Editor-in-Chief Holly Jennings is here to tell you that “not wanting to get involved with politics” is a political choice.
Coco Pops is racist, muesli is the pinnacle of Corbynism, and if you prefer “nanny’s homemade marmalade on toast”, you’re a raging Tory.
You can’t eat breakfast without engaging with an ideology, but you have the audacity to tell me that you aren’t political?
I’m not endorsing a conspiracy about Tony the Tiger actually being a Nazi, or suggesting that having scrambled eggs makes you the next Genghis Khan, but it’s undeniable that on every level, even what you have for breakfast, life is political. Crunchy Nut fan? You’re supporting liberals: Kellogg’s ceased advertising with right-wing news platform Breitbart after finding them unaligned with the values of the cereal brand. Eggs and bacon more your taste? On one hand, you’re supporting the agricultural industry, but on the other, you’re advancing the climate crisis. More of a homemade pancakes-with-everything kind of person? That means you live in circumstances with the tools, including electricity, to make them, using commodities many people take for granted.
I’ll spare you the The Devil Wears Prada you-think-blue-has-nothing-to-do-with-you-esque monologue about each and every breakfast item. The cereal aisle doesn’t need to be the new House of Commons – I certainly don’t want to navigate getting around Jacob Rees-Mogg’s horizontal approach to politics whilst trying to reach for my Bran Flakes. But this toxic wave of political apathy choking the voices out of young people needs to be halted.
If three elves on a cardboard box are political, you cannot sit back and act like your life is in some kind of ethereal realm unaffected by politics. Politics impact your life: you just don’t care about the way it affects you. And I’m betting a thousand times over that the reason you don’t care is because it affects you quite well.
Choosing not to be political is wrapped in privilege: more than that, it’s inherently selfish. We can’t help what set of circumstances we’re born into, and if you’re a White, able-bodied, heterosexual, cisgender, middle or upper-class person, congratulations, you’ve won the privilege lottery (brownie points if you’re a man, too). However, this doesn’t let you off the hook, just because society has, for generations, acted with you, and for a lot of that time, only you, in mind. Too often, a common claim of the not-into-politics band is “it’s not my battle to fight”. Just because I don’t have kids, doesn’t mean I’m happy to let them starve; just because I’m not an ethnic minority, doesn’t mean I’m happy to let them be victims of systemic oppression. You do not need to empathise to want to help others. Irvine Welsh’s voting philosophy comes to mind: “When you’re not doing so well, vote for a better life for yourself. If you are doing quite nicely, vote for a better life for others.” At the end of the day, I don’t know how to tell you that you should care about other people.
Beyond privilege, not engaging with politics doesn’t negate its existence. Whether you vote or not, politics continue to happen, so not getting involved is inseparably getting involved. By removing yourself from a dialogue of politics, you’re just choosing an unlisted option. Neutrality isn’t disengaging from either side: you’re allowing the more dominant or popular stance a win over the other. If you knew a murder was going to happen and did nothing about it you’ve still committed a crime: it’s called being an accessory.
Politics is far too frequently seen as the intelligence Olympics. I don’t want to have to cite 16 sources to tell you why I think the tampon tax should be abolished and neither do most people. Being well informed about the subject doesn’t mean you should have to go to the public courthouse of Twitter armed with URLs from the Office for National Statistics to prove your point to an army of strangers. You also don’t have to find your forever-party to begin expressing a political opinion or casting votes. There are five major political parties in Scotland, and if most choices in our lives are embedded with politics, how are we supposed to authentically align with one of five groups’ ideals? Political coherency is difficult, which might be why some of the arguments we see stem from them look like more of a Big Brother episode than a bill passing in the House of Commons. It doesn’t help when most of the parties are so divided that their fights over party politics put the Gemma Collins V Tiffany Pollard shoegate to shame. Ride-or-die approaches to politics are rare: it’s not how most of us live our lives. But just because you don’t wholly agree with one party, doesn’t mean you need to withdraw from politics altogether. It’s more beneficial to see ourselves as part of a wider community, with the capacity for change.
But I don’t care because my voice won’t be listened to? Saying this only makes you look lazy. As students at one of the most prestigious higher-education institutions in the UK, I’m sure that we’d all hope to earn a tax-paying amount one day. Paying tax makes you one of the employers of the government. If your boss stopped paying attention to you, you’d slowly be able to realise you can get away with stuff, right? Treating yourself to an extra 15 minutes of break, sitting on your phone in the stockroom? The government will only do the same if we don’t hold them accountable. By voting and contacting your MP or representatives, you’re letting them know you’re watching. Your voice might not be “the one vote that swings it”, but it is valuable.
Beyond this, we are incredibly fortunate to live in a country that values freedom of expression: in Iran, you can receive 74 lashes; in Thailand, 15 years in prison; in Cameroon, up to $42,260 in fines, all for offending the heads of state. That’s not to say the UK is the pinnacle for democratic expression. In the UK, there are attempts to “suppress voter fraud” which as a result, suppresses voters: it just so happens that the voters it suppresses are the ones who risk voting against the ones suppressing it. Any opportunity to vote is a gift; student elections, Holyrood elections, Westminster, IndyRef, voting to get your favourite sauce back on the McDonald’s menu. Your ability to vote may not be permanent, so use it for as long as you can.If you see New Zealand’s photos of concerts, clubs, and parties and get frustrated, that’s political. If you’re ever felt you’re paying too much for university, that’s political. If you think that key NHS worker in your life is overworked and underpaid, that’s political. In 2021, there’s never been more time to get your voice heard: we are in the middle of 17 different crises: economic, health, political, you name it. Demand change from those in positions of power; demand it of your course reps, student representatives, and union presidents. Most of all, demand it of yourself. Not taking a stance is just as politically motivated as taking one.