Hardly an expert or one with much profound knowledge on the issue, I wonder how it is that my generation are supposed to look on today’s politics with optimism. Not to go down the naïve path of believing “one person isn’t going to make a difference”, I can’t help but despair at what goes on in the political sphere. I used to respond when prompted that the reason I don’t like politics is that they’re all liars. Of course that was a generalisation I didn’t mean literally. Yet my main point was and still is that politicians exaggerate all the time, or make promises they can’t keep, sometimes knowingly, only to get there and not fulfil most of them. If politicians got up and were completely honest, it is more than likely they wouldn’t get elected, thus we push them to speak purely to get votes or as we’re seeing with Trump – attention. As much as many Trump supporters argue that he is merely not letting political correctness curtail what he says to the public, I wonder how much of what he says he truly means, and how much of it he would really fight to achieve if elected. Despite this, what is more important is that Trump is simply an easy target, for he is far from the only one who’s integrity can be questioned when we analyse actions or words. We could just as easily question the integrity of many politicians from Clinton to May, Buhari or Putin.
Then comes the plethora of decisions that seem to arise through the lack of adequate consideration or a desire to please either the wrong people or for the wrong reasons. In 2013 Cameron’s proposal for airstrikes in Syria was rejected in Parliament. Yet in light of mounting terror attacks in the Western world, when brought up again at the end of 2015, they were accepted. The difficulty for me was the motivation behind this decision. It seemed fear, an inevitable motivator of hate, played a large role. Furthermore when the goals of the terrorists were considered did it really seem like killing some of them by drones, without sufficient ground support or a detailed plan of action, would really do that much to solve the problem? I wondered if it was simply felt that a show of force was immediately necessary to make people feel better and warn the enemy of Britain’s might. As one who looked at it from an academic standpoint, I could not help but strongly disagree with the decision. I cannot think of a greater recruitment tool for extremists than the wails of innocents hit by drone strikes where the possible civilian representation was collateral in the name of “the greater good”. However, this may be because at the moment I am struggling to fully reconcile with utilitarian principles such as fighting, while ignoring some wrongs, for the greater good; especially when that good is judged by a specific set of ideals that are not universal and are viewed from one society’s point of view.
What I see in democracy today is a balancing act between what the majority want and what the informed are aware is right. Why should it fall to John Smith down the road, who thinks Africa is a country, whether the economy would fare better if trade with Europe were risked at the prospect of greater trade with the rest of the world? Why should politicians act in a way that will fill him with the kind of national pride that emanates from the feeling of superiority over “lesser” countries? I am unsure of the idea that age alone is what should dictate eligibility for political engagement. If there can be a cut off point of some sort, can we not ensure that the electorate the politicians try so hard to win over are those who are informed to an acceptable degree? If enough engagement or interest is not shown by people to investigate thoroughly their opinions, why should they have a hand in deciding matters of great national importance?
Perhaps, after consuming film after film of men and women who stood uncompromisingly for all that was good (whatever that is), our standards are too high. Perhaps without access to the complete picture, we judge our leaders too harshly. Yet from where I stand it seems we’re scarce of the honest guys because most of them aren’t tough enough for the dog-eat-dog world of politics; instead we are left with the professionals who know how to play the game. Thus when I consider future elections I wonder if we’ll be voting in the best possible leader or choosing between the most convincing car salesmen. Such frustrations with the political system lead to the political disengagement described by Charles Taylor in his book “Ethics of Authenticity”. To paraphrase Taylor, it can no longer be denied that many see no point in engaging with politics as long as leaders provide the means to the satisfactions of private life and distribute them widely. This leads to a sense of being trapped and a soft tyranny where ironically the people are no longer the ones making the important decisions.
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