No longer as truthful as should be deserved, some names, places and events deliberately vague to protect identities that aren't mine

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Apathy Killed Activism

The title is a reference to Emo Killed Depression, a song by a punk band, and also the title of a blog post from a very long time ago, by Mitch Clem; one of the most talented webcomic writers I've ever come across (indeed the first I ever did), and tragically, a chronic depressive.  I do however, highly recommend his work, especially Nothing Nice 2 Say, though like so many webcomics, it does require a high level of geekery about certain concepts, in this case the punk scene, and a rather dark sense of humour.

Secondly, I meant to post this a few days ago, but then life caught up with me, and so it's a bit irrelevant now what with the election having passed, though of course it could become relevant again sometime in the near future depending on how stable whatever-turns-up-next week ends up being.

Apathy Killed Activism

I hate politics.  By which I mean the day to day of politics, the loss of idealism that comes with 20 years+ working in it, where financiers and unwritten deals and the complexity of achieving anything of any real merit have driven politicans to a disinterested state of resignation.  This is much to the frustration of the boyfriend and his family, who spend most of their time together talking about how x politician said y when they voted z on such and such a bill an indeterminate (actually, knowing his family, a very precisely known date) number of years ago; meanwhile I sit bored in the corner playing on my phone for 6 hours.

I am however, a stauch activist.  And look on those who aren't with a varying amount of dismay.  As Queen Jamilla paraphrases in Star Wars 2: The day we stop believing in democracy is the day we lose it.  I don't necessarily go entirely for democracy, at least not in the version we have it - I am after all, a proud anarchist - electoral reform isn't the half of it in my mind, but I do strongly believe the sentiment.  Ben Franklin puts it "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety", better paraphrased as "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."  If you have no activism of ANY kind in you, as so many do nowadays, please move to one of the many countries where you will not be required to have any, for all such freedoms are taken away from you.  I have voted,; I've protested; I've attended rallies; I've defended free speech using Hitler as a 'pro' example; I've been photographed by the police for being a dissident; I've protected others from being photographed; I've been threatened with arrest; I've run from the police; I've helped people get away and helped split them up; I've encouraged friends to start 'pro war' rallies; I've protested inside the SOCPA zone; I've educated others about the SOCPA zone (see end for more details); I've given money to activist causes; I follow several activist projects and have been a participant in several; I follow activist news media and have contriubted on several occasions.  The police have, for various reasons, my name; address; photograph; fingerprints; and photoevidence of me in locations what could cause me issues at some point in my life.  The American authorities, for reasons of my flying, have all this, plus a DNA sample.  None of this stops me from continuing my activism, and what the preceeding list contains is the result of only attending 1/20 of the things I would do if circumstances permitted.

I'm not saying everyone has to do all these things.  I'm not even saying everyone has to go out and vote.  But I do believe everyone should have some sense of activism, and the easiest, simplest, and quickest way to do that for most people, is to go vote once every few years.  In theory, by vitrue of being an anarchist, I am fully for the ability to exercise the right not to vote.  However I am also a realist.  I've listened to those I know who don't vote.  They say that their vote doesn't count for much; that they're all as bad as each other anyway; that they don't care about the issues; that voter turnout is crap anyway; that voter turnout is high anyway; that the seat is a sure victory for x anyway; so there's no point; that there's no 'none of the above; box.  I call BULLSHIT on them.  I have listened openly and respectfully to their reasons, honestly I have, but they all amount to apathy, and bone idleness of the worst kind.

If everyone who said their vote doesn't matter turned up then the impact on the polling figures would matter a hell of a lot.  Yes they might all be as bad as each other, but only people with an immature, distorted view of the world think all choices should have an intrinsically 'good' option, that they're easy, that decisions don't come with some unwanted consequences for the sake of a greater gain.  If you think everyone's bad, stand yourself, vote for the smaller parties that haven't had a chance to prove themselves yet, vote for the young twenty something, that's not been in poltics before, that is still the pure idealist.  Mr Smith Goes To Washington, and Legally Blonde 2, as odd as that connection may seem, can be depressingly accurate when they portray the newcomers as idealists and those with experience as out of touch with the point of politics.  But what if we suddenly had a Parliament, or a local council full of idealists, full of people who still believed they could change the world, that if you fight hard enough it works out?  How much might we achieve? 

