The season leading up to the general election is the perfect time to evaluate the priorities of voters and politicians alike. Yet what has become very clear in the past few weeks is the lack of ‘true passion’ in politics that we should be encouraging.
Instead, the campaigning has been reduced to a mass confectionary of cliché phrases and promises. Everything is so contrived that a single heckler at the recent televised debate was instantly shut down, and questions on political panel shows are pre-selected so as not to risk any presenter or politician being caught out by a member of the public. We know there is huge discontent at this time, people are struggling and the younger generation feel uncertain about their own futures. So, why aren’t we all making a stand and having our say?
During the 1980s, under Margaret Thatcher, there was poverty and austerity on a scale that was devastating to many people of that era. This was a time which caused not just businesses to fail but saw the destruction of entire communities. Yet, despite this, it produced a flourish of politically driven art such as dramas Boys from the Blackstuff, plays such as Willy Russell’s Educating Rita, and rebellious literature including Tony Harrison’s V. This was an era when culture took a stand, not in the lonely walls of an empty gallery or for the select few in an art-house cinema, but through television, radio, newspapers, and open protest. When Harrison’s poem was aired on Channel 4 it caused such outrage there were calls for it to be banned. But all this scandal did, was allow more and more people to be drawn into the debate on the themes Harrison discussed. In short, these pieces of art created a powerful discussion in which the everyman, with all their struggles and sense of powerlessness, could communicate to the entire nation. Art stood for the state of the country and spoke for those outside the privileged inner-circle of politics.
Today, we are estranged from politics on account of our loss of voice. The grit of everyday life is shunned in favour of ‘reality’ TV or celebrity panel-shows. We have shut ourselves off from our ability to fight the things we feel need to be changed in favour of light-hearted entertainment or even passivism.
Disinterest in issues which directly affect oneself and the community is bred out of a sense of displacement; a sense that our voices do not matter in the larger scheme of politics. This needs to be combated. We need to take charge and engage with politics to ignite passion and optimism in the importance of every person’s voice. Everyone matters. We must speak up in this election whether it be through poetry, film, journalism, or simply speaking to friends in a café or in the pub. Every person has the right to find their political voice and speak up for what they believe in.
It is only though this passion that we can cause change, and it is only through action that we can craft our own futures. We must start now. After all, it will be our time to run the country one day and how are we to create a better world for future generations if we don’t know or understand our own voices? As Michael Sheen said in a recent protest against cuts in the NHS, ‘You must stand up for what you believe! But first of all, by God, believe in something!’