A Political Meerkat In A Herd Of Apathetic Ostriches
The disturbing trend of the apathy of Centre-ground politics which is giving way to extreme opinion.
It’s 3.20am in Australia when I wake up to go for a pee. I decide to check the news and I see that the French presidential election result will be declared in less than an hour. I obviously should go back to sleep but there’s something worrying in the news report — the turnout is down. An earlier report suggested that abstainers could swing it in favour of Marine Le Pen’s extreme right wing Front Nationale party. I feel the need to see whether the world is still lurching towards fanaticism so I stay up, passing the time by playing a game on my phone.
I reflect on the “date” I went on earlier today. This is with a guy that I had been texting on and off for the past couple of months. There’s a catalogue of reasons why we hadn’t yet met — he seemed quite cagey at first and then I went travelling and then he seemed really keen…. and blah blah blah. Long story shorter…. We meet this afternoon outside Flinders Street (where else?) and go for a coffee down one of the lane ways. He’s slighter than I imagined but he’s got the same captivating green eyes from his profile photo. Okay, I admit, I fancy him. I will give it a chance.
There’s no pregnant pauses but the conversation stutters a little. I think it’d be cool to talk about my impending trip to the far north of Australia, but he’s only been to Sydney and Brisbane (seriously? And that’s for work). This is the first thing that strikes me as weird. He seems to have a good job so money doesn’t seem to be the issue. Anyway, we talk about London where he has been once, my last job, his job which I won’t state here but he’s obviously intelligent enough… and then he introduces the subject of British politics. Except he can’t think of the word that describes the process of political upheaval that British/Euro politics has been through in the past year. Seconds go by. He looks at me for help but I offer nothing. “I know that the word begins with B….” he croaks.
I think there are nomads in the African savanna who have heard of the term. Even Kellyanne Conway has heard of it. I’d say that it’s still mentioned a couple of times a week on Australian news if he ever switched it on but alas, it doesn’t look like he does. I’m perplexed that someone can be so uninformed. My instincts are wanting me to roll my eyes but I’m consciously forcing them down. Finally he finds the word. “Is it Brexit?” I nod my head and he seems relieved but continues “I know it’s something to do with Europe but I don’t know what it means.”
Since I’ve been in Australia, there’s been several occasions when someone has asked my opinion on Brexit and what it actually means for me …. (ie my take on it)… but I seriously think this guy is wanting me to start from the beginning…. so I do. To be fair, he seems interested to learn about it, but I’m concerned about his fundamental lack of understanding. I give him a very succinct history about the EU, trying my very very best not to sound patronising — after all, I don’t want to put him off but I also sort of don’t see why I should be educating this ostrich.
So I then ask him about Australian politics. Now in this country, this guy has to vote — it’s mandatory in Australia so I want to know what he does come election day, does he just close his eyes and mark a cross…., go for the one with the best name….?
He tells me that he reads up on their policies at election time and then decides how he’s going to vote and…. his voice trails off and as it does so, I imagine him, wide-eyed, staring at leaflets, getting sucked in by the usual tax-reducing rhetoric, the same way the kids in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang get out-manoeuvred by the child snatcher…. “Free lollipops, come and get your free lollipops!”
Now this unfortunate man is just an example of the way many view their political responsibility both in Australia and the UK (and no doubt elsewhere). They do not comprehend how or have faith that their vote will actually change things. And many of these are the very people that should have more of a stake in their future as, unlike me, they will be leaving behind children and grandchildren. I should be the one voting against climate change legislation and blocking the moves to reinstate free school meals.
Every time, I hear that lack of interest from people, my heart sinks. Even more so when I hear that voters are suffering from voter malaise. Because it’s way too much effort to get up off your backside every couple of years and vote. Every “Can’t be arsed” is another vote and a stronger voice to those that can be arsed and have the will and your permission to force through their agenda, however unsavoury it might be.
I look back at my date sitting there and notice that his piercing green eyes have turned a blunt grey before me. We finish up and we both make noises to meet again but I don’t think I can. I’ve witnessed first hand the couples that disagree on political issues. Is it too much to ask that I strive to meet someone that has a similar outlook to me?
Back to tonight — the news is in and thankfully Macron has defeated the right-wing in France. This is important for Britain and for Europe. However, I am only too aware that this is just a temporary sigh of relief. What can not be ignored is that a huge minority voted for an extreme right wing party and next time… well who knows?
When taking into account the low turnout, 43 people in every 100 elected the French president, 22 voted for Le Pen and 35 ostriches did absolutely nothing but bury their heads!