To those who don't care about the issues, have you looked at every issue?  If you're this apathetic about voting, I'm going to guarantee the answer is no.  Don't pay attention to what the media says, the 2 or 3 big things, education, the nhs, immigiration, the economy, whatever the hot topic of the year is.  Go and read the party manifestos.  And don't use some crappy facebook polling quiz that will 'tell' you how to vote.  Make your own decisions and conclusions.  Read the entire manifesto, they're not that long I promise you.  And don't just read the big 3.  Read the small parties.  Read the ones of parties that aren't standing in your constituency.  Read the BNP and UKIP manifestos, because even fascism had a few good points to it.  What do you agree with?  What do you disagree with?  Why?  Can you think of a better system?  Can you combine the bits of each manifesto you do like into a simple coherent set of policies.  If not, does it matter?  As I stated, I am a proud anarchist.  In theory only.  I accept anarchism does not work in this world.  It requires too much of a re-evaluation of social perspectives and personal values for large scale implementation.  The communes that exist today are very small scale, and even the successful socialist cultures of history were either small by today's standards (<100,000 people), or fragmented into small cells, operating on their own bases.  And for the successful communes that exist today, even they have to deal with capitalist society outside of themselves.  5000 odd years has doctored capitalist and materialistic culture into the human psyche in such a pervasive manner, a global amnesia would have to occur to realistically adopt a new set of such different ocietal operators with any real worth.  And so I operate within what I have to in the real world, but that doesn't mean when asked, I don't know exactly where I stand in an ideal world.  If it's the other way round; if your politicians don't care about the issues important to you, whose fault is that?  Everyone assumes someone else will take the lead, will complain about it publically, when really, everyone is just complaining in the comfort of their own homes and wondering why life isn't getting any better.  Take charge of your own lives, and your own politics, and bring these issues to the attention of your councillors and MPs yourself, and encourage others to do the same.  Whilst he's a Conservative and so I'm a little dismayed by him, Zac Goldsmith's election could be very promising, as he is such a rabid proponent of direct democracy, especially using public methods such as local protest, petition, local appeal, sit-ins.  I honestly do hope that despite his breeding, we can expect to see some of the 'new' conservative that is portrayed so feverently by Cameron, that Goldsmith is indicative of what's coming into the party, in 50 years, the conservatives might actually be vaguely desirable.

If voter turnout is low, then see above.  If you all stopped making excuses, it'd be high.  Even where it is high, high voter turnout is usually above 60% and for the few places where it occurs the 70-75% range is exceptional.  I don't think it goes above that anywhere.  On an average constituency size of ~50k eligibile voters, that's still between 20,000 - 12,500 people not turning up, which is enough to change even the largest majority of those elected.  And that's just from people signed up to the electoral roll, there will be others who haven't bothered to sign onto it, even though its legally required of you, that's not including the huge number of homeless who should be entitled to vote if a proven citizen.  And on these kind of numbers, the argument 'its a sure seat for x' falls apart.  It becomes, complete bullshit.  All voting analysis is based on the fact that the same people will turn up, that near half the country, 20 million voters, won't use the right to do so.  That kind of analysis gets blown out of the water entirely if those 20 million people suddenly turn up.  The issues this year with polling stations running out of ballot papers, or not having enough staff and booths for the people turning up are disgraceful.  Whilst I appreciate if they were overstaffed, there would be cries deploring the waste of public spending, the fact that the government itself, locally and nationally, is relying on a ~60% total turnout, and does not have the capacity and capability to cope with something larger than this is abominable, contemptible, and a variety of other highly negative adjectives.

Finally, there being no 'none of the above' box, DRAW ONE.  A ballot paper cannot be admitted to the count if it has any unofficial marks on it, such as a box saying none of the above with an x in it drawn on by the voter, or if it could personally identify the voter, so write a name on the paper.  any name.  just a name.  Your vote then doesn't go towards any candidate, so you don't even have to choose, or look at party manifestos, or anything like that, however it does count for voter turnout, you have used your vote, and arguably, have used your right not to vote much more effectively that being too lazy to simply to turn up.

On the basis of all this, I am this in practical terms, a firm believer in compulsory voting.  I'm all for not having a link between who voted and who they voted for, but I think everyone should vote, and until I manage to find a genuine contientious objector with a reasonable, logical, thought out reason for not turning up to vote, until the political Lot is brought before me, I propose and support mandatory voting.  It's a very simple thing to take everyone from the register who didn't vote, and lump them with a £250 fine.  £500 if it's not paid in 14 days.  Over 20 million voters, that's an extra £5-10billion into the economy, which will save the rest of us who cared enough, and even those of you who didn't, a few public service cuts along the way.  A thread on a forum I belong to asks "Given the choice, would you rather use your vote of have £750?"  Refer back to the quotes near the start of this post.  If you'd sacrifice the use of your vote for £750 you can damn well be CHARGED £250 for such a privilege.

