When I started at university and had to tell people that aren’t doing a Politics degree that I yes, I am doing one, and no, I don’t find it boring (and this is an incredibly common response – don’t get me started on why someone would actually ask this), I began to realise how few people actually take an active interest in the subject, and beyond that, how hard it is to convince the non-believers that it is in fact both relevant and possibly even interesting.
Even amongst the people who do have more than a passing interest in the subject that literally has the most bearing on their daily lives, there can be a reluctance to openly discuss it – after all, don’t people say you shouldn’t discuss politics or religion over the dinner table? Those people probably wouldn’t want me at their dinner party anyway, so it doesn’t matter too much. I think one of the biggest problems with politics as a topic of conversation is that people think it inevitably involves preaching, so:
- Rule no.1: don’t be preachy – we’re probably all acquainted with someone who feels like their opinion is gospel that they simply owe it to the masses to preach, but nobody’s opinion can be objectively right (unless it’s mine, obviously).
- Rule no.2: politics affects different people differently – lived experience should never be discounted, especially by people who can’t relate to it. It shouldn’t be that hard to figure that if you’re white and talking about police brutality in America, you should probably take into account viewpoints from the black/Latin/Native American communities. Judging by mainstream media though, it wasn’t something many people remembered.
- Rule no.3: subjects people don’t consider political more often than not are – coverage of Caitlyn Jenner’s gender identity? Political. The Jeremy Kyle Show? Political. The throwaway ‘but they’re on benefits’ comment you’ve probably made at least once in your life? Political. The fact you think politics are boring? So political I don’t have enough italics to emphasise it enough.
Trying to write my columns within those boundaries, I’ll start with a bit on the Greek situation. We’re all familiar with the endless news coverage of Greece within the EU – to put it (very) simply, in exchange for more much-needed financial assistance, Greece and its anti-austerity government would have had to implement harsh austerity measures, but put to a referendum the Greek people voted against it. However, eleventh hour talks for a further bailout in return for stringent austerity measures imposed predominantly by Germany has led to the explosion of Twitter hashtag #ThisIsACoup.
Is this too hyperbolic? I’m inclined to say no. The helplessness of Greece being held to ransom by a European Central Bank and Germany hellbent on imposing austerity only serves to illustrate the anti-austerity governing party Syriza being made an example of – the metaphorical head on a pole in a medieval city. Even economist Paul Krugman has thrown his weight behind #ThisIsACoup, and celebrated left-wing commentator Owen Jones tweeted ‘Greece is being told to surrender its economic autonomy and thus any real vestige of national sovereignty’.
The fact that I’ve read at least three articles which ask the question ‘why should we care about Greece?’ with their tiny, seemingly uninfluential economy, makes the point better than anything else. Greece is the victim of an ideological war in which economic motives loom over the reality of human suffering – when the Greek suicide rate has soared 35% in two years and citizens are starving to death in order to prove a failed economic project, what is there not to care about? If nothing else, Greece has shown the failure of the European project to have anything resembling a human heart. Great job, Europe.