How I ended up on the Ballot
Going from political aversion to going into politics.
I’m taking a class on political theory and I’m extremely sure I’ll never go into politics: how can you work towards unity and peace by working within a political system in which division and parties are the status quo, a system that actively prevents people from actually working together?
I’m starting my master studies in political philosophy. I chose that program because it would allow me to pick and choose my own preferred courses in the whole philosophy & political science department. It seems like heaven, two years of studying whatever I feel most passionate about: ethics, philosophy of law, Immanuel Kant, contemporary debates in political philosophy, etc. I even end up writing a play as my final thesis, as well as a thesis about the legitimacy of non-epistemic representation in deliberative democracy. Sure it’s a mouthful, but also something in which a lot of my interests come together: how to make decisions as a group, and how to make sure people feel represented in such a system, when you’re no longer choosing your representative based on their ideas (episteme), but based on their capabilities.
I get my MA degree in political philosophy. My supervisor and head of the department gives me my diploma, saying I’m the first student he’s met who is able to say ‘no’ and know what she’s talking about. He’s probably referring to a class in which I told him I had to refute Rawls’ theory of justice because I don’t agree with certain assumptions regarding human nature he implicitly makes. Strife doesn’t need to be the status quo.
I register myself as a freelance philosopher. Life changes the moment I start my own company. After numerous rejections for jobs, I am now ready to take my life into my own hand. Instead of trying to persuade people to understand why a philosopher is an asset, why I have a lot to offer, I will from now of only attract people who already know they are looking for a philosopher. I do commercial writing jobs, I do social media stuff, but more and more do I get to do what I love most: teaching and doing philosophy.
I hand in my dissertation to get my PhD in contemporary philosophy. For a couple of years I’ve worked very hard, thinking and writing about the ‘necessity of the impossible’: a thesis on the concept of radical change, which even in 2018 is still to be published. Why do we want change in our lives, and why does radical change fail so often? And, most of all: what kind of attitude do we need to take up in order to not repeat history, but break the present in order for something new to appear? How can we understand the radical other that we don’t already know? Posting the print-out version, the German mail attendant makes me fill out a form stating the content of the package. It asks for the costs of the content and it makes me write that it has no value. It’s just pieces of paper, but for me it is beyond value.
After getting my PhD, I start working as a research fellow and post-doc for some universities around the world, working on a project on values in the field of sustainable development. I also start teaching philosophy at an art academy, developing my own course and learning a lot about how connected everything is. By invitation of the University of Maryland, I get to spend a couple of months in the United States of America, working on and researching anything I like. I spend days reading and thinking, writing and walking around a country that is alien to me. I rent a room in a house and the people shock me, they are so different from anyone I know. I talk to them, and I am afraid of them. I witness the experienced happiness and horror of the election of Donald Trump. Everywhere I go, people are either talking about stepping up, about doing more than just being sad about the new direction of a country that can do so much more than repress development, or they are talking about how some people are finally going to get what they deserve. Women, people of colour, and especially women of colour leave a lasting impression on me. They show me how little I know of myself and my own country, and how much more there is to do in this world.
My first book (in Dutch) is published. I get to talk to new people, give some lectures, show I have something to say, even if it is about a very specific topic within society. I feel restless, I want to do more. Reading newspapers, seeing how politics is defined by a bunch of grey old men, noticing that there is something I have to offer. I have no idea what to do, how to go about this.
I’m on the ballot. I’ll be electable for office on the regional level in the state and country I live in. It doesn’t really matter which country, which state, which party. (The Netherlands, Noord-Brabant, Groenlinks — a party which is growing rapidly, takes human’s responsibility towards nature seriously and aims for an ideal of deliberative democracy!!!) What matters is that I’ve taken a step and have found myself willing and capable of offering my time and talent for the greater good.
Because that is what politics is all about. Doing things we cannot do alone, working together to bring about more than any individual by him- or herself would be able to do. Politics is about people, about those who need help. And most of all, it is about those who don’t have a voice and need someone to stand with them. Whether they are people, animals or nature.
I’d like to know the future. But I can’t. Which is okay, as now I’m working on the future. And that’s more than I’d ever thought I’d be able to do.