Because if I could, I wouldn't only disenfranchise every eligible non voting perosn in the country, and give their votes to the 8 year olds with more maturity and respect than them, I'd disenfranchise them of every right, civil liberty, advantage given to them since the establishment of parliament (alternatiely, 1215, 1264, or 1341 depending on where you wish to take it from).  Because if you can't be bothered to take the 10 minute trip to vote, you don't deserve any of it.  You have no appreciation or respect for the benefits you enjoy every day by virtue of having a voice in the governance of the country.  Anyone living in rented accomodation can automatically be stripped of a vote.  Anyone who has ever been to a GP, needed medical treatment, had a jab at school, or even been born in a hospital, can be handed a large bill for the costs.  Anyone with an education, can be billed for it.  Most of us wouldn't even have an education to be billed for anyway, you wouldn't necessarily even have the ability to read this rant.  Anyone living an open and proud gay life can go back into the shadows, hated and criminalized.  Anyone who has ever been the victim of a crime simply has to suffer, because without an act of parliament it's not a crime.  Every woman who enjoys the freedom that Pankhurst brought them because she bothered to be an activist. You don't fucking deserve any of it, because your attitude is "I don't care, it doesn't count anyway." BULLSHIT on you.  You have no respect or appreciation of those who have fought before you, for the freedoms your friends and family enjoy, or even for yourself.  You're not fit to enjoy them, and lacking the ability to send you 700 years back in time, please kindly remove yourselves to one of the many countries still in the world where you aren't required to consider these issues, because that choice simply isn't given to you.

I might not be happy that too many of my friends voted conservative, but I have respect for them.  On Thursday, I had no respect for those who didn't turn up to vote.  I didn't want to know them.  On that day they were not my friends.  I'm not asking much, I'm not expecting everyone to go on marches with me every year, I'm asking for a tiny bit activism.  That at the very least, every 4 years, you give up 10 minutes of your time to draw on a piece of paper.  Are you really telling me after all the things I've highlighted in the last paragraph its not worth your time and energy to even do that?!

Fight for what you believe in.  Be an activist.  Use your vote.  Attend a march.  Write a strongly worded letter to a local politican.  Sign it off as Mrs Trellis from North Wales for all I care.  But fight for your freedoms and never stop.  Fight because its the right thing to do.  Fight because it honours those who have fought on your behalf before you.  Fight because it gives you solidarity with those who still fight on your behalf.  Fight for the lost causes because they're only truly lost when the last fighter gives up. Fight and be proud of it. Fight and encourage others to do so.  Fight to make the world a better place.  Fight because I ask you to.  Fight because you want to. 


Mood - I made myself rather angry when I said 'fucking' above.

Music - Far too long to include, and nothing of any consequence.  It took me 4 hours to write this and the last post.

SOCPA - For those not in the know, SOCPA is legislation passed under the wave of public terror and reactionary sentiment following terrorist attacks.  Importantly, it designates a zone, of 1km radius, from Westminster Palace, where it is illegal to protest, even as a single individual, without 6 days notice from the police, who can refuse the permission to do so, and impose restrictions upon the size, time, place, duration, noise level, or style of the protest freely, and contiune to be free to add or vary any restriction they choose to do so for the duration of the protest, and outlaws the use of loudspeakers for any purpose at any time within the area, except for the emergency services.

Its an underappreciated restriction in the UK, as it was passed very quietly, tacked onto legislation it doesn't relate to.  If you don't understand the ramifications for this legislation on the concept of free speech, please go take a course in Civil Liberties.  There is nothing, save the opposition of MPs and public opinion to stop the expansion of this zone.  And that opposition wasn't enough to stop the establishment of it to start of with.  In fact I imagine half of you were completely unfamiliar with the zone until now, which shows you just how ignored that voice has been.  This legislation is not required to stop mobbing of MPs, that would come under assault law anyway.  This legislation stops free speech, without official consent, which isn't free at all, pure and simple.  And it stops it at the seat of government, at the seat of those who should protect us, who are elected to defend the principles of the right to free speech.  And they have taken it away from us, and made it so that our protests are held where they don't have to hear us if they don't want to.  Please educate everyone you know about it, and campaign for its removal.

See SOCPA zone text and designated area.

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