paid off by this generation, or the next, or the one after that. Cutting benefits will not get the country out of debt; it will only increase the number of families in poverty, and therefore sabotage the future of the next generations.

If the Conservatives were to privatise the NHS and continue with the cuts to benefits, we could end up living in a country not dissimilar to the state of Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In Russia at the moment, the vast majority of people live in poverty, with all the industry lying in the hands of 26-or-so billionaire oligarchs. Because the wealth of Russia belongs to so few, the state does not have money to provide a free/cheap healthcare service (as they did during the Soviet period), meaning that illness, addiction, HIV/AIDS, and early death are rife. In addition to this, the industry that Soviet Russia relied on was artificial, reliant on a lack of imports from other countries, meaning that there are now not nearly enough jobs for such a large population. Although Britain is only the smallest fraction of the size of Russia, it could face the same problem. Britain also relied on artificial industries, which we no longer have need for. The coal-mining industry has disappeared, as have textiles, ship-building, etc. We rely on the imports of foreign goods in order to survive, but we are ruled by a Government which is coming across as more-and-more nationalist and opposed to foreign intervention in any form.

Another area in which the government’s actions are counter-intuitive is the vilification of Muslims. You don’t tackle extremism by hyping it up, and putting it as the headline on every major newspaper. The quickest way to expand an issue is to give it attention, to blow it out of proportion. Furthermore, the “anti-terror” laws, which will give teachers a responsibility to report on any pupils they believe are becoming “extremists” are only going to worsen the problem, not solve it. We, as a country, need to stop treating all Muslims as guilty for the crimes of the few! Islam is NOT an extreme religion, and extremist groups such as ISIS are NOT representative of Islam as a whole. Extremism is not about religion, it merely uses religion as a tool. Why do we not blame all Christians for the Ku Klux Klan, or the Medieval Crusades? Why do we not blame all Jews for the Israeli treatment of Palestinians? Because, in those cases, we know that the actions of some people are not the actions of all of them. So why do we, as a society, have such a blind spot when it comes to Muslims? Why do we strive so hard for segregation, why do we strive so hard to turn them into The Enemy? Why is it more desirable to condemn millions of people for the extremism of a few, than to recognise that the views of individuals are not the views of the many? Why do we need a scapegoat? Why do we need someone to blame?

If we believed everything we read in the news, it would be natural to think that we live in a land of Gods and monsters. The government rules us, it makes laws that we believe we have no power over. It is a cruel god, an omnipotent god, and an omniscient god. And this God, this government, is turning many religious/ethnic/national groups into monsters, turning them into scapegoats in a way reminiscent of the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany. I know that that is the example so often dished out, but that is because it bears a vast amount of truth. Next time you hear someone saying something anti-Islam, replace the word “Muslims” with “Jews” and hear that person sounding scarily like Adolf Hitler. Racism is a social disease, and it is a disease that continues to spread. If we cannot care for our fellow humans, what hope do we have as a species? The more we allow ourselves to be poisoned by racism/sexism/homophobia, the closer we come to self-destruction. What hope is there for a species which tears itself apart?