Thursday, September 18, 2014

Power to the People

I know I have been quiet for a while. There has been a mass of family stuff I have had to deal with over the last few months: Stuff that I am still processing. I have switched on my computer countless times and tried to write. Yet, all I have to write about is the shit I am dealing with due to my Dad, and frankly I am still not ready to write about it. I have half a dozen posts, half written and abandoned, as it is clear, I am still dealing with how my paternal family has spectacularly imploded.

So, I am not going to write about it. Not yet.

I am, instead, going to write about one of the huge ‘taboos’ that should never, ever be spoken about. (And no, its not if the twelfth Doctor is awesome, because let’s face it, we all know he is).

It’s politics. In fact, it’s Scottish politics.

I am not Scottish and I live hundreds of miles away from Scotland, but if you live in the UK at the moment, it’s hard not to be caught up in it.

I am disenfranchised from the whole process. I am not eligible to vote – and that is a whole other discussion: Should a decision that affects the entire country, only be decided by a certain proportion of the population? Regardless, this is the most dynamic the UK’s politics has been in years, and in that respect it’s joyous to see.

I am not going to comment on whether Scotland should cede from the rest of the United Kingdom. After reading the horror stories in the press, commenting on the outcome is a guaranteed way to find a mutilated haggis in your bed and the screech of bagpipes as you wonder out of your house, eating your toast and rushing to work. The passions that have been stirred up by the debate are immense.

However, that’s the point. Despite being dis-engaged from the whole process, this is the most alive I have seen British politics for a long time – in fact, the most dynamic politics I have seen in my lifetime.

The political process across the western world has become stagnant. As the parties have come to the middle-ground to woo voters, they have in turn, just turned into each other. Yes, there are fundamental views that you will find dependent if you talk to a conservative or a liberal voter. Regardless of the country you reside in, Conservatism deals with business, conventional family values and the protection of the status-quo. Liberalism is based on a levelling of society wealth as well as integrating marginal groups. Regardless of the colours of the ribbons the politicians wear, if you are richer or older, then you [generally] vote conservative. If you are young and trying to make your way in the world, you [again, generally] vote liberal. It’s a generalization that will be flamed, but hey, I am not a political commentator. I am just a hack blogger.

As the ethos of the political parties change from red or blue to an odd sort of purple, then the motivation of the electorate is decimated. I mean, why bother? If you are just dealing with shades of the same hue, does it really matter, when the people ruling your country are all part of the same ‘old, white, boy’s club’? (And yes, as much as we believe we are progressive in the western world, it is still an ‘old white, boy’s club’. Women and marginal groups are being excluded via the natural process of going to the ‘wrong school’).

Yet, the Scottish referendum is something completely different. Here is finally a choice. This is a real choice that will make a real change. It’s not based on party lines. How you feel about gay marriage, cultural integration, family values or wealth distribution has no real influence on whether you want Scotland to be an independent country.

I find this amazing, uplifting and exciting.

In my last two years in High School, I studied the subject of  ‘Modern History’. The ‘British History’ part of the course was delivered by one of the most influential teachers I have known. Mr. Hughes, tried to make us think of ourselves. During the lesson –usually about half way through- he would stop teaching and we would stop scribbling notes. He would engage us in a debate into whatever subject took his fancy at the time. The conversations ranged over three hundred years of history. Underlying the political debates we would have, was the fundamental belief that if you didn’t vote you have no right to protest the decisions the elected party makes in your name. Voting is important. At every opportunity you are given to vote, it is your responsibility to make use of it.

The right to vote has become so accepted that it has become unimportant. Its not a right to fight for because we all have it. It’s like coffee, or banana’s. If it’s everywhere, then we fail to see it as something special.

We forget that this ‘fundamental’ right we pay so little importance to, has only recently become fundamental for all.  Universal Male suffrage was only granted in 1884, Heck the house I am typing this from was only built a few years later. That’s MALE suffrage. Women below the age of thirty didn’t receive the vote in the UK until 1928.  The universal right to vote in the UK is less than a hundred years old! Alfred Hitchcock had already made his third film and the BBC was already in place. The right to vote shouldn't be taken for granted.

In fact, when we think about it, the right for a free, democratic election is still  a right that is not experienced in large portions of the world. Yet, in the UK we take the right to vote as something we do if the weather is nice. In the last General Election in 2010 the voter turnout was 65% -- which was an improvement over the 2001 election where the turnout didn’t hit 60%. Clearly voting is something we don’t take pride in.

Going back to my starting point: Scotland. Why is the Scotland vote so important? For the first time in a long while we are seeing people voting in large numbers, (they suspect the voting turnout will be 97%). The vote is –if you believe the polls- too close to call. Even if Scotland votes ‘No’, the concessions in regional devolution they have gained over the last few weeks, will make a change to how the Scottish government rules the Scottish inhabitants. If they vote ‘Yes’ then the whole of the UK will experience a dramatic change in the political landscape.

I am excited and passionate about this vote, despite not being a part of it, because I hope to see once again, the electorate becoming impassioned to use the power they have. A vote isn’t an empty thing, but something we can use to make a real change.  Perhaps now party lines will be re-worded, electoral boundaries will be re-drawn, new electoral systems re-vamped. Wouldn’t it be great, if there was a devolution of power from a central base, where everyone is in the same coloured suit, to regional capitals where the politicians are visible to the electorate that vote for them?

Who knows if this will ever happen? It reminds me of the ‘Yes,Prime Minister’ episode (which is probably thirty years old now) which concentrates on this very issue. The socialist politician who is hell bent on radical change, backs down when regional power is proposed and  she realizes that the people may have the power and not the politicians. 

This is truly an exciting time. This is where we may see real change. This is the time we are shown we could have the power if we take it and vote. We have the politicians we have, not because we have chosen them, but because we have failed to vote and protest for an alternative.

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