Politics through the eyes of an exhausted and undecided male student
Before the 2010 general election, I wrote online about my interest in politics. I couldn’t yet vote, so it was all pretty meaningless but people seemed interested in what a 14-year-old thought of politics. Five years later, a general election is three days away, and this time I can vote.
This time, though, I have a much more complicated relationship with politics.
Politics is exhausting to follow. The intensity with which debates and points of contention explode, especially in the middle of an election campaign, takes a massive amount of effort to keep up with. Though I care about politics and take an interest, it’s easy to see why a large proportion of young people are disengaged.
I truly believe in the importance of politics and as such I want to make the right choice. The desire to do what’s right only adds to the pressure caused by the exhausting, 24-hour nature of modern politics.
Besides the information overload issues that an election produces, I’ve struggled with something far deeper. Most people in the media and those talking about politics online seem to have a great sense of personal identity. It’s human nature that you’ll only ever hear from those who are invested enough in politics to have staunch ideological values and thus strong affiliation to a particular party. Indeed it’d be boring to fill TV screens with people whose basic political thoughts are best reflected by the famous shrugging individual: “¯\_(ツ)_/¯”.
While young, disenchanted voters are acknowledged by the media as some sort of faceless entity and used by individuals like Russell Brand as a means to start a revolution, you never really hear much individually from confused youths.
The issue is that I want to get to the stage where I’m able to truly dedicate myself to a political party, but how do you get to that stage? I don’t have parents that have instilled me from a young age strong leftist values, or the belief that Conservatism is the only way to succeed. Though some may be able to conjure a set of believes and a sense of political identity, I’m just left with the deep and meaningful question: who really am I?
There’s no easy route to answering that question satisfactorily. Though it’s exhausting, I’ve read manifestos, I’ve had deep and intense discussions about politics, I watch the news: I have informed myself as much as humanly possible. So what do I do now? No one is answering that question for me.
Modern politics seems to be based around vying for my vote. I’m the elusive “undecided voter” and I could quite conceivably end up voting for any of the mainstream parties on Thursday. Yet modern politics still doesn’t offer any answer. My views aren’t aligned with one party — I’m a complicated, modern individual — and to dedicate myself to a single party seems far too much of a compromise.
Young people are pressured into voting a certain way, with certain parties more fashionable than others. The idea that who you vote for should remain a secret has been obliterated by enthusiastic politics-lovers who seem to think that the best way to engage people in politics is to talk about politics for what seems to be every single minute of every single day. Maybe this always used to be the case, but in this, the first election where Twitter has a mainstream presence in lots of people’s lives, it’s unavoidable.
If I’m someone who’s interested in and informed about politics and I want to yell “shut up” at anyone who talks politics, then imagine what those who aren’t interested or informed feel. Democracy!
Politics finds itself in a quandary. All party leaders seem keen to acknowledge, and therefore appeal to, the undecided and bewildered voter, but I’m yet to see evidence that they actually understand them. They’re put in a bracket that simplifies and reduces their issues down to something far too general to be useful.
For me, it’s this lack of political ideology that’s my issue, but for others it’s that they can’t understand the abhorrent and perhaps embarrassing bickering that takes place in the chambers of the House of Commons or the fact that, as Russell Brand is keen to point out, the press is skewed unnecessarily towards the right wing.
I know I’ll make up my mind somehow before Thursday, but that doesn’t stop the whole process being a clusterfuck for me. I’m tired of politics, yet want to be energised by it. Everyone pretends to know or care about my category of voter, yet I don’t ever feel like anyone really knows about the way I feel.
Whatever the result on Thursday, politics should aim to reinvent itself. It should speak to me and other young people without requiring me to have a defined sense of political being. It shouldn’t be exhausting to follow. This may seem an impossible goal, but without an ideal to aim towards, things will never change. All those involved in politics: politicians, commentators, journalists, and campaigners, need to contribute to a better political future.